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I am looking to record acoustic guitar. A lot of folk and finger picking so low volume playing. Based on what I have read so far I am in the market for Small Diaphragm Condenser(s).

I am looking to spend somewhere around 500 CDN but am flexible. I currently am using a Sm58 (without the windscreen) into a Scarlett 2i4 and am recording in an untreated room. ( The room is carpeted, free from exterior noise, and I am using some cheap duvets/packing blankets placed behind me as I record to reduce reflections. ) I am close mic-ing my guitar around 12-14th fret with the 58 and I am finding that I am lacking high-endclarity and brightness that I believe a SDC would better capture.

I have read multiple reviews on recording acoustic guitar with stereo pairs in stereo and an equal amount preaching that acoustic guitar should be recorded in mono and double tracked if necessary in order to achieve a stereo mix. In my untreated room and with no almost no recording experience would I be better off taking the mono approach? (I have been producing electronic music for a few years now and have Ok mixing skills and have been able to get some results I am happy with so far just with my mono 58 set up, some doubling and stereo reverb.)

My question is then: for my limited price range would I be best going for a single SDC or matched pair? At the top end of my price range that would be comparing say:

RODE Nt5-MP (579 $) to a AKG C451B (531 $) / AT4022 (469 $)

[Slightly out of my price range is the AT4041SP (649 $) which I have seen recommended]

but also on my mind is that in an untreated room and within this price range would any of the above options yield significant better results then say:

RODE M5-MP (269 $) / Samson C02-pair (189 $) to a Sontronics STC-1 (245 $) / AKG Perception 170 (127$) /AT2021 (109 $)

I realize I am comparing mics double in price but I am just wondering if the extra cost would be worth it? And when comparing SPs to a single mic my thoughts are: might as well save 50% or conversely get a single mic that's twice as good for the same price and record in mono.

I realize this is a lot of information but I would seriously appreciate any insight and recommendations!


vibrations1951 Thu, 11/26/2015 - 13:34

I have really enjoyed what I can get on acoustic guitar with a pair of Shure SM81's. The SM81 has -10dB pad, 2 different bass roll-off positions and I find I can place them without them getting in the way of playing. A quick check on ebay showed many used that might fit the bill and perhaps in your price range. With some careful experimentation with mic placement you can get quite a nice range of frequencies and dynamics in stereo to boot.
Mine are not a matched pair and work well for me but I have seen others talk about the benefits of matched pairs. I hope those with more experience will chime in here.

My 2 cents FWIW.....Good luck and happy hunting.

Boswell Thu, 11/26/2015 - 16:22

What you haven't said is why you are wanting to record an acoustic guitar. Is this as a finished solo, or is it the accompaniment to a vocal line or some other instruments? Is the guitar to be just finger picked or strummed as well or at times? Perhaps you need to cover all these eventualities?

Having had the experience of recording hundreds of acoustic guitars, both steel-strung and nylon-strung, in good and bad acoustic rooms, I know that I cannot ever take a new performer in a new room for granted and presume that any one set of microphones positioned according to formula will give a great result. You need to experiment, listen, experiment some more - it can take a while to get the basis of a good recording.

After purpose of recording and musical style, it comes down to performer, instrument, room, type of microphones, performer positioning and microphone positioning and also whether the guitar has a pickup. The importance is probably pretty much in that order. The differences between various pre-amps and recorders fortunately do not play such a large part in this as the the factors I listed, at least for the guitar. If you were to include vocals as well, the whole picture gets a lot more complicated.

BTW is that London, Ontario?

took-the-red-pill Thu, 12/10/2015 - 00:47

I've found if you really want a lack of clarity, and boomy low mids where they sound the worst, look no further than an SM 58. Just about anything will be an improvement.

I would suggest that most music stores will let you rent if they know you're going to buy, and take the rental off the purchase price. Rent a low, medium, and high end and do some recording. Then weigh the extra cost against improvements in sound. Spend as much as you need to to get a mic that sounds great to YOU. But be aware that with most condensers, even the cheap Chinese ones, the limiting factor is actually your playing, the guitar, the room, and, most importantly, mic placement.

Anyway, it sounds like you're fairly new to this, so I would get one mic, and begin to experiment with it. Try different spots on the guitar(starting at the 14th fret, 8-12" out), different angles, from above, from below. Get to know YOUR mic and how it interacts with YOUR guitar. Become an expert at recording your guitar in mono, and if you want it to be thicker, record it twice.

Then when you've mastered that, buy another of the same mic(which you already know and love) and start playing with stereo recording.

My two red pills

Davedog Fri, 01/08/2016 - 16:41

Late, as is my way..........One thing not mentioned is self-noise. Something you want to avoid since by your description you're going to be doing some finger picking. Having a set-up that allows you a lot of gain volume without adding any noise is the best consideration regardless of price. However, in my experience the pricier better mics demonstrate a quieter operation than many budget mics. Preamps as well. The Scarlett is a nice quiet pre/interface with enough gain.

Especially finger picking. You want to place the mic out far enough to experience the guitar's tonal 'bloom' as well as capturing the nuances in the finger technique. Having a room that isn't acoustically sound can add some background frequencies that you most definitely hear with a mic jacked up loud so this where the positioning becomes important. I've recorded in many weird and odd places and there is almost always a sweet spot to be found. Takes time and effort but worth it every time.

took-the-red-pill Fri, 01/08/2016 - 18:33

Sorry, I had written that you should start out in front of the sound hole. I meant at the 14th fret and avoid the sound hole. Fixed.

So what do you think Dave? Should he start getting used to recording with a stereo pair, or work on getting mono material figured out first, and then add another mic?

I suppose one consideration is that odds of getting an actual matched pair go up with price, and if they are bought at the same time. Is there any merit to that route??

Davedog Fri, 01/08/2016 - 19:01

Yes. Mono.
Without dead-on acoustics a stereo pair will invite things into the equation that are better left out. I ONLY use an X/Y stereo pair for acoustic when I need real impact from the instrument. A foot or so out from the upper bout of an acoustic in X/Y and strummed gives not just somewhat of a stereo field, but it really focuses the 'hit' of the pick on the strings. Much like a stereo pair over a drum kit does.

If there's to be two mics on acoustic I always use a close mic in the upper bout/ 12th fret or so area and another mic below the box aimed across the top like you mic a snare drum. I also will put this mic 'over-the-shoulder' if I want more 'air' in the sound.

Finger picking is different, however. To get the clarity while retaining the intimacy you have to have something with a lot of sensitivity and gain and no noise. It doesn't do any good to crank something that brings the noise floor into being.

I've been using LDC's for this kind of work for a while now. 414, U67, U87, Bock U195, active ribbon (Cathedral Pipes Seville), These mics will let me put more of the soundhole into play with the placement. Once I find the spot that gets the highs as well as the lows, I rotate the mic on axis until it clears the bar. Most times I'm on the Phoenix Audio DRS Q4M since it has a wonderful EQ section. Its sorta inductor style.

DonnyThompson Sat, 01/09/2016 - 03:15

Davedog, post: 435079, member: 4495 wrote: active ribbon (Cathedral Pipes Seville),

I've been hoping for the chance that I might come across that mic in my various home-studio consultation travels - unfortunately, what I see most of are cheap Chinese condensers. Lots of them.

It's rare that I even come across a cheap ribbon mic on my consult gigs. I dunno, it seems like younger guys just don't know much about ribbons - or care to know - how great they can sound in a multitude of applications; a ribbon/sm57 combo is still my favorite go-to for guitar amp miking... that array on a Fender HR DeVille, or any other great tube amp.... it's like... "instant tone".
I LOVE to use that array on Mesa Boogie combos whenever I get the chance, because Boogie combo's can so easily sound naturally harsh in the upper mids ... but ribbon mics handle that mid range so sweetly...

I'd like to hear more from you about that CP Ribbon mic, Dave. ;)

Davedog Wed, 01/13/2016 - 21:54

Hi Donny. If you give a listen to latest release I produced and engineered you can hear just that. Tracey Fordice and The 8 Balls ' Out Of The Blues'. All except a couple of rhythm guitar tracks are a Conrad amp and either a Royer R101 ribbon and an old SM57 or the Cathedral Pipes Seville and the 57. All but one of the leads is the Conrad Tweed Deluxe 5E3 with an alnico Weber.The other is a Conrad Blues Jammer amp and that was definitely the Seville with a 57. ALL the guitars were through the Manley DMMP and were recorded flat with no compression. The mixes were also flat except an HPF at 98hz rather steep and maybe a little bit of either Soundtoys delay or the Tel-Ray. Les Pauls, ES 359. Strat and Tele. Rhythm guitars were Les Pauls, Tele, Gretsch Silver Jet, Strat, and SG. Some were through the Eleven rack......