Best Mic For Acoustic Guitar: Get Every Little Detail

Best studio mic for recording acoustic guitar
With an acoustic guitar in tow, you can play just about any genre out there! It’s one of the most popular instruments in the world and handles everything from the melody to the rhythm.
But even with all the calluses in the world, those skills won’t shine unless you have a solid mic! The best mic for acoustic guitar will pick up all the fine details of the instrument, letting your music come to life!

Which Mic is Good for Acoustic Guitar?

Technically speaking, you could use any mic to pick up some sweet string tones. But, not every piece of gear is going to do the instrument justice!

You see, the frequency spectrum of an acoustic guitar is incredibly complex. Most of the core sounds you’re after sit in the 100 to 500 Hz range. But if you were to look at a frequency chart, the sound guitars produce to cover the entire spectrum!

The unique design of a guitar creates strong resonance throughout. That warm, rich tone comes from the hollow body. Meanwhile, additional overtones resonate from the soundboard and backplate. Plus, subtle details from the strings and frets come into play.

All of these tones work in-tandem to create the instrument’s timbre. It’s what makes it unique!

A cheap computer microphone isn’t going to cut it!

Generally, engineers will utilize two different kinds of microphones to capture an acoustic guitar in all its glory. These include condenser mics and dynamic mics.

Dynamic vs. Condenser

Both condenser and dynamic mics are studio staples. They’re pretty flexible and can pick up everything from vocals to drums. These mics serve the same purpose, but they go about the job very differently.

A condenser unit is often the best studio mic for recording instruments and vocals. Some of the most historic microphones in the industry were condensers!

Sometimes called “capacitor mics,” this gear relies on a diaphragm to pick up sound. The diaphragm sits close to two solid metal plates, which act as the capacitor. The diaphragm and plate assembly is electrically charged and has a current running through it.

As the sound waves from the guitar hit the diaphragm, it moves and detects air pressure changes. This changes the voltage across the capacitor, creating an electrical signal from acoustic sound waves!

Condenser microphones are very precise and can pick up super-subtle details. Thus, they’re perfect for acoustic guitars!

The downsides? Well, condenser microphones also happen to be delicate. They’re not as fragile as ribbon mics, but they can get damaged with drops and heavy bangs. Not only that, but they also require phantom power to run. Fortunately, things are relatively controlled and safe in a studio!

Now, dynamic microphones are a lot tougher. They also utilize a diaphragm, but it’s attached to a wire coil. As the sound waves move the diaphragm, the coil moves past a magnet.

The pickup process uses the principles of electromagnetic induction. With the movement of the wire over the magnet, an electrical signal is created and recorded.

The great thing about dynamic mics is that they’re tough! You often see them on stage during live performances. Furthermore, they pick up louder sounds. For this reason, they’re a favorite for micing electric amplifiers.

The main caveat with dynamic mics is the sensitivity. They’re not as sensitive as condensers. This is especially true with higher frequencies.

When To Use a Dynamic and Condenser Mic

For the most part, a condenser is the best mic for acoustic guitar if your focus is on studio work. They offer the sensitivity you need to record all those fine details.

That said, it’s not do cut and dry as you might think.

Some engineers prefer dynamic microphones for loud and bombastic playing. The rugged build handles the extreme sound waves a bit better.

You can also utilize dynamic microphones for multi-mic arrangements.

If you’re looking to mic up for live performances, dynamic mics are your best bet. The same goes for any project involving amps.

Our Picks for the 8 Best Mic for Acoustic Guitar

The microphone market is huge these days! You can find tons of options with varying price points and quality. To make things easier, we’ve rounded up all the best mic for acoustic guitar in the market.

1st Pick:
Best Mic for Recording Acoustic Guitar and Vocals

1_1. Best Dual-Diaphragm Mic:
Rode NT2A

Rode NT2A microphone

Rode is one of the world’s biggest mic brands and is responsible for creating some truly iconic gear. The NT2A is the perfect example of the brand’s legacy! This isn’t just a standard condenser mic. It’s a versatile recording device that deserves a spot in your collection!

The coolest aspect of this microphone is its versatility. With most mics, the polar pattern and capturing capabilities are fixed. That’s not the case with the NT21. On the housing, you’ll find several switches to adjust the mic’s performance.

You can choose between an omnidirectional, figure-eight, and cardioid pickup pattern. There’s also a high-pass filter switch, which can knock out any unwanted room noise. Finally, there’s a variable attenuation pad that you can use to improve the signal-to-noise ratio.

Pros:

  • Super flexible use
  • Sensitive 1-inch diaphragm
  • Full-bodied sound
  • Easy to position

Cons:

  • Thinner mesh screen

Key Features:

  • Variable polar patterns
  • Integrated high-pass filter switch
  • Adjustable sensitivity

1_2. Best Small-Diaphragm Mic:
Shure SM81-LC

Shure SM81-LC microphone

Check out this thin pencil mic from Shure. Another mainstay brand in the recording industry, Shure is most-known for creating some awesome dynamic mics. But, this condenser is one of their standout products!

It features a very small diaphragm. In total, the microphone is not even an inch thick! As a result, it’s perfect for fine-tuning your sound. You can use a pair of these mics for a complex pairing or utilize them to pick up room sound and guitar overtones.

It’s also a fantastic choice for outdoor environments. The microphone comes with a foam windscreen that helps to block out unwanted noise. The same goes for the attenuation switch.

Pros:

  • Simple attenuation lock
  • Comes with a foam windscreen
  • Streamlined design
  • Flat and realistic sound

Cons:

  • Requires precise positioning

Key Features:

  • Cardioid polar pattern
  • Condenser mic
  • Steel housing

1_3. Most Widely Used:
Neewer

Neewer 2-Pack Pencil Stick Condenser Microphone

If you’re on a budget, the condenser mic from Neewer is a good choice. It’s a great option for beginners who are just starting to understand the complexities of recording acoustic guitar. The microphone offers plenty of flexibility and is forgiving enough to help you get things just right.

Overall, the sound-capturing capabilities are respectable. It has decent sound quality. With proper positioning, you can record full-bodied sound with all the intricacies you want out of an acoustic instrument.

Best of all, this thing is durable! Neewer went with a metal body. Even the screen that protects the diaphragm is tough!

Pros:

  • Wide dynamic range
  • Good sensitivity
  • Durable metal housing
  • Full-bodied sound

Cons:

  • Sound quality isn’t as good as other brands

Key Features:

  • Cardioid polar pattern
  • Condenser mic
  • Comes with several accessories

2nd Pick: Best Mic for Acoustic Guitar Live

2_1. Best On-Stage Mic:
AKG C451

AKG C451 B Reference Small-Diaphragm Condenser Microphone

The C451 from AKG is an industry staple! For several decades now, this mic has been a favorite for live technicians and touring bands.

Right off the bat, this mic is built to withstand a lot. Despite being a condenser mic, it’s surprisingly resilient. The nickel body can handle a lot of wear and tear. On top of that, it’s incredibly lightweight and small. Tipping the scales at less than a pound, it’s perfect for overheads, pairs, and anything else you need it for.

The C451 can also handle a lot in terms of sound. It’s capable of picking up as much as 155dB SPL. As a result, you can put it close to your guitar on a loud stage without any issues.

Pros:

  • Sleek cylindrical shape
  • Good for close micing
  • Versatile performance features
  • Low distortion
  • Can handle high sound pressure levels

Key Features:

  • Cardioid polar pattern
  • Condenser mic
  • Variable high-pass filter and attenuation
  • Nickel housing

2_2. Great Value for the Money:
AKG PERCEPTION 170

AKG PERCEPTION 170 microphone

The Perception 170 pencil mic is a newer addition to the AKG lineup. But in the decade since its release, the microphone has already garnered a fantastic reputation among live technicians.

Like the C451 microphone, the Perception 170 is a well-built piece of gear. It has an all-metal body that’s no match to the rough environment of stage life. As it is designed for the stage, the mic can also handle loud noise without missing a beat.

In terms of pickup, this microphone is pretty great. The cardioid polar pattern extends to the side of the mic a bit, ensuring that you can pick up as much of the guitar sound as possible.

Pros:

  • Ultra-durable build
  • Small footprint
  • Handles loud music well
  • Great dynamic range
  • Captures flat and realistic sound

Cons:

  • Can be a bit harsh on transients

Key Features:

  • Cardioid polar pattern
  • Condenser mic
  • Attenuation switch
  • All-metal housing

2_3. Best Unidirectional Mic:
Rode NT5 Compact

Rode NT5 Compact Cardioid Condenser Microphone

The NT5 microphone from Rode is a pint-sized microphone that’s capable of a lot more than you would think. It’s available as a single microphone and works just fine alone. However, the unit really shines in a pair!

Whether you use two or not, expect to get top-notch sound quality. It captures full-bodied sound with very little distortion or noise. You can thank the gold-sputtered capsule for that! It’s highly sensitive. With proper placement and fine-tuning, it’ll pick up everything you want and ignore the rest!

This is a microphone that’s made for tough recording conditions. It works well on the stage, but it can also make a welcome addition to your studio set.

Pros:

  • Full frequency response
  • Super durable build
  • Small and lightweight
  • Flexible power options

Cons:

  • No filter or attenuation

Key Features:

  • Cardioid polar pattern
  • Condenser mic
  • Half inch diaphragm capsule
  • Nickel housing

3rd Pick: Best Mic for Acoustic Guitar Amp

3_1. Best Sound Pick Up:
Audio-Technica AT2021

Audio-Technica AT2021 Cardioid Condenser Microphone

You can’t go wrong with the AT2021! With its thin design and small diaphragm, it’s perfect for micing up an amplifier. The tight cardioid polar pattern makes it easy to find the sweet spot on your amp. It’s also a great addition to paired setups or larger room arrangements.

Even though it has a small diaphragm, the AT2021 picks up full-bodied sound quite well. It has no problem capturing transients while simultaneously making those lower resonant tones of your guitar come through.

Of course, this wouldn’t be a good amp-focused mic without good sound pressure level capabilities. Luckily, it can handle up to 145 dB SPL. As a result, you can get close to the drivers of your amp and crank things up!

Pros:

  • Handles high SPL well
  • Great frequency response
  • Compact and easy to set up
  • Tight polar pattern

Key Features:

  • Cardioid polar pattern
  • Condenser mic
  • Up to 145 dB SPL
  • Metal construction

3_2. Most Durable Mic:
Shure SM-57

Shure SM-57 Cardioid Dynamic Instrument Microphone

Ask any studio engineer or live technician about their must-haves, and they’ll probably mention the Shure SM-57. This model is super flexible and can be used for just about anything. From drum sets to vocals, it has the impeccable performance to capture it all!

For guitars, the SM-57 is a go-to for micing amps. It’s a dynamic microphone, so it’s already built to handle louder noise. The unit isn’t as delicate as a condenser, but it has the small footprint of a pencil mic!

The frequency response for this microphone is contoured. That means that mid-range sounds are more prominent. While this does take away from the higher transients, it does make mixing and filtering more straightforward.

Pros:

  • Versatile use
  • Contoured frequency response
  • Small and lightweight
  • Good rear isolation

Cons:

  • Not the best for higher transients

Key Features:

  • Cardioid polar pattern
  • Dynamic mic
  • Removable capsule
  • Metal housing

How to Mic an Acoustic Guitar

So, where do you even begin to mic an acoustic guitar? These instruments aren’t like vocals or wind instruments that have a single source. As mentioned earlier, they resonate from multiple places!

The best technique for you will depend entirely on your goals.

If you want a balanced sound, place a single microphone 12 to 16 inches away from the 12th fret. This is a good “middle of the road” point. If you’re using a condenser mic, you should be able to capture the resonate tones from the hollow body and the resonance coming from the fretboard.

There’s a degree of experimentation here. Don’t be afraid to move things a little bit to get the sound that you’re after! Want a bit more resonant bass? Inch the mic closer to the soundhole where they are emanating from.

One thing you don’t want to do, however, is put the mic directly in front of the soundhole. We don’t listen to the acoustic guitar directly in front of the hole. So, why try to pick that up? You want everything the guitar produces, so aim to capture sound from all directions.

If you want more options during the mixing phase, you can use a pair of microphones. These micing techniques are more complicated. But with a bit of trial and error, it can create some magic in the studio!

One typical arrangement is the A/B spaced pair. With this technique, you’ll place one microphone facing the direction of the 12th fret and one towards the body of the guitar.

There is the risk of experiencing phasing issues whenever you use more than one mic. So, you’ll need to follow the 3:1 rule to avoid it! That means that your mics need to have three times as much space between them as the closest distance to the guitar.

Another option is to try an XY coincident pair. Best for dynamic microphones or small condensers, this technique involves putting the mics close together. But, they are faced at a 90-degree angle to prevent phase problems. The ends of the mix should form a “V” shape.

Experiment a bit with micing. The worst thing you can do is rush it. Take the time to get things just right, and you’ll have a much easier time when you mix.

What to Look for in the Best Mic for Acoustic Guitar

Now that we have all the technical stuff out of the way let’s get to the microphones. Buying an acoustic guitar mic is a significant investment. The quality of your mic will make or break your recording. Here are a few things to consider during your search.

Type of Microphone

The first thing to think about is the type of microphone you should get.

You can do a lot with either a condenser or a dynamic mic. Typically, condensers are best for quieter instruments and vocals. They are fantastic for micing an acoustic guitar and will have no problem picking up subtler details.

But, make sure you have access to phantom power first!

If you plan on playing loud or want a multi-purpose microphone, dynamic models are the way to go. Dynamic mics are usually a bit cheaper and can perform double-duty as a performance mic.

Size of the Diaphragm

Even within the larger category of condenser mics, you have multiple diaphragm sizes to choose from.

A large diaphragm is anything that’s 1 inch or bigger. Meanwhile, small diaphragms are half an inch or smaller.

Small diaphragm condenser microphones, sometimes called “pencil mics,” are fantastic for multi-mic setups. They’re lighter, more manageable, and very versatile.

But, they do have their tradeoffs. They tend to have low-frequency roll-off, leaving some of that audio information lost to the ether. We don’t recommend them as your sole mic. They aren’t the best studio mic for recording instruments alone. However, you can use them in larger arrangements to pick up more information and create a sense of realism in your recordings.

Large diaphragms are best if you want something that covers the gamut. Just keep in mind that larger diaphragms call for a bigger body. You may need a shock mount, which could become cumbersome during positioning.

Polar Pattern

A mic’s polar pattern refers to how it picks up sound in a three-dimensional space. It refers to the mic’s inherent directionality.

Most people think that microphones only pick up sound from the front. But that’s not always the case! Some mics from all directions while others have equal directionality from the front and the back!

We won’t get into the details of complex patterns here. To keep things simple, go for a mic with a cardioid polar pattern. Cardioid patterns are the go-to for acoustic instruments. You might also see them labeled as “unidirectional.”

With a cardioid pattern, mics have the most sensitivity on the front. The pattern wraps around to the back, creating a heart-like shape. So, they can pick up some sound from the side. Though, the sensitivity decreases the more you move away from the front. On the back, there’s a central dead point.

This pattern is ideal for acoustic guitars because it’s easy to find the “sweet spot.” You can judge the general position with a simple look before listening in to fine-tune everything. Another big perk is that dead spot in the back. If you have to be in the same room as the artist, you can stand in that dead point to ensure that your movements aren’t captured.

Overall Reliability

Finally, pay attention to the build quality! Dynamic microphones are pretty tough while condensers can be delicate. All it takes is one major bump to ruin the capacitor or damage the diaphragm.

Fortunately, manufacturers can provide some extra security with solidly built housings. Keep in mind that you will likely spend a lot of time moving the mic to get the positioning just right. A solid and reliable mic will provide some peace of mind during that process.

Wrapping up

A top-notch microphone can make all the difference in the world for acoustic guitars! These complex instruments produce rich sound that inferior mics just can’t pick up.

While all of our top picks will do acoustic guitars justice, we have to give a special shoutout to the Rode NT2A. Compared to the other mics, it offers far more flexibility. The selectable polar patterns, filter settings, and attenuation pad make fine-tuning the experience a breeze. It’s truly a multi-faceted tool that fits any situation.

It’s the best studio mic for recording instruments. But, it can also transition to live performances all the same! Give it a try and experiment! The microphone works well on its own or as part of a pair. No matter how you use it, the NT2A will capture your guitar exactly how it should be heard.            

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Giorgio P
Giorgio P
Music has always led the path and I’ve been following doubtlessly. After many years of recording in studios as a singer of a swing/cabaret band, I decided to create my own home recording studio and built a blog about it. It involves exactly the things I love the most which are writing, creating, and learning. And that’s why I called the blog Sounds Wow. It really does!