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Acoustic Guitar Mic Shootout

Page history last edited by Randy Coppinger 11 years ago

On April 20, 2010 my friend Ben brought his Ibanez V280CLE into the studio for a microphone shootout. For pop music, I think acoustic guitar is one of the more difficult sources to record faithfully (along with human voice and piano).  Why?  Well, moving the mic just a few inches can yield wildly different sounds, and guitar players can't seem to sit still when they play (although Ben made a heroic effort). Getting the recording to sound like the instrument being played in front of me is my goal.  Or at least for it to sound real without sonic distractions such as "wow, that pickup has a honk to it".  Otherwise, why bother with an acoustic instrument? Granted, this Ibanez is not a common acoustic guitar, especially for studio work.  But if you can get a good recording from an average sounding guitar, all the more proof that a mic works well for the task.


What I am listening for when I record acoustic guitar...  Is the top end open without being too strident, or unnaturally percussive?  Is the mid-range clear, uncluttered?  Is the low end full without sounding boomy?


My favorite technique for acoustic is to place the mic about 2' away, perpendicular with the face, pointed at the neck / body joint.  Most of the time this gives a nice balance of: tone from the body resonance, detailed string action without being harsh, and doesn't pickup too much boom from the sound hole.  This is the placement I chose for these recordings.  Obviously each mic will sound a little bit different just by difference of position.  But as the pics show, the placement is similar enough for comparison.  And I recorded two mics at a time to honor Ben's time in the studio playing the same part over and over again.


All mics that had a built-in low rolloff were engaged, except as noted (the AKG 451eb and the Sennheiser 441).  All mics were cardioid, except as noted.


Blue Woodpecker (figure 8) and

AKG 451eb (CK1, no rolloff)

Oktava MK012 and

Gefell UMT70 S

Neumann KM184 and

Schoeps CMC641 (hypercardioid)

Audio Technica 4033 and

Audio Technica 4050

AKG D200E and

AKG D202

Shure sm59s

Sennheiser 441 (hypercardioid, no rolloff) and

Shure sm57 (TAB Funkenworks transformer)



The acquisition chain was:  mic > Martech MSS-10 > Apogee PSX-100 > ProTools.  No compression or EQ was applied.  Have a listen!


Acoustic Guitar Mic Shootout by Audio Superfreak

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I was pleasantly surprised and also disappointed in what I heard.  I'd love to know what YOU think.  Please leave comments here, or use Twitter (@RandyCoppinger), Google Buzz (Randy Coppinger), carrier pigeon, semaphore, smoke signals, etc. With your permission, I'll reference some of your comments here so that future readers can enjoy a broader perspective than mine.  Thanks!


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