Electric Guitar Microphone Shootout

Brandon Drury —  December 5, 2007

First, I want to make it clear that I’m not really trying to make a point with this shootout. In fact, I did this for me. I have a project I’m working on and electric guitars will be tracked soon. I decided that it was time to do a little listening.

I have made so many decisions in my head over the years in regard to this mic sounds this way and that mic sounds that way that I thought it was time to scrap all of that and really listen. All the old prejudices had to go. I’m very glad I did this for the sake of my own recordings.

I’d recommend everyone sit down and conduct a few gear shootouts from time to time just to see what happens. Shake things up and see what piece of gear comes out on top for a given application!

The Gear
Guitar – Jackson Kelly USA with EMG 81 pickup
The Amp – 1971 Marshall Superlead 100 watt through THD Hotplate
Cabinet – A single 12″ Celestion G12H30 in an old floor monitor wedge. I have no grill (which I’m really liking these days!)
The mics – Royer R121, Shure SM 57, Sennheiser MD 421, Audio Technica AT4033, and Soundelux U99
The cable – Some yellow braided thing I paid about $20 from Musician’s Fried
The preamp – Vintech 1272
Converter – Mytek AD96
Drums – DFH Superior with the Antress Painkiller across the drum buss and used on parallel compression. Waves Rbass used on kick and snare.
Bass – Quantum XP Hardcore Bass samples. Quite a bit of midrange ding was added using the Quadrafuzz multiband distortion thingy included with Cubase SX3.

No processing whatsoever was used on the electric guitars. There is nothing on the two bus (these days, I’d hit it with the Manley clone in the Antress plugins)

The cabinet was in my guitar fort. I did not run it extremely loud. I relied on the Hot Plate to knock down some of the level. I didn’t have 4 speakers to distribute the power of a 100 watt head, so I needed to record at much lower levels.

Mic placement
It’s impossible to really make these shootouts anywhere near scientific because there are so many factors that change in the course of conducting a shootout. My guitar playing is a bit crap (Ali G quote) these days so I never really play the same way twice. Keeping a guitar in tune for 3 seconds is always a challenge. It’s impossible to put some mics in the same place as others. The damn shockmount of the Soundelux U99 is about the size of a bowling ball. Okay, that’s a lie, but it’s still pretty huge. To get it within 1” of the speaker, I had to actually put the shockmount “inside the speaker” and cross the plane where the grill would normally be. This makes placement quite a bit more difficult to do.

I really wanted to try out the different distances with each mic. You’ll notice that I sit around the 1-2” mark, the 3” mark, and the 8” mark quite a bit. In all cases, the mic is just barely off axis and always pointed to towards the center of the cone. This, along with the proximity effect, would explain why all the tracks 8” away are very bright.

Again, this was NOT scientific. I didn’t even measure the distance from the mic to the speaker. I don’t see much point in this. The numbers listed are ballpark figured. If you don’t like it, conduct your own shootout with precise measurements. It won’t be any more useful than this shootout. At least that’s my opinion.

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Brandon Drury

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Brandon Drury quit counting at 1,200 recorded songs in his busy home recording studio. He is the creator of and is the author of the Killer Home Recording series.