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Which Are The Best Microphones for Recording Rap Vocals

Which Are The Best Microphones for Recording Rap Vocals

Recording rap vocals is an intricate art form within the music production landscape, demanding the perfect blend of technical expertise and creative finesse. The vocal performance in rap is often front and center, making microphone selection a pivotal choice in the production process.

Let’s explore the nuances of microphones for capturing the essence of rap vocals, delving deeper into their characteristics, strengths, and ideal applications.

Microphone Selection: A Critical Foundation

Before delving into specific microphone models, it’s crucial to understand the underlying principles of microphone selection for rap vocals. When working with rappers, the microphone becomes an extension of the artist’s identity.

It must accentuate their unique vocal style, highlight their lyrical prowess, and provide the clarity necessary for their words to resonate with the audience.

Microphones to Avoid

  • Pressure Gradient Microphones (True Spheres): These microphones, often referred to as “real” spheres, are not the first choice for rap vocals. They tend to capture excessive room ambiance and lack the bass boost necessary for impactful rap delivery, even at close range.
  • Ribbon Microphones: While ribbon mics are beloved for their warmth and character, they may come off as too rounded and mellow for the assertive nature of rap vocals. Additionally, many rappers prefer to work in close proximity to the microphone, which can cause excessive bass buildup in ribbon mics.
  • Small-Diaphragm and Subminiature Microphones: While there are exceptions, very compact microphones may not be the go-to choice for rap. Their diminutive size might not align with the larger-than-life persona often associated with rap artists. Moreover, extremely budget-friendly microphones can introduce unwanted artifacts into the mix.
  • USB Microphones without Direct Monitoring: Achieving the right rhythm and timing in rap performances demands low-latency monitoring. Therefore, microphones lacking this feature can hinder the artist’s ability to deliver their best performance.

Microphones that Excel in Rap Vocal Recording

Neumann U 87

Widely recognized as an industry standard, the Neumann U 87 boasts versatility that has made it a favorite among rap artists and producers. Its eight polar patterns, particularly the figure-eight pattern, offer a prominent and tactile vocal sound.

The Neumann U 87 microphone has been a favorite among many renowned artists and bands in various music genres. Here is a list of some popular artists and bands that have used the Neumann U 87 microphone for their recordings:

  • Michael Jackson: The King of Pop himself, Michael Jackson, is known to have used the Neumann U 87 for recording his iconic vocals on several albums, including “Thriller.”
  • Frank Sinatra: The legendary crooner Frank Sinatra often used the Neumann U 87 in his recording sessions, contributing to his signature smooth and velvety vocal sound.
  • Adele: The Grammy-winning British singer-songwriter Adele is reported to have used the Neumann U 87 for capturing her powerful and emotive vocals on hit albums like “21” and “25.”
  • U2: The iconic rock band U2, fronted by Bono, has utilized the Neumann U 87 to capture Bono’s distinctive vocals, helping to create their anthemic sound.
  • Beyoncé: The multi-talented Beyoncé is known to have employed the Neumann U 87 for her vocal recordings, contributing to her impressive vocal clarity and range.
  • Elton John: The legendary singer-songwriter Elton John has used the Neumann U 87 for his expressive vocals, which have played a significant role in his timeless hits.
  • Radiohead: The experimental rock band Radiohead, led by Thom Yorke, has incorporated the Neumann U 87 in their recording setup, contributing to their distinctive soundscapes.
  • Coldplay: The British rock band Coldplay, fronted by Chris Martin, has utilized the Neumann U 87 to capture Martin’s emotive vocals, heard on chart-topping albums like “Parachutes” and “A Rush of Blood to the Head.”
  • Norah Jones: The acclaimed singer-songwriter Norah Jones is known to have chosen the Neumann U 87 for recording her jazz-infused vocals, enhancing the intimacy of her music.
  • John Legend: The soulful singer John Legend has employed the Neumann U 87 in his studio recordings, contributing to his rich and resonant vocal performances.

These artists and bands have embraced the Neumann U 87 for its versatility and ability to faithfully capture their unique vocal styles, making it a popular choice for a wide range of musical genres and recording scenarios.

The cheaper alternative: The U 87 is a premium microphone, and budget-conscious alternatives include clones of older 87 models such as the Peluso P-87 and Warm Audio WA-87.

Shure SM7B

While this dynamic microphone has long been a staple in the United States, it took some time to gain recognition in Europe. The SM7B may not capture every detail, but it possesses a unique ability to adapt to various vocal styles and harmonize seamlessly.

The Shure SM7B microphone has earned its reputation as a versatile and reliable choice for recording vocals and instruments. Here’s a list of some popular artists and bands that have used or continue to use the Shure SM7B microphone:

  • Michael Jackson: He used the Shure SM7B for his vocals on the classic album “Thriller.”
  • Metallica: The iconic heavy metal band Metallica has relied on the Shure SM7B for capturing the powerful and aggressive vocals of James Hetfield.
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers: The funk-rock legends, Red Hot Chili Peppers, have used the Shure SM7B to record the distinctive vocals of Anthony Kiedis.
  • John Mayer: The Grammy-winning singer-songwriter and guitarist John Mayer has incorporated the Shure SM7B in his recording setup to capture his soulful vocals and guitar tones.
  • Bon Iver: The indie-folk project led by Justin Vernon, Bon Iver, has used the Shure SM7B for its intimate and emotive vocal recordings.
  • Twenty One Pilots: The genre-blending duo Twenty One Pilots, consisting of Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun, have chosen the Shure SM7B for capturing Tyler’s dynamic vocals.
  • Foo Fighters: The rock legends Foo Fighters, led by Dave Grohl, have used the Shure SM7B for recording Grohl’s powerful vocals and various instruments.
  • Billie Eilish: The Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Billie Eilish has employed the Shure SM7B in her studio recordings, enhancing the intimacy and depth of her vocals.
  • Bruce Springsteen: The Boss himself, Bruce Springsteen, is known to have used the Shure SM7B to capture his iconic and emotive rock vocals.
  • Adele: Adele, with her powerhouse vocals, has turned to the Shure SM7B for recording her chart-topping hits with remarkable clarity.
  • Kendrick Lamar: The acclaimed rapper Kendrick Lamar has used the Shure SM7B for his lyrical and impactful vocal performances.
  • Childish Gambino (Donald Glover): Multi-talented artist Donald Glover, known as Childish Gambino, has utilized the Shure SM7B for his rap and singing vocals.
  • Chris Stapleton: The country music sensation Chris Stapleton has chosen the Shure SM7B for capturing his soulful and authentic vocals.
  • Hozier: The Irish singer-songwriter Hozier has employed the Shure SM7B to capture his deep and resonant vocals.
  • Joe Rogan: While not a musician, Joe Rogan, the renowned podcaster and comedian, uses the Shure SM7B as his go-to microphone for recording “The Joe Rogan Experience.”

The cheaper alternative: The Shure SM58, featuring the same Unidyne-III capsule, offers a more budget-friendly option, delivering a classic live performance vibe to studio recordings.

Sony C800g

A high-end choice reserved for those with deep pockets, the C800g is favored for its rich tonal qualities, especially in female rap. However, its exorbitant price tag places it beyond the reach of most.

Here’s a list of some popular artists and bands that have used or continue to use the Sony C800G microphone:

  • Mariah Carey: The multi-octave diva Mariah Carey has used the Sony C800G for recording her soaring vocals, contributing to her signature sound on numerous hit songs.
  • Beyoncé: The global superstar Beyoncé has employed the Sony C800G in her recording sessions, enhancing the clarity and richness of her powerful vocals.
  • Alicia Keys: The Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Alicia Keys has used the Sony C800G to capture her soulful and emotive performances on piano and vocals.
  • Adele: The British sensation Adele is known to have used the Sony C800G microphone for recording her chart-topping albums, delivering her remarkable vocal depth.
  • Drake: The Canadian rapper and singer Drake has utilized the Sony C800G for his rap and singing vocals, contributing to his smooth and polished sound.
  • Justin Timberlake: The versatile artist Justin Timberlake has turned to the Sony C800G for capturing his expressive vocals, both in his solo work and with NSYNC.
  • Chris Brown: The R&B and pop star Chris Brown has used the Sony C800G for recording his dynamic vocal performances, enhancing his music’s clarity and presence.
  • Rihanna: The Barbadian singer Rihanna has employed the Sony C800G microphone to capture her distinct and captivating vocal style on numerous hit tracks.
  • Kanye West: The influential rapper and producer Kanye West has incorporated the Sony C800G in his recording setup for both his own vocals and production work.
  • Usher: The R&B icon Usher has turned to the Sony C800G to capture his smooth and soulful vocals, contributing to his timeless hits.
  • Jay-Z: The legendary rapper and mogul Jay-Z is known to have used the Sony C800G microphone in his recording sessions to deliver his powerful and lyrical performances.
  • Bruno Mars: The multi-talented artist Bruno Mars has employed the Sony C800G for recording his dynamic and versatile vocals, playing a crucial role in his diverse music.
  • Mary J. Blige: The Queen of Hip-Hop Soul, Mary J. Blige, has used the Sony C800G to capture her emotive and impactful vocal performances.
  • Kendrick Lamar: The critically acclaimed rapper Kendrick Lamar has incorporated the Sony C800G in his studio recordings for its ability to capture his intricate lyrical delivery.
  • Eminem: The rap icon Eminem is known to have used the Sony C800G microphone for recording his rapid-fire and intricate rhymes.

These artists and bands have recognized the Sony C800G’s ability to deliver pristine and transparent audio quality, making it a prized choice for capturing their vocals and instrumental performances.

The cheaper alternative: Some artists and engineers turn to the Manley Reference Cardioid as a potential substitute, though it doesn’t come cheap either.

Sennheiser MK4

The Sennheiser MK4 stands out for its budget-friendly nature and its inherent vocal shaping capabilities. Tailored for spoken word and “Sprechgesang” (a style blending speaking and singing), it excels in capturing the essence of rap.

Here’s a list of some popular artists and bands that have used or continue to use the Sennheiser MK4 microphone:

  • Ed Sheeran: The British singer-songwriter and global superstar Ed Sheeran is known to have used the Sennheiser MK4 for his vocal recordings, helping to capture his intimate and melodic performances.
  • The Chainsmokers: The electronic music duo, The Chainsmokers, have incorporated the Sennheiser MK4 in their studio setup for recording vocals and various instruments, contributing to their signature sound.
  • John Legend: The soulful singer John Legend has used the Sennheiser MK4 microphone to capture his rich and resonant vocals, enhancing the depth and warmth of his performances.
  • Lana Del Rey: The indie-pop sensation Lana Del Rey has employed the Sennheiser MK4 to record her dreamy and ethereal vocals, contributing to her unique sound.
  • Billie Eilish: The Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Billie Eilish has turned to the Sennheiser MK4 for recording her emotive and intimate vocals, adding depth to her music.
  • Imagine Dragons: The rock band Imagine Dragons has utilized the Sennheiser MK4 in their recording sessions, helping to capture the powerful vocals and instruments that define their anthemic sound.

The cheaper alternative: Consider microphones similarly optimized for vocals, such as the Rode NT1A in the United States, or CAD Equitek E200 and E300, known for their midrange presence.

Electro-Voice RE20

In many ways, the RE20 shares similarities with the SM7B as a dynamic microphone. Its size, however, serves a specific purpose, using an acoustic trick known as “Variable D” to deliver a controlled bass response even at close distances.

Here’s a list of some popular artists and bands that have used or continue to use the Electro-Voice RE20 microphone:

  • Stevie Nicks: The iconic rock singer and Fleetwood Mac member Stevie Nicks is known to have used the Electro-Voice RE20 for recording her distinctive vocals.
  • David Bowie: The legendary musician and artist David Bowie employed the Electro-Voice RE20 in his recording sessions, contributing to his unique sound across various albums.
  • Radiohead: The experimental rock band Radiohead, led by Thom Yorke, has incorporated the Electro-Voice RE20 in their recording setup, enhancing their sonic landscapes.
  • Rush: The progressive rock pioneers Rush, with Geddy Lee on vocals and bass, have used the Electro-Voice RE20 to capture Lee’s powerful bass and vocal performances.
  • Paul McCartney: The Beatles legend Paul McCartney has turned to the Electro-Voice RE20 for recording various instruments and vocals, contributing to his diverse solo catalog.
  • Eagles: The iconic rock band Eagles, featuring Don Henley on vocals and drums, has used the Electro-Voice RE20 in their recordings, adding clarity to Henley’s vocals and drums.
  • The Rolling Stones: The legendary rock band The Rolling Stones has incorporated the Electro-Voice RE20 for recording Mick Jagger’s iconic vocals, adding presence and clarity.
  • Pearl Jam: The grunge pioneers Pearl Jam, with Eddie Vedder on vocals, have used the Electro-Voice RE20 to capture Vedder’s intense and emotional performances.
  • Bob Seger: The rock singer-songwriter Bob Seger has employed the Electro-Voice RE20 for recording his gravelly and soulful vocals.
  • The Who: The rock band The Who, featuring Roger Daltrey on vocals, has used the Electro-Voice RE20 for capturing Daltrey’s powerful and dynamic vocal style.
  • Alice in Chains: The alternative rock band Alice in Chains, with Layne Staley and later William DuVall on vocals, has incorporated the Electro-Voice RE20 in their recordings, adding depth to their sound.
  • Soundgarden: The grunge band Soundgarden, led by Chris Cornell, has utilized the Electro-Voice RE20 to capture Cornell’s signature vocals and instrumentations.
  • Steely Dan: The jazz-rock duo Steely Dan, with Donald Fagen on vocals and keyboards, has used the Electro-Voice RE20 for recording Fagen’s smooth and jazzy vocals.
  • Johnny Cash: The country music legend Johnny Cash employed the Electro-Voice RE20 for capturing his deep and resonant baritone vocals.

The cheaper alternative: The RE320 from the same company provides a more budget-friendly alternative.

Aston Stealth

A newcomer on the scene, the Aston Stealth introduces a dynamic microphone with active circuitry and various voicings. While it has yet to establish itself fully in the realm of rap vocals, its innovative potential is undeniably intriguing.

Here’s a list of some popular artists and bands that have used or continue to use the Aston Stealth microphone:

  • James Blake: The British singer, songwriter, and producer James Blake has been known to use the Aston Stealth microphone for its adaptability in capturing his distinctive vocals and electronic music.
  • Bring Me The Horizon: The British rock band Bring Me The Horizon has employed the Aston Stealth microphone to capture the powerful and dynamic vocals of frontman Oliver Sykes.
  • Emeli Sandé: The Scottish singer-songwriter Emeli Sandé has used the Aston Stealth for its versatility in recording her soulful and emotive vocals.
  • Biffy Clyro: The Scottish rock band Biffy Clyro has incorporated the Aston Stealth in their studio setup for recording vocals and instruments, enhancing their energetic and dynamic sound.
  • Nothing But Thieves: The alternative rock band Nothing But Thieves has utilized the Aston Stealth microphone for capturing the vocals and instruments that define their eclectic sound.
  • Tom Walker: The British singer-songwriter Tom Walker has turned to the Aston Stealth for recording his rich and resonant vocals, adding depth to his music.
  • Rag’n’Bone Man: The British artist Rag’n’Bone Man has used the Aston Stealth microphone to capture his soulful and powerful vocals, contributing to his signature sound.
  • Enter Shikari: The British post-hardcore band Enter Shikari has incorporated the Aston Stealth microphone into their recording and live setups, adding clarity to their intense performances.
  • Birdy: The English singer-songwriter Birdy has employed the Aston Stealth to capture her emotive and haunting vocals, enhancing the depth of her music.
  • Skunk Anansie: The British rock band Skunk Anansie, led by Skin on vocals, has used the Aston Stealth microphone for recording Skin’s fierce and dynamic performances.
  • Bastille: The British indie-pop band Bastille has turned to the Aston Stealth for recording their distinctive vocals and musical arrangements, contributing to their unique style.
  • Newton Faulkner: The British singer-songwriter Newton Faulkner has incorporated the Aston Stealth in his recording setup to capture his acoustic and vocal performances.
  • Tom Grennan: The British singer Tom Grennan has employed the Aston Stealth for recording his powerful and soulful vocals, adding clarity to his music.
  • Nothing More: The American rock band Nothing More has utilized the Aston Stealth microphone for capturing the vocals and instruments that define their genre-blending sound.
  • Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes: The British punk rock band Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes have incorporated the Aston Stealth in their live performances and studio recordings, adding impact to their music.

These artists and bands have chosen the Aston Stealth microphone for its adaptability, clarity, and ability to enhance their performances across various music genres.

The cheaper alternative: Currently, there are no direct alternatives to the Aston Stealth, making it a unique option for those willing to explore uncharted territory.


Recording rap vocals isn’t merely about capturing sound; it’s about painting a sonic portrait that embodies the artist’s message and energy. Microphone selection is the first brushstroke on this musical canvas, shaping the foundation upon which the entire track is built.

Also read: 10 Best Headphones for Studio Recording, Mixing, & Mastering

As an experienced audio engineer, understanding the subtle intricacies of microphones empowers you to sculpt rap vocal recordings that resonate deeply with listeners, making the journey from the artist’s mind to the listener’s heart as authentic and impactful as possible.

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