A hand-held dynamic or condenser microphone (which utilizes an XLR cable) is an essential piece of gear for you as a contemporary vocalist. In today’s music world, you need to know your mic, how you sound with it, and how to set it up, both with the audio interface required by Berklee and with sound systems for live performances in class and on stage.
Therefore, the Voice Department requires all voice principals, including entering students, Five-Week and Vocal Summit summer program participants, to provide their own hand-held microphone and XLR cables. Be sure to bring your mic and cable to classes, workshops, and open mic sessions; repeated failure to do so could affect your grade and will limit your participation in performance events.
Please see our recommendations below on choosing the right mic for you. Note that USB mics do not satisfy this requirement (see below for more information on USB mics).
Inevitably your mic will be exposed to your saliva, germs, lip balm, and lipstick. Therefore, it’s important that you keep your mic clean, not just for good hygiene, but also to keep it sounding its best.
Here are a couple of tips to keep your mic in good shape:
- Avoid sharing your mic with others.
- Clean your mic and cable regularly. Your mic’s manufacturer can provide recommendations on how to clean it. For example, here is a how-to video (opens in a new window)(Opens in a new window) from the manufacturer Shure on how to clean the SM58, one of their popular mics.
Recommendations (Updated Fall 2023)
Below is a list of hand-held microphones designed for live performance. They are listed alphabetically, not by quality as quality is subjective and based on personal preference. There are many more brands/models available than are listed here. Feel free to explore other options.
Keep in mind that manufacturers occasionally change and update their models. We make every effort to keep our list current. Follow these basic guidelines when making a purchase:
- Low-impedance microphone. The cable should be XLR on both ends.
- Try a few microphones before you buy. Most stores will allow you to do this. Lingering COVID restrictions may prevent this; talk to your dealer.
- A microphone cable must be purchased separately. A heavy-duty mic cable at least 25 feet in length is best.
- Personal equipment should be clearly labeled with your name.
- Wireless mic systems are not recommended for school use.
Low Cost (Around $100)
- AKG P5i
- Beyerdynamic TG V50d
- Heil PR20 UT
- Rode M1
- Sennheiser e835 or e845
- Shure SM58
Medium Cost (Between $100–$200)
- Audio-Technica AT2010
- Rode M2
- Sennheiser e935 or e945
- Shure Beta 57A
- Shure Beta 58A
- Shure SM86
High End (Over $200)
- AKG D7
- Audio-Technica AE5400
- Electro-Voice RE420
- Rode S1 Pro
- Shure KSM8
- Telefunken M80
Budget Mics (Around $50 or Less)
- Behringer XM8500
- Digital Reference DRV100
- Peavey PVi 2
- Shure PGA48
- Shure SM48
USB Microphones (vs. XLR microphone described above)
USB mics are designed to plug directly into your computer with a USB connector and do not satisfy the Voice Department microphone requirement. USB mics won’t work with the audio interface you are required to use across the Berklee curriculum (e.g., in MTEC-111, a course taken by almost all entering students).
However, a USB alternative works well if you'll be studying from a remote location (over Zoom, for example). You may also want to invest in a small desktop mic stand or a full-size floor stand so that you don't have to hold the mic for extended periods of time.
Here is a short list of USB mics in varying price ranges:
- Audio Technica AT2020USB (Opens in a new window)
- Blue Yeti Nano (Opens in a new window)
- Shure MV5 (Opens in a new window)
Feel free to investigate other options on your own based on these guidelines.