Live performance stage microphones can be make or break when it comes to a show. This is largely because they offer one a captivating means of portraying their musical pieces to the audience — we need to be able to portray our art in the most optimal way possible. We know from experience being on stage for years — we’ve used terrible mics that really disappointed us (and the audience), whereas a great mic paired up with a good sound system and mixing team made a world of difference. We’ll focus on one thing in this guide — the best microphone for live stage use. Let’s get into what we want you to look for, first.
Finding your performance vocal microphone
We’re huge into buying a dynamic microphone if you’ll be performing vocals on stage, regardless of your audience size, stage environment, etc. The purpose for using dynamic mics vs. condensers is quite simple — the means to which they’re built, constructed and how they capture sound overall. Whereas condensers are always preferred for studio settings, dynamic mics are preferred for live applications because they can handle louder and more intense signals without loss of clarity. Condeners are very ‘sensitive’ and pick up whatever it can that is in front of it — dynamic mics need rejection on the sides which we don’t want to be played out loud in order to really focus on what’s in front of it — your voice!
For those who are looking for wireless mics, we recommend reading our guide on the best wireless microphones instead. This however will bring up a lot of information you’ll have to read about and learn, such as setting up a wireless mic system, using external power sources, mixing (hopefully you have your sound crew already?).
The best microphones for live stage
This vocal stage microphone has been designed specifically for vocalists needing a versatile and relatively affordable mic to bring up to the lights. It includes a solid cardioid polar pattern that allows the microphone to effectively reject off-axis sound to help isolate your voice in front o fit. What’s more, the Rode M2 is a relatively powerful given its considerably high frequency range of between 20 kHz and 35 kHz; higher than most dynamic microphones. Rode believes in the M2 design so much that these pieces of hardware come with a warranty of 10 years which is testament to its sturdy build. On the flip side, it relies solely on phantom power although it can use up any source within a voltage range of 48V and 24V. So make sure you have a power source to use when connecting it up on stage. Noteworthy, with the Rode M2, you need not worry about buying a stand mount as it is included in the original package alongside a pouch for added portability.
One of the most popular models in Sennheiser’s EVOLUTION series, the e835 is known for its cardioid pickup pattern and dynamic design both of which give users a considerable amount of stage presence boost. Compared to other models within this series such as the highly acclaimed SM58, the e835 adds extra body to the sound produced. On the other hand, when it comes to making rolled-off highs, this mic tends to experience a low amount of mid-range congestion, hence, tampering with your sound projection. Nonetheless, it amplifies low sounds which make it ideal for performers with rather weak sounds. On the whole, the Sennheiser e835 qualifies as one of the best microphones for live performances on stage due to it’s clarity, power, and overall reputation.
At first glance, there is not much that sets the D5 apart from other microphones in the market. It takes on the common ‘mesh ball with a handle’ design in addition to the XLR cable that runs through its rear end. However, its most impressive features are more in line with its performance features rather than build. Top of the list is its laminated diaphragm with a variable thickness that allows it to produce smooth sounds. More importantly, this feature ensures that there is zero mechanical feedback during sound production. It is, therefore, most ideal for live performances. Other standout features include a rugged construction, a super-cardioid polar pattern, and a weight of 2 pounds for extra portability. Combined, these features make the AKG D5 a top contender for best stage microphone.
Most people are still blind to the fact that most ‘legacy’ hardware are today eclipsed in terms of performance by modern gadgets. One such modern piece of hardware is the Shure KSM9 that is uniquely designed for use in high-end live setups. It is available in a charcoal black or silver finish which gives it aesthetic appeal. One of its standout features is the mini-switch which allows users to switch in-between a super cardioid and cardioid pattern during performances. The switch is located right underneath the grille assembly. What’s more, it has a dual diaphragm that goes a long way in minimizing proximity effect. It boasts of a frequency rate of 50 Hz to 20 kHz while its response rate lies in-between 100 Hz and 2 kHz. A very natural and clear sound here. These added to its consistent sonic performance make the Shure KSM9 one of the best stage microphones in the market today.
The Audix i5 is a great stage vocal microphone for the price. It features a frequency response rate of 50 Hz to 16 kHz making it ideal for home studios, live steaming, podcasting or live shows. According to most reviews, the i5 is best utilized alongside wind instruments especially the guitar, but for vocals we’ve also heard many great responses. It is highly portable given that it comes with a soft pouch and a stand holder. Its sturdy metallic design also adds a layer of durability to the microphone ensuring you get to use it for as long as you would like. Other notable features that make this Audix i5 dynamic mic one of the best microphones for live performances include an XLR connector, a meager weight of 0.4 lbs., and a cardioid polar pattern. It’s quite versatile and reliable considering it is so budget-friendly.
Since 1925, Shure has reigned supreme in the microphone market having released some of the most iconic models of all time. The SM58 is one of the most legendary additions to the list. This cardioid dynamic vocal mic features added proximity effect control with a brighter bass and mid-range roll off for a reliable frequency response rate. As such, this microphone has been specifically designed for live stage performances. It also has an in-built sphere-like pop and wind filter that contribute to its frequency response rate of 15,000 Hz and 50 Hz. One of the major problems with live performance microphones is handling noise which tends to disrupt audio flow. However, with the SM58 this should not be much of a problem since the mic also has a pneumatic shock-mount to help limit these disruptions. And as a bonus, the cardioid pattern reduces background noise as well as isolating the primary source of sound. In sum, it is evident that the Shure SM58 is one of the best mics for live performances on stage, period. Especially for those on a budget. We’ve known many musicians who have 2-3 of these in their toolbox.
Let’s talk high-end. With the ability to cut through the mix and offer a bright live performance for both high and deep bass vocalists, the Sennheiser e945 easily qualifies as one of the best stage microphone models available in today’s market. This versatile piece of hardware works in similar fashion to a condensed microphone when it comes to sound balance as well as clarity. Using its capsule mounting that is shock-resistant and features a hum-bucking coil, this mic can cancel a substantial amount of background noise, thus offering you high audibility. It is also durable given its rugged metal build. However, it lacks one of the most basic features of any live performance microphone; an on/off switch. All in all, it is still great for the price and blows many of the mics in this guide out of the water if you have the cash to spare.
The MP-75 comes fully equipped with a super cardioid polar pattern which allows it to efficiently cancel out background noise. However, it is still difficult to locate the most ideal spots on stage in a bid to fully minimize noise emanating from various regions in the background. Due to this, some people say that a hyper cardioid pattern would be more suitable fit for the MP-75. Being that it is wireless, you can still move around quite easily while on stage. To this end, it has an impedance of 150 ohm in addition to several integrated filters as well as effects. It also features a frequency range of 18,000 and 50 Hz while its curve neither has high nor low frequencies since it has been built to emphasize on mid-range frequencies. This makes the TC-Helicon MP-75 an ideal pick for on stage vocals, thus, making the MP-75 one of the best microphones for live performances.
Shure Beta 58A
Enter the Shure Beta 58A, a super cardioid high output dynamic microphone that is an ideal pick for touring artistes and vocalists. It is ranked among the best live performance microphone options since it produces great power and clarity, high gain prior to feedback, produces minute coloration for off-axis tones, and its consistent super cardioid pattern that remains constant across its frequency range. This sonic performance is made possible by its rated impedance of 150 ohms, an open circuit voltage of 2.7 mV, a symmetrical super cardioid pattern, a slip-in/adjustable mounting as well as a meager weight of 9.92 ounces for added portability. We’re glad to end this guide with the Shure Beta 58A since it’s a classic among all types of vocal stage microphones in the world.