Spending on an acoustic guitar is an expense on its own, let alone including all of the additional equipment into the budget. Nowadays, without music recording it’s hardly likely that you’re thinking of getting serious with your playing, so investing in a recording microphone definitely pays off.
However, to perform high-quality stereo recording in home-based studios requires some lavish spending on condenser mics, unless you’re acquainted with some rare studio gems which can be found under $500.
Here are four amazing condenser mikes for under $500 to consider when buying a new assortment of mics.
As one of the most famous, and widely-used mics of its kind, the Shure SM81 has been an industry standard for a long time now, and is relatively cheap concerning its performance characteristics. Where one SM81 can produce an excellent mono recording, a pair of these mics can give your acoustic guitar tracks a lush stereo sound, comparable to more expensive sets.
This "pencil style" cardioid condenser microphone never fails to live up to expectations for both pros and amateurs, with its transparent and clear sound that's comparable to premium tube microphones. Because of its small diaphragm design, the SM81 is lighter and easy to position than most, handles loud sound sources better with a max SPL (sound pressure level) of 136dB (146dB w/ the built-in Pad), and as such it’s more subtle in capturing the nuances of acoustic guitars much better, regardless of the playing force. This also makes it capable of handling acoustic guitar amplifiers and other loud instruments.
What’s more, although having a cardioid pattern, Shure SM81 shows an unusually uniform frequency response from the sides, meaning its off-axis coloration is minimal. For acoustic guitar especially, its 3-position bass roll-off offers a simple way to compensate for the natural proximity effect from close-miking.
Shure SM81 specifications more clearly show its traits:
* Small diaphragm condenser microphone
* Cardioid pickup pattern
* 20 Hz – 20 kHz frequency response
* 0 dB/10 dB lockable attenuator switch
* Includes swivel adapter, foam windscreen and carrying case
Another small diaphragm must-have tool to consider is Shure KSM141 SL condenser microphone. While the features can be a bit daunting for beginners, these are very useful in getting great sounds from your guitar, or from virtually any sound source.
This omnidirectional mic is truly cheap for its properties. since the "omnis" are high-end reference microphones, costing up to several thousand dollars. In the lower price ranges, what is usually found are hybrid mics with 2 interchangable omni/cardioids capsules for a single body, which proved not to be so reliable in design and can be easily broken or misplaced. KSM 141, on the other hand, is a great option since it uses a more advanced design that switches polar patterns with a simple rotating collar on the neck.
With its thin 2.5 micron low mass Mylar condenser diaphragm and discrete Class A transformer-less preamp, the Shure KSM141 is a versatile instrument microphone that can be used for both soft and loud sound sources, thanks to its three position switchable pad (25db, 15db and 0). Its switchable polar pattern adds to the mics overall versatility, making it a practical tool to have in home studios where space and budget are limited.
The last of the small-diaphragm mics on the list is the Audio-Technica ATM450. This affordable cardioid condenser mic is specifically designed to capture the sound of instruments. Although designed for high SPL (Sound Pressure Level) sources like drums, cymbals, amplifier cabinets, etc., it is sensitive enough to capture nuances of acoustic guitars. This sensitivity, coupled with its side address design, allow for good and quick placements, which translates to better capture of acoustic guitars, whether recording in the studio or for a live performance on stage.
For the price, the ATM450 comes packed with cool extras, including a built-in 80Hz hi-pass filter and a switchable 10dB pad, both of which make for easier miking of different instruments and play styles. Due to this versatility, it’s not a surprise that ATM450 is consistently reviewed as a great all-around budget-friendly microphone and this makes it highly recommended for home studios.
A nifty option among large-diaphragm condenser mics is definitely the Rode NT2A. For acoustic guitar recording, a multi-pattern large diaphragm condenser is great because it works for so many jobs, but staying in the preferred price range. This compact microphone is capable of producing a silky smooth sound, resembling the retro vibe of the legendary 50s and 60s microphones. It includes:
* A/B (omni pair)
* X/Y (cardioid pair)
* ORTF (cardioid pair)
* Mid for M/S (cardioid single)
* Side for M/S (figure-8 single)
* Blumlein (figure-8 pair)
Based on the original NT2, and multi-pattern brother of the famous NT1A, the NT2A is quite possibly the most versatile mic on this list. For a singer/songwriter, it’s especially useful because it can easily double as a vocal mic as well. As a nice bonus, the NT2A offers an entire suite of accessories, including a shock mount, pop filter, mic cable, and bag.
All in all, It’s comforting to know there are great mics out there that can cover everything you need for high-quality recording and still not leave you feeling ripped off. With some research and right information, it’s amazing how every guitar player can create a high-grade recording without spending a fortune.
Simon Dupree has discovered he has a passion for music from a very young age. Ever since then, music has been an essential part of his life.
When he is not practicing, he`s probably behind the keyboard writing for Music Groupies.
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