5 Best Live and Recording Mics for Beatboxing

beatboxer using a microphone

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Beatboxing is a wonderfully unique corner of music production. To beatbox is to imitate percussive drum sounds, using only one’s mouth. When you read a definition like that, it sounds pretty limiting. But when you see what a real beatboxer can do, that simple definition just seems inadequate and the human voice is an incredibly powerful and versatile tool.

In fact, I have often wondered if all music is, in its origin, a way to imitate and distort the human voice- the original instrument.

The greatest music is produced by balancing the tension of instruments that “sing” and instruments that “groove.” Percussion is the ancient art of hitting things rhythmically and drums evolved across ancient societies, but the drumming of West Africa became integrated with European music traditions. Now, African drumming styles have become the heartbeat of the world’s modern music.

And beatboxing, at its best, is an elegant marriage of percussion and voice. One human can imitate an impossibly complex tapestry of sound. But there are limitations and one of the biggest is volume and the human voice can only be so loud, especially when beatboxing. While a microphone doesn’t technically amplify your voice (that’s further down the line) it does start the process and the right microphone is crucial to great beatboxing results.

It should also be obvious that beatboxing puts a somewhat unique strain on the microphone, at least compared to your usual singing. I’ll explain everything you need to look for in a great microphone for beatboxing but if you just want to get straight to the point you can check out our 3 favorite options here:

Best Overall Round Top
Shure SM58
9.9
  • Legendary durability and performance at a budget-friendly price
  • Considered the "standard" microphone by many and regularly used in beatboxing competitions
  • More than 9,000 five-star reviews on Amazon
Best Overall Flat Top
AKG D5
9.8
  • Very comparable to the Shure SM58 but with a flat top design
  • Does a great jump handling bass and provides a more natural sound
  • More than 600+ five-star reviews on Amazon
Premium Studio Mic
Shure SM7B
9.5
  • Sharp, crisp, and clean beatboxing sounds as you'd expect from a premium microphone
  • Backed by Shure's legendary history of producing amazing mics
  • More than 6,000 five-star reviews on Amazon

Beatboxing Microphone Technique and Microphone Selection

Beatboxing, today, is often associated with a few worlds. Hip-hop has always been about accessibility to music creation, and early beatboxers imitated expensive drum machines such as the legendary Roland TR-808. A Capella groups, which seeks to imitate song productions using only vocal harmonies, often feature beatboxers to play the role of drummer, or even drummer and bassist. And beatboxing has even taken on its own life for solo performers.

Beatboxing is also a fascinating topic from a music production standpoint. Microphones are as important to beatboxers as shoes are to dancers. Beatboxing involves mic technique- the mic is not simply to capture the performance, it is used as a performance tool. The beatboxer interacts with the mic in special ways. Different kinds of mics can vary in the way they operate, so it’s crucial to make the right choice for a beatboxing mic.

Simply the choice between a flat top or a round top microphone can have subtle differences in the way you hold, handle and perform with your microphone. That’s way beyond the scope of this article (we’re talking about beatbox mics and not so much technique) but it’s worth having the basics down so you know which type of microphone will work best for you.

This video does a great job getting you up to speed or also works as a refresher for the old heads and covers all the basics including standard grip, one-up, two-hand cup, and the cupping grip:

One of the main takeaways of that video is that you can make both flat top mics and round top mics work, but it’s important to understand your preferences before you buy.

Dynamic Microphones vs Condenser Microphones For Beatboxing

The two most common microphone types are dynamic and condenser mics.

These mics capture sound in very different ways. Without getting too technical, dynamic mics are hardier, cheaper, and more durable, whereas condensers are more delicate and expensive. Dynamics are used more for live performances, to mic vocals, amps, speakers, and even individual instruments. These are also the type of mic you’d see used for a speaking gig or class.

They are often used to mic vocals and amps in the studio as well. Condensers are more often used for acoustic instruments in the studio, and also as studio vocal mics. Sonically speaking, dynamic mics capture the more powerful aspects of a performance, whereas condensers capture the details and variations.

This is important to understand, because choosing a mic for recording beatboxing in the studio is very different from choosing an excellent studio vocal mic. The Neumann U87, for example, is a legendary recording vocal mic, yet it would make quite a poor choice to record beatboxing or even a talk box performance for that matter.

Condenser mics are known to be very sensitive, and singers use a pop filter when recording vocals; otherwise, plosives create distortion. Beatboxing involves intentionally directing plosives at the mic, which makes dynamic mics the far more popular, and honestly logical, choice. Sure, you can use a pop filter yourself but by opting for a condenser mic you’re putting yourself at a bit of a disadvantage.

For that reason, (almost) all our recommendations are focused on dynamic cardioid microphones.

Best Microphones For Beatboxing

Now that we have the basics out of the way, let’s get into our favorite mics for beatboxing starting with the best overall.

But there are actually two microphones that take the best overall spot: one for beatboxers that prefer the round top microphone and the other for folks that prefer a flat top.

The two mics are very similar, so if you are trying to choose one, what’s your best choice?

Honestly, I recommend trying both out if you are able to because it often comes down to what you personally feel compliments your voice best. Every mic has its own character, and every voice has its own character. The characters of the mic and voice could complement or clash with each other.

That’s true not only for our best overall picks but for all the microphones on this list. If you’re new to beatboxing, either of the best overall options is a great place to start. Both are durable, affordable, and work great with beatboxing.

Best Overall Round Top: Shure SM58

Best Overall Round Top
Shure SM58
  • Legendary durability and performance at a budget-friendly price
  • Considered the "standard" microphone by many and regularly used in beatboxing competitions
  • More than 9,000 five-star reviews on Amazon

The Shure SM58 is so iconic that its character is baked into our collective cultural consciousness. Recordings made with an SM58 will sound “right” because we have heard it so much.

Even though this dynamic microphone is far from perfect, some of the “flaws” could actually be considered to be features by some folks. You know, it’s like that classic programming joke: it’s a feature, not a bug. The “featured” bugs can include a “wooly” quality to the sound, somewhat “muted”, especially in the high-frequency details. But again, this could be an attribute if it complements your style.

Most beatboxers are also spending more time in the lower frequencies, which is where the Shure shines.

This microphone is also so durable that a classic music production story is that Shure SM58s are used to hammer together stages in a pinch. But that’s not just a fluffy story and that’s just one of many tests that the folks at Shure have put this microphone through

Since these mics are so popular, you’re likely to run into them a lot. This could be a selling point as well. If you’re ever caught without your mic, there’s a good chance you could find one that feels familiar. If you’re competing at beatboxing competitions, you may be required to use the same type of microphone (to even the playing field) and in many cases, the standard microphone is going to be a Shure SM58. 

You can hear a good beatboxing demo for the Shure SM58 (along with a microphone shootout) in this video:


I know, the compression on the video takes away from what you can really hear but it does highlight how well this microphone can handle the plosives that are par for the course when it comes to beatboxing.

You’ll also get the traditional round top design that some beatboxes may prefer. As we covered earlier, round top vs flat top can definitely impact your technique.

It also helps that there are more than 9,000 five-star reviews on Amazon for this microphone, including some from other beatboxers. You can read some of those reviews and check out today’s price on Amazon by clicking here.

Best Overall Flat Top: AKG D5

Best Overall Flat Top
AKG D5
  • Very comparable to the Shure SM58 but with a flat top design
  • Does a great jump handling bass and provides a more natural sound
  • More than 600+ five-star reviews on Amazon

On the flat top side of things, the AKG D5 is slightly “truer” with a more natural and open sound than the SM58. It also has a slightly more powerful bass, and I have seen it used to mic bass amps and bass drums as a result. For most beatboxers, that’s a good thing.

It’s also a super-cardioid microphone which means it has better sound rejection from the sides. However, for most beatboxers, that’s not going to be a big deal since you’re going to be right in fornt of the microphone. But it can be an advantage if you plan on using this microphone for anything besides beatboxing like traditional vocals.

The other potential downside to a super-cardioid setup is that the microphone could pick up sound from behind the microphone as a result of the polar pattern. But again, this is usually not a problem for the beatboxer since you’re a one person show and can easily adjust your position on stage.

Because some of the biggest downsides of this microphone don’t really apply to beatboxers, we’re already off to a great start and this microphone sounds great in the hands of a skilled beatboxer. You can check out a solid range of sounds with this microphone in the video below:

Despite the subtle differences and the super-cardioid pattern, I honestly feel that the Shure SM58 and the AKG D5 are very similar. Whether you’re measuring by affordability, durability, or sound quality these two microphones are neck and neck.

So what should you use to decide?

Figure out if you prefer flat top vs round top designs. Yep, it goes back to our section on beatboxing microphone technique. If you don’t have a preference (or aren’t sure yet) you’re not going to go wrong with either option.

You can read more reviews, check out all the specs, and see today’s price on Amazon by clicking here.

Premium Studio Mic: Shure SM7B

Premium Studio Mic
Shure SM7B
  • Sharp, crisp, and clean beatboxing sounds as you'd expect from a premium microphone
  • Backed by Shure's legendary history of producing amazing mics
  • More than 6,000 five-star reviews on Amazon

When it comes to high-quality studio recording, you’re going to need a premium microphone to capture the highest quality possible. For my money, your choices come down to the Electro-Voice RE20 or the Shure SM7B but I’m recommending the Shure SM7B

The Shure SM7b is most famous as the vocal mic that Michael Jackson used to record Thriller. Even though there wasn’t any beatboxing in Thriller, credentials like that may be enough for some folks. However, the Electro-Voice RE20 has its own history and while it was originally designed as a broadcast mic for radio hosts, Stevie Wonder liked to use it to record vocals, and it gradually developed a secondary reputation as a unique and powerful vocal recording mic.

But when it comes to beatboxing, I have to go with the SM7B. To start with, the SM7b also features a “presence” switch which boosts the mid frequencies for a more “in-your-face” and aggressive tone which is perfect for beatboxing. I also find that it handles the lows and highs in beatboxing better than the RE20 and this video demonstrates how the SM7B handles beatboxing:

The SM7B just sounds crisp, clear, and sharp on every beat. Since it’s a dynamic mic, it will also feel and perform similarly to the Shure or AKG but with higher overall quality.

But just keep in mind that neither of these two mics is ideal for live performances. They are simply too expensive, bulky, and relatively delicate compared to the robust mics mentioned earlier. However, their sounds are very luxurious comparatively speaking.

If you want to record every thump and pop of your beatboxing sound, then a premium mic like the SM7B can make sense. But for most beatboxers, either of the best overall picks will work. If you’re ready to record, you can read more reviews, check all the specs, and see today’s price on Amazon by clicking here.

YouTuber Pick: Blue Yeti

YouTuber Pick
Blue Yeti
  • Yes, you can beatbox with this YouTube famous microphone
  • Blue brand microphones are used by legendary beatboxer and YouTuber codfish
  • More than 36,000 five-star reviews on Amazon

The Blue Yeti is one of the most popular microphones on the planet and it has YouTube to thank for that. Just about any review of YouTube-friendly microphones will mention the Blue Yeti and while it does get some hate online it’s a legend for a reason.

But you can also beatbox on a Blue Yeti microphone and if you’re looking to show off your skills on YouTube it could be a good choice.

Not sure you believe me? Then check out this tweet from legendary beatboxer and YouTuber Codfish:

This guy is an animal on the mic and has a long list of beatbox championship titles under his belt. You can check out his YouTube channel to hear him in action but many of his videos don’t have him on screen so it’s hard to say exactly which brand of Blue mic he’s using.

For that, we can turn to another YouTuber and see a great demo of the Blue Yeti being used to beatbox:

Yeah, it sounds nice and crisp. Even though it probably isn’t the first mic that comes to mind when you think of beatboxing, it’s still a solid choice. It’s also versatile enough that you can use it for a wide range of other applications and the more than 36,000 five-star reviews on Amazon back up that idea.

It’s worth considering if you plan on producing online content but if you perform live then it’s obviously not a good choice. You can read more reviews and see today’s price on Amazon by clicking here.

Most Unique Option: Handheld Stereo RecorderZoom H5

If you’re interested in an alternate route, you might want to check out the Zoom H5.

This is a handheld recording device that features two condenser mics, to capture a stereo recording. I have seen videos of beatboxing recorded with this device, and the result is very interesting- you can see what I’m talking about here:

The H5 is a handheld recording device, so it’s not ideal for live performances, as it is not designed to output to a speaker in real time. But if you have never recorded at home before, it can be a complicated process to learn.

The Zoom H5 is relatively simpler- the recording interface is built in, so you can easily record and share high-quality audio files. It does employ condenser mics- as I mentioned before, this means your performance will sound more detailed, but not as powerful, and you will need to use windscreens or pop filters.

But the stereo recording is an arresting effect. In a way, the stereo recording sounds more immersive and envelopes the listener in sound. If you are looking for a unique approach that also simplifies the home recording process, this could be a great option! You can learn more about this option, read reviews and check out today’s price on Amazon by clicking here.

Frequently Asked Questions

We’ve covered a lot already but beatbox knowledge runs deep so let’s cover some common additional questions you may have.

What Mic Does Codfish Use?

Codfish uses a variety of mics and has been seen using everything from a d:facto by DPA on stage to a simple Shure SM58. He’s also mentioned on his Twitter that he’s a big fan of Blue Microphones (famous for the Blue Yeti) and has used them for his entire YouTube career.

Why Is The Proximity Effect Important When Beatboxing?

Sound is complicated. Every sound you hear is made of a combination of low, mid, and high frequencies, just like how every color you see is a combination of different colors of light. These low, mid, and high frequencies travel differently once they are in the world. Low frequencies tend to lose power more quickly in the air, while high frequencies travel further.

Have you ever approached a live band from a distance? You may notice that from a distance, you mostly hear high frequencies like drums and cymbal sounds, and more frequencies get filled in as you get closer.

Low frequencies can travel further through solids and liquids. If you have ever heard loud music through a wall, you might notice you mostly hear the bass and low drum sounds. This also explains why whales and ship horns generate such loud, low tones, to travel miles through the ocean.

So what does all this have to do with beatboxing?

Since low frequencies lose power more quickly, the “proximity effect” means that when you are close to a mic, the low frequencies in your voice or instrument are boosted. Beatboxers use this in their performances.

They usually hold the mic very close to their lips, so the low frequencies in their “plosives” (syllable sounds) are amplified, and sound more percussive. They can also quickly vary their distance from the mic to vary the proximity effect. I have seen beatboxers recording with condenser mics, and as I mentioned before they are forced to use a pop filter. This means they are much further from the mic than they would be if they were using dynamic mics. As a result, they use less of the proximity effect, and their beatboxing sounds overall more detailed but less powerful.

Can You Use A Room Mic When Recording Beatboxing?

There are some interesting solutions to this issue. One is to use a combination of a live vocal mic, such as the AKG D5 or Shure SM58, in conjunction with a condenser mic at a further distance from the performer. The condenser mic will play the role of “room mic” and capture some of the details and “air” from the performance, to fill it out and make it sound more high-definition.

Good condenser mics are much more expensive than good dynamic mics.

For a lower budget, I recommend a Rode NT1-a or a Lauten Audio LA-220. For a medium budget, the Avantone CV-12 has a famously luxurious sound for its price point. Taylor Swift used it to record all the vocals on her first couple of albums. If you have a higher budget, you can never go wrong with the pristine, delicate sound of the Neumann TLM-103 to capture every breathy detail of the room.

Conclusion

And there you have it, a guide to choosing microphones suited to beatboxing.

Whether you are interested in live performance, recording, or both, this guide should help you get started. Have fun, and feel the joy of the music!