7 Best Condenser Microphones Under $300 – Entering The Sweet Spot Zone


Building a proper recording studio requires a lot of planing and even more budgeting. Critical gear is something you definitely don’t want to save money on, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find good equipment at a reasonable price. When it comes to condenser microphones, you can find plenty of great ones in the $300 price range. Today we are going to show you what we think are the best condenser mics you can get for this type of money. Afterward, we’ll talk about what kind of performance you can expect to get from these. Let’s get right to it.

Top 7 Condenser Microphones Under $300

ImageMicrophones / RatingSummaryCheck Price
+ - Sterling Audio ST59 Sterling Audio ST59

Total of 4.65/5  

Easily one of the most interesting models available in this market segment

+ - Aston Microphones Origin Aston Microphones Origin

Total of 4.55/5  

Rugged and refined at the same time, Origin packs offers impressive performance.

+ - Shure SM-27 Shure SM-27

Total of 4.55/5  

Easily one of the most reliable all purpose condenser microphones currently available.

+ - Audio-Technica AT4040 Audio-Technica AT4040

Total of 4.53/5  

A very reliable, consistent and refined large diaphragm design from Audio Technica.

+ - Audio-Technica AT2050 Audio-Technica AT2050

Total of 4.50/5  

No-nonsense, subtle design that brings consistent performance with plenty of additional versatility.

+ - Rode NT1 Rode NT1

Total of 4.38/5  

A truly awesome model that brings the essence of that vintage sound.

+ - Shure BETA 87A Shure BETA 87A

Total of 4.47/5  

One of the most reliable and best performing live handheld condenser mics.

Sterling Audio ST59

Sterling Audio ST59

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Sterling Audio is known as a brand responsible for some of the most interesting condenser microphones out there. The way they can mix reliability, awesome design and fairly unique performance is impressive. All of those attributes are present in Sterling Audio ST59. It's a dual diaphragm condenser that packs a surprisingly flat response no matter which of its three polar patterns you choose. Out of the box, its SPL handling isn't all that promising. However, Sterling Audio has that covered with a -10dB attenuation pad, thus allowing you to record a variety of instruments. Heavy and attractive in nature, ST59 has a distinct vintage vibe to it. Needless to say, it's one of the best mics in this price range.

Aston Microphones Origin

Aston Microphones Origin

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Aston Microphones based in UK are responsible for producing some of the most impressive models you can find. This policy extends to their medium range products as well. Aston Origin is a very unique microphone that almost screams 'boutique' when you first see it. That isn't too far fetched considering that they have used plenty of high end components. Its stylish exterior and utilitarian design aren't its only redeeming features. When you put it to use, it becomes apparent just how good this mic is. Vocals sound refined, warm and pretty well balanced, while instruments have a vibrant sound to them. All in all. Aston Origin is easily one of the most unique condenser mics you can get right now.

Shure SM-27

Shure SM-27

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Shure's track record is pretty stellar when it comes to condenser microphones. However, most of that reputation is related to their handheld stage models. Shure has proven that they are more than capable of delivering the same kind of excellence in a package designed exclusively for studio use. Shure SM27 is similar to most other models in this category, but different enough where it stands out by itself. Its most redeeming features are the incredibly flat frequency response combined with a fairly high max SPL values. For the most part, SM27 just feels like a well rounded, all purpose microphone that can take on whatever project you have in mind. It also helps that it brings Shure's almost legendary reliability.

Audio-Technica AT4040

Audio-Technica AT4040

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Audio-Technica is known for their budget condensers and the amount of value these offer for the money. However, that type of character can be found in their mid-range lineup as well. Meet Audio-Technica AT4040, a serious large diaphragm condenser microphone that packs a whole lot of versatility. They went with a simple build in terms of aesthetics, but all of the features you would expect are there. High max SPL values allow AT4040 to be used with high volume instruments with zero issues. In a more traditional sense, vocals come out extremely natural with plenty of warmth in the mid range. If you are looking for a proper workhorse that isn't picky, AT4040 from Audio-Technica is the way to go.

Audio-Technica AT2050

Audio-Technica AT2050

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Compared to other brands out there Audio-Technica looks fairly tame. Their microphones are almost never flashy and aggressive in any aspect of their design. However, the main reason someone would to turn to Audio-Technica is not a flashy design, but rather reliable performance. Audio-Technica AT2050 offers that in abundance along with a couple of tricks up its sleeve. AT2050 is the flagship model in the series. It offers additional polar patterns, an attenuation pad as well as a high pass filter. On top of that, it is capable of handling the highest SPL values of the entire family. Because of that, AT2050 has proven to be a really practical piece of kit to have in a studio. It's a workhorse.

Rode NT1

Rode NT1

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Rode's condenser section is full of awesome models that offer the type of performance and consistency that's necessary for modern studio applications. However, it also includes some interesting models like Rode NT1. This microphone is almost completely devoid of standard features, but that's perfectly fine. Why? Because it comes with their HF6 capsule that is both unique and refined. Most importantly, it gives the NT1 its vintage sound. When you first start using this microphone, you'll immediately notice what we mean by vintage. Rode took things a step further by including a great pop filter as well as an efficient shock mount to this package. It makes NT1 a type of microphone that's ready to go out of the box.

Shure BETA 87A

Shure BETA 87A

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Shure is easily one of the few brands out there who really nailed the live condenser microphone niche. Their BETA 87A is a rugged, reliable and well optimized piece of kit that has a lot to offer. Built on a chassis similar to the legendary SM57, this handheld microphone shows rugged build quality and plenty of well implemented solutions. Shure went with a complex built in pop filter as well as an anti shock mount. In daily use, it requires no special considerations, despite it being a condenser mic. Speaking of which, it gives you some boost in the mid range, along with that traditional warmth. This way your vocals are guaranteed to cut through the mix with little effort.

What To Expect From $300 Condensers?

When you start looking at condensers which cost north of $200, you are already entering the mid range segment of the market. With that said, there are certain expectations that need to be met. One thing that most users are wondering is what kind of performance boost does a $300 offer compared to say a condenser from the $200 price range. Improvements are there, but they aren’t as substantial as some would like them to be. Even so, those little upgrades tend to matter a lot in right hands.

Aside from better components and performance, which we will get into later, there is one more important new trend that appears when you cross the $200 mark. Just like with many other industries out there, you will have brands that cover various portions of the market. Some cover anything from beginner models to professional tier equipment, some only do high end stuff, while some only do affordable products. Right around $300, several new brands become an option. While this doesn’t necessarily mean that these newly available microphones are inherently better than their competition, it is always good to have more choices.

With that said, we would like to address every layer of improvement separately. Once you have all the info, you might find it worth your while to save up for a microphone like the ones on our list, instead of going with an affordable condenser right now.

Better Hardware

Hardware components are what ultimately dictates the performance of any microphone. Up until this segment of the market, you could have seen models that were decent in all aspects, but not much more than that. With $300 condensers, you are looking at a new level of refinement when it comes to various components. For example, diaphragms are much more sophisticated, preamps are better designed and more reliable, and so on. This isn’t all, though.

Most brands find it in their interest to offer more advanced design solutions in this price range. You start seeing integrated pop filters and various other solutions which aren’t that common with affordable microphones. Shure is a great example of this. Both of their models on our list are fairly advanced in this regard. SM-27 features a very well thought out capsule, while BETA 87A defines integrated suspension.

Features

One of the absolute most important reasons to invest in a mid range condenser are the features. Features may not define the core performance of the microphone, but they certainly have an impact on its versatility. Even the simplest things such as attenuation pads and various filters, can completely change the practical value of a microphone. The next important feature are polar patterns. Most affordable condensers are fixed to using the standard cardioid pattern. The ones we are talking about offer two additional patterns which include an omnidirectional and figure-eight pattern. Again, features such as these are there to extend the flexibility and versatility of a microphone.

More Consistent And Refined Performance

At the end of the day, it all comes down to performance. Where the quality of hardware can allow for great performance, it takes some know-how to actually get it to the necessary levels. This is where different brands use different approaches. However, what you will notice in this price range is that most brands deliver rather solid performance. Overall majority of our picks are flat in nature. Even the ones that have multiple polar patterns tend to be transparent.

Transparency in condenser microphones is important for a number of reasons, with the biggest one being compatibility. Each of us has a somewhat unique voice. For any individual vocalist, certain microphones tend to work better than others. Transparency is what ensures that you are most likely going to be fine with the model in question. Aside from that, there is also the matter of sensitivity and many other, more subtle factors. A good condenser should be transparent, warm and fairly smooth.

Build Quality

Defining professional grade gear is a bit tricky when it comes to condenser microphones. Technology has come a long way, thus making that line between enthusiast and professional gear a bit blurry. Even so, reliability goes a long ways, especially if you are trying to put together a working recording studio. Generally speaking, a $300 microphone is a good place to start looking for that type of reliability. These mics are made to endure the constant wear that comes with every day use. Build quality goes far beyond the chassis and other obvious components. You will need the circuitry and critical components to be durable as well.

Conclusion

Even though it might not seem that way on paper, there are plenty of reasons why getting a $300 condenser makes a lot of sense. You will find a good balance of price and performance in this segment of the market, as well as all of the additional features we have mentioned earlier. The models we have listed above are in our opinion the best of the best at the moment. No matter which one you go with, you won’t be disappointed. They represent what quality studio gear looks like.


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