Best Microphones for Guitar Amps

Positioning a high quality mic with your guitar amp allows you to capture a wide range of frequencies and all of your guitar’s overtones. In addition to this, micing amplifiers also grants you greater control over the tone of the instrument which is played. 

Purchasing a new microphone for your guitar amp could be an extremely fun experience, but it can also be quite frustrating, particularly when there is such a wide pool of options to pick from! 

Multiple brands like AKG, Neumann, Shure, and Sennheiser are considered popular, which is why even the most experienced guitarists experience difficulty selecting the best microphone according to their needs and preferences.

Lucky for you, we have taken the liberty of digging out the best microphones for guitar amps that the market has to offer. Furthermore, we will also share a buyers guide which will help you pick the best microphone for you. 

Keep on reading to know more. 

Best overall : AKG C414

AKG has been a well-known name in the music industry for many years. They have extensive expertise not just with microphones, but also with headphones and other accessories. 

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AKG Pro Audio C414 XLII Vocal Condenser Microphone, Multipattern
  • Sonic character of the famous AKG C12 delivers astounding sound quality for lead vocals and solo instruments
  • Nine selectable polar patterns for the perfect setting for every application
  • Three attenuation levels (-6/-12/-18dB) for close-up recording or high-output sources of up to 158dB SPL
  • Three switchable different bass-cut filters to reduce wind noise, stage vibration or proximity effect
  • Overload warning with audio peak hold LED to detect shortest audio peaks

The C414 XLS microphone includes a number of characteristics that have been built in such a manner that they allow this microphone to perform to its maximum potential.

This microphone will not affect or alter any of your recordings or tracks, and will sound completely identical as per the real-time conditions. There are also three different bass-cut filters in this microphone that you can choose from in order to reduce wind noise or any other kind of proximity effect that may occur.

In terms of providing buyers with many options when it comes to purchasing a decent, versatile, and well-rounded microphone, the C414 XLS is one of the best alternatives on the market. 

 

Best value : Shure SM57 LC

Shure is an industry leading brand when it comes to music equipment. The company first set a high benchmark with mics like the SE215 which was later overshadowed by the SM57. 

Shure SM57 Cardioid Dynamic Instrument Microphone with X2u XLR-to-USB Signal Adapter for Zero-Latency Monitoring (Real-Time Playback), 3m USB Cable, A25D Mic Clip and Two Storage Bags (SM57-X2U)
  • Dynamic microphone cartridge with tailored frequency response delivers clear reproduction of amplified and acoustic instruments
  • Uniform cardioid polar pattern isolates the sound source while minimizing background noise
  • Internal pneumatic shock mount minimizes handling noise
  • Legendary construction and versatility for consistent performance under rugged use and abuse on stage or in the studio.
  • Plug and Play USB Connectivity allows the convenience of digital recording anywhere your computer can go (compatible with Windows 8, Windows 7, Vista, XP, 2000, and Mac OS X 10.1 or later).

This is a great option for those who are just starting out in the music world. It has a tapered body which makes holding it extremely easy. It has a broad frequency range and comes with a cardioid polar pattern to cut out unnecessary noises. 

The brand claims that it is ideal for instrumentals, but in our testing, it performed well in vocals as well. The die-cast steel along with the XLR output at the bottom which is fitted into the body further add to its durability. 

Best high-end : Royer 121

Royer Labs is one of those companies that has set a goal for itself to have the greatest, highest-quality microphone available on the market. It’s safe to say that they have accomplished that objective with the Royer R121. 

Royer Labs R-121 Large-Element Ribbon Microphone, Nickel
  • High SPL capabilities
  • No internal active electronics to overload or produce distortion up to maximum SPL rating
  • Extremely low residual noise
  • Ribbon element not affected by heat or humidity
  • No high frequency phase distortion

As a result of its high maz SPL capabilities, this ribbon microphone is an excellent choice for anybody who deals with sounds that are susceptible to distortion. 

It is not only capable of recording at maximum SPL, but is also devoid of multiple internal electrical components that usually interfere with the recording process.  

Given that the ribbon element of this microphone is not influenced by heat or humidity, you can be certain that no matter whether you use it to enhance your guitar amps or to sing, it will not overheat and cause mayhem by short-circuiting the rest of your studio equipment.

Royer Labs has also earned a good reputation for their highly satisfactory customer careservice. With Royer R121, you can be confident that you will not be subjecting your instruments to any distortion at all.

Most compact: Sennheiser e609

Despite the fact that the Sennheiser e609 seems to be bulky, it is quite lightweight, making it an excellent travel companion along with being a studio equipment. 

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Sennheiser Professional e 609 Silver Super-Cardioid Instrument Microphone
  • Supercardioid pickup pattern: Provides insulation from other on-stage signals
  • Laterally-mounted capsule: Specially developed for miking guitar amps face-on and extermely close to the signal source
  • Hum compensating coil: Reduces electrical interference
  • Lightweight voice coil construction and rigid dome: Provide an extended high-frequency performance
  • Metal construction: Rugged and reliable

The E609 is designed not just to be a heavy-duty microphone, but also to handle high-peak sounds with ease. Its minimalistic design allows for simple near-miking of guitar amplifiers without allowing any distortion to get through. 

The innovative lateral shape of this microphone enables it to be hung from the speaker cabinet without the need of a clip, which makes it convenient to use. 

Many customers who have purchased this microphone have complimented it for being almost inaudible during live sound concerts while it is hanging down from the amp speaker grills, which is a huge plus point for those artists who perform live on a frequent basis. 

Best for variable SPLs : Neumann U87

Neumann has been a dominant force in the microphone business for decades. The brand’s U87 Ai is regarded as the best-known and most commonly used professional studio microphone till date. 

Neumann U 87 Ai Switchable Studio Microphone - Nickel Color
  • 3 selectable directional patterns: omnidirectional, cardioid, and figure-810dB attenuation switch127dB SPL handling 20Hz to 20kHz response Impedance rated at 200 ohms.

If you want your guitar to sound warm and welcoming, this Neumann microphone will undoubtedly meet your recording and performance requirements. It gives a silky smooth, authentic, and natural sound that does not alter the original sound source.

In terms of versatility, this microphone is unquestionably versatile, and the package in which this microphone is delivered is nothing short of spectacular. You will get a wooden box topped with foam, which will protect the microphone from any mishaps that may occur during transit. 

Because of it’s low weight and robust materials, the brand guarantees its long-term endurance. 

Most feature-packed : Sennheiser MD421

Known for its superior sonic characteristics, the Sennheiser MD421 is one of the highest-rated microphones in the industry today. You can use this microphone in a variety of recording circumstances. 

Sennheiser Professional MD 421-II Cardioid Dynamic Instrument Microphone
  • Rugged professional microphone with clear sound reproduction, excellent for most recording conditions and broadcast applications
  • Large diaphragm, dynamic element handles high sound pressure levels, making it a natural for recording guitars and drums
  • Five-position bass roll-off switch make it an excellent choice for most instruments, as well as group vocals or radio broadcast announcers
  • Effective feedback rejection
  • Easy handling due to pronounced directivity

This microphone will provide you with excellent feedback rejection, clear and transparent sound that will not alter but rather enhance the sound of your instruments. There is also a 5-stage bass present in this microphone, that helps to emphasise all of its noise-cancelling attributes. 

Buyers Guide 

The type of mic that you need to buy totally depends on the purpose you will be using it for. Knowing this will help you decide the feature-set you want. Here are some terms you should be familiar with before you begin your shopping spree : 

Polar patterns 

When selecting a microphone, there are a variety of polar patterns to choose from. These patterns cover the head of your microphone and regulate the direction from which the sound enters and also decide the side from which sound is rejected. Some common polar patterns are : 

Cardioid pattern It rejects sound coming from the rear since the front of the head has the most sensitivity. You can go for this pattern if you want to phase out the ambient noise. 
Super cardioid pattern This kind of polar pattern is used during stage performances and can effectively reject all the ambient noise. It is the perfect option if you want to single out a tone in a crowded area. 
Omnidirectional pattern As the name suggests, using this microphone will allow you to intercept audio from both its front and rear end. 
Bi-directional pattern This mic works in the same fashion as an omnidirectional mic but blocks out all the noises coming at a 90 degree angle. 

Response curves 

When purchasing mics, you might have noticed certain graphs on their packaging. They are referred to as the response curves and are an indicator of how a microphone performs when exposed to a multitude of frequencies. The dips and highs in the graphs represent the range of the mic that you intend to buy. 

The proximity effect

As the name suggests, this effect varies depending on how close you place the source from the mic. Placing your amp up close to the mic will give off a vintage and warm tone. In the case of vocals, this gives rise to a deep and warm bass. 

Frequency response 

You should pick a mic which has a frequency response range between 80Hz-5kHz. Your selection also depends on the kind of use case. For instance, let’s take an example of a vocalist and a drummer. They both cannot use the same mic. Why? 

For vocals, having a mic with a pick up between 80Hz-15kHz  is the best, since a human’s voice cannot fall below this frequency. But in the case of drums, one may need to record low bass notes which can go up to 30Hz-40Hz. 

SPL’s

SPL refers to Sound Pressure Level. The higher the SPL, the lower the sensitivity of the microphone. This metric is always measured in decibels and has an average value of 100dB. 

Type of microphones 

  • Dynamic mics : These mics can withstand exceptionally high SPL levels and also have built-in shock mounts which allow them to be used as hand-held mics. It is ideal for stage performances. 
  • Condenser mics : Condenser microphones are far more sensitive to the nuances and subtleties of sound than dynamic microphones. They are quite common in recording studios. 
  • Ribbon mics : They are highly susceptible to low frequencies and are used to soften the voice in recording sessions. 

Lastly, you should also have a look at the kind of material your microphone is using. Usually, material quality increases with price. Most users like to go with aluminum mics due to their longevity. 

What is the best way to pair a microphone and a guitar amp? 

Even though this process may seem quite simple, modifying a guitar amplifier needs some practice beforehand. A misadjustment of even a few centimetres might cause a drastic change in the final output. 

Firstly, identify the speaker in the amp’s grills by shining a flashlight on the sides. The closer you will place your microphone to these speakers, the more depth your recording will manifest. 

The closer the microphone is to the central speaker, the brighter and more focused the sound will be. Mic placement near speaker edges reduces mid-and upper-mid frequency ranges.

You can test different positions of the mic before show time and pick a sound that suits your needs the best. 

Conclusion

Having an excellent amplification of the sound you produce is one of the most important aspects in music production. 

In order to capture the true essence of the guitar, the sound of the space where it is recorded, and to catch the completeness of the sound that a guitar produces, having a microphone is extremely crucial. 

If you are just beginning your journey, then you confidently put your money in the Shure SM57 LC, else the AKG C414 is the mic which ticks all the boxes.