What Microphone Should I Use To Record Acoustic Guitar? | Decibel Peak

what microphone should i use to record acoustic guitar

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One of the most common questions that come up when recording acoustic guitar is the type of microphone that should be used. So, what microphone should I use to record acoustic guitar? I used to ask myself that same question and believe to have found a meaningful answer for you!

The type of microphone you should use to record acoustic guitar depends on the sound you’re striving for and the environment you’ll be recording in. Most of the time though, using dynamic (moving-coil) microphones with an extended frequency response is the best choice. However, condenser microphones are really popular as well because of their superior transient response and wide-frequency range. So, how should you decide which microphone you should use to record acoustic guitar? That’s what the rest of this article is going to be about, so stay tuned!

Recording acoustic guitar using dynamic (moving-coil) microphones

In my opinion, dynamic (moving-coil) microphones are the best type of microphones to record acoustic guitar with. For most of us, eliminating environmental noise is going to be the main objective.

We’re talking about:

  • Strumming
  • Ventilation (fans, AC, etc…)
  • Appliances (fridge, lights, etc…)
  • Neighbours/Traffic

Using the least sensitive microphone is our best option!

One of the disadvantages of dynamic (moving-coil) microphones is their inferior transient-response and sometimes limited frequency-response (not always though).

However, recording acoustic guitar using dynamic (moving-coil) produces professional results for just about anybody recording just about anywhere. That’s pretty revolutionary considering you’d otherwise need some properly treated room (or if your room sounds great naturally).

You’ll also want to consider how close the microphone will be positioned in proximity to the acoustic guitar. The results will be precise and “in your face” which is exactly what we’re looking for when it comes to recording acoustic guitar.

I personally use the AKG P5 S because it features an extended frequency-response (40 Hz – 20,000 Hz). It’s also got the supercardioid polar pattern which makes it better at isolating the sound source. I’m comparing the AKG P5 S to the industry-standard Shure SM57, of course!

I believe that the AKG P5 S is better though (read more about it here).

Here’s how I usually position my microphones:

  • Pointing towards the soundhole
  • Pointing towards the 12th fret

Remember, you can get in pretty close with dynamic (moving-coil) microphones.

Don’t be shy!

Recording acoustic guitar using dynamic (ribbon) microphones

Using your favourite dynamic (ribbon) microphone to record acoustic guitar can produce some pretty significant results. Ribbon microphones really capture the “warmth” of the guitar’s body, so it’s perfect for solo performances.

Dynamic (ribbon) microphones are pretty delicate though.

They’re also bi-directional (figure-of-eight).

That means that you’ll be capturing ambient noise from the rear. However, it’s very easy to provide isolation by placing sound absorbing material behind the microphone. Either way, capturing some of the “room” sound can also be interesting.

The disadvantages with dynamic (ribbon) microphones are as follows:

  • Delicate (the ribbon elements are fragile)
  • Noisy (modern ribbon microphones are better though)
  • Expensive (unless we’re talking about the Avantone CR-14)

I also recommend working with the best in-line microphone preamp, the TritonAudio FetHead.

You’ll also want to keep in mind that dynamic (ribbon) microphones are darker. In other words, you’ll lose some of your acoustic guitar’s “shimmering” high-end. Ribbon microphones are better suited for rhythm section instruments.

Either way, I highly recommend checking out the Avantone CR-14.

It’s one of the best/most affordable ribbon microphones on the market. If you’re looking to experiment, it’s the perfect alternative to anything on the pricier side.

Just remember that I don’t personally recommend dynamic (ribbon) microphones for acoustic guitar, especially if you’re just getting started. You’d need to place it a few feet away from you, so the possibility of capturing ambient noise is increased.

Make sure your environment’s conditions are acceptable before using ribbon microphones.

Recording acoustic guitar using condenser microphones

One of the most popular choices for recording acoustic guitar is the condenser microphone. Transient-response and frequency-response are superior, but the sensitivity is also much higher than with dynamic microphones.

In other words, condenser microphones capture the most ambient noise.

The best way to minimize this is to make sure that your condenser microphone uses the cardioid polar pattern. You’ll also want to make sure that your audio interface supports 48V Phantom Power because condenser microphones are active.

Because of this, condenser microphones sound “modern”.

Dynamic (ribbon) microphones sound “vintage” in retrospect.

Condenser microphones are also ideal for recording performances that feature both vocals and acoustic guitar. It’s possible to record the entire performance using one microphone. I’d still recommend going with two though (for mixing purposes).

Just keep in mind that condenser microphones really capture the sound of the entire room.

It’s best used on instruments you’d like to feature on your project!

I personally recommend the RODE NT1-A for mono recording:

I also recommend the Samson C02 (pair) for stereo recording:

It’s easier to get specific with the Samson C02s though. I’ll point one towards the soundhole and the other towards the 12th fret to get the contrast of dark/bright overtones.

The RODE NT1-A is really for the big picture!

Using different combinations of microphone types to record acoustic guitar

If you’re still hesitating on the type of microphone you’ll be using to record your acoustic guitar, you can always combine them together. It’s the best way to get the best of both worlds (or all three of them if you want)!

I really like the combination of dynamic (moving-coil) and condenser microphones.

The moving-coil microphone’s track provides the bulk of the sound. The condenser microphone is used to mix subtle amounts of the room’s sound with the “big picture” sound of the acoustic guitar to create that “larger than life” sound.

You could also pan each track to different degrees of right/left.

It’s best to use stereo recording techniques like these for solo performances or if you’re planning to feature one of the rhythm section’s instruments (piano, guitar, etc…). In other words, it takes up lots of space in the mix, so be careful not to clutter things up.

It’s always best practice to have one dynamic (moving-coil) microphone though.

Why?

If anything goes wrong with the other microphone, you’ll always have that one track that sounds really “clean and professional”. Moving-coil microphones make recording acoustic guitar in your bedroom/apartment building possible!

So, which combinations will you try out? Let us know!

Which microphone do I use to record acoustic guitar?

I really like to keep things simple. I’ve been recording acoustic guitar using my AKG P5 S since I brought it home, but I’ve been meaning to try combinations. I’ve even considered the possibility of combining acoustic guitar pickups with microphones.

The possibilities are endless!

I think that using two microphones is more than enough. For example:

  • Dynamic (moving-coil) + Condenser
  • Dynamic (moving-coil) + Pickup
  • Condenser + Condenser

Those are the configurations I’d personally work with. Just remember that each microphone you add takes up more space in the mix. It’s really about the placement of each microphone and the experience of knowing what you want. That’s where the knowledge comes in!

When it comes to home recording though, you’ll be most satisfied with the AKG P5 S.

It’s my personal favorite microphone and it’s the most affordable place to start.

AKG P5 S

Avantone CR-14

RODE NT1-A

Samson C02

Thanks for reading, I hope you’re ready to start recording acoustic guitar with the knowledge you’ve gathered and the tools you’ve learned about!

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2 Responses

  1. This article is helpful. I didn’t know that using the least sensitive microphone is the best option for acoustic guitar. The combination of two or three microphone is what surprised me the most. Having two or there in combination would cause interference as I thought. But since you mentioned the least sensitive microphone, it clears the confusion. Thanks.

    1. Hey John,

      It’s the best option if your recording space isn’t as controllable as you’d like it to be. Combining 2-3 microphones won’t cause interference, but it will cause microphone bleed. That could potentially cause phasing issues depending on how far each microphone is from one another.

      Basically, the more microphones you use… The more difficult it is.

      That’s why I wouldn’t use more than 2 microphones. That’s if you’ve got the luxury!

      Thanks for stopping by, take care!

      – Stefan

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