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The Pinnacle of The Electrostatic Sound

Monday, December 14, 2009

Home Recording Sampler!
Record Your Acoustic Guitar



Microphones from Shure,
DPA, Audix, A-T and more

by John Gatski
One of the most popular instruments for home recordists is the acoustic guitar. To capture the true essence of an acoustic guitar, as one would hear it in a performance, you have to record it with external microphones. Built-in, internal microphones inside the guitar are convenient, especially for live sound, but I have not heard one yet that captures the complex harmonics of a six-string like a really good set of stereo microphones recorded at high-resolution PCM or DSD.
To capture the acoustic guitar in all of its complex splendor (bright, warm, articulate, etc.), you need a good mic. Microphones aimed at the professional market, I believe, enable recording of the acoustic guitar as accurately as possible, but allowing for some audio flavor that showcases the instrument to be sonically flattered.
I aimed this roundup more at the middle/top end of the microphone spectrum; the review mics are more expensive than the recent crop of Chinese-made, low-priced products. One microphone set, the U.S.-designed Mojave MA-100, was manufactured in China, and others in the roundup may have Chinese parts. However, the intent of this roundup is to represent more of the high-end, European-, American-, Japanese- and Australian-designed microphones.
For the test, I chose ten high-quality microphones. They are:

3-Zigma CHI C-Lol-47/67
•AudioTechnica AT4051b
•Audix SCX-25B
•DPA-4011TL
•DPA-4099
•Mojave MA100
•Neumann KM-184
•Royer R-122
•Sennheiser MKH-8040
•Shure KSM141

A few of the big companies are absent from this roundup, such as AKG. I reserve the right to make an addendum to this roundup as other products cross my recording space.

Rounding up the players
All microphones, except the externally powered Mojave MA100 tube microphone, are 48-volt (DC) phantom powered, which means they must be used with a microphone preamp with phantom power output. With one exception, all are condenser microphones. (The lone wolf is the Royer R-122 Active Ribbon, which is a “ribbon” design.)
A condenser microphones is a more complex design than a dynamic or a ribbon (a ribbon mic is a dynamic of sorts). A condenser microphone picks up sounds via an electrically charged, metal diaphragm, which is separated from a conductive back plate by a thin air layer. Sound waves striking the diaphragm cause a minuscule voltage change, which is increased by a tiny amplifier circuit within the mic body.
Condensers need phantom power to activate their circuits, so they must be used with preamplifiers that are so equipped. Sound-wise, condensers are generally characterized as having an extended frequency response — with a midrange/treble emphasis, often giving them a pronounced quality in those frequencies.
All microphones tested for this article, except one, were cardioid (or directional) in their pickup pattern. Cardioids do a good job of rejecting sound from behind and to the side of the element to allow precise pickup of the source in front of it. I think the pattern is ideal for miking acoustic guitar.
The only non-condenser mic in the roundup is the Royer R122 ribbon microphone. A ribbon microphone is similar to a dynamic microphone but uses a thin, metal ribbon (typically aluminum, duraluminum or nanofilm) placed between the magnet poles to generate voltages by electromagnetic induction. The ribbon microphone pickup pattern is termed figure-eight (bidirectional), which means they are sensitive to sounds from the front and back of the microphones.
Traditional ribbon microphones did not have the extended frequency response of a condenser. Today, there are ribbon microphones that have a more “modern” frequency response, and fans believe they still sound smoother than condensers.
One of our participant mics, the Shure KSM141, offers both cardioid and omni-directional pickup patterns, activated electrically via an on-body switch. As the name suggests, an omni-directional pattern mic typically picks up sound all around the microphone. This kind of mic is good for those who want to record the source and its direct interaction with the room.

Flattering to guitars
I chose mostly small instrument condenser microphones, which have small diaphragms, because their smaller size makes them easy to place close to the guitar and exhibit less “proximity effect” than larger, big-bodied microphones, such as the classic Neumann U87. Proximity effect is a characteristic where the low and mid-bass frequencies get sharply magnified (often making the bass muddy and boom-y) when the microphone is close to the source. The smaller mics usually have less of that effect.
The 3-Zigma and the Audix both have larger diaphragms than the others because of their larger “lollipop” head. I included these mics because this design has become popular for recording acoustic instruments, and they still have small bodies like the small condensers.

The setup
I chose stereo pairs for recording because I believe that the recorded acoustic guitar becomes much more dimensional in stereo than in single-mic’d mono. The sound is wider, deeper and you can better hear the intricacies of picking, as well as the guitar’s natural wood harmonics and their interaction with the room.
The guitars chosen for the recording included a classic, big-body Gibson SJ200 made of solid maple and solid spruce; a Martin 00-18V, with a small body made of solid mahogany and solid spruce that is generally suited for fingerpicking and folk strumming; and a custom (built to my specifications) version of the 1930s-spec Martin 00-28 — a slotted head stock, solid rosewood body and red spruce-top guitar. My version has a slightly narrower neck and an added pick guard. I also borrowed a Martin D28 dreadnought.
In most of the recording sessions, each microphone pair was placed on a DPA stereo bar mounted to an Atlas adjustable mic stand and adjusted for angle and distance in the familiar X-Y placement, with one mic pointing toward the 12th fret and the other near the sound hole. Distances varied, depending on mic, though they were mostly at 12-15 inches from the guitar bodies. With the Royer R122 ribbon microphones, I placed each mic on its own stand.
(For condenser recording tips and techniques, I recommend DPA's very complete and informative “Stereo Techniques” primer, available with the stereo kits and online at their web site).
All the test microphones were routed to the highly recommended API A2D professional microphone preamp-A/D converter (separate review in the next post) for phantom power and gain. Mics were linked to the API via Westlake Low-PE Distortion XLR cables. The converter was set to 24-bit/96 kHz sampling and connected to a TASCAM HDP-2 Compact Flash recorder via Accusound XLR cables.
I monitored the signal while I played the guitars, using a Benchmark DAC1 Pre D/A and AKG K701 headphones. All electronics were connected to the AC via Essential Sound Products Music Cord power cables.
After all the recording was done, I transferred the tracks to my MacBook Pro. I used Bias Peak 6.0 stereo editing program (my personal favorite for Mac) to clean up the edges, then burned the tracks to DVD-Audio with Minnetonka Bronze. To evaluate sonic difference and quality, I played the tracks back through my reference system: Esoteric DV-50 universal audio player, Legacy Coda/High Current Coda preamplifier, Pass Labs X350.5 amplifier and Legacy Focus 20/20 speakers. I also listened to the tracks through the AKG headphones and a Benchmark DAC1 Pre.
Here is the roundup:

3-Zigma CHi C-Lol-47
Retail Price: $799 each; $1,500 stereo pair;
Street Price: $599 and $1,000;
This mic is designed in Australia, using premium capsules and electronics from China. You can buy the mic body with small condenser or larger lollipop condenser screw-on capsules. I chose the lollipop-style large capsules, the C-Lol-47 cardioid and the C-Lol-67 cardioid. The 47 and 67 designations are claimed to give the response and character of those classic Neumann mics.
The sample 3-Zigma set included suspension mounts. These mics are impressively built and boast great specs, including a dynamic range in excess of 120 dB. They are also claimed to handle more than a 130 dB sound pressure level (SPL). For tailoring the sound, a 80-Hz bass roll-off filter and a pad switch are built in.
On the Martin 00-18V, the 3-Zigma (with the 47 capsule) playback revealed a clean, nicely imaged sound without a large presence peak, which allowed the natural midrange harmonics of the mahogany-bodied guitar to ring out nicely. The bass response was smooth and just about perfect. On the Gibson SJ200 the same characteristics were heard. The guitar reproduction was pretty accurate, with a nice, solid, warm bass and just the right amount of maple body brightness.
I recommend the 3-Zigma for rooms that are evenly balanced — not too bright, not too dark. In my opinion, it should work with about any acoustic guitar. The 3-Zigmas, with the Lollipop heads, won’t give you a lot of top-end zing, but that is why I chose them — to achieve a flatter response. This relatively new mic-on-the-block was a hit in my home studio. Recommended!

AudioTechnica AT4051b
Retail Price: $695 each; $1,000 stereo pair;
Street Price: $599 each;

The Japanese-made AT4051b has been a studio favorite for several years. This small-diaphragm condenser is ruggedly built from brass and has interchange capsules. I chose the cardioid version for the roundup.

The details
The AT4051b features an 80-Hz roll-off filter for taming boomy bass and a -10 dB attenuation pad for “hot” recording setups. Specs include a 145 dB maximum SPL and claimed 129 dB dynamic range. Factory-plotted frequency response is 20 Hz to 20 kHz. Each mic includes a carrying punch and screw-on stand mount.
Out of the ten mics I reviewed for this roundup, the AT4051b surprised me the most. In all the years I have used professional mics, I had not recorded with this one. My expectation was that it would have a broad presence rise and bring out prominent high midrange/lower treble character. My expectation was off by quite a bit. This mic has a mild presence bump. Its factory measurement plot shows a clean, smooth response to 2 kHz, with a rising presence response from 7 kHz to 12 kHz and ultimate flattening until it hits 20 kHz.
The mic made for detailed recording that flattered the Martin small bodies and the big Gibson top-end. The imaging was wide and spacious with plenty of pick detail. I should have used this mic a long time ago. Because of its lack of aggressive treble hype, the AT4051b is recommended where you want accuracy with a bit of a pleasant sheen. On a boomy bluegrass dreadnought, where mid-bass is especially prominent, you might want to engage the roll-off to keep the sound balanced.

The verdict
The AudioTechnica AT4051b is a versatile, balanced, fairly accurate small condenser with just the right amount of response boost that brings out the essence of an acoustic guitar top-end. Placed correctly, small-body and large-body guitar players will love the result. Recommended, you bet. One of my favorites in the roundup.

Audix SCX-25A
Retail Price: $799 each;
Street Price: $599; $1,000 stereo kit
My most-used acoustic guitar mic for more than 10 years, I never heard my old D-35 Martin sound better. The lollipop Audix also is a great mic for mandolin, banjo, jazz guitar amps, drum cymbals; you name it — it seems to work.

The details
Like the 3-Zigma, the Audix SCX-25A features a one-inch capsule in a round “lollipop” head with a one-inch diaphragm. The Audix comes with an external foam filter and screw-on clip mount. The U.S.-manufactured SCX-25As are favored by many acoustic instrument guitar players, piano players and many professional engineers. The mic has a very pleasant, sweet presence boost from 3 kHz to 10 kHz and a basically flat response in the bass, making for a tight, present, but not exaggerated recorded sound. Maximum SPL is more than 135 dB. Dynamic range is listed at 121 dB.
I can tell you that Martin guitars love this mic. I have recorded D-35s, HD-28Vs, small-body Martins with rosewood, and mahogany bodies with sitka or red spruce tops. Regardless of the guitar's wood or size, this is a great acoustic guitar mic! My small-body Martins sounded so sweet with that bit of presence rise, and the big old SJ200 had just the right amount of maple top jangle that I like without being harsh. The Audix gives them just a slight lift in the upper frequencies without taking away from the big guitar’s character.

The verdict
Microphones often have different flavors for different guitars, but my pair of Audix SCX-25As are always ready for any guitar — even my hollow-body jazz L5-CES and Fender Twin amp. My highest recommendation for this pair of microphones!

DPA-4011TL
Retail Price: $1,995 each; $3,900 stereo pair
Made in Denmark, DPA traces its lineage back to the high-end bruel and kjar (B & K) professional microphones. Priced higher than most of my other roundup participants, the DPA-4011TL is the company’s flagship instrument cardioid, transformerless condenser. If you listen to the mic as recorded on a high-resolution recording rig, you will hear why these mics are so highly regarded.

The details
Company measurement specs show a very flat frequency response from 50 Hz to 7 kHz and a very small rise starting at 7 kHz to 10 kHz (about 1 dB and then a gradual roll-off from 15 kHz to 20 kHz). It’s just about measurement-mic flat — with a tiny lift on top. Maximum SPL is an amazing 158 dB (not that you have an acoustic that is that loud), and dynamic range is more than 100 dB. Each mic includes case and clip holder. You can also buy a pair of the DPA-4011TLs in a stereo kit, which includes the same stereo mounting bar I used for this review, plus windscreens and suspension mounts.
The DPA-4011TL offered the fullest guitar audio snapshot of any of the microphones in this roundup — very detailed stereo image with all the subtle treble cues on the plucks and picked string attack. In 24-bit mode, recordings of all the guitars revealed the transient sonics — with the subtle reverb decay, wood harmonics, etc. — in a wonderful, wide presentation. On my high-end audiophile playback system, it was hard to believe that the playback was from just a few fingers, a guitar and two speakers. It sounded like it came from a beautiful-sounding performance stage! And you get all this sonic information without sounding artificially hyped anywhere in the guitar sonic spectrum. It recorded splendidly on the big-body Gibson SJ200, as well as the small Martins. No wonder the big studios like ‘em so much.

The verdict
If you got the bucks and the recording setup to take advantage of it, the DPA-4011TL will reward you with an incredibly detailed, clean, dynamic snapshot of your guitar and playing technique. This professional mic is perfect in a high-end home studio for audiophiles who like their sound in the premium mode. Highly recommended for all guitar picker/recordists.

DPA-4099
Retail Price: $599 each;
Street Price: $599; $1,000 stereo pair;


The DPA-4099 is a miniature cardioid microphone that attaches to the body via a soft plastic clamp mount. The mic is suspended on a flexible gooseneck and can be angled to give the proper distance. For stereo, you place one near the sound hole and the other on the bout near the neck to get the mic near the 12th fret.
If you mic an acoustic guitar, especially in stereo, you know that some guitar players move when they play, and the stereo image moves in the recording or in a live performance. The result is often poor phase and unbalanced audio from the instrument. Use a guitar with an internal mic and you lick the left/right imbalance, but it sounds like the guitar is being played through a telephone.

The details
With the DPA-4099, none of this happens; the image is rock-solid stable, and it sounds like a million bucks. DPA-4099 specs include an 80 Hz to 15 kHz frequency response, with a 2 dB boost from 10 kHz to 15 kHz. The bass is rolled off via the MicroDot cable adapter’s internal filter, starting at 80 Hz. Maximum SPL is 140 dB.
The DPA-4099 guitar mount is easy to attach; you just squeeze the mount mechanism, and adjust the size you need for your guitar. Tighten it up a bit, attach the mic into the gooseneck holder and adjust distance; it took me all of three minutes to find the sweet spot.
I recorded a rehearsal sample using the Martin 00-18 and quickly realized how dynamic and clean these little mics are. No nasty piezo pickup sounds. These are full-bore pro microphones in a way-smaller configuration. No changing phase due to guitar movement. Zero proximity effect, and they give you much of the bigger DPAs’ sonic flavor. The lack of bass overtones makes for a nice, snappy strumming rhythm. These mini-mics are well suited for home recording or live PA work. I am impressed.
For the musician who has a really nice, high-end acoustic guitar and who does not like having preamps and internal mics mounted inside (they don’t sound that good, admit it), the DPA-4099 is your answer. Those used to proximity effect bass build-up may think this mic is a little skimpy in the bass department, but the guitar’s transients are much more apparent and clean than with the typical bass enhancement of close miking. You don’t have to work so hard to get that clean, sparkling, strummed sound.

The verdict
The DPA 4099 mini-condenser — with its easy-to-use, unique mounting system — offers a different take on recording acoustic guitar. It’s like having the convenience of an internal pickup, but with good external mic sound. Highly recommended for live or home — and I want one. I mean two.

Mojave MA100
Retail Price: $795 each; $1,599 stereo pair kit;
Mojave is a condenser microphone line from mic designer David Royer, the brains behind the neo-classic Royer Ribbon microphone. His designed-in-the-U.S. Mojave brand offers superb-sounding condenser microphones at a good price because of their Chinese manufacture. According to Mojave, the parts selection is carefully sourced for the best spec components (American-made Jensen transformer, JAN U.S. military spec tube).

The details
The MA100 small diaphragm condenser utilizes a miniature tube circuit, which adds a slight warm sheen to the sound without taking it outside the accuracy range. The JAN 5840 tube circuit — combined with the excellent cardioid capsule — boasts such specs as a 20 Hz to 20 kHz frequency response and 129 dB maximum SPL. The MA100 also comes with an omnidirectional capsule, though I focused on the cardioid. Stereo kit includes case and suspension mounts.
I recorded my two small-body Martins and the big Gibson SJ-200 with the Mojave. Despite a response graph that has a series of rises, especially at 5 kHz, this mic does not sound hyped. It really sounded nice with the SJ-200, picking up the bold, tight bass and the picked crispness of the solid maple and sitka spruce woods. Imaging was excellent and the extra sonic info provided by 24-bit recording reveals textures from the guitar that you might not hear with cheap microphones.

The verdict
The Mojave MA100 proves that U.S. design/innovation and overseas production in electronic transducers can work very well. The Mojave line may not get the publicity of the David Royer-designed ribbon microphones, but as condenser microphones, they are every bit as good — especially for recording guitar in stereo. Definitely recommended for small and large premium acoustic guitars.

Neumann KM-184
Retail Price: $1,158; $2,298 stereo pair;
Street Price: $850 and $1,700


Neumann — that iconic studio recording microphone line made in Germany — with the look and sound that has always exuded class. Neumann not only makes a host of large-diaphragm microphones, but some darn good small instruments as well. As the replacement for the famous KM-84, I picked the KM-184 for this sampler because I had used them back in the late 1990s on big Martin dreadnoughts, such as D-28s and D-35s, and liked the nice, crisp, clean tone.

The details
The KM-184 is a 48V phantom-powered, cardioid small condenser microphone with a fairly flat frequency response up to 4 kHz, where it imparts a gradual rise in response to just about 2 dB at 10 kHz, where it begins to descend. As you would expect from Neumann, it has very good specs — including 138 dB maximum SPL. If purchased as a stereo set, you get a pair of mics, wind- screens and swivel mounts in a nice wooden case.
The KM-184s are pretty clean and flat in the bass to the low mids, with a top-end presence that sounds brighter than its factory measurement would suggest. With bigger guitars, such as the SJ-200, it added a nice amount of liveliness to the high mids and low treble, making the 24-bit recording nice and present to balance the big bass of the super jumbo. On the Martin 00-18V, the sound was a little more pronounced in the upper midrange where the guitar’s tone peaks. With a hard pick it was a little too edgy, but with fingerpicking it sounded nice. On a big Martin D-28, it sounded the best, with its presence giving the big dreadnought that bit of boost in the low treble to compete with that thumping bass.

The verdict
To my ears, The KM-184 worked better on the guitars that don’t have a pronounced mid range/low treble character — like a Martin dreadnought, the Gibson super jumbo and my Martin 00-28 rosewood/red spruce top small body. The KM-184’s pronounced presence sheen compliments those guitars the best.

Royer R-122
Retail Price: $1,895 each; $3,865 stereo pair;
Street Price: $1,795 and $3,575


David Royer brought back the classic ribbon microphone technology in the 1990s and has put at least one into the hands of every studio engineer I know. The home-recording musician or home-recording audiophile can also take advantage of the superb sound of ribbon microphones, such as the R-122, reviewed in this roundup.
Ribbon microphones are distant cousins to dynamic microphones, in that they work on the principle of electromagnetic induction. But instead of moving a plastic voice coil as in a dynamic, a large, thin piece of aluminum provides the electromagnetic motion that translates all those vibrations into sound.

The details
The R-122 is an active-ribbon microphone that needs the 48V phantom power usually found in condenser microphones. This powered version of a ribbon allows it to be compatible with more microphone preamplifiers. The traditional ribbon microphones often need a special preamp whose input impedance has to suitably match the high impedance of the ribbon mic. With the R-122’s Z-Matching circuit, impedance matching is automatic.
Ribbon microphones utilize a figure-eight (bidirectional) polar response pattern, capturing sounds behind and in front of the microphone. Because of the response characteristic, ribbon microphones pick up more of the “room sound” than a cardioid microphone.
The R-122 features good specs, including 30 Hz to 15 kHz frequency response, and 135 dB maximum SPL. A stereo kit comes with the mics and includes foam screens and quality suspension mounts housed in an aluminum carrying case.
Per Royer’s excellent Ribbon "Microphone Recording Tips for Acoustic Guitar" found on their web site, I installed the R-122s on two Atlas mic stands and spaced them out so that one mic was about 14 inches from the body and the other about a foot from the 12th fret on the neck.
Since ribbon microphones are brighter sounding on the back side when recording three feet or closer to a source, Royer recommends recording acoustic guitar using the back of the microphones. I recorded with both the front and back aimed at the guitar. In a trial run, I found the rear capsule aimed at the guitar to indeed sound brighter than the front.
In recording my Martin guitars, I could hear that ribbon’s magic midrange, very rich and bold but with good detail. I really liked the way my custom Martin 00-28 sounded with the R122’s smooth, open midrange and lower treble detail, showcasing a gentle kind of plucked-string treble that was not overly pronounced. Some might call it rolled-off on the top end, but I loved the sound.
The big maple body/spruce top SJ-200 sounded pretty good. However, some of the bright, jangly strummed character of the SJ’s maple wood resonance was diminished. To get that extra sparkle on top, you can use a Royer on the body and a condenser mic on the neck. On two different sessions using other mics in combo with the R-122 — the DPA-4011TL and the Mojave MA100 — both mics added extra sparkle to the recording.

The verdict
The Royer R122 is an excellent example of how the decades-old, ribbon technology has been improved on, yet maintains its warm, smooth dynamic character. For those with financial means, I think it’s a great mic for recording small body classical or steel string guitars made with good tone woods. And the R122’s Active technology better matches the mic with more kinds of preamps. Recommended!

Sennheiser MKH-8400
Retail Price: $2,040 each; $4,080 stereo pair;
Street Price: $1,900 and $2,400


Based on the success of its MKH-800 from the 1990s, Sennheiser launched the MKH-8000 Series a few years ago. The MKH-8040 is a 48-volt phantom-powered, cardioid-pattern condenser designed for wide, extended frequency response.

The details
Factory specs are rated from 30 Hz to 50 kHz, though no graph is available to see how the response plots out. The mic is atypical of most condensers in that it uses dual backplates, operating in a push-pull motion. Specs are pretty good: maximum SPL, for example, is rated at 124 dB SPL. Though the retail prices are high, street price is much lower; you can get a stereo kit for about $2,400 on the street, which includes clip mounts, carrying case, and windscreens.
Based on the impressive frequency response range, some might think the MKH-8040 would exhibit an audibly bright, top-end response. After working with it for several days, I found it to be a balanced-sounding microphone that may sound dull to some who are used to the typical condenser frequency response lift in the upper midrange and treble. The Sennheiser relays the sound of the source, but the sound can be a bit boring.
The 00-18V and the 00-28 Custom sounded balanced, detailed and clean with a wide stereo image, but there was no sparkle in the guitar’s upper frequencies. A darker-sounding instrument can benefit by a bit of presence boost — a Martin dreadnought, for example — but you don’t easily get that sonic signature from the MKH-8040. However, I found that positioning the MKH-8040s a little further from the body allowed the guitar’s top-end response to emerge.

The verdict
The Sennheiser MKH-8040 offers an even, sonic snapshot of your acoustic guitar without any audible top-end boost, typical of many of its competitors. It works its best on premium, small-body acoustics and bigger guitars that have some natural midrange/treble accentuation. If your guitar is not bright sounding to begin with, those accustomed to microphones with a presence bump will have to get used to the Sennheiser’s subdued-sounding top end.

Shure KSM141
Retail Price: $770 each; $1,540 stereo pair;
Street Price: $400 each; $800 stereo pair;
Web Info: www.shure.com
The KSM141 came out about eight years ago, and it has proven to be a good choice for recording many types of musical instruments, including acoustic guitar. It is the only mic in the roundup that offers two patterns (cardioid and omnidirectional) built into the mic without manually switching capsules. The U.S.-manufactured microphone retails for $770. Stereo pair kits will run you about $800 on the street and include mic stand clips, foam windscreens and a plastic case.

The details
Spec-wise, the cardioid-designed KSM141 has a fairly flat frequency response from 200 Hz to 4 kHz, with a small rise in response from 4 kHz to 9 kHz (about 2 dB). The response flattens from 10 kHz to 15 kHz and is flat on out to 20 kHz. Maximum SPL is listed at more than 140 dB. The mic features a 0 dB, -15 dB or -25 dB attenuation switch for precise preamp level matching, and it offers a three-position bass roll-off circuit (flat, 6 dB-per-octave from 115 Hz, and -18 dB-per- octave from 80 Hz).
I own a pair of KSM141s, and I have always liked their recorded sound on acoustic guitar. In the cardioid position, the mics are flat sounding with just a smidgen of presence lift on top; they work well with all sorts of guitars.
Recorded via the KSM141s, my 00-18V and the 00-28 custom Martin sounded very close to how they sound in a good room when listening to somebody play them. There is just a hint of upper-mid/low-treble rise, but not too much. They also sounded nice on the big Gibson SJ-200 — not much proximity effect to produce those muddy bass tones. If you have a good-sounding room, the omni-mode captures a lot of the room sound reflections and reverb, but sometimes it makes the instrument too distant for my tastes. I like that focused, direct pickup of the cardioid position.

The verdict
Along with the Audix SCX-25As, the Shure KSM141s have been my go-to stereo pair for acoustic guitar for several years. Their honest, sonic capture, plus a little top boost, makes my six strings really shine when recorded 24-bit. With the omni and cardioid positions all in one mic, it is quite a bargain for a pair of American-made microphones. Way recommended!

A little mic education
There you have it — a roundup of microphones that work well for recording acoustic guitar. For my use, some worked better than others. Your results could vary, depending on recording setting, type of guitar and personal taste. My favorites — with my guitars and high-res setup — were the 3-Zigma, Audix, AudioTechnia, both DPAs, the Mojave, Royer and Shure. I gave each of those Stellar Sound designations.
As with any review you read, this roundup should be used as a basis for making your own purchase decision. Mine is not the end-all, definitive list of guitar mics, but I think it is a good place to start for serious recording microphone quality.

I would like to thank the following people for getting me the microphones and accessories in a very timely manner and allowing me to use them way beyond their allotted loan times. They also consulted with me and gave me invaluable guidance and recommendations for using the gear. They include: Larry Droppa, API, Inc.; Gary Boss, AudioTechnica US; Cliff Castle, Audix USA; Larry Villella, 3-Zigma Designs/ADK Microphones; Bruce Myers, DPA Microphones; Dusty Wakeman, Mojave Audio; Rob Blumenreder, NeumannUSA/Sennheiser USA; John Jennings, Royer Labs; and Davida Rochman and Mike Lohman, Shure Inc.

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