Famous Live Mics


No two voices are the same and the same goes for microphones. Here we look at the choice of live microphone for some popular singers. 

Frank Sinatra: AKG C535 EB (Custom gold version used in many concerts in his later years)
AKG’s C535 EB is a hand-held live condenser microphone that was designed to create a studio style sound in a live setting. Like many studio microphones, it features switches for bass cut, bass roll off and attenuation for louder sources, in order to increase its versatility. It still remains popular today and has been used by artists such as James Taylor, Sting and Alison Krauss.

Michael Jackson: Shure WBH54B Headset Mic (This Is It)
This is the microphone that Michael Jackson used for the rehearsals for his This Is It concert. It is designed to provide great sound quality and reliability with minimal visibility in applications such as broadcast, theater, and touring.

Bruce Springsteen: Audix OM3 (Most live performances since 1992)
Audix’s OM3 is a dynamic microphone which was made popular because of its high rejection of feedback which made it a great choice for rock singers. Audix have since brought out the OM7 microphone which offers even better feedback rejection and has become popular amongst a many rock acts such as the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Whitney Houston: Sennheiser SKM 5200 (Many live performances)
This wireless hand-held mic is a particularly popular choice for female singers and has also been used by Beyonce, Rihanna and Cher. It supports a range of interchangeable capsules as well as long battery life to make sure there are no problems during a performance.

Mariah Carey: Shure KSM9 (Adventures of Mimi tour)
The Shure KSM9 is a live condenser microphone that has been designed primarily for vocals. It features a switchable polar pattern (allows users to switch between cardioid and super cardioid) and premium internal electronics and connectors. Note: For the full Mariah Carey look, try covering your mic with rhinestones/diamantes!

Norah Jones: Neumann KMS104 (Most live performances)
Neumann are renowned for their classic studio microphones and their move into the live microphone market has also proved successful, with many singers choosing to use their microphones to achieve a detailed and full vocal sound on stage. As this is a reasonably sensitive condenser microphone, it is particularly well suited to jazz and more acoustic styles where loud stage levels are not a concern.

James Hetfield (Metallica): Audio-Technica AE5400 (Death Magnetic tour)
This cardioid condenser microphone combines great sound quality with an ability of handling high SPL levels and good protection against plosives.

Jack Johnson: Neumann KMS105 (Most festival appearances in 2010 including Glastonbury, Hurricane, and Kokua)
This microphone is a popular choice amongst both male and female vocalists wanting studio-like vocals in a live setting. The KMS105 features a super-cardioid pattern whereas the KMS104 a cardioid pattern.

Caleb Followill (Kings of Leon): Sennheiser 935 (Only by the Night tour)
Available as both a wired or wireless microphone, Sennheser’s 935 is a top class cardioid dynamic microphone which allows smooth, detailed vocals whilst offering good rejection against feedback.

Adele: Sennheiser SKM 2000-XP wireless with MMK 965-1 capsule (2012 Brit Awards & Grammy Awards performances)
This wireless system from Sennheiser is designed so that a range of different microphone capsules can used with the unit enabling you to pick the best one for your voice. In this instance the capsule used is the same one that is found on Sennheiser’s e955 wired handheld condenser microphone.

About The Author:
Chris Kennedy is the principle product reviewer for VoiceCouncil Magazine. He is also a singer-songwriter and composer, performing and writing in a range of styles from rock to jazz. Chris has released several albums as a solo artist and with his group The New Inventions. When he isn’t performing live, Chris also works as a live sound engineer and writes and records film music in his studio. You can find more about him on his website: http://www.chriskennedymusic.co.uk


  • Voicecouncil_com

    Nice to see such a unique and interesting article. It’d be great to see a follow-up article featuring other mics used by these artists, eg Michael Jackson. I was told he sometimes used a Shure SM57 in the recording studio, I think for his Thriller album, but I could be wrong. Let us know! :)

  • Baze Sax

    I’ve read that the “Thriller” is recorded with Shure sm7b. Don’t forget that these artists also had the best available processing,PA systems and the best soundmen in the world. Listen to Alicia Keys
    on Grammys 2005 with shure sm58 head. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=11JbwroAlZ4

  • Baze Sax

    p.s. and they have magnificent voices,musicality and charisma :) 

  • Chris

    Hi, glad you liked the article. There’s a part 2 coming very soon which focuses on studio mics used by these artists. -Chris

  • Keep the articles coming like this.. most of us have someone famous that our voice at least partially matches. It at least gives a person a starting point for comparisons. Thanks & keep up the good work!

  • Linda M

    k.d. Lang and Sting use the AKG 535 EB as well. It’s an amazing microphone especially for the money!!!

  • j453

    today KOL uses Sennheiser MD 431, in the picture on top as well ;)
    but it is correct in the past ist was the e935

  • Angeloh Millan

    somebody know what microphone uses Whitney Houston here?

  • João Paulo Jucá

    Would you, by any chance, know what microphone Daniel Johns (Silverchair) and Jeff Buckley used? I’d appreciate that answer. Greetings from Brazil.

  • Magda Martine

    Do you know what Mic Frank Sinatra used in his concert in Monoco with Princess Grace? Thank You!