Updated on April 2nd, 2022
While all condenser microphones do a really fantastic job when it comes to capturing auditory nuances and fine tonal variations, the difference between small- and large-diaphragm microphones is apparent. Where the small-diaphragm mics capture natural and pure sound without exaggerating the signal, the large-diaphragm models are typically used for when you want an instrument or vocals to sound big and warm.
Due to the natural sonic origin of the vocal sounds, large diaphragm mics tend to work best with vocals in general. In this article, we’ll review the top five contenders for the best large diaphragm condenser microphone.
Best Large Diaphragm Condenser Microphone Reviews
AKG Pro Audio C214
The Pro Audio C214 condenser mic from AKG has a metal chassis and a double-mesh grill that is dent-resistant. Its retro look works perfectly with the microphone type this unit belongs to. A perfect piece of Austrian craftsmanship plus incredible performance put this product in contest for the best large-diaphragm condenser microphone.
The looks and the build of this brilliant large-diaphragm condenser mic are among its main perks, surpassed only by its top-class performance. Once you get the chance to hold it in your hand, the master craftsmanship becomes apparent very quickly. The whole vibe of this great unit is Western-European, which says a lot.
Now, as for the technical stuff, under the hood, you can find a 1” diaphragm. This large diaphragm is suspended by a fairly complex and cutting-edge system that serves as a mechanical noise reducer. This is something of vital importance in condenser mics. The frequency response of the AKG Pro Audio C214 ranges from 20Hz to 20kHz, boasting a 156dB maximum SPL. The XLR output (gold-plated) requires 48v phantom power.
One of the main downsides of this great product is the lack of customizability, on account of the fixed cardioid pattern. Not to worry, though, as this unit is packed with some rock-solid features, like, for instance, the -20dB attenuation pad and the low-cut filter.
Despite the fact that it isn’t particularly customizable, the AKG Pro Audio C214 is very flexible for a large-diaphragm condenser mic. Smoothness and warmth are the main keywords when summing up the product’s performance with vocals. Clarity, detail, and definition are also fitting. This is not only useful for male and female vocals, but also for capturing the true nature of acoustic instruments, from guitars to drums.
This unit’s price is a bit expensive, but then again, so is every piece of pro equipment that you may need. Plus, it is by far one of the best large-diaphragm condenser mics on the market, and not only in its price range.
- Brilliant build
- Clear, detailed, well-defined, warm, and smooth audio
- Comes with an attenuation pad
- Includes a low-cut filter
- Frequency response from 20Hz to 20kHz
- Way too expensive for amateurs
- Not particularly customizable
This large-diaphragm condenser microphone is very versatile. It is rather robust and stern. The AT2035 from Audio-Technica is particularly popular with singers.
The AT2035 offers an excellent mid-high balance, which is often something of a problem for large-diaphragm condensers. Another general problem with this type of condensers is eliminating the lows, which this unit handles like a true champ, too, although this does require the tiniest bit of EQ meddling.
The self-noise numbers come in quite low at 12dB, which is, of course, a great thing for a large-diaphragm condenser mic of this class. It comes with an 80Hz high-pass filter that is switchable, which can come in very handy. The AT2035 can handle up to 158 SPL when the 10dB pad is switched on.
This microphone comes with the cardioid pickup pattern and a rather robust construction with a shock mount. This makes it useful for everything from professional studios to live stages. One of its main perks is general versatility. If you really need to pick a single mic to use in your studio, this one is your best bet.
As is the case with the rest of the AT20- series, the main focus here is the highest quality you can get for the lowest price. It can safely be said that this unit is somewhat cheap for the category it’s in and for the quality it manages to deliver. After all, there is a reason why many singers prefer the AT2035 to much more expensive products.
- Sturdy build
- Low price
- Impressive mid-high balance
- Low self-noise levels
- Suitable for vocals only
- The design and features are a bit dated
The MV51 comes from Shure, a renowned company known for its high-quality microphones. Its look is decidedly retro, although it comes with a bunch of modern features. Versatility is the name of the game here.
To start off with the most interesting thing about the Shure MV51, it can record directly to your iOS device or computer through a USB cable. This makes it an extremely useful product for podcasts and creating video content. Its old-school-looking grille may make you think that the MV51 boasts vintage characteristics, but make no mistake, as this is a very versatile and modern USB large-diaphragm mic.
Beneath the shiny grille, you can find a one-inch capsule inside a cardioid pattern. You’ll also find a dashboard with LED lights that you’ll use to turn the mute mode on or off and control many other useful features, such as change recording modes and adjust the volume. The product also includes a zero-latency 3.5mm headphone jack that you’ll find on the rear panel.
Using DSP with USB microphones has always been a thing of debate. Where many manufacturers boast about their products being free of DSP, the Shure MV51 uses it to its advantage. What makes this model a contender for the best large-diaphragm condenser microphone are its DSP mode presets that automatically adjust dynamic compression/limiting, EQ, and gain. Now, this product’s main selling point is the DSP-free mode. The guys and gals at Shure have decided to let you decide what you want to use.
When it comes to performance, let’s discuss the Flat (DSP-free) mode first. It really doesn’t sound too good right off the bat. However, not only is this normal but it’s the whole point. It leaves a whole lot of space for spicing things up with EQ and compression. The Speech mode is rich, crisp, and strong in signal. The price is also quite reasonable: neither too steep, nor too low.
- A variety of presets
- DSP-free mode
- Direct connectivity with iOS
- Combines vintage design with modern features
- Kickstand too low for mic height
- Versatility comes at the price of sound quality
Lewitt LCT 440 PURE
When it comes to workhorse mics, there aren’t many better choices than Lewitt products. This Australian company has yet to make the best large-diaphragm condenser microphone in the world, but the Lewitt LCT 440 PURE is an awesome unit, nonetheless.
Lewitt is a fairly young Australian company that has released quite a number of mic models. The problem with most of these, however, is that they are somewhat pricey. The LCT 440 Pure model is somewhat of a black sheep here, with a rather low price compared to their other models. The result? A skimmed-down version of other Lewitt condenser microphones. Does this affect its quality? Not really.
In order to trim the price a bit and give the beginner crowd something affordable enough, the LCT 440 PURE has no switches and no buttons. The LCT 440 PURE is equipped with Lewitt’s dayglow-green-rimmed 1” cardioid capsule that features a 3-micron gold-sputtered diaphragm. What the people at Lewitt decided to keep is the brilliant Lewitt open-front shock mount, a magnetically attached pop filter, as well as the windscreen.
Spec-wise, the Lewitt LCT 440 PURE has a 23.1mV/Pa sensitivity and an 87dBA signal-to-noise ratio. Its maximum SPL of 140dB is decent, and so is its frequency response (20Hz to 20kHz), which is actually pretty ideal even for bass drum recording.
When put against the LCT 640 TS, the differences are noticeable, but the 440 PURE is available at just half the price of its ‘big brother.’ Although definitely not the most cutting-edge piece of recording equipment, this model provides very solid recording options at a very low price for the quality you get.
- Holds up surprisingly well to its pricier LCT peers
- A forward, clear, and open sound with subtle richness
- Impressive frequency response
- Open-front shock mount, pop filter, and windscreen all included
- Lacks some features found in similarly priced mics
- No switches, no buttons
The MXL 2006 is quite an old beast. It definitely isn’t the trendiest, sleekest, or best large-diaphragm condenser microphone on the market, but for the price, you get an excellent product.
First of all, the model comes in a sturdy plastic case, secured with a layer of foam. Now, this is to be expected for a piece of gear that costs a few thousand dollars, but this isn’t one such product. As a matter of fact, the MXL 2006 is dirt-cheap and one of the best options in its price range.
The MXL 2006 is equipped with a somewhat large 32mm capsule which ensures excellent sound quality. The frequency spectrum that it covers ranges from 30Hz all the way to 20kHz, which means that the model is very versatile. For instance, 30Hz tends to be a fairly acceptable low frequency when recording the bass drum, which is one of the instruments that have the lowest frequency in the studio.
The unit is pretty tough and can take quite a punch. It is rated at 130dB, which truly is amazing, and which means that it can even record guitar amplifiers (this tends to be a big no-no for condenser mics in general). The MXL 2006 requires the 48v phantom power feed, which is pretty much a standard thing nowadays.
This is an excellent and cheap model that easily compares to other, much more expensive products.
- Brilliant packaging
- Fantastic performance
- Wide frequency range
- Rated at 130dB
- Not too comfortable at close proximity
- Not a versatile pro option
A brilliant build, clear, detailed, well-defined, warm, and smooth audio, as well as awesome additional options are the features that make the AKG Pro Audio C214 a definite winner here. Although it’s somewhat expensive, you won’t get a better large-diaphragm condenser for the price. In fact, you can expect the C214 to shine, even compared to pricier competitors.
Unfortunately, the MXL 2006 can’t take the top place here because it isn’t nearly as versatile as the AKG. Then again, it definitely is the best budget option here. In fact, despite its low price, the MXL 2006 is often used even by pros.
There you have it — the AKG Pro Audio C214 is the best large-diaphragm condenser microphone out there, but the MXL 2006 is quite a catch, too, especially considering its low price.
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