Best Microphones for Recording Vocals over Hip Hop Instrumentals

by Elliot Waite on January 9, 2007

In comparing mics there’s not always a clear better or worse. For example, when I’m making a hip hop beat and I want to add a piano sound there are many to choose from (a dark piano, bright, distorted), each going better with different beats. The same goes with microphones. Different mics go better with different artists over different instrumentals. However, in modern hip hop music the sound of vocals has become very consistent. Where as the instrumental’s piano, snare, or kick often sound different from song to song, the vocal quality across the board is usually about the same. This makes it possible for top producers to get away with having only one microphone in their mic cabinet. This vocal standard, also makes it easier to compare mics, and it will be this same standard that I judge these following microphones against. The general rule is you get what you pay for, but in each price range there are some mics that out shine the others. So without further adieu here is a list of microphones that are well worth their price. From top dollar down…

Sony C800G – $7,999.99

Capsule Type Condenser
Frequency Response 20Hz – 18kHz
Directivity Uni/Omni
Microphone Connector CNR-01 type (7 pin)
Stand screw/Mic Holder Screw PF 1/2 inch thread
Remarks Vacuum Tube
Output Impedance at 1kHz
(balanced) (1/2 +- 20%)
Induction Noise from ext.
Magnetic Field
Max. Input Sound Pressure Level 131dB (Uni), 134dB (Omni)
Inherent Noise 18 (Uni), 21 (Omni) (dB SPL)
Wind Noise (0dB=20 Pa.) less than or equal to 50(dB SPL)
Supplied Stand Adapter NS 5/8 inch thread, W 3/8 inch thread
Effective Output Level at 1kHz -28.0 (Uni), -31.0 (Omni) (dBm)
Sensitivity -32.0 dB +- 2.0 (Uni), -35.0 dB +- 2.0 (Omni)
Dynamic Range 113dB
Signal-to-noise Ratio 76dB (Uni), 73dB (Omni)

Neumann U87 Ai – $3,199.95

Acoustical Operating Principle Pressure gradient transducer
Directional Pattern Omnidirectional, cardioid, figure-8 plus
Frequency Range 20 Hz – 20 kHz
Sensitivity at 1 kHz into 1 kohm 20/28/22 mV/Pa
Rated Impedance 200 ohms
Rated Load Impedance 1000 ohms
Equivalent SPL CCIR 468-3 26/23/25 dB
Equivalent SPL DIN/IEC 651 15/12/14 dB-A
S/N Ratio CCIR 468-3 68/71/69 dB
S/N Ratio DIN/IEC 651 79/82/80 dB
Maximum SPL for THD 0.5% 117 dB (cardioid)
Maximum SPL for THD 0.5%
with preattenuation
127 dB
Maximum Output Voltage 390 mV
Dynamic Range of the
Microphone Amplifier
Cardioid DIN/IEC 651
105 dB
Supply Voltage 48 V +- 4 V
Current Consumption 0.8 mA
Matching Connectors XLR3F
Weight 500 g
Diameter 56 mm
Length 200 mm

Rode K2 – $699.00

Acoustic Principle Externally polarized 25 mm (1″) condenser
Active Electronics Thermionic impedance converter with bipolar output buffer
Pickup Pattern Multi-pattern
Frequency Response 20 Hz ~ 20 kHz
Output Impedance 200 ohms
Sensitivity -36 dB re 1 Volt/Pascal (16 mV @ 94dB SPL) +/- 2 dB
Equivalent Noise 10 dBA SPL (per IEC651, IEC268-15)
Maximum Output > + 30 dBu (@ 1% THD into 1kOhms)
Dynamic Range 150dB (per IEC651, IEC268-15)
Maximum SPL 162 dB (@ 1% THD into 1kOhms)
Signal/Noise > 81 dB (1kHz rel 1 Pa; per IEC651, IEC268-15)
Power Requirements Dedicated Power Supply (110 ~ 120V/220 ~ 240V, 50/60Hz)

Audio-Technica AT4040 – $299.00

Element Externally-polarized (DC bias) condenser
Polar Pattern Cardioid
Frequency Response 20-20,000 Hz
Low Frequency Roll-Off 80 Hz, 12 dB/octave
Open Cicuit Sensitivity -32 dB (25.1 mV) re 1V at 1 Pa
Impedance 100 ohms
Maximum Input Sound Level 145 dB SPL, 1 kHz at 1% T.H.D.; 155 dB SPL, with 10 dB pad (nominal)
Noise 12 dB SPL
Dynamic Range (typical) 133 dB, 1 kHz at Max SPL
Signal-to-Noise Ratio 82 dB, 1 kHz at 1 Pa
Phantom Power Requirements 48V DC, 4.2 mA typical
Switches Flat, roll-off; 10 dB pad (nominal)
Weight (less accessories) 12.7 oz (360 g)
Dimensions 6.69″ (170.0 mm) long, 2.10″ (53.4 mm) maximum body diameter
Output Connector Integral 3-pin XLRM-type

MXL 990 – $79.99

Type Condenser pressure gradient mic with large 20mm gold diaphragm capsule
Frequency Range 30Hz – 20kHz
Polar Pattern Cardioid
Sensitivity 15mV/Pa
Impedance 200W
S/N Ratio 80dB (Ref. 1Pa A-weighted)
Equivalent Noise Level 20dB(A weighted IEC 268-4)
Max SPL for 0.5% THD 130dB
Max SPL with -10dB cut 130dB
Power Requirements 48V Phantom Power (+- 4V)
Current Consumption < 3.0ma
Size 60mm x 130mm
Weight 1.2 lbs
Metal Finish Champagne

A graph of microphones and their different sound qualities…

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

John Byrne April 3, 2012 at 5:44 pm

Getting your hands on some good high quality instrumentals for your project can be tough at times, that is why we have put together a musician care package which comes with Access to Our Free Beats Collection.

fidelis pataka May 26, 2012 at 1:07 pm

Yo guys !!! those mics really look good man, i wud really love to owe one u know. keep up doing the good job guys… i love u alot.. chao

AleZ June 24, 2012 at 6:30 pm

Yoooooooo boyz you are very good producers for all musician

sidaz June 26, 2012 at 9:49 am

its so coll but im in africa and i bought rode NT1A and i used it for some days and now is record with noise and i don know what what do cause im in East africa is hard to buy original microphone here, i hope u will help me>

MikeTaztic September 22, 2013 at 5:02 pm

Jee Juh Is The Worlds Best Company Ever Best Sound

Round11teen September 27, 2013 at 5:32 pm

First off great job continuing to stay up to date and feeding instrumentals. I myself have bought quite a few over the last few years and stay impressed with all y’all do. Respect. On this topic I highly agree with thes mics. However from personal experience very recently I just upgraded from a studio projects CS1 to the 399 dollar blue bird and I must say with that mic an AMBIENT filter ( and I state ambient bc everyone don’t know about that bc there blinded by the actual studio filters that are three hundred dollars when this is for a carpeted home studio and is only 50 most places) mixed w protools I feel like I’m cheating. The vocals start off clear before I even start mixing. Hope that helps and maybe after looking at these comments y’all should consider instead of a cash giveaway from contests a mic giveaway !!?!?! Either way I can’t wait to see what y’all stay coming with and the next contest. Take care and respect to all the artists and producers out there.

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