So you want to get a killer electric guitar sound? Well, there’s a lot to it! A great player, a good guitar, a nice amp, and the right pedals that will compliment both the guitar, the amp, and the player’s style. But beyond all that, there’s one more ingredient to the perfect guitar tone: the microphone. Mic choice makes a HUGE impact on the guitar sound, and picking the wrong mic can mean the difference between a tone that sounds like a choir of angles, and a tone that sounds like it came out of the devil’s butt. Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating slightly…but only slightly.
These five mics are ones that consistently get the job done for me, and make my job at front of house much easier. This list should not be taken as “The Only 5 Mic That Work On Guitar”, but they’re all miss that cover a ton of ground and generally get a great sound on nearly every amp.
#5 CASCADE FATHEAD
We’ll kick things off with a great new microphone that works great on a lot of sources, but is particularly great on electric guitars. This mic is a “Ribbon Microphone” which means that it uses two metal ribbons to pick up the sound, rather than the more traditional round capsules in dynamic and condenser microphones. The defining characteristic of most ribbon microphones is that they’re very smooth sounding. They tame harsh frequencies and have added low end that makes the guitar tone very warm. Depending on the amp, it can actually get a little too dark sounding, but it’s nothing that a little EQ at the board can’t fix. And trust me, that smooth top end is worth it!
#4 BEYERDYNAMIC M160
Here’s one you might not have heard of. The M160 is actually a ribbon mic like the Fathead, but it’s designed in such a way that the pickup pattern is Hypercardioid (meaning that it only picks up what’s directly in front of it) whereas the Fathead (and most other ribbon mics) are figure-8 pattern so they pick up what’s in front AND behind the mic. This makes the M160 amazing for a noisy stage, or really any situation when you need a very direct response. The frequency response of this mic is also VERY flat, which means that what you hear is what you get…but better. To me, this mic is very accurate to what you hear while listening to the amp, but somehow what comes through the mic is even sweeter sounding than the source tone. It’s hard to explain, but it sounds GREAT!
#3 SHURE SM-7B
The Shure SM7 is like the weird, awesome cousin of the classic SM-57. Originally developed (and still widely used) as a broadcast vocal microphone, the SM-7 has since found it’s way on to thousands of classic recordings. From Michael Jackson’s vocal on “Thriller” to John Mayer’s guitar on the “Born and Raised” album, the SM-7 has had a long history of making things sound great. In my experience, they sound like a more smooth, detailed, and three-dimensional SM-57. On guitar amps, I’ll use one when I want a tone that’s very present in the midrange, but that’s not harsh. The SM-7 also picks up frequencies that are a little higher than what the Sm-57 can pick up, which makes it a great choice when you want to capture all of the detail in a reverb/delay tail.
#2 SENNHEISER E906
This mic is essentially an upgrade on the classic E609 mic. Where the 609 has a pretty large high-mid bump around 4 kHz, the 906 is much more flat (and to my ears, more pleasant to listen to than the 609). It also has a 3-position frequency filter switch that can alter the midrange response in case you need it. I love that switch because it’s always great to have a mic that can provide some different tonal options right at the source, rather than having to EQ it on the mixing board later on. Overall the mic is smooth, detailed, and very pleasant to listen to.
#1 SHURE SM-57
Come on, you KNEW this was coming. If there’s a guitar tone you like that was recorded from 1965 until now, the odds are good that the SM-57 was involved. It has aggressive mids that make it great for guitar amps, and the frequency response rolls off in the high end (around 6 to 8 kHz) which is great at eliminating the fizzy top end that some amps have. It’s also really common to pair the 57 with another microphone (my favorite pairing is with the Cascade Fathead) to create a sound that’s bigger than either microphone could produce alone. Another great feature of the SM-57 is how sensitive it is to placement. Just angling the mic slightly different can result in a completely different tone. If you’re struggling to get the tone just right, I’ve found that angling the mic at a 45-degree angle to the speaker can often result in a tone that’s the perfect balance of present mids and smooth top end. It may not be the “perfect” mic for every situation, but I always say “if you can’t get something that’s at least pretty good out of a 57…you might be doing it wrong”
In the end, there are a ton of great mics for electric guitar, but these 5 are some of my all time favorites. What are your favorites? Join us on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter @WorshipSoundGuy and let us know!5 Likes