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The 5 Best Microphones For Recording Electric Bass

by | Microphones | 0 comments

Properly recorded electric bass guitar (together with the kick drum) provides the low-end foundation for pop, rock, country, and many other music styles.

When producers get the bass sound wrong, there’s no low-end to hold the track together and it sounds thin and anemic.

So it’s crucial to get the best bass sound you can!

There are two ways to record electric bass:

  • direct through a mixing console or preamp
  • miking a bass amp or cabinet

Though individual situations vary, the overall view from professional producers and engineers is that a miked bass cabinet almost always wins in terms of sound quality, punch, and fullness over going direct.

Tube bass amps especially provide great warmth and punch that can’t be captured by recording direct.

So, to get a great bass track you need a great mic to capture your amp’s sound.

I’ve chosen 5 of the best mics for recording electric bass here which will help you narrow down the dozens of mic choices you face.

All the mics I’ve chosen are dynamic mics that are able to capture low frequencies effectively.  Dynamic mics are also known for their ability to handle loud sound pressure levels (SPLs).

If you’re worried about spending a lot of money just to record bass, the good news is that most of these mics are very versatile and can be used for recording many other instruments, as well as vocals.

Best Microphones For Recording Bass Guitar

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 exactly what a dynamic mic is, how mics work, mic polar patterns, when to use them, and much more.

The 5 Best Microphones For Recording Electric Bass

Shure SM57

The Shure SM57 is probably the most widely used mic in history, and certainly one of the best-selling mics in the world.  Shure released the first SM57 in 1965, and it quickly became a go-to mic for guitars, vocals, drums, horns and more.

There are four main reasons it gained in popularity so fast.  First, as a dynamic mic, it is capable of withstanding high sound levels that can damage more delicate condenser mics.

Second, it is also built very ruggedly, making it last in the studio for many years despite constant use (and abuse).

Third, the mic just plain sounds good on many different sound sources, but especially on bass and guitar amps.

And finally, studio owners love them because they are very inexpensive compared to condenser or ribbon mics.  The SM57 retails for only about $99.00.

Hear the SM57 in action at the Shure Mic Listening Lab.

Fun Fact: The SM57 has been the podium lectern mic of choice for U.S. presidents from Lyndon Johnson to Barack Obama.

Bass Guitar Mic Shootout

Hear the SM57 here. (Click on Bass Guitar Part 1 video – the SM57 demo starts at 2:58)

Shure SM57 Specs:

  • Dynamic mic
  • Cardioid pickup pattern
  • 40 Hz – 15 kHz frequency response
  • Includes stand adapter and zippered carrying case

Check price:
AmazonzZoundsGuitar Center

Frequency response chart:
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Sennheiser e602 II

This dynamic mic is pretty simple – it is designed for use with bass drums, bass guitar cabinets and tubas, and not much more!

It provides a solid punch and fullness to recorded bass tracks.

At around $159, it’s a great value for the money!

Sennheiser e 602-II  Live Recording

Bass Mic Shootout

Bass Mic Shootout: AKG D112 / Shure SM57 / Sennheiser e602 / Electro-Voice RE20

Sennheiser e602 II Specs:

  • Dynamic mic
  • Cardioid pickup pattern
  • 20 Hz – 16 kHz frequency response
  • Includes a built-in mic stand mount
  • Comes with a mic pouch

Check price:
AmazonGuitar Center

Frequency response chart:
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Audix D6

The Audix D6 is a dynamic microphone designed for miking instruments with extended low frequencies such as kick drums, bass cabinets, toms, and large percussion.  It delivers a strong low end with lots of clarity.

It’s designed with Audix’s proprietary VLM™ diaphragm for natural, accurate sound reproduction, especially for low frequencies.

The Audix D6 can handle high SPLs (up to 144 dB) without distortion, making it ideal for miking bass cabinets.

Audix D6 Video

Bass Guitar Mic Shootout

Hear the D6 here. (click on Bass Guitar Part 2 video – the D6 demo starts at 0:20)

Audix D6 Specs:

  • Dynamic mic
  • Cardioid pickup pattern
  • 30 Hz – 15 kHz frequency response
  • Includes two mic clips and carrying pouch

Check price:
AmazonzZoundsGuitar Center

Frequency response chart:
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Heil PR40

The Heil PR40 is known for its deep bass response, making it a pro studio dynamic mic staple for recording bass and kick drums.  It has an unusually wide frequency response for a dynamic mic and is capable of handling the high SPLs that bass cabinets generate without distortion.

While $300 seems a lot for a mic for limited recording capability, the PR40 also delivers as a versatile all-around mic.

It’s ideal for voice recording and is known as the “podcaster’s/broadcaster’s choice of mic” due to its deep bass response that adds richness, depth, and resonance.

In a review, Radioworld stated, “While the PR40 is a great voice mic, it is equally at home with musical instruments, amplifiers and even kick drums. The PR40 was taped to the side of military cannons for the soundtrack of the movie ‘Letters from Iwo Jima,’ which won an Oscar for its sound.”

It is often compared to the Electro-Voice RE20 (see next review), another mic used in countless records, live concert sound, and more.  The PR40 is about $100 less than the RE-20.

The PR40 is available in champagne, gold plate, or chrome plate colors.

Heil PR40 bass demo

Heil PR40 Specs:

  • Dynamic mic
  • Cardioid pickup pattern
  • 28 Hz – 18 kHz frequency response
  • Includes a mic holder and leatherette bag

Check price:
AmazonGuitar Center

Frequency response chart:
Click image for larger popup

Electro-Voice RE20

The Electro-Voice RE20 large diaphragm dynamic mic is another industry standard used by broadcasters and sound engineers all around the world.   Plus, its cool vintage look makes it an attractive addition to any studio.

The RE20 was the 2015 TEC Technology Hall of Fame winner for its place in recording and broadcasting history.

This is a workhorse microphone that has recorded bass tracks on hundreds of hit records, film scores, and other commercial music productions around the world.  It’s a standard mic for recording kick drum too.

It is also equally at home recording vocals, guitar amps, snare, and toms.  Its smooth sound and flat frequency response make it a good choice even for overhead drum miking or acoustic guitar, applications not the norm for a dynamic microphone.

The RE20 is remarkable in that, due to its Variable-D design feature, the proximity effect is virtually non-existent, which is unheard of in a dynamic mic.

The RE20 is also known for its sound rejection at the rear of the mic, which helps minimize room ambiance in close-miking situations.

Bass Guitar Mic Shootout

Hear the RE20 here. (click on Bass Guitar Part 2 video – the RE20 demo starts at 1:10)

Electro-Voice RE20 Specs:

  • Dynamic mic
  • Cardioid pickup pattern
  • 45 Hz – 18 kHz frequency response
  • Bass roll-off switch
  • Built-in pop filter
  • Includes a standard windscreen plus an A7WS detachable windscreen for spoken word broadcast use

Check price:
AmazonzZoundsGuitar Center

Frequency response chart:
Click image for larger popup

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