Famous Studio Mics

Check out these top studio microphones used on classic tracks.

Frank Sinatra: Telefunken U47 (Come Fly with Me)

The U47 is one of the most famous studio vocal microphones of all time having been used extensively by many of the top artists of the 20th Century. Sinatra liked the Telefunken model, however it was also released under the Neumann brand and other manufactures have also made microphones based on the design such as Flea, Peluso, Wunder and Lawson.

Michael Jackson: Shure SM7 (Billie Jean)

Shure’s SM7 microphone was designed as a broadcast mic for radio stations, however it soon found is way into recording studios. Its large diaphragm dynamic design offers great rejection of room noise and it is very resistant to plosives making it great for singers who like to get close to the mic.

Bruce Springsteen: Telefunken ELA M251 (Born in the USA)

The Telefunken ELA M251 is a 3-pattern tube mic designed and manufactured by AKG on behalf of Telefunken. It was built around AKG’s famed CK12 capsule and was intended to replace the U47 in their line-up as their premium vocal microphone. It was and still is an expensive mic, with Telefunken’s modern version costing around $10k and original versions costing even more.

Whitney Houston: Neumann U87 (I Want to Dance with Somebody)

Following the success of the U47 and U67, Neumann’s U87 has become one of the best known and most widely used studio condenser microphones. Its solid-state design and variable polar patterns made it a versatile studio mic; it performs well on a wide range of different vocalists and instruments.

Mariah Carey: Sony C800G (One Sweet Day)

Sony’s C-800G Studio Tube Condenser Microphone was designed for the highest possible sound quality. The C-800G features a high-quality dual large diaphragm for excellent reproduction of vocal qualities with a vacuum tube to bring warmth to the overall sound.

Norah Jones: Neumann M49 (Don’t Know Why)

The M49 is a multi-pattern tube condenser microphone. It was first introduced in 1951 and has since been discontinued, however second hand ones are generally available if you have the budget.

James Hetfield (Metallica): Shure SM7B (St Anger)

Shure have produced several versions of the SM7 microphone; the latest being the SM7B. It has become a particular favourite for male rock singers who find the microphone flatters a more aggressive singing style and has been used be acts such as The Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Pearl Jam and Ryan Adams.

Jack Johnson: Telefunken U47 (Sleep Through the Static)

Originally designed for Telefunken by Neumann in 1946, the U47 is still sold by Telefunken in its modern form which features an updated capsule and is made in their factory in the USA.

Caleb Followill (Kings of Leon): Shure SM57 (Sex on Fire)

This track goes to show that you do not always need the most expensive microphone to get a great sounding vocal. Shure’s SM57 is widely used as a guitar cabinet and snare mic; however it can also perform well as a vocal mic, especially in a rock setting.

Adele: Rode Classic II (Rolling in the Deep)

The Classic II is Rode’s top-of-the-line studio condenser microphone and offers classic warmth and richness on vocals. It aims to create a similar sound to classic microphones such as the U47 and AKG C12 with a much smaller price tag and without compromising quality.

You can about about what live microphones other singers use in our next article Famous Studio Mics: Muse, Madonna & More.

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. You can find more about him on his website.

  • I was surprised if not slightly dismayed that there is no mention of Ribbon Microphones in the article. There is surely a place for other than Condenser or Dynamic microphones in the musical space, which I believe that Voice Council is duty bound to keep its readers aware of.  Here’s a link to inform the unknowing and to give some acknowledgement to the cognoscenti.


  • Kevin

    In the picture of Caleb Followill, he is singing on an sm7b.. not an sm57.

  • Poppa Madison

    I have a Behringer C1. What do all the experts behind this article think of that?


    It sounds really true to life to me, which in the end I guess is what counts most.


    © ♯♪♫ ♂PM


  • Chris

    Hi. I’ve used one before and would say that although they’re fine for demos they can’t really compete with the sound of higher end mics for professional studio vocal recordings. Great value for money though.

  • Poppa Madison

    A Mr.Sinatra I am not, and as a rapidly ageing Senior Citizien, I don’t expect to be in a Pro recording studio anytime; so I will stick with what I have. However I do appreciate the insights you have given and should one day I be head-hunted by a studio intent on collaborating to mutual benefit, then I shall have your recommendations to refer to in conversation with them,

    Hope you won’t mind my asking you another question from your music composing and sound engineering experience?

    I use Notation Composer to produce my scores and then play the audio into Audacity(with Lame) with which I convert the files into .wav and Mp3.
    This is what I then put to personally burned CD’s or up online for downloading distribution in Mp3 format. I am not happy with “The sound” which is far below the quality and reality of real instruments.

    Mind if I ask you if you, if you have the time, if you wouldn’t mind listening to a couple of my tracks and letting me have your recommendation as to how I can go about getting a more true to life instrumental sound (using perhaps other computer software?), instead of the “GM Midified” substitute which is supposed to pass for the same thing.

    In my head I can hear the true-to-life orchestrated sound I want my scores to sound like. ( I wish, a la mode Andre Rieu !)

    Problem is, I just don’t know how to make that happen Digitally.

    I only wish I could afford to pay for bands and orchestras to perform my works live to bring out with reality,the musical subtleties and emotive elements I try to write into them.

    Thanks again for all of your shared experience in VoiceCouncil on-line magazine.


    © ♯♪♫ ♂PM


  • Chris

    Having previously written orchestral scores for film and hearing the difference between virtual orchestras and real orchestras; nothing can quite compare to the sound of a real orchestra. There are, however some good orchestral sample libraries that will sound a lot better than your GM sounds. My personal favorite is VSL, however it is exceptionally expensive. You might want to check our Garritan Personal Orchestra which is a more reasonable $149 and should cover most the sounds you need. However you will need to check it is compatible with the Notation Composer software you use or maybe looking into getting a different DAW software that has better support for VST instrument plug-ins.

  • Poppa Madison

    Chris, thankyou for taking the time to answer my question. It looks like I might be in for yet another in-depth digital learning experience….which of course I shall attempt, and in the way you have recommended.



    © ♯♪♫ ♂PM


  • Crankcase08

    I have a Behringer B1 Condenser microphone, which may even have similar internals to the C1. I find it somewhat harsh. I also have an Audio-Technica 2035 condenser microphone, which is a lot smoother and more realistic, although the AT2020 is a bit cheaper and is just the same but without the bass filter and attenuator I believe. There are many microphones that will likely outperform the C1, although the preamp that it feeds into is very important too. For example, I’ve been using a small (and cheap) Behringer Xenyx802 mixer, but its microphone preamps are somewhat muddy and ill defined. I’ve recently replaced it with a Mackie 402VLZ4, which is much clearer.
    Unfortunately, good quality doesn’t come cheaply.

  • Poppa Madison

    Hmm…a very interesting discussion has developed around Mics along with all of the, I guess, “this is better than that” inferences being voiced.

    As to be expected, every manufacturer describes their Mics in language in the vein that sound engineers and laypersons like me WANT to hear to be convinced to go with their particular microphone.

    However, and as in all things, it’s results that count, and if a User has found “Aural satisfaction” with a Mic that is many dollars less costly or more costly than another, then that is what makes them stick with their choice.

    Who in fact should be the final arbiter in qualifying what is “The best Mic” for what and what is not, and upon what base of standards?

    One can look at endless spec sheets about frequency response, cut-off, damping, cut and boost and whatever other term that can be used to describe a Microphone, but in the end the choice for a particular purpose comes down to what sounds good to a broad range of listeners, not just one individual.

    Here are the links to Behringer B1 and C1 condenser microphones.



    One has to admit, the write-up makes them sound good even before one has had the chance to actually listen to the sound they produce in use!

    My C1 gives me to hear an audio output that I find is vocally realistic and natural. But of course, I could be wrong, because what I hear is not what my peers hear, even though we are listening to the very same thing.

    I invite you all to go to the link below and have a listen to and comment on my recording using the C1 and my VoiceLive Playfor GTX for the separately recorded, then mixed, vocal track

    Oh well! Another day………….another Mic!

    Interestingly, price did not come into it………I swapped a practice Amp of mine and forewent payment for a service inspection of some non-working studio gear in exchange for the C1.

    Never mind about “Bite me!”…………….Just “Barter me!”


    © ♯♪♫ ♂PM


  • It is very interesting article . Escena Digital use microphones: Neumann, Akg and I prefer Rode. It is very goog.