Best Microphones for Recording Acoustic Guitar
The acoustic guitar is a staple sound of pop, rock, country, blues, folk and many other music styles. Since it is such an important instrument, getting a great sound of it in your recordings is vital. Indeed, it needs to sound bright, spacious and crisp. There are many different factors to getting a great acoustic guitar sound, such as the room, the guitarist and the audio interface. However, one really important factor is the the microphone. Choosing the right microphone can make or break your recording. So read on and take a look at some of the best microphones for recording acoustic guitar.
How to record an acoustic guitar
Before we get going it is worth just mentioning microphone placement. It is really important to understand how to record an acoustic guitar once you have your microphones. It can really affect the sound. Check out this great article by home recording experts Sound On Sound. This will help you understand how to record an acoustic guitar once you have chosen the right microphone.
There is also a really useful article by Cakewalk.com here which will run through 10 really good microphone placements. Also, check out this useful video for some of the most useful techniques. They may not use the same microphones as in the article below, but the principles they talk about will remain the same.
Best microphones for recording acoustic guitar
#1 Shure SM81 LC
- 0 Hz to 20 kHz frequency response
- Selectable low-frequency response: flat, 6 or 18 dB/octave rolloff
- Low noise and high output clipping level
- Cardioid polar pattern, uniform with frequency and symmetric about axis, providing maximum rejection and minimum coloration of off-axis sounds
- Phantom powering (DIN 45 596 voltages of 12 to 48 Vdc)
The Shure SM81 is a high impressive very affordable microphone. This cardioid condenser microphone continues to please users and experts everywhere with its transparent and clear sound that’s comparable to premium tube microphones. Because of its small diaphragm design, this mic is lighter (1.63 lbs) and easy to position than most, handles loud sound sources better with a max SPL (sound pressure level) of 136dB (146dB w/ the built-in Pad), and as such it captures the nuances of acoustic guitars much better – be it during loud strumming or when carefully fingerpicking.
The usual downside of small diaphragm mics is its lack of frequency response, but this doesn’t seem to be very noticeable with the SM81, with its frequency response of 20Hz-20kHz. Reviews are consistent in saying that this mic gives you more sound quality per dollar than similarly priced microphones. And since this mic is crafted by Shure, you can be assured of reliability and consistency without having to shell out too much dough. It’s really hard to find fault in this mic especially for acoustic guitars, other than its natural limitation of not having the same low frequency emphasis as large diaphragm mics. If you are looking for a reliable acoustic guitar mic that doesn’t color your sound, the Shure SM81 is a great choice. It is certainly one of the best microphones for recording acoustic guitar.
#2 AKG C214
- Sonic character of the C414 XLII for beautifully detailed recording of lead vocals and solo instruments
- Outstanding dynamic range and ultralow noise for close-up recording of high-output sources of up to 156dB SPL
- Switchable 20dB attenuator and bass-cut filter for close-up recording and reduction of proximity effect
- Integrated suspension to reduce mechanical noise and vibration from stage
- Roadworthy design all-metal die-cast body with shock- and scratch-resistant finish
Although mostly used for recoding vocals, the AKG C214‘s ability to capture sonic nuances has made it one of the best microphones for recording acoustic guitar.. It continues to gather quite the number of impressive positive ratings and reviews, thanks to its incredible dynamic range, versatility, reliability and stylish look. For a large diaphragm condenser mic, the AKG C214 has an impressively high max SPL of 156dB (with the built-in pad), which makes this mic capable of handling loud acoustic guitar strumming and is even known to work quite well with guitar amps.
The general consensus for this mic is that its solidly built, reliable and gives you more quality than what you actually pay for. There’s nothing really outstanding about it on paper, but the AKG C214’s workhorse worthy quality makes it a great mic for recording acoustic guitars in both live and studio scenarios. And it’s interesting how they crammed all its features inside a compact form factor that is only 0.62 lbs light. Being a large diaphragm condenser, this mic can handle a wide variety of sound sources, even those with increased low frequencies – so you’re actually getting an all around mic and not just a good mic for acoustic guitars. Check this one out if you’re into playing soft and expressive lines or if you want to recreate the boom of your jumbo or dreadnought acoustic.
#3 Rode NT5
- Externally biased condenser
- Gold sputtered 1/2 inch capsule
- Heavy duty satin nickel plated body
- Surface mount circuitry
- Low noise
Rode is a manufacturer of high-end microphones that have been studio staples for many years. The Rode NT5 is their premier small diaphragm condenser “pencil mic”.
Like The SM81, it’s an excellent choice for recording acoustic instruments, especially acoustic guitar, piano, drum overheads, and cymbals. But for a little more money than for one SM-81, you can get a matched pair of NT5s. Having a matched pair will give you the flexibility to stereo record your acoustic guitar. It definitely gives you more value for your money. Many professional studios have a set in their mic locker alongside their higher-priced mics. As such the NT5 is one of the best best microphones for recording acoustic guitar. Either using it on it’s own or as a match pair.
If you are looking for two mics for recording in stereo, the NT5 offers a ton of value for the price. Two NT5s on acoustic guitar produces very warm and detailed stereo acoustic guitar recordings.
#4 AKG C451B
- Sound of the legendary C451 EB + CK1 capsule from 1969 delivers stunning sound quality with maximum accuracy
- Established tour sound standard since the 1980s for excellent sound quality even under harsh on-stage conditions
- Impressive sound pressure level capability of 155dB SPL allows close-miking of high-energy sound sources without distortion
- Highly effective high-pass filter with 12dB/octave prevents low-end distortion caused by rumble or wind noise
- Transformerless preamp and surface mount technology provides extremely low distortion, highest reliability and less weight
The original AKG C451 became a best-seller not long after it was brought to market in 1969. It’s been a studio standard recording mic since the 80s and 90s and has long been a popular on-stage mic as well.
The newer C451B, released in 2001, follows that heritage with a redesigned hand-crafted capsule and low-noise preamp electronics. It is an excellent mic for acoustic guitar, adding lots of sparkle, clarity, and depth to a recording.
Furthermore, the C451B is not a one-trick pony – it has found many uses in pro studios around the world. It’s a favourite mic for close-miking loud sound sources, as it can handle sound levels up to 155dB. A pair of them is many studio engineers’ favourites as overhead mics for drums. Also quite a few producers and engineers swear by a pair of them on grand piano. So with that in mind if you get a C451B, you will give yourself a microphone that can do way more than just record acoustic guitar.
#5 MXL 770
- Gold-sputtered, 6-micron, low distortion diaphragm
- FET preamp with balanced output
- Switchable bass cut and -10dB pad
- Legendary MXL sonic characteristics
- Comes with shock mount and rugged carrying case
MXL mics are up there with the best and extremely affordable. The MXL 770 is by far the cheapest on our list and it is great value for money. A lot of reviews around the net praise it for the price-to-quality ratio, so this is our pick for the best microphone for guitar on a budget. It’s pretty sensitive when it comes to pick up and the quality is extremely crisp considering it’s seen for at or below the one hundred retail range. You have a nice metal make with black grill, low distortion, and a custom switchable bass cut and -10 dB pad. The FET preamp inside is of nice quality and is up there in terms of effectiveness.
This is a bigger mic than others you may find but that isn’t a bad thing. Grab this if you want an affordable, useful microphone that will last you a long time. If you do save up a few more bucks you can grab a better mic with a bit more frequency range and overall sound quality. The MXL 770 is one of the most affordable and best microphones for recording acoustic guitar.
#6 Neumann TLM 103
- Large diaphragm cardioid microphone
- Pressure gradient transducer with with one-diaphragm capsule
- Transformerless circuitry
- Extremely low noise: 7 dB-A
- Includes swivel mount
- Straightforward handling for home recording and professional studios
- High-quality professional equipment for limited budgets
Neumann has been a premier microphone manufacturer for over 80 years, and their mics are found in virtually every recording studio throughout the world.
Many Neumann mics like the classic U47, U67, and U87 models have been the gold-standard for both instrumental and vocal recording for many decades. While those high-end mics are out of reach for many studio owners, you can still get the famous Neumann sound with their TLM line of mics, and especially the TLM 103.
The TLM 103 is a large diaphragm condenser mic. Its capsule is derived from the famous U87 microphone, which gives it great detail and clarity. It is a microphone that excels on acoustic guitar recordings, giving them air and depth while highlighting the energy and dynamics of the performance.
This mic is capable of recording sounds down to 20Hz. Because of its extreme sensitivity to low frequencies, it’s recommended for use with an elastic shock mount. It is also an ideal close-up mic for winds, strings, percussion, and drum overheads. If you have a bit more money to spend and want a versatile, timeless and high quality microphone, then the TLM 103 is a great choice. It is certainly one of the best microphones for recording acoustic guitar and one of the most beautiful.