Element 4 - Guitar, direct

First things first - we've got two new microphones in house and we're going to pay attention to them as we record the guitar. More choices is great, but it also makes things more complicated.

And complicated is what recording the guitar is all about. The new microphones mean that we have 8 different mic choices for each of the two cabinets, and then any combination of placement and preamp choices that we'll make as well. As with the bass guitar, we'll have to make choices narrowing options before we begin.

Microphone Selection

We decided that the HF guitar cabinet is where we'd pay the most attention. Past experience with this setup and the bass guitar experiment make us think the choices on the LF cabinet are going to be very minor in difference. Best to set up the TC30K right up against the grill and be done with it. The mic has a full, even range of pickup and does not exhibit a proximity effect, so it should be fine for the job.

As for that HF cabinet, we figured we'd pick 6 microphones that we'd most likely want to choose from. Since the highly distorted guitar does not take well to reamping, we'd have to record Justin playing into the thing and jam as many mics into the same position as possible. As a reult, we had to place the microphones in the same relative position to either of the two speakers: 4cm away from the grille and 4cm off-center of the cone. This might not be the ideal spot for any mic, but hopefully it would be equally, uh, unideal for each choice.

CHOICES - (HF guitar cabinet only)

All microphones were plugged into the Allen & Heath board. It's the only thing we had more than 2 of the same preamps for.

1. Josephson e22s

2. Audio Technica 4033

3. Beyer m160

4. Royer 121 - back side (the 121 is a bidirectional microphone that has a brighter sound from the back than from the front)

5. EV RE20

6. Beyer m201


Two versions here, one with the mic by itself and one blended into the rest of the stuff..

Guitar - 6 way mic comparison for HF cabinet mic - solo.

Guitar - 6 way mic comparison for HF cabinet mic - full.

Note that choices 1 and 2 are condensers, 3 and 4 are ribbons and 5 & 6 are moving-coil dynamics (usually just called "dynamics").



I (Justin) would just like to express my sincere and persistent love for the Beyer m160. To my ears, it's the best of six samples, clearly presenting the full range of the tone coming out of the cabinet but not being so bright that it sounds hard on the ears. This microphone sounds wonderful on screamy/yelly vocals like mine and does a great job on capturing room sounds (drum overheads, ambient microphones). The low end roll off of the mic can be somewhat compensated through close placement. And since it was my first ever fancy microphone, I must complement the designers on making a ribbon that is robust enough that I didn't screw it up in less experienced days. Please bury me with a matched pair, and then dig me up in the middle of the night and steal them and make wonderful sounding records with them.

Thank you for letting me get that off my chest.


As noted above, the Beyer m160 does the best job. But as we were auditioning these, we figured we'd try something new - blending combinations of microphones together. This did mean that things got more complicated (moving our possible mic choices from 6 to 36 - the original 6 and 30 for each pair of mics) (we didn't get up to three mics at a time, sorry), but we did like what we heard in some cases.

If there's a succinct way to present all of the different combos here, I can't figure it out, but I can say we were pretty sure that any combo was going to include the m160. So here's the results of the same thing with the m160 paired.

1. m160 + Josephson e22s

2. m160 + Audio Technica 4033

3. Beyer m160 solo

4. m160 + Royer 121 - back side

5. m160 + EV RE20

6. m160 + Beyer m201

Guitar - 6 way m160 blend comparison for HF cabinet mic - solo.

Guitar - 6 way m160 blend comparison for HF cabinet mic - full.

The only thing that's right out is the m201; maybe the placement was unfavorable but it sounds like someone turns on a faucet every time that thing comes on here. No thanks. The e22s seems to exhibit the least obvious frequency boost, which is somewhat appealing. But (and it may just be the money we spent on buying a new, expensive microphone) the 121 blend held particular appeal here. The spectrum area that this combo boosts seems to capture where a lot of the action for this highly distorted guitar is - it seems like it's presenting important details that the other combos don't emphasize.


So it'll be a dual-ribbon combo on the amp - m160 and 121. The signal should probably be a bit brighter than this, something we'll want to consider as we work on the preamp and then placement.

Spending money to make life more difficult - 2 new choices to consider.

Folks on the internet tend to call this a "mic shootout". We prefer the term Transducer Thunderdome.

The dot marks the center of the speaker cone on the mesh of the speaker cabinet; mic measurements are taken from there. "Dude, you'll never get money on Craigslist for it now!"

Oh if only it were this easy.


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