7 Best Microphones For Recording Acoustic Guitar (All Budgets)

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  • Looking for the best microphones for recording acoustic guitar?
  • We’ve rounded up 7 of the best mics for any budget.
  • Also consider checking out our post on the best microphones for recording vocals.

 

For many, the acoustic guitar is the ultimate instrument for songwriting. There’s nothing that can beat the convenience and ease of use of a 6-string acoustic, and if that’s not small enough, you can even consider a half-sized acoustic guitar.

If you have a good song, a decent guitar, and a recording setup, the next step in that chain is the mic. And most engineers and producers would agree that the best results are achieved with a condenser microphone, or perhaps a ribbon one.

The market is flooded with them, so we’re here to help you make the best decision.

Which Are The 7 Best Microphones For Recording Acoustic Guitar?

The Shure SM81 is our pick for the best mic for recording acoustic guitar. It is an industry-standard for acoustic guitar recording and offers great value.

For those on a budget, the Audio-Technica AT2035 is a solid choice that is well built, sounds good, and is also versatile.

For those of you who need the best, the Royer R-121 is our premium choice. This ribbon mic is used by many top-notch engineers as it offers superior quality and versatility. And a special mention goes to the Mojave Audio MA-200 as one of the best tube microphones in the market.

Here are our candidates for the best microphone for recording acoustic guitar:

  1. Shure SM81 (Our Pick)
  2. Audio-Technica AT2035 (Best Value)
  3. Royer R-121 (Premium Choice)
  4. Audio-Technica ATM450
  5. Mojave Audio MA-200
  6. Shure KSM44A
  7. Neumann KM 184

1. Shure SM81 (Best Overall)

This is a small-diaphragm cardioid condenser microphone that has a transparent and clear sound comparable to premium tube mics but at a fraction of the cost.

Because of its great sound, ease of use, and affordable price, the Shure SM81 is a go-to among engineers, producers, and musicians for recording acoustic guitars and more.

OUR PICK
Shure SM81
$349.00

If you’ve been looking for a versatile, precise, and rugged mic, you’ve found it. The Shure SM81’s uniform cardioid pickup pattern achieves maximum gain before feedback onstage, while offering excellent off-axis rejection in a myriad of applications.

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10/15/2021 09:55 pm GMT

Features

  • Industry-standard for recording acoustic guitars
  • Small diaphragm condenser mic
  • 3-position high pass filter switch
  • Includes swivel adapter and foam windscreen
  • Durable vinyl-coated steel construction

Review

The Shure SM81 is a light microphone due to its small-diaphragm condenser design. At just 1.63 lbs, this mic is lighter and easier to position than similar mics.

It has a 3 position highpass filter switch and lockable -10 dB pad, as well as an excellent off-axis rejection for a variety of applications. You’ll also find a uniform cardioid pickup pattern that offers isolation with minimum off-axis coloration.

This mic comes with a low RF susceptibility that mitigates radio interference so your takes aren’t ruined with unnecessary noise.

Despite the fact that many small diaphragm mics feature a limited frequency response, the SM81 does not have this problem, with a frequency range of 20 Hz – 20 kHz.  Obviously, it is not a large-diaphragm mic, so it may not sound quite as warm as other mics right off the bat, but this is nothing that EQ can’t fix.

To add to the overall appeal of this condenser mic, you could also use the SM81 on mandolin, violin, banjo, piano, and even as drums overheads, making it very versatile.

This mic comes with a swivel adapter, foam windscreen, and carrying case and can be used for fieldwork as it tolerates humidity and changes in temperature well. With its low noise and high output, fantastic sound, and handy features, the Shure SM81 is our top pick for this list.

2. Audio-Technica AT2035 (Best Value)

The AT2035 is a great-sounding mic that offers unparalleled value. This mic is for anyone on a budget that still wants great sounding guitars, vocals, and more.

Due to its low cost, this mic is one of the best budget choices on the market today. It sounds great on a variety of sources and is our budget choice for this list.

BEST VALUE
Audio-Technica AT2035
$149.00

Audio-Technica's stringent consistency, reliability and quality standards bring professional performance to this extremely affordable line of home/project studio microphones.

Why We Love It:
  • Extremely versatile
  • Consistent
  • Reliable
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10/15/2021 11:31 pm GMT

Features

  • High SPL handling and wide dynamic range
  • Cardioid polar pattern
  • Frequency response of 20Hz-20kHz
  • Low-frequency roll-off: 80Hz, 12dB/octave
  • Flat, roll-off; 10dB pad switches

Review

The AT2035 is a large-diaphragm condenser microphone that will help you capture your acoustic guitars and vocal faithfully, without breaking the bank.

It features a switchable 80 Hz highpass filter, a 10 dB pad, and ships with a custom shock mount and protective pouch. I have personally used this mic for many recordings and gotten great results with acoustic guitars and vocals.

This large-diaphragm condenser mic is capable of handling high sound pressure levels while offering great sound quality at a remarkably low price. It features an impedance of 120 ohms, a cardioid polar pattern, and durable, rugged construction.

Its frequency response is 20 Hz to 20 kHz and you’ll find a modest presence peak around 12kHz, but otherwise the frequency response is rather flat. This makes for a mic with a relatively neutral character suitable for a variety of instruments.

Without the pad, the AT2035 can tolerate sound levels up to 148dB SPL (1kHz), which in itself is impressively high. You can switch on the pad to get another 10dB. Self-noise is a respectably low 12dB EIN, equating to a signal‑to‑noise ratio of 82dB at 1kHz at 1Pa.

Given all of its features, sound, and reliability, the AT2035 is popular among owners of home and project studios, offering stellar value.

It can also be of great use for bigger studios as this mic is built to a very high standard, and can handle very high SPLs. Yes, the Audio-Technica AT2035 is good for recording acoustic guitars, but will also work great for loud guitar amps, wind instruments, and drums

3. Royer R-121 (Best Premium)

This microphone is an institution and that is not an overstatement. The Royer R-121 Ribbon mic has been a beloved tool among discerning engineers and producers that want an incredible mic that is also versatile.

The Royer R-121 is perfect for acoustic guitars, guitar amps, percussion, woodwind instruments, vocals, and just about anything you can think of. Because of this, it is our premium choice for this list.

PREMIUM OPTION
Royer R-121 Studio Ribbon Microphone

The R-121 is a wonderful studio must-have whether you're looking for just one microphone to do it all, or another flavor to add to your locker.

Why We Love It:
  • High SPL Capabilities
  • Natural sound
  • Consistent frequency response
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Features

  • Extremely low residual noise
  • Ribbon element not affected by heat or humidity
  • Absence of high-frequency phase distortion
  • Equal sensitivity from back or front
  • Field replaceable ribbon transducer

Review

The Royer R-121 is a superior choice for acoustic guitar recording, among many other applications. You might think that its price is elevated, but once you try this microphone and hear how great and versatile it is, it becomes clear that it is worth every penny.

This mic is Royer’s flagship product and like most ribbon mics, it features a figure 8 polar pattern. Its sensitivity is quite similar to a good dynamic mic, and it exhibits a warm, realistic tone with a very flat frequency response.

This mic can capture acoustic instruments beautifully and can also be used to record very loud sources like a fully cranked guitar amp.

The Royer R-121 also has a very peculiar feature. At a distance of two feet or closer, the back of the mic is brighter than the front side. This difference in sound can be extremely useful when you record guitars, vocals, and other sources to get a bit more top end.

The sound quality, features, and versatility of the R-121 make it a great choice for a mic for those that need the best there is.

4. Audio-Technica ATM450

The Audio Technica ATM450 belongs to the Artists Series and has quickly become a solid choice for miking a variety of sources, especially acoustic guitar.

This is a small-diaphragm cardioid condenser microphone that offers an innovative side-address stick design for a variety of placement options with minimal obstructions.

Audio-Technica ATM450
$278.00

One of the new stars of the Artist Series remake, the ATM450 cardioid condenser offers an innovative side-address stick design for endless placement options and minimal obstructions.

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10/16/2021 11:05 am GMT

Features

  • Good for overheads, percussion, acoustic guitars, strings, etc.
  • 40 Hz to 20 kHz frequency range
  • 80 Hz HPF switch and 10 dB pad
  • Cardioid polar pattern
  • Rugged, all-metal design and construction

Review

The ATM450 features an integral 80 Hz hi-pass filter that provides easy switching from a flat frequency response to a low-end roll-off. This mic also comes with a switchable 10 dB pad that lowers its sensitivity, providing higher SPL capabilities for flexible use in a wide range of situations.

This mic features a cardioid polar pattern, which helps reduce pickup of sound from the sides and rear, which in turn improves the isolation of the desired sound source.

This mic features an extended flat frequency response of 40 Hz to 20 kHz, making it ideal for capturing acoustic guitar, as well as handling high SPL. It comes with a sturdy isolation clamp for shock protection, secure mounting, and easy positioning.

The Audio-Technica ATM450 has a brightened response that highlights presence, slightly adding to upper midrange and brilliance. The peak is at 6.5 kHz, which can remind some discerning ears of an SM57 albeit with a less aggressive and smoother sound.

When using this mic you will notice the midrange is flat and uncolored. With the low-end you may perceive a roll-off, but really everything is reduced evenly like a shelf filter. The response remains flat all the way to the lowest frequency of 40 Hz.

Simply said, the ATM450 is a very versatile mic that will work nicely in a variety of sources. It offers great value and is made by one of the most respected names in the industry.

5. Mojave Audio MA-200

Remember the Royer R-121? Well, it turns out that its maker, David Roger, also started a custom mic shop named Mojave Audio.

This was years before Royer Labs opened, back when David designed and built custom vacuum tube condenser microphones for engineers working at the big recording studios in Los Angeles. That is the heritage that the MA-200 has, making it one of the best microphones for recording acoustic guitar, and much more.

Mojave Audio MA-200

The MA-200 is the culmination of Royer's 20-plus years of custom microphone design. The large-diaphragm MA-200 gives warm, full-bodied reproductions of vocals and instruments without the shrillness and high-frequency grunge so often encountered with modern condenser microphones.

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Features

  • Large-diaphragm tube condenser mic
  • Military-grade JAN 5840 vacuum tubes
  • Hand-selected 3-micron gold-sputtered capsule
  • Jensen audio transformers
  • Frequency response: 30Hz-18kHz, +/-2.5dB
  • Carry case, power supply, shock mount, and cables included

Review

The MA-200 is the end result of Royer’s 20 plus years in the custom microphone field. This is a large-diaphragm condenser mic that offers you full-bodied reproductions of instruments and vocals but steers clear of the shrillness and high-frequency noise that is often found with modern condenser mics.

The MA-200 features a very distinct quality and voice. This is a mic to seriously look into if you want something truly unique. It features hand-selected 3-micron gold-sputtered capsules, a Jensen audio transformer, and military-grade JAN 5840 vacuum tubes.

It features an impressive frequency response of 30 Hz to 18 kHz. That, with its very special character, makes the MA-200 tube condenser mic great for acoustic instruments, vocals, piano, drum overhead, orchestra, and spot miking.

The Mojave Audio MA-200 is another premium choice for vintage lovers. It is one of the best acoustic guitar mics on this list that is equally competent at recording many other instruments as well.

6. Shure KSM44A

The Shure KSM44A features a dual-diaphragm design that makes it an extra special choice. This unique design allows for its large diaphragm to behave like two paired small diaphragm mics that can handle both low and high-frequency transients.

This is a multiple pickup pattern mic that offers great value and is not only fantastic for acoustic guitar recording but for vocals and other sources as well.

Shure KSM44A Condenser Microphone
$999.00

The Shure KSM44A is a go-to mic you can count on for great results in just about any project. It's a premium-grade large-diaphragm side-address condenser microphone that features some of Shure's coolest and most useful technology. 

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Features

  • Ultra-low-noise Prethos Advanced Preamplifier Technology
  • 4 dB of self-noise and max SPL of 131dB (total dynamic range of 127dB)
  • Cardioid, omnidirectional, and figure-8 polar patterns for maximum flexibility
  • Superior transient response
  • Class A discrete transformerless preamplifier for transparency

Review

The KSM44 is a workhorse mic that delivers stellar quality and features, offering fantastic value. It features a frequency response of 20Hz to 20kHz, with no crossover distortion, minimal harmonic and intermodulation distortions and premium electronic components. As a bonus for the audio geeks, it also features gold-plated internal and external connectors.

This side-address condenser mic also comes with some of Shure’s most useful modern technology. For instance, there’s the ultra-quiet Prethos Advanced Preamplifier Technology that helps to keep recordings free of noise. Then there also the transformerless output which eliminates unwanted coloration.

The KSM44’s dual-diaphragm design lets you select among cardioid, omnidirectional, or figure-8 pickup patterns. This makes it incredibly flexible and useful for a variety of situations and sources.

The KSM44A also features an internal pop filter that is great for adding extra protection for vocals or any other source that might need it. Additionally, this mic also features a switchable pad and a selectable highpass filter. This is one of the best condenser mics in the market at this price range.

7. Neumann KM 184

It is hard to create a best microphone list without at least one Neumann on it. And that is because when it comes to microphones, Neumann is arguably the most respected name.

This German company has been around for decades, and their superior quality is well known by discerning engineers and producers. The Neumann KM 184 is a fantastic choice for acoustic guitar, either in mono or as a stereo pair.

Neumann KM184
$1,353.67

Need a microphone to record percussion, cymbals or brass instruments? The KM 184 is capable of handling high sound pressure levels with ease - as high as 138dB before overloading. But it's also extremely quiet, making it an excellent choice for capturing the subtle nuances of acoustic guitars and orchestral instruments.

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Features

  • Part of the “fet 100” series with a transformerless microphone circuit
  • Capsule with cardioid pick-up pattern
  • Exceptionally low inherent self-noise (16dB A-weighted)
  • Exceptionally high overload capacity (up to 138dB SPL before overload)
  • Exceptionally clear sound reproduction free of coloration

Review

The Neumann KM 184 is a pencil-style small-diaphragm condenser microphone that can match the sensitivity of large-diaphragm microphones and still manage high sound pressure levels.

It features a frequency range of 20Hz to 20kHz, which is comparable to large diaphragm mics. Neumann emphasizes its minimal off-axis coloration; a great feature for recording acoustic guitars with a matched pair in an x-y or near-coincident formation.

Like anything Neumman builds, this mic features superior build quality and feel. High input gain is no problem with its supremely quiet operation.

This mic is renowned for working well with acoustic guitars, especially with stereo miking techniques. It has also developed a reputation as a great microphone for orchestral instruments, hi-hats, cymbals, and even vocal choirs.

Neumann has built something really special for stereo recording with the KM 184. Its phase integrity and tolerance are its best selling points, meaning you’re less likely to run into phase issues when mixing.

Some engineers claim that the Neumann KM184 is the best pencil-style condenser microphone, and to be honest, it is hard to disagree. This mic is just sensational.

Summary

Recording acoustic guitars is a beautiful art that is easy with the right tools. While you can still get a good recording out of a standard SM57 mic, it’s worth investing in a nice condenser or ribbon mic for a bit of extra character.

All the microphones on the list above are some of the best and most renowned in the industry at their price point. Many of these mics are also versatile enough to work well on other instruments as well, like vocals and guitar amps.

If you’re new to home recording, make sure you read How To Record Electric Guitar On A Budget before you start to really prepare yourself for the journey ahead.