Recording Electric Guitars: Lessons learned- Mics vs. preamps

Discussion in 'Recording/Live Sound' started by Roach, Jan 15, 2006.


  1. Roach

    Roach Supporting Member

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    I've seen a lot of threads discussing what mic works best to record an amp. I've been using a SM57 close up and a AKG BLU/S 414 to get a bit of the room. They're both solid performers, well known, predictable and reliable.

    The biggest difference I've heard is not in mics. I've tried some more expensive mics (borrowed)...a bit better but not a dramatic difference. But when I upgraded preamps...WOW! So much more articulate, larger and more 3-D.

    Previously I had used the pres on my Mackie 1404 VLZ-Pro and an Aphex 207 and Aphex 107 pres.

    Lesson learned...low end tube pres are just gimmicks. They were nice cheap pres, but I never heard the tube warmth. The Mackies were good, but nothing special.

    When I got a Great River and Langavin Dual mono, the guitar sounds just started jumping out. I choose those since I couldn't affored a real tube pre. So I got the best solid state class A (they are class A aren't they) pres I could afford. Better one good pre and one good mic then a bunch of lesser stuff.
     
  2. neve1073

    neve1073 Member

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    The great river is an excellent choice--guaranteed to sound 1,000,000,000 times better than a mackie! It's loosely based on a neve 10 series pre.

    Re tube preamps: I have a telefunken v76 which I consider to be one of the kings of tube preamps. But I virtually never use it on electric guitars. It doesn't sound bad at all, but I much prefer the way a good neve or the better neve-like pres sound for electric guitar.

    Now that you've got the great river, start saving up for a royer 121 mic. ;p That thing, if you haven't already heard it already, will blow your mind all over again for electric guitar cabs.
     
  3. Roach

    Roach Supporting Member

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    Funny you should mention it...I was pricing Royer 121 mics a couple of hours ago. A bit steep, but I may sell off some gear to get it.

    Any advice on acoustics? Right now, I'm just using the AKG 414.
     
  4. neve1073

    neve1073 Member

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    What kind of acoustic guitar (nylon? Steelstrng? Dreadnought? Martin? etc)?

    What kind of style? Finger picking? Strumming chords? SOlo? Where will it be in the mix? etc.

    The 414 is not a bad choice...some are better than others. It will definitely work.

    My favorite mics for acoustic guitars are all pretty damned expensive and hard to obtain. :eek:
     
  5. Roach

    Roach Supporting Member

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    It would be a 1971 Martin D-28, a combination or strumming and fingerpicking. Sometimes it'll be out in front as the main guitar. More often, it'll be a bit set back with an electric or two to add some additional color.
     
  6. elambo

    elambo Member

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    I'm not a big fan of 414s on an acoustic, especially when strummed. If you're looking to stay in the sub-$1k price range you should consider a Neumann KM184. I use that on a 2000-ish D-35, a 2005 Hd28v and both a Collings dread and OM. It sounds great on all of them, strummed or picked. I'll almost always choose a Neve pre to go with it, which is somewhat similar to your Great River.

    The 184 is extremely popular as a high-end choice for acoustic guitars, almost as the SM57 is for elec cabs -- regardless of budget, they seem to be tailor-made for those specific jobs. I'd even guess that you'd find a decent supply of used 184s around the country.
     
  7. Roach

    Roach Supporting Member

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    Thanks-a-million for the good advice.
     
  8. LSchefman

    LSchefman Supporting Member

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    On the other end of the spectrum, the 414 is my favorite mic of all time on acoustic guitar.

    It's all a matter of personal taste, eh?
     
  9. MichaelK

    MichaelK Member

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    "Just?" What's wrong with it?
     
  10. MichaelK

    MichaelK Member

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    It's not my absolute all-time favorite – maybe I haven't found whatever that is yet – but it's a great mic. Very versatile. I would include it in any list of recommended mics for acoustic guitar.

    I don't own one. I usually use a Neumann KM 184 or Earthworks SR77, depending on the guitar, the picking style or the sound I want, sometimes combined wiith a AT4047 if I want more of the room.

    P.S. - just something I want to add...

    An acoustic guitar has so many "hot spots" and useable places in between, that almost any good cardioid condenser should be able to capture a good sound somewhere on it... assuming the guitar sounds good in general. Not that I've tried hundreds of mics for this application, but I moved mics around a guitar hundreds of times and heard what happens.
     
  11. elambo

    elambo Member

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    I think I've recorded acoustic guitars about 1000 times with a 414. I've had some very good results. It's a good mic. "To my ears" and "in my experience" it's MUCH easier to get great tone with a 184, and when that great tone is found it's even better than what the 414 could have yielded. That's my ear. That's the tone I expect from an acoustic guitar. Les is absolutely correct - tone is in the ear of the beholder.
     
  12. Antero

    Antero Member

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    ((Side comment: In recording, solid state preamps and mics are often just as good* as tube preamps and mics. Tubes don't dominate like in guitar))

    *"good" meaning "useful"
     
  13. elambo

    elambo Member

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    Good point, and in fact too many tubes in the chain is simply bad. There's only a need for so much "warmth" and too much tubey-roundness will rob you of the detail that needs to be present.

    But the top mics do still tend to be tube-based. Mic pres are different - it's less important at that step. Most people seem to think that Neve 10xx series and 1272 pres (probably the world's most highly regarded pres) are a tube design. Not so.
     
  14. neve1073

    neve1073 Member

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    For most acoustic guitar applications, I prefer small diaphram tube condensors. Especially the km 84. As I said, they are pricey and hard to find in good shape.

    The 184 is also a small diaphram condensor. It isn't in the same league as its tube predecessor; it isn't in the same price range either though. Mic technique is also very important. A good 414 in a good room with a good player, preamps, possibly compressors, tape machine or converters/DAW should yield you good results. Simple, really. :)
     
  15. elambo

    elambo Member

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    Which "tube predecessor" are you referring to? The 184 is based on the 84. Maybe you're referring to another mic because the 184 and 84 are certainly in the same league. They're on the same team. They're practically brothers. The 84 may be the taller, faster, smarter one, but they're very close - certainly on the same team, in the same league.
     
  16. retro

    retro Member

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  17. neve1073

    neve1073 Member

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    Well, my post wasn't clear at all, but I was thinking specifically of a pair of km 64s I once worked with which were unbelievable acoustic guitar mics. I've also used, I thnk, the km 56 (or 54?) on acoustic which were very cool. The km 84 is a very similar mic to the km64. The 64 is a tube mic. The km 84s I've used are fantastic. I wish I owned a pair.

    I do own a pair of km 184s. I honestly don't think the km 184 can be compared to a km 84 sonically. The 184 has a hyped, brittle highend that can grate on me if I'm not very careful. They are difficult to work with. Why do I own them if I feel this way? They are usable, and that's what I have at the moment. When I can afford a better pair of sdc mics, eg the km 84, the 184 will go on ebay.

    Sorry to be negative about the 184. YMMV
     
  18. elambo

    elambo Member

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    I'm curious - what mic pres do you use with your 184s? I've never experienced an overly bright 184, even when recording naturally bright guitars, but I do tend to favor a warm pre.

    I've been hoping to find a pair of KM54s for quite a while but have yet to take the plunge. They are, indeed, very hard to come by. Even the 84s aren't popping up often.
     
  19. neve1073

    neve1073 Member

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    elambo,

    i've tried pairing the km 184s thru everything under the sun. in our studio we have:

    -neve 1073 originals(not that reissues are bad)
    -telefunken tab v76
    -chandler tg2
    plus lesser stuff and the pres in the soundcraft console. I favor the 1073 with the 184s because they always need some eq shaping...which I hate to do when tracking.

    so, to my ears, even using really nice mic amps, the km 184 leaves something to be desired. I don't know enough about microphones to explain why 184s and 84s sound different, but to me they definitely do.
     
  20. neve1073

    neve1073 Member

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    re 184 vs 84, google led me to klaus heine's excellent microphone forum:

    http://recforums.prosoundweb.com/index.php/t/4282/0

    i'm not alone.

    Having said that, many many professional studios will put a pair of 184s in front of your dreadnought and the results will be fine.

    I totally agree with elambo that you should try small diaphram condensors if you aren't happy with your 414.

    Another crucial consideration when recording acoustic guitar is the room.

    Oh no...I just realized your thread was about how important a good mic pre is! I agree! :BEER
     

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