Beginner's Gear Guide: Stage Staple Microphones

Beginner's Gear Guides: Stage Staple Microphones

Reinforce and record your live show with these must-have microphones.

When you're building a mic collection for your performance venue or portable PA rig, dynamic mics like the Shure SM58 and SM57 are hard to beat for reinforcing vocals, drums, amps and more. We've also got a few handheld condenser mics for the discerning vocalist.

Need more mobility on stage? Check out our selection of wireless microphone systems, from high-tech digital wireless systems to time-tested UHF systems. While handheld wireless mics are ideal for sung vocals, headset microphones and clip-on lavalier mics are perfect for reinforcing presentations or speakers.

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Finally, no stage microphone guide would be complete without a few recommendations for live recording microphones. Use these boundary mics, hanging mics, and stereo mics to capture your performance for posterity.
Handheld Vocal Microphones
To most people, "microphone" means "handheld vocal mic." The Shure SM58 dynamic microphone is indispensable for spoken or sung live vocals, while the Shure PGA58 from the PG ALTA series is a comparable low-cost alternative. If you're reinforcing a particularly nuanced vocalist, a handheld condenser microphone like the Sennheiser e965 or Neumann KMS105 can deliver extended high frequencies for a crisper, more detailed vocal sound.

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Dynamic Instrument Microphones
Once you've miked up the vocals, mic up the kick drum, snare drums, and guitar amps with these tough dynamic microphones. Not only do dynamic mics tend to survive on-stage abuse better than condenser microphones, they also tend to be more affordable -- a plus for anyone looking to build their live mic collection on a budget.
Handheld Wireless Microphone Systems
Whether you're miking a church service or a karaoke night, wireless microphones give presenters and performers the freedom to move around the stage. Most professional wireless microphone systems operate in the Ultra High Frequency (UHF) band, which offer the most simultaneous compatible channels (if you need to run many mics at the same time. If you just need one or two mics, consider a cost-effective entry-level digital wireless mic system running on the 2.4 GHz band. Check out our Wireless Microphone System Buying Guide for more on what to look for when shopping for wireless mics.
Headsets, Clip-On Mics, and More Wireless Systems
Wireless headsets are perfect for instructors or presenters that need their hands free. If a headset is too obtrusive, a tiny lavalier microphone can clip on to a performer's shirt, or even hide in an actor's wig or costume. These mics use a "bodypack" transmitter that fits in the performer's pocket. Check out our Wireless Microphone Buying Guide to learn more about what to look for when choosing a wireless microphone system.
Stereo Microphones for Live Recording
Recording a show can be a high-pressure situation, since there are no "second takes" with a live performance. Fortunately, stereo microphones make the task of live recording a little easier. Place a stereo mic on a tall stand in the middle of the performance space. If you're already capturing a soundboard feed from your stage mics, the stereo room mic can help give your recording a sense of space.

A matched pair of microphones takes more work to set up than a single stereo mic, but matched pairs give you a bit more flexibility with placement. Try setting up up a matched pair of cardioid condenser microphones in an X-Y coincident pair, with the diaphragms as close to each other as possible, pointing toward opposite edges of the source to be recorded, at a 90- to 110-degree angle.