Acoustic Guitar Mic Shootout

It’s that time again! Following a long comparison series, we’ve revisited the acoustic guitar microphone shootout we’ve previously done to update it with our entire current range of large diaphragm microphones, to bring you a balanced and scientific comparison and help you choose the right microphone for your studio and your needs.

As always, I’ll give my opinions of what I'm hearing and how each one of these microphones shines in it’s own way.

Let's dive in.

Constant Variables

Like before, we’ve done our best to make sure everything is as closely matched in terms of the variables of this comparison as possible.

It’s incredibly important to do this so that you as the end listener have no falsehoods such as proximity effect either enhancing or diminishing the bottom end, the angle of the mics position and the polar patterns effect on the sound. Below are the constant non changing variables:

  • Preamp Input Stage remained the same
  • Preamp Output stage remained the same with a pad engaged to reduce THD
  • Preamp (1073 Clone) itself remained the same
  • Height of the mic on the stand
  • No Interface gain at all
  • Interface (focusrite 3rd Gen 18i20) stayed the same
  • Angled towards the 12th fret, very slightly off access to capture the full ‘picture’ of the acoustic guitar.

Inconsistent variables

Like before, there’s always only so much that we can do to make sure this test is as accurate as possible. Human error dictates that there are very slight changes from mic to mic, example to example that could have a minute effect on the recording - although to my ears this is indiscernible between each take and the mic’s performed as I had previously experienced in many sessions using them individually.

Below are the inconsistencies that we could think of that we have little control over:

  • Varying slight movement of the guitarist during the performance is something totally out of an engineer’s control. We placed tape on the floor to line up the distance and position of the mic stand, as well as Luc’s feet while playing, as close as we possibly could.
  • Due to no performances being the exact same, the velocity of each hit of the strings is interchanging between takes. However, to limit this, we chose a chord progression that’s well rehearsed and second nature to Luc. Luc is also a proficient guitarist and very consistent with his performances and I feel this is the closest we could’ve achieved.

The Results

Below is the results of the comparison, as well as a visual aid so you can put the audio to the microphone if you’re unfamiliar with any of the range currently.

Vintage 67

Out of all the microphones, this was the most neutral sounding for me. Already as an all rounder choice for nearly any source you put it in front of, acoustic guitar is no exception and is typically one of the main choices I reach for when presented with an acoustic recording session. Even pointed at the 12th fret, there’s no harshness and when paired with a warm transformer based preamp such as we have in this shootout, it becomes incredibly smooth and easy to mould in the mix. The low end as always blooms in a very pleasing way capturing the body of the guitar without becoming overbearing or feeling ‘lumpy’ unlike a lot of similarly priced microphones.

Vintage 11

The V11 is the most bottom heavy of the bunch, but suits a position in front of the 12th fret very well. Admittedly, with larger body guitars such as a dreadnought for example, the lower mid range can easily spill over the clarity that this mic has available to it.

However, the definition and character the V11 instils into all it’s recordings makes it a brilliant choice for a 12th fret or room mic position, occasionally aimed at the bridge on a smaller bodied guitar such as a parlour or 000 guitar such as the one we’ve chosen for this shootout. When using this mic on acoustic guitar, I’d usually reach for a less warm preamp than a 1073, such as a tube preamp that elaborates the beautiful top end clarity this mic has to offer.

Amethyst

Like it’s brother, the Amethyst is insatiably neutral and natural sounding. The only notable difference between the two is the slightly shifted presence of the upper midrange, coupled with perhaps a little less low-end than its counterpart.

Because the capsule is identical, the differences would be perhaps unnoticed to a slightly less well trained ear, or to the general listener - but this works in its favour as if you are lucky enough to own both then paring them together would be nothing short of beautiful. I find the mount that the amethyst has available lends itself to more creative positioning but both are equally exciting to listen back to.

BB29

Due to it being the new kid on the block, it’s not had enough time to establish itself as a common choice for acoustic guitar - but if you’re looking for a polished, super clear and full of character recording look no further. The transformer coupled output gives a well bodied midrange married with an incredible crystal clear and stand-out top end that is commonly associated with Grammy winning records.

I’d usually point this slightly further off axis from how it was positioned for this test to eliminate the potential for the tone to become brittle, but as you can hear, this is personal preference and even aimed almost head on with the 12th fret it never feels like ‘too much’.

BH1S

This is my number one choice for finger picked guitars. With slightly less top end lift than the BB29, but notably more than any in the vintage series, it’s a nice middle ground able to perform on any source. However, on acoustic guitar it really shines with unparalleled clarity and definition compared to many mics in its price range.

Although not shown in this comparison, I know this mic to perform very well positioned at both the 12th fret, or the bridge. A last note is that I’ve found from excessive experimentation that this mic’s polar patterns are extremely playful and aimed over the 12th fret rather than linear at facing the fretboard can achieve some wonderful results depending on the player and the wood/size of the guitar.