Which Mic for Guitar Amp?

Discussion in 'Guitars' started by brad3e, Nov 25, 2004.

  1. brad3e

    brad3e Guest

    Hi, I am looking for an accurate mic to get the sound from my Carr Mercury amp, I feel as I spent money good money on my amp that I need a good mic for recording to get the true sound. My budget is $500 - $1000.

    What mic do you recommend?


    Please share any comments on these mics:
    Royer R-121
    Sennheiser 441
    AKG 414
    Shure SM57 (I realize it's a lot less money than the others)

    Any comments are greatly appreciated, thanks!

  2. RecorderMan

    RecorderMan Distinguished Member

    Mar 28, 2001
    get two:
    121 an 57 (57 is cheap anyways)
  3. inLoco

    inLoco Active Member

    Jul 25, 2004
    which pre will u be using? have to have a good pre!
  4. Mario-C.

    Mario-C. Active Member

    Nov 17, 2002
    Mexico City
    Home Page:
    EV RE-20
  5. eddies880

    eddies880 Guest

    shure SM58----or-------57
    I may be old school---but they work great.
    You may want to look into different threads about where to place mics to get all of youre tone recorded,I know the guys at recording.org have helped me out tremedosly. :cool:
  6. brad3e

    brad3e Guest

    "The Brick" Groove Tubes Pre

    Hi, I will be using the Groove Tubes Brick Mic Pre or the Pre amp from my RME fireface
  7. SpotMode

    SpotMode Guest

    re: Which Mic for Guitar Amp

    Hi, Brad,

    So you know where I'm coming from, I'm a freelance recording engineer who has worked on a variety of projects over the past 12 years, but mostly on commercial music for Hummingbird Productions in Nashville, TN. I record a wide variety of guitarists and amps on a regular basis in several different venues in more styles than I could probably think to name off the top of my head. I'm not the world's leading expert, but I have a master's degree from the school of hard knocks. :wink:

    At the risk of seeming overly complicated, mic choice depends on:
    · the style of music,
    · the particular musical part being played,
    · the sound of the guitar being played,
    · the amp settings,
    · who's playing the guitar,
    · how he's playing it,
    · what room the amp's in,
    · where it's placed in the room, and
    · how the part will fit into the other elements in the mix.

    Think about it: what is the "true sound" of an amp? The recording process is seldom one of capturing and reproducing a theoretically pure sound unless you're talking about classical music where capturing the room acoustics is a major component of the sound. Recording popular music forms is basically an elaborate magic trick. That idea might seem unappealing at first, but once you recognize the truth of it, recording becomes a lot more fun. Now, if you do happen to play classical electric :!:, get a Decca tree's worth of DPA 4041 mics and Martech MSS-10 pres, and be sure to use heavy gauge OFC cabling. And record on a stage in a great hall or chamber music room from a distance of several feet. But otherwise...

    With an electric guitar, you want to capture the musical essence of the part, and present it with the illusion that the listener is hearing it in whatever context the producer deems appropriate. To accomplish that, you use your ears and trust your instincts, both of which will become more reliable with practice. You'll find that the same amp can sound dramatically different if any one of the above listed elements is changed. Try it yourself. You can change the tone of an amp pretty dramatically sometimes simply by rotating it as little as 15 degrees, or by moving it over 6", or by setting it on a chair instead of on the floor, or by putting carpet under it, or setting a gobo behind it, or... ad infinitum. Mic choice is important, but is a relatively minor consideration by comparison with almost everything else. After all, a guitarist's tone comes chiefly from his fingers, doesn't it?

    That said, for close mics, an SM-57 is definitely the "desert island" choice -- you can always get a useful guitar amp sound with a 57 close to the grill if you take the time to find the sweet spots (put your ear where you think you want to place the mic and listen to the hiss pattern - w/o the guitar plugged in, of course!). It might not always be exactly the tone you wanted (often it will), but it can always work.

    In very general terms, my experience is to lean toward:
    · Shure SM-57 for most pop, blues, R&B, and country
    · Sennheiser MD-421 for most rock
    · Ribbon mics for most jazz and pre-1960's style music

    If you play only rock, you could get away with just a 421, and if you can have two mics, one of them should be a 421. The 421 is about half the price of the 441, and I think it's just as good on cabinets. You might want to go with the 441 if you intend to use it often for other things as well, like percussion or BGVs. But if you're just going for cabinet, the 441 will not provide a significant advantage over it's cheaper sibling, in my experience. The humbucker coil design adds beef and good coloration that is appropriate for a tough, meaty tone. For really heavy rock I'll even go so far as to use a D-12 (or D-112) for the rhythm parts and 421 for the lead. More often, I'll use a 57 for rhythm and 421 for lead. or vice versa, depending on which part needs to be ballsier. Again, you can control that to a far greater degree with mic placement than with mic choice. But a 421 will yield a meatier tone than a 57, all other things being equal. It may also sound less natural and present, though. It will often need more EQ, resulting in an even more strongly colored sound - which can be good as often as not.

    The AKG 414 comes in a few different flavors, but I generally wouldn't use any of them as a close mic for guitar amp unless the amp was rather dark and not very punchy - say, a Twin Reverb or Vox with really worn out speakers. It does make a good distance mic, though, if you have a fairly large and nice sounding room to record it in. Or if you have a weird sounding room, like a long narrow closet or bathroom, and you want a twisted kind of tone, use a 414 in figure-8 maybe 3 or 4 feet from the amp and a couple feet above it. But it's certainly not normally the mic I reach for first for a cabinet.

    If your chief aim is to capture the details of the air moved by the amp in the room, a ribbon mic is often the best choice. It tends to yeild a sweeter and perhps more delicate sound, so it's not my first choice for rock and pop except for certain clean tones under certain conditions. Actually, it's a great mic for a Princeton amp. Don't know whether the Carr is bright like a Princeton. If you're going to compress your gtr tone on the way to your recording medium or in the mix, I don't know whether there's much point in using a ribbon for any purpose other than taming the shrillness of a bright amp, because the compressor is likely to iron out whatever subtleties the mic captured. But if you're going to let it breathe, the ribbon will more faithfully deliver the details of the dynamic character of your playing, on the whole.

    All that said (and it's only the beginning of what could be said), it can be useful to recall to mind that which was spoken by the prophet Kenny Mimms (Nashville guitarist/producer/engineer). He once showed up for an el gtr overdub session with nothing but a Strat and the smaller size of Pignose amp, set the amp down on the piano bench, plugged in, and started tuning up. Knowing better than to question a guy with decades of pro experience recording guitars, I got out a 57 and began carefully placing it in my characteristic, obsessively precise way, a little off center cone, a little off axis, not quite touching the grill, etc. He shook his head, and said, "David, I'm gonna let you in on my secret microphone technique. If you want to record something, git _A_ microphone and POINT - IT - AT - IT!" Usually, that's about all it takes.

    BTW, that day, we successfully got three very different and perfectly good guitar tones for three interlocking musical parts out of that one guitar/amp combo with that one 57 in the same placement. The demo went master, and we didn't need to rerecord the el gtr parts - it went on the air that way, and sounded fine. And I learned a major time-saving lesson: if you want great guitar tones, hire a great guitarist and don't worry about the mic. So, now I have time to post encyclopedias to RO, right? :lol:

    David Finnamore
  8. brad3e

    brad3e Guest


    David, that was the most in depth and educational response I've ever gotten, thank you! I play mostly rock and blues and was afraid an inexpensive mic like an SM57 would not do the trick to capture my amps tone, I will also look into the 421 as you reccommend too. Thanks again for your help!
  9. Fede

    Fede Active Member

    Nov 3, 2004
    The SM57 is the old workhorse. It'll never suck, might be fantastic but in most cases it'll just be alright.

    The MD421 can often do a bit more - but not always.

    My special dark horse that I recently discovered is the Sennheiser e609. Sonically, this is a really really sweet version of the SM57. I like it A LOT(!) for semi-clean, funky, tight, mildly to moderately driven, bright amptones. It's got a very full bottom end and mids, the higher mids are not scooped but somehow they are so much sweeter than with SM57 (and MD421), and then it's got a great, crisp top end (6-8kHz) that'll give a guitar a very lovely edge that is not obtrusive and annoying, just crisp!

    Especially for live work where the higher mids on a guitar cabinet (2~4 kHz) can kill within 40 yards, this mic ROCKS! It doesn't scoop them out, but somehow it completely neutralizes them, rendering them harmless over a PA - and then the full, very punchy bottom and the crisp attack are a pleasure to listen to! Highly recommended (by me, at least) - doesn't cost much...

    Not great for metal-type distorted guitars, though.

    Another advantage - because of it's peculiar shape, it is made so that i can be hung from the cable down in front of an amp, rendering a micstand unnecessary. Saves money, weight and time!
  10. eddies880

    eddies880 Guest

    Looks like you recieved some informative information :cool:
    I totally agree with "Spot"
    I personally have used 58s and 57s for many years,---sometimes they capture the tone,and sometimes they dont,its all about mic placement.
    Ive used a condensor mic up frt and a dynamic mic at back and vise-a-versa----hours on end trying to find what works best,and in the end,I found out that sometimes,the simpler,the better.
    Trust youre ears dude!
    Good Luck :cool:
  11. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Dec 10, 2001
    Pacific NW
    I do some recording with a Carr Hammerhead...As far as accuracy,the Carr will take care of that by itself.You will want a mic that is relativly flat in response so as not to alter the incredible tone of these monster amps.I will use an old Unidyne III SM57 or lately an upgraded ADK A51 LD condenser.Your main task will be to find the sweet spot on the amp and go with that.I would avoid the 414 for a close mic as it is quite colored in its sound.As has been mentioned it will work well out in the room but not in tight.The 421 is a go-to mic as are the others ..If you're looking for that slightly over the top heaviness thats so prevalent these days, stick an ATM25 on there or a D112 kick mic as well as a 57 or 421.Check for phase and have fun.That Carr is an amazing rig.

    Thanks to Spotmode for an excellent post.Glad to have you here.
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