One of the cheapest mics in the world, Cylewet Electret mic, costs c.a. $0.7, while the most expensive mic, Brauner VM1S retails for around $10,799.00. So the average cost of a mic is a complex issue.
The majority of microphones cost between $5 to $5,000. The average cost of a good quality mic is between $100-$500. This price range holds mics for various purposes. Mics above $500 are suitable only in specific conditions (outdoors, pro studio). Mics <$100 can be appropriate in some situations.
Many factors impact the price, e.g., parts of the microphone, the materials used, precision of production process, product testing, innovation, brands, advertising, company overhead, and many more.
However, the most important factor to consider when buying a mic is:
- What are you going to use it for?
- How will you use it?
Answers to those questions will only tell you how much you should pay for your needs and recording condition.
How expensive can a good microphone be?
For a small studio, a good microphone will cost $250-$500. This is the price of premium materials, precise build, and longevity. Sound professionals choose mics above $500. They are too powerful for small studios but are desired in high-budget commercial productions (TV, movies, music, ads).
The term “good microphone” only makes sense when we consider the context of a recording project and specifically:
- Loud recording conditions (a lot of reverb) – in poor recording conditions a cheap lav mic or a decent shotgun mic that is focused on picking only the subject’s voice will outperform a more expensive dynamic or condenser studio mic,
- Quite recording conditions – if you can record in a quiet recording studio then a condenser microphone will be perfect in most situations as it will record all the details of your voice,
- Audience expectations – big-budget movies have to have a perfect sound, podcasts should sound professional, while YouTube audience and the streaming audience are generally very forgiving when it comes to sound quality. So you need to sound as good as your competition not to fall behind when it comes to audio quality.
- Medium/listening conditions – finally, even if you record with premium equipment, but your audience listens to your content, e.g., on YouTube (which delivers compressed sound) during a daily commute, that additional production quality will go unnoticed.
Here you can find optimal microphone recommendations for the most popular voice recording scenarios.
In most scenarios, this is the optimal quality to price match. If you plan to spend more, you most likely will buy a mic more expensive than you need. Unless you have very specific requirements or preferences.
|Microphone Use Case||Recommended Type||Recommended Microphone||Average retail price|
|Streaming / Online gaming||USB mic||Shure MV7||$250|
|Podcasting||dynamic mic||Shure SM7B||$500|
|YouTube videos (stationary)||dynamic mic||Rode Procaster||$230|
|YouTube videos (moving subject)||lavalier mic||Tascam DR-10L||$200|
|Outdoors video or sound||shotgun mic||Rode VideoMic Pro+||$300|
|Professional studio||condenser mic||Neumann TLM 102||$800|
The list above will satisfy the needs of 95% of people looking for a high-quality mic. Especially if you don’t have a commercial studio budget.
As you can see the average cost of a mic that will deliver a good quality audio is around $300. Of course there are cheaper alternatives, bringing that average mic cost down to about $150.
You should consider mics worth more than $500 only if you have hundreds of hours of experience recording and editing professional productions.
And all categories of microphones on the market have high-end mics well above $500. Here is the list of most popular categories with high-end mics examples and most popular mics.
|Microphone Type||Category Price range||Category Best Sellers||Category High-End Pro Studio Models|
|Moving-coil dynamic microphones||$10 – $900||Shure SM7B||Sennheiser MD 441U|
|Ribbon dynamic microphones||$75 – $6,000||MXL R144 HE||AEA A440 (B&H)|
|Electret condenser microphones||$1 – $2,500||BOYA BY-M1||DPA 4006A (B&H)|
|Diaphragm condenser microphones||$10 – $11,000||Rode NT-1||Sony C-800G (B&H)|
|Lavalier microphones||$10 – $700||Rode Wireless Go II||DPA 6061 (B&H)|
|USB microphones||$10 – $1,500||Blue Yeti||Antelope Edge Go|
|Shotgun microphones||$20 – $2,500||Sennheiser MKH416||Schoeps CMIT 5 (B&H)|
Are expensive mics worth it? Compared to low average cost of a mic
An expensive high-end mic like Sony C-800G, sold for $10,700, is used by big production studios. Only a studio can take full advantage of its capabilities. That price tag is worth it as the mic is used to produce albums expected to top global charts and bring millions of dollars in revenue.
The Sony C-800G is the favorite mic of artists like Dr. Dre, Eminem, Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube, Pitbull, Mariah Carey, and many others. All those artists are making millions of dollars from sales of their albums. In those circumstances, they can request any mic they want to be provided by their recording companies.
But a mic is not everything.
Shure SM7B (check current price) costs only a fraction of Sony C-800G. And it is the microphone on which Michael Jackson recorded his iconic album Thriller in 1982. That album sold over 70 million copies and is still the all-time best-selling album.
But in many situations, an inexpensive microphone is a better solution.
If you are recording instruments in a live venue, the optimal choice might be Shure SM57, which is designed and built exactly for that purpose.
How much is an expensive microphone?
As a general rule, microphones worth more than $500 are considered expensive. For small studios, homes, or live venues, a mic below $500 can be more appropriate. For their top-selling artists, big production studios will often choose mics worth more than $10k, like Brauner VM1S or Sony C-800G.
But to call any microphone expensive, you always have to consider which situation you are using the mic.
If you are recording an instrument in a live venue, a $100 dynamic microphone will work better than a $1,000+ condenser microphone. You have to pick the right tools for your job.
Similarly, if your audience doesn’t care if your sound quality meets high professional standards, they won’t notice the difference between a cheap and a very expensive mic. That is why you will find many YouTube videos or video streams using mics that just look good or interesting on camera. That is the reason behind the popularity of the red HyperX QuadCast (check current price) or their newer RGB HyperX QuadCast S (check current price) model.
Both HyperX mics sound average, but they deliver an interesting visual, which is often more important in the case of some YouTube and streaming niches.
What is the cheapest microphone that sounds good?
Samson Q2U is one of the cheapest microphones delivering good audio quality. For $70 you get a reliable sound delivered by a good analog to digital converter with a 16-bit, 48kHz sampling rate and 50Hz–15kHz frequency response. Q2U’s unidirectional pattern ensures it doesn’t pick up a lot of noise.
Here are the best affordable microphones:
- Samson Q2U – it has both USB and XLR connections,
- Rode PodMic – XLR only mic,
- Tascam DR-10L – a lav mic with a solid recorder,
- Shure SM57 – for recording instruments.
Samson Q2U (check current price) is an excellent option if you are on a budget. It will work well for solo recordings or if you need a larger setup for 4 or 6 people. Having both XLR and USB connections, it is an extremely versatile mic, allowing you quickly change your setup depending on the type of audio content you are recording. This mic sounds really well and can easily compete with pricier USB mics. You can find it for as low as $70.
If you are looking for a cheap mic but determined you need an XLR connection, consider Rode PodMic.
As XLR mics are in general better than USB mics, so the Rode PodMic (check current price) will be better than the same price or pricier USB mics. It is a great entry-level XLR mic, producing quality audio optimized for podcast recording. It has an internal pop filter to help with most sound issues and an internal shock mounting to reduce vibrations simplifying your setup. You can find it for as low as $99.
If you need a mic for a video that you plan to move around, consider Tascam DR-10L (check current price). But you can capture a great sound with this lav mic, even if you are not walking and moving. It provides great versatility. You can find it for $199. It may appear that this is a more expensive option than, e.g., Rode PodMic. However, the Tascam DR-10L already comes with a recorder, while for the PodMic, you still need a capture device. You may need to buy either a recorder or an audio interface to connect it to your computer (both solutions require additional XLR cables).
If you need a mic for recording instruments, consider Shure SM57, a go-to solution for professionals worldwide.
Why Do Microphones Differ So Much in Price?
The main reason behind the difference in microphone prices is the end quality of the recording. For a mic to capture high-end audio, it needs advanced circuits, precise build, and testing. Design complexity also matters. E.g., ribbon and diaphragm mics are more complex than moving-coil dynamic mics.
We asked experts at Shure for an opinion about which components of the microphone impact most the quality of a mic, and they provided us with this:
“What sets us (Shure) apart in dynamic mic technology is our unique blend of our custom and timeless cartridge designs, the Unidyne element and it’s many variants, combined with innovative modern processes and components. Our thorough knowledge of how to assemble an excellent dynamic mic and how it actually operates at its core, along with our consistency and ability to remain true to our original design intent from decades ago, remains our secret sauce.
We deploy and manufacture, at large scale, designs that were only meant for small volumes at their original launch. This means that our process engineering is quite a feat at the scale required to meet our customer expectations.”
John Born, Associate Director of Product Management at Shure
I’ll break it down into details of what really makes a mic expensive.
What makes a mic expensive?
There are direct and indirect price components that make a microphone expensive. Direct components include the cost of research and development, design complexity, used materials, production, and quality testing. Indirect components include marketing, brand, support, and company overhead.
Below is a detailed list of the general factors that determine, to some extent, the selling price of a microphone.
How the average cost of a mic is impacted by direct microphone’s price components:
- Research and development (R&D) – leaders in every technology field spend significant sums on R&D, which allows them to maintain positions of innovators in their fields. This allows companies like Neumann, Shure, and AEA to maintain the position of industry leaders. R&D spend is usually correlated with a brand of a mic since companies offering budget mics usually don’t spend a lot on R&D and can be more focused on marketing to push their products to clients.
- Design complexity – dynamic ribbon microphones and diaphragm condenser microphones are far more complex to build than other types of microphones. That is why the top-end models in their categories can easily top $5k (almost $11k for top diaphragm condenser mics), while high-end mics of simpler designs max at around $2.5k.
- Bill of materials (BoM) – or simply said just materials used to build a microphone. Manufactures can use higher quality copper, gold, or platinum, or any other material in their final products. The quality of raw materials impacts the final product and performance. This is mainly a factor for mics below $1k, as manufacturers building mics that cost more than $1k almost always use top-quality materials.
- Manufacturing costs – the most high-end microphones use a more complex (precise) production process the deliver the final product. Many high-end mics are also built in small batches as global demand for those mics is limited (they also last for years). Small production scale additionally rumps up the unit cost, as the economics of scale are not easily achievable vs. mass-produced, low-cost devices
- Quality assurance (QA) – finally, before delivering mics to their clients, top manufacturers deploy rigorous testing processes. Intense testing takes more time and resources, which impacts the price, but it also guarantees that each mic will sound as expected.
How the average cost of a mic is impacted by indirect microphone’s price components:
- Marketing – all companies have a budget plan for marketing. As mics do not sell in high volume, you won’t see TV or online ads for them. The marketing effort is usually focused here on directly reaching audio producers, engineers, industry influencers, and industry publications.
- Brand premium – as certain microphones become iconic, industry standards companies behind them can charge a bit more for that device but also for other devices sold under the same brand. Additionally, when it comes to high-end mics demanding artists can pressure their production companies to have the greatest microphones available for their recording.
- Customer support – premium brands offer the best post-sales support in their industries. This offer includes fast response times, exchange of faulty units, lifetime warranties, and repair services using original parts. The more premium support services you get with your mic, you can be sure that they are included in the purchasing price.
- Corporate overhead – the bigger the company, the more cost it has to cover. If a product is sold in high volume, then such a cost can be spread into millions of units, but when a product is sold only in thousand or even tens of thousands, then every single unit has to cover a larger portion of companies overhead cost.
Are lavalier mics good for podcasting?
High-quality lavalier microphones can record good quality audio appropriate for podcasting. Make sure you are recording in a quiet location shielded from outside noise. Applying Compressor and EQ might be required to bring out some tones not captured precisely with a small mic capsule.
Lavalier mics look like an interesting alternative for many podcasters due to their affordable price, small form factor, and good sound quality.
- Tascam DR-10L (check current price) – is a robust and safe solution to record audio and capture it on the high-quality, standalone recorder. It is very reliable and easy to carry with you anywhere you like,
- Rode Wireless Go II (check current price) – is the best recording option if you want to record video and have the same audio track on the same file
- Rode Lavalier II – is the best standalone lav mic for podcasting – it can be attached to both Tascam DR-10L recorder as well as the Rode Wireless Go II remote recorder
- Rode Lavalier Go (check current price) – is the cheaper alternative to Rode Lav II but it will also allow you to record decent quality audio
|Tascam DR-10L||Rode Wireless Go II||Rode Lavalier Go|
|Consumer rating||4.7 of 5||4.7 of 5||4.7 of 5|
|Lav mic included||yes||no||yes|
|check current price||check current price||check current price|
How can I make a cheap mic sound good?
To make a cheap mic sound better, you need to improve all the other audio quality factors. The most reliable way to do it is to record in a quiet location. The level of soundproofing and acoustic treatment also makes your mic sound better. You need to also speak clearly into the mic.
To put it simply, you need to focus on recording the cleanest and clearest sound possible
Hopefully, by now, you understand the price and quality differences of microphones. You most likely don’t need to buy a high-end mic over $1,000, and you will be satisfied with a great mic from the mid-range price point of $250-$500.
Here is a simple 5 step process to get the most out of any cheap mic:
- Record in a quiet, soundproofed, and acoustically treated location – here is a soundproofing guide
- Position your microphone directly in front of you – here are more tips on mic positioning
- Speak clearly with a rested voice
- One microphone records only one track
- Clear sound imperfection with a good quality DAW.
Deploying all those techniques can make a final audio track sound better vs. one recorded with a far more expensive microphone if the track recorded by an expensive mic is recorded without attention to details and not edited.
When analysig the average cost of a mic we need to understand that different microphones serve different purposes. The majority of microphones cost between $5 to $5,000:
- Mics below $50 are not worth buying (except some lav mics and measurement mics),
- Mics <$100 can be appropriate in some situations if handled correctly,
- $250-500 is the sweet spot where you will find amazing microphones for the price,
- Mics above $500 are suitable only in specific conditions (outdoors, pro studio),
- Mics above $1,000 are only appropriate if you have a lot of experience with multiple mics and recording conditions.
If you are considering buying your first mic and have a minimal budget start with Rode PodMic.
If you are looking for a mic upgrade or your first mic and budget is not an issue, go for Shure SM7B.
How much are you willing to spend on a good microphone?