I've got the perfect job to test out mics! I not only own my own small recording studio, but my "day job" is being an in-demand audio engineer on Vancouver Island and in Vancouver.
I have the chance to work with all sorts of fun stuff, but the most exciting for me is trying out microphones. I work everywhere from community centres with low budgets to the biggest venues with a seemingly endless supply of gear. So let's break it down into what I think are some great mics!
Shure SM81 - amazing mic, but kind of freaking huge. I think it only costs around 300, a little more than an akg c1000s. Great for drum overheads, acoustic guitar, cymbals
Shure Beta 91 - again a pretty wicked mic for kick drum
Shure Beta 52 - a really good "all-around" kick drum/bass amp mic. Not as good in any particular genre, but useable and pretty good in any genre.
Shure SM57/Beta57 - duh.
Shure SM58/Beta58 - really hard to beat a mic like this for stage vocals. You can try, and you can think you're saving some money or getting a better mic by spending more, but it is a staple for a reason. There are better mics out there for vox but finding something this good for this money is pretty hard to do.
Shure KSM series - a good all around set of mics to cover any need. Professional looking and sounding, great for a middle-of-the-road budget.
AKG C414 B-XLS - a wicked mic for all around recording. I have a matched pair and they are great for guitar [acoustic and electric] bass [ditto] drums, room mics, percussion... really anything you have that makes sound will sound better through these.
AKG D112 - Good rock and roll kick drum mics. Plenty of attack. PLENTY. RAWR.
Audix D series - the whole series is rad. I like the tom mics - d2/3/4. They cover a wide range of frequencies and sound really good mixed and matched together. The D6 is great for rock, metal, and really anything that's fast.
Sennheiser MD421 - really great mic, but in my opinion twice as much as it should cost. And it feels cheap. But the sound is great!
Neumann KM184 - I love these little bastards. Small, easy to place, great sound. Price is a little steep, 3x the cost of the shure KSM 141 [which are on my wished-i-owned list].
I left out more of the Neumanns mainly because I really only have worked with the KM 184's extensively, with the eexception of the TLM series. The TLM series only buys you bragging rights for owning a Neumann. The C414 is a better mic, IMO.