Rap Microphone Guide For Beginners

I see a lot of review sites about mic’s for rap vocals. But a lot of them are specs off the website and listing it as “top 15 microphones for rapping”. Which is cool for some, but honestly I don’t understand all the specs. I just wanted to know which one other people have used for rap vocals and if they worked well. And what do I need to do the same.


So after doing a ton of brain numbing research for myself, I figured it could help someone else out as well.

First things first. I’d like to clear the air on my opinion of using USB Microphones for rap vocals.



USB-Mic VS XLR For Rap Vocals

USB plugs into the usb port on your computer. XLR is the name for the three prong connection from the mic to a quarter inch jack on the other end. (most microphones are xlr that are non-usb)

USB microphones are almost always a cheaper, less expensive option than XLR microphones.

I’m going to just be straight up honest here. I have the Blue Yeti AND the Snowball USB mic and they are not great for recording rap vocals.


Some people will tell you to get a USB-mic like the Blue Yeti or the Snowball. I can understand that, because it’s an all-in-one solution and they are way cheaper overall. If you just want to get stuff out there, these can work. BUT they won’t sound as good. The benefit comes because you are recording, practicing different recording techniques and styles.


So what are other options besides USB?

The two most common types of microphones used in rap are condenser mics or dynamic mics. The difference between them is in the way they take your voice and convert it into the computer.. Or how they translate an analog signal to a digital signal.


The reason USB mics are lower quality is because of how they convert an audio signal to an electrical signal. These mic’s like the Blue Yeti were built to try and do everything in one. When that happens the quality of all of these processes suffer.


Say you wanted the best sushi in town. Would you rather go to a sushi restaurant that specializes in sushi? Like they only serve sushi.. Or would you go to a restaurant that serves burgers, steaks, fries, chicken AND sushi? Who do you think will do it better?


A single USB-mic will have to convert the audio to electrical, then convert analog to digital and also amplify the signal as well. Usually that doesn’t work out too well.

So What Should You Get Then?


Get a Dynamic or Condenser Mic with an XLR connection to an audio interface.

Here’s a couple pics of mine so you get the idea.

Condenser Mic

XLR cord connection (comes with every mic pretty much)

Audio interface (Box that connects mic to computer and makes it sound good)


Condenser Or Dynamic Mics For Rap

What’s the difference?


Condenser microphone = Delicate vocals, In-Studio use

Dynamic microphone = Powerful vocals + Live use + Strong signals


You can still get great sound in a studio with a dynamic microphone. BUT condenser mics are made for in-studio vocals and high frequency sounds. Which is perfect for raps in a home booth.


The major difference is in how they receive your voice and turn it digital. Condenser microphones are delicate. They have a little membrane built in that analyzes the pressure of your sound. Made to pick up accurate, detailed and delicate sounds. Perfect for your rap voice. Condenser mics use something called phantom power. All that means is that it gets power from an external source (mostly 48v from a pre-amplifier). And many pre-amps will list right on the device if they have phantom power or not. This is what creates that insanely high output while still being able to keep the gain (volume) down while recording.


Dynamic microphones use a wire coil thing to pick up sound and are much more durable microphones. You can beat them up pretty good and they will still be quality. Michael Jackson did Thriller on a dynamic microphone. That’s because his voice worked extremely well with it. For most rappers we won’t be belting out songs and singing like that.


WINNER FOR RAP VOCALS = CONDENSER


Pickup Pattern - Cardioid


There are four pickup patterns for microphones. Omnidirectional, bi-directional, cardioid and supercardioid.


All this means is that the focus on the microphone can either pick up sound all the way around (omnidirectional) or pickup just what’s right in front of it (cardioid).


For recording rap vocals at home, it is best to use cardioid. Which just means it picks up sound at the front of the microphone only. Cardioid is termed for it’s heart shape of where on the mic it picks up the sound from.


It just means that the mic is created specifically to pick up sound in one direction and WONT pick up as much sound from behind the mic or the sides.


When you’re looking at microphones you will notice many will say cardioid.



Best Mic For Rap Vocals On A Budget

The best VALUE mic for recording raps is the Rode NT1A Vocal Condenser Package. You get one of the most well-reviewed microphones + Pop filter + Stand + Shock mount + XLR cable for $229. That’s ridiculous considering you would need all those things with other mics anyways.


Combine this with the Focusrite Scarlett Solo (2nd Gen) USB Audio Interface with Pro Tools. That’s a long name for a doo-hicky to plug your mic into. But it’s so you can turn the sound of your voice into a digital file for your computer.



Not only is it a good deal. But it is widely considered one of the best quality mics to use for rap vocals.


But here’s the disclaimer. You HAVE to get an audio interface to plug this mic into. It will not plug directly into the computer. No good microphone will. Only USB, in which case it will not match the quality.


That being said, we can get everything we need to make rap vocals sound dope for under $350. Everything you need is in these two products. This microphone is the top of the charts in terms of price, reviews, quality, all-in-one bundle that the great people of r/Makinghiphop have found.



Sure, there are some other options that are great and will cost more. BUT in terms of the industry standard for underground heads. This is what they are using right now to get out high quality music quickly.


TIP FOR BROKE ASS RAPPERS

What I did when I couldn’t afford my first microphone…

Went to the local music store and they have this amazing thing called pay as you go. Kinda like The Brick with couches. You pay a monthly fee but you get your stuff right away based on credit. Well let me tell you. I have the WORST credit. And they hooked me up with a mic, audio interface and stand. I was set. I paid nothing up front and slowly paid it off over time.


Shure SM7B Vocal Dynamic Microphone

The BEST mic for recording rap vocals is the Shure SM7B. It is almost unanimous throughout the underground hip hop community that based on quality and price, this is the best option. It retails between $399-$499.

This also comes with a disclaimer.

The Shure SM7B needs a preamplifier. It requires an XLR port which you cannot find on any computer. You can get a decent pre-amp for $99. Then you’re set.

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Why is it the best?


One of my favourite quotes about this microphone:


“I have no window treatments in my room, a computer, and a 5 disk array whirring in the background and this thing can cut them out and provide me with a signal so good I don't have to post process it. No joke.”

Also Reddit consistently mentions this microphone as the best mic for rap vocals. That’s usually an extremely unbiased review as they don’t have affiliate links and such.


Also Joe Rogan used this microphone to record his podcast for a long time. Which is pretty sick.


Some interesting features:



  • Switchable response controls on the body that allows you turn off low frequency humming like computers and stuff like that.

  • Option called ‘flat’ which is made for in-studio vocals.

  • Don’t need a shockmount.

  • Comes with two windshields/pop filter so you wont need to buy one of those.




This is an XLR mic so you will need an audio interface like the FocusRite Scarlett Solo.



Do You Have To Get An Audio Interface?

Yeah for sure. Unless you’re using a USB mic.


The audio interface takes the sound of your voice (analog) and turns it into digital. And does it really well in high quality, so you can play it on your computer.




This ALSO will power up a condenser microphone and give it some juice. This is what allows the microphone to record at ideal ‘gain’ (volume) levels. And what makes it so great for picking up the fine unique characteristics of our voice.

Think of it like a mandatory adapter in order to get from your microphone to your computer. It must exist. But the best part is they aren’t too pricy. $99 will get a solid one.




Mic Stands - Don’t Make The Same Mistake As Me




At first I got a full mic stand. That goes from the floor and all the way up. Which is fine. But then I realized I want to do all this stuff at a desk sitting down. For some reason I just feel way more comfortable that way. When rhyming, creating and doing anything. I don’t want to be standing up. So I have it positioned next to my desk like that now.. But it would have been easier if I knew to get a table boom stand instead. One that connects to your table top with a swivel arm. So much better.




Do Headphones Matter?


I was told by the music guy at the music store that the type of headphones you plug into your audio interface don’t matter at all.


But I beg to differ. Headphones are playing the beat while you’re recording. So, if you don’t have closed back headphones the sound will bleed through even just a tiny little bit. But the microphone is much more important.  



No recommendations here. I don’t know anything about headphones. But I figured i’d throw this in here as it was a question I had right off the bat.




Where Do I Record?

I was having a hard time figuring out where is the best possible spot to record when I don’t have any soundproofing or anything like that. Generally my walls are pretty covered with stuff, but I do have some sound coming in from outside (live downtown street).


This video below on YouTube seemed to work really well at showing the differences in all the different set ups possible in a home setup. I coudln’t have done it any better so deff recommend watching this one:



What Software To Use For Recording Raps

There are SO MANY. They are called DAW’s. They are referred to like this on pretty much every website now. But a DAW means a Digital Audio Workstation. Which is a fancy way to say a program on your computer that lets control recordings. It works as a software to automatically find your audio interface and microphone. You can then easily adjust the settings accordingly.



SO. Which one should you use?


At first, just anything that’s free. If you get the Focusrite Scarlett Audio interface it comes with ProTools to use. Which is a DAW. ProTools is a software where you can record but you can also make beats and instrumental music as well.

The easiest one to test out your mic right away is Audacity. It’s a free download and free to use DAW. It still has a ton of features and settings you can tweak. Many rappers use Audacity.


The popular ones are:


Ableton
ProTools

Logic Pro

Audacity

FL Studios

And there are a ton of other ones for sure.


Anyways I hope that this helped someone, somewhere in the world in the rappersphere. Shoot me a message or comment if you have feedback or questions.