Recording acoustic guitar....Large Condenser or Small Condenser?

Discussion in 'Recording/Live Sound' started by Curt, Dec 26, 2009.

  1. Curt

    Curt Member

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    Do you use a Large Condenser mic or a Small Condenser mic when recording acoustic guitars?
    Why?

    Thanks.
     
  2. ToddK

    ToddK Senior Member

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    It depends on what sound you're going for. It depends on the guitar as well.

    Think of a mic diaphragm as a speaker, in reverse. A bigger speaker will reproduce bass more effectively. A smaller speaker will give you better high mids, mids, etc..

    More or less this applies to small and large condensors. You will get i tighter mid range from a small condensor. Also, generally, off axis response is flatter with small condensors.

    If you want big, and lush, a large condensor may be your choice.

    I personally use small condensors for acoustic guitars. I also occasionally use a Ribbon mic or 2 when i want a more natural, "woody" type of sound ala Led Zepplin, etc... or to deal with an overly bright guitar, with an aggressive player using a thin pick.
     
  3. seriousfun

    seriousfun Member

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    That's actually not true. As an example, Neumann's current U87 LDC and KM184 SDC are both rated 20-20k Hz.

    SDC, all else equal, will have less output than a comparable LDC, and more self-noise, and lower SPL-handling, and possibly tighter transient response. The coloration from the larger body and capsule of an LDC can make it sound different than a comparable SDC, with the SDC arguable and subjectively more transparent.

    Sometimes a good LDC near the soundhole of a chunky Gibson acoustic can be fat and nice, but generally I appreciate the more natural sound of an SDC, 6-12 inches from where the neck meets the body.
     
  4. Mattbedrock

    Mattbedrock Silver Supporting Member

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    I'm no pro, but I've had good results recording my Taylors in stereo with a small condenser on one side and the internal miking system on the other. I usually locate the condenser at the 12th fret pointing towards the soundhole. If you want really big, run a little stereo chorus on the resulting stereo track.
     
  5. southpaw pete

    southpaw pete Member

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    I often use both large and small from different angles, being careful of phase issues, and am very happy with the sound. I often pan them to either side. The large (Rode NTK in this case) has a nice full sound, very rich. And the small (Rode NT3) brings out the detail of the strings. Together they give a balanced and beautiful sound of the guitar. However, if I only used one, it would be the large.

    Regarding the previous posts, here is my opinion... While the large does capture up to the higher freqs, the small, like I said, captures the detail better. Even though they both may be rated at 20-20k Hz, what they pick up and excel at may differ. Likewise, the small may pick up the lower freqs, but not the fullness as well as the large.
     
  6. RonH

    RonH Supporting Member

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  7. ToddK

    ToddK Senior Member

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    20-20k hz, spl handling, self noise??? None of that has anything to do with the size of the actual diaphragm, and how it translates sound.

    You clearly dont understand a word i said.

    I mean, thats ok. No offense. Im just saying.
    Best of luck.
    T
     
  8. elambo

    elambo Member

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    All true.
     
  9. elambo

    elambo Member

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    Curt - what style of guitar (Dread, OM, 000, etc.) and what type of sound are you going for? Is there an artists whose tone you really like?

    There are so many different ways to pull sound from a guitar, and mic choice is just the beginning. It's a game of inches - moving the mic just slightly can make major tone differences.
     
  10. fuzzyguitars

    fuzzyguitars Supporting Member

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    both

    one on the neck

    one further out on the sound hole
     
  11. GASattack

    GASattack Member

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    :agree

    Everything is a factor when your mic'ing an acoustic.

    I have a Breedlove that is quite well balanced, if not leans towards a warm tone ... I use two small diaphram condensers
    to get my 'happy' tone on it.

    A friend of mine uses a Taylor that leans bright, and we find that large diaphrams and alot of mic placement toying gets us
    his 'happy tone'

    I think you first need to know what your idealistic tone is. Do you want your recorded sound to sound like a 'live' recording with
    alot of room coloration, or do you want a really clean 'studio' sound.

    Is your guitars tone bright and you want to warm it up? Is it warm and you want more presence and attack?

    We can tell you what we use, but, in the end, there is really no right or wrong, its what you percieve as pleasing to your ear,
    with your gear, in your area.

    Kevin
     
  12. Greggy

    Greggy Member

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    Now we're on the right track. More from my experience. I have a plinky cedar top parlor guitar. The opposite sound of a booming dreadnaught. It radiates all high end and midrange, hence why I call it plinky. Thus, it is great for fingerstyle and comes across as a clear and not too deep tone. I record it with small diaphragm condensers only, as they tend to accentuate the plink and pluck of this guitar. That's because of the fast transient response of small diaphragms and the transparent sound of these mics. In other words, I am not interested in fighting the natural tendencies of my parlor acoustic, I go with the flow so to speak. And that dictates my mic choices. The further up the fretboard I place the mic, the plinkier it sounds. And cuts thru the mix wonderfully, if that's what I want, or I can bury it using eq and the fader. Choices.
     
  13. LSchefman

    LSchefman Member

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    SDCs are not inherently noisier nor do they have less bass response than LDCs. Actually, measurement mics are SDCs because they are more accurate over the entire frequency range; an LDC has inherent non-linearities that are well-known by mic designers, and used as part of LDC designs. LDCs will usually have more coloration because of these non-linearities.

    For example, SDCs are traditionally used for classical far-field orchestral and choral stereo recordings because they usually have less self noise than larger diaphragm mics, and have a flatter and more accurate frequency and transient response.

    An SDC will often have a faster transient response simply due to the stiffness-to-mass ratio of the diaphragm. This has very little to do with the size relative to the high frequencies.

    SDCs are somewhat more susceptible to plosives, because of the diaphragm size, but with a pop filter this is easily dealt with.

    The simple answer to the "LDC/SDC" question is to know your mics, experiment with different mics on different instruments, and decide what works for you with a given instrument/room/player.

    There is a misconception that an LDC will sound "bigger" than an SDC because its diaphragm is larger; however, this is because of the nonlinearities of the design, not the size of the diaphragm.

    There is no "correct" answer.
     
  14. Curt

    Curt Member

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    I'm sorry I should have been more specific.
    Most of the recording will be of my son using a classical guitar.

    Thanks for all the advice folks.
     
  15. kludge

    kludge The droid you're looking for Silver Supporting Member

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    Either. Neither. Both. Depends on the sound I'm going for. There's no "right" way to record acoustic guitar, only appropriate ways. You need to experiment with ALL available mic combos and at least the well-known and popular mic positions to get a sense of how each one sounds, then for a specific song, think about which one is closest to the sound you want.

    Within the past year, I've tracked acoustic guitars with MXL 991 and 603 small condensers, Sterling ST-44 medium tube condenser, Oktavamod 219 large condenser, AKG 451 omni pattern small condenser, Shure SM57, a cheap Chinese ribbon, and probably a few others. All of them worked in context.
     
  16. jmoose

    jmoose Member

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    I've used both & do use both all the time.

    The better question is dark, flat or bright mics?

    Take a U67 vs. a TLM103... one is dark, the other is bright. Both are LDC's.

    Grab an oktava MC012 & an AKG 451... one is dark, the other is bright... both are SDC's.

    I've used all of those at different times... all are valid.

    Just depends on your application & desired results.
     
  17. MichaelK

    MichaelK Member

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    :huh
     
  18. MichaelK

    MichaelK Member

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    I usually use a LDC. It seems less sensitive to precise placement and I can relax a little more while playing.
     
  19. seriousfun

    seriousfun Member

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    OK.

    A smaller diaphragm creates a smaller voltage or capacitance change than a larger one, receiving the same air movement.

    This will be brought up to mic level with the internal amplifier in either case, but if the amplifiers are equal the lower output diaphragm will inherently have more noise-to-signal than the higher output diaphragm. In most mics, this will be compensated, but sometimes - as with old Shoeps SDC, for example, in the trade off between noise and headroom, noise increased but distortion decreased.

    It also presents lower air-impedance than a larger diaphragm, which can result in a more accurate representation of the air movement. It starts and stops as the air does somewhat better than an equal larger diaphragm. As a trade-off, all else equal, higher Sound Pressure Levels can make a SDC reach the end of its physical travel quicker than a larger diaphragm.

    This is not frequency-dependent at these sizes, so the assumption that a larger diaphragm will somehow transduce more bass is wrong.

    Of course, if a large diaphragm has better compliance than a small one, and if its amplifier circuit is designed with lower noise and higher headroom, it will be an un-equal comparison - everything-else-not-the-same. There are many examples of fast, uncolored LDC and many examples of slow, colored SDC. We love 'em all!

    Klaus Heyne, Oliver Archut, Tracy Korby, and other microphone experts will agree with these simple microphone attributes.
     
  20. JohnSS

    JohnSS Member

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    In my experience, I have better results using SDC in mono near bridge when an acoustic guitar is part of an overall band ensemble track and a combo of SDC for picking attack and LDC for room ambience and fuller tone when recording a solo acoustic guitar. I also put some light compression on both mics, no more than 8:1 max.
     

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