Published by Nedim Sabic
With the development of sound reproduction industry came the development of various types of microphones. The type of microphone depends entirely on the use and purpose of the same. Microphones are mainly split into two categories: omni-directional and unidirectional. As the name suggests, omni-directional microphones can pick up sounds equally, to an extent, from all directions. It does not matter from which direction, from the front, rear or sides, the sound is produced, omni-directional microphone will pick it up. Unidirectional microphones only register sound from one direction, hence the prefix uni, meaning one. When it comes to unidirectional microphones, cardioid microphones are perhaps the most popular.
These microphones are named cardioid because of the pattern of their sensitivity, which reproduced on an axis looks like a heart. Cardioid microphones have such range that their best place to pick up sound is when it comes from the front, i.e. when a speaker is speaking directly into the microphone, while the sound from the sides is registered a bit lower, with the sound from behind being picked up in small quantities or not at all. That is why cardioid microphones are best used for live performances, such as concerts, public presentations and in all other situations that require a vocal microphone.
The most known use for these microphones is perhaps in the telephone, as the microphone integrated in the handset only picks up speakers’ voice, eliminating the background noise as much as possible. Cardioid microphones are also used while recording in studio, for vocals and for some certain drum elements.
Whether you want to purchase a cardioid microphone because you want to record your broadcast or podcast, or you maybe want to purchase it for your live shows, it is always hard to find the one that suits you the best. Of course, the main factor when it comes to deciding which cardioid microphone you want to purchase is the budget. The more money you have, better options open up for you. But, it could be grueling to go out there and test each and every product by yourself.
That is where we come in, as we have tested around forty products so as to bring you cream of the crop when it comes to these microphones. From the best to the cheapest, you will find four products on our list that have passed our tests with flying colors.
We have tested these microphones in various situations, from vocal performance, to acoustic guitar performance and in-studio recording performance. We have also consulted experts and sound engineers, so as to be able to get expert opinions on certain models and also to learn first-hand experience of these people with cardioid microphones.
Some of the things you should consider when buying cardioid microphone are:
- Polar pattern
- Output level
- Frequency response
- Features, accessories and performance
Best Cardioid Mic – Shure SM7B (B0002E4Z8M)
Shure is a microphone production company that is the most dominant force on the market. When that is taken into consideration, you should not be amazed that the best cardioid microphone is made by them.
SM7B has been used by Michael Jackson on the recording of the famous Thriller album, which is probably the best recommendation that this microphone can have.
Whether you are recording a song or a podcast, or even maybe doing an acoustic performance live on television, this microphone is your best companion. It has a flat, wide-range frequency response of 50 to 20 000 Hz, which makes clean and natural reproduction of music and vocals. With the improved rejection of electromagnetic hum, you do not have to worry anymore of your computer monitor or TV hampering your recordings. Pop filter on this bad boy will totally eliminate the need for accessories which are used as protection against explosive breath sounds. The polar pattern of Shure SM7B is of course cardioids. An additional accessorie which comes with SM7B is the A7WS detachable windscreen, which will reduce plosive sounds and add a warmer tone to your vocals. With output level of -59 dBV/Pa and impedance of 150 ohms, this microphone is the ideal choice for professionals and amateurs alike. With the rugged construction and outstanding protection of the cartridge, this microphone has an outstanding durability, which in turn means that it will probably serve you for a very long time, if you take care of it of course. All of the features of this microphone can be accounted for nothing if the actual performance is not on the desirable level. But, Shure SM7B delivers with outstanding performance and adds an additional punch when it comes to the realism of vocals representation.
Shure SM7B has virtually no cons as it delivers perfectly in every aspect possible.
SM7B microphone is in the mid price level and it truly shows why Shure is dominant on the market, as it is, considering all of the stated, the best cardioid microphone out there.
Best Buy Cardioid Mic – Shure BETA 58A (B0002BACB4)
It should not be strange that the runner-up on this list is a microphone from the famous Beta series by Shure which are adored by professionals. Beta 58A has all of the features and the looks of the original Beta and 58 series of microphones, but it is a step-up in the evolution of performance.
With the polar patter being supercardioid, Beta 58A ensures that the side and rear noises are reduced to a bare minimum. This microphone is designed for close up vocals and it delivers that in every way possible, with frequency response of 50 Hz to 16 kHz. Although frequency response is not as big as it is with the SM7B, it is still good enough to come second to the best. The output level is a bit lower and the impedance is the same as in SM7B model, -51.5 dBV/Pa and 150 ohms respectively, therefore the performance and sound levels are very similar if not same in some instances. Some of the features of Beta 58A are the brightened midrange and bass rolloff that control the proximity effect, therefore this microphone is really tailored for vocals. The neodymium magnet is a great inclusion for signal-to-noise output. The advance pneumatic shock mount really prevents the transmission of mechanical noise and vibration, so if you want to be like Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden fame and jump all over the stage there is no fear that it will influence the sound transmission. Beta 58A has become a leading choice for touring artists and singers, which is not surprising as this microphone has all of the bells and whistles which are necessary for an extensive and long-term use. It is also a good choice for recording, as some engineers use it for acoustic guitars and vocals.
The only drawback of the Beta 58A dynamic microphone has to be frequency response, which is lower than with the SM7B, but other than that it is an excellent piece of music equipment.
Beta 58A, along with SM58, is an industry standard which makes it probably the best choice to buy after the SM7B, because it comes near the performance that the best cardioid microphone has for a lower price. That is why it is safe to say that Shure Beta 58A is the bestbuy cardioid microphone out there.
Bestseller Cardioid Mic – Shure SM58-CN (B00015H0X4)
Another microphone by Shure on our list, this one in the legendary 58 series, the SM58 is one of the better dynamic cardioid microphones out there. Adored by professionals and amateurs alike, SM58 has got all that you need in a cardioid mic with a price to die for.
You cannot find a studio or a rehearsal room in the world that does not have at least one of these microphones. That is because of SM58 features and affordability. The price is definitely the biggest trait of this product, but it is also a reliable microphone that will take a lot of beating before you have to replace it. With some features that are almost the same as in Beta 58A, like the pneumatic shock-system and the frequency that is specifically made for vocals, SM58 also comes with surprising additions that make it a crowd favorite. These features include the built-in wind and pop filter, which is astonishingly efficient. Of course, that is not to say that you should not use additional protection when recording with this microphone, but it is perfect for live performances. With frequency response of 50 to 15 000 Hz and impedance of 150 ohms, this cardioid microphone gives out astonishing performance which no one would be ashamed of. This legendary microphone is not the best one out there when it comes to performance, but it is a constant performer indoors or outdoors. With a little bit of messing with equalizer you can make SM58 into a powerhouse that will satisfy singers and sound engineers alike. With very clean and pure sound SM58 definitely stands out from the crowd and gains a respectful place on our list.
The frequency response of this microphone is not as high as in the Beta 58A or SM7B and it will not give out-of-box like performance that these two other microphones can provide, but with a little bit of skill and knowledge it can be turned into an excellent microphone.
When you consider all of the features and popularity of this product, which is of course also affected by the lower price, while not as good of a performer as the Beta 58A or SM7B you can easily see why Shure SM58 is the bestseller cardioid microphone on the market.
Cheapest Cardioid Mic – Behringer XM8500
Any story about microphones of any kind would not be complete without mention of the excellent German manufacturer Behringer. Their microphones are well known across the world and through the course of years Behringer has produced them in all of the price ranges. XM8500 is an attempt to produce a high quality cardioid microphone in the low price range.
If you consider XM8500 to be a bad product, you are about to be surprised. With frequency from 50 Hz to 15 kHz it is right up the alley with Shure SM58 and Beta 58A. This microphone is specifically designed for voice and the whole structure supports that statement. With nice overall feedback suppression and shock mount system to reduce handling noise, this bad boy has got it all, just like the big guys in this league. With two-stage integrated pop filter that will reduce the hissing and popping and a very sturdy design, you will not notice any significant difference from our bestseller, the Shure SM58. XM8500 has the best application in live vocal performance and in recording amplified instruments. Whether you want to sing or use harmonica, this microphone has got you covered. Anywhere that you would find use for SM58, this microphone would be applicable too. If you know how to set up equalizers properly, you can even make XM8500 sound like early nineties SM58. In the low price range, this microphone will definitely come as a substitution, or even take over some of the chores that your main microphone does.
Performance wise, XM8500 comes nowhere near any of the Shure microphones we have named on this list. Sure, you can make it sound like earlier version of SM58, but it does not matter how hard you try to tinker with the equalizer, XM8500 will never come near Beta 58A, not to mention SM7B.
To sum up, Behringer XM8500 is really a microphone that is well worth the money you will pay for it. With all of the features of a good dynamic cardioid microphone and considering the price range, this piece of equipment is a steal and that is why it is the cheapest cardioid microphone on our list.
Whether you are a vocalist or a sound engineer, finding a good cardioid microphone that suits your desires could be a huge hassle. That is why we have tested out numerous products and consulted experts to bring you the list of four products. Since price is ultimately the most important factor when it comes to sound equipment we have presented you with four choices, from the best to the cheapest. If you really want the best cardioid microphone out there you should definitely go with the Shure SM7B as it has features that will leave even the most demanding customers in awe. If you do not really have a budget for SM7B, then your option would be Shure Beta 58A. Beta 58A is a choice of many touring professionals, and rightly so since it almost comes near to the SM7B performance wise. If you want a product that has satisfied many customers and is a firm favorite around the world of cardioid microphones, then the legendary Shure SM58 is the right choice for you. It has a lower frequency response than the SM7B and Beta 58A and it does not have the same out-of-the-box performance, but with a bit of skill it will become a perfect piece of equipment that you need. For those with a very low budget, the right option would be Behringer XM8500, as it is a great microphone for the price. Even though it does not come near SM7B, it still is a sturdy microphone that can easily be a replacement and step up to the spotlight if the need arises.