8 Best XLR Microphones of 2019

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Don’t skip this brief introduction if you’re new to the world of an XLR microphone. A typical newbie buying blunder is to choose a mic because it looks good and gets lots of positive feedback. But there are justified reasons for so many styles and types of mic. It’s because they all offer something different to the end-user. Let’s begin by looking at the XLR mic and why you may want one.

Budget
best-budget-x
Shure PGA48-XLR Mic
4.7/5.0
Polar Pattern: Cardioid
Mic Type: Dynamic
Impressive output, sturdy all-metal build, mic mount, ON/OFF switch.
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Best Value
best-value-x
Audio-Technica AT2020 XLR Mic
4.8/5.0
Polar Pattern: Cardioid
Mic Type: Condenser
All-metal build, stand mount, handles high SPL, soft pouch, superb value.
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Top Pick
top-value-x
Shure SM7B Vocal XLR Mic
4.8/5.0
Polar Pattern: Cardioid
Mic Type: Dynamic
Incredible build, built-in shockmount, natural sound, tone controls, built-in filter.
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The XLR Microphone Defined

XLR mics have many advantages over their USB and dynamic counterparts. You can plug them directly into digital recorders and mixing boards that have XLR inputs. They take more setting up than the plug-n-play mics, but then the sound quality—in most cases—is superior. They cost more than the dynamic and USB options too. But you can still use them with computers via an audio interface.

So, singers, musicians, and audio engineers connect XLR mics to preamps and other equipment. But what does XLR stand for—exactly—and why should you care?

Benefits of an XLR Audio Cable

XLR is short for External Line Return. No one really cares about that other than audio engineers. Just know that XLR refers to its connector type, in this case, a 3-pin circular plug. XLR cables are used in most pro-level recording setups. That can include stage lighting and audio/visual equipment. Think speakers, pre-amps, amplifiers, mixing boards, and microphones, etc.

So, an XLR mic uses an XLR cable. In this case, they’re simply referred to as ‘mic cables’ due to their application. They can deliver “balanced” mic and line-level signals over great distances. The advantage of that is a superior end audio signal. That means it has little to no unwanted noise from external electrical interference. Being able to preserve the audio signal from start to end is a significant plus.

Unbalanced Vs. Balanced Mic Cables

XLR cables are balanced, so what are unbalanced cables? They are audio cables with two wires instead of the three found in XLRs. The two wires in unbalanced cables carry the sound signal and the ground. The problem with the ground wire is that it acts as an amplifier or antenna after a certain length. That’s an issue because the ground wire picks up surrounding noise and thus causes distortion.

Unbalanced cables cost less than balanced. That’s because they have a simpler construction, but they’re not as good. Audio quality deteriorates noticeably after around 25ft. Anything over that length needs an XLR cable as it cancels out external interference. The 3 wires in an XLR cable are negative, positive, and ground. The first two carry an identical audio signal, but with opposite polarities.

Summing Up

XLR is now the go-to standard for those who demand high-quality recordings. It guarantees a balanced signal over long distances and isolates any noise. There is no better connector type for serious microphone applications. The extra cost and complexity of XLR mics, though, is not something a casual user needs. There are plenty of excellent, low-cost mics for average consumers.

About My ‘XLR Microphone’ Guide

My XLR microphone reviews are the result of personal research of over 30 products. I also considered user feedback as well as the views of industry experts. There are 8 well-respected dynamic and condenser XLR mics here across all budgets. The first three are the Editor’s Vote for Best Budget XLR mic, Best Value, and the current Top Pick.

XLR Microphones Comparison Table

1. Shure PGA48-XLR Dynamic Vocal Mic | Best Budget

Shure PGA48-XLR Dynamic Vocal MicView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.7/5

The Shure PGA48-XLR Dynamic Vocal Mic gets a big thumbs-up and the Best Budget slot. There are plenty of reasons to choose this brand name mic if you’re at the entry-level on a tight budget.

  • Best feature 1: Low-budget entry-level vocal mic
  • Best feature 2: Tailored microphone cartridge
  • Plus points: Impressive output, sturdy all-metal build, mic mount, ON/OFF switch, storage bag
  • Minus points: Poor handling noise, average plosive rejection, no 5/8 to 3/8 adapter

Shure PGA48-XLR Vocal Mic Highlights

This is a low-budget beginner’s microphone with a price tag that’s hard to beat for a Shure brand mic. It has an all-metal construction and comes with a mic mount. There’s also a handy ON/OFF switch on the body that doubles as a mute button. This one comes with an XLR cable, but you can opt for a cheaper version if you already have a mic cord. Either version comes with a soft storage bag.

Shure’s PGA48-XLR Mic has a tailored cartridge that helps maintain clarity with voice applications. It has a hot output for a dynamic mic, which is even more impressive considering the low price. That means you don’t have to drive a preamp as hard as you would with similar products. It excels with vocals and speech but is only average for guitars and other instruments.

My final thoughts are that the Shure PGA48 is a no-brainer for budgets below the $40 price range. So far, I haven’t come across an all-metal, XLR dynamic mic that can beat it for the price.

The Not So Good

There are a few cons as you’d expect with any entry-level mic. It’s handling noise is annoying for vocalists who prefer to hold microphones. And plosive rejection is average at best. That’s something else to consider if you don’t expect to mount the mic and use a pop-filter. The PGA48 comes with a mic mount but not a 5/8–3/8 adapter, so that’s an extra small cost if you need one.

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Tech Specs
Brand: Shure
Mic Type: Dynamic vocal mic
Connection: 3-Pin XLR
Polar Pattern: Cardioid
Frequency Range: 70Hz–15kHz
Impedance: 600 Ohms
Mic Sensitivity: -53.5 dBV/Pa
Product Dimensions: 3.5 x 10 x 5”
Product Weight: 10.58 oz.
Warranty: 1 year limited
The Pros
Low-budget entry-level vocal mic
Tailored microphone cartridge
Impressive output
Great for speech and vocals
Sturdy all-metal build
Mic mount included
XLR cable included
ON/OFF/Mute switch
Zippered storage bag
The Cons
Poor handling noise
Average plosive rejection
No 5/8 to 3/8 adapter

2. Audio-Technica AT2020 Studio XLR Mic | Best Value

Audio-Technica AT2020 Studio XLR MicView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.8/5

The Best Value XLR microphone goes to the popular AT2020 by Audio-Technica. The company designed this versatile mic for stage and studio applications, i.e., vocals and instruments.

  • Best feature 1: Designed for stage and studio applications
  • Best feature 2: Custom-engineered low-mass diaphragm
  • Plus points: All-metal build, stand mount, handles high SPL, soft pouch, superb value
  • Minus points: Sensitive to plosives, weak base

Audio-Technica AT2020 Studio Mic Highlights

Audio-Technica’s AT2020 has a rugged, all-metal construction. It looks great, feels fantastic in the hands, and performs well above its price tag. The included pivoting threaded stand mount makes easy work of precise placement. And there’s room in the zippered pouch to accommodate the mic with the stand mount attached. Consider the AT2020 if you’re ready to move on from amateur audio.

This microphone can handle high SPLs without fear of overload. The custom-engineered low-mass diaphragm is also worth mention. It extends the frequency range, which is ideal for vocalists and musical instrument applications. The AT2020 has a tight cardioid pattern. It’s a unidirectional pickup that isolates the sound source from unwanted noise from the sides and rear.

The Not So Good

Audio-Technica’s AT2020 is overly sensitive to breath and popping sounds, so it needs a filter. Pop filters don’t cost much, so it’s advisable to buy one in advance if you decide to get this mic. Also, the bass is quite weak compared to some rivals. That’s worth thinking about if you want a mic with a more natural bass for your style of recording.

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Tech Specs
Brand: Audio-Technica
Mic Type: Studio Condenser
Connection: 3-pin XLR
Polar Pattern: Cardioid
Power Supply: Phantom +48V
Maximum SPL: 144dB
Dynamic Range: 124dB
Package Dimensions: 9.6 x 9.6 x 2.6”
Signal-to-Noise Ratio: 74dB
Product Weight: 12.1 oz.
Warranty: 1 year limited
The Pros
Designed for stage & studio applications
Custom-engineered low-mass diaphragm
All-metal build
Included stand mount
Handles high SPL
Soft zippered pouch
Superb value
The Cons
Sensitive to breath and p-pops
Weak bass

3. Shure SM7B Dynamic XLR Microphone | Top Pick

Shure SM7B Dynamic XLR MicrophoneView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.8/5

Another quality Shure microphone makes the top three. This time it’s the SM7B, often referred to in the industry as an SM57 on steroids. Let’s look a little closer at this professional dynamic mic.

  • Best feature 1: Perfect choice for close-proximity vocal use
  • Best feature 2: Dynamic mic (no phantom power required)
  • Plus points: Incredible build, built-in shockmount, natural sound, tone controls, built-in filter
  • Minus points: Quiet (needs a boost), high price tag

Shure SM7B XLR Mic Highlights

Shure based the SM7B on its original SM7 dynamic mic from the 1970s. These mics were favorites among legendary artists. There was Bob Dylan, Anthony Kiedis, and Michael Jackson to name three, so there’s some serious heritage here. The wide range frequency response results in clear, natural sound. On the bottom of the mic are controls for bass roll-off and mid-range emphasis to help tailor tone.

Exceptional Build, Fine Features

It’s a cliché—I know—but this mic is built like a tank, and it feels as good as it looks. The SM7B comes with a fully-adjustable bracket that easily mounts onto any mic stand. Its air suspension system is basically a built-in shock mount. It works by eliminating any mechanical or handling noise. Other physical highlights include an effective built-in pop filter and two detachable windshields.

Consider the Shure SM7B if you need to get up close and personal with your mic. A cardioid pickup pattern provides excellent off-axis rejection of ambient sounds. It’s a perfect choice for close-proximity work. That can include applications such as radio, podcasts, vocalists, and even to mike instruments. It’s a dynamic mic, so that means it doesn’t need phantom power to function.

The Not So Good

Most dynamic mics are quieter than users would like them to be, including this one. It’s easy to amplify the signal through a decent preamp or mic activator. Even so, it’s something to prepare for if you are new and inexperienced. Okay, this mic has a high price tag and is unlikely to be one that a raw novice would invest in. Still, it’s worth pointing these things out just in case.

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Tech Specs
Brand: Shure
Mic Type: Dynamic Broadcast
Connection: 3 pin XLR
Polar Pattern: Cardioid
Power Supply: Audio interface
Frequency Response: 50Hz to 20kHz
Sensitivity: -59dBV / pa
Impedance: 150 – 300 ohms
Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 2.5”
Product Weight: 27.4 oz.
Warranty: 2 years limited
The Pros
Ideal for close-proximity vocals
No phantom power required
Incredible build
Clear, natural sound
Tone controls
Built-in shockmount (Air Suspension)
built-in pop filter
Foam windshields
Back panel cover
The Cons
Quiet, signal needs a boost
High price tag

4. Neewer NW-800 Pro Studio XLR Microphone

Neewer NW-800 Pro Studio XLR MicrophoneView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.5/5

XLR condenser microphones don’t come much cheaper than the Neewer NW-800. It has a cool matt black and gold design. And can function on just 3.5V, according to the manual.

  • Best feature 1: All-metal build
  • Best feature 2: Shock mount
  • Plus points: Clear sound, stand adapter, pop filter, XLR cable, exceptional value
  • Minus points: Not compatible with MAC OS, small diaphragm

Neewer NW-800 Studio XLR Mic Highlights

The Neewer NW-800 has an all-metal body and a gold-colored metal grill. It comes with a metal shockmount that serves its purpose well. The included foam pop filter seems quite cheap, and I doubt it would survive too much handling. The 8.2ft XLR (F) to 3.5mm audio cable is decent quality and should last a long time with proper care. There’s also a 5/8–3/8” mic stand adapter in the box.

Neewer’s NW-800 sounds surprisingly decent for a mic this inexpensive. It’s a little quiet for a condenser, but that’s a minor nitpick all things considered. The NW-800 is worth shortlisting for anyone on a tight budget looking for a condenser microphone.

Point to note: This mic needs voltage to work, and few sound cards can provide that. Most USB sound cards only provide 2.5–3V, so look for one that’s close to 5V. Alternatively, you can safely use phantom power with the NW-800 (recommended) according to the guidelines.

The Not So Good

Neewer’s NW-800 lacks the large diaphragm found on many condenser type mics. That means it can’t produce the same output as products with 1” or larger diaphragms. The mic doesn’t need 48V phantom power to function. However, it may be necessary if your plug-in device doesn’t deliver enough volts. Lastly, the NW-800 is not compatible with Mac computers.

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Tech Specs
Brand: Neewer
Mic Type: Studio Condenser
Connection: 3.5mm male-to-XLR
Polar Pattern: Cardioid
Power Supply: Plug-in device
Max SPL: 132dB
S/N Ratio: 78dB
Frequency Response: 20Hz to 16kHz
Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.9”
Product Weight: 11 oz.
Warranty: 1 year
The Pros
All-metal build (body & grill)
Includes a shock mount
Can safely use phantom power
Clear sound
5/8–3/8” stand adapter
Foam pop filter
XLR (F) to 3.5mm audio cable
Exceptional value
The Cons
Small diaphragm
Not compatible with MAC OS
Benefits from phantom power

5. Audio-Technica Dynamic USB/XLR Microphone

Audio-Technica Dynamic USB/XLR MicrophoneView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.4/5

Meet the Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB. It’s a dynamic USB/XLR microphone that uses a cardioid pickup pattern. It’s a bestselling handheld mic that’s suitable for a range of applications.

  • Best feature 1: Dual function USB/XLR microphone
  • Best feature 2: Sturdy, all-metal body
  • Plus points: Clear, clean sound, cables included, headphone output, mic clip, mic stand
  • Minus points: Fragile ON/OFF switch, potential Windows 10 issues

Audio-Technica ATR2100 Mic Highlights

System Requirements: Windows OS: XP/Vista/7; USB 1.0/2.0; Macintosh: MAC OS X; Minimum 64MB RAM, USB 1.0/2.0. Potential issues with Windows 10 (see ‘Not so Good’ below).

The Audio Technica ATR2100-USB is a mic with a difference. That’s because it’s both a USB and an XLR microphone rolled into one. And yes, it does come with USB and XLR to XLR cables. The sound is clean and clear with either setup. However, the USB has a slight edge when it comes to brightness and clarity. It works well as a high-entry-level all-around mic for speech, vocals, and instruments.

This mic comes with a clip and a small desktop tripod stand. The box doesn’t include a 5/8–3/8” mic adapter, though. It’s a well-built product with an all-metal body that feels comfortable to hold. There’s a USB LED power indicator light just under the mic’s grill. Below the USB LED is a useful power button that also serves a mute control.

A lot’s happening at the base of the mic. There’s a USB socket, XLR port, a headphone output jack, and a headphone volume dial. It’s easy to see why the ATR2100 continues to sell well.

The Not So Good

The mic is well-built aside from its ON/OFF button. It seems cheap, wiggles, and feels like it could break at any moment. That doesn’t mean it will—it just feels that way. There have been issues using this mic with Windows 10 machines. Not everyone has problems, especially recent buyers. Still, make sure you check for the latest update if you plan to use the ATR2100 with Windows 10.

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Tech Specs
Brand: Audio-Technica
Mic Type: Dynamic USB/XLR
Connection: USB/XLR
Polar Pattern: Cardioid
Power Supply: USB 5V DC
Bit Depth: 16-bit
Headphone Jack: 3.5mm TRS stereo
Frequency Response: 50 -15,000kHz
Product Dimensions: 7.20 x 2.01”
Product Weight: 9.5 oz.
Warranty: Lifetime
The Pros
Dual USB/XLR microphone
Versatile product
All-metal body
USB LED power indicator
ON/OFF switch
Clear, clean sound
All cables included
Headphone output
Headphone volume
Mic clip included
Small tripod stand
The Cons
Fragile ON/OFF switch
Potential Windows 10 issues

6. MXL Mics 770 XLR Cardioid Condenser Mic

MXL Mics 770 XLR Cardioid Condenser MicView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.6/5

The MXL Mics 770 is an affordable XLR cardioid condenser microphone. It’s a large, good-looking, multi-purpose mic with broad appeal.

  • Best feature 1: Natural, warm-sounding microphone
  • Best feature 2: Multi-purpose use
  • Plus points: All-metal construction, shockmount, bass roll-off, 10dB pad, rugged carry case
  • Minus points: Fragile shock mount, no extras

MXL Mics 770 XLR Condenser Mic Highlights

The build quality of the MXL Mics 770 is exceptional, given its price. Its full-metal construction—including the grill—gives it some considerable weight. On the rear of the body are two subtle switches. One is a bass roll-off—handy for when there’s a need to decrease any unwelcome rumble. The other is a 10dB pad used to reduce the output signal if there’s an overly loud sound source.

This mic has a warm, clear, and natural sound that’s pleasing to the ears. It’s suitable for multiple musical applications including vocals, percussion, stringed instruments, and piano. The 770 comes in a hard case which has foam cutouts for the microphone and its shockmount. It offers perfect protection and makes the mic easy to store and carry around.

The Not So Good

The 770 sells well because it’s a decent mic for a fair price. The included shockmount, though, is more of a sales gimmick than a valuable extra. It does as it’s supposed to, but handle it with care because it’s so fragile and may easily break. It can also scratch the body when trying to attach it to the mic, so it needs a gentle, patient approach. The mic doesn’t include any extras like a pop filter or XLR cable.

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Tech Specs
Brand: MXL Mics
Mic Type: Multi-purpose condenser
Connection: 3-Pin XLR
Polar Pattern: Cardioid
Power Supply: Phantom 48V
Maximum SPL: 137dB
Frequency Range: 30Hz to 20kHz
Signal to Noise Ratio: 74 dB
Pad: -10 dB
Product Dimensions: 6.22 x 2.32”
Product Weight: 16 oz.
Warranty: 1 year limited
The Pros
Natural, warm-sounding
Multi-purpose mic
All-metal construction
Metal shockmount
Bass roll-off switch
10dB pad control
Rugged carry case
Patented design
Excellent value
The Cons
Fragile shockmount
No extras

7. Shure SM58-X2U Dynamic Vocal XLR-USB Mic

Shure SM58-X2U Dynamic Vocal XLR-USB MicView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.7/5

The penultimate XLR microphone review is for the Shure SM58-X2u. It packs the celebrated SM58 vocal mic with the convenience of the Shure X2u XLR–USB adapter.

  • Best feature 1: X2u XLR-to-USB adapter
  • Best feature 2: All-in-one vocal solution
  • Plus points: Plug-n-play, built-in shockmount & pop filter, cable, portable, zippered pouch
  • Minus points: No ON/OFF switch, low sensitivity

Shure’s X2u XLR–USB Adapter

Let’s start by looking at the X2u interface—an XLR-to-USB signal adapter. It connects the SM58 XLR mic to a computer for professional recording and headphone monitoring.

The heavy metal build is rugged, which adds to its portable appeal. At the front/top is an LED that lights up when there’s a signal or to indicate clipping. Below the LED are a mic gain dial and a headphone volume control. Under the volume dial is a monitor mix regulator. That’s used to blend mic and computer playback audio.

At the bottom are two more LED indicators. The +48V phantom power switch lights up red when it’s ON. Below that is an LED that glows green when you’re plugged-in and connected to USB. On the left side is the 3.5mm headphone jack, the top has the XLR port, and the USB port is on the bottom. The adapter comes with Velcro straps to help secure it to a mic stand.

Shure SM58 Vocal Mic Highlights

This plug-n-play cardioid pattern mic has an all-metal construction and is virtually indestructible. Shure’s SM58 must be one of the—if not the—best mics ever in its price category. It’s rugged, 100% reliable, and feels comfortable to hold. It would have made our Best Value pick if it was only the microphone on review. But this kit includes the X2u XLR–USB Adapter as well as the mic.

The SM50’s pneumatic shock-mount does well at reducing handling noise. That’s music to the ears of vocalists who prefer to hold their mics. There’s even a foam pop/wind filter built into the microphone to keep plosives in check. Shure tailored this mic for vocals, and for that it’s a no-brainer. It has impressive noise rejection and serves singers well in either live or studio applications.

The Not So Good

Some vocalists like to have an ON/Off switch with handheld mics and others don’t. This one doesn’t have that option. It’s more of a preference than a con, though. Some buyers assume there’s an ON/OFF button only to find there isn’t one. Consider Shure’s SM58S if you want that feature. The mic is dynamic and has low sensitivity. Thus, you need to drive the preamp hard to get the desired results.

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Tech Specs
Brand: Shure
Color: Black
Form Factor: Hand-held
Mic Type: Dynamic vocal
Polar Pattern: Cardioid
Cable: 3-pin XLR
Frequency Response: Tailored
Product Dimensions: 10 x 4 x 10”
Product Weight: 21.6 oz.
Warranty: Limited 2 years
The Pros
All-in-one vocal solution
Almost indestructible mic
Incredibly reliable
Tailored for vocalists
Plug-n-play simplicity
Includes X2u XLR-to-USB adapter
Pneumatic shock-mount system
Effective, built-in wind & pop filter
180 break-resistant stand adapter
Zippered pouch
The Cons
No ON/OFF button/switch
Low sensitivity

8. Sennheiser MKH416-P48U3 Shotgun Tube Mic

Sennheiser MKH416-P48U3 Shotgun Tube MicView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.7/5

Last up is the Sennheiser MKH416-P48U3. It’s a high-quality shotgun type tube microphone—perfect for outdoor applications. And that includes adverse climate conditions.

  • Best feature 1: Extremely rugged construction
  • Best feature 2: Supercardioid polar pattern
  • Plus points: Moisture resistant, low self-noise, remarkable clarity, mic clip, foam windshield
  • Minus points: Not a true tube mic, expensive, flimsy storage box

Sennheiser Shotgun Tube Mic Highlights

The build quality is exceptional with an all-metal body and a decent weight. It feels as good as it looks too. The mic’s not beautiful, and is void of any real character. Still, it is a streamlined and well-engineered shotgun. Sennheiser’s MKH-416 is also moisture resistant which adds to its rustic appeal. That’s because condensation and extreme humidity are enemies to most mics.

Sound Quality

This shotgun tube microphone sounds fantastic, but then it has to. Sennheiser aims it at professionals who work in film, television, or out in the field. It guarantees consistent audio even in the most challenging conditions. A supercardioid pickup pattern boasts sharp directivity with exceptional background noise rejection. And the mic produces strong output with low to no noise.

The MKH416-P48U3 is mix-ready and void of any onboard controls to confuse matters or break. It comes with a couple of extras as you’d expect with a mic in this price category. They include a custom foam windscreen and a mic clip with a 5/8 to 3/8 stand adapter.

The Not So Good

It’s not a conventional tube mic despite the description. It uses an ‘interference tube principle’ which is a long metal tube with circumferential slots. Its audio sounds great, but skip this mic if you want a conventional tube design and pure vintage sound. This product is not cheap at around 1000 dollars—at the time of writing. The flimsy storage box adds further to the gripe about price. Sennheiser could have offered a better, more robust storage case to protect the mic.

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Tech Specs
Brand: Sennheiser
Mic Type: Shotgun Condenser
Connection: 3-pin XLR
Polar Pattern: Lobar, Supercardioid
Frequency Range: 40Hz to 20kHz
Maximum SPL: 130dB
Impedance: 25 Ohms
Sensitivity: -32 dBV
Power Supply: 48V Phantom
Product Dimensions: 7.5 x 7.5 x 9.8”
Product Weight: 17.6 oz.
Warranty: 2 Years
The Pros
Extremely rugged construction
Moisture resistant
Low self-noise
Good background noise rejection
Strong output
Remarkable clarity
Mic clip w/ stand adapter
Foam windshield
The Cons
Expensive; tad overpriced
Flimsy storage box
0/50 ratings