Best Mic for Acoustic Guitar – Small & Large Diaphragm

acoustic guitar mics
Sweetwater

Sponsorship Announcement

This gear guide is sponsored by Sweetwater and you can click through to their website to read customer reviews, check prices, or make a purchase, however all of the recommendations below have been made by the Gearank team.

Knowing how to record acoustic guitars is a fundamental skill in audio engineering as it teaches you concepts like proximity, phase, and tonality to name a few. Equally important is the gear to get it done, and a big chunk of that is having the best mic for acoustic guitar.

Choosing the right microphone to record acoustic guitar and learning the skill of guitar micing can be a challenge especially with so many on the market today. Among those, not every mic complements the sound of the acoustic guitar. Some microphones have frequency responses that sound great with vocals but end up making acoustic guitar sound brittle or thin. Many like to assume that any condenser mic will do the job but the most optimal might even be a dynamic mic or ribbon mic.

To help you narrow down your choices, I’ve personally selected the mics below to recommend based primarily on my personal experiences rather than Gearank Ratings as we do in most of our other guides.

Technology is a wonderful thing. It’s development in amplification and recording of instruments has given us the best coustic guitar pickups, the best acoustic preamps, the best acoustic amp, and the best wireless guitar systems.  But along with other audio engineers, I am old school, and prefer recording with microphones straight from the instrument.

In my opinion, acoustic guitar sounds better when recorded directly with a proper microphone.

The Best Mic for Acoustic Guitar Recording – 2024

Author & Contributors

Best Small Diaphragm Condenser Mics for Recording Acoustic Guitar

Shure SM81

97
GEARANK
97 out of 100. Incorporating 500+ ratings and reviews.
$399.00
Shure

Cons

  • Does not have the same low frequency emphasis as large-diaphragm mics

Pros

  • Transparent and clear tonality akin to premium tube amps
  • Excellent SPL handling - from quiet to extremely loud sources
  • Sound quality among the highest in its price class
  • Lightweight and easy to position

The Shure SM81 is a cardioid condenser microphone that has a transparent and clear sound comparable to premium tube microphones.

Because of its small diaphragm design, the SM81 is lighter (1.63 lbs) and easier to position than most microphones of this design.

It handles loud sound sources handily with a max SPL (sound pressure level) of 136dB (146dB with the built-in Pad), and as such it captures the nuances of acoustic guitars much better - be it during loud strumming or when carefully fingerpicking. This also makes it capable of handling acoustic guitar amplifiers and other loud instruments.

The usual downside of small diaphragm mics is its lack of frequency response, but this doesn't seem to be very noticeable with the SM81. The SM81 gives you more sound quality per dollar than similarly priced microphones.

It's really hard to find fault with it, especially for acoustic guitars, other than its natural limitation of not having the same low frequency emphasis as large-diaphragm mics. The Shure SM81 is highly recommended for acoustic guitar and beyond, it is the best small diaphragm condenser for acoustic guitar.

Specifications

  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz-20kHz
  • Impedance: 150 ohms
  • Max SPL: 136dB (146dB w/Pad)
  • Power Requirements: +48V

Rating Source Highlights

Website Source *Rating Value
Everything Audio Network John Gatski 90/100
Tweakheadz Lab Editor 96/100
*Displayed values are prior to the Gearank Algorithm's adjustments it makes when evaluating the source.

Shure SM81 Frequency Response Chart:

Shure SM81 frequency response chart

Shure SM81 Polar Pattern Chart:

Shure SM81 polar pattern chart

sE Electronics sE7 Matched Pair

95
GEARANK
95 out of 100. Incorporating 100+ ratings and reviews.
$224.49
sE Electronics
sE Electronics sE7 Small-diaphragm Condenser Microphone - Matched Pair

Cons

  • Sensitive to handling noise

Pros

  • Rich tonal reproduction
  • Versatile
  • Matched pair ensures consistency
  • Very detailed

The sE Electronics sE7 is a great stereo pair for acoustic guitar recording duties. Its high-quality condenser capsule and cardioid polar pattern suit various instruments, including drums, guitars, and pianos. The microphone's switchable options, such as the -20dB attenuation pad and low-cut filter, provide flexibility for recording guitars in difference scenarios.

Having two mics positioned in a spaced pair or XY arrangement ensures high consistency and accurate localization for stereo recordings, making it ideal for acoustic guitar recording. Placing a matched pair over the sound hole gives a more "three-dimensional" acoustic guitar sound" with a more accurate bass response. The microphone's build quality, sound clarity, and versatility, combined with the precision stereo bar and metal road case in the matched pair, enhance convenience and portability.

However, the sE7 falls into a mid-range price category, which might be slightly expensive compared to budget options. Additionally, like most small-diaphragm condenser microphones, the sE7 can be sensitive to handling noise, so using a shock mount or proper mic stand is recommended. If you plan to record mostly acoustic guitar, this shouldn't be a problem.

The sE Electronics sE7 is a solid choice for those who prioritize sound quality and versatility in their recording setups.

Specifications

  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz-20kHz
  • Impedance: <200 ohms
  • Max SPL: 136dB SPL, 156dB (with pad)
  • Power Requirements: 48V phantom power

Neumann KM 184

94
GEARANK
94 out of 100. Incorporating 125+ ratings and reviews.
$749.00
Neumann

Cons

  • Priced at a premium

Pros

  • Works great in a matched stereo pair
  • Minimal off-axis coloration
  • Famed Neumann build quality and feel
  • High sensitivity rivaling large-diaphragm mics

The Neumann KM 184 is a pencil style small-diaphragm condenser that can rival the sensitivity of large-diaphragm mics, while retaining high SPL handling.

It has a frequency range of 20Hz to 20kHz, which is similar to large-diaphragm mics, and this allows for highly detailed sound capture that I certainly appreciate.

Another great feature is its minimal off-axis coloration - great for recording acoustic guitars with a matched pair in an x-y or near-coincident formation.

As expected from Neumann, this mic has premium build quality and feel. High input gain proved to be no problem with its supremely quiet operation. It works stunningly well with acoustic guitars especially with stereo guitar micing techniques.

As an added bonus, it also makes quick work of orchestral instruments, hi-hats, cymbals, and even choirs. Some even go so far as to claim that the Neumann KM184 is the best pencil style condenser microphone, and we understand where they are coming from, especially when most who have used this mic would agree as you can see from the high ratings it gets.

There shouldn't be anything holding you back from getting this mic other than the price, but those who wisely invest in the Neumann KM 184 will be more than satisfied with what they get.

Not just great for single miking, Neumann has hit a home run for Stereo Recording with the KM 184. Its phase integrity and tolerance are its best selling points as using a matched pair makes for great sounding acoustic guitar recordings in stereo.

Specifications

  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz-20kHz
  • Impedance: 50 ohms
  • Max SPL:138dB
  • Power Requirements: +48V

Rating Source Highlights

Website Source *Rating Value
Gearspace jnorman 100/100
Frary Guitar Peter Kun Frary 98/100
*Displayed values are prior to the Gearank Algorithm's adjustments it makes when evaluating the source.

Neumann KM 184 Frequency Response and Polar Pattern Charts:

Neumann KM 184 frequency response chart

Budget Small Diaphragm Condenser

Shure PGA181

95
GEARANK
95 out of 100. Incorporating 250+ ratings and reviews.
$99.00
Shure

Cons

  • A bit heavy - a sturdy mic stand is recommended

Pros

  • Captures a nice balance of voice and guitar when playing while singing
  • Swiss army knife versatility

The Shure PGA181 is a versatile, side address mic with a frequency response that complements a wide variety of sound sources.

Design-wise it is unlike the usual small diaphragm "pencil" form factor. Instead, it uses a side-address design more common with large diaphragm condensers. This gives the mic positioning options more similar to large diaphragm condensers.

The PGA181 is hailed as a "Jack of all trades". On acoustic guitar specifically, the sound is best suited for capturing near the bridge or near the neck joint and helps tighten up big bodied acoustic guitars. For single mic use along with singing, it captures a nice balance when recording instrument and when you record vocals.

The mic is a bit heavy, able to tip some mic stands over. To address this, we recommend using a solid Mic Stand.

The PGA181 is a versatile microphone that you can use for both your acoustic guitar and vocals (as well as other instruments). Get it if you want a great do-it-all mic at this price. This is best mic for vocals and acoustic guitar in this price range. If you had to get just one mic and you're on a tight budget, get the Shure PGA181.

Specifications

  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency Response: 50Hz-20kHz
  • Impedance:120 ohms
  • Max SPL: 138 dB
  • Power Requirements: +48V

Rating Source Highlights

Website Source *Rating Value
Mix Steve La Cerra 93/100
MusicRadar Tom Bradley 100/100
*Displayed values are prior to the Gearank Algorithm's adjustments it makes when evaluating the source.

Shure PGA181 Frequency Response and Polar Pattern Charts:

Shure PGA181 frequency response chart
Shure PGA181 polar pattern chart

Best Large Diaphragm Condenser Mics for Recording Acoustic Guitar

Lewitt LCT 540 S

96
GEARANK
96 out of 100. Incorporating 80+ ratings and reviews.
$699.00
Lewitt
Lewitt LCT 540 S Large-Diaphragm Condenser Microphone

Cons

  • Can pick up too much string noise
  • Single polar pattern

Pros

  • Incredibly detailed mic
  • Built to last
  • Versatile pad and EQ options
  • Great value

The Lewitt LCT 540 S is a versatile 1-inch true condenser studio microphone that excels in capturing detailed and nuanced sound. It features low self-noise across the frequency spectrum, ensuring minimal distractions during recording. With a remarkable dynamic range of 132 dB, it can handle various audio sources, maintaining clarity even after aggressive signal processing. The cardioid polar pattern provides focused sound capture and excellent isolation for the recording source. Additionally, it comes with essential accessories, including a shock mount, pop filter, windscreen, transport bag, and a sturdy case.

Regarding pros, users praise the detailed and musically honest sound of the Lewitt LCT 540 S, which captures fine-grained details often missed by other microphones. Its versatility makes it suitable for various recording tasks, including vocals, acoustic instruments, and percussion. Furthermore, considering its performance, the microphone offers excellent value at a moderate price.

However, some users have reported sibilance issues, particularly with female voices, although proper guitar mic placement and EQ adjustments can help manage this. Additionally, the microphone emphasizes higher frequencies, which may not be ideal for every recording scenario. While it may not be the best mic for recording vocals and acoustic guitar - but it does a good enough job for it to be viable.

Overall, The LCT 540 S is a great buy for those looking for a polished high-frequency range with incredible detail and clarity.

Specifications

  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency Response: 20 - 20,000 Hz
  • Impedance: 68 ohms
  • Max SPL: 136dB SPL (0.5% THD)
  • Power Requirements: 48V

Neumann TLM 102

96
GEARANK
96 out of 100. Incorporating 800+ ratings and reviews.
$749.00
Neumann
Neumann TLM 102 Large-diaphragm Studio Condenser Microphone with Standmount

Cons

  • No hard case for an expensive mic
  • Cons2

Pros

  • Captures the subtle sounds and richness of guitar
  • It's small size actually comes in handy for mic'ing acoustic guitar
  • Responds very quickly and plenty of transient detail
  • Pro4

Specifications

  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz-20kHz
  • Impedance: 50 ohms
  • Max SPL: 144dB
  • Power Requirements: 48V

Budget Large Diaphragm Condenser

AKG P120

94
GEARANK
94 out of 100. Incorporating 3550+ ratings and reviews.
$89.00
AKG

Cons

  • No included accessories
  • Limited to cardioid pattern

Pros

  • Solid Build Quality/li>
  • Versatile features
  • Affordable

The AKG P120 Large-diaphragm Condenser Microphone is a standout choice for those seeking high-quality audio without breaking the bank. Its impressive audio fidelity, durable all-metal construction, and versatile features make it a compelling option for beginners and seasoned professionals. With a wide frequency range of 20 Hz to 20 kHz and a cardioid polar pattern that effectively isolates the main sound source, this microphone excels in capturing clear and natural sound, whether for vocals, instruments, podcasts, or voice-overs.

Despite its budget-friendly price, the AKG P120 offers features that rival higher-end microphones, such as a -20dB pad for handling high SPL sources and a low-cut filter at 300 Hz to reduce unwanted low-frequency noise. While it may lack some included accessories and require 48V phantom power, these limitations are relatively minor compared to the overall value and quality it provides.

In conclusion, the AKG P120 Large-diaphragm Condenser Microphone delivers outstanding performance and durability at an affordable price, making it a worthy addition to any recording setup. Whether you're a home studio enthusiast, podcaster, or musician, this acoustic guitar microphone offers professional-grade audio quality and features that exceed expectations for its price point.

Specifications

  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz-20kHz
  • Impedance: 200 ohms
  • Max SPL: 130dB, 150dB w/Pad
  • Power Requirements: 44 to 52 V

Best Dynamic Mics for Recording Acoustic Guitar

Shure SM57

96
GEARANK
96 out of 100. Incorporating 7600+ ratings and reviews.
$99.00
Shure
Shure SM57 Dynamic Cardioid Microphone

Cons

  • Not for delicate sounding sources
  • Needs foam filter to avoid vocal plosives

Pros

  • Extremely versatile
  • Great frequency response for various sources
  • Amazing long term durability and ruggedness
  • High SPL handling

When I first started out with building my recording setup years ago, I had a only a few things on my wishlist: A Mac, a Focusrite interface and a Shure SM57. It's the one mic that every audio engineer I've encountered and interacted with told me to get first. I was told that it can record anything from drums to vocals to acoustic guitar. Eventually I would expand my mic collection but I always have a use for the Shure SM57.

The Shure SM57 was developed in 1959 by Ernie Seeler. Seeler actually despised rock music and hoped the mic would be used for orchestras. In a stroke of irony, the SM57 went on to be one of the mainstays of rock music thanks to its high SPL handling, frequency response and long term durability. The mic can also be seen gracing US Presidential podiums paired with the Shure A81WS foam windscreen.

Shure SM57 with A81WS Foam Windscreen
The Shure A81WS foam windscreen paired with the SM57 is the configuration most often seen on US Presidential podiums. Pardon the cat fur; it's an old mic.

"SM" Stands for (TV) Studio Microphone. Despite its initial development for TV, the SM57 is able to record almost anything in the studio save for the most quiet sound sources that require absolute detail. It excels in handling electric guitar, drums and aggressive screamed vocals (with a pop filter or foam windscreen).

The SM57 is versatile enough to be used on acoustic guitars. Instead of miking from a distance like you would a condenser, the SM57 sounds best when pointed closer to the guitar. This results in a recording with lots of attack and punch. It is perfect for tracks where the acoustic guitar is layered in rather than as a solo acoustic track.

What I don't like about the SM57 is how hit or miss it is with sung vocals. Some singers sound great on it without much work while others sound brittle. It's this single inconsistency that I find makes me reach for a good condenser microphone. Another is that it's not the best mic for spoken word or podcasts. That task is better suited to the Shure SM7b which has a bit more detail and low end extension. But at nearly 4 times the price, the SM7b is only marginally better than the 57 in a lot of other aspects.

All in all, I echo the words of my mentors in saying that EVERY studio has to have at least one SM57.

One final note, the SM57, along with the SM58, are two of the most counterfeited microphones in the market. Be sure to get yours from a reputable seller or retailer. The counterfeits do not sound remotely close to the originals despite many looking very convincing.

Check out my extended review for sound samples and more photos.

Specifications

  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency Response:40Hz-15kHz
  • Impedance: 310 ohms
  • Max SPL: 149 dB

Rating Source Highlights

Website Source *Rating Value
Gearspace Salivan 90/100
Audiofanzine JeffTadashi 100/100
*Displayed values are prior to the Gearank Algorithm's adjustments it makes when evaluating the source.

Shure SM57 Frequency Response and Polar Pattern Charts:

Shure SM57 Frequency Response Chart

Shure SM57/SM58 Polar Pattern Chart

Shure Beta 57A

95
GEARANK
95 out of 100. Incorporating 1300+ ratings and reviews.
$149.00
Shure
Shure Beta 57A Dynamic Instrument Microphone

Cons

  • May require some eq-ing to get the best recorded sound

Pros

  • Less proximity effect than the SM57
  • Better output and quality than its sibling
  • Open, natural sound

The Shure Beta 57A Dynamic Instrument Microphone is a versatile, robust mic designed for live sound and recording applications. Its durable build and high output make it a favorite among musicians and engineers. The mic's supercardioid polar pattern provides excellent off-axis rejection, ensuring precise sound capture with minimal background noise and feedback. It excels in live settings and handles high sound pressure levels. Also, it offers clear and accurate instrument representation in studio environments.

The Beta 57A's versatility is a major strength. It performs well in various scenarios, from instrument miking to vocal applications. Despite being priced higher than the standard SM57, its enhanced durability, superior sound isolation, and versatile applications justify the cost. The microphone's durable and rugged design, excellent sound quality, and versatility make it a top-tier choice for both amateur and professional audio technicians.

It's priced slightly higher than the SM577 and may need EQ-ing for some instruments. Despite this, the reduced proximity effect and better side rejection is makes it a worthwhile upgrade.

The Shure Beta 57A Dynamic Instrument Microphone is a reliable, versatile, and high-performing mic suitable for various applications, from live performances to studio recordings. Despite its slightly higher price, the Beta 57A offers excellent value. It is a solid investment for any serious musician or sound engineer.

Specifications

  • Polar Pattern: Supercardioid
  • Frequency Response: 50Hz-16kHz
  • Impedance: 150 ohms
  • Max SPL: 134 dB

Best Ribbon Mic for Recording Acoustic Guitar

Royer R-10

95
GEARANK
95 out of 100. Incorporating 125+ ratings and reviews.
$599.00
Royer
Royer R-10 Ribbon Microphone

Cons

  • Might not pick up subtle sounds

Pros

  • Great for loudly strummed acoustics
  • Great natural tone
  • Easy to mount and position
  • Great value

The Royer R-10 Ribbon Microphone is a versatile, high-quality microphone that combines vintage warmth with modern durability and design. Its exceptional sound quality, with a natural, balanced tone, smooth high-end, and robust low-end, makes it ideal for recording various instruments and vocals. The microphone's robust build quality, including a sturdy construction and internal shockmount system, ensures it can withstand the rigors of studio and live use, reducing handling noise and vibrations.

Its figure-eight polar pattern allows for creative mic placement and effective sound source isolation while capturing room ambiance. Its ability to handle high sound pressure levels makes it suitable for loud and aggressive acoustic guitar playing ala Glen Hansard. The R-10 offers excellent value for its quality and performance, being reasonably priced compared to other high-end ribbon microphones.

One potential drawback is its lower output level as a passive ribbon microphone, often necessitating a high-gain preamp to achieve optimal recording levels. Additionally, like most ribbon microphones, the R-10 can be damaged by phantom power if not correctly handled, requiring careful attention. However, its superb audio quality, versatility, and affordability make the R-10 a worthy investment for musicians, engineers, and producers.

Specifications

  • Polar Pattern: Figure-8
  • Frequency Response: 30Hz-15kHz (±3dB)
  • Impedance: 100 ohms
  • Max SPL: 160dB SPL (1kHz)
  • Power Requirements: None

Things to Consider When Buying an Acoustic Guitar Mic

Diaphragm

Since acoustic guitars produce similar frequencies to vocals, large diaphragm condenser microphones work great with them. These are widely available and versatile, making them a practical option, ideal for first timers and those working to a budget. The only downside would be the size especially for models with a shockmount. Removing the shock mount may be a hassle if it's your only mic for both acoustic guitar and vocals. Keeping it on for acoustic guitar may limit your positioning options.

Small diaphragm condenser mics and ribbon mics, with their high frequency response and high SPL capabilities, work considerably well with the acoustic guitar's inherent treble emphasis and varying dynamics. As such they remain to be the professional's choice when Recording Acoustic Guitar, as evidenced by their presence in many performance stages and recording studios. The resulting recorded sound of acoustic guitars are generally favorable, and can even be great for a singer songwriter who sounds good with a miked up acoustic.

While they are not advisable for for use as an all-around mic, they are ideal extra mics that can be used for acoustic guitars, miking other instruments and for adding space and realism to recordings. Small Diaphraghm mics tend to have more low frequency roll-off than their large diaphraghm counterparts which makes them more suited for use multi-miked recordings. A spaced pair with one pointed at the soundhole and one near the bridge can compensate for the low frequency loss as well as provide an option for more detail in strumming. Using X-Y or near-coincident mic patterns with small diaphragm condensers produces better stereo recordings than a spaced pair of large diaphragm condensers and are easier to position.

Polar Pattern

Cardioid is the most common polar pattern used on mic designs, because of its simplicity and effectiveness. It is especially great for capturing single sound sources like acoustic instruments, where you just move the mic around to find the sweet spot and start capturing.

Still, it won't hurt to have mics with multiple patterns because they can be useful for other purposes, like when capturing multiple instruments that play simultaneously. Do take note that different mics may have the same polar pattern but have different sensitivities at varying degrees of capture. Some may be suited for miking directly in front while others are better for capturing the room. Note that positioning can be a big factor to get a good sound, other factors include the guitar body, playing style,

dB Pads

Pads allow microphones to better handle loud sound sources, especially when positioned up close. And since volume and dynamics vary from player to player, mics with pads allow for easy compatibility and positioning. Remember not to over use, when your acoustic guitar sounds muddled, you may want to reposition instead of overusing your dB pads.

Reliability

These days, most condenser mics are built like tanks with tough metal exteriors. This means they are more than capable of reliable recording acoustic guitar in a professional setting. Still, it pays to check the specs and pictures to see if the mic is solid. This is important because miking acoustic guitars require a bit more repositioning than when miking vocals, so there's always the tendency of bumping or falling off. As with all electronic devices, do handle with reasonable care.

Best Mic for Acoustic Guitar Selection Methodology

The first Edition was published in 2016. The current edition was published on May 26, 2024

Our methodology for selecting the best microphone for acoustic guitar is a bit different from most of the gear guides on Gearank.com. While our recommendations are usually based on product ratings and the best selling mics, in this case we used a combination of professional judgement and ratings.

We created a short-list of 58 mics that we know from experience have properties that are well suited to recording acoustic guitars.

For this edition we ended up processing over 60,100 reviews, ratings and forum comments with the Gearank Algorithm to produce rating scores out of 100 for each mic. Our top picks were then sorted according to type for this guide. For more information about our methods see How Gearank Works.

About the Author and Contributors

Here are the key people and sources involved in this guide's production - click on linked names for information about their music industry backgrounds.

Lead Author & Researcher

Some of the recording gear I use in my studio includes the Focusrite Scarlett 18i20, Focusrite Scarlett Solo, Samson QH4 Headphone Amp and Cloudlifter CL-1. My mics include Aston Origin, Aston Element, Shure SM57, Rode NT1, Rode PodMic and MXL V67G.

Contributors

Jerry Borillo: Product Research.
Alexander Briones: Editing.
Jason Horton: Illustrating.

Media

Main/Top Image: Created by Gearank.com using photographs of the Neumann KM 184, Neumann TLM 102, Royer R-121 and Guild D-40.

The individual product images, frequency response charts and polar pattern charts were sourced from their respective manufacturers' websites, promotional materials or supporting documentation, except for the additional images of the Aston Origin, Lewitt LCT 440 Pure and Shure SM57 which were photographed by the author.

8 thoughts on “Best Mic for Acoustic Guitar – Small & Large Diaphragm”

    1. Thanks for pointing out that I made that mistake when editing this guide. I have now corrected the SM57 specifications.

  1. Why did you remove the Rode? I think it’s a fantastic microphone for voice and acoustic guitar. I tried the Technica, but found that it failed the clarity test. I know other people will hear different things. But I would have Rode at the too of my list.

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