Best Large Diaphragm Condenser Microphones Under $300

Large diaphragm condenser microphones are an essential studio tool. Compared to your standard “stage” dynamic microphones (like a Shure SM57), large diaphragm condensers have onboard electronics for higher output levels and a capsule design which is capable of capturing far more detail and nuance. Most often used for recording vocals, LDCs can also be right at home on acoustic instruments, horns, drums, and more.

Not long ago, purchasing a large diaphragm condenser microphone required a pretty significant amount of financial outlay if you wanted a mic that could handle more than just lead vocal duties on a recording. But those days are thoroughly over. Modern manufacturing techniques have made large diaphragm capsules easier to assemble and more consistent, and the price of some extraordinarily useful condenser mics has come down as build efficiency has gone up.

We at Reverb have collectively had an opportunity to try pretty much every single affordable condenser microphone currently manufactured on a number of sound sources. The list below will take you through some of the best large diaphragm condenser microphones for beginners and outline the specifics offerings of each.

In this particular guide, we’ll stick to cardioid-only microphones with FET electronics. There are a handful of multi-pattern and tube mics in this price range, but in the interest of comparing apples to apples, we’ll stick with one family of microphone.


Our Pick
Audio-Technica AT4040
GREAT FOR: Home studios that need versatility. It handles just about everything and does wonders with drums and other loud instruments.
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Blue Microphones Bluebird
GREAT FOR: Musicians looking for a mic to capture lead vocals and strummed acoustic instruments.
sE Electronics sE2200a II C
GREAT FOR: Those who seek, flat natural reproduction across all sources.
MXL V67G
GREAT FOR: Home recordists seeking a serious bargain on a vintage-tinged microphone.
AKG C214
GREAT FOR: Recording finger-style guitar, cymbals and anything else that benefits with a little extra sparkle.
Aston Origin
GREAT FOR: Capturing a variety of sources with accuracy and "soul".

Our Pick: Audio-Technica AT4040

One of Audio-Technica’s best-selling models is, unsurprisingly, a major favorite for engineers all over the globe, from weekend warriors in their home studio space to everyday recordists who can choose from a number of more expensive mics. The AT4040’s edge-terminated capsule is actually a tad smaller than the “traditional” large diaphragm size, but sonically it has more in common with large diaphragm mics than small- or mid-diaphragms. So yeah, we’ll stick this bad boy in with other LDCs.

Covering the capsule is a precision-machined headbasket that is acoustically very open when compared to other mics in this price range. This allows for a mostly untouched sound hitting the capsule and also significantly reduces reflections and standing waves inside the grille -- almost always a good thing. The timbre of the AT4040 is extremely deep and very even, if perhaps a touch on the “bright” side, though rotating the mic just a few degrees off-axis can knock down some of the high end if you desire. For very close vocal recording, some careful mic technique is required to prevent “P”-popping-plosives (or a pop filter if you absolutely must…) but the tradeoff here is mostly insignificant.

The AT4040 is absolutely a “leave-it-on-the-stand” workhorse you’d happily use on anything, but where this mic truly shines is its pickup of louder, transient-heavy material; Mallet instruments like marimba and xylophone, drum overheads and even individual drums. The AT4040 is a fantastic snare drum microphone in particular -- just engage the pad and keep your preamp level fairly low to avoid overloads at your interface. The smooth, even off-axis response combats strange phasey artifacts from cymbals, something that you have to be very cautious of when using other inexpensive condensers for this same sonically complex task.

Great for: Home studios that need versatility. It handles just about everything and does wonders with drums and other loud instruments.


Blue Microphones Bluebird

All Blue mics have a very distinct character and leave their stamp on everything put in front of them. One of the company’s least expensive, longest-running models is the Bluebird, a microphone which is no exception to that sonic fact. This home studio staple features a hand-tuned capsule that’s been designed for a crisp sound that sits on top of the mix, and a Class-A amplifier with transformerless output and a very low noise floor to transmit the capsule’s signal as transparently as possible.

The Bluebird comes in handiest when recording vocals — and you can get about as close as you’d like to the Bluebird without many issues. The asymmetrical shape of the headbasket keeps the bass boost from proximity effect mostly at bay, and an included detachable pop filter stops plosives dead in their tracks.

With its notably pre-EQ’d tonality, you do have to be in love with its inherent personality to use it as a main “overdub everything” microphone, but it does do particularly well for lead vocals and strummed acoustic instruments. While it does have very high SPL capabilities, its output is quite high and lacks a pad switch, meaning you’ll need to have attenuation at your mic pre or interface for a belting vocalist.

Great for: Musicians looking for a mic to capture lead vocals and strummed acoustic instruments.


sE Electronics sE2200a II C

This update to the original 2200a design retains the detailed sound that made the original 2200a such a hit for project studios. The newest version features an included shockmount for isolation from the mic stand and floor, and the new black rubberized finish which also helps to dampen vibrations and resonance within the body of the mic.

Many microphones in this price range can add a lot of color to the sound which can impede on their ability to be used on multiple sources within one song. The sE2200a II C, however, is in another class. This mic boasts a very natural midrange, if a little dipped down just before the bass region. The high frequency response is quite present, with a slight “air” bump but nothing that will have you reaching for an EQ to tame shrill frequencies.

The sE2200a II C is rounded out with switches for a -10dB pad and a fixed bass rolloff to be used on a variety of sounds, even extremely close up or loud enough to where you’d not want your ear anywhere near where the mic is positioned. While the printed specs for the mic show that the bass response is almost completely flat down to 20Hz, our testing found that when compared to the AT4040, the sE mic didn’t go down quite as deep when moved further away from the source.

Great for: Those who seek, flat natural reproduction across all sources.


MXL V67G

MXL mics usually get a lot of flack -- “guitar store mics!” or “beginner gear!” -- but they do have a number of models which definitely hold their own against more expensive microphones. The V67G is perhaps the best bargain in their line. This large diaphragm mic sports Class-A electronics and something not typically seen in a mic at this price: an output transformer.

The microphone’s model designation may give you a hint as to the sound that MXL was going for with this mic -- that of the Neumann U 67 tube microphone of the 1960s. The V67G’s internal amplifier, while solid-state, is designed to mimic the very subtle harmonic characteristics of that classic mic and the capsule is extremely similar in design to the old Neumanns.

Certainly not part of the “clean” and “neutral” family of condenser microphone, the V67G has a bit of mojo to the sound that can poke a vocal or guitar track straight to the front of the mix with little to no processing needed at mixdown. The tonality of this mic is rather bright, however, and on the wrong singer or the wrong instrument can be a bit harsh.

Great for: Home recordists seeking a serious bargain on a vintage-tinged microphone.


AKG C214 (Used)

While you’ll have to peruse the used market to grab one under our $300 ceiling, the AKG C214 is a serious contender here. This baby brother of the venerable C414 -- a classic multi-pattern mic that’s been through as many iterations as the average person has fingers -- is a pocket-sized workhorse suitable for almost any sound you can throw at it.

A single-sided version of the C414's capsule is at the heart of the C214, with simplified innards (there’s no pattern switching and only one option for both attenuation and high-pass filter) rounding it out electronically, allowing the C214 to come in at an incredibly low price for the quality you get. The signature high-frequency peak of modern C414s is 100% in tact here, adding a sparkle and sheen that lends itself particularly well to finger-style acoustic guitar and darker cymbals on a drum kit.

However, if there’s anything that makes the modern C414 as widespread and handy as it is, it may be the switchable directional patterns and multiple settings for pad and bass rolloff -- perhaps even more so than the sound of the microphone itself. And since the C214 effectively sounds the same, but lacks the wider feature set, some may find themselves eventually wanting to move on from the C214 to the bigger model.

Great for: Recording finger-style guitar, cymbals and anything else that benefits with a little extra sparkle.


Aston Origin

At the time of publishing, Aston is a rather brand new company based in the United Kingdom with a simple mission statement: build fantastic, affordable microphones and give them a sound that has soul. In the case of their smaller cardioid-only model, the Origin, they’ve certainly hit that goal and then some. Though it’s without the multi-pattern functionality and output transformer Spirit microphone, it does retain the switchable pad and bass rolloff and easily delivers a beautiful sound that’s about as true to the source as a large diaphragm mic can be.

The headbasket of the Origin is definitely the biggest innovation here, and not just for its inspiring look. A built-in stainless steel mesh-knit pop filter lets you get up close for vocal recording, and this is surrounded by a shock-resistant “Wave-Form” structure which protects the capsule from any accidental knocks or short drops.

Sonically, the Origin is exceedingly transparent from bass frequencies (extending lower than the Spirit, even) to the upper-midrange, offering up an honest sound that typically requires a small diaphragm condenser microphone to capture. This does mean, however, that if the sound source needs a little help in the mojo department, the Origin may not be the best tool for the job. While it does have a bit of a high frequency lift near the top of the range, it’s not the screeching and jarring “10kHz-Of-Doom” sound found in lower-end microphones.

The integrated stand mount is both useful and sort of a shortfall -- the positioning of the microphone is at the mercy of your mic stand’s ability to change angle and rotation, so unless you’ve got a bigger boom stand with a “dead-hang” you may want to pick up a separate pivot-mount which can screw into the Origin’s threading.

Great for: Capturing a variety of sources with accuracy and "soul".


Our Pick: The others do make it a pretty close call, but the AT4040 picks its proverbial chin up just a bit higher for all-around use thanks to its handling of very loud, very transient heavy sources and superior off-axis response. The sE2200a II C is a close second, but its slightly higher noise floor and barely rolled-off bass response get edged out by the AT4040. While we’d recommend buying most microphones in stereo pairs, it actually makes a lot of sense to get three or more AT4040s (think “snare, rack tom, floor tom”) as general do-it-all mics that you’ll rarely have to put back into their storage boxes.

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