4 of the Best Microphones for Recording Rap Vocals on a Budget

Article Written By: Darius Burgan
best microphones for recording rap vocals on a budget

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 stands – 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 rappers 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 $300 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 4 microphones we’ll be covering in detail throughout this article.

Audio-Technica AT2020 Cardioid Condenser Studio Microphone - INCLUDES - Blucoil Pop Filter, 20 Ft XLR Cable AND 5 Pack Cable Straps
MXL 990 Condenser Microphone with Shockmount
Rode NT1A Anniversary Vocal Condenser Microphone Package
Audio-Technica AT4040 Cardioid Condenser Microphone Bundle with Pop Filter, XLR Cable, and Austin Bazaar Polishing Cloth

Last update on 2017-12-13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Audio Technica AT2020 (XLR Version)

Audio Technica AT2020 (AT2020) is 1 of the 4 best microphones for recording rap vocals on a budget
The first microphone on our list is the Audio Technica AT2020. This microphone is made in both a USB and an XLR version but, like I said in the beginning of this post, we’re not going to focus on the USB version.

AT2020 Pros:

  • Inexpensive
  • Lightweight (for traveling)
  • Looks good

AT2020 Cons:

  • The black color scrathes 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 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.

Purchase The Audio Technica AT2020

Click here to purchase the AT2020

Audio Technica AT2020 XLR Version
18 Reviews
Audio Technica AT2020 XLR Version
The Audio Technica AT2020 is a good microphone for rappers who are just starting to build their home recording studio.

Last update on 2017-12-13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

MXL 990

The MXL-990 is 1 of the 4 best microphones for recording rap vocals on a budget
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.

Purchase The MXL 990

Click here to purchase the MXL 990

MXL 990 Condenser Microphone
281 Reviews
MXL 990 Condenser Microphone
The MXL 990 is an attractive microphone for rappers on a budget and is usually packaged with a shock mount.

Last update on 2017-12-13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Rode NT1A

The Rode-NT1A is 1 of the 4 best microphones for recording rap vocals on a budget

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.

Purchase The Rode NT1A

Click here to purchase the Rode NT1A

Rode NT1A Condenser Microphone
232 Reviews
Rode NT1A Condenser Microphone
If you're looking for superb quality without breaking the bank - the Rode NT1A is what you're looking for.

Last update on 2017-12-13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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.

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.

Purchase The Audio Technica AT4040

Click here to purchase the AT4040

Audio Technica AT4040
11 Reviews
Audio Technica AT4040
The Audio Technica AT4040 is a great budget microphone for recording clear and dry vocals that a prime for editing and processing.

Last update on 2017-12-13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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.

Where To Purchase A Focusrite Scarlett 2i2:

Click here to purchase the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2
888 Reviews
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2
  • Four analog inputs: two natural-sounding Scarlett mic preamps with plenty of even gain; two newly-designed instrument inputs, designed to handle seriously hot guitar pick-ups
  • Class-leading conversion and sample rates up to 192kHz / 24 bit

Last update on 2017-12-13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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.

What Are Your Thoughts?

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7 comments

  • Augie Lopez
    September 5, 2016 Reply

    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

    • Augie Lopez
      September 5, 2016 Reply

      MXL ***

    • Darius Burgan
      September 8, 2016 Reply

      I'd recommend watching YouTube videos on how to mix vocals. YouTube is full of tips from more experienced engineers than myself.

  • Andre
    August 14, 2016 Reply

    I have an AKG perception 120

    • Darius Burgan
      August 14, 2016 Reply

      How do you like it?

      • ONIKZ
        November 30, 2016 Reply

        I have an AKG Perception 120 too and its great, so clear and is good for all round vocals. works really nicely but use two pop filters in front of it haha

        • ONIKZ
          November 30, 2016 Reply

          Oh yeah its discontinued now :( they have a second version I think but I have not got any experience with that. looking at getting a Neumann TLM 102