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Top Live Mics: Rock Vocals

These mics offer the right trade-off between vocal quality and vocal audibility when singing in a loud environment -says Chris Kennedy.

In the case of live vocals in rock or metal bands, you will need a microphone that is capable of coping with the loud stage levels as well as being able to withstand potentially rougher treatment than you would expect from, for example, a jazz singer’s mic.

One of the most important aspects of for a mic for a rock singer is its ability to cut through the mix so that the singer can compete with a loud backline of guitar amps and drums. This is often achieved by having microphones that have a forward upper mid-range to allow vocals to sound more present as well as maximizing the amount of gain before feedback by using a tight pickup pattern.

Here’s our list of some of top mics for live rock vocals. These microphones may not necessarily produce the most natural and “hi-fi” vocal sound, however there often needs to be a trade-off between vocal quality and vocal audibility when singing in a loud environment.

1. Shure SM58

sm58Shure’s SM58 has probably been the most popular choice for rock singers for decades – especially among male rock vocalists. Its forward, but not overly bright sound helps vocals compete with the pronounced mid frequencies of electric guitars. It is also one of the most robust mics ever made and its cardioid polar pattern offers good amount of isolation and gain before feedback.
Manufacturer’s Website: Shure
Our Review: Shure SM58

2. Audix OM7

om7Audix’s OM7 microphone is designed for concert level and touring PA systems and features a low output gain stage which provides excellent gain before feedback in monitors. It has been used by bands such as Blink 182, Red Hot Chili Peppers, P.O.D, and Crosby, Stills & Nash, and is best suited for use with high quality mixing consoles which have plenty of head room to compensate for its low output gain.
Manufacturer’s Website: Audix
Our Review: Audix OM-7

3. Electro-Voice N/D967

nd967The N/D967 is designed to be the highest gain-before-feedback performance vocal microphone on the market, making it a perfect choice for louder stage environments. It does this by having a particularly tight super-cardioid polar pattern and a grill design that allows singers to get even closer to the microphone element than on more traditional microphone designs. The N/D967 also features a presence boost switch to help cut through the mix and reduce the proximity effect of the microphone.

Manufacturer’s Website: Shure
Our Review: EV ND967

4. Shure Beta58

beta58Shure’s updated version of their SM58 features many of the same traits that made it such a popular choice for rock singers, however it produces a more ‘modern’ sound with increased high-frequency presence. It also uses a super-cardioid pattern, which helps reduce the amount of spill on stage from sound coming from the side of it – although it does make it fussier about monitor placement than the SM58.
Manufacturer’s Website: Shure
Our Review:  Shure Beta 58

5. Sennheiser 935

e935The e 935 is a cardioid vocal stage microphone especially designed to perform in louder environments while cutting through the mix with its high output. Although it is not as commonly used as some of the other microphones on the list for male rock singers, it has found favor amongst female singers such as Avril Lavigne and Flo from Florence & The Machine.
Manufacturer’s Website: Sennheiser
Review coming soon

6. Heil Fin

heilfinSometimes you just want a mic that looks cool! With its glowing LEDs and retro styling; the Heil Fin is certainly a mic that will get you noticed on stage. It might not have quite as tight a polar pattern as some of the other mics on this list, but its cardioid capsule and upper midrange boost should help singers cut through on all but the loudest of stages without causing excessive feedback problems.
Manufacturer’s Website: Heil Sound
Our Review: Heil Fin

7. Audix OM-11

om11The Audix OM-11 has been specifically designed for rock and metal voices – and loud stage volumes. It produces a sharp, crisp vocal sound, with great resistance to feedback and ability to handle high SPLs without distortion. The mic is designed with a tight, uniformly controlled hyper-cardioid polar pattern which helps isolate the vocals on stage, and has extremely low handling noise.
Manufacturer’s Website: Audix
Review coming soon

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.

  • Robert Simpson

    Very cool article. I have some crazy love affair with microphones, but I have focused more on mics for studio instrument recording. This article was very interesting to me… I particularly like how you mentioned the strengths and weakness of the various models. More articles like this are certainly welcomed!

  • Philip Mumford

    Sm58 wasn’t doing it for me. Beta 58 was a great choice instead.

  • keith

    picked up a Neumann I05, a VL3, and a Perform VK…and there is nothing out there that sounds as good on stage and as professional, regardless of genre, as these guys together…nada, zippo, Move on over Mick Jagger.