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Budget Microphones for Recording Acoustic Guitars

I don't have much of a budget but I want something better or rather more suited than the AT-3035 which I use for vocals. I hear good things about the SM-57 (my budget is about the cost of one, or $100) but not sure if that extends to Micing an acoustic guitar. I'd like to blend my pickup with it to get a nice mix of a sound.

I'm just doing straight up strumming for the most part. I don't do much to any finger picking.


godchuanz Thu, 08/16/2012 - 10:18
I actually think the AT3035 would work well as an acoustic guitar microphone. I personally prefer condensers over the SM57 for acoustic guitars, as they capture the highs a bit better.

However, I think the SM57 is really staple for electric guitar cabinets and everyone should get one (at least). I think it should work decent on the acoustic guitar too, especially if you use it together with a condenser. You'd then have more sounds to choose and mix from :)

pan60 Fri, 08/17/2012 - 09:43
I am not familiar with the AT-3035, but I almost always recommend a good dynamic or two over some of the more affordable condensers.
I am not into buying a condenser for the sake of having a condenser.
a couple good dynamics i like would be the SM-57( some others ), the Audix OM-2 ( as well as some others ), the Electrovoice re 10, 11, 16, or 16 ( as well as some others i love ev mics ) some older AKG mics can be very nice as well. i look for used dynamics all the time. used has it pros and cons be aware. if buying the used don't give to much! these almost will always need repair or service and that can get costly.

RemyRAD Fri, 08/17/2012 - 22:06
In many ways and quite often, plucked acoustic guitars can really benefit from the slight bandwidth limitations of a dynamic mic like the 57. And the tonality of the guitar can be quite large, warm, robust much more so than a thin and crispy sounding " studio condenser microphone" thingy. Then they are equally great vocal microphones with plenty of foam pop filtering. And they reject a lot of ambient noise that condenser microphones oh so love to pick up.

You're headin' in the right direction.
Mx. Remy Ann David

havana Mon, 08/20/2012 - 03:07
CAD C195. Since this is the second time I've kinda "promoted" this mic, Someone might think I work for CAD lol! No I don't but I do have 3 of these mics which I think are a pretty good buy for less then $60.
Great on acoustic guitars and vocals.[=""]CAD Audio - The Brand Used by Professionals![/]="http://www.cadaudio…"]CAD Audio - The Brand Used by Professionals![/]

[[url=http://="http://www.zzounds…"]CAD C195 Handheld Vocal Condenser Mic at zZounds[/]="http://www.zzounds…"]CAD C195 Handheld Vocal Condenser Mic at zZounds[/]

RemyRAD Mon, 08/20/2012 - 12:55
Look for the cost of a SHURE Beta 57/58... you could get a ribbon microphone. Previous poster loves his condenser microphones. And that's fine. Capacitor/condenser microphones are actually quite cheap to create for less than $.98. Whereas a ribbon and/or a really good dynamic microphone requires an appreciable amount of resources. It's something that has to be manufactured and not just punched out from three little ingredients of almost nothing. Today, dynamic microphones can also be mass-produced. But ribbon microphones are still largely handmade. Although those too are going through an automated metamorphosis.

Still, we are talking about three different types of microphones. Each of which feature a pro and a con. But then since this is the most important factor in any kind of acoustic recording, one shouldn't necessarily limit themselves to a single type, simply because they think it sounds better than something of which they don't understand quite yet. And you've got a single person here recommending to you from over 41 years of experience in the business of broadcasting and recording arts and sciences, of whether you want to do just pen and ink or, something with color.

The only microphones I don't use our crystal and carbon unless I need that effect and sound. Though I know how to engineer and fake those acoustical timbre's. And that only comes through the judicious use of lots of outboard gobbledygook and screwing up your settings on the console. LOL. Simpler to just have the right microphones but hey, those aren't microphones we would typically utilize much in a studio application. Sure I've got them both. It's just out of laziness, generally. You've got to get the telephone hybrid out that will power up the carbon microphone and touch tone keypad if you don't have a 1920s Western Electric carbon microphone sitting around. On the CB radio microphones, you still have to plug them into a high impedance input JFET input DI box. Don't forget to tape down the push to talk button. All of which I have also done. You've heard those telephone and police call effects. Some are done with the real equipment and some are done by the engineers who know how to. Instead of calling us audio engineers, you can call us Perceptible Modifiers? That's our job. That's what we do. That's all we do. And that's why we all know this incredible plethora of useless information. LMAO

Any other questions?
Mx. Remy Ann David

pan60 Mon, 08/20/2012 - 17:47
With the exception of multiple pattern ribbon mics I think ribbons have the potential to be THE MOST affordable dynamic mics ever, extremely simple in basics theory. And I think we will see this in the near future, if not, to some degree now.
Moving coil dynamic mics are among the most complex mic of all ( IMHO ) aside from the moving coils weight, the diaphragms weight and material, you will also have to deal with some acoustic dynamic omni or not? If not, then that opens a whole new can of worms. But it is, for the most part all automated and as a result affordable.
Quality condenser mics can be costly do to so extreme tolerances ( among others ), and a degree of the work is done by hand, time consuming and costly. They can be much more affordable when mass produced. Some of the these capsule may be cherry picked but still not the same as a hand lapped, fitted and correctly tuned capsule, not to mention other items make a mic a mic.

For the record, I am a much bigger fan of affordable dynamic mics then that of the more affordable condensers.

This now leads to a small bit of a rant.
I have given in over the years and reluctantly started referring in short to microphones as mics.
mic no no no no, mike!

When did a mike become a mic?

Davedog Mon, 08/20/2012 - 19:49
I dont disagree with anything here for the most part. But the quality of a guitar recording, especially acoustic and strummed, is going to depend heavily on the guitar itself. There are plenty of inexpensive small diaphragm condensers that will sound good with an acoustic guitar used in this way. A 57 is a fine mic, I have several....they sound much better through a higher end preamp....ribbons are great....I have a couple of good ones....they too need quality gain for that detail....I really do NOT like a lot of the current crop of cheap condensers ldc and sdc but as I said there are good ones if you do your diligent home work. The mic you have, however, is probably better than any you might find at your price point. My suggestion is to experiment with placement (a lot!) till you find the sweet spot for that mic with the guitar you have. Audio Technica mics are fine machinery and will not let you down once you learn inside and out what they will do for you.

Its all about placement. The axis the mic is on is very important. The amount of tilt, the spot on the guitar, the distance from the guitar, the amount of gain you need for your recording levels.....learn these things before you spend a dollar on anything.

kmetal Mon, 08/20/2012 - 21:33
I can make Neumannn 87 sound terrible if i place it wrong. i can also make a crappy guitar sound as crappy as it does if i place it right. The more sensitive the mic, the more detail it's picking up. great for good players/instruments/rooms, not so much otherwise. 87, or a/pair of rhode nt-5's are my go-to acoustic guitar mics, and i make decisions from there if necessary.

took me a few weeks to find the right spots (of myself w/in a crappy room, and the mic placement) on a budget acoustic when i got my 414. It showed me just how bad my room could sound.

i love my sm 57's, for anything. may not be the 'best' for everything, never bad tho, unless ya really screw it up. if i only had 1 mic, that would be my choice so far.

Don't sleep on the 3035, it's a decent mic. Maybe you'd want to try the akg c3000. only if your looking for a low cost LDC that is worth money.

Between a 57 and a 3035 you should be able to achieve a decent sound. W/ no experience on ribbons, i can only trust the numerous pro's who praise them, and FWIW the beyer 160 is the next mic i'm gonna buy. (not necessarily for acoustics tho).

I'm suspecting some of your disappointment is w/ the blend between the mic/DI. Phase, ya gotta make sure the mic 'enhances' the DI (provided it's wired in phase).

BobRogers Tue, 08/21/2012 - 02:34
Why do you think the AT 3035 is unsuitable? What is it you are hearing that you don't like? I don't think there is any chance that your will get a condenser around $100 that will give you a better sound. I agree with the previous posters who recommend experimenting with mic placement, position in the room, choice of room, gain settings, eq, compression.

With that said, trying another category of mic is a good idea. If you go searching around the web and look at the mic lockers of high end studios you will find that the SM57/58 is usually the only $100 mic on the list. As Remy was indicating, the fact that it rolls off some highs can be an advantage - hiding pick noise, finger squeaks, the sounds of a less than stellar guitar. It's a very good live sound mic, and if you are going to be playing live you should learn how to use a 57 to best advantage. It's not the final answer to recording acoustic guitar. If you keep at this, you will certainly buy more expensive mics and improve your acoustic guitar sound. But at $100, the 57 is far and away my top recommendation.

While the 57 is the better long-term investment, I love the sound of ribbon mics on acoustic instruments. In the budget category, I own the Cascade Fat Heads (about $170 on sale). I have better ribbons now (Beyer, AEA, Royer $700-$1,200) so I rarely use the Cascades for recording. But I use them every week live in church to mic mandolin and violin. I also have the Aventone CR-14 ($260) which is a step up from the Cascades. (It's about the same price as the Cascades with the upgraded transformers. There has been a lot of speculation around here that the transformer upgrade would push the Cascades to another level, but I haven't seen a review where any of the frequent posters around here have gotten their hands on them.)

Kurt Foster Wed, 08/22/2012 - 16:47
Nothing is more critical in recording than the choice and use of transducers. I submit one decent mic is better than a locker full of cheap knock offs. A 57 would be better than any of the Chinese things available. If you insist on buying a Chinese mic, get one off Craigslist for cheap. Those things are listed all the time for well under a hundred bucks often with pop screens and stands and there's good reason why. People have bought them only to find they work best as a door stop.

I prefer USA, German, Japanese, Austrian (not Australian) mics for the most part. SHURE, EV, ATM, Neumann, Microtech-Gefell, Beyer are all good. I have also had some success with KEL and Audix mics.

For acoustic guitars I generally prefer some type of small diaphragm pencil type condensers like the AKG 451, 451L or the C451LB. I have several vintage ones here as well as a matched pair of C460's I want to unload but they aren't going to go cheap.


pan60 Thu, 08/23/2012 - 20:54
RCA make a couple models as well did Altec and probably some I am not familiar with.
Can not say lot but what the future of ribbons.
Making a multi pattern ribbon is not a secret nor is it all that complex the issue is the cost of doing it effectively.
I think AEA recently made a copy of the RCA.
I post a picture of one I snagged my facebook page not to long ago if recall?

moonbaby Fri, 08/24/2012 - 09:26
Those microphones are not "multi-pattern", they are "figure-8". One side of the mic may have a slighty different response plot, yielding a different sound depending on which side of the mic is pointing at the source. "Multi-pattern" microphones have a selectable polar pattern that you can switch between. Two very different animals...

pan60 Fri, 08/24/2012 - 17:57
They are "multi-pattern" yes, yes they are.
They will do figure eight as well as cardiod , so I think I would call that multi pattern yes?
They use a Labyrinth on the back side to make the mic variable from figure eight to cardioid. not all ribbon are made this way few are, you are correct in your think with most ribbon bit not all.
Attached files

RemyRAD Sat, 08/25/2012 - 01:20
All ribbon microphones were figure of 8 back at the beginning of time. The RCA 77 A B and C, were strictly figure of 8. Once they installed the acoustical labyrinth in, and with a screwdriver, you can change the pattern from figure of 8 to cardioid. And that was the 77 DX and the X meant changeable patterns.

Some figure of 8 ribbons have some kind of frequency response tailoring that makes the front side different sounding from the back side. Not sure WTF why anybody would want one of those? Totally useless for MS stereo microphone technique. I mean what kind of consumer oriented moron thought that up? That's like wanting to have a piano with the low notes made by Steinway with the middle of the keyboard made by Baldwin and the high notes made by Yamaha. Not going to be available any time soon. Definitely a major DIY for that one. It would be like trying to bring back the Zion Coptic Church.

After Sunday I will be one 36 input Neve down.
Mx. Remy Ann David

What kind of cat fight are you two guys getting into?

BobRogers Sat, 08/25/2012 - 03:16
RemyRAD, post: 392808 wrote: All ribbon microphones were figure of 8 back at the beginning of time. The RCA 77 A B and C, were strictly figure of 8. Once they installed the acoustical labyrinth in, and with a screwdriver, you can change the pattern from figure of 8 to cardioid. And that was the 77 DX and the X meant changeable patterns.
I read somewhere that the 77D did that too, no?

The basic physics of the ribbon makes the naked ribbon itself inherently figure 8 - pressure gradient transducer. So you have to do some fiditzeling to make it anything else. Does anyone know how Beyer makes the 160 hypercardioid? I own it but have never taken it apart.

Some figure of 8 ribbons have some kind of frequency response tailoring that makes the front side different sounding from the back side. Not sure WTF why anybody would want one of those? Totally useless for MS stereo microphone technique. I mean what kind of consumer oriented moron thought that up? That's like wanting to have a piano with the low notes made by Steinway with the middle of the keyboard made by Baldwin and the high notes made by Yamaha. Not going to be available any time soon. Definitely a major DIY for that one. It would be like trying to bring back the Zion Coptic Church.
That would be David Royer. All of the R series mics have the "patented offset technology." Here's what he says the advantage is, "This proprietary arrangement gives the ribbon element more room to move within the prime magnetic field and maintain full frequency response during high SPL recordings. It's an integral part of the magic in all Royer R-series microphones." Of course, it also gives you two flavors - badge up and badge down - when recording mono. But as you say, makes it useless as a side mic. The only Royer I have is the stereo SF-12. It can be used either M/S or Blumlein. It's maybe my favorite mic, and I'd love to get more Royers. The R101s are on my shopping list.

After Sunday I will be one 36 input Neve down.
I hope its going to a good home.

mberry593 Sat, 08/25/2012 - 08:50
I have a 77 D. I just sent it to AEA for a new ribbon. It sounds great in the cardioid position. In the bi-directional position the high end isn't as good. That's sort of counter-intuitive...I would expect it to perform best in figure 8 as that is the natural pattern for the ribbon.

I have also noted that on some condenser mics....the fig 8 position seems to have less high freq.

The D and DX models are very similar. The DX has a different transformer that gives it a higher output.

RemyRAD Sat, 08/25/2012 - 13:39
Budget ribbon? Well then my recommendation would be Cascades and a couple of others that are importing similar Chinese ribbon microphones. Audio technica, is also producing a range of more affordable ribbon microphones. I own seven ribbon microphones and for over 40 years, I've been rather savvy about the need to also possess this microphone technology for any professional. But without a ribbon microphone in your arsenal, you would be only as professional as thinking McDonald's is a fine culinary cuisine. It would be like owning a car, never knowing where the gasoline should be installed? You would be like some of those rich Middle Eastern guys that purchases a Cadillac and when it runs out of gas, abandon it and go get a new one. So anyone who thinks of themselves as a " Recording Engineer " would be presenting a limited knowledge of experience as a professional, if one does not have a ribbon microphone.

Why do you think so many guys are putting both a 57 and a ribbon on guitar amplifier speakers? It's because they are neither in phase nor out of phase, in comparison to other diaphragmatic-based microphone technologies. Pressure or pressure gradient is applicable to diaphragmatic-based microphone technologies. Ribbons are velocity microphones and as such are operating from the speed of the sound source rather than its pressure force. This also means that there phasing is 90-270° differential from pressure and pressure gradient microphones. This is another reason why they mix so well together and make for huge amplified guitar sounds. You experience incongruent timing errors when trying to combine say, a dynamic and a condenser microphone at equal distances. They are either in phase or out of phase. And in that way, are more prone to producing timing errors that set up huge comb filtering in spectral areas you don't want. And I really don't think that many people realize this? It's totally audible and comprehensible to me. And this is how I see the sound waves clashing.

Yeah Mikey, I keep telling people that a 57 on an acoustic guitar can outshine most anyone's condenser/capacitor microphone. Nice proximity effect. No air-conditioning rumble. No extra room noise. And quite articulated and precise sounding through decent preamps and even through average preamps. And it's gentle high-frequency roll off from its bandwidth limitations along with its low frequency roll off, takes care of not having to do it yourself. Plus, too many people don't understand the importance of high pass filtering. And even low pass filtering. Not everything sounds good through gizmos that all go 20-20,000 or, 5-600 kHz when you really just want 50-17,000, LOL. Or even less.

Ribbon microphones are the opposite side of a rotating door.
Mx. Remy Ann David

GZsound Mon, 08/27/2012 - 23:20
I have found that I get a better acoustic guitar sound with two SDC mics on the guitar. Currently I am using two ATM 10a mics that I bought for $30 each off craigslist. Great sounding mics.

I also use SM57's on acoustic guitars when running sound at bluegrass festivals with great results.

Mostly an acoustic guitar needs a good space for recording. That can change the tone a bunch.

kmetal Sun, 09/02/2012 - 23:59
my gameplan currently is 'mono' source, one mic. overdub for stereo effect. Unless the approach is for a stereo acoustic. a 57 will have all the punch you need for an acoustic, and a fine amount of pick attack. itt'l make mixing easier. save the money mics for ambiance, which is competing to the artificial ambiance 'verb' being employed generally.