Studio users spend years searching for the ultimate vintage mic, but
the situation is reversed with live sound. Mics for onstage performance
keep getting better, and the market for old handheld models from the
’40s, ’50s and ’60s is virtually nonexistent. Most
performers and sound reinforcement engineers are constantly checking
out recent models, looking for the ultimate new mic.
Technically speaking, most high-quality microphones could be
handheld, but those specifically designed for vocal use in live
performance offer advantages such as internal shock-mounted capsules,
nonreflective finishes and a high degree of feedback rejection to improve performance.
There's no shortage of good-sounding condenser and dynamic mics at
every price, but for the purposes of this article, we decided to focus
on top-of-the-line, hard-wired models from various manufacturers, and
we limited each mic builder to one condenser and one dynamic mic each.
All prices quoted here are manufacturer's suggested retail (street
price may vary considerably), and besides vocals, many of the models
listed are also suitable for instrumental miking, both onstage and in
The condenser Model C-5900 features a no-roll triangular body, along
with AKG's (www.akgusa.com) InterSpider internal suspension
system and a recessed access panel with -12dB low-frequency cut and
-6dB/octave roll-off switches. The hypercardioid C-5900 lists for $378. AKG's Model
D-3800 Tri-Power uses a patented moving magnet system to reject
handling noise, is equipped with separate high- and low-frequency
contouring switches and can take up to 147dB SPL without distorting.
The D-3800, like the AKG C-5900, is a hypercardioid mic, and it
features the same triangular body shape. Retail is $300.
Audio-Technica's (www.audio-technica.com) 40 Series handheld
condenser mics, including the AT4055 ($499), are essentially handheld
versions of the company's well-used AT4050 studio mic. The AT4055's
large-diaphragm element brings out an extended low end and handles high
SPLs and features internal shock-mounting. AT's top-end vocal dynamic,
the $270 ATM-61HE, has a high-output neodymium with a patented floating
diaphragm that reduces handling noise. This hypercardioid mic has a
frequency response of 50 to 18k Hz and is available in the ATM61HE/S
model with integral On/Off switch and nonremovable grille. Retail is
The Audix (www.audixusa.com) OM-7 ($359) was designed as a
tough hypercardioid dynamic mic that can take up to 144 dB before
cracking up. The mic comes in a satin black finish and uses a
controlled output stage to net higher gain before feedback onstage. The
company's $599 VX-10 is a new handheld vocal condenser that wears the
same black finish and has a 16mm gold vapor diaphragm and a 40 to 20k
Hz frequency response.
The XM8500 from Behringer (www.behringer.com) is a dynamic model with a mid
frequency presence boost to increase vocal projection and an overall
response of 50 to 15k Hz. The mic features a cardioidpolar pattern and a gold-plated XLR connector.
Retail is $49.
BENSON AUDIO LABS
BAL's (www.bensonaudiolabs.com) ND80 is a hypercardioid
dynamic mic with a hot-output neodymium magnet, steel windscreen, and
an easy-to-hold, ergonomic “Soft Touch” finish. Retail is
$350. Also priced at $350, Benson's RC22 is a cardioid condenser mic that incorporates a low-mass mylar
diaphragm and is intended for general vocal and instrument
Beyerdynamic's (www.beyerdynamic.com) TG-X 80 ($469) is a
sharp-looking handheld dynamic mic with a fire-engine-red shock
absorption ring that helps with structure-borne noise attenuation. Part of the company's TourGroup
Series, the TG-X uses a hypercardioid polar pattern and has a 30 to 18k
Hz frequency range. The MCE 90 is a condenser model with cardioid polar
pattern and an 139 dB SPL to fit a wide range of singers. Retail is
CAD's (www.cadmics.com) CAD90 dynamic microphone features an internal multistage
pop filter to minimize breath noise. This cardioid model is priced at
$239. The CAD95, the company's top-end vocal condenser, which is also
priced at $239, is a transformerless cardioid electret mic. The CAD95
also features an internal multistage pop filter, CAD's exclusive INR
(Impact Noise Rejection) shock-mount system and a rugged Flex-For
Carvin's (www.carvin.com) CM67 cardioid pattern microphone is
designed for both instrument and vocal miking, with a frequency
response of 40 to 15k Hz and a slight presence rise. The mic has a list
price of $199 but is sold direct through Carvin for only $89, including
a 20-foot XLR cable.
Featuring Crown's (www.crownaudio.com) patented Differoid technology,
the CM-310A is a cardioid electret condenser mic with a 60 to 17k Hz
response. Retail is $309, and the CM-310ASW model with a built-in
magnetic reed On/Off switch is also available.
Earthworks (www.earthworksaudio.com) offers handheld vocal mics
in cardioid (SR69) or hypercardioid (SR68) versions. Both are
phantom-powered condenser designs with frequency response extending
beyond 20 kHz and 145dB SPL handling capability. The mics are available
in black, silver and crimson finishes, and each includes a removable
windscreen for use in instrumental live or studio applications. Retail
for the SR68 is $450; the SR69 is $400.
The Electro-Voice (www.electrovoice.com) N/D767a is a dynamic design
featuring a N/DYM magnet structure for high output. This supercardioid mic features a 25 to 22k Hz
response, multistage capsule shock-mounting for low-handling noise, a
comfortable Warm-Grip handle and VOB (Vocal Optimized Bass) tailoring
that's intended to provided a smooth proximity effect without
muddiness. Retail is $252.
Neumann's (www.neumannusa.com) TEC Award-winning KMS105 ($595)
is a supercardioid condenser mic with a triple-layered acoustic filter
windscreen that dramatically reduces popping and wind noise. The KMS105
also includes special mechanical and electrical filters to virtually
eliminate handling noise, as well.
Part of Peavey's (www.peavey.com) Diamond Series, the PVM 22 dynamic
cardioid mic has a neodymium magnet with more than twice the
sensitivity of conventional designs. The mic also features a
diamond-coated diaphragm and a new shock-mounting system using
high-tech polymers for reduced handling and cable noise. Retail is
The Roland (www.rolandus.com) DR-20 is a hypercardioid dynamic
mic with a 60 to 15k Hz frequency response and a built-in On/Off
switch. Retail is $150, including cable.
Samson's (www.samsontech.com) Q1 ($400) is a cardioid
condenser mic slated for live and project studio recording use. Like
every condenser, the Q1 requires phantom powerXLR connector are standard.
Sennheiser's (www.sennheiserusa.com) handheld line includes the
MD-431 II ($495) and ED 865 ($399). The dynamic MD 431 II is an
improved version of its predecessor, featuring a steel-mesh grille,
shock-suspended capsule, a humbucking coil, recessed On/Off switch and
internal electronics for refining proximity effect. The ED 865 is the
first condenser handheld mic in the company's new Evolution Series
that's great for live performance or recording vocals in the studio.
This supercardioid mic sports a metal housing and steel-inlet
The Shure (www.shure.com) Beta 87A is an electret condenser
mic with a new, slightly thicker handle design and break-resistant
swivel adapter. This supercardioid model features a three-stage pop
filter and high isolation with minimal off-axis coloration. The Beta
87A retails at $445. Shure's top-end dynamic mic is the Beta 58A, a
model with a high-output Neodymium element. The supercardioid mic
features a shaped frequency response for close-up vocals, a pneumatic
internal shock-mount system, a hardened steel-mesh grille and a 50 to
16k Hz bandwidth. Retail is $289.
F-780/9X ($375) handheld dynamic mic is an improved version of the
company's F-780, its previous top-of-the-line dynamic vocal mic. An
improved capsule design, tightened unidirectional polar pattern and a
new urethane coating for lower handling noise further enhance this
The Stedman (www.stedmancorp.com) Transonic TR1 is a
supercardioid dynamic microphone offering two distinct response curves
for stage and studio applications. With its recessed switch in the
“stage” position, the TR1 offers a subtle bass boost and
presence peak to cut through on live performances. The
“studio” position provides a smooth response, ideal for
recording vocals, instruments and cabinets. Response is 33 to 19k Hz;
retail is $159.