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Thread: Mics To Record Your Amp - Whatcha Using These Days?

  1. #1

    Mics To Record Your Amp - Whatcha Using These Days?

    Not talking live sound here...just recording. I've done a lot of experimenting with recording amps over the years. So I'll share some general propositions, and then talk about a few mics I really like to use when recording amps. I say "mics" because there is no such thing as a "best" mic; there are choices that will depend on what one is trying to do. But I do have a few favorites.

    First a few general things:

    "Why doesn't my amp sound like it does in the room?" -- Because unless your ear is two inches from the speaker, you're hearing the room with its modes, reflections, reverberation, vibrating walls, the floor, etc. If you want to hear the room, mic the room!

    Also, a mic doesn't hear like your ears do. Not only is the frequency response different, not only do mics and mic preamps have factors that will alter/distort the sound, you have two ears. Try stereo. Move the mic or mics around. Try different things. Don't be lazy! This stuff takes time, and you have to learn your room. Also, mics have patterns that they pick up. Most do not hear omnidirectionally like you do. Though some mics do. In addition, even omni mics' frequency response will vary from front to sides to rear.

    "I'm hearing buzzing sounds. Something is wrong with my amp." -- Well, more likely, your lights, your furniture, the metal vents for your heating and cooling system, your floor, your walls, a hinge on the door, are vibrating sympathetically with certain notes. It often sounds like it comes from the amp. This is structure-borne vibration. You can reduce it by putting the amp on one of those Auralex platforms.

    "I get too much/not enough bass." -- Room modes. An amp on the floor will get what is called half-space reinforcement from the floor reflections, that will increase the bass. An amp near a wall gets reflections from the wall and the floor, what is called quarter-space reinforcement for even more bass. An amp in a corner gets eighth space reinforcement, most bass. Experiment with placement, move the darn thing around. If you're getting too much bass, put the amp or cab on a stand or a chair. Etc. Remember that bass is omnidirectional, and high frequencies beam directionally. So highs are less likely to reflect unless they're directly pointing at something, but bass goes everywhere - walls, floor, ceiling. The cab's distance from these surfaces affects how much is reflected!

    Room doing too many weird things? Try gobos to isolate the sound more.

    "Invest in the mic or the preamp?" -- The transducer is the thing that converts sound waves to electrical energy, and vice versa. That would be a mic or a speaker. The transducer makes more of a difference in recording than the electronics. You will hear the tone of a different mic immediately. The difference between preamps is far more subtle. Go for the mic first. Then deal with the preamp if you're unhappy. Caveat: ribbon mics need to see higher impedance than some preamps will have. If you have a ribbon mic, you need to read your manual carefully, and make sure your preamp has the right specs.

    One more thing - mic placement. Here's what I do, YMMV: to learn where to put my mics on my cabs, I have someone come over and play, and I put on headphones, and move the mic stand around - up, down, closer in, farther out, at various places on the speaker, etc. If all you do is stick the mic on the speaker and not try different mic placements, well...lazybones! Take notes! Take pictures with your iPhone! Put a little sticker on the speaker grille. Get out a tape measure and get the details down so you can reproduce what you're doing. Hell yes an inch makes a difference! Whatever you have to do to remember stuff.

    When I record an acoustic instrument, I do the same thing. This is not rocket science, it's art. It's experimentation. It's personal preference. If you don't experiment a little, you're missing the point.

    OK, all that established, we can move to mics.

    For many years, my favorite mic to record an amp has been the SM57. It's the classic amp recording mic, it's inexpensive, it sounds good, and it's been a staple on hit after hit after hit for a very long time. I always laugh when people say, "I want my amp to sound live like the such-and-such recording of X hit." Yeah...well, you're hearing that record with the sound of the mic, the room, the processing, the tape, the console, the mastering, and the whole nine yards. But if you're recording, and you want that classic sound that sits really well in a track, the 57 is like putting a classic EQ on your amp, and it's an awfully good way to get there. I still use a 57 for certain things. It's especially good with high gain stuff.

    Not too different from the 57 is an Audix i5. The i5 is a little fuller sounding and less nasal than a 57. Not a bad choice for gainy or clean amps.

    This is becoming a classic: The Royer R-121 is a phenomenal ribbon mic. It's relatively sturdy for a ribbon, can handle amplifier sound pressure levels well, and sounds rich and warm. If you want a "big" sound, with some room in it (the mic is a figure-8 pattern mic, and "hears" from both front and back), and a warm top end (that is, the mic is a little dark which reduces fizz and spittiness from the amp), this is a fantastic choice, and is becoming my favorite mic for other uses as well. The Royer is expensive, but it's beautifully made, sounds great on bass, overheads, horns, female vocals, acoustic guitar, and piano, and is heads and shoulders ahead of older ribbons or the cheap stuff that comes from China. The AEA R-84 is super as well, but I don't own one. The ability to pick up sound from the rear means the mic is going to hear room even if it's placed close to the speaker, so it tends to sound very natural. For those of you who say, "How come the recording sounds nothing like what I hear in the room?" here's a good choice. Placement is critical. Reading the manual is critical - ribbons are fragile. A puff of wind can blow the ribbon out.

    Blend the Royer with a 57 and you get a completely different thing...fullness plus a bit of raunch. Can be great. I actually prefer one OR t'other, but it's your call.

    Finally, especially with a clean amp: You'd be surprised how fantastically accurate a Blue Dragonfly sounds miking an amp. It tends to be a little bright, so I'm less crazy about a condenser with overdrive, but man, clean it rocks. Also that moveable head is convenient for quick adjustments for placing it. The D-fly also sounds great with acoustic guitar and vocals. You can buy less expensive condensers for these purposes, but this is a very good general purpose mic, especially for the dollars. I prefer Blue's mouse for vocals, as its a little less diffuse-sounding, but the two are actually pretty close. However the Mouse doesn't kill me on amps.

    So there you have it. These are my favorites for amp miking. I'm sure you have yours, and I'd like to hear about 'em!
    Last edited by LSchefman; 12-13-2012 at 10:50 AM.

  2. #2
    Senior Member sergiodeblanc's Avatar
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    Shure 57's, 58's, and I have an old 70's 545s that's nice. The AKG C1000 is cool for a really clean midrangey condenser tone, pretty inexpensive too. The Royer is nice, and as mentioned kind of a "standard" now, I also have enjoyed the Coles ribbons when I have had the pleasure of raiding other studio's mic lockers. One of my favorite all-around-cheapie mics is the MXL V67, I did have to keep buying and returning them to find the good ones, kind of like buying a Squire Strat.
    I always enjoyed being able to mic half-back and open back cabs with a rear mic and the polarity flipped, usually with the C1000.

    Good points about amp placement, it has almost as profound of an effect as mic placement does, and it's equally as cheap. All that being said, I am a total "lazybones" when it comes to recording my own guitar, I move the "mic" around quite a bit in Amp Designer for Logic (my favorite "amp" in years), but just shove a 57 on the cone at home and walk away.

  3. #3
    Senior Member south89's Avatar
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    For my very limited recording experiance and budget for nice mics I have used an sm 57 , a cheap sure pg 91 I think it is and a sennhieser 421.

    Whats your thoughts on the 421 Les . Have you used those before ?
    My name is Matt and I'm a guitarholic

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  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by south89 View Post
    For my very limited recording experiance and budget for nice mics I have used an sm 57 , a cheap sure pg 91 I think it is and a sennhieser 421.

    Whats your thoughts on the 421 Les . Have you used those before ?
    Heck, the 421's another classic mic, and I have used them at other studios, but always on drum kits (great mic for toms). You'd think i'd have had the curiosity to try them on guitars, but I honestly haven't! Next time I'm somewhere they have one, I'll check it out on a guitar cab.

  5. #5
    Senior Member gush's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LSchefman View Post
    Not talking live sound here...just recording. I've done a lot of experimenting with recording amps over the years. So I'll share some general propositions, and then talk about a few mics I really like to use when recording amps. I say "mics" because there is no such thing as a "best" mic; there are choices that will depend on what one is trying to do. But I do have a few favorites.

    First a few general things:

    "Why doesn't my amp sound like it does in the room?" -- Because unless your ear is two inches from the speaker, you're hearing the room with its modes, reflections, reverberation, vibrating walls, the floor, etc. If you want to hear the room, mic the room!

    Also, a mic doesn't hear like your ears do. Not only is the frequency response different, not only do mics and mic preamps have factors that will alter/distort the sound, you have two ears. Try stereo. Move the mic or mics around. Try different things. Don't be lazy! This stuff takes time, and you have to learn your room. Also, mics have patterns that they pick up. Most do not hear omnidirectionally like you do. Though some mics do. In addition, even omni mics' frequency response will vary from front to sides to rear.

    "I'm hearing buzzing sounds. Something is wrong with my amp." -- Well, more likely, your lights, your furniture, the metal vents for your heating and cooling system, your floor, your walls, a hinge on the door, are vibrating sympathetically with certain notes. It often sounds like it comes from the amp. This is structure-borne vibration. You can reduce it by putting the amp on one of those Auralex platforms.

    "I get too much/not enough bass." -- Room modes. An amp on the floor will get what is called half-space reinforcement from the floor reflections, that will increase the bass. An amp near a wall gets reflections from the wall and the floor, what is called quarter-space reinforcement for even more bass. An amp in a corner gets eighth space reinforcement, most bass. Experiment with placement, move the darn thing around. If you're getting too much bass, put the amp or cab on a stand or a chair. Etc. Remember that bass is omnidirectional, and high frequencies beam directionally. So highs are less likely to reflect unless they're directly pointing at something, but bass goes everywhere - walls, floor, ceiling. The cab's distance from these surfaces affects how much is reflected!

    Room doing too many weird things? Try gobos to isolate the sound more.

    "Invest in the mic or the preamp?" -- The transducer is the thing that converts sound waves to electrical energy, and vice versa. That would be a mic or a speaker. The transducer makes more of a difference in recording than the electronics. You will hear the tone of a different mic immediately. The difference between preamps is far more subtle. Go for the mic first. Then deal with the preamp if you're unhappy. Caveat: ribbon mics need to see higher impedance than some preamps will have. If you have a ribbon mic, you need to read your manual carefully, and make sure your preamp has the right specs.

    One more thing - mic placement. Here's what I do, YMMV: to learn where to put my mics on my cabs, I have someone come over and play, and I put on headphones, and move the mic stand around - up, down, closer in, farther out, at various places on the speaker, etc. If all you do is stick the mic on the speaker and not try different mic placements, well...lazybones! Take notes! Take pictures with your iPhone! Put a little sticker on the speaker grille. Get out a tape measure and get the details down so you can reproduce what you're doing. Hell yes an inch makes a difference! Whatever you have to do to remember stuff.

    When I record an acoustic instrument, I do the same thing. This is not rocket science, it's art. It's experimentation. It's personal preference. If you don't experiment a little, you're missing the point.

    OK, all that established, we can move to mics.

    For many years, my favorite mic to record an amp has been the SM57. It's the classic amp recording mic, it's inexpensive, it sounds good, and it's been a staple on hit after hit after hit for a very long time. I always laugh when people say, "I want my amp to sound live like the such-and-such recording of X hit." Yeah...well, you're hearing that record with the sound of the mic, the room, the processing, the tape, the console, the mastering, and the whole nine yards. But if you're recording, and you want that classic sound that sits really well in a track, the 57 is like putting a classic EQ on your amp, and it's an awfully good way to get there. I still use a 57 for certain things. It's especially good with high gain stuff.

    Not too different from the 57 is an Audix i5. The i5 is a little fuller sounding and less nasal than a 57. Not a bad choice for gainy or clean amps.

    This is becoming a classic: The Royer R-121 is a phenomenal ribbon mic. It's relatively sturdy for a ribbon, can handle amplifier sound pressure levels well, and sounds rich and warm. If you want a "big" sound, with some room in it (the mic is a figure-8 pattern mic, and "hears" from both front and back), and a warm top end (that is, the mic is a little dark which reduces fizz and spittiness from the amp), this is a fantastic choice, and is becoming my favorite mic for other uses as well. The Royer is expensive, but it's beautifully made, sounds great on bass, overheads, horns, female vocals, acoustic guitar, and piano, and is heads and shoulders ahead of older ribbons or the cheap stuff that comes from China. The AEA R-84 is super as well, but I don't own one. The ability to pick up sound from the rear means the mic is going to hear room even if it's placed close to the speaker, so it tends to sound very natural. For those of you who say, "How come the recording sounds nothing like what I hear in the room?" here's a good choice. Placement is critical. Reading the manual is critical - ribbons are fragile. A puff of wind can blow the ribbon out.

    Blend the Royer with a 57 and you get a completely different thing...fullness plus a bit of raunch. Can be great. I actually prefer one OR t'other, but it's your call.

    Finally, especially with a clean amp: You'd be surprised how fantastically accurate a Blue Dragonfly sounds miking an amp. It tends to be a little bright, so I'm less crazy about a condenser with overdrive, but man, clean it rocks. Also that moveable head is convenient for quick adjustments for placing it. The D-fly also sounds great with acoustic guitar and vocals. You can buy less expensive condensers for these purposes, but this is a very good general purpose mic, especially for the dollars. I prefer Blue's mouse for vocals, as its a little less diffuse-sounding, but the two are actually pretty close. However the Mouse doesn't kill me on amps.

    So there you have it. These are my favorites for amp miking. I'm sure you have yours, and I'd like to hear about 'em!
    Try a sennhieser 609.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by gush View Post
    Try a sennhieser 609.
    I have, of course. I see it as great for live use.

    We all have our favorites. That's what makes life fun. In a dynamic, I think the 57 or i5 are closer to my taste.

    But lately, I've become addicted to the Royer. The sound of the ribbon is so malleable, and placement makes recording with it a really creative process, especially since the two sides of the mic sound different, and there's the figure of eight pattern as well. Count me as a huge fan of this mic, despite the relative expense.
    Last edited by LSchefman; 12-18-2012 at 01:42 PM.

  7. #7
    Senior Member themike's Avatar
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    .... Fractal
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  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by themike View Post



    .... Fractal
    Nope. Not for me.

  9. #9
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    Between the Shure 57 and Sennheisers e609 and e906.... the e906 gave me the least mic coloration/influence and the best "true representation" of what my ears were hearing from the cabinet. For that reason I'll probably always stick to e906 for single mic situations. It also has an EQ switch to alternate between an e609 silver or black flavor. Quality mic.
    Last edited by Mr_You; 12-18-2012 at 06:49 PM.

  10. #10
    Senior Member gush's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr_You View Post
    Between the Shure 57 and Sennheisers e609 and e906.... the e906 gave me the least mic coloration/influence and the best "true representation" of what my ears were hearing from the cabinet. For that reason I'll probably always stick to e906 for single mic situations. It also has an EQ switch to alternate between an e609 silver or black flavor. Quality mic.
    I really like the 609 and often wondered what the 906 would perform like. My singer and I both put 609s on our cabs with very good results. If I see a 906 on ebay I may bid on it.

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Mr_You View Post
    Between the Shure 57 and Sennheisers e609 and e906.... the e906 gave me the least mic coloration/influence and the best "true representation" of what my ears were hearing from the cabinet. For that reason I'll probably always stick to e906 for single mic situations. It also has an EQ switch to alternate between an e609 silver or black flavor. Quality mic.
    They're all good mics, horses for courses.

    When I record, I often want the coloration of the 57. It's desirable. When I want less, (or more accurately different coloration) I go to the Royer or the Dragonfly. But once again, it's a matter of what you want to accomplish when you record. There's no "right" way to do things.

    Just a matter of where you're headed with your creative vision. Nothing wrong with any of 'em. I'm game to try most mics.
    Last edited by LSchefman; 12-18-2012 at 09:01 PM.

  12. #12
    Senior Member Woundtight's Avatar
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    I like that Audix i5 for live sound and recording live events. I like it for studio recording, too. But I would like to experiment with some ribbon mics like the Royer and see what it is all about.

    FWIW, when I choose profiles on the Kemper Profiling Amp, the ones that sound best to me were profiled/recorded using a Blue Cactus microphone.

  13. #13
    Shoegazing Member Serious Poo's Avatar
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    Les, you've outdone yourself. Your initial post should be mandatory reading for anyone getting into home recording. The only additional suggestion I'd make is to recommend a high quality interface unit. Many of the popular interface units I've seen/heard/used have poor audio driver support, noisy mic pres or lower quality A/D and D/A convertors - those things can ruin a good recording and make home recording a lot harder than it needs to be.

    FWIW, I own 4 mics and a bunch of different mic pres. I mostly use a pair of SM57's and a Royer 121, but also have a Shure KSM32 for recording vocals and acoustic guitars. The mic pres I use the most are an A-Designs Pacifica and an older DBX386 unit. I also have a RME Fireface UFX but haven't experimented with the mic pres on it yet. I use that unit mostly for the audio drivers and A/D - D/A conversion.
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  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Serious Poo View Post
    Les, you've outdone yourself. Your initial post should be mandatory reading for anyone getting into home recording. The only additional suggestion I'd make is to recommend a high quality interface unit. Many of the popular interface units I've seen/heard/used have poor audio driver support, noisy mic pres or lower quality A/D and D/A convertors - those things can ruin a good recording and make home recording a lot harder than it needs to be.

    FWIW, I own 4 mics and a bunch of different mic pres. I mostly use a pair of SM57's and a Royer 121, but also have a Shure KSM32 for recording vocals and acoustic guitars. The mic pres I use the most are an A-Designs Pacifica and an older DBX386 unit. I also have a RME Fireface UFX but haven't experimented with the mic pres on it yet. I use that unit mostly for the audio drivers and A/D - D/A conversion.
    Thanks my friend!

    My partner uses an RME, sounds great. I'm also a fan of the A Designs stuff, it always sounds good. I like the KSM32 for its neutrality on various sources; it's an excellent mic for a lot of things, very versatile. As you probably know from my posts on other sites, I like an awful lot of mics, and have had many great ones. The experimentation is always interesting.

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by Woundtight View Post
    I like that Audix i5 for live sound and recording live events. I like it for studio recording, too. But I would like to experiment with some ribbon mics like the Royer and see what it is all about.

    FWIW, when I choose profiles on the Kemper Profiling Amp, the ones that sound best to me were profiled/recorded using a Blue Cactus microphone.
    I'm a big fan of Blue mics...my favorite mic for male vocals is definitely the Mouse, but I've had a lot of mics they make over the years. The Cactus has always interested me, and I have used one at another studio, but not on a guitar amp. I used it with a Manley Vox Box on female vocals, and it was a very creamy, natural sounding mic. The artist thought it was a little dark for her voice, but I thought it was wonderful; so often these days singers are used to a very bright mic, unnaturally so. Fortunately, it was a session for one of my ads, and I got to pick the track I liked.

  16. #16
    Cream Crackered Mikegarveyblues's Avatar
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    I use the Audio Technica MB2k close miked on my amp. As you can see the room I have is tiny and not really suitable for recording but I think I manage to get decent results out of my setup. I'll upgrade when I finally get in a house that has a bigger / better room.

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  17. #17
    Senior Member aduayer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by themike View Post



    .... Fractal
    perfect...

    Right now Axe FX 2. But The classic choices of Shure SM57, Royer R121 and Sennheiser MD421 are a classic for a reason. I am planning to try out a Redial JDX Reactor to experiment. (http://www.radialeng.com/r2011/jdx.php)

  18. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by Mikegarveyblues View Post
    I use the Audio Technica MB2k close miked on my amp. As you can see the room I have is tiny and not really suitable for recording but I think I manage to get decent results out of my setup. I'll upgrade when I finally get in a house that has a bigger / better room.
    I like your setup! As long as it works, it's all good.

  19. #19
    Cream Crackered Mikegarveyblues's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LSchefman View Post
    I like your setup! As long as it works, it's all good.
    Cheers Les!

    For bobbing a few vids onto Y'tube it's good enough. Only thing I really need/want to upgrade (Apart from some software) are my monitors. I'll wait to I get a better room to setup in though. Probably wind up upgrading the mics as i'd like to experiment with a multi-mic setup.
    Modified SE Bernie Marsden, Fender Strat
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  20. #20
    Name Manglin' Putz alantig's Avatar
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    SM57s, Audio Technica AT 3031 small condensors (for acoustic - I don't think I've used these on an amp yet), AT 3035 large condenser, and I just picked up a CAD Trion 7000 ribbon mic. Makes for a nice blend with an SM57.
    Alan

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