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Author Topic: Pro Studio-grade Mics for acoustic guitar  (Read 9845 times)

Dan Lawrence

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Pro Studio-grade Mics for acoustic guitar
« on: August 13, 2012, 02:50:44 pm »

I'm ready to step up my acoustic guitar mic sound. I have a good signal chain (UA 2-610/1176, or AEA ribbon pre) but only one nice mic. (RCA 44 BX). I'd like suggestions for a great mic in the $2-3k range. I tend to think vintage but I know that its hard to know what you are really acquiring if you're not on hand to test it in person.

I'd like the mic to have an extremely  low s/n level, and sound great on either of two guitars. (Martin '71 D-35 <read: boomy dreadnoughts> or a moderm Martin M series (much more mid/hi - range balanced). If you think different mics for the two, love to hear that too! My room is fairly well acoustically treated, with a lively sound, but exposed to street traffic noise. That is why omni's seem a little intimidating, but would love to have that as an optional polar pattern.

Thanks in advance

dd @ Mountain Sound
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Kai

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Re: Pro Studio-grade Mics for acoustic guitar
« Reply #1 on: August 14, 2012, 07:08:59 am »

AKG C414, "normal" version, not too old, not TL II or any  "C12 -type capsule" -one.
E.g.:
- AKG C414 ULS
- AKG C414 BULS

Regards
Kai
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halocline

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Re: Pro Studio-grade Mics for acoustic guitar
« Reply #2 on: August 14, 2012, 07:55:20 am »

AKG C414, "normal" version, not too old, not TL II or any  "C12 -type capsule" -one.
E.g.:
- AKG C414 ULS
- AKG C414 BULS

Regards
Kai

Interesting reply....I also really like my 414B ULS for classical guitar, but the 'norm' for steel string acoustic seems to be small diaphragms, like KM84s.

Also, why would you not recommend older versions of the 414 with the coveted C12 capsule? I have no experience with them but everyone raves....
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Kai

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Re: Pro Studio-grade Mics for acoustic guitar
« Reply #3 on: August 14, 2012, 11:21:33 am »

why would you not recommend older versions of the 414 with the coveted C12 capsule?
Not for acoustic guitar if you have a price range of 2-3K$.
The old ones are all broken or reskined.
The new manufactured ones don't give the same sound like the famous old ones.
Plus - the older C414s have much more noise compared to one I recommended.

The ones I mentioned have an exceptional good bass sound not reached by any other I know. Good does not only mean strong, but even controlled.
Mids and highs are transparent, not too agressive and well defined.
Small diafrag mics tend to sound thin on an AccGt.
Exception (again AKG -funny) C451 CK1s: big bottom, big top. But not the class of a 414.

If one likes a C12 style sound, he could try the SoundElux/Bock E250.

Regards
Kai
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klaus

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Re: Pro Studio-grade Mics for acoustic guitar
« Reply #4 on: August 14, 2012, 12:03:33 pm »

To the thread starter: I am serious about enforcing the iron ground rule of no anonymous postings. Please identify yourself, to keep the thread live.

Thanks,
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Klaus Heyne
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soapfoot

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Re: Pro Studio-grade Mics for acoustic guitar
« Reply #5 on: August 14, 2012, 01:36:38 pm »

Small diafrag mics tend to sound thin on an AccGt.
Exception (again AKG -funny) C451 CK1s: big bottom, big top. But not the class of a 414.

I don't know, I've had what I feel are some pretty sexy results with a KM-54, KM-56, and even KM-84! Taste is individual, though.
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Dan Lawrence

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Re: Pro Studio-grade Mics for acoustic guitar
« Reply #6 on: August 14, 2012, 03:56:03 pm »

Thanks Everyone - For the record, Dan Lawrence from Mountain Sound here. I tried to change my handle months ago with no luck. I will try that again.


But as for microphones, ... I just love hearing the discussion. I wonder if the 414 fans think the eb model is suitable for that app. Truthfully, I was torn between a 414eb and the RCA44bx I opted for instead. So many mics, too little cash ... Seems like the 414 is a front runner. I've heard that eb is particularly nice for my particular vocal needs as well. Still, that s/n level info gives me alot to think about.

It is good to hear details like "works great on classical, not so much on steel strings ..." so thanks for those bits too.

What I'm really curious about is prefered polar patterns. The 414's are switchable, yes? Which pattern do y'all prefer. (I heard that xlII is not so nice in regards to switching, besides other issues).

A couple of other mics I have lusted after ... and wonder if they would be good choices for this app, are the Royer 122 (probably not the V, in this case, but I'm open), a Gefel, (perhaps an M1030, but I don't know if cardiod will give me the sound I'm looking for), perhaps an earthworks QTC40, though its a very different animal. Anyone try steel string acoustics w/ any of these?

Thanks again,
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klaus

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Re: Pro Studio-grade Mics for acoustic guitar
« Reply #7 on: August 14, 2012, 04:33:18 pm »

A general observation about multi-pattern, dual-membrane capsule mics:
With few exceptions, the purest sound will always come from cardioid. With the exception of the M149, it is the only pattern that uses ONE diaphragm without mixing audio from front and rear sides in some combination to get hyper, or semi cardioid, omni, or figure-of eight.

When regularly using pattens other than cardioid, it is always preferable to use a single-diaphragm mic (omni, hyper cardioid, figure eight.)  The added patterns in multi-pattern dual-diaphragm capsule mics are rarely satisfying, and, at least to me, strike me as more of a marketing tool than a full-performance choice.
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Rick Sutton

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Re: Pro Studio-grade Mics for acoustic guitar
« Reply #8 on: August 14, 2012, 10:21:46 pm »

 I do a lot of acoustic guitar recording and the mic that I feel meets your needs is a Schoeps CMC series. I prefer the MK4 capsule but there are various capsules to choose from. I owned omni capsules for my Schoeps but if you have any issues with external noise pollution I wouldn't suggest them.
 As to the post that "The old ones are all broken or reskined" when referring to 414's.........they may not be easy to find but they are still out there. I own 3 and have a friend nearby with a pair.

 By the way Dan I think you want a high s/n not a low one.
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gkippola

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Re: Pro Studio-grade Mics for acoustic guitar
« Reply #9 on: August 15, 2012, 12:14:46 am »

My go-to for this is DPA 4011
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Dan Lawrence

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Re: Pro Studio-grade Mics for acoustic guitar
« Reply #10 on: August 15, 2012, 10:40:48 am »

Klaus, thanks for the rundown on preferred patterns. Need I say your reputation precedes you? I will take that to heart and focus more towards the cardioids. Omni's/8's are so troublesome anyways in my "studio."

And Rick, thanks for reminding me that low noise = HIGH s/n. I can get those terms spun upside down so easily.

I've often seen those DPA adds, and wondered how I might get a reference, so I'll definitely check those out, kippola.

One other general question, to extend the discussion. I've often read that it is quite common to close mic with two different mics, often, say, and LDC type on the body and another smaller condenser or ribbon on the neck somewhere. I have reached better results this way with my $200-500 mic collection, but I wonder if any of you all still use this technique with the higher end mics like you listed, and if so, which to put where.

Thanks again, cuz y'all know what it's like to try to select from a "sound unheard" POV on an investment like this.

cheers
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Rick Sutton

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Re: Pro Studio-grade Mics for acoustic guitar
« Reply #11 on: August 15, 2012, 12:26:02 pm »

I've often read that it is quite common to close mic with two different mics, often, say, and LDC type on the body and another smaller condenser or ribbon on the neck somewhere.

 For solo acoustic guitar I use a pair of mics usually about 10" out spaced from the body to the 12th fret. I prefer using 2 mics of the same type. Pairs that I have successfully used are Schoeps CMC4, U87 ITA, Neumann KM84, AKG C414.
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Piedpiper

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Re: Pro Studio-grade Mics for acoustic guitar
« Reply #12 on: August 16, 2012, 12:07:19 am »

I second the recommendations for the DPA 4011 and the Schoeps CMC6 mk4, the former for incomparable accurate capture of complex harmonics and transients, makes other mics seem muddy, and the latter for a bit more technicolor rendering. Of course it all depends on what you're after. IMO, they are a major improvement on the KM84, and others.
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DigitMus

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Re: Pro Studio-grade Mics for acoustic guitar
« Reply #13 on: August 16, 2012, 02:57:29 am »

Just to give you further choices, I find the Microtech Gefell M295 and Brauner Valvet BE have given me the best results on acoustic guitars. The 295 is uncannily clear, while the Brauner seems to add a bit of euphonic "roundness" (for lack of a better descriptive). The only other mic that has given me goosebumps on acoustic is the DPA 4041T - but being an omni, demands a really good sounding room.
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gkippola

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Re: Pro Studio-grade Mics for acoustic guitar
« Reply #14 on: August 26, 2012, 12:15:19 pm »

In the studio, I will generally use the 4011 for single mic applications of aco gtr, and cmc6 mk21 for stereo, depending on what i'm after.  Live-the 4011 has pulled me out of some difficult situations.
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Dan Lawrence

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Re: Pro Studio-grade Mics for acoustic guitar
« Reply #15 on: August 26, 2012, 03:56:05 pm »

I'm setting up an audition of the DPA's in Portland. I'm wondering if your experience is with the transformerless (TL) version, or one of the earlier versions. The dealer has to have them shipped in special from DPA, so I thought I'd try to go in knowing which I'm inclined to prefer.

Dan
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Dan Lawrence

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Re: Pro Studio-grade Mics for acoustic guitar
« Reply #16 on: August 30, 2012, 01:23:35 pm »

Well, since choosing is too difficult, I've decided to a) buy one schoepps w/CMC6 -4mk which I paid an affordable second hand price for, and b) audition some stereo pairs of dpa's (4011), along w/ some Josephson and maybe one or two others. If I'm lucky he'll have some Gefell's on hand too, cuz I've been wanting to hear those for years.  Tidepool Audio up in Portland has offered to arrange studio time and bring in a few choices for me to sample. That, in my book, is the only way to make an informed and responsible choice. I'd rather drive 6 hours and pop for a motel room in order to shop than buy blindy on the internet. BUT I COULDN'T SET IT UP/GO IN W/SOME KNOWLEDGE W/O ALL YOUR HELP. So

THANKS again.

d :)
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halocline

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Re: Pro Studio-grade Mics for acoustic guitar
« Reply #17 on: September 26, 2012, 10:19:17 am »

A caveat; I'm hardly any sort of professional engineer, but I do have a very detailed understanding of guitar sound. I believe that the first big step in determining what mics are best for acoustic guitar is to decide what type of recorded sound you're aiming for. Steel string acoustic recordings often value the presence of sibilance and string noise, and proximity effect, to create something that is not 'realistic' but makes the guitar sound bigger and closer. Classical recordings usually have the opposite goal; to minimize string and finger noise and re-create the sound of the guitar in a nice concert hall but with extra detail.

One thing that I hear engineers commonly suggest is placing the mics near the soundhole. To me this is the worst possible location IF you're looking for accurate sound of the instrument. Sound comes out of the soundhole out of phase with sound coming off the top; to me this creates an overtone nightmare in the immediate vicinity of the soundhole. But, steel string players seem to like the 'phasey' overtone battles and elevated pick/string noise. It adds a percussive quality and (I guess) increases the guitar's ability to cut in a mix.

Similarly for aiming a directional mic at the 12th fret. That point is a node for open strings, probably the last thing I personally would want to emphasize. And, my goal as a classical player is to minimize finger noise. I would never point a mic directly at the fingerboard.

A nice compromise might be to have a pair of mics in near-coincident (or X/Y) about 3 feet away from the instrument. I believe that mic placement, and of course the room, is likely to have a far bigger impact on the sound than mic choice, within reason of course.

I use older 414BULS. I think Klaus once mentioned to me that these mics are more suited to the modern capsule than the EB, so maybe they're a better choice than EBs that do not have the brass capsule.

I've tried KM84s and schoeps and I'm not really a fan of either for classical guitar, although I do see how steel string players might prefer them. They seem to emphasize the transients and higher frequencies coming directly off the strings. My guess is that this has something to do with the speed of the smaller diaphragm, but that's a guess.
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Jim Williams

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Re: Pro Studio-grade Mics for acoustic guitar
« Reply #18 on: September 26, 2012, 12:15:14 pm »

For solo steel string guitar I use a pair of AKG 414 B-ULS models that have been reworked. The output transformers are gone and quality film caps were used to replace the hard and cold sounding Wima polycarbonate caps AKG used. (Those are those yellow 5 mm caps off the capsule).

For tracks and nylon string, it's those AKG 460B's also sans transformers. Those have new caps and a fast low noise dual opamp and low noise transistors. Those are very natural sounding mics that flatter a great instrument.
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klaus

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Re: Pro Studio-grade Mics for acoustic guitar
« Reply #19 on: September 26, 2012, 04:16:21 pm »

So you are in essence saying:

"I recommend these two mics, but only with my upgrades."
Which may be skirting the ground rules of this forum.

Would you recommend these mics for the thread starter's applications without your modifications?
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gkippola

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Re: Pro Studio-grade Mics for acoustic guitar
« Reply #20 on: September 27, 2012, 09:49:05 pm »

When using the Schoeps in a stereo pair, i usually have them (with MK21 capsules) each about 8-12" from the front of the guitar, one above the fingerboard aimed down at the soundhole/upper fingerboard area, the other at the lower big bout area behind the bridge. 

This config, when panned wide, creates a nice hole in the middle for a vocal to drop into, or the spread can be collapsed later w/pan if a tighter stereo is needed. I've gotten many compliments about the guitar sound w/ this method.

If I'm doing mono, it's a B&K 4011 aimed down at the hole/upper fretboard area 6-12" away.   
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klaus

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Re: Pro Studio-grade Mics for acoustic guitar
« Reply #21 on: September 28, 2012, 12:03:37 am »

Keeping the center image empty with your guitar recording technique is a great idea!

Thanks for sharing.
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Kai

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Re: Pro Studio-grade Mics for acoustic guitar
« Reply #22 on: September 28, 2012, 03:31:39 am »

... AKG 414 B-ULS models that have been reworked. The output transformers are gone...
If you don't like transformers, why don't you use the sister model AKG C414 B-TL?

Personally I prefer the transformer version.
Despite what one might expect I consider the bass range more controlled.
Might be the natural cut in the subsonic range the transformer offers.

Regards
Kai
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Jim Williams

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Re: Pro Studio-grade Mics for acoustic guitar
« Reply #23 on: September 28, 2012, 12:32:20 pm »

So you are in essence saying:

"I recommend these two mics, but only with my upgrades."
Which may be skirting the ground rules of this forum.

Would you recommend these mics for the thread starter's applications without your modifications?

I didn't recommend anything, I only stated my preferences. In essence what I said was that's what I use. Since I don't do modifications to either of those mics, I don't have a recommendation for anyone that does.
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Jim Williams

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Re: Pro Studio-grade Mics for acoustic guitar
« Reply #24 on: September 28, 2012, 12:38:04 pm »

If you don't like transformers, why don't you use the sister model AKG C414 B-TL?

Personally I prefer the transformer version.
Despite what one might expect I consider the bass range more controlled.
Might be the natural cut in the subsonic range the transformer offers.

Regards
Kai

The TL model is prefered here. I don't like the sound of AKG's transformers, too low fi for my tastes. I have 3 414B's and 6 460B's. None have a transformer because I prefer that sound. I realize I may be in the minority in that thought.
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Manning

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Re: Pro Studio-grade Mics for acoustic guitar
« Reply #25 on: October 04, 2012, 12:56:25 am »

Anyone here ever used Bees Neez mics?

My "go-to" mics for acoustic guitars are currently a pair of Bees Neez Arabella GTs in an XY using a figure-8 pattern. These are small (3/4") diaphragm tube mics, I find the smaller diaphragms captures more detail that the larger diaphragm found on conventional tube condensers, but they manage to be both richer and more nuanced than my KM84s or 414s. Pricewise they come in at about US$1000 each, so it's in the ballpark of the OP's budget.

DIsclaimer - I am a bit of a Bees Neez nut and have now collected eight of their mics (however I am in no way involved with the company other than as a paying customer).
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