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Small Condenser for Acoustic Guitar

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Small Condenser for Acoustic Guitar

Postby Minwah » Mon Mar 05, 2012 10:35 am

I am looking for a small condenser mic for acoustic guitar recording, for no more than ~£200. I want the option for cardioid or omni patterns, and have come up with the following options:

Sontronics STC-1
SE Electronics sE2a
Oktava MK012
Rode NT55

I currently have a Samson C02 so I would think any of these would be a decent upgrade. The only mic I have heard (not used myself though) is the Oktava, which I have been quite impressed with.

Not sure if it matters but eventually I will want to use this with a (probably large condenser) figure 8 mic for mid-side recordings.

If anyone has used any of these mics for acoustic guitar (particularly fingerpicking) I would be appreciate your thoughts. At the moment I am probably leaning towards the Oktava as a fairly safe bet...

Thanks!
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Re: Small Condenser for Acoustic Guitar

Postby Bob Bickerton » Mon Mar 05, 2012 11:35 am

Only familiar with the NT55, but would heartily recommend it. The cardioid capsule rates well and the omni capsule is excellent.

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Re: Small Condenser for Acoustic Guitar

Postby ProximityProduction » Mon Mar 05, 2012 11:38 am

+ 1 for the NT55
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Re: Small Condenser for Acoustic Guitar

Postby Mike Stranks » Mon Mar 05, 2012 12:04 pm

I upgraded from the Samson C02 to the Rode NT5 - a VERY marked improvement!
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Re: Small Condenser for Acoustic Guitar

Postby Minwah » Tue Mar 06, 2012 9:23 am

Thanks for the replies...I will go for the Rode then!
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Re: Small Condenser for Acoustic Guitar

Postby tacitus » Tue Mar 06, 2012 9:52 am

Hold on! Just before you rush out for your NT55:
I have NT55s and the Oktava 012, and while I don't think you'll go wrong with either, my personal preference in cardioid mode is the Oktava. I love them both as omnis but if you can get to compare them I'd recommend that you do. You can also use a wider range of capsules on the Oktava, including, IIRC, a fig 8 via an adapter. You could end up with a pair of 012s with cardioid and omni caps - great for stereo - plus a fig 8 for mid/side.

That said, if you've already ordered the Rode, you won't be sorry.
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Re: Small Condenser for Acoustic Guitar

Postby Billum » Tue Mar 06, 2012 10:55 am

+1 for the NT55 with its omni head on for acoustic gtr quite close up, with possibly a LDC a bit further back to pick up more body (but watch for phase issues).
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Re: Small Condenser for Acoustic Guitar

Postby Mike Stranks » Tue Mar 06, 2012 11:28 am

... and I've heard good reports of these:

Nohype CM3

for their open and neutral sound...

... anyone here have direct experience?
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Re: Small Condenser for Acoustic Guitar

Postby Minwah » Tue Mar 06, 2012 12:34 pm

Billum wrote:+1 for the NT55 with its omni head on for acoustic gtr quite close up, with possibly a LDC a bit further back to pick up more body (but watch for phase issues).

I will give this a go, but I would also like to be able to get a decent sound from just the one small condenser...I'm thinking omni would work better for this than cardioid?

With my Samson C02's I have got a reasonable sound using a spaced pair, but struggle with just one mic to find a good balance. I am hoping the use of an omni pattern will make this a bit easier.
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Re: Small Condenser for Acoustic Guitar

Postby Minwah » Tue Mar 06, 2012 12:48 pm

tacitus wrote:You can also use a wider range of capsules on the Oktava, including, IIRC, a fig 8 via an adapter. You could end up with a pair of 012s with cardioid and omni caps - great for stereo - plus a fig 8 for mid/side.

Not a bad idea...I was thinking of buying a large condenser in the future but this would be a more versatile way to do it, for what I want to record.
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Re: Small Condenser for Acoustic Guitar

Postby Billum » Tue Mar 06, 2012 1:14 pm

Minwah wrote:
Billum wrote:+1 for the NT55 with its omni head on for acoustic gtr quite close up, with possibly a LDC a bit further back to pick up more body (but watch for phase issues).

I will give this a go, but I would also like to be able to get a decent sound from just the one small condenser...I'm thinking omni would work better for this than cardioid?

Yes, an omni definitely works better than cardioid for a one-mic option, and the NT55 does this very well. An omni picks up much more of the complex multi-source radiation of a guitar's strings and body than you would get from a cardioid when it's reasonably close to the instrument.

In my recommendation the LDC at a distance was really an 'optional extra' according to taste!
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Re: Small Condenser for Acoustic Guitar

Postby grab » Tue Mar 06, 2012 1:39 pm

At the risk of dirtying things up with cross-posting, there's a thread running about a group buy of Karma mics...
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Re: Small Condenser for Acoustic Guitar

Postby LRS » Thu Mar 08, 2012 9:30 pm

I have both the NT5's and Oktava's. Personally I would pump for the Oktava's as they are are a better "all round" mic IMO. I also use them for drum overheads and I think they are streets ahead of the Rodes for that purpose. On acoustic guitar the Oktava's are a bit "woodier" and the Rodes a bit brighter. It all comes down to preference. Both good mics.

There is (or has been) an issue with quality control with the Oktava's though. Not sure how they are these days. I was lucky with mine.

Cheers
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Re: Small Condenser for Acoustic Guitar

Postby Jeraldo » Sat Mar 10, 2012 2:11 pm

LRS wrote:I have both the NT5's and Oktava's. Personally I would pump for the Oktava's as they are are a better "all round" mic IMO. I also use them for drum overheads and I think they are streets ahead of the Rodes for that purpose. On acoustic guitar the Oktava's are a bit "woodier" and the Rodes a bit brighter. It all comes down to preference. Both good mics.

There is (or has been) an issue with quality control with the Oktava's though. Not sure how they are these days. I was lucky with mine.

Cheers
Graham


A minority opinion, for sure, but the Rode mic's have always sounded "plasticky" or "transistorish" to me, though this is more apparent on some sources more than another. It's always very apparent to my ears on a piano from an octave above middle c on up. Even on sources such as a metal flute, there is this amp signature. To be fair, though, more people than not like the Rode mic's.

The Octava's are excellent, full and nicely balanced sounding mic's, but quality control has been and seemingly always will be an issue. I know as I have several. Any potential buyer will have to accept the probability that they'll fail and have to be worked on at some point. Both of my older ones failed and had to be repaired. A newer one, probably 2 or 3 years old is still working without repair. But a year ago or so when I tried to buy another new body, I received two with widely spaced serial numbers from the "national distributor" (that means almost nothing with Octava) with miswired pins. Back they went. The parts used in the Oktava mic's change at whim, and the mic amp characteristics-particularly phantom current required and noise-may vary widely over time. (I have to give full marks to the national distributor for taking the mic's back without problem.)

If the Rode mic's work for the OP, then great. If not, the STC's might be considered-or Oktava, or else something more upmarket, and there are many different directions to go in terms of timbre.

BTW, the Oktava cardioid is really a wide cardioid, with the appropriate pattern at the rear. The hypercardioid vaguely resembles a hypercardioid and has a consistent off axis response, but without the deep nulls.

(Since someone inevitably comes along whenever Oktava mic's are mentioned to caution against the "Chinese fakes," know that those "fakes" aren't, and those Chinese versions will likely sound better, perform better and are more reliable than the ones from Russia. It's a long story and the Chinese mic's are no longer being manufactured, to my knowledge.)
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Re: Small Condenser for Acoustic Guitar

Postby Minwah » Wed Mar 14, 2012 3:47 pm

Thanks for the further replies...

I am still not 100% sure but think I will try the Rode mic. The potential reliability issue puts me off the Oktava's slightly, although I will only be using the mic occasionally so possibly not an issue (?)

I don't have the money yet anyway, so I have plenty of time to think about it. Maybe I will be able to find somewhere I can try the mic out first before I buy...
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Re: Small Condenser for Acoustic Guitar

Postby Len » Wed Mar 14, 2012 5:36 pm

I am a big fan of the Rode NT4 (stereo mic) and the NT6. You can hear the NT4 in action at www.youtube.com/user/leonardngmusic - all 3 videos were recorded into Cubase through a NT4, dbx 386 into Cubase 6.
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Re: Small Condenser for Acoustic Guitar

Postby DAGGILARR » Wed Mar 14, 2012 6:18 pm

I got a pair of NT55's on ebay for £300, I purchased them as used and was delighted to find them as new.

I made my choice based on the recommendations on here and other research.
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Re: Small Condenser for Acoustic Guitar

Postby ef37a » Thu Mar 15, 2012 8:27 am

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Re: Small Condenser for Acoustic Guitar

Postby Tomás Mulcahy » Fri Mar 16, 2012 11:46 am

Jeraldo wrote:A minority opinion, for sure, but the Rode mic's have always sounded "plasticky" or "transistorish" to me, though this is more apparent on some sources more than another. It's always very apparent to my ears on a piano from an octave above middle c on up. Even on sources such as a metal flute, there is this amp signature.
100% agree. All Rodes have that signature that I personally (and a couple of other engineers I know) really dislike. Although there was one time where it worked great on a metal flute! But for drums, piano, and acoustic guitar... no.

I think the little Beyerdynamic MCE530 sound super on acoustic guitar. Better than Neumann KM184, which is another very over rated mic.
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Re: Small Condenser for Acoustic Guitar

Postby petev3.1 » Mon Mar 26, 2012 9:37 am

Geraldo ... A minority opinion, for sure, but the Rode mic's have always sounded "plasticky" or "transistorish" to me, though this is more apparent on some sources more than another. It's always very apparent to my ears on a piano from an octave above middle c on up. Even on sources such as a metal flute, there is this amp signature. To be fair, though, more people than not like the Rode mic's.
Agreed. I have two old NT5s and find them very unpleasant on (classical) acoustic gtr. They're for sale if anyone wants to pay to confirm this.
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Re: Small Condenser for Acoustic Guitar

Postby Mike Stranks » Mon Mar 26, 2012 5:25 pm

petev3.1 wrote:
Geraldo ... A minority opinion, for sure, but the Rode mic's have always sounded "plasticky" or "transistorish" to me, though this is more apparent on some sources more than another. It's always very apparent to my ears on a piano from an octave above middle c on up. Even on sources such as a metal flute, there is this amp signature. To be fair, though, more people than not like the Rode mic's.
Agreed. I have two old NT5s and find them very unpleasant on (classical) acoustic gtr. They're for sale if anyone wants to pay to confirm this.
... OK; but the application is key...

A week or two ago I was running live-sound for an acoustic guitar duo - one classical guitar and one steel-string amplified through good-quality pick-ups.

The classical guitarist brought his AKG414 which he uses all the time for classical recording and we've used succesfully before for live work. But on this occasion and in this room the sound was the pits - irrespective of mic position and desk EQ. Fortunately I had my box of mics with me so decided to see what a different mic might do. I tried an NT5 first, but needed to experiment no further... everything just came together and smiles replaced worried looks.

Would I use the NT5 to record him? Probably not, but in this context it was the right mic.

So how much for your NT5s?
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Re: Small Condenser for Acoustic Guitar

Postby chew_rocket » Tue Mar 27, 2012 12:13 am

i also own a pair of NT5s and love them to bits. I think they're great on acoustic guitar more than anything.
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Re: Small Condenser for Acoustic Guitar

Postby Zukan » Tue Mar 27, 2012 8:08 am

The NTs are good and the Octavias will add some top end but the STC-1s are not that great. I tested them for my book and did eventually use them but only for budget tutorial purposes. I found them to be too brittle and narrow banded.

There are some great mics out there that will do the job equally but if you can access the NTs then give them a run and check the results. They work fine.
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Re: Small Condenser for Acoustic Guitar

Postby The Elf » Tue Mar 27, 2012 8:13 am

I only ever had great results with my NT5s, leading me to purchase the even better NT55s. It sounds like someone should snap up a bargain from you quickly!
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Re: Small Condenser for Acoustic Guitar

Postby Mike Stranks » Tue Mar 27, 2012 8:55 am

The Elf wrote:I only ever had great results with my NT5s, leading me to purchase the even better NT55s. It sounds like someone should snap up a bargain from you quickly!
Oi! I'm first in the queue!
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Re: Small Condenser for Acoustic Guitar

Postby Bob Bickerton » Tue Mar 27, 2012 10:06 am

Comments about NT5s on classical guitar may be valid. I would happily use NT55s (omni) as a spaced pair on classical, rather than the cardioids but then you need an acoustic like a cathedral to get the best out of the spaced pairs.

However I think NT5s for steel string acoustic are OK. There's better more expensive mics, but then there always are!

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Re: Small Condenser for Acoustic Guitar

Postby sdelsolray » Sun Apr 01, 2012 1:48 am

There are dozens and dozens of good to decent small and mid diaphragm mics that will do very well with acoustic guitar. Some things to consider are:

1) Different mics may react differently depending on mic placement. Some mics have more (or less) proximity effect than others and some have better (or worse) off axis responses.

2) The midrange and high frequency responses, although the same on paper (frequency graph) will sound different, some being smoother and some being a bit more aggressive. Either is fine, but you will likely prefer one over the other for your particular situation.

3) Some sound noisier than others, even with the same A-weighted self-noise specification.

4) The music style, ensemble makeup, mix and aesthetic goal can easily affect mic choice. For example, the mic that works well for a strummed acoustic guitar is a folk band mix may be different than the mic that works well for a solo guitar performance.

Mid-priced mic pairs that I have found very useful for solo fingerstyle guitar recording include (in no particular order):

1) 3 Zigma CHI transformerless mic amp with SD cardioid or hypercardioid capsules (omnis are nice too).
2) Oktava MC-012 mic amp (with Michael Joly mod or Dorsey mod) with SD cardioid or hypercardioid capsules (omnis are nice too).
3) Avantone CV28 tube mic.
4) SE Electonics SE4.
5) Neumann KM184 (used).

Of course, there are many others.
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Re: Small Condenser for Acoustic Guitar

Postby petev3.1 » Wed Apr 04, 2012 10:40 am

Mike Stranks wrote:So how much for your NT5s?

Sorry Mike, only just seen this. I'm not sure about a price. Can't remember what I paid. Do you want to make me an offer? I'll go check what they usually fetch.
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Re: Small Condenser for Acoustic Guitar

Postby Mike Stranks » Wed Apr 04, 2012 2:05 pm

petev3.1 wrote:
Mike Stranks wrote:So how much for your NT5s?
Sorry Mike, only just seen this. I'm not sure about a price. Can't remember what I paid. Do you want to make me an offer? I'll go check what they usually fetch.
No worries...

... and anyway, the world's moved on.

If you have a look at the thread in 'Live Sound' "The Gig with No Road", you'll see that I went in looking for a sub-£100 vocal mic and came out with a £1000 mixer! So no extra mics for Michael!

(Hope that doesn't mess you about at all, but you should find a ready market for the NT5s - they always seem to get snapped-up. FWIW I think I paid £150 for my second-user matched pair - with one clip missing, but everything else complete. No idea what the going rate is now.)
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Re: Small Condenser for Acoustic Guitar

Postby Len » Wed May 02, 2012 12:10 pm

In case of interest, I have put up a video HERE of my recording with a Rode NT4 - directly into Apogee Duet II and then Cubase 6. Very little processing (a bit of compression from Sonalksis, high pass eq - small mid cut - no boosting of anything (again Sonalksis EQ), no brickwall limiting).
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