A Truly Fine Vocal Mic for live performance.


New member
I've got a gig where they've asked me to sing "The Wind Beneath My Wings." My keyboard accompanist has worked out a great arrangement with some cool key modulations so that I can start the song with my soft high voice and then the chorus modulates two steps down so that my mid range resonance comes in naturally. For those of you who have a singing background, I have a legit bari/tenor voice with a 2 1/2 octave range. Think Irish tenor on top with a warm mid range. At future gigs, I will be singing a lot of Cabaret type selections from musical theatre and the Great American Songbook (Tony Bennett, Nat King Cole, etc.)with some Denver, Croce, and traditional folk songs when doing acoustic. My jazz friends are encouraging me to join them at some of their club gigs.

Sometimes the mic will be hand held so I'd be interested in the physical balance. I'm an old song and dance man and most of my singing was on the musical comedy stage where everything is sung full voice to floor mics. I'm just now learning how to use a mic in an intimate setting.

I've got a Shure SM58 and SM57 but I'm wondering if I should explore other vocal mics. A friend has recommended the Shure Beta 87a and from what I'm reading it warrants a demo. Others have bragged about the EV-410 and how it rivals some of the Neuman KM series mics. Can anyone elaborate on these mics or maybe you would have some other suggestions?

Mike Gilles
I cant comment on the other mics you mentioned but I would take a look at the Akg c535eb. It is a first class stage mic. It does require phantom power though since it is a condenser mic. It also has a bass roll switch.
If you've got the money, try the Neumann KMS 105... that's a really good mic, espically for the whole jazz singer scene. I did a gig with one last year at the City Recital Hall (Sydney) and it blew me away... so much clearer and warmer than a Beta58...

But, if that's out of your range, try maybe the Beta 87A. It's a nice sounding stage mic, and I try to lean towards it when trying to get a "different" vocal sound on stage (and by "different" I mean "not SM/Beta 58").

I'd demo both of those mics. The 87A's length and narrow body do make it feel a bit different, but the balance shold be fine. The KMS105 feels just like a SM58 on 'roids- well balanced, just a bit heavier.

I'd also like to plug the Rode S1, although I haven't had much time with it, however if you're auditioning mics it might be worthwhile putting it on the list... you never know
I own three of the mics mentioned above (KMS105, C535, and Beta87), and I would strongly recommend the KMS105 if you can afford it. The Beta87 isn't a bad choice, but it's no Neumann. And the C535 is very bright, which can be OK on some voices, but it's not a favorite of mine. Another one that's worth a look is the Audio Technica AE5400.
KMS 105 is pretty much the benchmark nowadays. All of the others that claim to compare just don't really even come that close. There are plenty of good options, but the Neumann is still the overall favorite.
cpl_crud said:
If you've got the money, try the Neumann KMS 105...
I'll also throw my hat into the ring for that Neumann. I'm one of the the house techs/soundmen for a large entertainment center, and we swear by those things. The boss bought 6 of 'em. They work great for rock, blues, jazz, odd ethnic stuff...whatever you throw at them.
OK, ya'll have me really interested in the Neumann KMS-105. I visited their site and read a lot of reviews there and on other sites. A few rockers have said that the 105 favors the ladies' voices, but I wonder if those critics were more into heavy metal and such. I just want a microphone that can show my voice honestly through it's full range -- flaws and all -- and not make it into something it isn't. That seems like the Neumann will do just that. You guys work with this stuff all the time so I'm listening hard. I learned a long time ago that if you want to learn about diamonds, you don't ask a blacksmith. Thanks for your advice.
Mike Gilles
i saw an entire dvd that was a bunch of indie rock and singer/songwriter bands recorded entirely live in a small living room, and the entire time i couldn't get over how amazing the vocals sounded through a certain mic that i told myself i HAVE to have. turned out to be the kms105!
Mikegilles said:
A few rockers have said that the 105 favors the ladies' voices....
I've used the 105 on both male and female voices with equal success. Slaid Cleaves, David Francey, and Fred Eaglesmith all sounded great through the KMS105. So did Carol Young (of the Greencards) and Kasey Chambers.
Innovations said:
If the kms105 is out of your budget I would suggest the Sennheiser e845 or for less money the e835

These are good, the Beyer is good, or you can try a Shure SM86, better than the 87 cuz the 87 is hypercardioid and more prone to feedback. I like AKG stuff, but they ahve so many you have to pick the right one. Someone posted a 3-part series on AKG mics, you should review that before you decide.
I recently acquired an Audix OM5 mostly to tame feedback issues in problematic venues. It just so happens that I really like the way the microphone sounds too.

MrZekeMan said:
I recently acquired an Audix OM5 mostly to tame feedback issues in problematic venues. It just so happens that I really like the way the microphone sounds too.


That's one of my faves for the drum position where I work. The monitors sit right behind the drummer's head. Many other mics are basically nightmares there.
Another good stage vocal mic that I forgot to mention earlier is the Sennheiser 431. Full Compass has a special on them at the moment. I got mine on clearance at a local store for an amazing price (under $200), and I've found it to be an excellent investment.
The advice I'm getting from you folks is golden. I am very appreciative of your taking time to help me out here. I have a new question about running an expensive high quality vocal mic through an inexpensive sound system, but I've posted that in a new thread. I hope you'll bear with me for that one.
Mike Gilles
IMHO, the top handheld condensor mics are the Neumann KMS105, Audix VX-10 and the Audio Technica AE5400. The AT can probably be had for a little less money than the others. It uses the same capsule as the AT-4050 recordimg mic. I have several of the Audix mics (as well as the AKG C535eb and Beyer M88 mentioned above) and they are simply great performing (and recording) mics. The Beyer M88 is a nic emic but has whomping proximity effect which may or may not be what you need. I think it is very comparable to the Neumann and can be bought for reasonable money on e-bay if you are so inclined (less than a used Neumann on e-bay). I think I paid an average of $300 each or so for mine.

Another possibility is a Beyer M500 which is their performing ribbon mic. Discontinued, but still available on e-bay from time to time. They go for @ $250-300. Very nice smooth vocal mic with a bit of a presence peak. Good enough for Frank Sinatra apparently. These can be really great mics on some voices - I like them on male voices better than female.

Yet another great performing vocal mic is the Sennheiser MD441. A very hi-fi dynamic mic with roll off switches. There is an all black touring version (MD541 I think) that is a little hardier than the studio version although either could be used. Used by Stevie Nicks and Elton John. They are about $300 or so on e-bay.

And you thought this was going to be simple.