We take a look at our top 6 best small diaphragm condenser microphones ideal for professionals and home recording enthusiasts alike
Getting the best small diaphragm condenser microphones for your home studio, professional set up or even live performances once would have cost the earth, as these microphones were once reserved for the consummate professionals out there, owing to the fact a decent SDC Mic would cost more than your car.
Nowadays, there are an array of SDC microphones out there that are completely within the budgets of us mortals – budget friendly and still superb quality. So today we’re going to look at our top 6 best Small diaphragm condenser microphones to show you that you too can have studio quality microphones to record and tour with, without breaking the bank.
Top 6 Best Small Condenser Microphones
Here’s our top 6 best small diaphragm condenser (SDC) mics from brands such as Aston, Rode, AKG and more.
1. Aston Starlight Pencil Microphone
Small diaphragm condenser mics work better in pairs, allowing you to capture all the subtle nuances of your instrument or voice in beautiful, neutral detail, so we had to include the Aston Starlight Pencil Microphone. The Aston Starlight Pencil Microphone is available individually or pair with Rycote Shockmount and Suspension Kit. These mics are currently taking the musical and recording world by storm, garnering stellar reviews from some of the most well-respected publications in the industry such as Sound On Sound, MusicTech and more owing to its unprecedented versatility and accuracy. If you're after a pair of quality Aston Microphones at a slightly more affordable price-point we'd recommend the Starlight Stereo Pair.
The team at Aston Mics worked with over 50 top producers, conducting double blind listening tests with hundreds of capsules, whittling down the list meticulously and deciding on the 20mm cardioid capsule used in the Aston Starlight pencil microphone.
The interesting thing about the Aston Starlight Condenser is the fact you actually have 3 different circuit paths, providing 3 completely different and distinct recording capabilities. It’s essentially 3 microphones in 1, making it one of the best small diaphragm condenser microphones for those who need one mic to rule them all! Choose between Vintage, Modern and Hybrid settings to record your drums, guitars, vocals or anything you like!
In addition, the Aston Starlight includes a Class 2 laser which allows you to line up your ideal position, say on a drum kit or amplifier cab for example, mark the position with a piece of tape or chalk and set up the mic in the exact same place at a later date!
Check out our in-depth review of the Aston Starlight here.
2. SE Electronics sE4 Condenser Microphone
The SE Electronics sE4 Condenser Microphone has been designed to carry on the legacy of the coveted and highly respected sE3 microphone, yet includes a completely re-engineered chassis that allows you to interchange different capsules.
The reason this makes our best small diaphragm condenser microphones blog is the fact you not only get the pure sounds of the SE3 cardioid capsule as standard, but you can also install one of 2 interchangeable capsules - a Hypercardioid and an Omni in seconds. These extra capsules are available as an additional purchase, but will allow you to record with 3 different sounds! However, should you just want the one, the SE4 cardioid capsule is still an industry standard by its own right.
The frequency response of 20Hz-20KHz and superior sensitivity make it a fantastic choice for recording enthusiasts whom want the best out of their recordings. Also available as a stereo pair.
3. Rode M5 Condenser Microphones Matched Pair
The Rode M5 Condenser Microphones Matched Pair is an ideal choice for those on a budget. This modestly priced matched pair of condenser microphones is not only perfect for acoustic instruments and choirs, but can also handle electric instruments, drums and more thanks to the permanently polarized condenser construction. Rode don’t mess around when it comes to creating hard wearing microphones, which is why they so revered and often utilised by travelling musicians, those with portable studios and home recording enthusiasts – they’re built to last.
The matched pair have less than 1dB sensitivity difference between them ensuring your stereo sound is pure and completely matched. This pencil style microphone 1/2" diaphragm makes our best small diaphragm condenser microphones list thanks to the superb construction, superior sound quality and of course – it’s budget friendly price tag that allows you to get studio quality recordings at a fraction of the cost.
4. AKG C391 B High Performance Condenser Microphone
As far as pencil mics or small diaphragm condenser microphones go, the AKG C391 B High Performance Condenser Microphone is up there with the best in the world, offering up superb sound quality and reliability. The AKG C391 B microphone is actually a meticulously designed and constructed hybrid of the SE300 pre-amplifier and the Blue Line Series CK91 – two highly regarded products from AKG. This means you get a fantastic cardioid polar pattern with great transient response with extremely low self-noise to provide world class recording at all times.
Each of these AKG C391 B High Performance Condenser Microphones have been hand crafted by the AKG engineers in Vienna Austria, ensuring that you get a quality, reliable mic straight out of the box.
The reason this makes our best small diaphragm condenser microphones list is down to the precise cardioid polar pattern, the extremely useful attenuation pad which allows you to record high-SPLT applications up to 144dB and the switchable bass-cut filter to eliminate rumble from lower frequency recordings and footfall. A great option for broadcasting, the AKG C391 B can also swap out any capsule within the Blue Line series too, should your recordings call for it.
5. SE Electronics SE5 Pencil Condenser Microphones (Matched Pair)
The SE Electronics SE5 Pencil Condenser Microphones (Matched Pair) is the upgrade from the sE4, providing more control over your sound as well as an upgraded diaphragm and hand-crafted construction. The cool thing about the SE5 is that the cardioid polar pattern delivers a clean and smooth on-axis response, with off-axis rejection which heavily reduces that unwanted noise and room ambience that can colour your recordings.
You can actually apply a 100Hz bass cut to decrease the level of proximity effect with the sE5 and the -10dB or -20dB settings allow you to reduce the level output from the microphone to the connected preamp which makes it a great option for recording drums and very loud sound sources such as mic’d up guitar cabinets.
The 23mm Gold/Mylar diaphragm provides sound perfect recording and the 20 Hz - 20 kHz frequency range ensures you can record and accurately capture a wide range of frequencies. The matched pair package includes a precision stereo mounting bar and the entire setup comes packaged inside a secure flight case – ideal for travelling musicians sound engineers and studio owners.
6. Rode NT5 Condenser Microphone
Finally, we have the Rode NT5 Condenser Microphone which easily makes our best small diaphragm condenser microphones list thanks to its versatility, gold sputtered ½” capsule for superior sound response and the active J-FET impedance converter with bipolar output buffer. This is a world class microphone at budget friendly pricing.
Capable of recording acoustic instruments, drum overheads, loud cymbals and perfectly capturing live performances, you’ll find your recordings provide an accurate representation of how your instrument should sound, with each take. In addition, the tight cardioid pickup pattern also makes the Rode NT5 an ideal option for indoor dialogue and film making when used on a mic stand or boom. This is a hugely versatile option for many applications.
The NT5 features a heavy-duty satin-nickel plated body, to keep all the inner workings safe and it’s also covered by Rode’s industry leading 10 year warranty, which makes it an investment that you can rely on!
Bonus mic - TOURTECH CM - 100 Pencil Condenser Microphones (pair)
Ok we said 6, but we had to include the TOURTECH CM - 100 Pencil Condenser Microphone because it's one of our favourites here at PMT thanks to its incredibly accurate sound reproduction. A 360 degree Mic Clip holder allows you to place your mic at virtually any angle. This means those awkward recording angles are easily taken care of. We also love the TOURTECH CM - 100 Microphones due to their incredibly affordable price point. Perfect for those who are just starting out!
Check out a full range of industry-standard small diaphragm condenser microphones and more over at PMT Online, or call in to your local PMT store to speak to one of our recording experts about the best option to suit your needs.