There are a lot of things to consider when choosing the right handheld live vocal microphone. Are you a loud or quiet singer? Will the mic need be particularly robust for being thrown around on stage or will the mic be mostly stationary? What polar pattern best suits your needs? Whether you’re on a tight budget or not there’s a plethora of options out there, from many different manufacturers. We’re going to look at a few different choices for both dynamic and condenser microphones to hopefully help narrow the field, whether it’s your first mic or you’re adding to an existing collection.
If you’re a particularly loud singer or someone that just needs a mic that can take a bit of a beating, the sturdy design of a dynamic microphone is going to suit you well. Dynamic microphones, although less sensitive that their condenser cousins can generally handle higher SPL’s due to their design and lower sensitivity. A good example that won’t break the bank is the AKG D5. With a sparkly top end presence to help vocals cut through a dense mix, a super cardioid polar pattern for high feedback suppression and a rugged design, the D5 is a great choice for someone on a budget who doesn’t want to sacrifice on quality. Some other notable solid handheld mics are the Sennheiser E845 or the slightly more expensive Shure Beta 58A.
We’ve scoped some dynamic handheld options, but what about those vocalists who are a little quieter on stage or a performer needing more sensitivity and top end fidelity? A handheld condenser mic can be a great option in cases such as this. Being a condenser, you won’t want to be throwing these handhelds around the stage like you would a dynamic though, but that doesn’t mean to say a well-designed handheld condenser needs to be tipped toed around. A solid and very affordable model is the Rode M2. Made in Australia and covered by Rode’s 10-year warranty, the M2 is worth a look at for a first-time buyer.
For those looking to step it up into more professional territory the AKG C7 is a superb option. With an extremely tight super cardioid polar pattern across the whole frequency range and outstanding shock mounting technology to really isolate the capsule and eliminate handling noise, the C7 is a super rugged condenser for live use. Another option would be the Sennheiser E965. This handheld gives you some rather nice options being able to choose between super cardioid and cardioid polar patterns, switchable -10dB pad and a high pass filter switch. Its frequency response is very even and complimentary for vocals and varies slightly depending on the selected polar pattern. Both of these mics are great choices for getting that studio quality condenser goodness but with the advantage of being housed in solid handheld enclosures.
Top of the Mic Chain
Lastly, we’re going to the tippy top of the dynamic and condenser live mic chain. Fewer will be looking to spend these types of bucks on a live vocal mic, but there are a couple of stand outs worth mentioning here.
On the condenser side we have the award winning AKG C636 master reference vocal mic. This is based on the coveted AKG C535EB, which was originally produced in 1973 and was a favourite of Frank Sinatra’s as well as many others. The updated C636 gives the same open, uncompressed and rich character as its vintage counterpart but now (with the help of AKG’s latest mic technology) has an extremely robust construction, specifically designed for stage performance. A world first double-shock suspension takes care of handling noise and a magnetically attached windscreen over the capsule gives this mic enormous amounts of control and feedback rejection on even the loudest of stages.
On the dynamic side we have the classic Sennheiser 441. Often mistaken as a condenser because of its incredible clarity and high-end smoothness, the 441 has been in the Sennheiser mic cabinet since 1966 and has become increasingly popular as a vocal mic. The likes of Kevin Parker (Tame Impala) and others have been seen gracing stages the world over belting into this skinny, rectangular shaped dynamic. With several high pass filtering options and presence boost switching built in, this is a true Swiss army knife professional microphone.
Even from just this article alone, there’s a bunch of handheld mics to choose from, but hopefully we’ve highlighted a few worthy contenders and some handy points to consider when you’re next on the hunt for a great live vocal microphone.