7 Best Tube Microphones of 2019

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Microphones have come a long way from those early contractions. Despite that, some of the older tech continues to be popular among recording artists. My guide reviews 7 tube microphones that are in high demand. It’s not a nostalgic thing, well, not entirely. See, state-of-the-art technology can’t capture the same recording characteristics of these incredible mics.

Budget
best-budget-tube-microphone
BadAax T11A Tube Mic
4.5/5.0
Polar Pattern: Supercardioid
Power: Dedicated
Vacuum tube pre-amp, 32mm gold diaphragm, versatile.
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Best Value
best-value-tube-microphone
MXL Revelation Tube Mic
4.8/5.0
Polar Pattern: Variable
Power: Dedicated
Vintage sound, versatile, dedicated power supply, custom body design.
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Top Pick
top-value-tube-microphone
Lewitt LCT-840 Reference-Class Tube Mic
4.8/5.0
Polar Pattern: Multi
Power: Dedicated
Versatile, Plexiglas window, 5 polar patterns, low self-noise, high-pass filters.
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What Is a Tube Condenser Mic—Exactly?

A modern tube microphone is based on the old condenser technology. The first models date back to 1917. A tube circuit inside the mic’s casing amplifies the signal that travels to an audio interface or speaker. Guitar tube amps and older landline telephones used similar technology. Legendary acts like the Rolling Stones, The Beatles, and others all used tube mics in their heyday.

It seems odd that older technology is making a comeback, but there are reasons for this. Tube mics have a certain warmth to them with natural compression and enhanced harmonics. It’s this unique vintage tone that has special appeal to some musicians. Modern microphones—as good as they are—cannot reproduce the same sound. Tube condenser microphones are expensive, though.

Points to note: Not every condenser mic uses tubes, but most tube microphones are condensers. The main exception to this arrangement is some ribbon mics).

Should You Buy a Tube-Condenser Microphone?

Microphone choice usually comes down to budget, needs, and expectations. There’s no right or wrong here. Tube mics are not a good choice for novice musicians, though. They have more electronic components than solid-state condenser types. That means they’re more likely to need routine maintenance and repair. Those passionate about tube mics don’t see their preservation as an issue.

Consider a tube-condenser mic if the tone matches your voice and vocal style. They shine in studio environments but are also versatile tools when used for live performances.

About My ‘Tube Microphone’ Guide

There’s a growing demand for tube condenser microphones, hence the increase in choices. My 7 reviews here look at some of the finest modern examples of these incredible audio tools. I chose them based on personal expertise, and considered the views of other industry experts. Real user feedback played a role in the final selection process too.

The first 3 tube condenser mics are the Editor’s Choice for Best Budget, Best Value, and the Top Pick. The remaining products are by price order, lowest to high. You can use the table below to navigate the page and jump to those reviews that interest you most.

Tube Microphones Comparison Table

1. BadAax T-11A Tube Condenser Mic | Best Budget

BadAax T-11A Tube Condenser MicView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.5/5

The BadAax T-11A starts us off as the Best Budget tube condenser microphone. It’s an excellent introduction to tube mics for those getting into warm vintage audio.

  • Best feature 1: High-performance characteristics
  • Best feature 2: 3 selectable polar patterns w/ gradient stages
  • Plus points: Vacuum tube pre-amp, 32mm gold diaphragm, versatile, minimal handling noise
  • Minus points: Clone of the costlier C-12

BadAax T-11A Tube Mic Highlights

Anyone familiar with quality tube mics will know the BadAax T-11A here is a steal. It boasts plenty of high-performance characteristics too. They include the vacuum tube pre-amp, large 32mm gold diaphragm, and minimal handling noise. This mic has a solid all-metal, chrome-finished construction and comes with a metal shock mount.

A favorite feature is the 3 selectable polar patterns, i.e., cardioid, omnidirectional, and Figure-8. That’s impressive, but it doesn’t stop there. The BadAax T-11A tube microphone also provides 3 gradient stages between each pickup pattern. That effectively results in 9 selectable modes.

It’s this versatility that makes the T-11A exceptional value for home studio, sound engineers, and live venues. And the ambient noise rejection is impressive with the cardioid and Figure-8 patterns.

More than a Vocal Microphone

Vocalists love the vintage sound produced by the BadAax T-11A. But it’s also suitable for use with musical instruments thanks to its wide frequency response. Being able to modify the mic has massive appeal for audiophiles. I’m not only talking about the gradient polar pattern stages either. It’s possible to open this puppy up and modify it to alter the sound—if that’s your thing.

Modifications are usually done by swapping the capsule and rebuilding the tube circuit. Still, the tone of the T-11A out of the box impresses most who buy it according to user feedback.

The Not So Good

The BadAax T-11A Tube condenser microphone is a Chinese clone of the much costlier C-12. It can’t possibly compete with $8K+ product. Even so, with C-12 type modifications, it’s a no-brainer for anyone on a budget. That’s something reflected in the comments from those that buy this beauty.

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Tech Specs
Brand: Bad Axx
Mic Type: Vacuum tube condenser
Sensitivity: -34 dB ± 2 dB
Polar Pattern: Multiple
Product Dimensions: 18 x 5 x 14”
Shipping Weight: 11.9 lbs. (190.4 oz.)
The Pros
High-performance characteristics
All-metal construction
Metal shockmount
Good ambient noise rejection
Minimal handling noise
Large 32mm gold diaphragm
Vacuum tube pre-amp
Versatile applications
Up to 9selctable polar patterns
Exceptional value
Modifiable
Carrying case
The Cons
Clone of the famous C-12.

2. MXL Revelation Multi-Pattern Tube Mic | Best Value

MXL Revelation Multi-Pattern Tube MicView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.8/5

The MXL Revelation is a variable polar pattern tube condenser microphone and the Best Value pick. It’s one of the company’s top-end flagship series mics with a custom design and exceptional sound.

  • Best feature 1: EF86 pentode tube
  • Best feature 2: All-purpose tube mic w/ variable polar patterns
  • Plus points: Vintage sound, versatile, dedicated power supply, custom body design
  • Minus points: Heavy build

MXL Revelation Tube Mic Highlights

MXL’s Revelation tube studio mic comes with a remote power supply and variable pattern control. Users can choose any polar pattern—or variations of—simply by turning the knob. So, the microphone is genuinely versatile and able to function in many situations. This adaptability makes it ideal for vocalists, percussion, and a whole variety of musical instruments.

Versatile Tube Recording Mic

This mic comes with a metal shockmount. It uses a handpicked EF86 pentode tube and a dual, gold-sputtered 6-micron diaphragm. Together, they provide the microphone with its extraordinary warmth, intimacy, and vintage-like sound. And the extended clarity adds an entire range of audio adjectives to its description. They include transparent, rich, punchy, balanced, and a few others besides.

The Not So Good

The MXL Revelation is heavy, and that’s fine as it reflects on the build quality. However, it could go down with a bang if mounted onto a boom stand that isn’t counter-weighted right. That’s something to be extremely cautious of. The mic’s heft is not a con as much as a caution, though.

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Tech Specs
Brand: MXL
Mic Type: Tube Condenser
Output (Mic): 7-pin XLR
Output (Power Supply): 3-pin XLR
Polar Pattern: Variable
Frequency Response: 20Hz–20kHz
Sensitivity: -40dB
Signal to Noise Ratio: 76dB
Max SPL: 138dB
Pad: -10dB
Output Impedance: 140 Ohms
Mic Dimensions (L x D): 7.5 x 2.5”
Microphone Weight: 32 oz.
Warranty: 1 year limited
The Pros
Variable pickup pattern
All-purpose tube mic
Dual gold-sputtered diaphragm
Remote power supply
Beautiful custom body design
Handpicked EF86 pentode tube
Vintage sound
Excellent value
The Cons
Heavy build (caution)

3. Lewitt LCT-840 Reference-Class Tube Mic | Top Pick

Lewitt LCT-840 Reference-Class Tube MicView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.8/5

Lewitt’s LCT 840 is an exceptional dual-diaphragm tube microphone and our Top Pick for this guide. The company designed this beauty to excel in a range of challenging applications.

  • Best feature 1: Dual triode tube
  • Best feature 2: Classic vintage sound
  • Plus points: Versatile, Plexiglas window, 5 polar patterns, low self-noise, high-pass filters
  • Minus points: Style has limited appeal, a tad gimmicky

Lewitt LCT-840 Tube Mic Highlights

Consider the LCT 840 if it provides the tone you need for vocals or for miking musical instruments. It has a gorgeous, eye-catching design that looks as good as it sounds. On the front and sides of the body is a Plexiglas inspection window that shows the illuminated tube inside. And there’s no threat of electromagnetic interference either, thanks to the transparent conductive film.

LCT-840 Power Supply Unit

The included power supply unit gives users plenty of audio control and manipulation. The classic tone produced by the LCT-840 is typical of most tube mics. It’s a familiar warm, solid, vintage sound that has that special something for certain artists. Lewitt’s LCT-840 has 5 switchable polar patterns. The pickups add further to its versatility for performers and audio engineers.

This mic also boasts low self-noise, rejects off-axis sounds, and has 3 high-pass filters. And the power unit’s simple push-button controls allow for noiseless handling and simple operation.

The Not So Good

There’s little to fault with the Lewitt LCT-840. It’s fair to say that the style of this tube microphone won’t appeal to every taste. Even so, design is not something that detracts from its sound and performance. Some artists may find it a tad gimmicky and incompatible with their approach, though.

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Tech Specs
Brand: Lewitt
Mic Type: Tube condenser
Connection: 11-pin XLR
Polar Pattern: Multi
Power Supply: External unit
Frequency Range: 20Hz–20kHz
S/N Ratio: 85dB
Maximum SPL: 139dB
Dynamic Range: 130 dB
Impedance: 200 Ohms
Mic Dimensions: 7.56 x 2.36”
Product Weight: 23.36 oz.
Warranty: 2 years limited
The Pros
Versatile tube microphone
Classic vintage sound
Dual triode tube
Plexiglas inspection window
Includes power unit (PU)
Push-button controls (PU)
Low self-noise
Rejects off-axis sound
Smooth frequency response
5 switchable polar patterns
3 high-pass filters
The Cons
Mic style has limited appeal
A tad gimmicky

4. Rode NTK Premium Valve Tube Condenser Mic

Rode NTK Premium Valve Tube Condenser MicView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.4/5

The NTK Valve 1.0 is an award-winning large-diaphragm condenser valve microphone. Its Class-A valve circuitry gives this beauty its warm audible charm.

  • Best feature 1: Multi-award-winning tube microphone
  • Best feature 2: Large diaphragm condenser
  • Plus points: Class-A valve circuitry, lightweight yet durable, low-noise, RF rejection
  • Minus points: Stock tube not the best at its high end

Rode NTK Premium Tube Mic Highlights

The NTK Premium has a high-strength heat-treated steel mesh head. It also sports an inner capsule shock mounting. This mic comes with a dedicated power supply, XLR cable, stand, and a hard case.

Rode’s NTK Premium is a steal considering what it offers for the price. This pro-level tube microphone behaves exactly as promised. It looks fantastic, oozes quality, and serves as a multi-purpose audio tool. Vocalists who need a close, more direct sound love it. It’s one of those mics that singers can almost swallow. The proximity effect produces a truly intimate tone with lots of low-frequency.

At the heart of the hand-selected NTK Premium are its 6922 twin-triode valve and cardioid polar pattern. That’s where the mic’s crisp, clean, warm sounds derive from. It shines for speech as it does vocals, and works well with guitars or to mike drums. Best of all is that audiophiles can swap the tube to customize its sound still further if they feel the need.

The Not So Good

Some vocalists may find their voice a tad harsh with the high-end frequency boost. That depends on a singer’s voice and won’t apply to all vocalists, of course. It’s a minor complaint considering the overall characteristics of the Rode NTK Premium. It’s also solvable—if necessary—by upgrading the tube.

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Tech Specs
Brand: Rode
Mic Type: Tube condenser
Connection: 3-pin XLR
Polar Pattern: Cardioid
Frequency Range: 20Hz–20kHz
Power Supply: Dedicated
Impedance: 200 Ohms
Sensitivity: -38 dB
Maximum SPL: 158dB
Product Dimensions: 26 x 6 x 13”
Product Weight: 26.8 oz.
Warranty: 1 year (extendable to 10)
The Pros
Multi-award-winning tube mic
Lightweight yet durable
Heat-treated steel mesh head
Dedicated power supply
Capsule shock mounting
Large-diaphragm condenser
Class-A valve circuitry
Hand-selected/graded valve
Ultra-Low-noise
Wide dynamic range
Excellent RF rejection
The Cons
High end not the best

5. MXL Genesis Tube Mic HE Heritage Edition

MXL Genesis Tube Mic HE Heritage EditionView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.2/5

This tube microphone is the award-winning MXL Genesis HE Heritage Edition. The mic has been around a while now and won the ‘Pro Audio Review’s Excellence Award’ back in 2009.

  • Best feature 1: Mullard 12AT7 tube
  • Best feature 2: Rich vintage sound
  • Plus points: Award-winning, stunning finish, Mogami® cable & wiring, power supply, hard case
  • Minus points: Heft, too big for desktop applications

MXL Genesis Heritage Tube Mic Highlights

MXL’s heritage edition mics all have this beautiful matt silver finish that fits in with the vintage look. Still, the MXL Genesis Tube has a lot more to offer than an elegant style. It’s primarily a vocal microphone with a cardioid pickup pattern, but it also works for some instruments. Inside is a classic Mullard 12AT7 tube which provides the mic with its warmth and clarity.

The mic has a -10dB pad that prevents overloading the internal circuitry at the higher SPLs. The Genesis HE comes with a dedicated power supply and cables for use with 115 and 230 VAC. Also in the box is a 7-pin XLR Mogami® cable, mic cable, a metal shockmount, and a metal pop filter. It all fits neatly into the protective aluminum carrying case.

The Not So Good

This mic is huge, to mic standards. That’s not so much of a problem for vocalists or for miking instruments. It’s awkward, though, if you need a mic in front of a computer screen. It can seriously obstruct the view when conducting podcasts or voiceovers. The dedicated power supply also takes up a little more desk space. These are buying considerations if you work with mics in front of monitors.

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Tech Specs
Brand: MXL
Mic Type: Tube condenser
Connection: 7-pin XLR
Polar Pattern: Cardioid
Power Supply: Dedicated
Frequency Range: 20Hz–20kHz
S/N Ratio: 78dB
Maximum SPL: 130dB
Pad: -10dB
Impedance: 200 Ohms
Product Dimensions: 18 x 6 x 16”
Product Weight: 26.08 oz.
Warranty: 1 year
The Pros
Mullard 12AT7 tube
Rich vintage sound
Award-winning mic
Stunning finish
Mogami® cable & wiring
Dedicated power supply
Hard case
Metal shockmount
Metal mesh pop filter
The Cons
Big mic, not ideal for desktop applications

6. Mojave Audio MA-200 Vacuum Tube Microphone

Mojave Audio MA-200 Vacuum Tube MicrophoneView on BH

Editor’s Rating: 4.7/5

The penultimate pick goes to the Mojave Audio MA-200. It’s a high-quality vacuum tube condenser microphone. It’s similar to the famous Neumann U 87 Ai but for a lot less money.

  • Best feature 1: Military-grade JAN 5840 vacuum tube
  • Best feature 2: Three-micron, hand-selected capsule
  • Plus points: Versatile, warm sweet sound, shock mount, carry case, exceptional value
  • Minus points: Quite expensive

Mojave Audio MA-200 Tube Mic Highlights

The Mojave Audio MA-200 is a truly versatile mic. Artists get to exploit it for solo vocals, guitars, and as an overhead for pianos, etc. It boasts a Military grade JAN 5840 vacuum tube and an high-grade Jensen transformer. The MA-200 is a superb choice for anyone who demands that unmistakable vintage sound. It’s exceptional because it’s super-reliable and punches high above its price tag.

The mic comes with a smart protective carrying case with foam cutouts for all the parts. They include a dedicated power supply, XLR cables, and a professional shock mount. Not all shock mounts are equal, but Mojave Audio is well-known for its high-end systems.

The Not So Good

Mojave Audio’s MA-200 is exceptional value, especially when compared against the Neumann U 87 Ai. But it’s still out of reach for some fans with a price tag of almost 1000 dollars—at the time of writing. As a long-term investment, though, it’s an incredibly reasonable tube mic for those who can afford it.

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Tech Specs
Brand: Mojave Audio
Mic Type: Tube Condenser
Connection: XLR
Polar Pattern: Cardioid
Power Supply: Dedicated
Frequency Range: 20Hz–20kHz
Maximum SPL: 120dB
Impedance: 200 Ohms
Sensitivity: -37dB
Mic Dimensions: 7.63 x 2.0”
Product Weight: 16 oz.
Warranty: 1 year
The Pros
JAN 5840 Vacuum Tube
3-micron, hand-selected capsule
Versatile audio tool
Dedicated power supply
2 x XLR cables included
Warm sweet vintage sound
High-quality shock mount
Flight case (fits inside larger case)
Smart protective carry case
Exceptional value
The Cons
Quite expensive

7. Neumann Switchable M149 Tube Microphone

Neumann Switchable M149 Tube MicrophoneView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.7/5

The last review goes to the Neumann M149 switchable tube microphone. Neumann products are expensive, but that’s because they offer exceptional, lasting value. Let’s check this one out.

  • Best feature 1: Excellent signal reproduction
  • Best feature 2: Versatile studio microphone
  • Plus points: 9 polar patterns, 7-step high-pass filter control, carrying case, power supply
  • Minus points: Costly

Neumann Switchable Tube Mic Highlights

The Neumann M149 guarantees to excel in any studio application. That includes a wide range of musical instruments as well as vocals. Singers tend to hang it upside down using the cardioid pattern. The result is a rich, full vintage sound with an excellent dynamic response. The M149 has the equivalent to 9 polar modes, selectable by the sliding switch at the front of the mic.

There’s another sliding switch at the rear that controls the 7-step high-pass filter. That’s invaluable as it gives the user fine-adjustment control over the cut-off frequency. The M149 tube mic comes with an attractive carrying case to keep everything together. Extras include a dedicated power supply, an 8-core mic connection cable, full elastic suspension, and a protective dust cover.

The Not So Good

This mic is a must-have audio tool for the serious studio. The price is easy to justify if your recordings pay the bills. For most others, the $5000 price tag is out of reach or unjustifiable.

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Tech Specs
Brand: Neumann
Mic Type: Tube condenser
Connection: 3-pin XLR
Polar Pattern: Multi
Power Supply: Dedicated
Frequency Range: 20Hz–20 kHz
S/N Ratio: 78 dB, 81 dB, 83 dB
Maximum SPL: 120dB, 136dB
Impedance: 50 Ohms
Mic Dimensions: 7.91 x 2.76”
Product Weight: 25.75 oz.
Warranty: 1 year
The Pros
Switchable tube microphone
Truly versatile studio mic
Dedicated power supply
8-Core mic connecting cable
Full elastic mic suspension
9 polar patterns
Excellent signal reproduction
7-step high-pass filter control
Attractive carrying case
Protective dust cover
The Cons
High cost
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