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The 5 Best Microphones For Recording Acoustic Guitar

by | Microphones | 0 comments

The acoustic guitar is a staple of pop, rock, country, blues, folk and many other music styles.

Since it features so prominently in today’s music styles, getting a great sound on your acoustic guitar tracks will make your tracks shine. The right mic will make your job much easier!

Best Microphone Types For Recording Acoustic Guitar

Though just about any mic can be used to record acoustic guitar, top engineers and producers have found over the years that certain types of mics work best for the job.

The mics of choice for recording acoustic guitar are small diaphragm condenser mics and large diaphragm condenser mics.

Small Diaphragm Condenser Mics

Small diaphragm condenser mics are best used for close-miking the guitar.  Close-miking minimizes the effect of your studio’s acoustics on your recordings and gives you maximum separation, especially if you are miking other instruments at the same time.

Small diaphragm condenser mics excel at capturing lots of detail with minimal sound coloration and will pick up the dynamic nature of the instrument with depth and clarity.

Large Diaphragm Condenser Mics

Large diaphragm condenser mics can also be used for close-miking acoustic guitar, but also produce excellent results when miking the guitar at a short distance.

They are ideal mics for picking up the room’s ambiance which brings depth and space to the recording.

Though make sure the room’s ambiance is complementary to the guitar’s sound!

Pro Miking Tip

If possible, try to record acoustic guitar in stereo using one small and one large condenser mic, or a matched pair of condenser mics. The sound is wide, lush and beautiful, and is worth the effort, especially for solo guitar tracks.

To learn more about how to mic an acoustic guitar, please see this article.

To make the job of finding the best studio mics easier, I’ve put together reviews of the 5 best microphones for recording acoustic guitar under $1,000.

Review Criteria

All mics included in my reviews were chosen based on their widespread use and reputation in the professional music community.

I’ve also added my insights gained from 25+ years of experience running a very successful music production company, creating Audio Addiction Music Library, a production music library with global distribution, and recording in major studios.

Beginner’s Guide To Buying Microphones

First off, if you are new to buying microphones, please check out my Beginner’s Guide to Buying Microphones For Your Home Recording Studio.  You’ll learn the three different types of mics, how mics work, mic polar patterns, when to use them, and much more.

The 5 Best Microphones For Recording
Acoustic Guitar Under $1,000

Shure SM81-LC

The SM81 is a small diaphragm “pencil style” condenser mic that’s a studio classic for recording acoustic instruments, especially acoustic guitar and piano.

Where one SM81 can produce an excellent mono recording, a pair of these mics can give your acoustic guitar tracks a lush stereo sound.

It’s a very versatile mic. In addition to being a proven mic for acoustic guitar, the SM81 is probably the #1 mic used on hi-hats in studios around the world.

Engineers have also put the SM-81 on their must-use list for recording choirs and as overheads on drum kits.

Though studio owners frequently disagree on gear, they do agree on this:  The SM81 is one mic that they buy and never sell.  It gets used time and time again.

Hear the SM81-LC in action at the Shure Mic Listening Lab.

Shure SM81-LC

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Shure SM81-LC Specs:

  • Small diaphragm condenser mic
  • Cardioid pickup pattern
  • 20 Hz – 20 kHz frequency response
  • 0 dB/10 dB lockable attenuator switch
  • Includes swivel adapter, foam windscreen and carrying case

Frequency response chart:
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Rode NT5 Single or a Matched Pair

Rode is a manufacturer of high-end microphones that have been studio staples for many years.  The Rode NT5 is their premier small diaphragm condenser “pencil mic”.

Like The SM81, it’s an excellent choice for recording acoustic instruments, especially acoustic guitar, piano, drum overheads, and cymbals.

A single NT5 is about $120 less than an SM-81.

But for a little more money than for one SM-81, you can get a matched pair of NT5s!  Many professional studios have a set in their mic locker alongside their higher-priced mics.

If you are looking for two mics for recording in stereo, the NT5 offers a ton of value for the price.   Two NT5s on acoustic guitar produces very warm and detailed stereo acoustic guitar recordings.

NOTE: Rode recently posted this announcement about purchasing from Amazon in the U.S.:

“RØDE Microphones does not authorize Fulfilled By Amazon. We have purchased counterfeit RØDE products using Fulfilled by Amazon and highly recommend that you only purchase RØDE products from authorized dealers.

If you purchase any RØDE microphone from an unauthorized dealer via Fulfilled By Amazon you will not receive any U.S. warranty or technical support.”

Doing a quick check, I see lots of authorized dealers on Amazon that include Sam Ash, Music 123, and GearNuts. 

So, make sure you buy from dealers directly, not when it says “Ships from and sold by Amazon.com.  You’ll find other sellers than Amazon under the “New” section (ex: “9 New from $399.00”).

Please use this link to find authorized Rode dealers both online and for brick and mortar shops.

Rode NT5 Single Microphone

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Rode NT5 Specs:

  • Small diaphragm condenser mic
  • Cardioid pickup pattern
  • 20Hz – 20 kHz frequency response
  • Includes mic stand mount, windshield, and custom carrying case

Frequency response chart:
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Rode NT5 MP Matched Pair

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Rode NT5 MP Matched Pair Specs:

  • Small diaphragm condenser mic
  • Cardioid pickup pattern
  • 20Hz – 20 kHz frequency response
  • Includes mic stand mounts, windshields and custom carrying case

Frequency response chart:
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AKG C451B

c451b-hitsThe original AKG C451 became a best-seller not long after it was brought to market in 1969.  It’s been a studio standard recording mic since the 80s and 90s and has long been a popular on-stage mic as well.

The newer C451B, released in 2001, follows that heritage with a redesigned hand-crafted capsule and low-noise preamp electronics.

It is an excellent mic for acoustic guitar, adding lots of sparkle, clarity, and depth to a recording.

Other Uses

The C451B is not a one-trick pony – it has found many uses in pro studios around the world:

  • It’s a favorite mic for close-miking loud sound sources, as it can handle sound levels up to 155dB.
  • A pair of them is many studio engineers’ favorites as overhead mics for drums.
  • Quite a few producers and engineers swear by a pair of them on grand piano.

AKG C451B

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AKG C451B Specs:

  • Large diaphragm condenser mic
  • Cardioid pickup pattern
  • A switchable pad (10dB and20dB)
  • 20 Hz – 20 kHz frequency response
  • Includes mic stand adapter, windscreen, and microphone bag

Frequency response chart:
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Neumann TLM 103

Neumann has been a premier microphone manufacturer for over 80 years, and their mics are found in virtually every recording studio throughout the world.

Many Neumann mics like the classic U47, U67, and U87 models have been the gold-standard for both instrumental and vocal recording for many decades.

While those high-end mics are out of reach for many studio owners, you can still get the famous Neumann sound with their TLM line of mics, and especially the TLM 103.

The TLM 103 is a large diaphragm condenser mic.  Its capsule is derived from the famous U87 which gives it great detail and clarity.

I’ve been a very happy TLM 103 owner for many years.  I’ve found it excels on acoustic guitar recordings, giving them air and depth while highlighting the energy and dynamics of the performance.

This mic is capable of recording sounds down to 20Hz.  Because of its extreme sensitivity to low frequencies, it’s recommended for use with an elastic shock mount.

It is also an ideal close-up mic for winds, strings, percussion, and drum overheads.

Neumann TLM 103

Check price:
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Neumann TLM 103 Specs:

  • Large diaphragm condenser mic
  • Cardioid pickup pattern
  • 20 Hz – 20 kHz frequency response
  • 144 dB max SPL
  • Includes mic clip, windscreen, and hard shell case

Frequency response chart:
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Blue Microphones Dragonfly

Blue Microphones makes a wide range of cool and distinctive looking mics at a variety of price points.

Blue Mics are especially popular with home studio owners as they deliver exceptional sound quality at an affordable price.

The Dragonfly is a handcrafted Class A large diaphragm condenser mic that has received a lot of praise for adding “excitement” and “sizzle” to acoustic guitar tracks.

Over and over, owners say that it brings a “ bright lively sound” to acoustic guitar, which makes it especially valuable for recording dull sounding guitars or inexpensive guitars that can sound lifeless.

As befitting a mic that delivers tons of value, the Dragonfly won Electronic Musician’s 2001 Editors’ Choice Award for Best Microphone.

It has a unique integrated elastic shock mount and a rotating head that really makes it easy to find an acoustic guitar’s “sweet spot” without having to move the mic stand or performer around over and over.

Blue Mics recommends rotating the capsule between the 12th fret and sound hole of an acoustic guitar to dial in a perfectly balanced sound.

Besides acoustic guitar, it’s ideal for vocals, drum overheads, acoustic guitar, piano and more.

Blue Mics Dragonfly

Check price:
AmazonzZoundsGuitar Center

Blue Mics Dragonfly Specs:

  • Large diaphragm condenser mic
  • Cardioid pickup pattern
  • 20 Hz – 20 kHz frequency response
  • 138 dB max SPL
  • Includes a shock mount and linen storage box

Frequency response chart:
Click image for larger popup

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