Recording acoustics can be quite challenging. You need to understand the right type of mic to use and where it should be placed. Also, the placement of the mic should not affect the performance of the musician or even the band.
Which Mics To Consider To Record Acoustic Instruments?
Two types of condenser microphones can be used to record acoustic instruments:
– Small diaphragm microphones
– Large diaphragm microphones
Many recording studios prefer to use large diaphragm microphones for recording vocals because of their ability to capture everything. As the name suggests, large diaphragm microphones feature a large capsule measuring between one and a half inches and two inches across.
By using large diaphragm microphones, you can not only capture the sound of the acoustic instruments but also of the room you are recording in (Also, consider to read how to improve room acoustics). This is one of the best ways to capture 3D sound.
You do not need to place multiple large diaphragm microphones on an acoustic instrument. Put the mic two to three feet away from the acoustic instrument, and it will capture everything. For instance, using a large diaphragm mic to record an acoustic guitar allows you to capture the entire sound of the instrument, including sounds coming from the bridge, soundboard, and strings.
Credit: Mellow Dave/Flickr
The major drawback of large diaphragm microphones is that they are more sensitive to vocals. Therefore, it is challenging to capture acoustics with the microphone if someone is singing at the same time. The mic will capture more of the vocals than the instrument.
On the other hand, small diaphragm microphones or pencil microphones are designed to provide sound isolation. These microphones are typically very thin and can be as long as a foot long. A considerable advantage of small diaphragm microphones is they provide more focused sound. Therefore, they are beneficial when you want to isolate sounds in an environment with multiple sound sources.
Small diaphragm microphones are popular in movie sets because they provide exceptional sound clarity and reject noise from other sources. They can be quite useful when you need to capture sound simultaneously from an acoustic instrument as well as vocals from a singer. Small diaphragm microphones are incredibly useful for recording multiple sound sources than large diaphragm microphones.
Top Small Diaphragm Microphones for Recording Acoustic Instruments
This mic provides nothing short of exceptional acoustic recording experience. With this mic in your studio, you should feel comfortable getting clear audio from your acoustic instrument recording.
Credit: Audix USA
This one of the leading brands in the industry and being able to get the Audix F9 for less than $200 is just a dream for many sound engineers. Although there are more expensive models, the Audix F9 makes an excellent choice for those on a budget. Therefore, if you are not sure about spending significant amounts of money on an expensive acoustic microphone, the Audix F9 is one mic you want to go for. You can even resell the mic later and get most of your money back.
Neumann KM 184
KM 184 an excellent option, especially for people with a limited budget. It is a sought-after instrument for recording acoustics made by a reputable name in the industry. Some of the biggest studios in the world use this condenser microphone. The best part it costs less than $2000.
A KM 184 pointed towards your acoustic instrument provide excellent sound capture. For the best acoustic recording, combine the KM 184 with the U87 about two feet away from the sound source. Alternatively, use two mics with each mic placed at a 90-degree angle from the acoustic instrument. With the Neumann KM 184, your studio will be set for recording acoustic instruments.
Rode Microphone NT55
This is the favorite microphone for people who want to build a studio on a budget. It is an excellent condenser microphone that provides a quality recording of acoustic instruments. The Rode NT55 will get you the clear acoustic sound you are looking for, for less than $500.
Credit: Rode Microphones
Another popular microphone for recording acoustics that goes for less than $200. The microphone provides excellent acoustic recording, especially for live events. Many sound engineers swear by the Shure SM137 for recording drum overheads, guitar, and violins. Shure SM 137 has a reputation for providing a natural and flat response. A significant advantage of this mic is that it eliminates scooped mids and hyped recordings.
Top Large Diaphragm Microphones for Recording Acoustic Instruments
1. BLUE Dragonfly Microphone
The top large diaphragm microphone is specifically designed for recording acoustic instruments. This microphone has a unique shape that makes it suitable for placement in cramped spaces. Also, its cardioid pattern helps to focus it on the sound source. Although the Blue Dragonfly microphone is an excellent choice for recording acoustic instruments, it performs not so good when it comes to recording vocals.
Credit: Blue Designs
2. MXL 990
If you are looking for a good microphone for a hobby, then the MXL 990 can make an excellent choice. Although this microphone does not provide amazing sound quality, it provides room for making modifications. The sound quality that this microphone captures is a lot like that of the TLM 103, which wouldn’t cost as much if it wasn’t for its Neumann badge.
Credit: MXL Mics
The MXL, including its capsule, costs less than $300 even though it sounds more like a $1000 mic. If you are on a budget and are looking for quality microphones for recording acoustic instruments, the MXL can sound great once it has been modded.
Based on the extremely popular Neumann U87, the WA-87 is one of the most sought-after microphones for recording acoustic instruments. Many leading artists have used this mic to record some of their best hits and for a good reason. Unlike the Neumann U87 that may cost upwards of $2000, the WA-87 costs less than $1000.
Some engineers have compared the recordings of the Neumann U87 and the WA87 and claim to notice a difference in sound quality. However, if you take two U87s and compared their recordings, you may notice a difference. The difference does not mean that one is better or inferior to the other. The fact is that the WA 87 can provide better quality recordings than microphones two or three times its price.
Credit: Warm Audio
Apart from the excellent audio recordings, the WA 87 has many other useful features, including shock mounts and convenient wooden storage. You can always get it right with this microphone. For starters, this mic does not limit you to recording acoustic instruments only; it can also record vocals and other audio sources.
The major drawback of the WA 87 is that it is a large diaphragm microphone. Therefore, it needs to be a few feet away from the audio source to provide an excellent recording. This can be a significant disadvantage if you need to record both the acoustic instrument and vocals simultaneously and be able to isolate the sound sources during editing.
The inability to isolate sound is not a problem that is exclusive to the WA 87. Most large diaphragm microphones present problems when it comes to isolating sound sources in a recording.
4. Rode NTK
This tube microphone features a sound-sensitive twin triode in its signal path and has a beautifully designed power supply. It provides excellent recording of acoustic instruments and performs exceptionally well considering it costs less than $500. You can use it with more expensive acoustic microphones, and you may find it difficult to hear the difference.
Credit: Rode Microphones
If you are looking for an affordable microphone for recording acoustic instruments, then the Rode NTK may be one of your best choices. Rode has gained a reputation for producing quality mics that provide a professional-level recording.
5. AKG C414 XLS
This is like the Swiss Army Knife of microphones. It’s a classic piece that you will find in almost every recording studio. The AKG C414 XLS comes with different pick-up patterns that allow you to experiment on the best placement when recording acoustic instruments. When it comes to versatility, this microphone has impressive scores.
Credit: AKG Microphones
As far as sound quality is concerned, it is almost impossible to get poor quality recordings from this mic. If the quality of your sound recording is low, then you must be doing something wrong. The AKG C414 XLS is an exceptional mic for capturing acoustics considering. It costs around 900$.
An important step to take when recording music is not just to focus on the vocals, but also the instruments used. Acoustic instruments are incredibly versatile and can be used in a wide range of music styles. I mean, can you imagine what music would be like without acoustics?
However, if you are going to make your recordings, it is essential to do so with the best instruments and techniques possible. To capture the exciting sounds of your acoustic instruments, sound engineers recommend using the best microphones. Once you decide to use quality microphones for recording acoustic instruments, you quickly realize what a difference the mics can make to the quality of your recordings.
Based in Ampang, Malaysia. I go by M4-P. Started as a rapper/songwriter back in 2015 then quickly and gradually developed my skills to become a beatmaker, music producer, sound designer, and audio engineer. I currently work in a local underground record label called KOKADAIMON that has a number of very talented artists and producers.