When it comes to microphones, every singer has a favourite, a model they feel takes their performance up a notch. Four professional singers share their top mics.
Annie “Thunderlungs” Bailey is an American vocalist who spent seven years in Nashville working as a A-list session and back-up singer. She’s since moved to London, where she gigs and records regularly.
Bailey says her favourite mic for recording is – hands down – the iconic Neumann U87. The epitome of a large diaphragm condenser microphone, the Neumann U87 has been used to record countless hits since it was introduced back in 1967. It produces a smooth and refined sound and blimey it’s beautiful to look at.
“It’s not right for every voice,” Bailey says. “One has to demo mics to get that perfect match, like wine with food. But the Neumann is ultra sensitive and can handle a really wide fidelity range. I’ll never buy another mic for my studio.”
For live work Bailey loves another classic: the Shure SM58, a versatile cardioid dynamic vocal microphone, tailored to deliver warm and clear vocal reproduction. It’s a popular choice for performers around the globe (if it’s good enough for The Killers, Patti Smith and Public Enemy it’s good enough for us).
It’s also affordable – you can pick one up for less than £100 (a wireless version is closer to £150) and expect it to last as the SM58 is renowned for its durability.
“It’s not ‘great’ at anything, but ‘good’ at everything,” she says. “And it’s a workhorse. You can drop it without much worry or get it wet.”
Phil Joel from rock band Zealand agrees: “I love the good old-fashioned hard-wired 58. It feels and sounds so straight up cool. There’s a reason it’s the number one selling mic of all time, it’s a classic.”
In the studio Joel prefers the Audio Technica 4033. “Somehow it works well for my type of voice and it always seems to outperform the really expensive mics. It’s cheap, cheerful and treats me well.”
Joel’s favourite wireless mic is the Shure ULXD2 with KSM9 capsule. “It always feels sonically even and consistent for my voice, although these things always come down to personal preference. What works for one singer might be awful for another. There’s nothing worse than a mic that pulls weird frequencies out of your voice and robs you of the joy of singing.”
Denosh Bennett is a killer vocalist who has worked in the industry for two decades. She’s provided BVs for the likes of Rihanna, Robbie Williams, Demi Lovato, Justin Timberlake and Alicia Keys.
Bennett is also a big fan of the Neumann U87. “I never heard my voice sound so clear and strong before I sang with this mic,” she says.
While she loves using the Neumann U87 in the studio Bennett isn’t afraid to experiment with other microphones as well.
“I love using different mics for different projects and vibes. If you can try out a few mics to find the one that makes you sound the way you want, that’s the dream!”
Bennett’s favourite wireless mic is a Sennheiser. “I’ve been using the 6000 Series mic with an MD9235J head for the past six years and I absolutely love the way it works with my voice when I’m dancing on stage or singing in place. To be honest, many singers in my line of work don’t get a choice in what they use, so I’ve been very lucky to have a team that cares about the quality of vocal we can deliver with a great mic.”
Sofia Zanghirella is the lead singer of Glossii, a four-piece rock/post punk band who will release their new single Headache in London next week. Zanghirella needs a good mic to make sure she’s heard over the band’s hard-hitting riffs and aggressive beats.
“My favourite studio mic is definitely the Shure SM7B,” she says. “It’s such a notable mic and has such a natural sound, not to mention it’s so much cheaper than others.
“I’ve always wanted a Sennheiser e935 as I used it once and it was the best live mic I’ve ever encountered. For a USB mic for home recordings I rate the Rode NT-USB. I have it at home and use it all the time. It has the best quality, it’s easy to set up and it’s so affordable.”