7 Best Condenser Microphones Under $500 – High Performance And Clarity At A Reasonable Price


There is a common misconception being spread that you have to spend large amounts of money in order to find a professional condenser microphone. That is simply not true. While high dollar mics have their benefits, the core performance necessary for serious studio work can be found at a reasonable price. Today we are going to show you some of the best condenser microphones on the market, which you can have for less than $500. As you’re about to find out, these are extremely capable and offer an impressive amount of value for the money. Let’s get right into it.

Top 7 Condenser Microphones Under $500

ImageMicrophones / RatingSummaryCheck Price
+ - Avantone Pro CV-12 Avantone Pro CV-12

Total of 4.92/5  

One of the most authentic tube microphones you can get right now.

+ - Aston Microphones Spirit Aston Microphones Spirit

Total of 4.88/5  

An unusual but ultimately impressive condenser mic offering plenty of great performance.

+ - AKG Pro Audio C214 AKG Pro Audio C214

Total of 4.80/5  

A true legend and the microphone of choice for many professional producers.

+ - Rode Microphones NT2-A Rode Microphones NT2-A

Total of 4.83/5  

Extremely versatile large diaphragm condenser that allows you to do precision work.

+ - Sterling Audio ST66 Sterling Audio ST66

Total of 4.78/5  

A truly awesome vacuum tube design that's full of great hardware solutions.

+ - CAD Audio Equitek E100S CAD Audio Equitek E100S

Total of 4.72/5  

Somewhat different design that offers the lowest noise levels in its category

+ - Audio-Technica AE5400 Audio-Technica AE5400

Total of 4.72/5  

Impressive large diaphragm handheld that brings high levels of detail and clarity.

Avantone Pro CV-12

Avantone Pro CV-12

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Finding a good tube condenser s harder than it seems. Avantone Pro CV-12 is a model that can make that search real easy. With its slim and stylish exterior, reliable and solid build quality, it looks promising long before you even plug it in. The package it arrives in includes everything you need to start recording right away, including a dedicated power supply. In terms of sound, CV-12 delivers that warm tube sound, but with plenty of clarity and definition. You get all the features that define modern condenser microphones, such as the polar pattern switch and the attenuation switch. This makes CV-12 every bit as versatile as its digital counterparts. Overall, you can’t really go wrong with this one.

Aston Microphones Spirit

Aston Microphones Spirit

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Aston Microphones is one of those brands that does things their way. Looking at Aston Microphones Spirit, this becomes more than obvious. The chassis looks like something out of Mad Max, with its brushed metal finish and a rugged birdcage surrounding the tightly woven soft metal grille. Underneath, however, hides a creme de la creme selection of components. We are talking boutique quality electronics. When put to use, Aston Microphones Spirit reveals just how good it actually is. The level of detail, range and warmth it offers can be compared to models which are way above this price range. On top of that, the built in pop filter as well as the built in shock mount adds even more versatility.

AKG Pro Audio C214

AKG Pro Audio C214

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The range of microphones found in AKG's offer is probably among the most diverse ones you can find right now. They have something for every application you could think of. When it comes to reasonably priced condensers, AKG C214 is easily the first thing that comes to mind. This is a large diaphragm condenser microphone that features one of the most legendary capsules ever created. Internal suspension system is a beautiful piece of engineering on its own. You will find numerous details and components such as these on C214. The entire microphone is just so well thought out. Naturally, all of it translates to impressive performance which is why C214 is found in many professional studios all across the world.

Rode Microphones NT2-A

Rode Microphones NT2-A

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Rode's designs are sometimes quite unique. You could say that Rode has a policy of their own, which isn't always in line with what the industry dictates. Rode NT2-A is one example of what we were just talking about. It is a large diaphragm model that moves the boundaries of versatility. Rode has included several attenuation options, low cut options as well as polar patterns for you to choose from. That alone makes the NT2-A a very valuable piece of kit. Despite its niche nature, this microphone can easily serve as your main. Recording voices as well as instruments can be simple, but also very meticulous depending on what you want to do. In that sense, Rode NT2-A is impressive.

Sterling Audio ST66

Sterling Audio ST66

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Sterling Audio's microphones are know as some of the most genuine and capable models on the market. This reputation extends to their more unique mics as well. Sterling Audio ST66 is a fully analog condenser microphone that uses a vacuum tube instead of transistors. The key here is that Sterling Audio has implemented high levels of versatility to this platform, which makes it every bit as competitive as its digital counterparts. On top of that, they have also used some fairly advanced technologies to mitigate issues known to plague large diaphragm microphones. All of this shows itself when you plug in the mic and start recording. Vocals come out uniquely warm and smooth while instruments sound very vivid and lush.

CAD Audio Equitek E100S

CAD Audio Equitek E100S

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CAD has been in this business for a long time and represents an authentic piece of US recording history. The model we are looking at here is a good representation of what CAD is all about. Unorthodox in design, CAD Audio Equitek E100S looks like something that came straight out of the ’80s. Despite its unusual looks, this microphone offers the lowest noise levels in this category, and that is not just a marketing ploy by CAD. It’s really that silent. In practice, it takes some know how if you want to get the best out of E100S. As a reward, this mic will give you impressive clarity, warmth and definition. At the end of the day, it’s worth it.

Audio-Technica AE5400

Audio-Technica AE5400

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Finding a good handheld condenser microphone for stage work is at times much harder than finding standard one. It is no secret that this niche segment of the market is mostly dominated by Shure's models, but as it turns out there is another brand that is interested in that spot. Audio-Technica AE5400 is believed to be one of the best handheld condensers on the market right now. They have essentially taken the hardware from their AT4050 large diaphragm model and packed it into a stage friendly chassis. AE5400 cuts through the mix with ease, allowing for detailed expression. The performance it offers is extremely refined and powerful, especially for the type of money you are asked to invest in one.

What Does A $500 Condenser Bring To The Table?

Once you reach a certain level of experience and skill, you will notice that every condenser microphone has a character of its own. Some will work better with male voices, while some work better with female voices. On a similar note, some are better for detail while others tend to capture the broad picture. All of this explains why many professional audio engineers tend to have more than one condenser in their collection. When you are chasing perfection, you start using condenser microphones like surgical tools. Each one has a purpose and does a specific thing better than the other.

The truth is that you won’t find that kind of refined performance until you reach $300 segment of the market. The stuff that appears in $500 range considerably better in that respect. Before we move on, we have to address the elephant in the room. Budget condensers are awesome tools for beginners and those who are restricted by their finances. Just because mid range and high end models are preferred in professional environments, doesn’t mean that affordable mics are bad. They just lack that competitive edge. To properly emphasize the reasons to own a $500 condenser, we are going to address each benefit individually. This way you should have a complete picture.

High End Hardware

Hardware is what ultimately makes or breaks a microphone, no matter what model or type we are talking about. Following the context of our previous paragraph, achieving new high levels of performance and fidelity requires some pretty good hardware. The main reason why $500 condensers cost as much as they do, is because brands are investing plenty of funds and effort into developing new preamps, capsules and diaphragm designs.

The stuff you get in this price range is often times bordering the quality of boutique segment in many ways. Most importantly, quality hardware allows manufacturers to optimize the microphone for whatever application they want. A great example of this is Audio-Technica’s AE5400 from our list. This condenser uses more or less the same internals as Audio-Technica AT4050, yet these two microphones are very different in nature. That high level of optimization and niche performance is both costly and necessary if you want to record music professionally.

A Whole New Level Of Performance

Music producers and audio engineers need to have the technical know-how in order to do their job. However, many will argue that creative thinking and artistic expression is even more important of a trait. We have already mentioned that every mic has its own character, no matter how subtle it may be. That character becomes more apparent as you move up the price ladder. Higher end microphones may be more forgiving when it comes to different vocal profiles, but they ultimately bring a unique color and sound of their own.

Here’s the thing. None of that matters unless the microphone meets certain technical criteria. We are talking frequency response range, nominal noise levels, SPL handling and similar. Where most of the $500 condensers stand out from their cheaper brethren are exactly these specs. All of that high end hardware is there to enable you access to incredibly subtle layers of performance. With that said, it takes knowledge and skill to actually use that potential to your benefit. With that said, just having the option to do so is worth the investment.

More Features

When you look at the features commonly seen on condenser microphones, you will notice three things. In no specific order, we have polar patterns, attenuation pads and various filters. Cheaper models either lack all of these, or offer them in limited amount. For example, a decent budget microphone will have a -10dB pad and maybe a low cut filter. Most of them don’t, depending on how tight your budget is.

With mid range microphones like the ones on our list, you are looking at a much more diverse package of features. Not only are you getting all three of the ones we have mentioned, but they tend to be more diverse. Attenuation isn’t necessarily limited to just -10dB. Some offer as much as -20dB while you will often see more subtle attenuation values available as well. Same goes for filters. All of these additional features feed into that idea of having ultimate versatility and flexibility at your disposal as an artist or producer. It is all about subtle adjustments that will make an ok recording into a great one.

Conclusion

Investing into a higher end microphones like the ones we’ve shown you today can be extremely rewarding and liberating. Depending on how proficient you are as a producer or audio engineer, you can gain tangible freedom of expression with these tools. The models we’ve chosen for this list are what we consider to be the best of the best right now. With that said, at this level and price, it all comes down to personal taste. Although we did our best to avoid microphones that are extremely niche in nature. Either way, you can’t go wrong with any of these.


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