How to Choose the Best Microphones for Home Recording
From basement studios to bedroom producers, making music has been transformed in recent years. Shure has created a guide to the best microphones for home recording.
Here’s a truth for you: No one needs to go to a recording studio to make amazing music. With the right gear, you can now do it all wherever you feel most creative.
Artists like Taylor Swift and Doja Cat have recorded entire albums at home. Some of the most successful producers in the business – Skrillex, Nosaj Thing, Y2K – make tunes that slap solely on their laptops.
And yeah, recording from home is convenient, but it also makes artistic sense. Your home is where you feel most comfortable. It’s where you can immediately capture your creativity. And thanks to the latest tech, it can sound just as professional as a $1,000-a-day studio.
That said, there are a few things that are good to know before you start. Like, which home studio microphones are essential to have. And that’s where this guide comes in. We’ve broken it down into bite-sized chunks according to what you want to record. But here's an even quicker list of essential mics for home recording:
Even if you’re recording entirely with virtual instruments in Logic, Ableton or Reaper, you’ll still need a quality vocal mic. But luckily with these it’s all about the feel, and what works well with your voice. And you know that better than anyone else. Click here for a deep dive on vocal mics.
THE SM7B – You’ll recognize this mic right away – it’s the one all the YouTubers use, because it sounds so smooth and warm. Rap, rock – you name it, the SM7B does it all. If you think your voice sounds a bit harsh on other mics, or you just want that classic sound, this is the one for you.
THE SM58 – Not everyone feels comfortable singing into a mic on a stand. Sometimes it feels more natural to hold it in your hand. And if that’s the case for you, then try an SM58. This legend has delivered the same warm and natural sound for decades. Clearly, and unquestionably, this is the G.O.A.T. of vocal microphones.
THE PGA27 – For vocalists with a delicate sound – think Billie Eilish – then a PGA27 is a perfect choice. It will pick up every intimate moment in your performance. Then when people listen to your tracks, it will sound like you’re singing only to them.
THE MV7 – The MV7 is a fantastic option for getting a high-quality vocal track down without an audio interface wherever you might be. This mic plugs straight into your laptop or smartphone, so you no longer have to compromise your sound when you’re recording at home or on the road.
ELECTRIC GUITAR & BASS
A lot of people just plug their instruments straight into their laptops – and that’s fine, up to a point. But if you want an authentic sound, you’re going to want to play your electric guitars and bass out loud. And when you do that, you’ll need a mic that can capture the performance. That’s what will separate you from the crowd.
THE SM57 – This mic can basically do everything – you can even sing into it, if you want (Kurt Cobain did). But it’s at its best when recording guitar amps and snare drums. It has a crisp feel that’s perfect for when your playing gets wild, and it won’t ever break. Buy one of these and it’s yours for life.
THE BETA 52A – To get really deep sounds you need a specialist mic like the Beta 52A. If you don’t, your basslines will sound thin rather than fat. The good news is that this mic can multitask – it’s just as tight on the kick drum as it is on the bass cabinet.
You’ve probably noticed that some people get lost in the technical details around music. Especially with drum mics. And yeah, that stuff has a time and a place, but the main thing you need to know is does it work. And these mics do.
It also pays to be strategic. If you’re on a budget, start with a two-mic set up. Then you can add more as you go, without any redundancy. We’ve listed them in order so you can do just that.
THE SM57 – If you picked one up for your guitar, you’re all sorted. If not, this is the ideal snare mic. It cuts through the mix to create a driving beat. This is the first mic you should buy for your drum set up. A living legend.
THE BETA 52A – Again, if you got one for the bass guitar, you’re already sorted. If not, this is your kick drum mic – warm, rich and with a lot of low-end. Buy this along with the SM57 for a classic two-mic setup. Alternative: If you’ve got your wallet on your mind, you can switch this out with a PGA52 – a solid option for miking your bass drum.
THE KSM32 – Get this one for the win, because mics like the KSM32 are the reason people still pay lots of money to go to those expensive recording studios. Crisp, clean and high quality, it can really work well on anything, but it’s particularly good on overheads and kicks. Look after it well and you’re sorted forever.
THE PGA181 – Here’s a real insider tip: If you’ve only got enough for one mic, you can still record a drum kit by positioning one of these directly over the kick drum and underneath the ride cymbal. It’s kind of incredible how good it sounds. Alternative: If you are looking for great overhead mics, maybe consider the Beta 181 instead. It has interchangeable mic capsules for even more flexibility.
Acoustic instruments like guitar and piano need a special kind of microphone. Something that understands subtlety and sounds sincere. These mics do just that.
THE SM27 – If you’re recording acoustic sounds, you’ll need something that will capture all the finer details, and the SM27 does. You can use it with almost anything, from a piano to flute to a ukulele.
THE KSM137 – This mic will work great on everything from brass or woodwinds to classic guitars and choral singers. As a nice bonus, get a second KSM137 and you’ve got a pair of pro level overhead mics for your drum kit.
The more gear you have, the more recording possibilities you’ll have. But the fact is, you can still achieve a professional sound with very little. If you’re just starting to build your home studio, then these small and mighty options could be for you.
THE MV88+ STEREO USB – This is a portable mic that you can take anywhere, but it’s also just as good in your home studio as it is in your backpack. The stereo setup will give your recordings a live vibe. Plugs straight into your laptop or works with your phone, too, which is a big plus.
THE PGA181 – Look, we’re a mic company; we want you to buy lots of mics. But if you’re looking to get just one mic to start out, consider the PGA181. You can record anything with it. Seriously, anything. And later when you home studio mic locker gets bigger, this one won’t become redundant – it will still slay in whatever setup you use.