Last Updated on October 21, 2023 by AG
Recording acoustic guitar is a delicate art that depends on various factors, from the musician’s skill and the guitar’s quality to the environment where the recording takes place. However, one element holds tremendous sway over the final product – the choice of microphone. We will help you understand how to choose the best mic for recording acoustic guitars and how to leverage it to achieve stunning audio quality.
Whether you’re a professional sound engineer or a musician setting up a home studio, we will share invaluable insights for impeccable acoustic guitar recordings.
But why is the microphone choice so critical in recording acoustic guitar? An acoustic guitar produces a rich, nuanced sound filled with subtleties. From the soft, warm tones of fingerpicking to the bright, crisp sound of strumming, an acoustic guitar can offer a vast array of tonal variations.
The right microphone for recording acoustic guitars will capture these nuances, preserving its character and depth, to bring out the best in your acoustic guitar playing.
Stay tuned as we walk you through the captivating universe of acoustic guitar mics, showcasing models ranging from high-end studio favorites to budget options that don’t compromise on sound quality. Let’s strike a chord together and explore the realm of acoustic guitar microphones that can help you capture your music in all its glory.
Understanding Acoustic Guitars and Sound Production
When you strum or pick the strings of an acoustic guitar, you set in motion a fascinating series of events that culminate in the beautiful sound we all love. The guitar’s body, mainly the soundboard, acts as a resonator, amplifying the vibrations from the strings. These vibrations are then converted into sound waves that we perceive as music.
The unique construction of acoustic guitars—the type and quality of the wood, the shape and size of the body, and the arrangement of bracing—has a significant impact on the sound they produce. For instance, a dreadnought-style guitar will have a different tone compared to a concert-style guitar. Therefore, when you’re recording acoustic guitars, the microphone you use should be capable of capturing the guitar’s inherent tonal qualities accurately.
The Importance of Tones and Resonances
Understanding how an acoustic guitar produces sound helps you appreciate why certain microphones excel at recording acoustic guitar. Different parts of the guitar produce different frequencies: the sound hole typically produces lower frequencies, while the strings and the area near the bridge produce higher frequencies.
A good acoustic guitar mic should have a wide frequency response to capture all these tones accurately. It should be sensitive to both the deeper, resonant tones emanating from the guitar’s body and the bright, sharp tones from the strings.
Beyond the fundamental tones, an acoustic guitar produces overtones—additional frequencies that resonate above the primary notes being played. These overtones contribute to the richness and complexity of the guitar’s sound. Therefore, when recording acoustic, it’s crucial to use a microphone that can capture these delicate overtones.
Each acoustic guitar also has its unique resonant frequency— a frequency at which the guitar naturally vibrates, adding a distinctive character to its sound. Your chosen acoustic guitar mic should be capable of capturing this resonant frequency to ensure a faithful reproduction of the guitar’s tone during recording acoustic guitar.
Stay tuned for the next section, where we will dive into different types of microphones and explore which are best suited to recording acoustic guitars.
Top High-Quality Microphones for Acoustic Guitar
Capturing the intricate details and wide range of frequencies of an acoustic guitar is no easy task. It requires a microphone of exceptional quality and versatility. Let’s delve into three high-quality microphone picks for recording acoustic guitar, each with its distinct advantages and sound profile.
Neumann U87 Ai
The Neumann U87 Ai is often praised as the pinnacle of studio microphones and for good reason. This large diaphragm condenser mic has a revered history in the world of sound engineering. When it comes to recording acoustic, this is a versatile mic that rarely disappoints.
Key to its high performance is its wide frequency response, which allows it to capture the full range of tones that an acoustic guitar can produce. With three selectable polar patterns—omnidirectional, cardioid, and figure-8—this condenser mic can adapt to different recording setups and playing styles.
Its warm, smooth sound is particularly well-suited for recording acoustic guitars, capturing both the punchy rhythm parts and delicate fingerpicked passages with equal finesse. However, this level of performance comes with a premium price tag, but those who invest in the U87 Ai rarely regret it.
AKG C414 XLS
The AKG C414 XLS is another highly esteemed large diaphragm condenser mic that shines when recording acoustic. It has an impressively wide frequency range, ensuring that every nuance of your acoustic guitar’s sound is captured.
One standout feature of this versatile microphone is its nine selectable polar patterns. This makes it extremely adaptable, whether you’re looking to record acoustic guitars in a solo or ensemble setting. The C414 XLS’s clear, neutral sound ensures that your acoustic guitar recordings will be as faithful to the original sound source as possible.
Rounding out our list of top picks is the Schoeps MK4. This small diaphragm condenser microphone is a hidden gem in the world of acoustic guitar mics. Its compact size and outstanding frequency response make it an excellent choice for capturing the rich tonal palette of acoustic guitars.
With its cardioid polar pattern, the MK4 excels at rejecting off-axis sound, focusing instead on the sound source. This makes it ideal for close-miking techniques when recording acoustic guitar. The MK4 provides a detailed, uncolored sound, ensuring that your acoustic guitar’s natural tone shines through in the recording.
Budget-Friendly Microphone Options for Acoustic Guitar
While high-end microphones like the Neumann U87 Ai, AKG C414 XLS, and Schoeps MK4 deliver fantastic results, they might not fit into everyone’s budget. But don’t fret; several budget-friendly acoustic guitar mics are great for recording acoustic guitar without breaking the bank.
The Audio-Technica AT2020 is an affordable option that doesn’t compromise on sound quality. This large diaphragm condenser mic provides a wide frequency response, making it one of the best acoustic guitar mics in its price range.
The AT2020 excels at capturing the natural sound of an acoustic guitar, offering a clear, crisp reproduction. Its cardioid polar pattern helps reduce the pickup of sounds from the sides and rear, improving the isolation of the desired sound source.
Behringer C-2 Stereoset
A reliable choice in many recording setups, the Behringer C-2 Stereoset offers a versatile solution for capturing acoustic instruments. While known for its value in a variety of recording scenarios, it shines particularly when recording acoustic guitar.
The C-2’s frequency response is designed for precision, capturing the rich textures of an acoustic guitar. Its cardioid polar pattern isolates the primary sound source and minimises background noise. This set of condenser microphones might not have the ruggedness of a dynamic mic, but it delivers impressive performance at an affordable price.
Rode NT5 MP
For those searching for top-notch quality without breaking the bank, the Rode NT5 MP is a strong contender. This pair of small diaphragm condenser microphones provides superior sound reproduction at a modest price point, earning its reputation as one of the best acoustic guitar mics for those mindful of their budget.
With an extensive frequency range and sturdy construction, the Rode NT5 MP is ideally suited for recording acoustic. Its cardioid polar pattern helps to reject sounds coming from the sides and rear, ensuring your acoustic guitar is recorded with clarity and without any unwanted noise.
Mic Placement Techniques for Acoustic Guitar Recording
One of the key factors affecting the quality of your acoustic guitar recordings is how and where you place your mic. Different mic placement techniques can dramatically change the sound of your recording. Let’s delve into some popular methods for miking an acoustic guitar.
The Close Miking Technique
Close miking involves placing the mic within a foot or less of the acoustic guitar. This technique allows the ribbon mic or condenser mic to pick up the direct sound of the acoustic instrument, resulting in a recording with little room noise and a full-bodied sound.
One popular location for close miking is near the 12th fret of the acoustic guitar. This placement captures a balanced blend of the tonal characteristics of the guitar. Another option is to place the mic near the sound hole, but be aware that this can result in a boomy, bass-heavy sound due to the sound hole’s role as the primary resonating point.
The Distant Miking Technique
Distant miking involves placing the mic further away from the acoustic guitar. The distance can vary, but it’s generally anywhere from 3 to 10 feet. This technique picks up more room sounds and is ideal for capturing the natural reverb and ambiance of a space.
In this setup, ribbon mics, known for their warm, natural sound, are a popular choice. They can capture the full, authentic tone of the acoustic guitar as it exists in the room. However, be mindful of any potential unwanted noise from the surrounding environment.
The Stereo Miking Technique
You might want to consider using a stereo miking technique for a more immersive acoustic guitar recording. This method requires two condenser microphones placed in a specific arrangement relative to the acoustic instrument.
The Spaced Pair (A/B) setup and the X/Y setup are the two most common techniques. The A/B setup involves placing two mics at a distance from each other, facing the acoustic guitar. The X/Y setup has two mics placed close together at an angle, typically 90-135 degrees. Both techniques provide a rich, enveloping sound experience that simulates the stereo sound heard by human ears.
Conclusion: Finding Your Best Mic for Recording Acoustic Guitar
In the end, the best mic for recording acoustic guitar depends on a variety of factors, including your specific needs, the style of music you play, your recording environment, and your budget. There are countless options available on the market, from premium large diaphragm condensers to affordable dynamic microphones, each with its unique sonic characteristics.
In this guide, we’ve discussed various types of microphones suitable for capturing acoustic guitars. These included high-quality condenser mics like the Neumann U87 Ai and budget-friendly choices like the Audio-Technica AT2020. We also mentioned ribbon mics, you find more on this topic in this article. But remember, these are just a few of the best acoustic guitar microphones available today. The most important thing is to find a mic that suits your playing style and brings out the best in your acoustic guitar.
Next to the right mic, you should consider mic placement techniques, from close miking for a direct, intimate sound to distant miking for capturing more of the room’s ambiance. Stereo miking techniques can provide a more immersive listening experience but require a more complex recording setup.
Choosing a microphone for recording acoustic is a journey, as you grow and evolve as a musician, you may find your microphone preferences change over time. Keep experimenting and don’t be afraid to try new things.