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Sterling SP150SMK microphone review

Presentation is key for aptly-named Sterling mic

Sterling SP150SMK review
Editor's Choice
(Image: © Tom's Guide)

Our Verdict

When it comes to price point and presentation, the SP150SMK mic earns its sterling name and reputation. The sound quality brings it over the top to make the Sterling model a great entry-level mic — and more.

For

  • Great price
  • Rich sound
  • Visually appealing
  • Includes shock mount and carrying case

Against

  • No attenuation pad or high pass filters
  • Requires phantom power
Sterling SP150SMK: specs

Price: $99
Connection: XLR
Ports: XLR
Condensers: Not stated
Directional patterns: Cardioid
Size: 7.1 x 1.9 x 1.9 inches
Weight: 1 pound

The Sterling SP150SMK mic lives up to its first-class brand name, whether it comes to performance or presentation. I purchased it as a part of a bundle with the Rode Podcaster, and was disappointed that the package didn’t come with the Rode PodMic. “These mics are just as good,” declared the customer service worker at my local music store. It wasn’t lip service, either. He was right.

The SP150MK mic provided exceptional sound during my recent podcast, and also proved that Sterling cares about quality presentation. I was pleasantly surprised when I opened the mic box and found another box — a carrying case which provided not only convenience, but protection. That might not mean much to some mic enthusiasts, streamers or podcasters. It means a lot to me because I know how expensive hardware can be, and when a company is conscientious enough to include protection in its presentation, I can appreciate it.Quite simply, this mic is the total package; this Sterling SP150SMK review will explain why.

Sterling SP150SMK review: Price and availability

The Sterling SP150SMK is available for $99.99 at Guitar Center and Musician’s Friend. It’s a familiar, accessible price point, and one that I would recommend for anyone who wants to get into podcasting and streaming. 

Sterling SP150SMK review: Design

I’ll get into more of the box-opening experience later. Right now, let me focus on some of the great detailing and specifics regarding the Sterling SP150SMK.

Sterling SP150SMK review

(Image credit: Sterling)

The mic itself has a great feel and look. Weighing in at a single pound, the mic is sturdy, but not clunky. The actual Sterling-based details, in terms of name and logo, are tastefully done. The Sterling logo is underneath a small cardioid designation, to recognize its fixed cardioid pickup pattern, and the brand name is engraved into the side of the mic. With a silky black finish and a Carolina blue ring near the top of the mic to break up the monotonous color tone, the SP150SMK has style and swagger.

Sterling SP150SMK review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

In terms of setup, this particular mic comes with both a shock mount and hard mount option. The spider-band shock mount helps to prevent bumps and vibrations, and the hard mount option allows for pinpoint mic placement. I went with the shock mount option, simply because I’m a podcaster and want to keep as much noise out during the pre-production process as possible.

Sterling SP150SMK review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

This option will also likely be a go-to move for folks who record instruments, and Sterling itself notes the mic’s versatility in recording “guitars, drums, amplifiers and more.” Both the shock mount and the hard mount options contain a circular screw-in piece that fits around and underneath the XLR port. It’s a sweet design function that not only holds the XLR cord in place, but also offers easy connectivity to a mic boom stand. Both the XLR cord and stand are sold separately.

Sterling SP150SMK review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Now, I can talk about the carrying case. It’s an important feature for me, personally, because I often transport equipment to do my podcasts. It can be a hassle either packing equipment or shelling out extra cash to find suitable options to protect my equipment. The Sterling SP150SMK mic literally solved that problem as soon as I opened the box. The carrying case is custom-padded and has “rugged protective” features, which is simply to say “hard plastic.” There’s also snug fitting for the mic, shock mount and hard mounts. The case isn’t perfect; it had a slightly unpleasant odor, and it would have been nice to have an allotted space for a XLR cord. That’s a minor gripe for entry-level pricing, though, and it’s clear that the Sterling brand believes in luxury without devastating one’s budget.

Sterling SP150SMK review:  Sound quality

Enough about the presentation. Let’s talk about power. The bottom line for any mic is whether the sound comes in richly and clearly, and the Sterling name rings true.

I connected the mic to a soundboard, but I didn’t place it on a stand. Instead, I attached it to the shock mount and waved the SP150SMK around like a stage mic. Impressively, I didn’t lose anything in terms of sound quality. The only extraneous noise that the mic picked up was when my elbow rubbed against some plastic wrapping paper in the immediate area where the soundboard and mic were placed. Even a modest setup with a pop filter would have eliminated that noise. 

Sterling SP150SMK review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Concerns about the lack of a high pass filter may be justified, though I would argue that soundboard technology and/or software can alleviate a lot of those issues.

When I finally put the mic up on a traditional stand, the sound was so exceptional that I didn’t have to make any post-production adjustments. That type of performance shows the versatility of the Sterling mic and is a godsend for beginners who might not know the ins and outs of audio editing.

Sterling SP150SMK review: Verdict

The Sterling SP150SMK offers performance, protection and a great price. It almost feels petty to dock the mic for the smell of the case or not having a space for the XLR cord in the carrying case. In the field, this Sterling brand is more than silver — it makes a play for the gold. 

Ken Makin

Ken J. Makin is a tech and entertainment writer for Tom’s Guide, and has nearly 20 years of experience as a journalist. He’s an avid podcaster and freelancer for various sites, including ESPN’s The Undefeated and The Christian Science Monitor. When he’s not podding or writing, Ken is likely spending time with his wife and children.