Microphones & Wireless

The Best Tube Microphones

Whether you are headed to a gig or the recording studio, it is important to have the best microphone that gives your sound the best sensitivity and dynamics.

If you are looking to purchase a new microphone, tube microphones will give you a warm and rich sound that works well in both the studio and live settings. They’ll give you a ton of options making them very versatile.

As a musician of over thirty years, one thing I know that is crucial to any gig or time spent at a studio is a good mic that works for the application you are planning.

The last thing you want to worry about is distortion and feedback ruining your recording or making your live set sound terrible.

This is one area that you should invest a little cash in, and you’ll be glad you did when you get a quality mic, plus a few extra features that will make your sound sing.

Top Pick: Mojave MA-300

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Quality-built, hood with the low to mids and the bottom and clear stick hits and open highs with cymbals, and well-represented kick, snare, and tom. 

Impedance

As you start your search for a microphone, one thing you will see in microphone specifications is either “high impedance” or “low impedance.”

Impedance tells you how much the device will resist the AC signal flow, like audio, and it is calculated in ohms. So, when you see it on a microphone, high impedance will be over 10,000 ohms while low impedance is less than 600 ohms.

Inexpensive microphones can have a high-impedance, but the response on these types of microphones can go downhill rapidly when the cable length increases with 18-20 feet being the max.

With a low impedance microphone, you can send a signal hundreds of feet without worrying about any changes in the signal.

Since this is a great feature, you will notice that most sound systems are built around a low impedance microphone.

Polar Patterns

Microphones will respond to sound that comes from different directions with different degrees of sensitivity depending on their construction and design. When this is graphed, it is called a polar pattern.

When you look at a mic’s polar pattern, you will see how directional it is, or you can see that it is rejecting sound from specific directions. There are two categories of mics – omnidirectional or unidirectional.

A unidirectional microphone will reject bleed to stop feedback, and you will notice that most stage microphones will be unidirectional with a Cardioid polar pattern.

This means that it has a heart-shaped graph to represent that pattern, and it will reject bleed from other instruments and voices and instruments.

This is a nice feature to have to keep sound that you don’t want from coming through your mic, and it is often used to mic a signer or just one instrument.

An omnidirectional mic will pick up everything it can within a 360-degree radius, so these are great when you want the atmosphere of the room you are recording included in the final product.

This can also be useful when the source of the sound will change position from where the mic is, so they are often used on things like camcorder mics.

A bi-directional mic is often called a figure 8. It picks up both what is in front and behind it, but nothing from the sides. This is a good feature when you have two people that are sharing a microphone.

Sensitivity

Sensitive is how a microphone will respond to a change in air pressure. Mics that are highly sensitive are usually used when you need a lot of sonic detail, like recording the fingering on an acoustic guitar.

If you use that mic in front of a kick drum, you will get a muddled sound with too much extra noise, so a lower sensitivity mic is actually better in that situation.

You will see sensitivity expressed one of two ways. The first way is in millivolts and will look like this – 50mV/Pa. The more sensitive the mic, the higher the millivolt number.

The second expression is a ratio between a millivolt measurement and a reference level of one volt (V), but it will be written in decibels (dB) like this – 26dBV/Pa. So, the lower the mic sensitivity, the higher the negative number.

Choosing the Right Microphone

As always, when choosing a new piece of equipment, you need to consider how you will be using it. Depending on the application, you will need a certain type of mic.

On stage, a mic with tighter pickup patterns like cardioid mics can work well, or a unidirectional microphone can work in most situations where you need to isolate the sound source.

Vocals

When you are recording vocals, you want a mic that gives you a warmer and thicker sound, plus you don’t want to pick up feedback or any unwanted sounds.

In this case, a cardioid microphone will work well.

Drums

Microphones with tight polar patterns, like a cardioid, are good choices for putting in front of a drum. It can help to isolate the sound of each tom, so it doesn’t bleed into the rest of the drum kit.

Snare drums can benefit from a mic with high SPL, so a mic that is more dynamic tends to be a better choice. Kick drums need low-frequency mics while cymbals need a flat-response mic.

You will find that there are a few manufacturers that make mic kits for drums with multiple mics that give you everything you need to record your set.

Guitar Amps

When you are considering a mic for a typical guitar amp, usually just a dynamic vocal or drum mic will be ok. And, as a rule of thumb, bass amps do well with mics that work with kick drums.

Horns

Cardioid mics work well with horns and give them a flat and smooth response.

Acoustic Piano

An acoustic piano will need two flat-response microphones with one positioned about 12″ above the treble strings while the other is positioned above the lower strings.

Electronic Keyboard

You can follow the same rules that were given for electric guitar when deciding on a microphone for an electronic keyboard.

It is possible to skip the microphone completely and just run the keyboard’s line-level signals directly into the mixer.

The Competition

After hours of testing and research, here's the final competition.

InstrumentRatingCurrent Pricing
Mojave MA-300 Tube Microphone
Gives you a beautiful transient sound that has an even balance of the highs, mids, and lows$1,424.50
Blue’s Bottle Locker tube microphone kit
Includes a nice sized Pelican case that stores the mic, cable, power supply, and four capsulesOut of stock
MXL V69M HE MOGAMI Tube Microphone
Perfect for hard rock or hip-hop, and it has a transformerless design that gives your recordings a crisp high end$249.95
BadAax GT-2B Tube Microphone
Very versatile with excellent timbre and has a distinct reproduced sound that is rich, mellow, and fine$199.99
Sterling ST69 Tube Mic
Technical brilliance is complimented by its stunning good looks$499.00
MXL GENESIS Tube Microphone
Includes a Mogami cable for great audio fidelity$488.99
Rode K2 Tube Vocal Microphone
Has a smooth and rich sound that is hard to believe comes from such an inexpensive microphone, plus it has a wide dynamic range with ultra-low noise and class “A” valve circuitry$699.00
Telefunken AK-47 MKII
Features outstanding details with classic richness, and it is renowned for both usefulness and high-quality build$1,895.00
MXL Revelation Tube Microphone
Multi-purpose mic that features superb detail and quality with a variable control feature that lets you mix pickup patterns$399.99
Nady TCM-1050 Vacuum Tube Condenser Microphone
Specifically chosen for its low distortion, superb signal-to-noise ratio, and low sensitivity to the mechanical type of vibrations$266.65

Our Recommendation: Mojave MA-300

Credit: Mojave Audio

If you are looking for a microphone that can be used with a lot of different instruments and in a lot of different applications, the Mojave MA-300 needs to be on your list.

You can tell from looking at it that this is a high-quality product with a sturdy shock mount that gives you a wide range of adjustability making it easy to set up and use in a lot of different recording situations.

It has two capsules that are 3 microns thick and have the familiarity of the Mojave’s MA-200 design. The MA-300, however, has a constant variable with a remotely controlled pattern control that goes between the figure-8 and the omni.

It gives you infinite possibilities in the places that you can record without limiting you because of the room you are recording in.

Using a military-grade JAN 5840 vacuum tube, plus a Jensen transformer, the inside build is sturdy and durable. The mic to power supply cable is a sturdy seven-pin XLR that ships with the mic, power supply, and shock mount in a durable outer briefcase.

Recording instruments also gives you a beautiful transient sound that has an even balance of the highs, mids, and lows.

The tube does a good job of beefing up the low to mids and the bottom. You get clear stick hits and open highs when reproducing cymbals, and there are well-represented kick, snare, and tom hits.

The MA-300 also records a piano well giving it a warm and natural sound with tight and even tones. You can use the pattern adjustment to make a quick adjustment as you go if more players are added to the arrangement.

Singers also have it good with beefy vocals and a lot of body with a balanced representation of the singer’s range.

Hand percussion can be difficult to capture with a tube mic, but if you try it with a tambourine or conga, you get a good sound and a nice track from the MA-300.

This is a pricier mic coming in around $1295, but it is well-made and great for mic instruments, vocals, and work for any recording.

Pros

Works well with almost all instrument
Vocal are crisp and clear
Great carrying case, very durable

Cons

On the expensive side

Runner Up: Blue’s Bottle Locker

Credit: Amazon.com

If you are looking for an awesome kit that includes all the features, Blue’s Bottle Locker tube microphone kit should be on the top of your list.

The whole kit is built around the illustrious Bottle mic which may be the largest mic you have ever seen weighing in at four pounds and measuring sixteen inches.

It has an over-sized cylinder that contains no-compromise electronics that take up a lot of space and doesn’t even include the circuitry for filtering, polar patterns, or input attenuation.

The bottle patterns are changed when you select the correct capsule and attach it to the Bottle’s shaft through the sleeve and locking pin. Nine capsules are available to swap or switch without powering down included cardioids, figure-8, omni and other small diaphragm options.

The power supply works with a power-up process that is slow and guarantees the right operating temperature.

The set also includes a nice sized Pelican case that stores the mic, cable, power supply, and four capsules. The multi-pin cable is nice and thick, plus it is heavily shielded protecting it from any damage.

You get a pristine sound from the Bottle making others in its class sound distorted. It is very sensitive to detail with no distortion or dynamic influence, and it works well with vocals, drums, piano, and guitar providing open and clean sound.

The versatility of the caps is a great feature to help with different recording situations. This is a pricey mic at $3300, but well worth the investment if you can afford it.

Pros

Excellent tonal quality and warmth
Endless versatility with interchangeable capsules
Superior sound for vocal applications

Cons

Very expensive

Other Products to Consider:

MXL V69M HE MOGAMI

If you are looking for the standard of excellence for tube condenser microphones, musicians agree that the V69 (MOGAMI HE) is a clear choice.

The V69 will impress you with its warm, rich sound that it gives you vocals that are mix-ready, a punchy sound, and a rich midrange.

With it warmth and crispness, the V69 is a great tool to have in a home studio or professional studio environment.

MXL is a leader in high-performance recording equipment, and it has produced another must-have product with the V69. It is perfect for hard rock or hip-hop, and it has a transformerless design that gives your recordings a crisp high end.

It’s 12AT7 dual-triode tube delivers that vintage tone and the included Mogami cable and wiring gives you superb audio fidelity. The V69 is available for only $300.

Pros

Excellent mic, great value
Great warmth and depth
Good clean solid mic for recording acoustic instruments and vocals

Cons

Picks up a lot of background noise

BadAax GT-2B

Credit: Amazon.com

If you are looking for the perfect tube microphone for vocals, the GT-2B tube microphone has low noise and wide dynamic range. It uses a specific low noise tube and has excellent timbre and a distinctly reproduced sound.

The GT-2B allows you to select from nine different polar patterns that are easily available from the front panel selector switch. These patterns include Cardioid, Omni, and Figure Eight with three gradient stages in between each pattern.

The GT=2B is the perfect microphone if you are doing a lot of recording either at home or public venues. It is very versatile with excellent timbre and has a distinct reproduced sound that is rich, mellow, and fine.

It makes a great sound pickup device since you can count on it for high-quality sound reproduction.

Vocals, either performed live or in a studio, sound great on the GT-2B microphone which makes it the perfect mic for sound and stage professionals or gigging musicians.

This is a low-noise tube that captures superb vocal clarity with the least amount of handling noise. Plus, the versatile polar pattern selection gives the GT-2B great rejection of ambient noise depending on what the needs are for the room and the singer.

Since the GT-2B has a wide frequency response plus nine different selectable polar patterns, it is also a great microphone to record various instruments either live or in the studio.

When you attach the GT-2B with the mic clip to your mic boom stand, you can use the included windscreen and shock mount to create a mobile recording environment.

Other included accessories consist of an XLR to XLR microphone cable, a TPS100 power supply, and an aluminum protector case that comes with a combination lock and the whole kit costs only $120.

Pros

Great microphone to modify
Great for vocals
Awesome mic for gigs

Cons

Doesn’t sound good right out of the box

Sterling ST69

The Sterling ST69 Tube Microphone has tube circuitry and features a 3-micron super thin Mylar diaphragm that is half as thick as typical diaphragms.

It provides an improved response for a more real-life charm from sharp transients, plus it captures all those subtle musical moments.

The Sterling ST69 has a patented Disk Resonator System that is very sensitive to high frequencies but doesn’t need EQ circuits to start the phase shift.

It has naturally extended high-frequency, and you will hear awesome depth and detail whether you are recording instruments or vocals without getting rid of the warmth and tone.

The body has a precision-cut design on a stainless steel body with finely crafted inner workings. Its technical brilliance is complimented by its stunning good looks.

It is available in the $600 range.

Pros

High-quality mic, crisp and clean vocals
It is ready to go out of the box
Comes with a great carrying case

Cons

A little on the expensive side

MXL GENESIS

It is always a nice find when you discover a product that has an affordable price but has the performance of one that costs thousands.

That describes the MXL Genesis, a masterfully engineered tube microphone that records vocals with precision and instruments with superb detail.

Musicians and recording engineers have long praised Genesis for its tight bottoms, clean highs, and warm mids, much of which is attributed to the genuine Mullard 12AT7 tube.

The Genesis is the flagship of the MXL family, and it provides the intimacy and warmth of a lot more expensive microphones. It has components that are individually selected for their superb sonic capabilities.

The Mullard 12AT7 tube is one of the main components that are universally accepted by musicians and recording professionals as one of the best musical tubes on the market.

This vocal mic is capable of giving singers that rich vintage sound with the vintage Mullard 12AT7 tube that has classic tonality, plus it helps the vocal to penetrate the mix above the other track.

It also includes a Mogami cable for great audio fidelity. The MXL Genesis is available for the affordable price of $445.

Pros

Clean, crisp pickup
Best microphone in this price range
Sounds awesome, smooth and warm

Cons

Picks up feedback easily

Rode K2 Vocal

If you are looking for the character and subtleties of the renowned 1950’s mics, the RØDE K2 has the high-performance specifications that give you superb vocals with a home recording mic that can capture a wide variety of instruments in a group or up close.

The RØDE K2 variable pattern dual condenser valve microphone features gold sputtered diaphragms, plus polar patterns that has a variable control from bidirectional through cardioid and omnidirectional that gives you flexibility with an infinite number of options for whatever you are recording.

The RØDE K2 is one of the best-kept secrets in the music industry. It has a smooth and rich sound that is hard to believe comes from such an inexpensive microphone, plus it has a wide dynamic range with ultra-low noise and class “A” valve circuitry.

It includes a hand-selected and graded 6922 twin-triode valves with a high strength weld with a heat-treated steel mesh head and a dedicated power supply.

It is available for only $700.

Pros

Has a warm sound, great for recording
Great value for the price
Good all-around mic

Cons

A little on the expensive side

Telefunken AK-47 MKII

If you are looking for a classic tube microphone with a modern flair, the Telefunken AK-47 MKII gives you that classic character packed into a dependable microphone.

It includes three polar patterns with six stages that make it a hard worker in the studio.

You get authentic performance with the genuine NOS Telefunken EF-732 tube, plus the custom output transformer that gives you detail and sound that is reminiscent of historic U-47 and U-48 mics. It features outstanding details with classic richness, and it is renowned for both usefulness and high-quality build.

The Telefunken is very versatile and works well with vocals, drums, and guitars. It has a custom large diaphragm that gives you smooth, open highs and an extended low end.

This warm and detailed tube mic has an accurate sound that also has recording flexibility.

The power supply includes switchable polar patterns including cardioid, omni, figure 8, and six additional intermediate stages, so no matter what you are using it for, the Telefunken has a polar pattern to maximize it.

The omni pattern allows you to capture a group of singers, cardioid is able to drop unwanted sounds, and the figure 8 is good for mid-side recording. The versatility and flexibility of theTelefunken AK-47 MKII tube condenser mic make you ready for any type of recording session.

TELEFUNKEN Elektroakustik microphones are well-known for their wonderfully detailed acoustic reproductions, and they do tend to be more expensive than your average studio mic.

So, to reduce their price, the R-F-T series of microphones was produced as a lower cost alternative, using American designed electronics along with New Old Stock tubes and standard parts obtained from overseas manufacturers.

You can find the AK-47 MKII for around $1900.

Pros

Has an open and crisp top end
Great for recording vocals, guitar, and drums
Works well with any voice you put in front of it

Cons

On the expensive side

MXL Revelation

Our final product from the MXL line is the MXL Revelation studio microphone that expertly produces intimacy and warmth, plus an extended punch and clarity to balance out your recordings.

This is a dual 6 micron, gold-sputtered diaphragm that has a hand chosen EF86 pentode tube that gives you rich and warm sound. It has a polar pattern selection that is almost limitless allowing it to handle any recording track.

Its components are individually selected and chosen for their superb sonic capabilities. It has an EF86 pentode tube with a balanced transformer output, plus a variable knob that you will find on the power supply so you can choose the polar pattern that you prefer.

This is MXL’s flagship multi-purpose mic that features superb detail and quality with a variable control feature that lets you mix pickup patterns.

The EF86 pentode tube gives you that warm vintage sound, and it has a flat response lets you make a pure and natural recording.

The MXL Revelation is available for only $400.

Pros

Amazingly clear and naturally warm
Very affordable price
Can be eq’s to any vocalists style

Cons

None

Nady TCM-1050

Another all-around great mic is the Nady TCM 1050 Condenser. It is perfect for recording instruments, vocals, choral groups, orchestra, and a lot of different live situations.

It has a three-micron gold-sputtered Mylar dual diaphragm that includes a hand-tooled brass capsule. This is a highly sensitive microphone with subtle details and unmatched tone.

It has the circuitry of a 6072 vacuum tube that is a classic 12 AT7 that was specifically chosen for its low distortion, superb signal-to-noise ratio, and low sensitivity to the mechanical type of vibrations.

It comes with a special output transformer that was created for awesome transparency, and it has a sound reproduction that is naturally warm.

The TCM-1050 has a dedicated AC power supply that comes with a balanced XLR output that connects to any mixing console and does not require phantom sound.

The nine included patterns are all different and are remotely selected on the power supply for great versatility, and it is easy to use. The patterns include cardioid, omnidirectional, figure 8, and some intermediate stages.

The mic comes with a MPS-2 remote power supply that includes the nine pattern polar pattern select unit, an FW-1050 foam windscreen, an SSM-1050 elastic suspension shock mount, a switchable 115/230VAC operation, plus a power cord, XC-7P 30ft connecting cable with 7-pin XLR, and a TMCC-1 aluminum flight case.

The TCM-1050 is available for the affordable price of only $300.

Pros

Awesome sound straight out of the box
Sweet, smooth, and warm sound
Works great with vocal and instruments

Cons

Will need modifications

Sources

https://www.procosound.com/literature/NtzBltz_mic_HiLoImpedance.pdf
http://www.soundonsound.com/techniques/using-microphone-polar-patterns-effectively
http://www.analog.com/en/analog-dialogue/articles/understanding-microphone-sensitivity.html

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