Best Room Microphones for Live Recording

(Last Updated On: May 26, 2021)
Mic set up for recording live performance in room.

If the time ever comes when you need to mic a room, you’ll undoubtedly want to know which room mics are the best. You see, while there are several mics available for capturing live recording in a room, not all of them may give you top-quality results. So, how then do you create a rating system for the best room mics for live recording?

Remember, the primary aim of using room mics is to capture the mood of your recording space. For instance, with a choir singing in a church, you’d want to capture that fantastic reverb they create. Therefore, if your mics cannot adequately capture those sounds (even when you place them well), you may need to acquire some new room mics.

Understandably, picking and buying new room mics can be an overwhelming task with the extensive range of market options out there. Which model do you choose? Is this brand better for mic drums or guitars? All these can seem like impossible questions to answer without the right information. In light of this, we’ve got you covered. 

We’ve done all the heavy lifting of research for you, and now we’ll present our answers. In the next few paragraphs, you will discover what the best room mics for live recording are. We’ll also share some insight into what you need to look out for in your room mics. Finally, we’ll give you some tips on how to get the best results from your room mics.

That said, let’s start from the basics — the characteristics that make an excellent room mic.

What To Look Out For In Room Mics For Live Recording

Before we came up with our list of the best room mics for live recording, we evaluated them using specific criteria. In a few moments, we’ll reveal these criteria to you. This way, you’ll understand why the items on this list are the top choices for live recording room mics. So, keep reading to find out the qualities of an excellent room mic.

Versatility

It is almost impossible to over-exaggerate the importance of versatility in a room mic. You see, audio producers work in uniquely different environments, not to mention their varying array of instruments. As such, a room mic should effectively capture the ambiance of a live recording, irrespective of varying instruments and whatnot.

This is where versatility comes into play. A versatile mic is essentially an all-functional live recording mic. Therefore, with a versatile room mic, you will have greater freedom with the instruments and recording rooms you use. In other words, you’re getting proper value for your money, whether you’re miking a guitar or a drum-kit.

Flat Frequency Response

Flat frequency response is the ability of a recording device to accurately reproduce an input sound without enhancing it in any way. That is, what comes in is what you hear. As such, flat frequency response is another quality, you want to look out for in any room mic you buy.

Of course, nobody wants to get modified, jumbled-up sounds when they record live. So, if you want accurate sounds from your room mics, you want to make sure they have an outstanding flat frequency response.

Sensitivity

Another quality you want to look out for in any room mic is its sensitivity. Since room mics are usually at a distance to the audio source, it is essential that they can effectively capture sounds. For this, you will need a room mic with an adequate sensitivity rating.

This will ensure that your mic can effectively pick up the sounds from your live recording. Of course, you also want to make sure that your mic does not pick up unwanted background noises. So, balance is critical here.

Now that you know the various qualities that make up a great room mic, let us examine some mics that meet the criteria.

The Best Options Of Room Mics For Live Recording

Buying a room mic for your live recording is not a decision that you should take lightly. After all, your room mics are an investment you’ll be using for quite a while. As such, you want to make sure you acquire only the best models possible. Not to worry, we’ve got you covered. Keep reading to find out the top choices in room mics.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, meaning I may get a commission if you make a purchase through my links, at no extra cost to you. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

1) Neumann U87 Ai Studio Microphone

Here is another mic that certainly deserves a place on our list of the best room mics for live recording. The most exciting features of the Neumann U87 Ai Studio microphone is its versatility and flat frequency response. These characteristics have made this mic quite the trendy choice for recording vocals in a room.

Furthermore, the Neumann U87 Ai Studio mic has a unique dual-diaphragm capsule alongside three patterns of direction — figure 8, cardioid, and omnidirectional. This addition gives this room mic a 6dB edge over other mics in terms of its signal to noise ratio. Also, the mic comes with a wood jewelry box, windscreen, EA87 Shockmount, and cable.

All in all, the Neumann U87 Ai Studio Microphone is a top-of-the-line room mic that is ideal for capturing clear, accurate, and rich sounds. Moreover, this mic is also high on the versatility scale. This means that both home and professional studios will find that it does the job adequately. 

Pros:

  • This microphone is considered the best microphone within its price range, considering its great features. Moreover, it is a studio and audio-engineering favorite.
  • It offers a timeless sound that is adaptable and quite familiar.
  • It provides a very balanced frequency response.
  • It exhibits very low self-noise.
  • It affords you three different polar pattern choices, such as the Figure-8, cardioid, and omnidirectional polar patterns, making this microphone a versatile and flexible one for various usages.

Cons:

  • Quite expensive compared to other products of the same category.
  • It is quite fragile; hence, you need to handle this microphone with extra care.
  • You better do your recording in a decent room and have a good preamp. Otherwise, you won’t be able to maximize its use.

2) AKG C414 XLII

The AKG C414 XLII is one of the most popular room mics out there today, and for a good reason too. Firstly, this room mic has the unique ability to capture sounds from different audio sources. This means that the mic has superior versatility and adaptability ratings. 

Moreover, the XLII is an upgrade on AKG’s already legendary room mics, the AKG C414 series. It is even better upfront sound abilities, which make it ideal for recording from a distance. Besides, the AKG C414 XLII room mic also has a commendable flat frequency response as well as excellent spatial detail. This helps to isolate the sounds of instruments and lead vocalists in a dense mix.

All these make the AKG C414 XLII the go-to choice for many broadcast establishments in the world. However, they are not the only ones who recognize the value of this room mic. Sound professionals who record classical music and drums also find that the mic does it perfectly well.

Pros:

  • AKG C414 XLII is a very versatile mic that is a veritable workhorse. It comes with nine polar patterns that let you choose the best polar pattern for your needs.
  • It comes with a lock feature that prevents you from unknowingly switching polar patterns during your performance.
  • It is durable and comes in a rock-solid case with a windscreen, shock mount, and pop filter.
  • With its circuitry and capsule, this microphone has been designed to be less susceptible to temperature changes and humidity.

Cons:

  • This mic is not a set-and-forget type of microphone. Hence, you have to turn on its phantom power before you can choose a polar pattern. Because of this, you may find it a bit problematic if you are in a hurry.
  • Although it comes in a rock-solid case, its innards are still pretty fragile. Hence, Hence, it will be best to handle it with extra care.
  • Its LEDs make it difficult for you to make stealth miking for film and TV applications.

3) Royer Labs R-121 Ribbon Microphone

Here is another room mic that we are confident deserves your attention. The Royer Labs R – 121 Ribbon Microphone is handy for its ultra-realistic recording. In other words, the mic captures the sound exactly as the source produces it. Moreover, the ribbon element of the mic assures only top-notch sound recording.

The SPL rating on a Royer Labs R – 121 Ribbon Microphone is one of the best. As such, you don’t get any crackle or sound distortion when you record with this mic. In addition, the Royer Labs R-21 does not have any active electronics inside it, which may cause a distortion that reaches its maximum SPL.

One of the most distinctive features of the Royer Labs R-121 Ribbon mic is its lower residual noise. This feature allows the microphone to capture sound clearly without any disruption. In other words, it doesn’t suffer from the distortion of its frequency phases.

To top it all off, the Royer Labs R-121 Ribbon microphone has quite a solid design. So, if you’re looking for a room mic that can stand the test of time, this is the ideal choice. Indeed, with proper care, your R-121 can last a lifetime of live recording. If you’re worried about the ribbon’s durability, don’t be. It has a high-grade heat and humidity-resistant body!

Pros:

  • If you’re looking for a warm and smooth-sounding mic, you can always have it in Royer Labs R-121 Ribbon Microphone.
  • It offers high SPL capability, with flat frequency response, low self-noise, and more extended highs.
  • It is small and easy to set up.
  • This mic is perfect for acoustic instruments, and even a female voice is perfect for this mic.
  • It offers two unique and distinctive sounds depending on the side pointing to the sound source.

Cons:

  • It shows the usual limitations that ribbon mics exhibit, like low output, significant off-axis attenuation, and decreased high-end response compared to condenser mics.

4) Audio-Technica AT4050

The Audio-Technica AT4050 is another fantastic choice if you’re looking to acquire room mics for live recording. The microphone is virtually noiseless and has no transformer, making it ideal for almost any recording environment. In addition, it also has a multi-polar design, which drives up its recording capabilities even more.

Furthermore, the Audio-Technica AT4050 has a gold-plated, relatively large condenser element, which gives it an improved flat frequency response. The mic’s floating elements also keep the noise and other disruptions from entering into your recording. All things considered, the AT4050 is an excellent mic for live recordings.

Pros:

  • The Audio-Technica AT4050 provides a modern and sheeny sound that is perfect for room recording.
  • It is a sturdy microphone made of a solid brass body and excellent electronics. Most mics that I’ve used from Audio-Technica demonstrate high quality and durability. The AT4050 is no exception.
  • This mic is less expensive as compared to other high-end microphones. Yet, it delivers great sound.

Cons:

  • You will find it hard to position this mic on its shock mouth, so if you are expecting to get something that you can use right away, you may be a bit disappointed with this mic.

5) Shure SM58

Finally, on our list of the best mics for live recording, we have the Shure SM58. Although our list is in no particular order, it may seem we have saved the best for last. You see, the Shure SM58 is arguably the most famous vocal mic all over the world. Indeed, most professional studios have at least one of these due to their fantastic specs.

If you’re looking to record quality sounds over a long period continually, then the Shure SM58 is where to look. The manufacturers built this mic to very high standards. As such, when you combine multiple Shure SM58s in your live recording, you will get the same sound quality from all of them.

Besides, this innovative mic has a narrow-scope cardioid polar pattern. Therefore, you can worry less feedback from bleeds on the mains. Finally, the Shure SM58 also offers superior isolation between the sounds from the instruments and vocalists.

So, if you want to achieve a top-end live recording, this is the room mic to use!

Pros:

  • Shure SM58 is insanely durable. It has undergone countless crazy tests like being dropped from above and shot. It does show great survival capability even in harsh conditions. So, if you are rooting for durability, this mic is a great choice.
  • It sounds nice, especially for vocal recording. It doesn’t pick much the background noise and offers a wide and comprehensive frequency response while showing great low and high ends. Its sound is characterized by richness and warmth.
  • It comes with a pneumatic shock mount that lessens or removes handling noise.

Cons:

  • You will need an external pop filter for any room or studio recording.
  • The Shure SM58 is characterized by consistency, and thus, it will never let you down during live performances and recordings.

How To Record The Perfect Live Performance With Room Mics

Now that you know the top room mics for live recording, it is time to see how you can get the best out of them. Here are a few tips on how to achieve exemplary live recordings with your newly-acquired room microphones.

Room Mics Placements And Positions

First off, you should know that there is no wrong way to do this. But, there are few considerations you should keep in mind.

  • Don’t forget to phase your mics. The best way to do this is to apply the 3:1 rule. The rule recommends that if your first mic is one unit distance away from the source, you should place the next mic three times the unit distance away from the first mic.
  • Look out for sound reflections. Your room mics should not be too near a wall as this will cause it to capture nasty frequency build-ups.
  • Don’t place your room mic top far away from the source, as you will get a null point, which translates to a subpar recording.

Drum Room Mics Placements

If you want to record drum sounds effectively, then you must capture all the sounds well. Here’s what we recommend:

  • Position a mic on each side of the drum set at approximately 10 feet apart.
  • Ensure that both mics are facing the outer edge of the most extreme cymbal.
  • Your room mics should be at least six feet but no more than 10 feet out ahead of the drums.
  • You should make sure your mics are parallel to one another.
  • If you want to reduce bleed in your drum mics, the best way is to keep the overheads near the drums. This will help to amplify the ambiance of the drums.

Miking Vocals & Instruments

  • Hyper-cardioid microphones like the Shure SM58 are typically the best for recording vocals. They effectively reduce bleeds, are versatile, and, more importantly, very cost-effective. 
  • Typically, using omnidirectional microphones to capture instrument sounds may not get you the best results. This is because they can’t distinguish between instrument tunes and noise.
  • To achieve a well-balanced vocal mix, place two room mics over the vocalist’s position but facing away from unwanted sounds.
  • Finally, when using cardioid and hyper-cardioid microphones, you need to pay more attention to their positioning. Of course, you need to turn them towards the sound source. But, you must also make sure the mic’s rejection face is towards other musicians.

Conclusion

Buying a room mic is a crucial decision you must make carefully. We understand there is quite an array of choices in the market, so we created this article. Hopefully, our review of the best room mics for live recording will make your decision making a much smoother process. We’ve also thrown a few tips that can help you when you eventually purchase your room mic.

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