So you're in need of a microphone that will bring out the best in your guitar amp. The tone is perfect and you need to make sure that you get that exact sound in your recording or out of the PA. There are a few different factors that go into choosing the correct guitar amp microphone and we'll cover them in this Buyers Guide. Also be sure to check out our 6 Secrets to a Better Guitar Recording article!
Some things to keep in mind...
Frequency response is a fancy expression that translates to, "the range of frequencies/pitches that a microphone can pickup." The microphone's diaphragm is what picks up the sound. The materials and size of the diaphragm determine the frequency response and ultimately what the microphone sounds like.
Depending on the style of music, you may want more mids for clarity, or more high end for some shimmer. EQ can help, but can very easily make guitars thin and "phasey" sounding. Finding a microphone with a frequency response tailored to your style of music and guitar setup will help give it the extra push it needs without adding EQ.
Polar patterns on electric guitar microphones are not as important as in other recording situations. Yes, a polar pattern change on a condenser microphone will alter the tonal response, but the capsule, circuit and placement have the largest impact on the sound.
Primary and Supplemental Microphones
Tone blending is a very common way to get crisp highs and smooth mids in a guitar track. The idea is to put two or three microphones of different tonal characteristics on the same (or sometimes different) speaker. Each microphone will need to be equidistant from the speaker to ensure phase coherency. If the microphones are out of phase with each other, the tone will sound thin and unusable.
Some very common combinations are a large diaphragm condenser blended with a dynamic microphone, or a ribbon microphone blended with a dynamic. In general, condensers are very detailed, ribbons have a high end roll-off and smooth mids and dynamics don't have very much of a hyped response which makes them great for foundation. Of course, there are exceptions to this and no two microphones sound exactly the same. The types of microphones you should choose depend on how the amp sounds and the final tone that you are going for.
The e609 is easily our favorite electric guitar microphone. It is a dynamic microphone at a very reachable price point and sounds great on almost any guitar rig. It has a very natural response that doesn't require much, if any, processing at all. Check out this video from Sennheiser about using the e609:
The e609 really shines on distorted guitar but sounds great on clean as well. It's big brother, the e906, can help add the extra shimmer on clean channels to polish it off. Feel free to listen to our shootout here.
The SM57 is a long-used dynamic microphone on all things recording. It has a brighter response and allows for things to "fit" nicely in the mix. The 57 has some bite to it on guitar cabs, so it is the most common microphone to blend with a ribbon microphone. The 57 can capture the bite and the ribbon can capture the fullness. Also at a very reasonable price point, this is a great way to start recording guitar.
In the metal community, the PR30/PR30B is known as the holy grail of guitar cab microphones. It captures tons of bite for an extremely aggressive, in your face sound. Although it looks like a condenser microphone, this is an end-fire dynamic microphone. That means that the red grill is where sound is captured. This microphone works great in a situation where you need loads of bite and attack in a guitar tone.
Coming in at an impressively low cost, the AR5 is an amazing ribbon microphone for guitar cabinets. It has a smooth high frequency roll-off which takes off the fizz and edge from a distorted guitar. One of our favorite things about the AR5 is the value for the price; This microphone sounds a lot more expensive than it really is. It works great on its own or as a complimentary microphone to a condenser or dynamic.
Our condenser of choice is the Aston Origin. Being a fairly new company, they have had time to study different capsules and circuits to make one of the cleanest, most natural-sounding microphones on the market. The Origin is a great choice for a guitar cabinet because it will stay true to your sound. Our customers say, "what goes in is what comes out of the speakers." Although the low cut is at 80Hz, it sounds like a fairly extreme clean up if you need it. It also includes a pad for those situations when you need to get the speaker so loud that it's moving.
These are our top recommendations for guitar cab microphones. If you have questions about your particular guitar rig, we would love to help out! Feel free to give us a call at 855-269-0474 or stop in our store in Downtown Appleton. Be sure to check our other Buyer's Guides here.