If you’re looking to find the best mic for acoustic guitar in the studio, then keep on reading.
An acoustic guitar recording, when done correctly, can sound absolutely divine. But capturing this great sound is something that plagues even the world’s top engineers.
The acoustic is an instrument that covers a huge range of the frequency spectrum. While the electric guitar likes to sit firmly in the mids, the acoustic loves the lows and highs equally. You need an acoustic guitar microphone that can capture this full range sound with ease.
There are a few things to consider about the tone of an acoustic guitar. The room the guitar sits in will play a part on the overall sound. The size of the body will give you varying degrees of low end and warmth. The way you pick will create more or less of a percussive element.
With so much to think about, it’s often tricky to figure out where to start with a microphone choice. Do you go for a small diaphragm mic to emphasize that top end sparkle? Or do you go for a large diaphragm mic to add that warm low end?
You’re about to find out the answers to those questions and explore the 17 best microphones for recording acoustic guitar. Your acoustic guitar will sound better than ever when you’re done here!
Small Diaphragm vs. Large Diaphragm for Acoustic Guitar
If you consider the difference from a recording perspective, you can split each diaphragm type into the characteristics they will offer your acoustic guitar recording.
Large diaphragm mics offer a much lower noise ratio compared to their smaller counterparts. If This is a bonus if you want to push the gain of the interface or preamp.
From a strict sound quality recording angle, small diaphragm mics are technically better suited to the job. The transient response of a small diaphragm microphone is a little tighter, and they have the ability to track percussive attack better. This is why they are used on drums a lot.
Small diaphragm microphones offer a pretty solid pick up pattern which is usually fairly tight in it’s capture area. This means, if you’re pointing it straight at something, it’s going to capture what it’s being pointed at, with less spill from the back and sides.
Large diaphragm microphones are better at capturing lower frequencies, a fuller sound, and a fuller dynamic range, while small diaphragm mics have a better extended high end range and are tighter in their response.
Neither option is right or wrong. The best way to determine which is the right one for you to record acoustic with is to try them both and use your ears. No spec sheet in the world is as honest as your own ears when it comes to working out what you want to capture.
In This Article:
- Best Small Diaphragm: Neumann KM 184
- Runner Up Small Diaphragm: Shure SM81
- Best Budget Small Diaphragm: Avantone Pro CK-1
- Best Large Diaphragm: Shure KSM44
- Runner Up Large Diaphragm: AKG Pro Audio C414 XLS
- Best Budget Large Diaphragm: sE Electronics X1S
- Best USB: Rode NT-USB
- AKG Perception 170
- Shure KSM141
- Studio Projects B3
- Rode NT4
- AKG C 451 B
- Blue Microphones Dragonfly
- Audio Technica ATM450
- Aston Microphones Starlight Laser
- Telefunken USA M61 FET
- Miktek C5
These are the Top Microphones for recording acoustic guitar. Whether they’re a small or large diaphragm, great for detailed or nuanced sound, they all have their uses. Read on to find out which one is right for you!
Top Small Diaphragm Pick: Neumann KM 184
As far as condenser microphones go, the pickup pattern on this mic makes it a dream for acoustic guitar.
Besides its lineage and brand name, the Neumann KM 184 has a reputation for having the least possible coloration, even with a wide pick up angle.
Its super low coloration will allow you to accurately pick up the full dynamic range of your acoustic guitar’s sound. Plus, thanks to a high SPL, you can do so without fear of distortion.
Although it is a small diaphragm mic, its wide frequency range means it captures detailed sound sources like a large diaphragm mic. That means everything this mic picks up is exactly what you’re giving it.
These features make the Neumann a classic choice for acoustic guitars, especially when close-miking. Additionally, this is an incredibly versatile mic known for taking EQ very well.
It is the perfect microphone, and therefore our top choice small diaphragm mic, for those looking to accurately record acoustic and showcase the full depth of their stellar sound.
Overall, it is a mic in the high-end price range from a trusted brand, and thus a high quality, dependable microphone that stands out in any studio setting.
Neumann KM 184 Key Features:
- Transformerless design
- Frequency Response of 20Hz to 20kHz
- Self noise is very low- 16db (A-Weighted)
- Maximum Sound Pressure Level of 138dB
Runner Up Small Diaphragm: Shure SM81
The Shure SM81 handles a maximum sound pressure level of 146 dB with the built-in – 10dB pad, which means it’s capable of handling a large range of sound levels with a high SPL. From gentle fingerpicking to percussive strumming, this mic will capture it with profound detail.
It’s also a rugged beast among condenser microphones, which means it can be used in a variety of temperatures and humidity levels. Its durability does not impact its style; this is a slim and, relative to its competitors, a lightweight and maneuverable microphone.
At a lower price than the KM 184, you can expect less in terms of high-end technical specifications. There is less to play around with. For instance, it has less sparkle in the high end than other, pricier mics.
Despite this, its frequency response rivals that of its higher-end competitors. Overall, it produces a detailed, accurate, neutral frequency response for excellent recordings. Transparent and natural sound perfect for acoustic guitars.
Shure SM81 Key Features:
- Weight: 0.5 lb / 0.2 kg
- Frequency Response of 20Hz to 20k Hz
- Maximum Sound Pressure Level of 136 dB, or 146 dB with -10dB Pad
- Three selectable responses in low-frequency including flat, 6 dB/octave roll off, or 18 dB/octave roll off
Best Small Diaphragm Budget Option: Avantone Pro CK-1
You can’t get the record deal until you have the triumphant microphone, but you can’t get a decent mic without the major funding from the record deal.
Enter the Avantone Pro CK-1, a truly useful investment. It is a multi-pattern pencil condenser microphone designed with professional-grade FET circuitry, and nickel and brass parts throughout.
Its multi-pattern design, allowing you to switch between Cardioid pattern, Hyper-Cardioid, and Omni capsules, makes it one of the most versatile microphones at this price point.
The polar pattern of a microphone is very important as it changes how it can be used. Cardioid and hyper-cardioid pick up patterns are great for getting really close to a sound sources and isolating them, but omnidirectional patterns can be great for recording a room or at a distance.
This means you have what is essentially three microphones in one! You can’t make use of all the features at once, but you can repurpose the mic for multiple uses in a recording setting.
Although it can’t quite compete with the detail and build-quality of higher-end microphones, the CK-1 offers comparable sound quality with additional versatility in its price range… which is actually quite affordable.
Producing a clear, balanced sound, it is by far the best value in the small diaphragm mics category for recording acoustic guitars.
Avantone Pro CK-1 Key Features:
- Select from Cardioid pattern , Hyper-Cardioid & Omni polar patterns (capsules are included)
- Frequency Response of 25Hz to 20k Hz
- Maximum Sound Pressure Level of 138db
- Comes with three capsules, padded wooden case, and SSM shockmount
Best Large Diaphragm: Shure KSM44A
The Shure KSM44A is a multi-pattern large dual-diaphragm side-address condenser microphone, designed to capture nuanced tones of acoustic guitar. It includes two low-mass, 24K gold–plated, one-inch diaphragms.
This dual-diaphragm design is its secret weapon for recording acoustic guitars. This design allows it to capture beautifully and with detail, the nuanced tones of acoustic guitars.
Multiple polar patterns make this mic extremely useful in any studio or home recording situation. Cardioid, omnidirectional, and figure 8 polar patterns are available for use with this microphone.
This means you can use it to get close and isolate a single source (cardioid), mic up a room for some ambient guitar recordings (omnidirectional), or isolate what is both in front of and behind the mic (figure 8).
Add this to its groundbreaking low self noise at just 4dB, a max SPL (objective loudness) of 131dB, and internal pop filters … the specs just go on and on. It is also built like a tank and engineered to the teeth to provide the ultimate versatility.
Bottom line: this is another classic mic from Shure. As a large diaphragm option, it provides the greatest detail and depth of tone while also offering high quality build and flexibility. It is in a higher price range, but is a great large diaphragm mic for recording acoustic guitars.
Shure KSM44 Key Features:
- Three switchable polar pattern options include Cardioid, Omni, and Figure-8
- Frequency Response of 20Hz to 20k Hz
- Maximum Sound Pressure Level is 131dB when used as Cardioid, 137dB on the Omni setting, and 136dB for Figure-8
- Includes a custom shock mount, mount option for stand, protective pouch, and carrying case
Runner Up Large Diaphragm: AKG Pro Audio C414 XLS
The AKG Pro Audio C414 XLS offers nine pickups, a choice of three bass-cut filters, and three attenuation levels. A handy LED light will even tell you if the mic is overloaded. It can do everything but make you pancakes.
The nine selectable polar patterns make this microphone an excellent choice for purchase if you don’t own many mics already, but want something that has a practical application for most recording situations.
The attenuation lets you record any sound sources without worrying about clipping your mic input, so you can always rest assured that your recordings are super high quality and unharmed by nasty digital distortion.
If you’ve listened to music, you’ve probably heard this microphone. For acoustic guitars, its versatility is overshadowed by its engineering.
It was engineered with high linearity, meaning it offers a neutral sound and provides exceptionally detailed recording for acoustic instruments, especially the guitar.
Considered a standard, workhorse mic in the mid-high price range, the C414 XLS offers a great natural and neutral sound, along with an endless amount of possibilities to explore when you record acoustic guitar.
AKG Pro Audio C414 XLS Key Features:
- Low cut filter: 160; 80; 40 Hz
- Three pad options: -6; -12; -18 dB
- Frequency Response of 20Hz to 20k Hz
- Polar Patterns: cardioid, figure eight, hypercardioid, omni, and wide cardioid
Best Budget Large Diaphragm: sE Electronics X1S
Another example of improving upon innovation, the sE Electronics X1S expands upon the success of the X1. It starts with a precision-crafted handmade cardioid condenser capsule.
That’s surrounded with high performance circuitry. And despite all this, you can save up your milk money to buy this microphone.
This mic has two selectable low-cut filters, at 80Hz or 160Hz, which allow it to cut down low frequency rumble. It also has pad switches for -10dB and -20dB, which allow it to offer the best dynamic range at its price count.
The ultimate result? An extremely versatile large diaphragm condenser mic in whose strengths include recording acoustic guitars at an incredible price. That is a very wise investment.
sE Electronics X1S Key Features:
- Includes clip and stand adapter
- Self Noise rating 9dB (A-weighted)
- Frequency range of 20Hz to 20kHz
- Maximum Sound Pressure Level of 160db
- Very cost-effective price point
Best USB: Rode NT-USB
USB means “plug and play,” which means you don’t need to supply phantom power, the standard power connection set up for condenser mics, from an external source. Just mics, USB cords, and a recording device. A great plus for all its convenience!
Most condenser microphones use an XLR cable and are used through some kind of recording interface. USB power makes this ideal for those who are on a strict budget and don’t want to purchase extra products with their microphone.
The Rode NT-USB is a USB cardioid side-address condenser microphone. It is everything you’d expect from any condenser microphone. It picks up the wide range of tones produced by an acoustic guitar, just with the convenient ability to set up almost instantly.
Don’t confuse a convenient power source with a low-quality product; the Rode NT-USB is still a great microphone for recording.
Additionally, it features a zero-latency stereo headphone monitoring jack, which allows you to monitor the microphone input in real time. It is compatible with both Windows and Mac operating systems.
While its technical specifications can rival traditional condenser mics, its price and convenience make it an excellent option for those not interested in phantom power supply set ups.
Rode NT-USB Key Features:
- Frequency Response of 20Hz to 20k Hz
- Maximum Sound Pressure Level of 110db
- Monitor in real time with 3.5mm output
- Includes pop filter, tripod and storage pouch
Other Condenser Mics Reviewed
Neumann KM 184
Though they didn’t make the list of top pick microphones, the mics below can be used for recording acoustic tunes and much, much more, making them worthy mics to check out.
A small diaphragm condenser microphone with a frequency response of 20Hz to 20kHz and a Maximum Sound Pressure Level of 155dB.
It has a 1/2″ small transducer diaphragm for accurate sound response. It is popular for use with all string instruments, and can be used as overheads for drum recording. If you need something with a super low price, this may be the guy for you.
A dual pattern end-addressed condenser microphone with switchable polar patterns including cardioid and omnidirectional. It also has switchable attenuation with 0dB, 15dB, and 25dB options for higher SPLs.
It has very low self-noise, and is ideal for string, woodwind, brass, percussion instruments, and recording ensembles. With a mid-range price point, it is also affordable!
A multi-pattern condenser microphone which features a 1–inch large sputtered gold diaphragm. Its three selectable polar patterns include cardioid, omnidirectional, and figure eight.
It has a maximum sound pressure level of 132dB, or 142dB with included 10dB pad. It also includes a shock mount, travel bag, and windscreen.
An X/Y stereo condenser microphone with a matched pair of cardioid condenser capsules in one mic unit. A 90 degree alignment allows for a stereo array recording which can be powered with a regular 9V battery.
It includes a custom XLR and 3.5mm cords and dual-head wind screen.
The return of a 1969 classic through modern re-engineering, this cardioid condenser microphone has a switchable high pass filter at either 75Hz or 150Hz to avoid low-end distortion.
It also includes selectable pre-attenuation pads of 0dB, -10dB, and -20dB. Historically used for drum overheads, but gaining popularity in recording acoustic music.
A cardioid condenser microphone with a large single-membrane diaphragm construction. It has a frequency response of 20Hz-20kHz and a rotating head design which allows for more precise miking of acoustic guitars.
It also includes a wooden storage box and shock mount.
A small diaphragm cardioid condenser instrument microphone with a switch from flat frequency response to a low end roll.
It also includes an 80Hz hi-pass filter, a 10dB pad for a higher maximum sound pressure level (152 dB with pad), and stick design with side address.
A laser-targeted cardioid condenser pencil microphone with three voicing options, including vintage, modern, and hybrid.
The laser feature allows for position marking and recall, and the pencil mic body allows for precise miking. It has a small diaphragm construction.
An FET condenser microphone with 15mm gold sputtered diaphragm and
omnidirectional condenser mic.
It has a frequency response of 20Hz to 50kHz and very detailed recording from its quick transient response.
A small diaphragm cardioid pencil condenser microphone with a Mylar and evaporated gold diaphragm. Produces a Classic mic tone excellent for recording acoustic guitars.
It has been individually tested to create a graph of each mic’s frequency response. It is available as a single mic or a matched stereo pair of mics.
As mentioned earlier, the diaphragm is the membrane within a condenser mic that vibrates when sound waves hit it. As the membrane vibrates, the distance between it and the fixed back plate changes.
This change in distance creates an electronic signal, and thus, sound is produced.
You will find that condenser mics are highly recommended as the best microphones for recording acoustic guitar, because they can capture the guitar’s fine, nuanced tones. You know: those warm, honey-like deeps, and the plaintive, crystal clear highs.
The terms “large diaphragm” and “small diaphragm” are often referred to when it comes to condenser mics, and you’re probably wondering what these terms mean.
Originally, a “large diaphragm” microphone was one with a membrane of one inch or more in diameter. A “small diaphragm” microphone, had a membrane of 1/2 inch or less.
However, due to discrepancies with the metric system, modern microphones regularly flaunt these “rules.”
Now that you know what the terms mean, let’s move on to why they matter.
Why Does It Matter What Size The Diaphragm Is?
Technically speaking, a larger diaphragm condenser will capture more acoustic waves. They also have a lower self-noise level. This means that these mics will capture more of your talent, and less of their own intrinsic operational noise.
That being said, a small diaphragm condenser has the ability to respond more accurately to sound waves.
Besides the technical aspects, the sound produced will influence your choice. Large diaphragm’s tend to provide a bolder, fuller sound for acoustic instruments.
Whereas, small diaphragms provide a very neutral, exact replica of sound.
So, if you’re looking to add a certain lush richness to your overall tone, a large diaphragm condenser mic is one of the best microphones for recording.
But if, instead, you want a very true sonic picture and to leave the vibrancy to your talent, a small diaphragm condenser mic is probably one of the best microphones for you.
What’s The Preferred Method For Recording Acoustic Guitar With A Mic?
You might think that the microphone ought to be directly in front of the guitar sound hole.
Don’t do this. For most acoustic guitars, this will result in picking up more lower frequency (aka “boomy” sound) than the higher, expressive tones. Instead, place the microphone between the 12th and 14th fret.
Additionally, don’t get too close to the guitar. Proximity effect is a real thing, in which the recording is distorted by placing the microphone too close to the source (this is why a high SPL can also be important).
Instead, place a microphone somewhere between 6-12 inches away from the guitar, with the mic head pointing at the neck.
It can also be a good idea to place a pop filter in front of the mic.
What Type Of Polar Pattern Is Good For Acoustic Guitar?
A cardioid condenser mic, with a cardioid pickup pattern, is the most common choice among microphones for recording acoustic guitar.
This doesn’t mean other versions can’t be used- they are! Omnidirectional polar pattern mics don’t experience proximity effect, which means you can mic acoustic guitars with these mics at extremely close range – an inch or two away from the neck is not unheard of.
You can also do the exact opposite, and take advantage of an acoustically fascinating recording space by placing an omni several feet away from the instrument.
Figure eight pickup pattern mics will experience more proximity effect, and do great work when placed above the neck a bit. One cool thing you can try with figure eight polar pattern mics is using them for recording vocals and guitar at the same time.
This can give you something to play around with in post.
What Can I Do To Improve My Acoustic Guitar Recordings?
Obviously, quality begets quality, so you’ll want to improve your demos with one of the best microphones for recording acoustic guitars.
Make sure your instrument is in good condition, with good, new strings, and make sure you’re playing in a designated music room.
In order to properly mic your acoustic guitar, you’ll want to first make sure your recording area is sound proof.
Pay attention to anything that might impact the sound quality in your space, too, like furniture, pillows, or your steel robot collection… anything that might dampen or reflect the sound waves you’ll be creating.
How Much Should You Pay For A Mic?
The very best mics obviously have a higher price range. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t get an awesome mic for less, either! You can find mics in a variety of price ranges.
If you don’t have a ton of money to drop on the best mics, try grabbing a simple multiple pickup pattern mic priced in the sub $250 range (like the Avantone CK-1).
This mic will give you incredible value for the price, and will get you recording with little to no trouble!
If you’re looking for the best microphones for recording acoustic guitars, you’ve got seventeen solid options in different price brackets to check out from today’s article.
We focused on the differences between large and small sized diaphragms, with plenty of each option.
And of course, we talked mostly about condenser microphones, as condenser mics are more prone to give you that awesome sound quality that you will need for capturing the smooth tones of acoustic instruments.
While larges will create a big, lush, warm sound, smalls will give back exactly what you give them.
Choosing the right acoustic guitar recorder is certainly a challenge!
But truly, there’s no wrong answer, just the right sound for you. Grab a couple mics in your price range, along with a cheap pop filter, and try them both. Let us know what works.