Top 10 Microphones for Guitar Amplifiers

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Recording the room – A simple but sometimes underused tip is to record more of the room. Many guitarists will say they love the amps sound in the room, but go ahead and record with a single microphone close to the speaker. If you like the sound in the room, try adding an ambient microphone to capture the sound from a different perspective.

James Nugent

James Nugent FOR MUSIC CRITIC

Mic for Guitar Amp Buying Guide

Microphone for Guitar AmplifierThe first question you need to ask yourself is: how will you be using your microphone. Is it for guitar amp recordings only? Maybe the band has a piano player that can also benefit from recording their practice tracks with your studio gear.

Perhaps you will want to use the mic for recording some vocals, or to lend it to family members that also have music interests.

No matter what the cause, it’s a good idea to list and decide beforehand what essential features you will need your mic to have. This will make it much easier to find a suitable mic down the road when you know what you’re looking for. It’s also important to know from these studio gear guides if the new mic will match the rest of your studio gear and if you will be predominantly using it inside, outside or both!

Polar Patterns

This is probably the most important segment of this article! Polar patterns are definitely one of the most vital topics here. They decide how, from where and when the music you play is received and from which side the background noise should be muted. There are several types of polar patterns to choose from when purchasing a microphone and will discuss a few of the more popular ones that are useful for using with a guitar amp!

What are polar patterns, anyway? Polar patterns are patterns that cover the head of the microphone and determine from which direction the sound is soaked in from and from which side it is rejected. The most common polar patterns are: cardioid, omnidirectional, bidirectional and super/hyper cardioid.

+ Cardioid pattern: the cardioid pattern is the most common pattern in the music business. It has the most sensitivity at the front of the head and rejects sound that comes from the back.

If you usually have problems with ambient sound or background noises, this is the most effective type of microphone to silence those sounds out. It’s perfect for loud stages as well as noisy, small studios. Regardless, if you are looking for a mic that will single out the sound source and reject any unwanted noises, a cardioid-patterned microphone is the best pick.

+ Super cardioid pattern: this pattern will give you a narrower pickup and has a much stronger rejection of ambient and background noises. However, they have a bit of pickup right at the back of the microphone too.

Placing speakers correctly is vital when using this microphone. Super cardioid mics are perfect for singling out sound sources in rowdy environments like on stages or during studio practice sessions. If you need a mic that is the most resistant to feedback, the super cardioid pattern should be your number 1 choice.

+ Omnidirectional pattern: omnidirectional mics have equal sensitivity both at the front and rear ends of the head, which means that when using this microphone you will be picking up sounds that are coming from all directions. Simply put, this mic has no rejection mechanism like the cardioid and super cardioid patterns do.

This pattern is extremely easy to deal with since you won’t have to be fidgeting with speakers, trying to put them in the right position to capture and reproduce the sound faithfully!

+ Bi-directional pattern: a bi-directional mic (also knows a the Figure of Eight microphone) picks up sound from the front and the back of the microphone but rejects any sounds coming at a 90 degree angles (usually the sides).

+ Changeable patterns: some companies offer you the option of having multiple polar patterns that can be taken off from the head and exchanged with the help of capsules. For example, you can have a cardioid and omnidirectional capsule and you can switch them depending on what kind of environment you are working in. This is extremely useful for anyone that doesn’t like to be stuck with only one pattern and likes to have options. If you are looking for versatility, definitely grab a mic where you can interchange capsules!

Frequency Responses

For guitar amps, the recommended frequency response is similar to that of a vocalist, and you should look for mics that have frequency responses between 80Hz- 5kHz.

Each microphone usually has a set of instruments that it is tailored towards, for example some mics made specifically for vocalists and some for drummers.

Usually however, a vocalist and a drummer cannot use the same microphone if they want to get the most out of their recordings.

A vocalist would need a vocal mic that picks up higher frequencies, like 80Hz-15kHz, since humans usually can’t make sounds lower than that. Drummers however should get mics that can record sounds that go as deep as 30Hz-40Hz to accompany the deep, low sounds of the bass kick drum.

Response Curves

When looking at product descriptions of mics, you will often find small, confusing looking graphs. These are graphs that map the response curves. What are response curves? They are lines that let you know visually about the frequency range of the particular mic you are intending on buying.

These graphs let you know how a specific microphone performs at different frequencies and where it dips and rises. Many musicians find these types of graphs helpful because they can give you quick visual information of how a mic performs, what it specializes in and what are its distinct features when it comes to frequency.

The Proximity Effect

Every directional microphone has a default feature called the ‘Proximity Effect’. This means that the closer you get to your mic or the closer you place your mic to your amp or instrument, the deeper the bass response will be. This gives the recorded and live sound a warmer tone and is great to experiment with if you have some time and are looking for a vintage feel. If you are up for a challenge, you can play around with how close you can put your mic to your lips before it starts to give off the deep, warm bass sound!

SPL’s

The sensitivity of the mic usually depends on the quiet sounds the mic can pick up. SPL stands for ‘Sound Pressure Level’ and can be measured in decibels. You can often find these levels under any microphone description since many musicians find this to be vital information. To put it simply, the lower the decibel number, the bigger the sensitivity of the mic. The average sensitivity is around 100dB and a high one goes anywhere beyond 140dB.

Materials

Usually the best way to judge a microphone is by the street price. The more expensive the product, the better materials it will be made from and the more options and features it will have. There is a significant different between cheap and expensive microphones and that usually stems from the different metals they are made out of. Usually aluminum mics are the average standard that you should be looking for when purchasing a new microphone!

Type of Microphones

Not only are there different polar patterns, but there are different microphone types, too! As confusing as this sounds, there really isn’t much to it.

Usually, you will be looking at three types of microphones: condenser, ribbon and dynamic. Each of these three categories has their own specific features and they are usually used for very different purposes, too.

Here are the basics:

Dynamic mics

Dynamic microphones can usually handle extremely high SPL’s and have internal shock mounts to encourage them to be hand-held. The polar patterns they have reject any surrounding noise that doesn’t come from the main sound source.

Thanks to this mic being so easy to hold and carry around and thanks to the rejection of off-axis sounds, it makes this little device the perfect companion for stage live performance. These can of course also be used for studio recordings, but are mainly purchased to help musicians perform well during live sound shows. They are also less sensitive to SPL’s and high frequencies when compared to condenser mics. Many people like dynamic mics for recording electric guitar, recording acoustic guitars and acoustic drums.

Condenser mics

Condenser mics are usually way more responsive to the subtle details and the nuances of sounds than dynamics mics are. They are usually found within studios and have a much bigger frequency response than the other mics on this list. This contributes to their ability to immediately reproduce the speed of an instrument and/or voice. They have a rather loud out put but are very sensitive to high-frequency sounds and require you to use a power supply. They are also generally more expensive than dynamic mics.

If you are looking for a clear and well-defined recording and performance, the condenser mic should be the go to product for you! These mics can handle high SPL’s very well and work great with electric and acoustic guitar amps, pianos and a great mic for vocals.

Ribbon mics

Ribbon mics are the most delicate type of microphone out of all of these three options. They are known to soften the sound of the recordings and performances to enhance them with a warm, rich tone.

A ribbon mic is very similar to a dynamic mic, the only difference being the ribbon microphones have a thin layer of aluminum on the head while the dynamic microphones have a coil that connects to the diaphragm. Due to the delicacy of the ribbon mic, it is not recommended to use it when recording high SPL’s since it can damage the product. The common association with ribbon mics is that they have a very smooth sound and but need a lot of the mics preamps and clean gain to sound their best.

Mic Bundles

Buying a mic can end up being very expensive, especially if you need to buy adapters, mic stand, pop filters, USB cables and all the other necessities. Many brands know how expensive this can get and that’s why they usually offer a microphone bundle that includes all of these accessories, usually they throw in a carrying case for the microphone itself, too!

What is the best way to use and place a Microphone for Guitar Amp?

Now that you’ve found a suitable mic, you are probably asking yourself how you can use it! Miking a guitar amp is relatively simple, but definitely not that easy! In retrospect all you need to do is grab the stand of your mics in front of the amp, but moving the mic even a cm to either side can greatly alter the end sound. If you want to avoid sitting in front of your amp for 40 minutes twisting and turning your mic trying to get the perfect sound, read on! Make sure your get the perfect mic for guitar amps!

First of all, it’s very important to identify where the speaker within the amp is actually located. Flashing a torch or your phone’s flashlight into the speaker grilles of the amp easily does this; you should be able to see the speaker immediately. Putting your mic closer to the speaker will result in deeper bass tones, and moving it away will naturally reduce it. Moving the mic towards the edges of the speaker will give you reduced mid-range and upper-mid frequencies. Placing the mic close to the center speaker will give you more emphasized and bright sounds.

Where to place a guitar amp microphoneThe best advice when setting up is to test the guitar amp mic out!

Test each position and see what works for you best and if the set-up goes along with what you want out of the rest of your recording or jamming session.

A musician’s ear cannot be beat no matter how many tips and tricks we will give you!

Moving the mic several inches to the right and left can yield very different results, and that’s why it’s important to experiment and see what suits you most.

What should be considered when recording Guitar Amps?

Each room is different, and sound will bounce off in different ways depending on what kind of room you find yourself in. This can be really frustrating for guitarists since the sound that reflects from the room boundaries will reach your mic later than the waves that come directly from the amp standing in front of you, which in turn causes a phenomenon called ‘phase cancellation’. This means there will be a series of peaks and dips, which will show the delay in the recording that is caused by the reflected and direct sounds.

Depending on what kind of room you’re in, there is no doubt that you will have to move yourself and your amp around just as much as the mic itself! The room is initially a part of the sound, and certain places in the room can be recording sweet spots, that’s why it’s best to see which part of the room makes your guitar sing the best. When you’ve found the perfect spot, many professionals suggest that guitarists should lift or tilt their amps so that they don’t get phase-cancellations from the wall or floor. There are hundreds of tips and tricks like these and they usually come by through years of experience and experimenting!

Does amp selection make a difference when recording?

Of course! Depending on what amp you have or what amp you will end up buying, you will be getting a totally different sound depending on what product you will buy. The miking and set-up techniques don’t change, but the feel and tone of the recordings will certainly be different depending on what kind of amp you will be using. After all, the microphone will only pick up the waves that are coming at it, and if you have a high or low-quality amp, it will definitely come through in the recording.

It’s best to decide what kind of amp you will be buying before you go and buy a microphone since there are many reviews and tips online that will give you names of bundles that go well with each other. Some amps and mics can sound better together than others, and that’s why it’s important to do well-rounded research to make sure you are going to purchases products that will only enhance your guitar playing and not completely alter and change it!

Picking an amp is certainly no easy task, but as long as you take into consideration your needs and combine them with the opinions and experience of others, you should get the best combination you need for home recording and perform live!

Do you need good monitors or speakers when recording Guitar Amps?

Naturally! Both good speakers and good monitors are important since you will need to get good quality mixes before you can go edit them. When you will be going to edit your guitar track, it’s vital to have good monitors to see all the dips, peaks and inconsistencies that you will need to correct. Good speakers will play a big role in the recordings since you will need to be able to place them well to get a good sound, especially if you are dealing with cardioid microphones.

Do you need good monitors for recording guitar ampsGood monitors will allow you to work quicker and faster than you would be able to with cheap and low-quality monitors.

You will be able to easily spot all the mistakes and circumstantial accidents that happened during the recording and this will allow you to quickly fix them.

Bad monitors can make you mistake good information for bad data and vice versa, which in turn can lead to a lot of frustration, especially if you are on a tight deadline and need to finish the mix by due date. Good speakers will give you quality recordings, which is vital for anyone that wants to have professional sounding tracks that will show off your true skill level!

How do you choose the top Microphone for Guitar Amp recording?

Our best advice is to research and sees which mic sounds the best! All the leading-industry companies give out samples of how the mics sound with certain amps and many customers also provide videos that will show you comparisons between different sets of gear. The truth is, there is no one right answer since every guitarist is looking for something else when they record their tracks, but the one thing we can say is that hearing the products yourself can help you make a quicker decision than just going off of reviews!

Top Choice

AKG Pro Audio C414Our Top Choice product has to be AKG’s C414 XLS, since it’s another microphone know for its professional studio-quality sound and tailor-made features that can fit even the fussiest of players! With 9 polar patterns, you will be to spend a lot of time mix and matching the options to fit with your playing, and if you like to experiment and discover, this is definitely the best mic to go for. Many people tend to complain about how mics can change the tone or ‘feel’ of their recordings and how they don’t sound like they do in reality, and AKG decided to fix that problem.

The AKG C414 has extreme clarity and neutral sound to give power to even the simplest and most basic details of your playing or singing. No matter what you will be using this mic for, you can rest assured that it will reproduce all of the sounds faithfully and accurately.

The C414 has to be our Top Choice since many customers praise it for being very durable and being able to remain as new as when purchased for years. If you have been meaning to supply your studio with a worthy mic that can represent your instruments in their best light, then the C414 has you covered. The quality of this microphone is great and it can be used to record anything from guitars, to percussion, vocals and much more.

Premium Choice

Royer Labs R121Our Premium Choice microphone has to be Royer Lab’s R-121. If you are looking for the ideal microphone to mike your amp with, this is definitely the one. You will get a bassy, clear roar and won’t have to spend hours trying to even out the mix since this mic is great at leveling out the sounds to not override each other. This is undoubtedly a studio quality mic and has been built to endure daily-studio life of professionals, which shows how much thought Royer Lab put into their products. This mic can also be used for miking live amps as well as studio ones, which make it one very versatile a high-quality mic.

You will also be able to rest assured that you won’t get any high-frequency phase distortions or have the mic be affected by heat or humidity. Royer Labs specifically designed this microphone to endure the hardest of uses and is definitely a heavy-duty mic, which is one of the features that make it so appealing to professionals that are well aware of all of the accidents that can happen both on tour and in studios.

Royer Lab’s R-121 is our Premium Choice because no matter where you finalize the mic placements, it will have equal, all-around sensitivity bout at the back and front of the product. This is one fantastic recording mic that can be used to great audio effect in any studio and should serve you for many years if you decide to invest!

Great Value

 Shure SM57Our Great Value product has to be the Shure SM57 LC. You cannot get a more all-inclusive bundle at such a wonderful price anywhere else! This microphone will immediately focus on the main sound source that is placed in front of it and won’t take in any background noise coming from the sides. Every musician knows the frustration that comes with trying to record a track and having noisy band mates or relatives in the room. Shure took it upon them to provide their customers with the best mic that can put an end to all of that frustration and to make recording enjoyable again, with or without people around!

Being in the Top 5 on Amazon’s microphone list, it’s easy to see why this product has won the hearts of many. It’s compacted, durable and performs extremely well under almost any condition. It’s a multi-purpose mic that is ideal for using as a guitar-amp microphone thanks to the clear sound that it uses to represent all of your playings.

Shure’s SM57-LC is our Great Value choice because it is simply an industry standard. If you have been looking around to find the perfect combination of price, quality, and clarity, you don’t have to look any further! The Sm67-LC will provide you with professional standard recordings without robbing you off of your hard-earned money.

Conclusion

Choosing a mic for your guitar amp can be a long and straining journey, especially since most microphones are not tailored by default just for guitar amplifiers (read the study). It’s necessary to read many reviews to see what customers say about the suitability of a particular mic to using it as an amp microphone.

Even though it can be hard to pick a good candidate to help you record and perform better when you are swarmed by a pool of endless options, we hope we managed to help you narrow down your options to the bare necessities and we hope you will be able to pick a microphone that suits you and your playing style quickly!

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