If you’re like most guitar players…
Ever since you first started playing, you’ve been on a never-ending quest for the “perfect tone”.
Yet even when you think you’ve found it…
That’s only half-the-battle, because it still needs to sound just as good on your recordings.
And while electric guitar recording is a huge topic in-itself…
The first step in getting a good sound is starting with good microphones.
Which is why in today’s post, we will cover the TOP 7 Microphones for Recording Electric Guitar.
Let’s get started. First up…
1. Shure SM57
Common wisdom states that electric guitar cabs are typically recorded with dynamic mics.
And while that’s only partially true…
It is what the majority of engineers prefer and recommend as the default option for newbies.
And the dynamic mic long known as the industry standard for this task is Shure’s legendary SM57. Which is great news for home studios, because chances are…you already have one.
And if you DON’T, it should be one your shopping list anyway, because every studio should have at least one.
As to why this mic is so adored on electric guitar…
One theory is that the low-end rolloff at 200Hz compensates well for the proximity effect from close-miking a guitar cabinet.
But regardless of why…the Shure SM57 is so-insanely-popular on electric guitar, and so-cheap…that it’s the ONLY option I recommend for beginners.
2. Sennheiser MD421
Often considered the standard “alternative” to the SM57 on electric guitar…
Many people agree that Sennheiser’s MD421 works just as well for the job, yet sounds noticeably different.
In comparison, the MD421 has a wider frequency response, so it captures more highs and lows.
It also has a larger diaphragm, which results in greater off-axis coloration. And while that can be a bad thing…in this case, it only adds more character.
And just like the SM57 the Sennheiser MD421 is so-versatile that most engineers say it’s a must-have tool in their arsenal, whether they record electric guitar or NOT.
3. Sennheiser e609
Do a Google search for electric guitar mics, and the Sennheiser e609 is likely the first name you’ll see.
Because unlike the SM57 and MD421, which are widely-known for their versatility…
The e609 takes the exact opposite approach, with a design created specifically for the sole purpose of recording electric guitar.
Now here’s why it’s so unique:
First, its flat side-address design allows you to hang it by the mic cable from the top of your amp…no-stand-needed.
For live performances, that means one-less mic stand on an already crowded stage.
Second, it features the less-common supercardioid polar pattern, which is perfect on-stage because it allows for near perfect isolation of the instrument. It also allows for more tonal variations from small changes in positioning.
Third, its hum-compensating coil is excellent at blocking interference from nearby sources, which is a common problem with guitar cabs.
So if you want a mic tailored specifically for this one instrument, the Sennheiser e609 is the obvious choice.
Also check out the updated version of this mic:
4. AKG C414
While dynamic mics are typically thought of as the “go-to’s” for electric guitar…
That’s not always the case.
Because there are two condenser mics in particular, widely-considered to be the best-of-all-time, which are commonly used to record this instrument…
Sometimes on their own, but mostly in combination with 1 of the first 3 mics we covered.
The only reason you don’t often see them in home studios is their price.
The first condenser mic I’m referring to is the AKG C414.
Few people would argue that this AKG mic has long been known as the most versatile condenser mic in existence, as it sounds good on virtually everything.
And electric guitar cabs are definitely no exception. If you can afford one, I definitely recommend checking it out, because just like the SM57, and MD421, you’ll use it all the time.
5. Neumann U87
The “other” condenser mic commonly recommended in guitar forums by experienced engineers is the Neumann U87.
Just like the C414, it has ranked among the top “studio workhorses” for many decades now.
Besides their legendary reputation, unparalleled versatility…
The two notable features common to both the U87 and C414 are:
- They’re large diaphragm condensers (not small).
- They have an attenuation pad (which should be engaged).
The reason #1 matters is:
For some reason, large diaphragm condensers almost always sound better than small diaphragm condensers when recording this particular instrument. It’s not clear why, but its a fact that almost all engineers can agree upon.
The reason #2 matters is:
In order to get the best sound from many amps, they need to be played a high volume. Dynamic mics, with their higher max-SPL’s are typically better equipped to handle these extreme levels.
With condensers though, there’s a real potential for overloading and possible damage to mic. Which you certainly want to avoid with a mic as expensive as the U87.
That is why, you should almost always keep the pad engaged, just to be safe. As long as you can do that, a condenser mic like the U87 or C414 can add an entirely new dimension to your guitar sound.
6. Royer 121
Read the forum discussions online for long enough, and you’ll start to notice 3 patterns on the topic of guitar mics:
- Most people prefer either the SM57, MD421, or e609.
- Some people (who can afford them) like the C414 or U87.
- Everyone loves the Royer 121.
And while that might be a slight exaggeration…
You can literally search online for hours, and not find a single person who has tried this ribbon mic on guitar and not loved it.
Unfortunately it’s not cheap either, and probably beyond the budget of most home studios.
However, if you can afford it, and you want the one mic that’s almost guaranteed to over-deliver on its promises…
There’s no better bet than the Royer 121.
7. Beyerdynamic M160
While the Royer 121 is no-doubt the top ribbon mic for electric guitar….
What most people eventually discover is that MOST ribbon mics in general sound great as well.
The one other ribbon mic in particular that has been used on countless recordings over many decades is the Beyerdynamic M160.
According to legendary producer Eddie Kramer:
The M160 was his absolute favorite option on electric guitar. And it was the primary mic he used back in his days of recording Zeppelin and Hendrix.
And since those two names are perhaps the best examples of what an electric guitar is supposed to sound like…
The M160 might not be a bad way to get one step closer to that sound.