When micing an electric guitar, there are countless options, avenues, and tools that you can explore to capture the most authentic sound of your instrument or shape your tone into something entirely different. When micing a guitar amp three types of microphones that are commonly used are: dynamics, ribbons, and condensers. These mics all work great on their own and can yield even more options when paired together.
Dynamic mics, like the Shure SM57, are a classic choice due to their ability to handle high SPL’s and capture transients with a slower response resulting in a “smooth” recording of an aggressive source. Their frequency response is a lot narrower in range with a lot of dynamic mics having a pronounced mid-range focus that compliments the tonality of an electric guitar well, but you may find them lacking or needing extra processing when working in a sparse arrangement.
Ribbon mics, like the bidirectional Royer R-121, have a little bit more weightiness and sense of “depth” to them. As a generalization, ribbon’s tend to be darker in comparison and are smooth and forgiving with their ability to soften the edges. They can really make a guitar sound “natural” and “like being in the room with the amp.” Finding the sweet spot is key for these. They can really bring some weight to the low-end and lower midrange and bring some body overall that may need some carving when placing in a tightly packed mix.
Large diaphragm condensers, like the Neumann U87, can deliver a wonderful polish and clarity to a sound but can be a little tricky to work with on guitars. This is due to their heightened sensitivity and faster response. Putting a detailed mic like this straight in front of an amp can overload the capsule and cause unwanted distortion in the recording. By adjusting the angle of the mic and its position in front of the speaker cone, you can augment the sound into a musically flattering, detailed depiction of the instrument.
Marc personally likes to pair ribbon and LDC mics together as he finds it gives him the full range of frequencies and dynamics from the guitar — you get body, low-end, and bloom from the ribbon, but the LDC also gives a sense of definition, clarity, and sparkle on top, especially with clean playing.
With something a little more aggressive and/or with some kind of distortion, Marc likes to pair together an LCD and a ribbon mic. This gives you a sound with a lot of body and midrange but is malleable, so you’re able to take an EQ to it and sculpt it out into the mix for the sound you want.
It’s important to remember that within these categories, not all mics sound the same, so keep that in mind when reviewing the samples in this video and when doing your own recording.
It’s also important to remember that there are different sweet spots for each individual mic. In this video, Marc places all three mics close together and a few inches away from the grill to compensate for phase (since this was a single recording), but there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to recording.
We hope you enjoy the video, and don’t forget to contact us to download the high-res files!