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Microphone choice for vocals and acoustic guitar

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Microphone choice for vocals and acoustic guitar

Postby rggillespie » Mon Jul 22, 2019 8:16 am

Hi, I'm totally muddled by the seemingly endless choice of microphones and hoped the wise and learned crowd here might put me on the right track.
I have a treated room and I'm recording vocals, acoustic guitar,electric guitar and was wanting to buy a mic as I've sold two guitars and have funds. I have other mics a reslo ribbon, warm wa47 and shure ksm9. I use reslo for my guitar amp, reslo and ksm9 for my acoustic and warm wa47 for vocals mainly. The warm is by some distance the best I have but its very heavy and so I have a large mic stand for it, that's a pain to move about and get into position. Plus you have to wait for the valve to warm up before using, so its set up for vocals. I was thinking to get one last microphone to provide an alternative vocal mic, and it will get used for my acoustic (mainly) and electric as i like using two mics to record so I have a choice. I'm happy with the vocal and electric recordings with what i have its really the acoustic recordings I was hoping to improve.
After reading the forum and various reviews I really cant see the wood for the trees! Not sure if I'm looking for a large or small condenser and even what the budget should be. I would like it to be a final purchase so I'm willing to shell out for it. I'd prefer it wasn't valve, and based on recent reviews was thinking of the austrian audio oc818. This may just be because it has had a good review recently of course, but it does seem versatile. Any thoughts or pointers would be much appreciated, I'll buy new so at least I can try it out and return it if it doesn't work out. The problem I've got is where to start, so any pointers or advice would be appreciated, many thanks in advance
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Re: Microphone choice for vocals and acoustic guitar

Postby Arpangel » Mon Jul 22, 2019 8:53 am

I would go for a pair of multi-pattern condensers, as to what these would be it's difficult, there are so many variables
The advantages of using figure of 8 mic's on guitar and vocals is that you can get great separation for mixing. Depends what your budget is, if I had to choose, a pair of U87's would be my choice if you don't want valves, they are still great mic's that just do the job and sound amazing. They are multi-pattern and would allow you to experiment further.
There are loads of other choices as you know, but the U87 is still respected, and easier to sell if you need to later on.
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Re: Microphone choice for vocals and acoustic guitar

Postby Wonks » Mon Jul 22, 2019 9:53 am

The KSM9 isn't an ideal mic for recording acoustic guitar on, as it is designed as a stage vocal mic, even though it is a capacitor mic.

At which point you'll then get given a huge list of mics for recording acoustic guitar, all of which can do a great job, just that some will produce a slightly different sound than others, and that a 'better' sound is very subjective once the mic generally picks up a sound that represents the sound of the guitar well.

SDCs are one standard choice for guitars, as are MDCs and SDCs!

One favourite for acoustics is the AKG414. But now you've got the AKG414, the Austrian Audio mics and also the WA-14 for that style of mic.

A U87 will sound great on acoustic and vocals, but it's a lot of money for one mic (though a great value-holding investment).

You can get great sounding SDCs from not much at all to a lot of money. Rode NT5s, Neumann KM184 etc. Getting a stereo pair of SDCs makes a lot of sense for both current and future work.

What's your purchasing budget?
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Re: Microphone choice for vocals and acoustic guitar

Postby rggillespie » Mon Jul 22, 2019 10:50 am

Thanks for the tips, I've not had any success with Neumann so far, before I got my ksm9 I tried their 105 mic and didn't like it, I thought it was bright. I didn't get on with their monitors either which everyone here seems to love, I got PMC ones instead which I much preferred. So I'm a little wary of Neumann, I think in general I prefer a warm/dark sound as opposed to dry bright sound. I should point out I record everything separately so I wouldn't be doing vocals and acoustic together. Budget wise, I've noticed something called a Chandler TG that appeals with its abbey road links and it seems versatile, that's as much as I was prepared to spend. That's seems plenty for one mic for a keen amateur! I'd be happy to spend less of course, though maybe if you buy quality now it will hold its value perhaps. Plus as the mic is at the start of the chain its worth putting some hard earned there. I noticed with my warm audio mic it didn't seem to need much of anything to make it sit in the mix. After that experience I'm a little more open to spending on a microphone of quality, as its seems to make life easier.
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Re: Microphone choice for vocals and acoustic guitar

Postby Bob Bickerton » Mon Jul 22, 2019 11:57 am

It sounds as though you’re after a microphone for your own voice, in which case I’d advise auditioning microphones as opposed to trawling through a myriad suggestions which is likely what you’ll get here!

I have found that certain microphones suit certain voices better than others, something you’ve notices yourself. So if you’re about to shell out on a major purchase, I would invest some funds in either hiring some mics or going into a studio that has a number of mic options so you can find out which suits your voice the best.

Having said that, it sounds like you’re pretty happy with the Warm microphone, so you might not find anything better.

Also worth checking that you are recording in a acoustically treated room......

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Re: Microphone choice for vocals and acoustic guitar

Postby Sam Inglis » Mon Jul 22, 2019 12:17 pm

One thing you could do is try to find a local-ish studio with a decent mic selection and hire it out for an hour or two to make some comparisons on your voice and guitar.

The Austrian Audio mics are indeed excellent but no-one can say what the perfect mic for your voice is without hearing it.
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Re: Microphone choice for vocals and acoustic guitar

Postby Wonks » Mon Jul 22, 2019 2:23 pm

The OP did say its main use was for acoustic guitar, and as a second vocal mic, so probably best to focus on the acoustic guitar aspect. They can then try one or two of the suggestions and see if they are what they want on an acoustic and also work for their voice.
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Re: Microphone choice for vocals and acoustic guitar

Postby rggillespie » Mon Jul 22, 2019 3:29 pm

I happy to have the warm mic for vocals and the reslo for the amp, Its the acoustic that's the main weakness in what I'm getting recorded. It would be nice to thin out the field a little but I can see my question is pretty open-ended. I've assumed a multiple patterned condenser would give me the widest range of options. I was hoping the new mic could cover all three bases and compliment what I have. Looks like I'll have to go an audition some and see where that takes me, thanks for taking the time to reply, its kind of you all and much appreciated.
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Re: Microphone choice for vocals and acoustic guitar

Postby Wonks » Mon Jul 22, 2019 4:03 pm

The mic pattern you use really depends on your recording environment and as to how 'nice' the room sounds. You'd probably not want to go narrower than cardioid when solo recording, but with a good sounding room, you could go full omni for a lot more natural reverb. Having a hard floor helps with an acoustic, so even putting a bit of hardboard down over carpet can improve//brighten the sound.
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Re: Microphone choice for vocals and acoustic guitar

Postby blinddrew » Mon Jul 22, 2019 4:28 pm

Is there a particular aspect to your current recordings that you're not happy with?
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Re: Microphone choice for vocals and acoustic guitar

Postby Arpangel » Mon Jul 22, 2019 5:44 pm

rggillespie wrote:Thanks for the tips, I've not had any success with Neumann so far, before I got my ksm9 I tried their 105 mic and didn't like it, I thought it was bright. I didn't get on with their monitors either which everyone here seems to love, I got PMC ones instead which I much preferred. So I'm a little wary of Neumann, I think in general I prefer a warm/dark sound as opposed to dry bright sound. I should point out I record everything separately so I wouldn't be doing vocals and acoustic together. Budget wise, I've noticed something called a Chandler TG that appeals with its abbey road links and it seems versatile, that's as much as I was prepared to spend. That's seems plenty for one mic for a keen amateur! I'd be happy to spend less of course, though maybe if you buy quality now it will hold its value perhaps. Plus as the mic is at the start of the chain its worth putting some hard earned there. I noticed with my warm audio mic it didn't seem to need much of anything to make it sit in the mix. After that experience I'm a little more open to spending on a microphone of quality, as its seems to make life easier.

I wouldn't automatically dismiss all Neumann products, especially the U87, it's a great mic, very versatile, some manufactures have classics, and this is one of them.
However, if it's dark you want, try an Audio Technica AT4060, I had to,use one on an acoustic once and thought it was way too dark, but you may like it. Coles ribbons, 4038's, two of those might suite, smooth and slightly dark, and not overly expensive, but you need a sensitive and noise free preamp.
Neumann monitors I don't like either, I'm not a fan, but certain mic's of theirs are deserved of their reputation.
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Re: Microphone choice for vocals and acoustic guitar

Postby rggillespie » Mon Jul 22, 2019 5:53 pm

I briefly had use of an akg c12reissue and that showed me whats possible and how my acoustics could sound. With that it just sounded like the guitar that I hear when I'm playing. Sadly (but fortunately for my wallet) it wasn't the vocal mic for me. It might be easier to explain what I'm aiming for by musical examples, recent wilco, ethan johns recordings, gillian welch, late johnny cash. To me quite natural sounding guitars but with a sense of the room and not to 'shiny' for want of a better word.
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Re: Microphone choice for vocals and acoustic guitar

Postby Wonks » Mon Jul 22, 2019 6:49 pm

Of course your WA47 is a Neumann U-47 copy. :D
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Re: Microphone choice for vocals and acoustic guitar

Postby The Bogey » Mon Jul 22, 2019 7:11 pm

Frankly, I'd save some dough to buy dedicated mics for recording acoustic string instruments. Next I'd save some more to buy a vocal mic. The choice of the former seems to be far less subjective unless you want something that deliberately misrepresents the sound of the instrument. I'd recommend SDCs for this purpose the most natural sounding of which are the Schoeps Colettes in my humble opinion (e.g. the CMC 64s with cardioid pattern). Many pros use them on classical recordings. I sold my KM184s after hearing these babes. If your budget is an issue this SDC shootout conducted by friends of mine might help you find alternatives: https://www.bonedo.de/artikel/einzelans ... plett.html

(Just download the ZIPs to your desktop. The file names are pretty self-explanatory even if you don't know German.)

Re the vocal mic - most people do want something that flatters their voice so no one can help you with this, I'm afraid... You can of course buy an allrounder like the U87 (better choice for Neumann haters: TLM170) but it sounds as if you're not happy with this. Neither was I :wave:

Ah yes do we really need to talk about the quality of the signal chain? :headbang:
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Re: Microphone choice for vocals and acoustic guitar

Postby Sam Spoons » Mon Jul 22, 2019 7:37 pm

The thing about acoustic guitars is they sound very different depending whether you are the player or the audience and, because they radiate sound of different frequencies from different parts of the instrument and in different directions it is impossible to close mic a guitar and make it sound like it does to a listener several feet away. I guess the players you cite have access to large, great sounding rooms so can mic from a distance (probably not several feet but far enough for the mic to sense the whole instrument rather than just the sound emanating from a part of it).

Playing a guitar with a sound port is an interesting experience as it gives the player some of the 'audience sound'.
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Re: Microphone choice for vocals and acoustic guitar

Postby rggillespie » Mon Jul 22, 2019 8:35 pm

Point taken yes I'd forgotten the wa47 is a Neumann copy and its none the worse for that, I think its wonderful. Its tricky describing sound as what you think you hear differs when its recorded and then again when mixed with other instruments. I'll look at audio technica and the Neumann, I remember reading an AT ribbon mic was used to record guitars on some recent dylan records. Not so sure about his recent output but it always sounds pretty good.
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Re: Microphone choice for vocals and acoustic guitar

Postby Bob Bickerton » Mon Jul 22, 2019 10:01 pm

OK, so acoustic guitar is the main focus. As has been said most of us would select microphones to best suit the source being recorded rather than attempt to have catch-all, therefore possible compromised, microphones. So best to focus on microphones that will give you the guitar sound you’re after.

Again as has been said, this will be very room dependent and you haven’t told us whether your room is treated. How does it sound?

As has been mentioned, best to hire a studio to try options out, each one of us will make different suggestions - but the suggestions will vary dependent on the nature of the instrument, of the the room and the sound you’re after - thus at the end of the day it has to be your decision.

Oh, and saying you don’t like Neumann is a little like saying you don’t like all ice cream because you once tried a garlic flavoured one........

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Re: Microphone choice for vocals and acoustic guitar

Postby DC-Choppah » Tue Jul 23, 2019 1:58 am

A Shure SM-81 is a classic acoustic guitar mic and will give you familiar sound.

I recently auditioned mics for acoustic guitar and tried one on the advice of a kind experienced studio gentleman.

To my ear the SM81 collects the sound of the guitar without that harsh scratchy high end that some of the SDCs have. It also just sounds like you are used to hearing the guitar sound. Its like how an SM57 sounds right on snare drum.
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Re: Microphone choice for vocals and acoustic guitar

Postby Tim Gillett » Tue Jul 23, 2019 2:46 am

rggillespie wrote:Point taken yes I'd forgotten the wa47 is a Neumann copy and its none the worse for that, I think its wonderful. Its tricky describing sound as what you think you hear differs when its recorded and then again when mixed with other instruments...

Yes in a word, it's complicated, and having realistic expectations is important. It's wise not to put all our hopes on just a mic to give us "that sound". The commercial recordings we might like to emulate would have used a good mic but often, EQ, compression and reverb were added. It's often not just the mic we are hearing.

Also as we often say, it's not just the tools. It's at least as much how we use the tools. If we want high quality results we usually need to learn some of the craft, rather than expect that having "the tools" will make us the craftsman.
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Re: Microphone choice for vocals and acoustic guitar

Postby rggillespie » Tue Jul 23, 2019 7:09 am

'Again as has been said, this will be very room dependent and you haven’t told us whether your room is treated. How does it sound?' Sorry for not answering this Bob, after joining this forum and taking advice from here, room treatment was the first thing I did, it really was a big leap forward. The room is 2.5m x 4.0m and I have primacoustic panels on the walls around the monitoring area and the back wall plus a ceiling cloud above the monitoring desk area. I made some large bass traps to finish off, so the room is fairly dead compared to before. After sorting out the room, I upgraded the monitoring and now I'm looking into the mics as the final part of sorting the studio recording side of things out.
'Also as we often say, it's not just the tools. It's at least as much how we use the tools. If we want high quality results we usually need to learn some of the craft, rather than expect that having "the tools" will make us the craftsman.' Tim's hit the nail on the head here, I'm looking now to learn more about mixing and recording techniques and leave the studio equipment as it is for some time after this mic purchase. Reading the SOS mixing book currently and see there's plenty for me to learn. Thanks again for the tips and links I'll follow them up
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