Best headset microphones for singing in live performances
The best Headset microphones, or Earset mics, to sing in live performances for greater mobility, we analyze performance and characteristics of each microphone of all price ranges, cheap and expensive.
Why a earset or headset microphone?
Headset microphones are essential for energetic performances and dances that require hands-free singing. Headset mics are widely used by vocalists who also play an instrument or dance like most Pop artists. Additionally, earset microphones are also essential for musical comedy actors or artists who need complete freedom to move around the stage.
In addition, it is important that a good headset mic isolates voices and reproduces them as clearly as possible. In this ultimate guide, we show you the best headset microphone options for singing and backing vocals to enhance your performances and give you maximum freedom on stage.
You might also be interested in our review of the best cheap XLR and USB condenser microphones.
Quick selection of a headset mic
If you are looking to spend as little as possible, the cheapest option of the best headset microphones is the Audio-Technica PRO 8HEx, with excellent quality for a low price. However, depending on where you are from, you may want to consider the Shure SM35 which can be found for $99, about $10 more than the Audio-Technica.
On the other hand, if you need a mic that has good noise rejection and you don’t require mobility, for example for a drummer who doesn’t move and needs the microphone to isolate the voice of his instrument, choose a Hypercardioid or Cardioid option, which is not wireless. The best option on this list is the AKG CM311, an intermediate being the AKG C520, and the cheaper ones described in the previous paragraph will also be good options if you’re looking to minimize spending.
Finally, if you need a microphone that gives you a lot of mobility, opt for a headset mic with a wireless system such as the Sennheiser XSW 1-ME3 and the Shure BLX14R MX53. If you need more noise rejection, opt for the Sennheiser Cardioid pattern. On the other hand, if you prefer a mic that can take your voice well despite your movement and you are not very exposed to noise, for example a singer who dances or moves around the stage a lot, opt for the Shure Omnidirectional pattern.
You may still not be sure which is the best headset o earset mic for you. Therefore, at the end of this review you will find a buying guide to choose the best headset microphone for singing in live performances, for your requirements and needs.
It may even be that what you really need is one of the best standard microphones for live singing: cheap and expensive.
Comparative chart with characteristics of the best headset & earset mics
The best headset mics for singing in live performances
- Audio-Technica PRO 8HEx
- Shure SM35
- Acacia LIZ Pro
- AKG C520
- Countryman E6
- Sennheiser XSW 1-ME3
- AKG CM311
- Shure BLX14R/MX53
Don’t miss our guide to the best free and paid VST plugins for vocals online.
Audio-Technica PRO 8HEx
Street Price: $89 / £82 / €95 | Hypercardioid polar pattern | Frequency response: 200Hz – 18kHz | 600 Ohms | Weight: 60g | XLR connector | Cable: 2.2m long and 2.8mm diameter | XLRM type connector
Audio-Technica is a well-known brand in the world of microphones. They produce affordable yet high-quality mics, two features of the PRO 8HEx Headworn Microphone.
Audio-Technica PRO 8HEx Features
While the 8HEx doesn’t have the same frequency response as many of the other mics on this list, only 200Hz – 18kHz, the frequency response is still very good. Also, this Audtio-Technica headset microphone is sensitive enough, capable of picking up whispers and not too much clipping at high volumes.
This headset microphone comes with a very long 7 foot cable that uses an XLR connector. Audio-Technica clearly intended the PRO 8HEx to be used as a wired microphone. So while 7 feet is pretty long, it does restrict your movement a bit. So this is a suitable headset microphone for drummers, guitarists, bassists, and anyone who doesn’t move as much.
Audio-Technica PRO 8HEx Noise Rejection
Noise and feedback rejection is also very good on this mic. When used you will not notice much background noise picked up by the microphone. Thus, the Audio Technica 8HEx is an impressive headset microphone in terms of sound quality considering its price.
Comfort and robustness of the Audio-Technica PRO 8HEx
They aren’t the most comfortable headset mics, like the Shure SM35, the headset sit over the ears. The headset has two support pads that are placed on either side of the head. So, you expect the headset to sit firmly on your head, but after a while it starts to slip, especially if you’ve worked up a bit of a sweat.
The Audio-Technica PRO 8HEx is great option for anyone looking for an inexpensive headset microphone. You won’t get the same experience as a mic three times its price, but you’ll still get more than what you pay for.
Advantages of the Audio-Technica PRO 8HEx
- Great sounding microphone for its price.
- Comes with a 7-foot cable
Cons of the Audio-Technica PRO 8HEx
- Do not have the best headset fitting
- Not the most comfortable microphone
For more information visit the Audio-Technica site.
Street Price: $99 / £199 / €229 | Polar Pattern: Cardioid | Frequency response: 45 – 20,000 Hz | Output level: -59 dBV/Pa | Maximum Sound Pressure: 153 dB SPL max. | Weight: 72g | Detachable RPM400 TQG XLR Phantom Power Adapter | Includes foam windscreen
Shure is the world’s best-known microphone brand. The SM35 is a great budget headset microphone.
Shure SM35 Features
The sound quality of the SM35 is quite good for such a cheap mic. It has a frequency response of 45 Hz to 20 kHz, so it will pick up almost any sound.
However, it is not that sensitive. Also, the microphone has issues with whispers and a bit of clipping when singing and talking very loud. Thus, you may need to lower the input levels or use a limiter.
Shure SM35 Noise Isolation
The Shure SM35 stands out for its noise rejection. You can play instruments like drums or guitar and you won’t have any problems.
You will also need to purchase a separate wireless pack to use the microphone wirelessly. Something like the Shure BLX1 should be more than enough.
Comfort and robustness of the Shure SM35
The SM35’s earpiece is also quite sturdy and comfortable. In addition, this Shure has a small and discreet earpiece. But the fit options are very limited, so we recommend that you try it before you buy it. This is because the headset doesn’t fit around your ears, it just sits on top of your ears. Plus, it also doesn’t sit as tight on your head as other headset mics can. For this reason, there are users who suggest the use of velcro or adhesive tape to make them a little tighter.
Shure was kind enough to include two different sizes of pop filters, one large and round and one smaller. There is also a replacement for the smaller pop filter.
Overall, while there are issues with the headset itself, the mic is still great for the price. The SM35 is ideal for anyone looking for an affordable headset microphone.
Advantages of the Shure SM35
- Great value for money
- Great noise and feedback rejection.
- Two pop filter sizes and one spare are included
Cons of the Shure SM35
- Headset fitting is not very good.
- Insufficient adjustment options
For more information visit the Shure site.
Acacia LIZ Pro
Street Price: $199 / £189 / €199 | Type: Capacitor | Omnidirectional Polar Pattern | Frequency response: 20Hz – 20kHz | Equivalent noise level: 36 dB | Maximum SPL: 110dB | Output: Shure TA4F / Sennheiser 1/8″ / AT cW4 | Weight: 120g / 0.28oz
The Acacia LIZ Pro is one of the cheaper options in our selection of headset mics. But make no mistake, just because it’s affordable doesn’t mean it’s bad.
Acacia LIZ Pro Features
The Acacia LIZ Pro is a very well made, robust microphone with exceptional audio quality. Thus, this “earset” mic has a full frequency response of 20 Hz to 20 kHz and a maximum SPL of 110 dB. The Acacia LIZ Pro is very responsive and has remarkable clarity. Furthermore, the LIZ Pro can handle both soft whispers and loud singing with ease.
Comfort and robustness of the Acacia LIZ Pro
The LIZ Pro only sits over one ear, so using tape can be a great trick. This headset microphone sits very comfortably, which can make you forget you’re wearing it. In addition, the design of the LIZ Pro is very slim, making it very discreet as well.
Acacia LIZ Pro Compatibility
It is compatible with any wireless system from Shure, Sensheiser and Audio-Technica. This is because Acacia gives you the option to choose a different connector from Sennheiser, Audio-Technica, TA4F, or XLR. Something to note is that the connector is also removable. This means that you can easily replace the connector in case something happens to it.
The LIZ Pro is a really fantastic earset microphone for its price. It is a headset mic with professional features but with an intermediate price.
Noise rejection of the Acacia LIZ Pro
It is worth noting that the Acacia LIZ Pro microphone excellently rejects background noise and feedback.
Advantages of the Acacia LIZ Pro
- Great value for the price
- Comfortable and lightweight earset mic
- Wide compatibility thanks to the connector cable is detachable.
Cons of the Acacia LIZ Pro
- Just to mention something, the carrying case is just a basic box
For more information visit the Acacia Audio site.
Street Price: $255 / £215 / €250 | Cardioid Polar Pattern | Frequency response: 60Hz – 20kHz | 200 Ohms | Adjustable size | Requires 9-52V phantom power | Includes windscreen and 3-pole XLR connector | 3m cord
AKG is known for the high-quality studio headphones it makes. Also, AKG makes fantastic headset microphones like the AKG C520.
AKG C520 Features
The C520 is a cardioid microphone with a frequency range of 60 Hz to 20 kHz and a sensitivity of -46 dBV. To put it in simpler terms, the C520 is a very good mic. The C520 is clear and responsive, the sensitivity is also very good. The AKG C520 manages to pick up whispers quite clearly and doesn’t cut out when singing out loud. Also, it includes a pop filter that filters out the p’s and b’s very well.
AKG C520 Voice Isolation
When the microphone is used while playing near a guitar amp or drumming, the mic picks up some sound from the instruments. But when you move away from the amp, sadly this doesn’t work for a drummer, the amount of sound picked up by the mic is greatly reduced. In this way, you achieve that the sound of the instruments is not extremely audible and does not cause any problems during a live performance. This does not mean that it is not a good option for drummers, but watch the video that we leave you below. This is a good headset mic for live performance.
Comfort and robustness of the AKG C520
The headset itself is also quite sturdy and comfortable. It is lightweight and fits easily in your ears. After using the headset for a while, you may stop noticing it other than the pop filter over the microphone.
The mic also uses a gooseneck for easy adjustment. The gooseneck is also quite sturdy and it seems that do not have any sagging.
Although the C520 is not a wireless headset, the 3-pin mini XLR cable will fit most Shure wireless packs. Overall, the C520 is a great headset mic and well worth the price.
Advantages of the AKG C520
- Sensitive and responsive microphone
- Lightweight headset that sit comfortably
- You can place the mic on the left or right side of the headset
Cons of the AKG C520
- Slightly more expensive than other headset microphones of similar quality
- It can pick up the sound of your drums or amp but it’s not very noticeable
- It’s not wireless
For more information visit the AKG site.
Street Price: $379 / £359 / €379 | Type: Capacitor | Omnidirectional Polar Pattern | Frequency response: 20Hz – 20kHz | Equivalent noise level: 24 dB | Maximum SPL: 120dB | Output: Shure TA4F | Weight: 30g / 0.07oz
Countryman specializes in small, unobtrusive microphones for vocals and instruments. The E6 headset mic is possibly the best model they currently make.
Features of the Countryman E6
The Countryman E6 has a lot of clarity and is capable of picking up the faintest whisper. Also, this headset microphone is more than capable of handling loud, booming voices.
Initially, the Countryman E6 may require some setup time to be able to equalize to your liking and not sound flat.
The Countryman microphones in general offer customization and comfort. The E6 offers several configurations. In this sense, Countryman offers options of microphone pattern, connector type, color, sensitivity, and even its flexibility. This way you can choose the perfect configuration for your needs.
This mic also comes with a very nice and resistant case. The carrying case has more than enough room for the microphone and any additional cables and accessories you may need.
Comfort and solidity of the Countryman E6
The Countryman E6 mic is very thin, light and discreet. Most people probably couldn’t even see the microphone. You probably even forget you’re wearing it.
The headset also sits very comfortably over the ear. But like any headset that only fits on one ear, using a little tape definitely wouldn’t hurt to make sure it doesn’t move around or fall off during your performance.
Also, you can replace almost any part of the microphone if you need to. This way, you can buy new pop filters, clips, and even connectors as they are detachable from the actual microphone. Although for its quality you should not expect to have to make frequent purchases, the parts replacement format is always good.
Countryman E6 noise rejection
Noise rejection is also quite good, with the E6 rejecting most ambient and background noise.
Advantages of the Countryman E6
- Very discreet and comfortable thanks to it thin and light format
- Several customization options
- Excellent audio quality and noise rejection
Cons of the Countryman E6
- It needs to be equalized a bit more than other headset microphones.
For more information visit the Countryman site.
Sennheiser XSW 1-ME3
Street Price: $399 / £333 / €399 | Polar Pattern: Cardioid | Sensitivity: 1.6mV/Pa | SPL: 150dB | Frequency response: 50 to 18,000 Hz | Gold screwable 3.5mm minijack connector for the EW series | Cable length: 1.6m | Weight: 60g (approx)
Sennheiser also makes excellent, high-quality microphones like their XSW 1-ME3, which is easily one of the best wireless headset mics for singing in live performances.
Features of the Sennheiser XSW 1-ME3
The XSW 1-ME3 is a great sounding microphone. With a frequency range of 50 Hz to 16 kHz and a signal-to-noise ratio of 103 dB, it’s sensitive enough for any voice at virtually any volume.
Microphone clarity is also excellent. Nothing sounds muffled and the included pop filter takes care of those p’s and b’s quite well.
Comfort and robustness of the Sennheiser XSW 1-ME3
The headset is also very comfortable and sits firmly over the top of the ears. It also has a strap at the back that fits comfortably on the back of the head.
Sennheiser XSW 1-ME3 Wireless Bundle
The Sennheiser XSW 1-ME3 is also a wireless headset mic that comes with a wireless package included. So the microphone connects to the pack with an 1/8-inch cable, and the pack itself is powered by two AA batteries. Sennheiser claims that the pack can run for up to ten hours on two batteries.
In addition to the wireless package, the 1-ME3 also comes with a wireless receiver. And this is not just a simple little receiver for the wireless package. This receiver can handle up to 10 channels at a time!
So if you have multiple wireless headset mics, you can connect them all to the 1-ME3’s receiver. In addition, the setup is also very simple, just press the Set/Scan button to detect the transmitter and then Sync to connect.
Of course, having a transmitter and receiver included raises the price quite a bit. But for what you get, the Sennheiser XSW 1-ME3 really is a great option.
Advantages of the Sennheiser XSW 1-ME3
- Great sound quality and responsiveness mic
- Very comfortable and stable headset
- Includes wireless transmitter and receiver
Cons of the Sennheiser XSW 1-ME3
- None relevant to mention
For more information visit the Sennheiser site.
Street Price: $440 / £333 / €399 | Cardioid Polar Pattern | Frequency response: 50Hz – 17kHz | Equivalent noise level: 26 dB | 75 Ohm | Maximum SPL: 148dB | Output: 3-pole XLR
Initially known for being manufactured by Crown brand, sister to AKG, this headset microphone is a reference in the market. So, whether you get it with the current brand that is AKG or the old one that is Crown, this is an excellent option to consider.
Features of the AKG CM311
The CM311 is a high quality condenser headset microphone for professionals. For example, the CM311 has been used by artists like Phil Collins and Justin Bieber.
A distinctive feature of the AKG CM311 is located in front of the mouth, rather than to the side. This allows it to work more like a normal microphone that you sing into.
The CM311 uses a mini XLR connector. This makes it very easy to connect the mic to most wireless bodypack transmitters. The AKG CM311 is actually designed to work with Shure wireless transmitters. So whether you’re a drummer, guitarist, or vocalist, you won’t have to struggle with long XLR cables while playing.
Comfort and robustness of the AKG CM311
The headset is simple, it may not sit very firmly and may even be a bit uncomfortable. You may expect more for a headset mic in this price range.
Noise rejection of the AKG CM311
The AKG CM311 headset mic is one of the best when it comes to noise rejection. With this great headset microphone you can move and position yourself wherever you want on stage without worrying about the sound coming from the other members of the band. Thus, it is an ideal mic if you want to record the live performance and be able to work on its mixing and editing.
So while the AKG -or Crown- CM311 is an excellent headset microphone, the headset could have some improvement.
Advantages of the AKG CM311
- Excellent noise rejection
- Microphone position makes audio clearer
Cons of the AKG CM311
- Maybe quite expensive for what you get
- The headset is not comfortable
For more information visit the AKG site.
Street Price: $599 / £519 / €599 | Frequency response: 20Hz – 20kHz | 9.5″ 1U Metal Case Receiver | Detachable BNC Antennas | Outputs: XLR and Jack | Status indicator LED | Frequency range: S8 823-832 MHz
The Shure BLX14R/MX53 system is a complete, high-end, professional-grade wireless headset mic system.
Shure BLX14R/MX53 Features
The Shure BLX14R/MX53 is a completely wireless system. Thus, it comes with the headset microphone itself, the wireless transmitter pack and the receiver unit. The receiver unit is also rack mountable and comes with a rack mount kit.
Additionally, the receiver can handle up to 12 wireless devices at the same time. Which means you can connect wireless transmitters across the entire music band to the receiver and still have room for more devices.
The earset is very discreet and fits over a single ear, unlike the dual-ear design of other headset mics.
The microphone has a frequency response of 20 Hz to 20 kHz with a maximum SPL of 107 dB and self noise of 34 dB. The responsiveness and sensitivity of the microphone is also excellent and the audio is super clear.
Shure BLX14R/MX53 Noise Rejection
The Shure MX53 headset microphone also has great noise and feedback rejection.
As you may expect, a system like this comes at a fairly high price. The BLX14R/MX53 is among the most expensive systems. However, it is worth every penny of its price. You will get a high quality microphone and wireless transmitter/receiver system. Finally, the system also comes with two handy carrying cases for the microphone and transmitter.
If you want to expand your wireless setup in the future, then the Shure BLX14R/MX53 is the wireless headset microphone system for you.
Advantages of the Shure BLX14R/MX53
- Discreet, high-quality headset microphone
- The wireless receiver can manage up to 12 devices connected at once
Cons of the Shure BLX14R/MX53
- May be out of budget for many
For more information visit the Shure site.
What to consider when choosing a headset microphone for singing?
The main aspects to consider when buying a headset mic to sing in live performances are:
- Sound quality
- Noise and feedback rejection
- Wireless or wired
Headset microphones and polar patterns
When searching for the ideal headset microphone for your voice, the main feature you will come across is the polar pattern. There are three main types of polar patterns used for headset microphones:
Cardioid polar pattern
Cardioid polar patterns are popular choices for headset microphones due to their ability to focus on a singular sound source and minimize any noise coming from the sides, minimizing background noise.
For singing drummers or guitarists who are in close proximity to a loud amp, cardioid mic capsules are an excellent choice.
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Hypercardioid polar pattern
Hypercardioid microphone capsules are less common, but are preferred by some manufacturers for headset mics.
A variation on the classic cardioid shape, these capsules offer a tighter response in front of the microphone and further reduce background noise. But this can also sometimes lead to some of the expressions in a singer’s voice being slightly compromised.
Omnidirectional polar pattern
Finally, omnidirectional mic capsules are known for their ability to pick up sounds from all angles.
They are used for headset mics because they allow the voice to be picked up even if the capsule is not pointed directly at the singer’s mouth, making them ideal for singers who also dance or move a lot on stage. But this advantage also means they pick up more noise than cardioid and hyper cardioid patterns.
Who is each headset microphone polar pattern recommended for?
It’s pretty clear, if the focus is on picking up the voice rather than isolating it from noise, the omnidirectional headset microphone is the perfect version. So for singers who dance, these are an excellent option.
Instead, if you are exposed to a lot of noise as a drummer or guitarist who must be placed close to an amplifier or monitors, cardioid or hypercarioid microphones are the ideal choices. Depending on the exposure to noise and voice, you will prefer a microphone that isolates more of the ambient noise like the hypercardioid or one that compromises less expressions of your voice like the cardioid.
Sound quality, noise and feedback rejection
There are diversities of sound quality, noise, and feedback rejection when it comes to headset mics. Of course, the more you pay, the better quality headset microphones you’ll get, one that’s clear, sensitive and responsive enough.
Keep in mind that with these microphones, sound quality is just as important as the ability to reject ambient noise and feedback. Since these microphones are used for live performance on stage with a lot of loud instruments, and you might even be playing an instrument, for example if you are a drummer. Therefore, it is essential that you consider a mic that does not capture so much that noise from musical instruments.
Thus, you can prevent background noise from drowning out your own voice. Also, a headset microphone that doesn’t pick up noise won’t pick up sound from onstage monitors, preventing a terribly annoying feedback loop for you and your audience.
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Headset Microphone vs Standard Microphone
It is common to hear the question: “Which are better, headset microphones or standard studio ones?”; and I guess that you already know the answer. Headset microphones will not sound as good as standard studio microphones. Still, a headset mic sounds great if it’s of good quality. For this reason, headset microphones are used for live performances and not in recording studios.
Another fundamental aspect of a good headset microphone is comfort. Here we not only mean that it is comfortable for you, but also that it does not move or fall. This is especially important if you will be using the headset microphone for long periods of time.
Thus, the headset mic should fit well around the head and, at the same time, easily adapt to your shape. It should not have sharp edges that could hurt or cut your ears or head. Also, the headset should be snug enough so that it doesn’t slip or fall off, and last but not least, it doesn’t feel like it’s squeezing your head.
You will probably need to use tape to get more comfort and hold the headset, but this should be as little as possible to keep it in place.
You might be interested in our selection of the best cheap electronic drum kits for beginners.
Wired vs Wireless Microphone
The choice between a wired or wireless headset microphone will really be up to the individual singer. It is important that the difference between both types of headset microphones.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Wired and Wireless Headset Microphones
The advantages of wireless headset microphones are mobility and comfort. On the other hand, those of the models with cable are the audio quality.
On the other hand, the disadvantages of wireless headsets are their limited range and battery life, although there are professional models with a very long range. Other Headsets, on the other hand, have a very limited range and require you to stay close to the receivers. If you’re only playing small venues this won’t be a problem. When it comes to battery life, most wireless headset microphones last around 10 hours.
On the side of wired headset microphones, the disadvantages are reduced mobility and the risk of becoming entangled in or tripping over a cable.
Who is a wired or wireless headset microphone better for?
For a drummer or keyboard player who does not move on stage, a wired headset microphone will be preferable. Also, drummers and keyboardists are usually close enough to a mixing console and it’s easy to place a DI box nearby. The headset mic can then be connected directly to the DI or to the console with a long enough cable.
For more mobile bassists, guitarists, saxophonists, and other musicians, wireless models are often the best options. Of course, if you’re a guitar player who stays in one location you could probably use a wired headset mic and even a standard mic on a stand.
A singer will normally have no choice but to use wireless headset mics. The vocalists are usually the ones who are most active, since they tend to be showmen and move throughout the entire stage.
As a general rule of thumb, always go for wireless models, as the last thing you need is a wire that you can trip over or get tangled up in. But for certain players, the wired model is always the best option.
You might also be interested in this guide with the best online VST simulators for free guitar amps.
Beware of reviews from Amazon affiliated sites and other online stores
On the internet you will find many reviews published by sites that get commissions if you buy the product by going to Amazon, Sweetwater, Guitar Center or other online stores selling musical instruments. These reviews are often not honest or trustworthy, and are actually more of a sales pitch for you to buy. Therefore, when the site invites you to go to an Online Store, remember that they benefit because you buy, so they will tend to highlight their virtues and hide their limitations or defects.
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Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
If your headphone uses a mini XLR cable, you can use a mini XLR to XLR adapter cable to connect it to a standard XLR connection on a mixer like the Audix CBLM25 Mini.
For wireless microphones, yes, in most cases you will need to use a transmitter during live performances.
Have you already tried a headset microphone? Which one? How was your experience? Leave us a comment below.
We recommend that you take a look at this review of the best free online virtual drum machines for PC and Mac.