- The Top Rapping Mics Reviewed
- Shure SM58
- Sennheiser E835 Dynamic Cardioid Vocal Microphone – Best Handheld Rap Vocal Mic
- Things to Consider When Choosing a Rapping Microphone
- USB, Dynamic or Condenser Microphones
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 if you buy one of the best microphones for rapping.
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 specifically at the top mics for recording rap vocals and performing.
It doesn’t matter if you are looking for a rapping 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. The mics reviewed in this article will provide a great sound and clear recording for rapping.
The Top Rapping Mics Reviewed
Rode NT1-A – Best Condenser Rap Mic
Rode is 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 sometimes found on badly recorded 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 – Best USB Mic for Rapping
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. This is no toy mic.
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. Though not suitable for live vocals, you can lay down recordings quickly and easily.
Neumann TLM 102 – High End Rap Mic
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.
The Neumann U87 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.
This isn’t a cheap rapping microphone, 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.
Audio-Technica AT2020 Cardioid Condenser Studio Microphone
This is a microphone which has been met with a lot of acclaim for its ability to provide clear, professional-sounding audio without costing a huge amount of money. It is relatively affordable and fits the bill in terms of being a cardioid condenser mic, great for rapping into.
The frequency response is good for the human vocal range, making it a good choice for rappers. This has high SPL handling and a close, cardioid recording pattern. These make it great for picking up audio from a single source in a home studio or even for bedroom recordings (assuming your acoustics are up to it).
Another great benefit for rappers is the swivelling, pivot style stand-connector. This means you can move the microphone into exactly the position most comfortable for you to rap into, and will ultimately mean a better vocal performance.
For the price, the AT2020 outperforms many competitors in the market.
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.
The MXL 770 is great for rap recordings. It is 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.
Though we’ve already mentioned the Blue Yeti, its smaller and rounder sibling the Blue Snowball is definitely worthy of a place on the list. There are thousands of these microphones in home recording setups everywhere for rappers as well as podcasters and other musicians. T
he Blue Snowball was something of a game-changer as the technology behind USB became good enough to support high-quality USB recordings. That is exactly what you can get from the Snowball.
This is more of an ‘entry-level’ microphone than some of the other products made by Blue. This makes it really popular for beginners. Gamers and podcasters like this mic.
It lacks the gain control and a little of the sturdiness of the Blue Yeti, its more rounded alternative, but the price, combined with the fact that you can plug it straight into your laptop, means it is one of the most popular USB microphones for rappers out there.
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. In fact, 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.
Durability is important. Let’s face it, rappers and other vocalists like to throw their mics around a bit. Having something that can take a beating is a big plus point. Some styles of microphone such as ribbon mics and even some condenser mics can break easily.
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. However, 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 rigours of live performance. For both performances or for recording you will need to plug this into a mixer or audio interface.
Notable Mention: The Shure PGA48-XLR Dynamic Vocal Microphone
Shure had a lot of copycats of their products, now they’ve sort of made their own copycats. With the Shure design we know and love, the PGA48 is basically a budget version of the SM58. The main difference is that it is made with cheaper parts.
It isn’t the most amazing microphone in the world but the reviews are surprisingly impressive for a product designed to sit in the budget range. If you need a cheap microphone for rapping, or a beginner option, the PGA48 could be for you.
Sennheiser E835 Dynamic Cardioid Vocal Microphone – Best Handheld Rap Vocal Mic
Many of the mics on this list are great for suspending from a mic stand. However, some rappers love to hold their mic while they rap. It’s almost part of the performance. If you like to actually walk around with the mic in your hand, the Sennheiser E835 is a good option.
A Shure SM58 is similar in terms of being handheld. However, the E835 has just a little more audio fidelity.
If you are the sort of rapper who might move the mic further away or closer to their mouth while recording, it might be awkward. This isn’t usually most reliable way to record. However, the Sennheiser E835 has minimal “Proximity effect”. This means it doesn’t matter how close to the mic you get or how far away, the recording will be clear. Also, an internal shock-mount means that the handling noise is minimized.
For live rapping, holding the mic in your hand feels like the right thing to do during a performance. Some aspiring rappers want to do the same for recording.
As well as the compensation for the proximity effect, this has some other great features including a rugged and durable capsule. It’s very hard to damage the E835.
The frequency response is 40-16,000 Hz. Not amazingly high fidelity, but fine for most vocals. This is especially good for live performance. There is a little bass boost with this microphone, so if you want rap vocals that have a real punch to them, it could be a good option.
Sennheiser is a top brand, they manufacture headphones and microphones to a high standard. The 10-year warranty is one of the best in the industry. You know you’re buying quality when they’ll give a decade warranty!
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. 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 microphones 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 rap microphone reviews to work out which is the best for you. Some will better suit your own unique and individual needs.
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. There are also rapping accessories that can prove to be very 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. A bad room won’t sound good when it comes to the end result.
For more tips, and a very cool guide on how ‘not’ to record rap vocals, check out the video below.
USB, Dynamic or Condenser Microphones
The models we’ve selected all fall into these categories. Each has its own benefits. If you’re looking for the best mic for recording rap vocals, you will usually end up going for a USB or a Condenser microphone.
The SM58 can do a great job, and it is the best rapping mic for performance. That said, like most dynamic microphones, but the detail isn’t as high. If you are to use a condenser microphone, this means you need phantom power.
Phantom Power Explained
Condenser microphones aren’t automatically powered, and require power to be run through them in order to work. This is ordinarily done by using either a mixing desk or for home recordings, an audio interface.
Audio interfaces will have slots for XLR cables and for other audio jacks to be plugged into them. You can choose whether or not phantom power is required.
Other benefits of audio interfaces mean that you can adjust the ‘gain’. This means the volume level of audio being recorded to ensure you get a strong signal but not too loud (this causes peaking).
It can all sound a little confusing if you are a beginner looking to do some bedroom rap recordings. Don’t worry, it isn’t tough to quickly get your head around. A USB microphone is probably the easiest way. However, audio interfaces can also run from a USB cable, and allow for simple recording. You don’t have to have a degree in engineering to operate an audio interface, but the results can be far more pro.
A Quick Word on Production
Have you ever heard the phrase “all the gear and no idea”? Basically, having the top microphone is one thing. However, if you aren’t able to record to a good standard then you might as well have the worst gear.
When recording, you should use software that is an upgrade on inbuilt laptop software. Beginner options like GarageBand won’t cut it. Software such as Reaper.fm can be a big upgrade and allow you to record to a high standard.
Our top tips on production include:
- Never overload the mic. If you get a flashing red on your interface it means it is peaking. Digitally distorting, it will sound awful.
- Make multiple recordings. It is easy to take the best of different sections from different recordings. Don’t like the verse on one recording? Overdub it with another recording.
- Get a basic grasp of vocal effects. Compression and reverb can take a home recording and make it sound like it’s been done in a top studio.
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 the best rapping microphones. What setup are you using for your home recordings or live shows?