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Hi all.

I'm having a rough time tracking acoustic guitar at home. I'm using a cheap MXL 991 to try to record my record my martin and am having the worst time ever. It seems no matter where I put the mic I get washed out in bass. I've been told before by an engineer that the guitar was rather bassy but my word this is too much. So today I went the the evil empire and purchased a cheap Yamaha that I'll proudly say sounds pretty darn good. Most importantly the Yamaha has less textural stuff going on and way less bass. I got home with it and while it helped a little (less texture more articulate) it really didn't solve the problem. I found my self with the mic pointed at the 5th fret of the guitar trying to get an acceptable sound. I've had good luck in the past with other cheap mics ( especially the behringer B1 go ahead and flame me) but I feel like maybe I've really come across a set of mics that I cannot even get a passable sound out of. Could this really be the case? Is there something I'm missing? I've gotten Great Shimmering Articulate Crisp yet Warm guitar sounds out of cheap mics with run of the mill home recording equipment in the past... help me solve the puzzle


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soapfloats Sat, 05/08/2010 - 23:06

You may have found just that mic.
I own a couple of cheap pencil condensers (MXL 603s, Cascade M39s), and I've never gotten anything like that.

Ever consider doing a bass roll-off when tracking or in mixing? The M39s have a roll-off switch, which is nice.

I've recorded a Martin, a Taylor, a $100 Alvarez, and everything in between w/ the above mics.
Never had anything like this issue at 12th fret, much less the 5th.

How close is the mic to the guitar?

led Sun, 05/09/2010 - 10:20

I've placed the mics anywhere from 3", 5", 10", 20" away from the guitar. the thing that worries me is that it's not just the 991 but the 990 also (neither of which have a roll off switch.) I've tried EQing the Sh*t out of the tracks I record but eventually it just sounds like I'm listening through a notch filter. the whole low mid to bass range on the tracks has this pulsing sound it's like you can hear the air coming off of the guitar and overwhelming the mics. I've dealt with boomy but this is different. (insert sheepish grin) I do leave my mics out in the open air 24/7 but from what I'd known moisture damage is recognized as pop and crackles.

rmsaudio Sun, 05/09/2010 - 18:47

Hi Led, it could be the mics but definitely depending on the guitar it's possible to get some pretty strong bass tones. Depends on the woods used. That said, I'm wondering if your room might be influencing the sound a bit? If you've tried EQ and that makes it sound like a notch filter then it could be that you're getting some standing waves in the room. I was having that problem when trying to record my piano. I found that using omni mics, placed closer to the instrument helped a lot.

With the Cardioids you'll definitely be dealing with promity effect which will make a boomy guitar sound even boomier but, EQ will usually help (usually a simple roll off or shelf at 80-100hz) so if you're finding that the EQ is only exposing other problems, then I'd definitely try a different location in the room or different room all together.

It's a shame not to be able to record with the Martin - I'd seriously recommend trying an omni microphone to record that if you're not able to solve the problem by other means. You could get in nice and close with an omni and not have to worry about proximity effect. You'd pick up more room tone, but if you get within 4-6" you'll mostly get guitar, and you can always treat the room a bit to damp it down a bit if need be.

Best of luck with this!

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gehauser Thu, 05/13/2010 - 15:29

Try recording at a different position in the room where you hear less bass as you play the guitar (before recording). Don't sit in a corner.

I have recorded my big boomy Martins at the 12th fret fairly well with any mic I try (but I have not tried that 991 or 990).

Also, check your mic cables and connections. I have had problems with cheap mic cables, and now avoid them altogether.

What preamp are you using?

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Davedog Thu, 05/13/2010 - 17:29

It is the mic. You have run enough tests and recordings with them to see clearly that its the problem.

Buy cheap buy twice......

I dont know what your budget is for mics, but you can find really high quality stuff used if you're patient. A Shure SM81 will last you a lifetime of recording. There may be better mics, but not by much.

Audio Technica 4041,4051, Shure KSM91, lots and lots of quality mics in SDC at a reasonable outlay, but if you are serious about capturing sound and want to do it with some quality, then you owe it to your art to get good tools. The SM81 is one of the best bangs for the buck you can buy.

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soapfloats Fri, 05/14/2010 - 22:16

+1 to Dave

While I'm happy w/ my aforementioned "cheap" condensers, I do have the the SM81s on my short list.
Them or the KM 184s.....

I could go on and on about "buy cheap, buy twice" - I've been down that road many times.
I'll summarize w/ placing my mics (or any gear) into the three categories:

1. All the mics that cost $300+, I use on almost every session.
2. The ones I didn't, sit in the cabinet unless I have a track that needs a mic but no special attention.
3. SM57s and 58s. And you better believe the #2 category mics don't make an appearance until I run out of these.

Having said all that, I do have one exception to the above - recording acoustic guitar w/ my M39s. But I'll bet that if I had the 81s or 184s, it wouldn't be an exception. :wink:

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TheJackAttack Sat, 05/15/2010 - 17:07

The SM81 is a great mic. The KM184 have a top end bump that I don't like on some things. The original KM84 doesn't seem to exhibit this as much. Although there used to be a lot of debate on that KM184 vs KM84 bit.

RemyRAD Mon, 05/17/2010 - 21:29

I would hate to ask if you understand what a "side address" condenser microphone is? Is it possible you are pointing it all in the wrong direction? Believe me, you wouldn't be the first. It doesn't point along the length of the microphone. It's parallel with the length so it faces sideways. Being a large capsule condenser, off axis response usually sounds awful. Pointed in the right direction, these should be sweet. A crappy microphone preamp might also be the problem. Improper gain setting is usually the culprit. You just shouldn't be able to make a bad recording with what you have described making a bad recording with.

Probably operator error?
Mx. Remy Ann David

rmsaudio Tue, 05/18/2010 - 18:27

This is a real mystery - The fact that you're hearing this problem regardless of which mic you use is a real puzzle. The technical specs on the MXL 990 and 991 indicate that they should be relatively flat to about 4kHz. There's a hump above 4Khz on both mics so (in theory) these mics should have a bright-ish sound.

As long as your mics aren't defective I can't see any reason why these couldn't work for you. They may not have the same quality of sound or detail that higher end mics would capture, but you should still be able to get a usable sound out of them.

I'd love to hear a sample recording of what your'e dealing with, here. Generally when I encounter any problems in recording, I do the following:
1. Eliminate any extra signal path. Go as direct as you can - mic to pre to recorder.
2. Change the cable
3. Change the input (if you have more than one available on the pre)
4. Change the mic (maybe still worth trying but I'm skeptical since you've already tried both the 990 and 991)
5. Change the pre
6. Change the recorder

If you're still getting poor sound after following those 6 steps, all that is left is to change the room and the instrument ;)!

Guitarfreak Fri, 05/21/2010 - 19:51

I very much agree with what Remy said. I didn't think about that, but it makes a lot of sense. I also agree that your placement within the room could be causing problems as well. Source positioning is the number one cause of standing waves and related artifacts in my experience. I'll dare to say that it could be what you are listening on. I've had a similar experience. My guitar tracks used to sound boomy and I'd have to EQ them to hell to get them to stop sounding like a 300lb woman's thighs on a trampoline. Got a new pair of speakers, never had to EQ again :D

If everything sounds dark, then try listening on a different set of speakers. Or a different set of ears. Could you post a clip for us to hear?

led Wed, 02/16/2011 - 19:31

Hi all. sorry for the necro post but I thought that as the OP I would bring some finality to this. I'll start by saying that I really just should have bought a sm81 but I didnt so ha. anyhow it definitely was the both of the mics that were the issue. I'm not sure exactly what went wrong but they just both had lost all of their top end. (moisture maybe?!?!) I ended up buying a NOVA and a pair oc behringer C-2s. While it is true that my martin throws a serious amount of bass the main culprit was the mics. so yeah. my final oppinion is poop on mxl. I'll mention that the C-2s are noisy and brittle. I have some gain issues with them as well but not with the nova. anyhow I'm sure I'll be here with more questions in the very near future. thanks again all

Big K Thu, 02/17/2011 - 02:37

All know that Behringer is not Hi-End, but a maker of budget gear that usually works and sounds according to its price class.
A pair of C-2 for 70 $... what can you expect? If you want to record a nice x-mas song for Granny, a love ballad for ya darling or a solid Demo to the world,
rent a good mike for 2 days. That cost you maybe a 60 bucks, but you capture the sound of your Martin ever sooo much better.

Come back with questions, anytime....

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Davedog Thu, 02/17/2011 - 12:19

Martins have a lot of flex in the tops and this makes them great live instruments. Great studio instruments too, but sometimes you get one that is really bassy and this will pose a placement problem anywhere in front of the guitar, In this situation I will always place a mic over the shoulder above the players left ear( right ear for you southpaws). Anything placed in front will be at the upper bout and bass rolled off below 100hz. Fortunately for you, your guitar is good enough that its giving you a lesson in mic choices.

The MXL's sucked ass (which they do) and now you hear the limitations of the cheap small diaphram condensers.

I have a matched pair of Audio Technica 4041's and paid less than $500 for them. By the time you finally get around to buying decent mics you will have spent a much bigger total than that simply by buying cheap crap in the beginning.

This is the lesson we try to teach here and it has never been proven to be wrong. Some people with lots and lots of skills can get cheap stuff to sound decent. I am one of those, but I'm not sure you have the thirty years of experimenting to I give you my impressions based on this time line. Notice I said "decent", not good or great.....

An SM81 will cost you around $300 if you're patient and you can use them on ANYTHING! They're actually pretty good vocal mics. A KSM27 sounds really good on most everything. Am SM57/58 is a wonderful vocal mic @ $75. Might even sound good on your acoustic.

Better than those C2's by a LOT.

This, is how you learn.

rick-slo Sat, 02/26/2011 - 20:34

You can get a decent sound with a wide variety of mikes. As to the guitar, if you like the sound of it live you should be able to get a decent recording of it. Play it close to a wall to get a little better idea what it sounds like out front.
As always with such questions it helps to hear the offending recording and perhaps the sound of a reference recording that you are aiming for.