One of the most important pieces of your home recording music studio is your microphone. Aside from your computer, audio interface, and home studio accessories like studio cables (ex. XLR studio cables), pop filters, and microphone stand – your microphone will be one of your most used pieces of equipment.
There are tons of different budget microphones you can choose from when creating your music studio. However, instead of just listing 30 different microphones, I’ve condensed this list to 4 microphones I believe are a good deal for recording rap vocals on a budget.
When creating this list, I had to define what being on a “budget” meant. For some rappers “budget” could mean $100 and for others, it could mean $500 (or higher).
So, for the sake of curating this list – I chose less than $400 as the budget.
Every microphone on this list can be individually purchased brand-new for less than $300. They can be had for even less if purchased used, but that’s a riskier purchase – so we’re going to stick with purchasing microphones brand new in this post.
I also left out all USB microphones from this list. Although they are great for getting started if you have very little money, the quality is usually subpar. However, if you’re specifically looking for USB Microphones due to your budget or not having an audio interface – check out our list of the best USB microphones for recording rap vocals.
Now, let’s get started. Below are the microphones we’ll be covering in detail throughout this article.
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Audio Technica AT2020 (XLR Version)
The first microphone on our list is the Audio Technica AT2020. This microphone is made in both a USB and an XLR version but, as I said at the beginning of this post, we’re not going to focus on the USB version.
- Lightweight (for traveling)
- Looks good
- The black color scratches easily
- Standard mount works but can get wobbly over time
- Some voices are very ‘bright’ on the high-end
The AT2020 is one of the most affordable microphones for rap vocals. It’s consistently priced for artists on a budget and can usually be found bundled with other accessories – thus saving you money in the long-run.
The quality of this microphone is relatively good considering its price. With good microphone placement and technique, your vocals will come out pretty clear.
However, I’m not going to lie to you and say that you will get radio-ready sound straight from the AT2020 without engineering it. While the vocals can come out clear, you’re going to need to do some EQ work to clean it up. The type of EQ work will depend on your vocal style, proximity to the microphone, acoustic treatment, and other factors.
But, if you’re sending your music off to a good engineer (or if you are a good engineer) to mix your songs anyway – you’ll be fine.
You can learn more, as well as purchase the AT2020 here: https://amzn.to/2SreNab
The second microphone on our list is the MXL 990. It’s another affordable microphone that can help you get the job done without breaking the bank.
MXL 990 Pros:
- Can be modified and improved
- Comes with Shockmount for reducing vibrations
- Looks awesome
MXL 990 Cons:
- Can sound “muddy” at times depending on microphone placement and technique
- Can be overly “bright” with some voices
MXL 990 Overview
Similar to the AT2020, the MXL 990 is a very affordable microphone for its price. However, the MXL 990 is typically sold without some of the same accessories as the AT2020 (like Pop Filter) but can be found packaged with a shock mount.
The MXL 990 is one of my favorite budget microphones because of its looks. If you’re just recording yourself, this may not matter as much. But I wouldn’t be surprised if, after you build your home studio, you start charging for studio time – and you’re able to charge more because things look professional.
I’ve found that this microphone varies when it comes to what tone of vocals come out sounding nice. Deep voices and high-pitched vocals tend to need more finessing than vocals that sit in the middle.
Because of that, I highly recommend giving it a test run before fully committing to it. To give it a test run, purchase it via Amazon and use it extensively for a week or 2 and see how you like it. If your vocals come out nicely, keep it. If not, return it and try something else.
You can learn more, as well as purchase the MXL 990 here: https://amzn.to/2UBEKRK
The third microphone on our list is the Rode NT1A. This microphone is both a big step up in both price and quality when compared to the AT2020 and MXL 990.
Rode NT1A Pros:
- Sounds very good & clear
- Looks professional
- Low noise
- Comes bundled with accessories
Rode NT1A Cons:
- Can sound “bright” at times
- Price is on the higher-end of our “budget”
Rode NT1A Overview
The Rode NT1A is personally my favorite microphone for recording rap vocals on a budget. It sounds clear and captures a lot of detail that is otherwise missed in lower-priced condenser microphones. And, although it’s priced on the higher-end of our set “budget” for this article, it’s relatively cheap in the grand scheme of things.
I’ve noticed that on some vocals, there’s sometimes a harsh sound on the higher frequencies. It doesn’t destroy the vocals and can be corrected when EQ’ing, but it’s there. However, on some vocals, I never notice it.
A great thing about the NT1A is that you can find it bundled in the “Anniversary Vocal Condenser Microphone Package”. In this package, you’ll find the microphone, a shock mount, pop filter, carrying case, XLR cable, and you’ll get a 10-year warranty on the microphone.
In my opinion, this is the best microphone on this list when it comes to balancing quality and price.
You can learn more here, as well as purchase the Rode NT1A here: https://amzn.to/2GopVhE
Audio Technica AT4040
Back on our list is Audio Technica, but this time we’re talking about the AT2020’s big brother – the AT4040. This is the highest priced microphone on our budget list but not without good reason.
- Clear and transparent sound
- Looks professional
- Feels durable and well built
- Relatively expensive
- Can sound dull at times
The Audio Technica AT4040 is a great microphone for recording rap vocals on a budget. It looks extremely sleek with its matte black finish and feels very durable.
With the AT4040 being priced higher than the Rode NT1A, you may be wondering how they compare on our list. If I’m being honest, I don’t notice too much difference between the AT4040 and the NT1A.
The Rode NT1A does sound brighter and more “live” while the AT4040 sounds more transparent and clear. The lack of high-end coming from the AT4040, relative to the NT1A and some brighter microphones, can make it sound dull.
However, if you’re doing a lot of processing and audio engineering after recording your vocals, I’d recommend choosing the AT4040 over the Rode NT1A.
While the NT1A sounds more polished in its raw form, the AT4040 gives you a clean and dry vocal to start with. It doesn’t sound great in its raw form, but processing and editing the vocals from the AT4040 should allow you to get to your end vocal sound quicker than when using the NT1A.
You can learn more, as well as purchase the AT4040 here: https://amzn.to/2WJkTCm
Don’t Forget Your Phantom Power
All of the microphones on this list are XLR and require phantom power in order to use them. What this means is that you’re going to need to have an audio interface with phantom power.
If you already have a phantom powered audio interface, then you’re good. If not, I highly recommend you read our article about the best audio interface/microphone pre-amp for rap vocals.
If you don’t have time to read the article linked above, I’d recommend you purchase a Focusrite Scarlett 2i2. This audio interface/microphone pre-amp will work well with all of the microphones listed above and give you room to expand your equipment easily in the future.
You can learn more, as well as purchase the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 here: https://amzn.to/2WHOPP1
Which Microphone Are You Feeling?
Any Questions or Suggestions?
So, those are the four microphones that I would recommend an upcoming you pick up if you’re on a budget. If you have any questions about your home studio or your microphone setup, leave me a comment below.
If you have any microphone suggestions, I’d love to hear them. I’m not a microphone expert or anything, so I’m open to improving this list if you have any suggestions.