Unleash Your Sound: The Best Acoustic Guitar Mics Reviewed

By
reviewed
Reviewed by
Last updatedLast updated: July 09, 2023
Prime Sound is reader-supported. We may earn a commission through products purchased using links on this page. Learn more about our process here

The quest for the best acoustic guitar mics takes center stage in this comprehensive review. We explore an array of top-tier microphones, each boasting unique characteristics, and functionalities.

By delving into the specifics, we aim to uncover the top performers that could potentially revolutionize your music production journey.

Whether you’re an aspiring musician performing live, a professional recording in a high-end studio, or a hobbyist simply practicing at home, the right acoustic guitar mic can make all the difference. It’s not just about sound capture but also about how accurately and authentically your music is presented. Let’s embark on this journey to find the perfect mic that harmonizes with your style, resonates with your acoustic guitar, and brings out the very best in your musical endeavors.

1.

Neumann KM 184Editor's Choice

Features

Features:

  • Microphone Type: Condenser
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz-20kHz
  • Connector: XLR
  • Weight: 0.18 lbs.

Other Features: Series 180 Small-diaphragm Cardioid Condenser Microphone with Windscreen

The Neumann KM 184 is a proven studio powerhouse. Offering incredible detail and a beautifully bright sound, it’s compact with a cardioid pickup pattern, versatile for a wide range of applications.

In terms of performance, the KM 184 impresses. It offers excellent transient response and a high output level, ensuring that the sound from your acoustic guitar remains pristine. Plus, its low self-noise guarantees a clean signal for recording.

This mic shines in studio recording environments. If you’re a professional seeking accuracy and nuance in your acoustic guitar recordings, the Neumann KM 184 is an excellent choice.

Its standout feature is its exceptional ability to capture sound in detail. Every nuance of the sound is picked up by this mic, making it an ideal choice for high-quality recordings.

While the KM 184 is a powerhouse for studio recordings, its sensitivity might not make it the best choice for live performances. However, in a controlled studio environment, it is a star performer.

Why did it make our list?

  • Exceptional detail
  • Low self-noise
  • Versatile

What is not ideal about it?

  • Not ideal for live performances

2.

AKG C414 XLSBest for Flexibility

Features

Features:

  • Microphone Type: Condenser
  • Polar Pattern: Omni, Wide Cardioid, Cardioid, Hypercardioid, Figure-8
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz-20kHz
  • Output Impedance: 200 ohms
  • Weight: 0.66 lbs.

Other Features: Large-diaphragm Condenser Microphone with Nine Switchable Polar Patterns

The AKG C414 XLS is a versatile wonder with its nine selectable polar patterns, making it a strong choice for varied recording situations. This microphone can capture every note in a grand arena or a private studio.

In terms of performance, the AKG C414 XLS offers a wide range of frequency responses. This ensures that your guitar’s rich tones are captured in all their vibrancy, regardless of pitch or volume.

The AKG C414 XLS is well-suited for recording acoustic guitars due to its diverse polar patterns. This feature makes it adaptable to different recording environments and styles.

Its wide dynamic range and the ability to handle high sound pressure levels set it apart from its competitors. Its exceptional detail capture also stands out.

While it excels in many areas, its versatility might be overwhelming for beginners. It is a perfect fit for seasoned professionals looking for adaptable equipment.

Why is it special?

  • Versatile
  • Wide frequency response
  • High SPL handling

What are the flaws?

  • Might be overwhelming for beginners

3.

Shure SM81Best for Stage Use

Features

Features:

  • Microphone Type: Condenser
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz-20kHz
  • Output Impedance: 150 ohms
  • Weight: 0.5 lbs.

Other Features: Small-diaphragm Cardioid Condenser Microphone with Lockable Pad, 3-position Low-frequency Response Switch, Swivel Adapter, Foam Windscreen, and Carrying Pouch

The Shure SM81 is robust and designed to handle the pressures of live performances. It delivers consistent sound quality, ensuring your guitar always sounds great on stage.

The Shure SM81 shines in performance with its flat frequency response and low RF susceptibility. This ensures a pure, clean sound that faithfully reproduces your acoustic guitar’s natural tones.

Best suited for stage performances, the Shure SM81 is built for durability and can handle high sound pressure levels. It’s an excellent choice for artists frequently performing live.

What sets the SM81 apart is its durability. This microphone is designed to withstand demanding performance conditions, making it reliable in the long run.

While its toughness is an asset, it may not provide the same level of detail capture as some other mics, such as the Neumann KM 184.

What are our favorite features?

  • Durable
  • Consistent sound quality
  • Ideal for stage performances

What could be better?

  • May lack detail in studio recordings

4.

Rode NT5Best Compact Design

Features

Features:

  • Microphone Type: Condenser
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz-20kHz
  • Output Impedance: 100 ohms
  • Connector: XLR
  • Weight: 0.22 lbs.

Other Features: Small-diaphragm Single NT5 Cardioid Condenser Mic

The Rode NT5, despite its compact size, delivers a powerful performance. Its small form doesn’t compromise its full frequency response, making it a dynamic addition to your recording setup.

In performance, the Rode NT5 is remarkable. It delivers a full-frequency response, ensuring a comprehensive capture of your acoustic guitar’s sound.

The Rode NT5 is a versatile microphone, perfect for studio recording and live performances alike. Its compact size makes it easy to set up and adjust while still delivering a rich, detailed sound.

Its compact design sets it apart. Despite its size, it captures the complete range of your guitar’s sound, from the lowest note to the highest pitch.

However, while it excels in size and flexibility, it might not match up to some other microphones when it comes to handling extremely high sound pressure levels.

What makes it special?

  • Compact
  • Versatile
  • Full frequency response

What cons did we find?

  • Might not handle high SPL as effectively

5.

Audio-Technica AT4050Best for Vocals

Features

Features:

  • Microphone Type: Condenser
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid, Omni, Figure-8
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz-18kHz
  • Output Impedance: 100 ohms
  • Connector: XLR
  • Weight: 1.12 lbs.

Other Features: Large-diaphragm Condenser Microphone with Multiple Polar Patterns

The Audio-Technica AT4050 excels in capturing the subtleties in both vocals and stringed instruments. This sensitivity makes it ideal for intimate, nuanced recordings.

The AT4050 stands out in performance. It is responsive and sensitive, capturing the subtle nuances in vocals and acoustic guitars. This microphone provides a flat, natural sound that represents the source accurately.

The AT4050, with its impressive sensitivity, is best suited for studio recording where you want to capture every detail of the sound.

What sets the AT4050 apart is its ability to capture the softest sounds without losing any detail. It’s perfect for artists who want to capture every aspect of their performance.

However, while it shines in detail capture, it might not be the best choice for artists looking for robust live performance equipment.

What are our favorite features?

  • Highly sensitive
  • Ideal for detailed capture
  • Flat, natural sound

What could be better?

  • Not best suited for live performances

6.

Sennheiser MD421Best for High SPL

Features

Features:

  • Microphone Type: Cardioid
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency Response: 30Hz–17kHz
  • Nominal impedance: 200 ohms
  • Connector: XLR-3

Other Features: Dynamic Cardioid Microphone with High SPL Capacity and 5-position Bass Roll-Off Switch

The Sennheiser MD421 is designed to handle high sound pressure levels with ease. It’s perfect for loud performances without any distortion.

When it comes to performance, the MD421 can handle high SPL effortlessly. It ensures that your guitar’s sound, even at loud volumes, is captured accurately and without distortion.

The MD421 shines when recording loud music. Its ability to handle high SPL makes it an excellent choice for rock or metal musicians.

What sets the MD421 apart from its competitors is its high SPL handling. It ensures that even the loudest sounds are captured cleanly.

However, while it excels in loud environments, it might not effectively capture the nuances of softer music.

What are our favorite features?

  • High SPL handling
  • Ideal for loud music
  • No distortion

What could be better?

  • May not capture softer sounds as effectively

7.

Blue Microphones Baby BottleBest for Warm Tones

Features

Features:

  • Microphone Type: Condenser
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency Range: 20Hz-20kHz
  • Output Impedance: 50 ohms
  • Weight: 0.9 lbs.

Other Features: Large-diaphragm Cardioid Condenser Microphone with Highpass Filter and -20dB Pad

The Blue Microphones Baby Bottle is perfect for producing rich, warm tones. It’s particularly well-suited for softer, intimate music styles.

The Baby Bottle delivers warm, rich tones that truly enhance your acoustic guitar’s sound. It offers a unique blend of vintage and modern sound characteristics.

Ideal for softer music styles, the Baby Bottle excels in intimate recording environments. It enhances the warmth and richness of your guitar’s sound, making your music truly resonate.

Its ability to produce warm, vintage tones sets the Baby Bottle apart. It’s a perfect choice for musicians seeking a unique sound character.

However, while it excels in delivering warm tones, it might not be the best choice for recording in diverse situations.

Why are we impressed?

  • Warm, rich tones, unique sound character

What negatives must you be aware of?

  • Not as versatile for diverse recording situations

8.

Royer Labs R-121Best for Smooth Response

Features

Features:

  • Microphone Type: Ribbon
  • Frequency Response: 30Hz-15kHz
  • Output Impedance: 300 ohms
  • Weight: 0.54 lbs.

Other Features: Dynamic Ribbon Microphone with Figure-8 Polar Pattern; Includes Wooden Presentation Box

The Royer Labs R-121 is known for its smooth frequency response and adds warmth to any recording. Its ribbon design ensures a natural sound capture.

In performance, the R-121 delivers a smooth frequency response across the range. This ensures that your guitar’s sound is captured as naturally as possible.

The R-121 is well-suited for studio recording environments. It ensures your acoustic guitar’s sound remains warm and natural.

Its ribbon design and smooth frequency response set the R-121 apart from its competitors. It captures sound naturally, adding warmth to your recordings.

However, due to its ribbon design, the R-121 may not be the best choice for live performances.

Why did it make our list?

  • Smooth frequency response
  • Warm sound capture, natural recording

What is not ideal about it?

  • May not be ideal for live performances

Things to Consider

The journey to find the perfect microphone for your acoustic guitar is a crucial aspect of your music production process. The right microphone can do wonders for your sound quality, offering a rich, detailed sound that accurately portrays your unique style. This comprehensive buying guide is designed to steer you through the array of options available and ensure you have all the necessary information to make the right choice.

Understanding the Types of Microphones

There are several types of microphones, each offering distinct characteristics that suit various situations and recording environments. Understanding these differences is the first step to choosing the best microphone for your acoustic guitar.

Dynamic Microphones: Known for their robustness and durability, dynamic mics are the jack-of-all-trades in the microphone world. They work by transforming sound waves into electrical signals via electromagnetic induction. Mics like the Sennheiser MD421 are capable of handling high sound pressure levels (SPL), making them a top pick for louder music genres and live performances.

Condenser Microphones: These microphones use a different operating principle and require an external power source (known as phantom power). Condenser mics, such as the Neumann KM 184 or the AKG C414 XLS, are highly sensitive and accurately capture detailed, high-frequency sounds. This makes them an excellent choice for controlled studio settings where the aim is to capture every nuance of the sound.

Ribbon Microphones: Utilizing a thin metal ribbon suspended in a magnetic field, ribbon mics like the Royer Labs R-121 are highly sought after for their smooth, natural sound capture. They excel at picking up the subtleties of an instrument, lending warmth and a vintage feel to your recordings, making them perfect for softer, more intimate performances.

Consider the Microphone’s Polar Pattern

A microphone’s polar pattern tells you how it picks up sound from different directions. This aspect is crucial in determining how the mic will behave in a given recording environment.

Cardioid Microphones: These mics, such as the Neumann KM 184, are designed to pick up sound from the front and sides, rejecting sound from the rear. They’re excellent for isolating your acoustic guitar from other sound sources in the room, reducing the chance of feedback in live performance settings.

Omnidirectional Microphones: These mics pick up sound equally from all directions. They provide a very natural sound capture, visually representing the recording space. However, this means they can also pick up unwanted background noise, making them best suited to controlled environments.

Figure-8 or Bidirectional Microphones: As the name suggests, these microphones pick up sound from the front and rear while rejecting sound from the sides. They’re perfect for situations where you want to capture the ambiance of a room or when recording two sound sources simultaneously.

The Importance of Frequency Response

Frequency response refers to the range of frequencies that a microphone can accurately pick up. Mics with a wide frequency response, like the Rode NT5, can capture a comprehensive range of sounds, from the deepest bass notes to the highest pitches.

However, a wide frequency response isn’t always better. For acoustic guitars, a mic that emphasizes the mid-range might enhance the instrument’s warmth and richness. Similarly, a mic that boosts high frequencies could add brightness or ‘sparkle’ to the sound.

Delving Into Diaphragm Sizes

The size of a microphone’s diaphragm plays a significant role in determining its sound characteristics. Large diaphragm microphones, like the AKG C414 XLS or the Blue Microphones Baby Bottle, are renowned for their warm tonal quality and are excellent at capturing vocals or subtle instrument details.

On the other hand, small diaphragm mics, like the Shure SM81 or the Rode NT5, provide a wider frequency response and superior transient response, making them an excellent choice for detailed, accurate sound capture, especially for stringed instruments like acoustic guitars.

Assessing the Microphone’s Sensitivity

Sensitivity refers to how quiet a sound the microphone can detect. High-sensitivity microphones like the Audio-Technica AT4050 are able to pick up subtle nuances in sound, making them an excellent choice for studio recordings where detail and accuracy are paramount.

Durability and Build Quality: Longevity Matters

The physical build and design of a microphone are important, especially if you plan to use it in a variety of environments or for live performances. Some microphones, like the Shure SM81, are specifically designed to withstand the rigors of live performances, with a robust build that can handle accidental drops or knocks.

Setting a Budget: Balance Between Price and Value

Price is always a consideration when purchasing a new microphone. While high-end mics like the Neumann KM 184 or the AKG C414 XLS offer superior sound quality, they also come with a hefty price tag. It’s important to assess the value for money each microphone offers. Mid-range mics like the Rode NT5 or the Blue Microphones Baby Bottle may be more affordable and still provide excellent performance.

In the end, the best acoustic guitar mic is the one that meets your specific needs, fits your budget, and helps you achieve your desired sound. As with any investment, take the time to research and weigh your options before making your decision.

Tips For Recording an Acoustic Guitar

Recording an acoustic guitar to capture its natural, rich sound involves a blend of technique, environment, and, of course, the right microphone. Here, we share some expert insights on how to get the best recording from your acoustic guitar.

Positioning is Key

Firstly, where you position your microphone will significantly affect the sound quality. Contrary to what some might think, the sound hole is not always the optimal place to aim your microphone. Pointing a microphone directly at the sound hole can result in a boomy, overpowering low-end response. Instead, aim the mic toward the 12th fret of the guitar, about 6-12 inches away, depending on the mic and room. This position generally provides a balanced, vibrant tone.

Choose the Right Environment

The room you record in also impacts the overall sound. A room with a lot of echoes or background noise can disrupt your recording. Small rooms with carpets and soft furnishings can help absorb unwanted sound reflections and keep the focus on your guitar.

Select the Right Microphone

An important element is choosing the right microphone. Small diaphragm condenser mics, like the Neumann KM 184, are popular for recording acoustic guitars due to their ability to accurately capture the broad frequency range of the instrument.

Use Multiple Microphones

If you’re aiming for a more professional sound, you may want to consider using two microphones. This technique, known as stereo recording, can add depth and dimension to your recording. One mic could be placed at the 12th fret, and the other aimed at the body or bridge of the guitar, capturing the low-end frequencies.

Fine-Tuning

Lastly, don’t forget the importance of tuning your guitar before you start recording. It may seem obvious, but it is often overlooked. A well-tuned guitar can drastically improve the quality of your recording.

Remember, these are just guidelines. The best way to find what works for you is through experimentation. Play around with different mic placements, try different rooms, and use different mics until you find the combination that brings out the best in your acoustic guitar.

FAQ

 
 

Yes, many mics are versatile enough to capture vocals and acoustic guitar effectively. The Audio-Technica AT4050, for instance, is highly sensitive and can capture subtle nuances in both vocals and stringed instruments.

Phantom power is a DC voltage (usually 48V) that’s used to power condenser mics. If you’re using a condenser mic like the Neumann KM 184 or the AKG C414 XLS, you’ll need an audio interface or preamp that supplies phantom power.

Yes, some microphones are versatile enough for both applications. However, some mics are better suited for one or the other. For instance, the Shure SM81 is designed for live performances, while the Audio-Technica AT4050 is ideal for studio recordings.

Mics with multiple polar patterns, like the AKG C414 XLS, offer more flexibility. They can adapt to different recording situations, making them more versatile.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to the best acoustic guitar mics, our Editor’s Choice is the Neumann KM 184, with its natural sound reproduction and exceptional transient response. It’s a worthy investment for any serious musician.

Another standout is the AKG C414 XLS, offering a versatile experience with its nine selectable polar patterns. It’s a great pick for professionals looking for a mic that can adapt to a range of recording situations.

Finally, the Shure SM81, with its robust design and consistent sound quality, proves to be a reliable companion for live performances.

In summary, the best acoustic guitar mics should enhance your music, capture the subtleties of your guitar, and be tailored to your unique style. So consider your specific needs, your environment, and your budget when making your selection. No matter which mic you choose, the right microphone can indeed make a world of difference to your sound.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *