Recording an acoustic guitar at home or in the studio requires the use of a microphone separate from the instrument. This applies equally to a folk guitar like the Taylor GS Mini Mahogany and a classical guitar like the Yamaha C40II.
The harmonic subtlety of an acoustic guitar, however, cannot be captured with just any microphone. A microphone must be chosen that is appropriate for the needs of a guitar recording, and there are several parameters that must be considered in this process. Discover the best microphone for guitar recording in this guide.
How to choose the microphone according to the sound reproduction technology?
There are three types of microphones for guitar recording. These are condenser or static mics, dynamic mics and ribbon mics. These three types of mics differ in the way they convert the mechanical energy of sound into an electrical signal.
Dynamic transducer microphones
Microphones with dynamic transducers work like loudspeakers, but in the opposite direction. This is because of the components behind the sound reproduction for this type of microphone. These are a magnet, a diaphragm and a voice coil. The coil is attached to the back of the diaphragm.
The voice coil and magnet combine to create a magnetic field. The sound waves hit the diaphragm to make it vibrate. The vibration generated is transmitted to the voice coil. The voice coil then vibrates on the magnet to create an inductive voltage. The applied voltage changes with the vibrations of the diaphragm to define the electrical signal. This phenomenon is also known as electromagnetism.
The dynamic microphone is often used live as a handheld microphone. It is also very popular with guitarists for recording in home studios or recording studios. It must be said that this dynamic microphone is as versatile as the condenser microphone in its uses. Likewise, it is suitable for recording bass drums and other instruments with high acoustic pressure.
Dynamic microphones are primarily appreciated for their robustness. They can continue to function well even after being dropped several times. This type of microphone is also more weather-resistant than a condenser microphone. It can be used as a studio microphone, but also as an outdoor microphone.
There are also no moving parts in the design of dynamic microphones. This means that they can handle a variety of recordings at high volumes while remaining true to the sound sources. It is also for this particular reason that a dynamic transducer studio mic is the most common choice of mic for guitar recording.
Guitar recording involves placing the microphone in front of the amplifier to which the guitar is connected. The volume generated by this amplifier is quite high. The guitar’s harmonics may be lost if the microphone cannot record at this volume.
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The best dynamic microphone for guitar recording: AKG P5S
A dynamic microphone is not the first choice for recording a classical guitar like the Yamaha Etude C40 A 4/4. The AKG P5S may be an exception to this rule, however, because of the simplicity it provides for guitar recording. Its technology is conducive to eliminating ambient noise to ensure a clean recording.
The AKG P5S also offers a very wide frequency response from 40 Hz to 20 kHz. This means you can capture all the harmonic subtleties of an acoustic guitar with this mic. This performance comes at a more affordable price than a condenser microphone.
A condenser microphone uses a component called a capacitor to store electrical energy between two plates in an electric field. One of these plates has a positive charge while the other has a negative charge. Creating the initial electric field between the two plates requires a source of electricity. The micro studio condenser gets the electrical current it needs to operate as phantom power.
Phantom power is a DC voltage of about 48 V that must be supplied to the microphone to make it work. It is traditionally supplied to the microphone by a preamplifier or a mixer. Today, this DC voltage is often obtained with an audio interface or an external sound card.
The light plate at the front of a conventional or electrostatic condenser microphone vibrates when a sound wave hits it. The distance between the two plates changes as a result of these vibrations. This change affects the amount of electrical energy stored between the two plates.
The electrical energy retained increases as the plates move closer together and decreases as they move apart. An overload can occur when this energy is not properly controlled. For this reason, most condenser microphones are equipped with a switchable bass attenuator. In many cases, this function is supplemented by attenuation buffers.
Sensor size of condenser microphones
Condenser microphones can be equipped with small or large capsules. What both types of capsules have in common is their design. They consist of a metal plate with a parallel arrangement to a very thin plastic diaphragm.
A microscopic metal layer covers the surface of the diaphragm. The capsule is also designed to leave a gap for air to pass between the plate and the diaphragm. This mimics the effect of a capacitor when DC bias voltage is applied.
The space left for the air to pass through changes as the sound waves move along the diaphragm. The capacitance changes accordingly to alternate the bias voltage. An integrated preamp receives the signal to increase the output level and adjust the impedance. This preamp can be designed as a valve or transistor model.
Sensitivity is the strong point of condenser microphones. Their frequency response range is more complete than that of dynamic microphones. They are also faster in the transient response. These mics are therefore better at capturing harmonics, but also the lowest bass. It is easy to achieve a natural and realistic sound with such mics.
The concern with condenser mics is that they are quite fragile and can be expensive to repair. The more affordable models also tend to have abnormal high-frequency brilliance. It is also advisable to use a suspension mount with this type of microphone to reduce rumble when recording. This is especially necessary if your recording studio is located in an area close to traffic.
A condenser microphone with a small capsule is the best option if you are aiming for high-fidelity sound reproduction. Large-capsule models have the characteristics of a dynamic instrument in themselves. This means that they can add more of their own sonic characteristics to the recording. They are also warmer in the midrange and fuller in both the low and high frequencies.
Impedance conversion technology
Condenser microphones can use two technologies in particular for impedance conversion for signal output. These are vacuum tubes on the one hand and field effect transistors or FETs on the other. These conversion modules can also act as amplifiers in the operation of active microphones.
A microphone with vacuum tubes like the Telefunken TF-47 needs to be connected to an external power supply to operate. They have more clean noise and produce a very warm sound with typical tube saturation and quality attenuation. The microphone output is always coupled to a transformer. Tube technology, however, increases the fragility of the microphone.
FET microphones operate from phantom power or DC bias voltage. They have less self-noise and produce a fairly cool, but more accurate sound. For this reason, they are often described as high-fidelity or HF microphones. An HF microphone with FET technology may sometimes have a transformer coupled to its output. Nevertheless, it has the advantage of being more robust and durable than a tube microphone.
The best condenser microphones for recording guitar: Shure SM81
The Shure SM81 is a condenser microphone designed specifically for recording acoustic guitar. This includes a classical guitar such as the YAMAHA ETUDE CS40 3/4 or an acoustic guitar like the Harley Benton CLP-15E Java Exotic. The Shure SM81 is as rugged as it is powerful, although its slimline design might suggest otherwise.
It is constructed of durable vinyl-coated steel for optimal performance in various humidity and temperature conditions. The frequency response is very flat, resulting in good reproduction of the sound source. The Shure SM81 also has low self-noise and provides minimal coloration to the audio signal even when going off axis.
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The ribbon microphone was the first form of high-quality microphone to be used for music recording. They began to be used in the jazz era and gained popularity in the 1950s and 60s with rock’n’roll. They then became obsolete in the 1970s, but have regained popularity in recent decades.
Ribbon microphones work very similarly to dynamic microphones. The difference is that the moving coil and the diaphragm are replaced by a very thin, corrugated metal ribbon. The ribbon is suspended in a magnetic field. The ribbon moves according to the sound waves that hit it. An alternating current is generated accordingly according to the principle of electromagnetism.
The ribbon inside the microphone has the advantage that it is light and moves with great freedom. This means that there is no real physical obstacle to the response provided by the microphone. This results in a smooth, natural sound when recording with a ribbon microphone.
It should be noted, however, that ribbon microphones are more delicate than dynamic microphones. They can be damaged by the passage of wind as well as by high volumes. The output level of a ribbon microphone also tends to be very low.
It is therefore necessary to use a high-gain, low-noise microphone preamp for this type of microphone. An exception is made for active ribbon microphones that operate with phantom power.
The degree of treble attenuation is more pronounced with ribbon microphones. However, they tend to respond well to equalization. This makes it easier to restore the missing sparkle in the recording of cymbals, pianos or a clarinet. This type of microphone can also amplify the dynamics of the sound in an instrument with more fidelity and neutrality.
Ribbons are not the ideal option if you want to emphasize an acoustic instrument in a dense mix. They do, however, deliver a very realistic sound in solo vocals and in the cleanest of mixes. For this reason, ribbon models are often recommended as a singing microphone, although they can be used with musical instruments.
The best ribbon microphone for recording your guitar: Avantone CR-14
The Avantone CR-14 is a passive microphone with a dual ribbon design. It stands out from other ribbon mics by the vintage yet contemporary sound it brings to a recording. This makes it a first choice for recording guitar sounds such as the Lag Travel Signature Vianney.
The Avantone CR-14 can go down to 30 Hz in its frequency response for a maximum value of 16 kHz. This makes it quite responsive to the nuances of your acoustic guitar. This microphone also operates with an impedance of 600 Ohms, which ensures good signal transmission even over a distance of 5 meters.
How to choose the microphone according to the polar pattern?
The polar pattern indicates the direction in which a microphone can pick up sound from a sound source and its sensitivity to the generated sound. In particular, the microphone may be more sensitive to sounds generated in one direction than in another, depending on the directivity. A microphone is very similar to human hearing in this respect. Sound generated from the front is often perceived more strongly than sound from the back due to the form of the ear.
A figure called a polar diagram is used to represent the directivity of a microphone. The circle in the center of the diagram is the microphone. The other circles around the microphone represent the acoustic space in a 360 degree angle. The angles of 0, 90, 180 and 270 degrees correspond to the front, right, back and left of the microphone, respectively.
Each circle in the polar diagram is also assigned an attenuation value in decibels. The color curve in the diagram defines the sensitivity of the microphone in terms of two parameters. These are the angle between a particular sound source and the front of the recording equipment.
Microphones can be classified into two broad categories in terms of their representation in the polar diagram, namely:
- Omnidirectional microphones
- Directional microphones
An omnidirectional microphone picks up sound with the same sensitivity in all directions. This type of microphone works on the basis of a sound pressure sensor. The sound wave strikes the diaphragm on one side only. The other side of the diaphragm is under constant atmospheric pressure, and vibrates in response to changes in pressure.
A directional microphone, on the other hand, is more sensitive to sounds generated in a specific direction than in other directions. This is because this type of microphone is based on a pressure gradient sensor. This is a type of diaphragm that can be hit by sound waves from both sides. The excess pressures are the same on both sides. The membrane doesn’t vibrate when a sound wave passes through it.
The bidirectional or figure-8 microphone is the main form of microphone with a pressure gradient transducer. Its technology can then be modified to create other types of polar patterns called “cardioid”, “hypercardioid” and “supercardioid”.
Bi-directional microphones pick up sound with the same sensitivity at the front of the diaphragm as at the back. They are, however, insensitive to sounds that are generated at the sides of the microphone. This corresponds to an angle of 90 degrees in the polar diagram. The vast majority of ribbon microphones use a figure-8 pattern. However, this pattern can be selected on some condenser microphone models with a large diaphragm.
A microphone with a cardioid pickup pattern can pick up voice and instrument sounds when they arrive from the front of the diaphragm. This type of microphone has the advantage that it is less sensitive to background noise and reflections of sound in space.
Hypercardioid or supercardioid polar patterns are available on microphones with an interference tube. The boom microphone is a good example. The hypercardioid pattern tends to reject most of the sound sources to the rear and sides of the microphone. Mics with this pattern are mainly used for sound effects and sound effects creation. This is due to their ability to more easily isolate sound from a particular object or source.
Hypercardioid microphones are much more accurate than supercardioid microphones in isolating sound from unwanted noise. They are mainly used on film sets for recording dialogue.
You can also use them to record point sources, provided that they are very isolated. A high level of hum occurs as the microphone moves away from the pickup area, which is quite narrow.
The hypecardioid directional pattern also offers the possibility of capturing sounds at a great distance. Their technology is comparable to that of a zoom camera. This is why this type of microphone is often used for sound recording in a documentary, especially on the subject of animals.
It is important to note that microphones with a cardioid or figure-8 pattern are often subject to a proximity effect. This is a phenomenon in which the bass becomes progressively more pronounced the closer the microphone is to a sound source. Such an effect can be beneficial or annoying depending on the recording technique the engineer wishes to adopt.
The proximity effect is more interesting for a singer than it can be for a guitarist. They tend to make the voice sound warmer and more intimate than it really is. Podcast creators and gamers may also appreciate this effect for the character it can add to the voice. It’s also very common to have this kind of effect on a radio mic.
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The best microphone for multi-pattern guitar recording: Audio-Technica AT4050
The Audio-Technica AT4050 stands out from the crowd with its large gold-sprayed diaphragm condenser and brass acoustic element. This allows it to deliver optimal performance in all temperatures while providing high sensitivity to sound sources. The AT4050 can reveal the full subtlety of an acoustic guitar like the Core Earth 70 OP during the sound recording.
The most distinctive feature of the AT4050 microphone is its multiple directional pattern. You can choose between cardioid, omnidirectional, and figure-8 polar patterns using the microphone’s built-in switch. The AT4050 is also very responsive with a frequency response of 20 Hz to 18 kHz and a maximum sound pressure level of 159 dB SPL.
How to choose between a stereo and a mono microphone?
A microphone is described as “monophonic” when it can deliver only one sound from a single capsule. This should not be taken to mean that a mono microphone can only pick up one sound at a time from a given object. A phono microphone will primarily process all the sounds picked up by its polar pattern with a single channel. The captured sounds are then transformed into mono sound.
The phono mics can capture as many sounds as you want from one sound source. All these sounds will be processed to reproduce a mono effect in the mix. Telephone or camera microphones often have mono technology.
A stereo microphone is equipped with two capsules for the processing of the captured sounds. The sounds are processed through two separate channels in the microphone. There are two techniques for processing sound with stereo microphones.
The first method is called the X/Y method and consists of reproducing the operation of two directional microphones with a cardioid polar pattern. The capsules of these two microphones are arranged in such a way that they are as close together as possible in an angle of 90 to 135 degrees.
The microphones are also oriented to the left and right respectively. The signal from one of the microphones will thus go to the left recording track. The signal from the other microphone will be dedicated to the right track.
The SYNCO V10 is a good example of a microphone based on the X/Y technique. This model is equipped with a small diaphragm for recording musical instruments and voice. However, it is distinguished by its X/Y adjustment, which gives it the ability to establish a more complete sound image in live situations. This is why this model is very popular for outdoor recording.
The other method adopted in the operation of a stereo microphone is the A/B technique. Two omnidirectional microphones are required for this technique. These are positioned 30 cm from the sound source, with a distance of 60 cm between their respective capsules. The distance between the sound source and the capsules themselves can be changed depending on the type of recording to be obtained. It is quite rare to find a stereo microphone that can reproduce this technique.
The mono microphone processes sounds through a single channel, with no difference in sound stage between the recorded sounds. Such a microphone can thus be moved freely to capture the perfect sound. Such freedom is not allowed in the case of stereo microphones. The sound of the recording will change depending on where the microphone is placed. It is therefore essential to place the stereo microphone in a location where the sound source is captured in an optimal way.
Stereo microphones, however, have an advantage over stereo microphones in phase interference. Sound waves tend to interfere with each other when sound is generated in several places. This same problem applies to a mono signal broadcast on a stereo system. The two signals are generated identically by the microphone.
This problem arises when recording with a stereo microphone. Each channel of the stereo system will reproduce a distinctly processed sound from the microphone. However, this does not mean that mono microphones are of no use compared to stereo microphones. Both types of microphones can have their respective uses.
When choosing a microphone for guitar recording, a stereo microphone like the Shure SM81 is the most suitable, because music is more vivid with two channels. A mono microphone is more flexible in placement. It is the right choice of microphone for situations that do not require the reproduction of a sound stage. They can be used, for example, for podcasts, interviews or vlogging.
The best stereo microphone for recording acoustic guitar: Samson C02
The Samson C02 is a great choice for those seeking a stereo microphone suitable for acoustic guitar recording. This microphone is designed in a very small format, making it easy to use for stereo recording setups.
Its small size should not deceive you as to its performance. It is equipped with a tube condenser to eliminate ambient noise during recording. Many large diaphragm condenser microphones do not offer the same efficiency. You can capture the essence of a guitar like the Taylor 214ce with this microphone.
What is the connectivity technology used by the microphone?
Les microphones peuvent être classés en deux grandes catégories suivant le mode de connexion. Il s’agit des microphones câblés d’une part et des microphones sans fil d’autre part. Les microphones câblés peuvent à leur tour être classés en modèles à connexion analogique ou numérique.
Les modèles câblés sont a priori les plus propices pour le choix d’un micro pour un enregistrement de guitare. Un microphone sans fil peut néanmoins délivrer de bonnes performances dans cette tâche selon sa qualité de construction.
Analog connection types for microphones
There are three main types of analog connections for microphones, namely XLR, TRS and TS. XLR connections have a male head for input and a female head for output. They can be made in several variations depending on the number of pins for the connectors.
A basic XLR connection has 3 pins, but there are also models with 7 pins. There are also mini-XLR connections, which also have 3 pins, but come in smaller sizes. TRS connections work as inputs and outputs. TS connections have only two contact points for connecting the microphone.
The best analog microphone for recording guitar: Rode NT1-A
The Rode NT1-A microphone has strong rivals for the title of best XLR microphone. These include the Shure SM58 and the AKG P420, but the NT1-A surpasses both of these microphones in the quality of sound it delivers when recording an acoustic guitar like the Yamaha FG800.
A phantom power supply of 24 to 48 volts is required for the operation of the Rode NT1-A. This can be provided by the audio interface or the microphone preamp to which the NT1-A is connected. The microphone does, however, come with several accessories for ease of use. These include an external pop filter, a shock mount and a 6 meter XLR cable.
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Digital connection modes for a wired microphone
Digital connections for wired microphones can take three forms. The first is interface cables, namely USB, FireWire and Thunderbolt. A modern microphone with a digital connection is designed in many cases as a USB or Thunderbolt microphone.
A USB-C to USB-A cable, such as the one offered by DPA, is often required to connect a USB microphone to an audio interface. However, there are USB microphones based on a lightning cable for iPhone or iPad (the IK Multimedia IRig Mic HD 2 for example).
The USB-C head of the cable will plug into the USB port of the microphone, if applicable. The Lightning head of this cable will be plugged into the micro-USB port of the phone or tablet.
The other type of digital connection you can get for a microphone is MIDI or “Musical Instrument Digital Interface”. This type of connection is most useful when you want to connect the microphone to a sequencer or synthesizer.
There are also microphones based on a Cat5e connection. This is the same type of cable used in telephony. The use of a Cat5e connection significantly reduces the noise level in the signal and increases the transmission capacity. However, such a connection is quite rare for a home studio and is especially suitable for the most prestigious studios.
The best USB microphone for guitar recording: Rode NT-USB
There is more than one model to choose from when it comes to a good USB microphone for acoustic guitar. These include the Blue Yeti USB and the Shure Motiv MV5. The Rode NT-USB remains the most popular choice for a USB guitar mic, however, and for good reason.
Rode NT-USB microphone adds character to recordings without putting too much color on them thanks to its cardioid condenser pattern. It can be used with a PC, Mac or iOS smartphone. Its sturdy metal body has a 1/8 headphone jack and two control knobs. One is for mixing sources while the other controls the headphone volume. This mic also offers a frequency response of 20 Hz to 20 kHz for an SPL of 110 dB.
Connectivity technologies for a wireless microphone
Wireless microphones work on the basis of a wireless receiver that processes the signal generated at their outputs. The receiver receives the signal and processes it before outputting it as a balanced XLR signal. There are two main types of wireless microphones, the handheld microphone and the clip-on or lavalier microphone.
Handheld microphones are a wireless variant of dynamic microphones for stage use. They are very popular for live performances because of their propensity to be free of handling noise.
Lavalier microphones are widely used for interviews and other types of mobile recording due to their small size. The Rode SmartLav 4 is one of the best clip-on microphones for mobile recording.
Bandwidth is an important criterion in the selection of a wireless microphone. A distinction should be made here between VHF and UHF microphones. VHF microphones operate in a bandwidth of 30 Hz to 300 MHz compared to 300 MHz to 3000 MHz for UHF microphones.
UHF microphones have the advantage of being less subject to interference than VHF microphones. Most wireless microphones operate in the UHF band. The same is true of wireless headsets and other unwired monitoring equipment.
However, the advantage of a UHF microphone is only felt when the microphone is used in an environment with several wireless devices. A VHF microphone is sufficient when there are few wireless devices in the recording environment.
The best microphone for wireless guitar recording: Shure PGXD24
The Shure BLX24 is the wireless equivalent of the Shure SM58 microphone in terms of performance and convenience when choosing a microphone for guitar recording. This microphone operates from an SM58 wireless transmitter with a maximum range of 100 meters. The transmitter in turn operates at a frequency range of 823 Hz to 832 MHz with a transmission range of 50 Hz to 15 kHz.
This gives you great freedom in positioning the microphone without fear of interference during recording. The microphone has also been designed for optimal isolation from sound sources and low sensitivity to extraneous noise. This means that there is no risk of adding unwanted sounds to the recording of a guitar like the Taylor 110e.
What technical specifications should I consider when choosing a microphone?
Technical specifications must be carefully considered in the selection of any studio equipment. A microphone for guitar recording is no exception. You should pay particular attention to the frequency response, impedance and maximum sound pressure level. In addition, the sensitivity of the microphone and the presence of a high-pass filter are important.
The frequency response of the microphone
Frequency response is the range of frequencies that a microphone can pick up in the frequency range audible to humans. This range is defined in terms of values from 20 Hz for the low frequencies to 20 kHz for the highest frequencies.
An acoustic guitar covers almost the entire frequency spectrum audible to humans, from 20 Hz to 20 kHz. The sound of the pick and high harmonics on steel strings can cross the threshold of ultrasound. Nylon strings, on the other hand, can reach the upper octave of human hearing, i.e. between 10KHz and 20KHz.
The lowest fundamental value in the spectrum of an acoustic guitar is a priority 80 Hz. The same is true for an electric guitar like the Fender Player Series Strat MN PWT. However, the start and stop of the notes combined with the sound of the sound hole can bring the instrument down to less than 20 Hz. A frequency response of 20 Hz to 20 kHz is therefore the recommended range for recording a guitar.
Impedance value of the microphone
Impedance can be defined as the resistance to an alternating current in an electrical circuit when a voltage is applied. The unit of measurement for impedance is the same as for resistance, the Ohm. The alternating current in a microphone takes the form of an audio signal. The impedance of a microphone thus describes the resistance of the microphone to this signal when a voltage is applied.
Resistance occurs especially at the output of the microphone. This is called an output impedance. The microphone creates an electrical circuit with the preamp or audio device to which it is connected. The device in question defines the input value for the audio signal to be transmitted to the microphone. This audio device is also said to define the input impedance of the audio signal.
Signal transmission from a guitar recording microphone is best when the output impedance is a fraction of the input impedance. Low impedance microphones like the Neumann TLM49, at 600 ohms or less, perform best in terms of sound quality. This is true even when you use cabling longer than 5 meters for signal transmission.
Maximum sound pressure levels
The maximum sound pressure level, or SPL, is often misrepresented as the maximum volume that a microphone can handle before it fails. However, there is no practical limit to the volume a microphone can handle.
The maximum sound pressure level is actually the level at which the signal distorts at the output of a microphone. This level is measured in decibels. The signal is distorted when the total harmonic distortion or THD has exceeded a specific threshold.
The total harmonic distortion defines the ratio between the sum of the harmonic powers and the power of the fundamental range. The THD value is given as a percentage. The SPL value of a microphone should be defined with respect to a THD as low as 0.5%.
Dishonest manufacturers set the SPL values at a higher THD. They may even go so far as not to state the THD in the microphone specifications. This makes the microphone appear to have a higher maximum sound pressure value than it really is. It is therefore essential to consider the SPL value as well as the THD value when evaluating a microphone.
The tolerance threshold of human hearing is defined at a maximum sound pressure level of 140 dB. In comparison, the jet engine of a fighter plane can generate an SPL of 125 dB at a distance of 100 meters. It is therefore astonishing that modern condenser microphones can achieve an SPL of about 130 dB at a THD of 0.5%.
The truth is that the SPL of a microphone is not measured in the same way as that of human hearing. The SPL is not as important for passive technology microphones as it may be for active microphones.
Passive microphones (like the MXL R144) are not very sensitive to distortion. The maximum sound pressure level is not stated in the technical specifications of many moving-coil microphones. It is unlikely that a passive dynamic microphone will be able to record a sound source loud enough to distort it.
The electronic components of a passive microphone are also more durable and resistant to overload. The signal from a passive microphone is distorted only if the SPL is increased to the point of physically damaging the capsule diaphragm. The diaphragm can no longer vibrate to create an electrical signal. In practice, however, such a scenario is very rare.
The noisiest environment in which to place a passive microphone would be inside a bass drum. However, it is unlikely that the sound will exceed 155 dB, even with the heaviest microphone. So you don’t have to worry about SPL in the case of passive microphones. This includes the vast majority of microphones with dynamic descriptions.
The situation is different for active technology microphones such as ribbon and condenser microphones. The SPL value is always given for active microphones. However, the diaphragm of an active microphone is not likely to distort when the SPL value is exceeded.
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The distortion experienced by an active microphone is related to an electrical overload. In particular, the active circuit is overloaded by the signal from the condenser capsule. Many manufacturers tend to inject a 1 kHz tone directly into the condenser circuit to simulate microphone distortion. The diaphragm is completely bypassed in this context.
A voltage value is obtained by increasing the pure signal voltage to a THD of 0.5%. It is then easier to calculate the applied voltage at a theoretical sound pressure level measured in dB SPL.
This is at least the case if the microphone’s nominal sensitivity is set. In particular, condenser microphones can withstand high SPL when equipped with an attenuation switch. This is often designed as a switchable function.
Overall, it is more relevant to consider the SPL value when purchasing a condenser or ribbon microphone. It is also important to consider the SPL when recording the sound of a bass drum or guitar amplifier. This makes it a parameter that should not be overlooked when choosing a microphone for acoustic guitar recording. This is through a microphone positioned in front of an amp.
Microphone output sensitivity
Not all microphones can have the same sensitivity to the same sound source. This is due to the difference in output levels between these different microphones. It is this difference that is illustrated by the notion of microphone sensitivity. This is a measure of the ability of a microphone to create an electrical voltage by converting sound pressure.
The microphone signal is amplified by the preamplifier before entering the mixing console. A high sensitivity means that the microphone can produce a level suitable for that mixing track without requiring a large preamplifier. The sensitivity of a microphone can be measured in millivolts (mV) per Pascal in most European countries. This means that 1 Pascal corresponds to a sound pressure of 94 dB SPL.
Condenser microphones often have a higher sensitivity than dynamic microphones. The most common values for this type of microphone are 8 to 32 mV/Pa. Dynamic microphones have a sensitivity of 1 to 4 mV/Pa.
It is especially important to consider the sensitivity of the microphone in the case of dynamic and ribbon microphones. This specification is less relevant for condenser microphones, since they can still establish a sensitivity higher than about 8 mV/Pa.
However, it is a mistake to assume that a poor level of self-noise can be compensated for by high sensitivity. Manufacturers such as Neumann indicate that the gain sensitivity of the microphone should define the gain adjustment in the noise measurement.
However, it is advantageous to use a high-sensitivity microphone if it is used with an inexpensive preamp. The latter tend to sound dull even when the gain is set above 50 dB. Such a high gain level is rarely necessary for a high-sensitivity microphone.
Presence of a high pass filter
A high-pass filter or HPF is a component of the electronic circuitry of a microphone. It sets a specific point at which the frequencies of the signal can pass. The point at which the frequencies pass is also called the cutoff point.
Frequencies in the signal that are below this cutoff point are attenuated by the high-pass filter at the microphone output. These attenuations result in a change in the frequency response of the microphone.
High-pass filters can also be referred to as “low-cut filters” or “low-cut filters“. These alternative names refer to the primary function of the high-pass filter. It is to suppress the low frequencies to allow the high frequencies to pass through.
The high-pass filter function is especially useful for recording instruments that are not very low frequency. Acoustic guitar recording is a good example. This feature is also usually designed to be switchable. This means that it can be turned on or off at any time depending on the needs of the recording.
The following points should be considered when choosing a microphone for guitar recording:
- The sound reproduction technology: condenser, dynamic or ribbon.
- Microphone directionality: omnidirectional, directional
- Sound processing channels: mono or stereo microphone
- Connectivity mode: wired or wireless microphone
- Technical specifications: impedance, sensitivity, maximum sound pressure level, presence of a high pass filter.