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7 Top Live Mics for Singing Jazz Vocals

These mics will help provide a warm natural sound to your vocals on stage -says Chris Kennedy

Just as all voices are different, not all microphones sound the same or are suitable for the same applications. Unlike rock singers, jazz singers are rarely having to compete with extremely loud stage volumes, and, as a result, are able to use microphones that are more similar to what you would use in a studio to capture the vocals with top sound quality. When looking for a good microphone for jazz (unless you want a deliberately vintage sound), most singers will tend to opt for a warm and detailed sounding microphone that allows for every nuance of their vocal imperfections to be heard clearly.

Here’s a list of VoiceCouncil’s top mic picks for jazz singers.

1. Neumann KMS 104 / 105

This high-end vocal microphone aims to offer studio-like sound quality in a live setting. It is very popular amongst current jazz singers and commonly used by singers such as Norah Jones, Dianna Krall, and Harry Connick Jr. It is available in both cardioid and supercardioid versions and often used in a wireless format combined with the Sennheiser SKM 5200/SKM 5000 Wireless System.

Manufacturer’s Website: Neumann
Our Review: KMS 105

2. AKG C535 EB

The AKG C535 EB was often the microphone of choice for Frank Sinatra in the 80s and 90s. This cardioid handheld condenser vocal microphone has a full 20 to 20000 Hz frequency bandwidth, and features a switchable bass cut/roll off filter to remove unwanted low-frequency rumbles and pops when used for stage vocals. It is designed to offer a combination of excellent, highly detailed audio combined with road-ready ruggedness.

Manufacturer’s Website: AKG
Our Review: N/A

3. Shure SH55 / Super 55

Because sometimes you just want a mic that looks cool! Although the SH55 is perhaps not the ultimate  mic sound-wise for modern jazz vocals, it can certainly produce a decent enough sound for most singers who want to add a retro look to their live performances. Shure’s more recent variant, the Super 55, is based around their beta 58 capsule, which helps provide a more modern vocal tone and improved feedback rejection.

Manufacturer’s Website: Shure
Our Review: Super 55

4. Shure Beta 87a / 87c

Shure’s Beta 87A is a premium quality, hand-held condenser vocal microphone that has a frequency response that is tailored to provide a presence rise that brightens the upper midrange and helps vocals cut through. The microphone has often been the favourite choice for Michael Buble (87c), and has been used on many of his tours and concerts.

Manufacturer’s Website: Shure
Our Review: Beta 87a

5. DPA D:facto II

The Dfacto II aims to be the ultimate live mic for vocal clarity, however it is also the most expensive mic listed here. It is designed to have extremely linear frequency response and phase, both on- and off-axis, with a excellent definition to reproduces a singer’s voice effortlessly.

Manufacturer’s Website: DPA Microphones
Our Review: DPA D:Facto II

6. Audio-Technica AT 2010

If you want the clarity of a condenser microphone on stage but don’t have the budget for some of the other mics listed here, the Audio-Technica AT2010 could be a great choice. It features the same 16 mm low-mass diaphragm from popular AT2020 studio condenser microphone to help provide studio-like sound quality on stage.

Manufacturer’s Website: Audio Technica
Our Review: AT 2010

7. Shure SM58

The SM58 has been a popular choice for all types of singers as a “workhorse” microphone for decades. Although it probably isn’t used as much as it once was, it can still be a great choice for jazz singers. The SM58 was released in 1966 and was used extensively by jazz singers such as Frank Sinatra, mostly due to it having a very usable proximity effect that can help with adding warmth and intimacy to male voices.

Manufacturer’s Website: Shure
Our Review: SM58

Chris Kennedy is the principal product reviewer for voicecouncil.com. Chris is a musician in the United Kingdom – you can see more about his work at www.chriskennedymusic.co.uk You can also see more articles by Chris here.

  • lois

    Interestng selection. Wondering how you chose them. Just yesterday, I found that Maria Muldaur was unhappy with a Beta87, so we gave her a Sennheiser e835 and she smiled and was happy! So you should have incluided the Sennhieser line. Also Shure SM87 is liked, but I have NEVER seen anyone use the 55 except in pictures and music videos. And the 58 is not very good for jazz.

    Now for a surprise: The Beyer M600 Soundstar III is the best jazz vocalists’s mic ever made, though they are almost impossible to find. M69 will do just fine too.

  • Antonio

    Guys, quick comment.
    3. Shure SH55 / Super 55 is not manufactured by Neumann.

  • Antonio Meres.com

    Agreed about SH55/Super 55.
    I’ve never seen that in a real “live” performance situation.

  • y001Thomas Grim

    The CAD C 195 is a handheld condenser mic designed for live stage use that in my opinion competes with the best mics on this list and is very inexpensive,particularly currently. CAD is not as well known as many mics mentioned but used by many top name pros.

  • y001Thomas Grim

    I agree that they are excellent for that application. I would even add the Beyer M88.

  • keith

    I’m an audix Om-5 fan for natural sounding live mic, affordable, tough. Almost sweet. Would love a Neumann though…

  • Apologies for the error – link changed :)

  • Really there’s no such thing as an ultimate list I guess, as there are so many great mics out there. The list is essentially in my experience what I have noticed are commonly used by jazz singers I have come across as well as trying to cover choices for a range of budgets. With regards to the Shure 55 – I’ve seen a lot of retro-style groups use them because of the way the look, and if you look back at historic performances by singers such as Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald, you’ll find that the mic frequently used. It certainly wouldn’t be my first choice for a modern jazz sound. As for Beyer mics – I’m a massive fan of them – especially the vintage ones. My personal live mic of choice for many years was a M700 until it recently died and I’ve been looking for another ever since (using a KMS 105 now instead – but I still miss the Beyer).

  • Thanks for the tip – i’ll have to try to get hold of one to test sometime

  • I purchased the Sennheiser e965. I love it. In my opinion it rivals or tops the Neumann… The sound is absolutely clear, realistic and provides studio quality on stage.

  • Don Lobacz

    I think a totally overlooked mic in general (but particularly for Jazz), is the Shure SM86 condenser. I have the digital wireless version, and when properly EQ’d for the particular house/monitor set up of a gig, it will cut thru everything…clean and clear.