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The Top 5 Best Microphones For Recording Electric Guitar

by | Microphones | 0 comments

Choosing the top 5 best microphones for recording electric guitar is actually pretty easy!

As it turns out, there are just a handful of mics that are proven over and over to deliver incredible guitar tracks.

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

If you’re new to buying microphones, please check out my Beginner’s Guide to Buying Microphones For Your Home Recording Studio.  You’ll learn the different types of mics discussed in this article, how mics work, mic polar patterns, when to use them, and much more.

The Top 5 Best Microphones For Recording Electric Guitar

Shure SM57

Best Microphones For Recording Electric Guitar - Hit records recorded with the Shure SM57The 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.  This makes it ideal for miking guitar amps.

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 vocals 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.

Electric Guitar Mic Comparison

This mic shootout compares the SM57 to other popular guitar amp mics.  The SM57 starts at 3:22.

Shure SM57

Check price:
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Shure SM57 Specs:

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

Frequency response chart:
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Beyerdynamic M160

Best Microphones For Recording Electric Guitar -Beyer M160Beyerdynamic, also known as Beyer, is a well-known German manufacturer of microphones and headphones that are best known for their first-class ribbon microphones.

The M160 is a legendary ribbon mic used in countless records, radio broadcasts, and audio productions since its introduction in 1952.

It utilizes a double ribbon design that produces a warm and natural transparent sound with extended frequency response.

What makes this mic so special?  The M160 utilizes a double ribbon design that produces a warm and natural transparent sound with extended frequency response.

It is also the only ribbon I know of that is a hyper cardioid mic as opposed to the normal figure-8 polar pattern.  This enables it to be used in different recording situations than a standard ribbon mic.

It is a very versatile mic.  Beyer on its website recommends its use for violins, violas, cellos, saxes and piano.

But producers and engineers have made it a first-call mic on two different instruments that Beyer didn’t recognize: drum kits and electric guitars.

The classic John Bonham/ Led Zeppelin drum sound made famous on hits like “When The Levee Breaks” and “Stairway To Heaven” were recorded with just two M160s on overheads!

Led Zeppelin – When The Levee Breaks

But as you can see from the Hit Records box, many producers and engineers love its sound on electric guitars too.  Grammy –award winning producer Eddie Kramer used the M160 as the mic of choice on Hendrix’s vocals and guitar tracks.

With a heritage like this, you can’t go wrong with this classic mic!

Electric Guitar Mic Comparison
This shootout compares the M160 to other popular guitar amp mics.  The M160 starts at 1:37.

Beyerdynamic M160

Check price:
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Beyerdynamic M160 Specs:

  • Hypercardioid pattern pickup pattern
  • 40 Hz – 18 kHz frequency response (click for freq response curve chart)
  • Includes swivel adapter, foam windscreen and carrying case

Frequency response chart:
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Sennheiser MD 421-II

Best Microphones For Recording Electric Guitar - Sennheiser MD421-IIThe MD 421-II is another classic mic that is known for its versatility.  It simply sounds good on everything – guitars, drums, group vocals, and more.

However, one of its main strengths is its ability to capture low frequencies well.  This has made it a go-to mic for recording toms and for bass or baritone voices.

For guitars, its strength is recording hard rock and metal guitar that benefits from a strong low end.  As you can see from the Hit Records Box, some great sounding rock guitar tracks were recorded with the MD 421.

It can handle the extreme sound pressure levels that loud guitar amps generate, and it has excellent feedback rejection that helps with guitar amp miking.

Its glass composite housing and hardened stainless steel basket construction will provide years of use in the most demanding situations.

Sennheiser MD 421-II 

Check price:
AmazonzZoundsGuitar Center

Sennheiser MD 421-II Specs:

  • Hypercardioid pattern pickup pattern
  • 40 Hz – 18 kHz frequency
  • Includes swivel adapter, foam windscreen and carrying case

Frequency response chart:
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AKG C414 XLS & AKG C414 XLII

c414-elec-gtrThe AKG C414 is a very popular condenser mic that has found its way into most pro studios around the world.  First introduced in 1971, it’s been part of countless hit records.

The C414 won Best Mic at the SOS Awards 2011 and was designated the 2009 MIX Certified Hit, AES.

One of the main reasons for its continued success is that it is highly versatile.  It sounds good on just about any sound source: vocals, strings, drums, percussion, etc., but shines on electric guitar.

I’ve personally used my C414-XLII to record electric guitar tracks for TV commercials, records and movie scores with great success.

The C414 XLII uses the CK12 capsule which was derived from their vintage C12 mics, while the XLS uses a newly designed capsule.

The XLII boosts the highs above 3 kHz a bit, giving the sound source a brighter sound.  This is great for guitar and results in good presence which cuts through a mix nicely.

The XLS has a flatter frequency response which would be beneficial for clean guitar tracks.

Both C414 models come with 9 different polar patterns – cardioid, hyper cardioid, figure-8, omni and wide cardioid position – plus 4 intermediate settings.  This versatility allows you to choose the best settings to fit your recording session.

They also include three switchable bass filter settings and three pre-attenuation settings.

AKG also includes an overload warning LED in both models that alerts you to potential distortion on audio peaks.

Electric Guitar Mic Comparison
This shootout compares the C414 to other popular guitar amp mics.  The C414 starts at 2:48.

AKG C414 XLS

Check price:
AmazonzZoundsGuitar Center

AKG C414 XLS Specs:

  • 9 polar pickup patterns: cardioid, hyper cardioid, figure-8, omni and wide cardioid position, plus 4 intermediate settings.
  • 20 Hz – 20 kHz frequency response
  • 152 dB max SPL
  • Includes stand mount, shock mount, pop screen, windscreen, and a carrying case

Frequency response chart:
Click image for larger popup

AKG C414 XLII

Check price:
AmazonzZoundsGuitar Center

AKG C414 XLII Specs:

  • 9 polar pickup patterns: cardioid, hyper cardioid, figure-8, omni, and wide cardioid position, plus 4 intermediate settings.
  • 20 Hz – 20 kHz frequency response
  • 152 dB max SPL
  • Includes stand mount, shock mount, pop screen, windscreen, and a carrying case

Frequency response chart:
Click image for larger popup

Neumann U87 AI

u87-elec-gtrThe Neumann U87 is a true classic condenser mic and one of the best known and widely used mics in the world.  Just about every pro commercial studio will have at least one of these.

In a nutshell, it delivers the classic smooth Neumann sound on just about everything!  It has an exceptionally flat frequency response, and users can choose between cardioid, omni, and figure-8 polar patterns.

It is considered by many as the best studio microphone for vocals, bar none.

My U87 is my go-to mic for vocals.  But I’ve gotten fantastic recordings with it also on acoustic and electric guitars, strings, percussion and more.

As you can see from the Hit Records Box, quite a few classic guitar tracks were recorded with the U87.

If you can afford it, you won’t regret this investment in this acclaimed premium mic!

It comes in matte black or nickel finish.

Neumann U87 AI

Check price:
AmazonzZoundsGuitar Center

Neumann U87 AI Specs:

  • cardioid, omni, figure-8 pickup pattern
  • 20 Hz – 20 kHz frequency response
  • 117 dB max SPL
  • Switchable low-frequency roll-off
  • Switchable 10dB pre-attenuation
  • Includes a shock mount, pop filter, and a cherry wood case

Frequency response chart:
Click image for larger popup

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