6 Best Microphones to Record Sound Effects

Background and foley sounds are a crucial part of many videos and movies, however, we almost never pay attention to it. Image a situation if you’re watching a video where you see skyscrapers, millions of people rushing to work, subway, cabs, ice cream vendors, but there is no sound, and the name of this video is “a rush hour in a megapolis”.

Will you really catch the feeling of the atmosphere without noise that should be there? Barely. Sound effects are tremendous parts of action videos, especially where it is needed to accentuate the speed or the power of the strike. And overall, any podcast gets rewind when you add harmonic background sound effects to it.

But where do you actually get those sound effects from? Well, if you browse for some videos on the recording process of these sounds, you’ll probably get your minute of fun – sound directors have to do bizarre things to achieve the necessary sound effect!

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It seems like squeaky, crunching, screeching sounds will highly unlikely be recorded properly by the microphones which are made to record human voice. That is why there is a separate category of microphones that is suitable exactly for recording the sound effects. The best of them you will find in the list down below.

best pick

oktava1

Oktava MK-012-01

runner up





Audix SCX1/HC

budget pick

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Zoom H2n Handy Digital Recorder

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  • legendary microphone
  • extremely versatile
  • reduces the background noise during the recording
  • cardioid capsules have individual frequency response charts
  • compact, easy to transport
  • provides the maximum signal rejection at the off-axis sections of the microphone head
  • provides a low noise floor and high gain-before-feedback response
  • capsule picks up the transient signal accurately
  • easy to transport
  • easy in usage
  • works on AA batteries

Oktava MK-012-01

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First of all, this diaphragm retro mic has an authentic and unique design. It comes in a wooden box in several parts that you need to put together in order to start recording. Oktava MK-012-01 is a condenser microphone with cardioid capsules that will be perfect for recording the sound effects.

It has a 20 – 20,000 Hz frequency range and the ability to record all the sounds sharply and precisely, suppressing the background noises. It also has a heavy-duty capsule design. The whole body of a microphone is made out of metal and it is quite heavy. Its cardioid capsules have individual frequency response charts.

Oktava MK-012-01 is a highly versatile microphone and can be used in a variety of recording purposes. What is more, the main advantage of this microphone is its set of different capsules. In total, it has 8 interchangeable capsules: cardioid, hyper-cardioid, omnidirectional, side cardioid, frontal cardioid, and so on.

So it is fair enough to claim that Okava MK-012-01 is suitable to record any type of sound. In addition, it is nice for recording acoustic instruments.

This mic is good both for the studio and live broadcast usage. It is extremely compact and easy to relocate. By the way, be careful when you are buying Oktava MK-012-01 – there are lots of Chinese falsers on the market so always ask for a certificate.

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Audix SCX1/HC

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If you will happen to get this microphone you can consider yourself lucky, because it is quite a rare item. It is a compact condenser microphone which is also really good for recording sound effects. It offers a versatile condenser microphone system that can be used for vocal, general instrument, and ambiance capturing applications.

Its prominent feature is that it provides the maximum signal rejection at the off-axis sections of the microphone head when the microphone is placed close to monitors or speakers. It provides a low noise floor and high gain-before-feedback response.

Moreover, the Audix microphone has a transformerless circuitry and surface mount technology provide a compact profile and quiet signal response with a low noise floor.

Don’t worry that you are going to hear some sound distortion in the background even when you are recording even the most elaborate effects, because a high SPL rating of 130 dB enables the capsule to accurately pick up the transient signal.

The microphone itself comes in a package that includes an external foam windscreen for reducing wind sounds and explosive sounds, sibilance, and pop noise, nylon molded snap-on clip, and a foam-lined wooden case. It is also not the cheapest microphone around but if you work with the sound professionally, this is a good investment.

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Sennheiser MKH416

mkh416For those who work professionally with the sound, for sound directors, or maybe who are just find of recording sounds, here is a supreme microphone for recording the sound effects. This is a shotgun microphone and it is probably the most expensive item on our list – the price is about $1000.

To start with, this microphone is extremely durable and reliable. It is immune to humidity due to its RF condenser design – which means you can take it out with you to record sounds outside. It has high directivity and low self-noise what allows us to record all the sounds extremely precisely and later manipulate these sounds in the studio.

Moreover, Sennheiser MKH416 has a high consonant articulation and feedback rejection. It means this microphone is versatile and good both for live broadcasts, studio recordings, and instrument recordings. Maybe it makes sense to invest in only one good mic instead of buying several mediocrities?

Due to its operating principle, the MKH 416 is relatively insensitive to wind and pop noise and can, therefore, record sounds outside even in extreme conditions (for example, bad weather). The body of the microphone is made of metal which means it is going to be long-lasting. All the reviews about MKH 416 are positive which is also quite rare.
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Zoom H2n Handy Digital Recorder

zoom2 In order to present the full diversity of sound recording microphone on this list, it is necessary to pay attention to this authentic recorder. It is not a microphone in a classical sense, and it will be suitable for those who want to record sounds mainly outdoors. It is lightweight and compact so it is easy to take with you and record sounds of nature, for instance.

Being more precise, in the set, you get not only the microphone but also the 16GB micro SD card, Samson Studio Headphones, mini table tripod, 4 AA batteries, and an Auxiliary Cable.

The microphone itself is omnidirectional. In general, the microphone is extremely good for recording live events: concerts, rehearsals, and surrounding sounds (so if you have been looking for an affordable recorder for the background street sounds, this is it).

Of course, this device won’t bring you the quality of a Sennheiser microphone, however for daily recordings and background sounds recording this is an excellent mic.

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Audio-Technica AT2020USB+

at2020Audio-Technica AT2020USB+ is quite a famous cardioid condenser microphone. This is an omnidirectional microphone and it is especially good for recording quiet sounds. Moreover, it has a compact construction, so it is easy to place it near any necessary object that you need when you want to record a certain sound effect.

The microphone picks up sounds especially good from the front side and rejects the noise from the back and other sides. Thus, the sound turns out to be accurate at the end. By the way, this is a USB mic (as you can read in its name) so it is possible to use it for everyone.

Moreover, Audio-Technica AT2020USB+ has a head jack for the headphones, so you could monitor the sound better while recording. Another cool aspect here is that the microphone comes in a set together with a tripod. This mic is also perfect for recording podcasts and acoustic instruments.

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Audio-Technica AT875R

audio-technicaAT75 Another microphone of a shotgun type to record sound effects in the studio. The best advantage of this type is always the fact that they are extremely good for focusing on one source – it is necessary when you need to record a specific sound effect. And it also means that this microphone won’t be a really good choice for recoding the background noise.

By the way, even though shotgun microphones tend to be large in sizes, this one is quite compact – only 7 inches in length, which makes it even more convenient for the sound recording. This is an XLR model, which means it is meant to be used together with the professional equipment.

Audio-Technica AT875R is excellent off-axis noise blocking. And it has an extremely low self-noise which is the crucial factor for recording sound effects.

It doesn’t have any knobs or any sound effects and there is no headphone jack, unlike in the previous mic by Audio-Technica. However, it is more powerful and it has a more sturdy construction. It is also a good option for digital cameras.

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Beyerdynamic MC930

mc930Another top-quality microphone is excellent for recording foley sounds and quite difficult to find. However, considering the high price of Beyerdynamic MC930 you can say for sure that this is not a mass-market microphone. Buying this set, you get a case with two cardioid polar patterns for universal application.

The level of self-noise of such mics is extremely low, which means they are going to record all the effects as precisely as possible. The set includes 2 matched MC 930 true condenser microphones, 2 EA 19/25 elastic suspensions, 2 WS 53 windshields, and compact travel case.

This microphone by Beyerdynamic also has a very high SPL capability and a switchable low-pass filter at 250 Hz. The directivity of this microphone is simply excellent, so when you are recording your sound you can be sure that it captivates the sound only from one source.

Due to the switchable pre-attenuation of 15 dB, it is also ideally suited for use with very high sound pressures. The switchable bass reduction of 6 dB/octave at 250 Hz compensates for the proximity effect.

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