Article last updated: January 2018
Recording and producing music at home wasn’t an option 10 or 20 years ago. Nowadays, whole albums can be made from the comfort of a bedroom or a spare room studio. Musicians, including rappers, have been liberated by the fact that music can be written, recorded, mixed and produced from home. In this article, we’re looking at mics, and specifically the best microphones for rapping.
We go into a lot of detail in the below post, but if you want to skip straight to our recommended rap microphone, check out the MXL 770 here.
It doesn’t matter if you are looking for a mic for a professional studio or for just getting started with live performances or rehearsals. Whether you are looking to practice and listen to yourself when spitting your bars, or record demos and albums, we’ve got you covered with a selection of both USB microphones and dynamic or condenser microphones which will provide a great sound and clear recording for rapping.
Things to Consider When Choosing a Rapping Microphone
There are some considerations for your microphone. You shouldn’t just pick the first mic and assume it is going to get you good results. Rap vocals vary slightly from other genres and styles, and there are certain things such as price that we all need to consider before purchasing.
- USB or Not USB. This will depend a great deal on the setting in which you will be using it. For a live microphone, USB will not do you any favors as it will not plug into a live mixer. If, however, you want to lay down some bedroom demos without having to buy a USB interface or mixer, then USB can be a great solution. Some musicians will always tell you that USB mics aren’t as good, and a few years ago I would have agreed, but the technology has come a long way.
- Type of mic. Without getting too bogged down in technical specs, your main choices are going to be dynamic and condenser microphones. While there are some distinct differences, it could be that either one is suitable for your project or studio.
- Price. This is always going to play a part. If you want to record a global hit album, a $10 mic isn’t going to do it. However, we all have our own budgets and there are some good cheap rapping mics out there for under $100, or even under $50.
- Pop shield. This isn’t technically a part of the mic, but it is something you should definitely consider as a rapper. Rap vocals tend to have a lot of sibilance and vocal quirks that can be greatly helped by a pop shield. Some mics will be sold with a microphone pop filter attached, and this can be a good way to do things.
- Sound quality. I know it is obvious, but this is the most important thing. Not brand, not price, sound quality and clarity. Ultimately, this is what we’re trying to get to the bottom of in this article.
- Ease. The ease of use and ease of setup play a part. This is especially true if you’re a bedroom musician and you plan to just get the mic out on occasion to quickly lay down some ideas or make a recording.
So, with the criteria we’ve set out, we have put together some of the best microphones for rappers. There is an element of personal preference here. It is important when reading microphone reviews to work out which is the best to suit your own unique and individual needs.
The Top Rapping Mics Reviewed
Rode are a big name in the world of microphones, and NT1-A mics can be found in studios all over the world. As well as being a well made and hard wearing microphone, it has a gold plated diaphragm and a well-built body designed to last decades. This is a condenser microphone and is not USB, so you will need to run it through an audio interface or mixer.
In terms of the sound, it has a lot of clarity and has made an appearance on a huge amount of rap recordings. Even if you have to crank up the gain on the mic to ensure your vocals cut through, this microphone doesn’t distort or lose quality as the volume is increased.
It is hard to believe that the Rode brand only started in the 90s, and this is undoubtedly one of their flagship models of mic. On top of that, this is far from the most expensive mic on the list, being available for a relatively modest price. The NT1-A is sold as a package with a cradle for putting on the mic stand, a case and of course a pop filter, great for avoiding the loud, piercing pop sounds on rap vocals.
All in all, if you’ve got the budget and the know-how to set up a condenser mic, or are already pretty established in your studio, this is definitely one we would recommend for rapping, and great value for money to boot.
The Blue Yeti USB Microphone
This is a microphone that has taken the world by storm. Blue is (in our opinion) the world’s best manufacturers of USB mics. Even though some purists will argue that USB will not get you the same results, this could be the microphone to change minds.
With a hassle-free plug-and-play setup for both mac and windows computers, the sheer ease of use has made this a very popular choice for gamers, podcasters and of course rappers. It isn’t just the ease that the mic has to offer though and the sound quality is exceptional.
Four different pickup patterns and three different capsules give a huge amount of options and flexibility for recording. It has a gain control for you to set the volume at which you record, and even has a headphone output, which can be great for listening and monitoring your vocals with no latency or delay (this can be very off-putting).
Style isn’t our priority, but it never did anyone any harm, and this is a very cool looking design. On top of that, it comes in a self-contained mini stand meaning you don’t have to buy one initially. It is great for putting on your desk, plug in via USB and getting started. You can see from the Blue Microphones website and their list of artists who use the microphone, this microphone has started to work its way into the mainstream.
For beginners and home recordings, or for rappers who don’t have too much of an interest in learning how to use an audio interface or set up a mixer, this microphone should be considered. Even if you consider yourself more professional, the portability and ease of use blue mics offer means that this is a weapon in any rapper or rap producer’s arsenal.
Neumann TLM 102
It is hard to argue with the fact that Neumann is the company which sets the standard for microphones, and certainly for vocal mics. Top end studios around the world will have Neumann microphones, and a huge portion of the vocals you hear in hit songs are recorded on the U87 models of mic, or as we’re mentioning here, the TLM 102.
Whilst the u87 is still very popular, it is exceptionally expensive. The 102 isn’t cheap, but it is good value considering the amazing sound quality and professional edge this can give hip hop and rap producers. It is a large diaphragm studio mic and has a max sound pressure of 144 dB, so you can record even the loudest sources of audio, great if you want to chuck out your vocals at volume. The reason this is included in our list of the best microphones is the fact that it has a boost at 6 kHz which gives a really great sound for vocals.
It isn’t cheap, but it is pro. It comes with a stand mount and is available in two different finishes. It is extremely hard to find fault with any of the audio features, and the sound clarity is absolutely incredible for a mic at this price. Although it may not seem cheap, it has a lot to offer considering its price, and some of the other Neumann microphones can cost three times as much as the TLM102.
A look at the reviews from consumers who have purchased this microphone show what people have thought of the 102, a huge amount of five-star reviews show that this is a truly professional, high-quality product which any studio could find a use for. It may not be entry-level, but if you’re looking for the absolute best, this is worth thinking about and comes with our top recommendation.
We’ve included the MXL 770 on our list as something of a budget option. The brand is not the best known in the world, but they’ve really made a ripple in the world of microphones with their 770 model. It is an exceptionally good value for money mic. A small diaphragm condenser with a rigid, well-made body, this has become popular as a rapping microphone due to its low-end frequency response which gives a real ‘bite’ to your rap vocals. Check out more information on our full MXL 770 Mic Review.
If you’re on a budget, the 770 is well worth looking at, especially if you already have a mixing desk or audio interface that can run phantom power to this microphone.
The Shure SM58 gets into our best of list too. This is a microphone which most people have seen used at some point in their life, and it is probably the most popular microphone in the world. In truth, it is most commonly used as a live microphone. Shure mics are hard wearing, and this dynamic microphone has a great combination of good quality sound but also durability. Let’s face it, rappers and other vocalists like to throw their mics around a bit, and having something that can take a beating is a big plus point.
The Shure is a good quality microphone and is available at a great price. This has a sibling, the SM57, which is designed for use mainly with instruments, and again is popular live, but the SM58 has been designed to be great for vocals. If you want the absolute best studio quality then this may not be the microphone for you, but there is a reason that this is probably the best selling vocal microphone ever. It hits the sweet spot for value, quality, and reliability, meaning it had to be included on our list.
The Shure SM58 microphone may well be the top choice for live rap vocals. It is affordable and rugged, so unlikely to break even when exposed to all the rigors of live performance. For live performances or for recording you will need to plug this into a mixer or audio interface.
Tips for Recording Rap Vocals
The Microphone is only one part of the equation. There are certain steps you can follow to ensure you get the best results, as well as accessories that can prove themselves extremely valuable.
Using a pop shield for rapping is essential. Rap vocals tend to have a lot of sibilance and a pop shield is your answer to try and get rid of these. You can even make your own pop shield (a pair of tights is a remarkably good DIY version).
Use a vocal isolation booth or a heavily treated room. Your acoustics are vital and you want to remove as much ambiance from the room as you can. You can always add this back in at a later date using plugins. If you record in a room where the acoustics are bad, it doesn’t matter if you are using the best mic in the world, it won’t sound good when it comes to the end result.
The microphone isn’t the most important thing in music. A good mic can’t make you a good rapper, but a bad mic can certainly ruin an otherwise great record. From the above list, there is plenty to choose from, whether you want USB flexibility or studio quality sound.
Let us know your experiences or if you have further comments about any of the mics or even your own recommendations for rapping microphones.