The Best 4 Mics for Acoustic Guitar – USB and XLR Connections

Are you looking for the best mic for your guitar project? Acoustic guitars can be better recorded by some microphones than others. Different designs of microphones do a better job on certain instruments, as we will explain in this guide. Personal preference, convenience and ease-of-use will also play a part in the decision you make when trying to decide on the best microphones.

We also provide reviews of some recommended models, so people who want to know which guitar microphone to buy can find the right mic for them.

In a hurry? Here are our top picks..

Microphones for Recording or For Live Use

Whether you want to get the best microphones for recording acoustic guitar or you are looking to use a mic in a live setting to “amplify” your guitar playing. A lot of people will opt for an acoustic-electric model when they are playing live, which means they do not need a microphone. For live use, microphones can be less than ideal as they can pick up other instruments.

This is a discussion regarding condenser microphones and dynamic microphones, really. In a live setting, many people will opt for dynamic mics, and when it comes to acoustic guitar recording, you may want to go for condenser mics. Condenser microphones tend to have large-diaphragm designs and pick up a lot more detail than dynamic mics. Dynamic microphones are a little bit more robust. They are great for use in a live setting as they are more likely to handle being dropped, for instance. However, for recording acoustic guitars, condenser mic models are probably a better call in the majority of circumstances.

USB Microphones

This is a subject of some debate in the world of music. Can a USB microphone be as good? Do they provide the same level of recording quality or not? There is definitely a form of snobbery in the music industry, and some people will tell you to steer away from USB mics for recording.

A microphone will normally have an XLR connection. This can be connected to a computer for acoustic guitar recording via either an audio interface or a mixing desk. Or, all of this can be bypassed by using a USB model. USB models effectively have the interface “inbuilt”. Historically, though, they have not been a very good option for acoustic guitar as the quality has not been as high as some condenser or dynamic XLR mics.

In recent years, USB microphones have definitely come a long way. For your first experience with an acoustic guitar microphone, a USB mic can be the simplest way to very quickly get up and running and not have to learn how to use equipment like an interface. Not only can an audio interface be difficult to learn how to use, but it can also be expensive to buy all this peripheral equipment, too.

This guide is an interesting read on USB vs XLR connections for microphones.

How to Record Acoustic Guitar

When people look to record an acoustic guitar they may use two microphones. In a professional recording studio, this is the way a guitar will probably be recorded. However, at home, a lot of people are using one mic on their acoustic guitar and therefore need to find a good solution without having two audio sources.

The elements you want to record on an acoustic guitar are both the strings and neck area, and also the soundhole. To get a well-rounded result when recording acoustic guitars it is a good idea to try and get both. If you have two mics, try one that is 10-12 inches away pointed at the soundhole, and one that is 10-12 inches away, pointed towards the fretboard.

If you have a one-mic setup, prioritize the soundhole, but try to point the mic towards the neck in order to get some of the fret noise, too. This will give a more natural sound for your guitar.

Polar Patterns and Frequency Responses

We’re getting into the technical details of microphones now, but whether you are buying a condenser or a different form of a microphone, it is worth knowing a little about these two aspects.

Frequency response is simply the way a microphone copes with recording different frequencies. The low-end sounds such as bass will be low frequencies, moving to higher sounds such as the high frets of your guitar, and percussion such as a triangle. The frequency response of a microphone can make it better suited to certain instruments. Mics tend to cope with acoustic guitars pretty well as they are in the mid-range of the audio spectrum. You don’t have to buy a specific mic for recording acoustic guitar, and one that can be used for vocals may be suitable for guitar, too.

The polar pattern is a little bit different. This is the recording pattern in terms of the direction it picks up sound from, and how far away it picks up the sound from. For instance, many large diaphragm and small diaphragm condenser mics offer a cardioid pickup pattern. This rejects a lot of the sound from the sides and back of the mic, so it focuses on what is directly in front. This can help with getting a specific sound and rejecting noise from elsewhere, such as other instruments, when recording acoustic guitars.

Best Mic for Acoustic Guitar Reviews

1. AKG Pro Audio C414 – Best Overall

AKG Pro Audio C414 XLII Vocal Condenser Microphone, Multipattern

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AKG is a huge brand when it comes to recording equipment and headphones, and their C414 mics have been popular for a number of decades now. These microphones are not cheap, but they are incredibly versatile and high-quality condenser mics, great for recording a number of different instruments.

This large-diaphragm condenser mic is famous for its sound signature, which is sought after by audio professionals all over the world. If you are in the market for a professional sounding mic, this is worth the extra money. It has lots of choices, too. You can select from nine different polar pattern options, for instance, changing the way the microphone picks up audio in order to suit your acoustic guitar recording.

Pros:

  • Select the polar pattern depending on your recording needs.
  • It comes with an overload warning when peaking or clipping.
  • There are bass-cut filters inbuilt to get rid of the proximity effect or unwanted noise.
  • Three attenuation cuts so you can alter based on the volume of your audio source.

Cons:

  • Very expensive compared to some other options.
  • Extra controls such as attenuators can be hard to get the hang of.

This is one of the best microphones for recording almost anything. Few mics in history have been more versatile and more sought after by industry professionals. It’s pricey, but for those who want a professional setup and don’t mind using an audio interface or mixing desk to amplify, this could be a good choice.

2. Audio-Technica AT2020USB+ – Best USB Microphone for Acoustic Guitar

Audio-Technica AT2020USB+ Cardioid Condenser USB Microphone, with Built-In Headphone Jack & Volume Control, Black

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If you are looking for simplicity when it comes to recording acoustic guitars then this could be the microphone you find to be the best choice. The AT2020USB+ is often seen on podcasters’ tables, but it is not only a podcast microphone. Condenser microphones like this are great for podcasting as the frequency response suits vocals and they are incredibly simple.

To find a condenser that can just be plugged in via USB is a real bonus. Many condenser mics need phantom power, meaning power from batteries or from a mixing desk. This isn’t too complex, but it is another barrier for beginners looking into recording acoustic guitar.

This mic shows how far USB technology has come, and also includes some features that other USB mics at the same sort of prices don’t offer.

Pros:

  • Headphone output for no latency monitoring.
  • Mix control so you can blend the mic input with a backing track, for instance.
  • It can be used in 44.1 or 48kHz sample rates.
  • Compatible with both Windows and Mac OS.
  • Extended frequency response.
  • Good value-for-money.

Cons:

  • Not as effective on extreme highs and low sounds as some other mics.
  • No microphone gain control.

People who are looking for a microphone that can offer them both value and ease might be drawn to this option. It’s available under $200, but gives a lot of control and clarity. It’s also the closest to plug and play compatibility you are likely to get.

3. Shure SM57 – Best Acoustic Guitar Mic for Live Use

Shure SM57-LC Cardioid Dynamic Microphone

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It’s hard to know exactly what to say about the Shure SM57. If you are a total newcomer to recording then you might be hearing about it for the first time here, but most audio professionals will have used this style of microphone dozens of times.

For live instruments, the SM57 is the industry standard. This is not necessarily because it is the absolute best microphone. Instead, it is right in the sweet spot between being durable, high-quality and affordable. It is also incredibly versatile and sounds as good on a guitar as it does on a piano, a snare drum or just about any other instrument.

This is a dynamic microphone, and perhaps breaking the rule we explained earlier about dynamic mics only being best for live use, this is a pretty good choice for studio recordings, too. Condenser mics may be clearer, but considering the price and how robust the SM57 is, it is a good mic to have around.

Pros:

  • Extremely versatile. Can be used on many instruments.
  • Affordable.
  • Wide frequency response. 40-15,000 Hz
  • Has a cardioid pickup pattern for isolating the source effectively.
  • Durable. This item can be dropped many times and isn’t likely to break.

Cons:

  • Not as high-fidelity as some large diaphragm or small diaphragm condenser models.

An incredible proportion of the recording studios and live venues around the world have these microphones for recording acoustic instruments, recording voices or for use in a live environment. They are so versatile and extremely popular.

4. Neewer USB Microphone – Budget Option

Neewer USB Microphone for Windows and Mac with Suspension Scissor Arm Stand, Shock Mount, Pop Filter, USB Cable and Table Mounting Clamp Kit for Broadcasting and Sound Recording (Black)

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Neewer is a brand that is something of a specialist in creating cheap electronic equipment, but some if it is surprising in terms of its quality. While their USB mic doesn’t come up to the standards of some of the elite recording equipment out there, some people are just looking for something affordable to experiment with at home.

In spite of this mic being very cheap, the frequency response is decent, and the USB connection is reliable and easy to use with your DAW. It also comes with a stand and some accessories, which some of the mics don’t. The price tag is definitely appealing, but so are some of the features.

Pros:

  • Includes a shock mount to avoid noise when moving.
  • Easy to use with Mac and Windows operating systems.
  • Condenser mic with a cardioid polar pattern, isolates acoustic guitar pretty well.
  • Very affordable. A fraction of the price of some competing options.

Cons:

  • Not as high fidelity as a lot of the other microphones on the list.

This microphone is not going to change the world of audio, but for laying down some quick demos at your computer it could be a good choice that doesn’t cost too much.

Conclusion

Different people are looking for different things when it comes to microphones. Some are desperate for simple, plug and play USB connectivity, others are looking for the highest fidelity they can get. Our list has something for everyone, but for the budding acoustic guitar recorder wanting to get the very best audio, the AKG C414 is hard to argue with.

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