Capturing the deep and beautiful details of an acoustic guitar’s dynamic sound during a live performance is crucial to any performing acoustic artist. Yet, this dynamism is not easy to capture. There are ways, however, to mic your acoustic guitar. You can use a pickup, for example, to amplify your acoustic guitar. But more often, your guitar will sound dreadful and un-musical.
Yet, if you use the built-in pickup of your guitar, you deny your audience that gorgeous experience of hearing the details and nuances of the acoustic guitar’s dynamic sound.
The acoustic guitar, of course, has complex tones. It comes with great low frequencies, organic mids, and rhythmic and detailed highs. So, if you want to capture these details, you need to mic it; but make sure that you carefully choose your mic. The three most often used mics for acoustic guitars include the dynamic mic, the condenser mic, and the ribbon mic.
Dynamic microphones are popularly used for live performances. They are less expensive and tend to be more durable. Moreover, they are not prone to feedback as compared to other types of mics. The downside of using a dynamic mic for live performances is that it is not much sensitive. Hence, you will find it tricky to set up this mic with an acoustic guitar. This is because it does not capture so much the high frequency’s texture and details of acoustic guitars. Moreover, it exhibits a remarkable drop in the volume of the guitar once the performer moves away from the mic.
The condenser mics are most often used in studio settings than in live performances. This is because the condenser mic is expensive and delicate. Moreover, it is highly sensitive to feedback. Yet, when it comes to its audio capture, it is beyond comparison. It provides high fidelity to sound along with great detail clarity and capture.
Ribbon mics are great and fun to use. They come with a unique natural sound. Yet, when it comes to price, they are the most expensive. Moreover, they are the most delicate among the three options. Ribbon mics have low output. They also feature a figure-8 polar pattern.
Of course, this kind of pickup pattern picks up sound on both sides but nulls the sound in between. Hence, it is hard to set up in a live performance and is very tricky.
Best Mics For Miking Live Guitar Performance
Given the myriad options at hand, you can get easily confused about which brand and model to choose. Hence, to facilitate the selection process for you, we have listed here five of the most recommended mics for guitar live performance:
Shure SM57-LC Cardioid Dynamic Microphone
The Shure SM57-LC is a legend when it comes to mics. It has been here for almost several decades. This mic has been used in many live performances. It can connect your performance with your audience perfectly. Moreover, it delivers the awesome power of your guitar playing to every listener in the house. It also features a contoured frequency response that is clean.
It also features a uniform cardioid pickup pattern that isolates the main audio source while lessening the background noise. Its frequency response ranges from 40 to 15,000 Hz.
This Shure mic has a reputation for being durable. It is built to last and can take a lot of beating. It comes with a sturdy case and is not affected by the changes in the weather. It is very versatile and can handle even the highest sound pressure levels without showing distortion. It can also handle close-up recordings that are loud for the human ear.
Another thing about this mic is that it easily escapes feedback, which frequently happens in a setup where there are too many mics. This happens because it is equipped with a tight grille pattern.
Royer Labs R-121 Large-Element Ribbon Microphone
If money is not an issue for you, you can always settle for the Royer Labs R-121. The Royer Labs R-121 belongs to the type of mics with the highest level of microphone technology. It comes with a ribbon, positioned close to the Microphone’s front side. Moreover, it features a figure-8 pickup pattern and comes with an output level compared to those of dynamic mics. It also offers a warm and realistic tone that comes with flat frequency response.
With its advanced materials and a mixture of cutting-edge technology, this mic becomes extremely versatile and user-friendly. It can handle very demanding tasks. Plus, it is perfect for cranked-up electric guitar and even close-up brass and drums.
The R-121 features a patented offset ribbon technology. Its ribbon element is positioned closer to its logo side or front side. This ribbon arrangement provides more room for movement within the magnetic field while maintaining full frequency response throughout high SPL recordings.
This mic was released in 1998. It is compact and lightweight and provides high output and tough construction. You will surely be amazed by its finely tuned sound with its high-frequency detail ranging from 30 Hz – 15 kHz +/- 3 dB.
Audio-Technica PRO 70
The Audio-Technica PRO 70 is a miniature condenser mic that is perfect for both acoustic and vocal uses. It is capable of articulate vocal reproduction as a clip-on mic. It is perfect in selecting up acoustic guitar sound.
It features a cardioid polar pattern that reduces or lessens sound pickup coming from the rear and sides. This improves the isolation of the sound from the intended audio source.
The Audio-Technica PRO 70 operates using batteries or phantom power. It also comes with low-frequency roll-off for lessening the pickup of ambient noise. This mic is also the most affordable among the mics listed in this review.
L.R. Baggs Anthem-SL Acoustic Guitar Pickup and Microphone
The L.R. Baggs Anthem-SL is a guitar pickup that is highly recommendable. It is a nicely designed microphone that can simplify the amplification of the natural guitar sound. It also produces a clean and clear sound characterized by full dynamism.
It comes with a patented Trumic feature that carries most guitar’s frequency range. This element pickup can deliver the necessary fidelity and warmth of mic’d guitar. It also features a revolutionary mic engineered to capture a dynamic studio guitar sound for live performance.
Its TRU-MIC is mounted to the bridge plate’s underside and is positioned around 3mm above it to maximize the boundary effect.
This awesome mounting system, along with its noise cancellation feature, allows the mic to freely hover for easy performance and maintain excellent feedback suppression when performing onstage. This results in a frequency response that is more balanced and comes with excellent clarity. Its pairing with the TRU MIC offers great punch and solidity for low frequencies.
AKG Perception 170 Professional Instrumental Microphone
This is one of your best options when performing live or recording your acoustic guitar. It features rugged all-metal construction with its all-metal body and very robust design. With its tough construction, it is expected to bear tough beatings. It also comes with a switchable attenuation pad and is known for its high SPL applications with a maximum of 155 dB SPL.
The AKG Perception 170 Pro is a small-diaphragm condenser mic for the recording of percussions, overheads, and even acoustic guitars. It can deliver awesome clarity and remarkable transient response. It also comes with a lightweight 1/2-inch condenser transducer diaphragm.
Being lightweight, you can carry this mic around without tiring yourself. Its frequency response ranges from 20 Hz to 20 kHz for delivering awesome acoustic guitar sound during live recording. With its high SPL, it can handle high-level sound. It is a perfect choice for acoustic guitar for live performance.
The deep and beautiful details of the sound of an acoustic guitar need to be captured during live performance. Hence, you need to mike your acoustic guitar to amplify its sound. Some acoustic guitars come with a built-in pickup. These pickups cannot be relied upon to bring out the nuances and deep sounds of acoustic guitar. So, suppose you are looking for the right mic for your acoustic guitar. In that case, you simply need to use the abovementioned essential factors to consider and refer to the 5 most recommended mics to facilitate the selection process for you.
Buyer's Guide: Factors to Consider When Choosing a Mic for Guitar Live Performance
There are, of course, myriads of brands and models of mics in the market today. Given these ample choices, selecting the right mic becomes a bit confusing. Yet, if you know the following factors to consider when choosing a mic for live guitar performance, you will breeze through the selection process and zero in on the right one:
Consider Your Budget
One limiting factor when buying a mic for your guitar is your budget. If you are new to buying a mic for your acoustic guitar, you can settle for the inexpensive ones. You can buy, for example, an MXL mic. Once you get the hang of it, you can then upgrade to a premium one. The premium one, however, is more expensive. Yet, they are worth an investment.
Wireless or Wired?
You have an option of whether to choose wireless or wired when it comes to mics for live acoustic performance. Your decision, however, hinges on your needs. You need to ask whether a wireless or a wired mic will work best for you. Of course, wired microphones are less prone to interference because they are directly connected to the amplifier. Wireless mics, however, are often affected by interference.
Moreover, they are limited by the life of their batteries. On the other hand, wired mics are less portable. Furthermore, they would tend to limit your movements onstage.
The sound capture or the quality of the mic’s capture should be a big factor in your choice of a mic. To find the ideal mic with great sound quality, you can search online and read about the reviews of consumers who have already used the mic. Besides, you can read expert reviews on the different prospective brands and models that you intend to buy. You can compare the reviews and the features of each of your possible options.
You can also go to the nearest music store or gadget stores and test several mics they sell. In this way, you can personally test whether a particular mic comes with great sound or not.