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Best acoustic guitar microphones: Capture that perfect tone

Looking for the best acoustic guitar microphone? A lot of people think of a small or large-diaphragm condenser as the first choice. They do a great job of capturing the detail and nuances of the instrument. If you’re going with a small-diaphragm, the transient detail they capture makes an acoustic sound great.

But think about this, how is the acoustic contributing to the mix? In a dense band track, the acoustic tends to become more of a percussion instrument. So you want it to cut without taking up too much space – depending what the other instrumentation is doing.

You could use an acoustic amp, but micing it is more natural. We put together some options for you at different price points. Something like a U87 is out of almost everyone’s budget so we kept the list under or around $1,000.

Best acoustic guitar microphone overall: AKG C414 XLII

AKG C414 XLII
Best acoustic guitar microphone overall
AKG C414 XLII
The 414 has been an industry standard for a long time and it’s going to stay that way. It has a full frequency range, three pads and high-filters, and sounds fantastic on any source.
Pros
Timeless large-diaphragm condenser sound
Three pads and high-pass filters
9 polar patterns
Cons
Expensive

What can’t the C414 do? As the premier microphone in AKG’s impressive lineup you’ll hear countless engineers, producers, and musicians singing its praises. Yes, it’s that good.

It doesn’t just sound amazing, it’s amazingly versatile. The R121 sounds fantastic on any source, but really shines on vocals, drums, and guitars. There is full frequency response of 20Hz-20kHz. To change up your sound you can switch between a staggering nine different polar patterns. With three different pads at -6dB, -12dB, and -18dB it can take some serious SPL for a LDC. Three high-pass filters cut low end at 40Hz, 60Hz, and 80Hz.

It offers a feature that almost no other microphone does – a peak LED meter that gives a readout of even the slightest overload. This is a great feature that helps you set up your signal chain perfectly. It comes with all the necessary accessories including carrying case, pop filter, windscreen, and spider shockmount that reduces movement.

Yes, it’s quite expensive. But another way to justify the investment is that it sounds amazing on any source you can throw at it. Lead vocals? Check. Drum overheads? You bet! Electric guitars? No sweat. It’s an all-time classic and comes from good stock. It’s based on AKG’s highly coveted C12 – another all time classic.

Best acoustic guitar large-diaphragm condenser microphone: Audio-Technica AT 4050

Audio-Technica AT 4050
Best acoustic guitar large-diaphragm condenser microphone
Audio-Technica AT 4050
One of the best mics in Audio-Technica’s lineup for recording acoustic guitar due to transformless circuitry that gives better transient response.
Pros
Transformerless circuitry gives better transient response
80-18kHz frequency response
Three polar patterns
Cons
Pricier than other models in the 40 series

Technically, AKG’s 414 would take this spot too. But since they won the best overall category we went with a different selection. The AT series offers a lot of models. They’re all great. The 4050 is especially great on acoustic guitar.

The dual-diaphragm capsule ensures the highest fidelity of the polar patterns. Transformerless circuitry gives it a better transient response than other LDCs. It has a crazy wide frequency range of 80Hz-18kHz. You can choose between cardioid, omni, and figure-8. And it has a flat, rolloff, or 10dB pad. It comes with a shockmount, dust cover, and protective case.

At $700 it’s fairly affordable. But it’s useful on multiple sources. If your budget is lower the AT 4040 and 2040 are great choices under $300.

Best acoustic guitar small-diaphragm condenser microphone: sE Electronics sE8

sE Electronics sE8
Best acoustic guitar small-diaphragm condenser microphone
sE Electronics sE8
This affordable small-diaphragm condenser is great for picking up the transient detail in acoustic guitar.
Pros
Advanced backplate gives a smooth sound and good off-axis response
Dual pads and high-pass filters
Cons
Not as detailed as some other SDC options

Affordable, detailed, full frequency range. That’s what the sE8 brings. It’s a cardioid small-diaphragm that picks up the transient detail of acoustic guitar really well.

This is especially due to the handcrafted capsule is an Ultra-thin 3 design. An advanced backplate gives it a smooth and natural sound and a reliable off-axis response. There are two pads at -10dB and -20dB and high-pass filters at 80Hz and 160Hz. To keep cost down it doesn’t come with a shockmount, but does come with the clip and case.

A small-diaphragm condenser is a great microphone type to have in your locker. The sE8 has great build quality at a price that even hobbyists can afford.

Best acoustic guitar dynamic microphone: Audix i5

Audix i5
Best acoustic guitar dynamic microphone
Audix i5
This solid alternative to the SM57 has a midrange that sounds great on acoustic guitar and can stand up to live work.
Pros
Great dynamic with a strong midrange
Affordable
Works well live
Cons
Not as detailed as a condenser

Did you know that dynamic mics sound great on acoustic guitars? It’s a well-known fact that the Shure SM57 is one of the most well-rounded, workhorse microphones in the industry. But it definitely has contenders, and the i5 is one of the best.

It’s as rugged as microphones come, with a cardioid polar pattern. The frequency response ranges from 50Hz-16kHz, making it great for acoustic guitar. And don’t be shy about using it on stage. Dynamics are renowned for their ability to handle higher SPL and having great off-axis rejection.

At just $100, why not?

Best ribbon microphone for acoustic guitar: Royer Labs R121

Royer R121
Best ribbon microphone for acoustic guitar
Royer Labs R121
What isn’t to love about the R121? Warm sound, durable build that can take high SPL, and a unique figure-8 polar pattern gives you unique recording options.
Pros
Industry standard ribbon microphone
Durable build can handle a lot of volume
Warm frequency response that works well on any source
Great off-axis rejection
Cons
Expensive
Figure-8 polar pattern doesn’t work for every situation

The days of delicate ribbon microphones are gone, thanks to Royer. Unless you’re working with a vintage ribbon like the AEA R44 the considerations you had to take when engineering with these unique dynamic mics are no more. They’re not nearly as delicate, can take high levels of sound pressure, and they sound better than ever.

Royer’s R121 model is a warm, figure-of-eight ribbon mic. The frequency response is unique at 30Hz-15kHz.It does have some downsides. It’s a figure-8 polar pattern, so it’s best used tracking the acoustic guitar by itself. And it’s definitely not cheap. But if you have the spend it’s a no-brainer, and once your hear it will live in your mic locker forever.

FAQ

Can you mic an acoustic guitar?

Absolutely! A lot of acoustics don’t have a pickup, so micing it is the only way to amplify it. You can get a soundhole pickup, and they generally sound pretty good. But there’s no denying they sound the best when they’re mic’ed up. Especially through a good preamp and compressor.

Why is the Shure SM57 good for acoustic guitar?

It’s not necessarily the best choice. But since it’s focused in the midrange, where the acoustic guitar is, it can pick up all the primary frequencies of the instrument. It’s also really affordable and durable so you can use it in a live situation if you have to. Having one on deck comes in handy.

What kind of mic is best for recording acoustic guitar?

The best type of microphone for recording an acoustic guitar to use is a condenser, especially a small-diaphragm. They have great transient detail and a rich frequency response. You can use any mic. But if you have a choice, a condenser is the best.

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