The following are the microphone requirements and recommendations.
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:
- Never share 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) from the manufacturer Shure on how to clean the SM58, one of their popular mics.
Below is a list of hand-held microphones designed for live performance. They are listed alphabetically, not ranked by quality because 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.
Please keep in mind that manufacturers change and update their models. We make every effort to keep our list current. Follow these basic guidelines when making a purchase:
- Make sure that the mic you purchase is low-impedance. The cable should be XLR on both ends.
- We highly encourage you to audition a mic before you buy it. Most stores will allow you to do this. COVID-19 restrictions may prevent this; talk to your dealer.
- Note that you will have to purchase a mic cable separately. We recommend a heavy-duty mic cable at least 25 feet in length.
- We strongly recommend that all personal equipment be clearly labeled with your name.
- We do not recommend purchasing a wireless mic system for school use.
Low Cost (Around $100)
These mics will easily meet the requirements for beginning vocal students:
- AKG D5 Supercardioid Dynamic
- Audio-Technica AT2010
- Beyerdynamic TG V50d
- Heil PR20 UT
- Sennheiser e835
- Shure SM58
Medium Cost (Between $100 - $200)
- AKG D7
- Sennheiser e935
- Sennheiser e945
- Shure Beta 57A
- Shure Beta 58A
- Shure SM86
High End (Over $200)
- Audio-Technica AE5400
- Electro-Voice RE420
- Neumann KMS105
- Rode S1 Pro
- Shure KSM8 Dualdyne
- Telefunken M80
Budget Mics (Around $50 or Less)
- Behringer XM8500
- Peavey PVi 2
- Shure PGA48
- Shure SM48
XLR Versus USB Mics
USB mics (microphones which are designed to plug directly into your computer with a USB connector) do not satisfy the Voice Department microphone requirement, and these 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).
For remote music-making, you can improve your sound by using your required XLR mic and interface. Even though this hand-held mic is designed for live performance, it will deliver better sound than the built-in mic in your computer. A USB alternative works well if you'll be singing or talking from a remote location (over Zoom, for example).
Examples of these mics are listed above. You might 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 all the time.
If you need to study from a remote location, a USB microphone is a good option, especially for your private voice lessons, because you can plug it directly into your computer and get to work.
Here is a short list of USB mics in varying price ranges:
Feel free to investigate other options on your own based on these guidelines.