Seeking the Best Microphone for Busking? Headset Mics are the Best Choice for Street Performance
When looking for the best microphone for busking, one must keep in mind the type of busking performance you will be delivering street-side to the masses. I typically play a guitar and sing. My nephew plays a keyboard. I’ve even seen buskers play drums! I’ve seen many buskers using a standard microphone with a boom stand. The downside to a cheap microphone for singing mounted on a boom stand is the additional weight your toting to your street corner. My choice for singing and playing a guitar (or any stringed instrument for that matter) would be a wired headset microphone. This setup would allow me to move around with my guitar and it would also lighten the load for extreme portability. There are several things to keep in mind when selecting a headset microphone for busking. A dynamic headset mic can be wired, and does not require a wireless setup or phantom power. Of course, being wired will limit your ability to move around to some degree, but it can still provide a great deal of flexibility. If you choose a wireless headset, you will be adding cost, setup complexity and bulk. Most wireless headset systems require a separate receiver that plugs into the busking amp as well as a power source! If you choose a wired condenser headset microphone, you will need to verify that your busking amp provides phantom power or a lightweight battery powered phantom power supply or preamp is included. It is now possible to use your wired headset microphone wirelessly with an Xvive U3 plug-on wireless system. Simply plug the transmitter into the headset cable and plug the receiver into your busking amp. The Xvive U3C can even provide phantom power for condenser microphone headsets! These XLR wireless plug-on mic systems are rechargeable and won’t need a power source. Just make sure to fully charge before heading to the street corner for a good 4 to 5 hours of singing time. Ultimately, I believe a wired, dynamic headset microphone is the best solution because no power is required. Now let’s look at the Shure WH20XLR, the Apex 370, the Audio-Technica PRO 8HEx, and the Shure SM35-XLR and choose the best for our busking purposes.
Shure WH20XLR Dynamic Headset Microphone
The Shure WH20XLR is an affordable choice in a wired dynamic headset microphone. Shure is the go to brand for professional audio microphones and has been for over eighty years. The microphone uses an elastic band to provide a secure, yet comfortable fit. It is also lightweight and has a collapsible microphone boom for easy storage and portability. The microphone itself utilizes a tight cardioid pickup pattern to minimize background noise. It’s also meant for singing performance providing a natural and smooth frequency response that rivals most handheld microphones in it’s price range. To round out the package Shure has also included a wind screen and a belt clip which will further enhance it’s use in outdoor hands-free environments. In my opinion, the Shure WH20XLR was made for busking! I believe it’s one of the best headset microphones for singing as well. Make sure you also pick up a couple of Shure RK318WS Black Foam Windscreens because a windscreen is not included with the WH20XLR. A windscreen is a must for outdoor busking! Comparison Chart
Apex 370 Dynamic Headset Microphone
The Apex 370 dynamic headset microphone is the cheapest option in the lineup. For about 40 bucks, you can get a wired dynamic headset mic with an XLR connection! This may be just the choice for those buskers on a tight budget or for someone looking to test the waters, not quite ready to drop well over $75 on a nicer headset. Being a dynamic microphone, the Apex 370 does not require phantom power, but as some reviewers have noted, the microphone sensitivity may be on the less powerful side of the spectrum. The mic does include a flexible gooseneck and adjustable headband, but does not collapse for storage. This headset microphone also includes a foam windscreen and 15 foot cable, making this package ready to roll for your busking performance out of the box! The Apex 370 utilizes a unidirectional polar pattern to minimize feedback and can also tolerate high SPL levels. Another review noted that the fit and finish of the mic is flimsy, but for being on the low end of the price spectrum, that would be somewhat expected. Comparison Chart
Audio-Technica PRO 8HEx Dynamic Headset Mic
The Audio-Technica PRO 8HEx wired dynamic headset microphone utilizes a hypercardioid polar pattern to improve vocal isolation, removing unwanted feedback and background noise. The microphone itself is mounted on a rotating boom that can descend from either the right side or the left side. Several of the reviews compare it’s sound to the Shure SM58, which to me is an extreme compliment. One review also states that it’s hotter than the SM58 clones used in the club where he normally performs. If this headset mic can truly deliver SM58-like vocal reproduction for roughly the same amount of money as an SM58, then it’s well worth it for hands-free busking! I will make note that the AT PRO 8HEX does not include a windscreen. I would most definitely recommend a windscreen to both minimize pop and cut down on wind noise which is sure to be present while busking on the street! The Tetra-Teknica XFFZ5P-BLK would be an excellent choice for such a windscreen. Comparison Chart
Shure SM35-XLR Condenser Headset Microphone
The last headset microphone in my list is the Shure SM35-XLR condenser headset microphone. The big difference between this headset mic and the others in the list is the fact that this is a wired condenser headset microphone. A condenser headset mic provides more gain and greater intelligibility. I would recommend this type of wired headset microphone if your voice is not very powerful and you typically need added gain on your microphone during performances. The downside to this configuration is the need for phantom power. Most busking amps will not provide phantom power. A phantom power power supply will be required if your busking amp doesn’t provide it. I recommend the Mackie M48 phantom power supply. It is portable (roughly the size of a direct box) and can be powered by a standard 9 volt battery. Comparison Chart
The Best Microphone for Busking and Singing is:
After careful review of the headset microphones above, I have chosen the Audio-Technica PRO 8HEx. It is a dynamic headset microphone and will not require phantom power. It is also a hypercardioid microphone providing greater intelligibility and less background noise. Most of the reviews for this microphone were positive, with reviews comparing it’s sound to none other than the Shure SM58. That being said, I believe the AT Pro 8HEx will be the absolute best microphone for busking! Be sure to check out my other posts for the best in pro audio!
Headset Microphone Extras
There are several items you should make sure you have before you purchase a headset microphone. In most cases an additional microphone cable will be necessary. Typically, the XLR input provided with the headset microphone will be equipped with a belt clip. A mic cable will be needed from your belt clip to the busking amp, mixing board or phantom power source (if needed). If you are purchasing a phantom power supply, an additional microphone cable will be needed from the phantom power supply to the busking amp or mixing board. Another thing to bear in mind when opting to use a headset microphone is that it is always “On”. You will be heard if you cough, sniffle or speak to anyone. To avoid these instances a microphone switch can be purchased to turn the mic off when needed. These switches can also be momentary foot switches. Remember, if you purchase one of these switches, another small mic cable may be necessary for setup.
Headset Microphone Feature Comparison