There once was a time when finding the best vintage microphones around meant trawling around antique fairs or tracking down a private collector and paying a serious amount of money to get your hands on an authentic model from days gone by.
For diehard audiophiles, antique enthusiasts, and serious musicians with money to burn, this may still be the best approach. However, for those who simply love that elegant retro style but still want something practical they can use, there is an easier, more affordable alternative.
Vintage microphone clones look and feel just like the very best antique mics from the 1930s through the 1970s while incorporating modern features that means they can still be used to record a podcast, cut an album, or even entertain audiences with a live performance.
For today’s guide, we’ve tried out scores of such microphones to bring you our pick of the top five best vintage microphones for both stage and studio that your money can buy in 2020.
Top 5 Best Vintage Microphones in 2020
|1.||Shure 55SH Series II Dynamic Vocal Microphone|
|2.||AKG Pro Audio Lyra USB-C Condenser Microphone|
|3.||Pyle Retro Microphone and Swing Stand|
|4.||Monoprice Memphis Blue Classic Dynamic Microphone|
|5||MXL V400 Dynamic Microphone|
1. Shure 55SH Series II Dynamic Vocal Microphone
The Shure 55SH Series II Dynamic Vocal Microphone is often called “The Elvis Mic” as it’s similar to the microphones The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll used early in his career. That alone has made this impressive unidyne microphone a big hit with fans of old-school audio equipment, but make no mistake about it, this is far from a gimmick.
Equally suited to studio and stage, this powerful, high-performance microphone offers some of the most crisp and clear vocal production you’re likely to hear, meaning it’s just as good for singing your heart out as it is for recording your latest podcast.
As good as it may sound, what really sets this one apart is the design and manufacturing quality. Weighing a substantial 626 grams, the 55SH is a heavy, solid piece of equipment that really feels the way all the best vintage microphones felt way back when.
This remarkable durability is matched only by the mic’s iconic look. The ’30’s-style grille design makes it a true thing of beauty, ensuring you’ll look the part whether you’re rocking and rolling on stage or recording in a way that harkens back to the good old days of the phonograph.
For all it’s throwback appeal, the 55SH is designed for modern use, requiring only an XLR cable (and possibly a mic stand) to make full use out of it.
To sum up, this is the best combination of high performance and gorgeous retro design we’ve seen, making the 55SH a vintage mic that’s truly fit for a king.
2. AKG Pro Audio Lyra Ultra-HD USB-C Condenser Microphone
If you’ve ever sat listening to your vintage radio imagining an old-timey radio host talking to you from their studio, the AKG Pro Audio Lyra USB-C Condenser Microphone is exactly the kind of microphone you’d probably imagine them using.
The mic is often regarded as the best vintage microphone for podcast recording and, having given it a trial run ourselves, we’re inclined to agree with that assessment.
Offering a level of premium quality audio that surpasses that of many contemporary USB microphones, the AKG Pro Audio Lyra is a great plug-and-play device that makes it easy to record crystal clear sound without much technical know-how.
Still, much of the appeal of a vintage mic lies in the appearance, and the AKG Lyra certain doesn’t disappoint in that regard. The manufacturers themselves describe it as offering “modern design with vintage appeal,” and to be honest, we couldn’t have said it any better ourselves.
Again, it has that delightful old-timey radio show aesthetic about it, lending the whole thing a noticeable retro charm while still ensuring it wouldn’t look too out-of-place in a modern studio.
The addition of a stylish desk stand is a welcome bonus too, helping to make this vintage-style USB microphone a top contender for anyone who takes their podcast recording seriously.
3. Pyle Retro Microphone and Swing Stand
Though many of the best vintage microphones are versatile enough to be used in either recording or performance, the Pyle Retro Microphone and Swing Stand is one that’s definitely designed to take center stage.
Set this one up, and you’ll be instantly transported back to the golden age, with its gold-colored swing stand and authentic vintage microphone clone looking for all the world like it came directly from an old-timey jazz club or burlesque bar.
The whole thing looks stunning and is guaranteed to be a talking point in any venue you happen to place it in. Yet make no mistake about it, this isn’t just for the show.
The stand is fully adjustable between 49″ and 69″ inches, with a 360° tilting mic pole that gently snaps back into place when you let go of the stand, adding a certain stylish flourish to your stage performance.
Meanwhile, the microphone itself is as good as you’re going to get at this level. A dynamic mic with a frequency of 50Hz-12kHz and an XLR (3-Pin), it more than holds its own against any contemporary microphone available in a similar price range.
All in all then, a great combination of retro appeal and modern functionality that is sure to make it a hit with performers.
4. Monoprice Memphis Blue Classic Dynamic Microphone
If you liked everything about our top-ranked Shure 55SH Series II apart from the price tag, then this attractive Monoprice Memphis Blue Classic Dynamic Microphone may prove to be a suitable, budget-friendly alternative.
Designed as a not-so-subtle microphone clone of the 55SH, the Monoprice Memphis Blue boasts the same classic 1930s automobile grille style as its more famous counterpart, though if you ask us, the addition of the blue internal foam makes it all the more handsome.
Of course, the die-cast metal microphone housing isn’t just for show, it also lends the mic a high level of resilience and damage resistance, meaning that even at this level, you’re getting a top-quality microphone that’s built to last.
5. MXL V400 Dynamic Microphone With Vintage Body
If you’ve ever pictured yourself belting your lungs out to some old-time rock ‘n’ roll while a packed audience dances the night away and the bartender keeps the cocktails flowing, this might just be the microphone for you.
A deluxe dynamic microphone built specifically for live performance, the MXL V400 Dynamic Microphone comes in a gorgeous vintage body that would look perfect sat atop a retro mic stand on stage in the land. As authentically vintage as this old-school clone microphone may look, its features are construction are very much of the 21st century.
The combination of high caliber internal foam windscreen and cardioid polar pattern proves excellent in filtering out background noise while ensuring exceptional vocal quality.
There’s also a handy built-in shock mount to stop the noise of floor vibrations being picked up, making this one the ideal mic for the liveliest of performances.
Speaking of quality, the recording you’ll get with the Memphis Blue obviously isn’t going to be the same that you’d get with a serious top-of-the-line model, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t still sound great.
The super-cardioid polar pattern is incredibly effective at minimizing feedback from monitors, PA systems, and similar equipment, while the high-output dynamic cartridge ensures you get a nice, powerful sound each and every time.
Though it’s designed as a throwback to the jazz and blues bars of the 40s and 50s, we’re confident that this well-built retro microphone will deliver equally as solid a performance in the studio as it will in the club.
Frequently Asked Questions About Vintage Microphones
What’s the Difference Between a Vintage Microphone and a Microphone Clone?
Most collectors of retro audio equipment consider a vintage microphone to be one that was first launched at least 50 years ago and was widely considered to be best-in-class at the time. These are often ribbon or tube condenser microphones that today are often considered to be antiques, selling for much more than their original retail value.
Part of what makes them so sought-after is that they have been discontinued by their manufacturer, which is why clone microphones have become such a big deal over the last couple of years.
A clone microphone is one that is designed to look, feel, and function exactly like an actual vintage microphone from days gone by, meaning you can still recreate a similar experience without shelling out thousands for the real deal.
Do Vintage Microphones Need a Power Supply?
In most cases, no. The best vintage microphones are often dynamic which, among other things, means that they don’t need to be plugged into a power supply in order to work.
Instead, they connect directly to your PA system, amplifier or recording device using either an XLR cable, USB lead or similar connectivity. The microphone then derives all of the power it needs from that equipment.
Can I Use a Vintage Microphone With My Laptop?
If it’s a legitimate vintage microphone from the 50s, 60s, or 70s then you might find the process of connecting it to your laptop or iPad to be a little tricky, if not outright impossible. If it’s a vintage microphone clone like the ones featured in this guide, then you’ll find it a much simpler process.
Although clone mics are designed to replicate that authentic vintage recording experience, many of them do come with modern features such as USB connectivity to make them compatible with modern technology.
What’s the Best Vintage Microphone to Buy?
Truth be told, we’re smitten with so many of these classic mics that ranking them in any kind of top five order proved to be a serious challenge.
Still, after much deliberation and debate, we’re convinced that we made the right call by declaring the Shure 55SH Series II Dynamic Vocal Microphone the best vintage microphone money can buy in the modern age.
Shure have enjoyed an enviable reputation as leaders in their field for several decades and this premium quality mic proves why. The performance quality is second to none, while the iconic design is the very definition of “often imitated, never duplicated.”
Still, even we have to admit that as wonderful as the Shure 55SH Series II is, it doesn’t come cheap.
With that in mind, if you’re looking for a similar authentic experience that’s a little kinder to your wallet, the Monoprice Memphis Blue Classic Dynamic Microphone is a more than suitable alternative.
Finally, we’d be remiss if we didn’t give one last nod to the AKG Pro Audio Lyra USB-C Condenser Microphone, possibly the best vintage-style podcasting microphone on the market today.
If you have no intentions of jumping up on stage and simply need a quality microphone you can place on your desk to record the next big podcasting hit, the AKG Lyra’s combination of impeccable quality, attractive design, and effortless ease-of-use mean it’s got everything you could possible need and then some.