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Best Microphone for Recording Rap Vocals on a Budget in 2020

One of the most important pieces of your home recording music studio is your microphone. Aside from your computer, audio interface, and home recording studio accessories like studio cables (ex. XLR studio cables), pop filters, and microphone stand – your mic will be one of your most-used pieces of equipment.

There are a lot of different budget microphones you can choose from when creating your music studio. However, instead of just listing 300 different microphones, I’ve condensed this list down to what I believe is the best mic for rap vocals on a budget.

What’s the budget limit for this list of best microphones for rappers?

When creating this list, I had to define what “best” and being on a “budget” meant. For some rappers “budget” could mean a $100 mic and for others, it could mean a $5000 mic (or higher).

So, for the sake of curating this list – I chose less than $400 as the max budget for a mic.

What makes a microphone for rappers the “best” in this list?

When deciding on what mics meet the “best” requirements, I had to ask myself the following questions:

  • Does this microphone fit in our rapper’s microphone budget? If so, we moved this mic up as one of the best.
  • Does this microphone require additional hardware you’d need to purchase outside of an audio interface? If so, we moved this mic down as one of the best.
  • Will this microphone produce good rap vocals in a rapper’s budget home recording studio environment (small room with little to no sound treatment)? If so, we moved this mic up as one of the best.
  • Is this microphone relatively easy to purchase online? If so, we moved this mic up as one of the best.

Every microphone on this list can be individually purchased brand-new for rappers on a budget. 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. However, if you’re confident in purchasing used mics – I’d recommend going that route because you can find really good deals for the money.

Does this list also include USB microphones for rappers?

No. I left out all USB microphones from this list. Although USB mics 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 this 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 Cardioid Condenser Studio XLR Microphone, Black
MXL Mics 990, XLR Condenser Microphone (MXL990)
Rode NT1-A Anniversary Vocal Cardioid Condenser Microphone Package
Audio-Technica AT4040 Cardioid Condenser Microphone
Microphone Name
Audio-Technica AT2020 Cardioid Condenser Studio XLR Microphone, Black
MXL Mics 990, XLR Condenser Microphone (MXL990)
Rode NT1-A Anniversary Vocal Cardioid Condenser Microphone Package
Audio-Technica AT4040 Cardioid Condenser Microphone
Reviews
-
-
Price
$99.00
from $79.97
from $249.00
$299.00
Amazon Prime
Image
Audio-Technica AT2020 Cardioid Condenser Studio XLR Microphone, Black
Microphone Name
Audio-Technica AT2020 Cardioid Condenser Studio XLR Microphone, Black
Reviews
-
Price
$99.00
Amazon Prime
Learn More
Image
MXL Mics 990, XLR Condenser Microphone (MXL990)
Microphone Name
MXL Mics 990, XLR Condenser Microphone (MXL990)
Reviews
Price
from $79.97
Amazon Prime
Learn More
Image
Rode NT1-A Anniversary Vocal Cardioid Condenser Microphone Package
Microphone Name
Rode NT1-A Anniversary Vocal Cardioid Condenser Microphone Package
Reviews
Price
from $249.00
Amazon Prime
Learn More
Image
Audio-Technica AT4040 Cardioid Condenser Microphone
Microphone Name
Audio-Technica AT4040 Cardioid Condenser Microphone
Reviews
-
Price
$299.00
Amazon Prime
Learn More

For full transparency, the microphone links on this page affiliate links. If you choose to purchase any of the mics on this list and would like to support Artist Shortcut, please use one of the links below. It won’t cost you anything extra and we’ll get a small commission in exchange which goes towards putting out more content for rappers and music artists (a win for you and a win for us).

1. Audio Technica AT2020 (XLR Version)

Audio-Technica AT2020 Cardioid Condenser Studio XLR Microphone, Black

 

The first microphone on our list is the Audio Technica AT2020. This is one of the best microphones for recording rap vocals on a budget. It’s not only affordable but also built pretty well. I’ve dropped and knocked this mic around for the past 12 years and I can plug it in and start recording with no problem.

This microphone is made in both an XLR version and a USB version. While the USB version of this mic is slightly cheaper, the sound quality isn’t as great and once you purchase an audio interface – you probably won’t use a USB mic again.

AT2020 Pros:

  • Inexpensive
  • Lightweight (for traveling)
  • Looks good

AT2020 Cons:

  • The black color scratches easily
  • Standard mount works but can get wobbly over time
  • Some voices are very ‘bright’ on the high-end

AT2020 Overview

The AT2020 is one of the most affordable microphones for recording rap vocals. It’s consistently priced for rappers on a budget and can usually be found bundled with other accessories  (like a pop filter or shock mount).

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 a 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 check out the AT2020 here: https://amzn.to/2SreNab

MXL 990

MXL 990 Condenser Microphone with Shockmount

 

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

Rode NT1A

Rode NT1-A Anniversary Vocal Cardioid Condenser Microphone Package

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

Audio-Technica AT4040 Cardioid Condenser Microphone

 

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.

AT4040 Pros:

  • Clear and transparent sound
  • Looks professional
  • Feels durable and well built

AT4040 Cons:

  • Relatively expensive
  • Can sound dull at times

AT4040 Overview:

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.

Why?

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

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Gen) USB Audio Interface with Pro Tools | First

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?

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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.

  • I bought an NT1A and no matter the environment, mine always sounds incredibly dull and muffled with a pop filter or anywhere more than 5 inches away. Getting closer than 5 inches causes the mic’s low quality to show, with distortion and awful sounding recordings. Can’t believe they’d sell something like this for around the $200 range. Could someone recommend me a different microphone?

  • I got the XML 990 any tips on how to produce and EQ the vocals right and add compression? I’m still learning my voice is great but I need got production

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