Recording Guitar - Shure SM 57 vs Sennheiser e 609 vs Audix i5 vs Speaker Cabinet Simulator - The Best Microphone?!
The Best Guitar Microphone:
When it's time to choose a microphone for guitar recording most musicians look for the legendary Shure SM 57, because 60 years of history can't go wrong. And it's true, maybe it's the safest choice for those looking for a professional sounding microphone in the 100$ range. Not only for its guitar sound but because it is indeed an all around, versatile, capable of delivering the finest recording of almost any instrument you can think of.
But through the times, other companies made their researches and put efforts to build their own work horses for the music industry and today we have several designs worth of being tested, listened, and be a part of the final stage of a musician creativity...the studio recording.
Here at Audiogeek we put side by side three of the "most wanted" microphones available on the market on the 100$ price range. Budget microphones that do not compromise your recordings, when talking about recording guitars, acoustics or amplifier's speaker cabinets these are the ones you can really trust.
This one is a classic, a legend in the history of rock music. Half of your cd shelf has SM 57 on it, this baby recorded all those rock n' roll hymns everybody loves. It nailed the greatest riffs on rock n' roll history.
The SM 57 is excellent both for both acoustic guitar and speaker cabinets. Beside, it's also a classic for miking snare drums and can also perform a good job with bass amps as well on vocals. Basically, it sound good with almost everything. Its very robust, one can easily proof one of these can survive a war.
Due to its good rear and side rejection and not-so-sensitive to off-axis placement, its a wonderful microphone to start with and easy to handle for a beginner making his first step into audio recording.
The only issue, regarding guitars, with this beast is maybe some lack of mid response. Which in many cases is not an issue at all since most mixing engineers do scoop guitars to fit better with the vocals in rock music for example but for some guitarists who like their sound mid-ranged full might need a little eq tweak or some more careful placement. For us here at Audiogeek, the high proximity effect the SM 57 suffers is not a problem since we like to beef it up whether we're talking about guitars or snare drums. But might cause some headaches when recording acoustic guitars if your not a big fan of almost extreme low-end roll off like we are.
You can't loose with the Shure SM 57!
The Sennheiser e 609 is not new. It's part of Sennheiser's catalogue for quite some time and it has enjoyed several improvements on it's design over the years and its indeed the major rival for the Shure SM 57.
The Sennheiser does not suffers the proximity effect as much as the SM 57 and it does grant you some more mid range. Since it was designed specifically for guitar recording the e 609 frequency response needs less eq tweak and like the SM 57 is not much sensitive to off-axis placement so it's newbie friendly also.
For a live or rehearsal situation, the Sennheiser e 609 flat design comes handy since you can save a mic stand but for us it's very annoying when trying to used this mic for something else! The only place on drums we could stand on without the risk of getting hit by a drum stick was the bottom snare (nice job by the way). Not too exciting for drum snare, sounds dead with toms, for acoustic guitars...forget it! Sounded interesting with a bass amp and even more interesting with vocals. It sounded great with NYC-Hardcore-like vocals which was a surprise and will become very useful in the future since one of the Audiogeeks work with lot of angry hardcore bands.
Great frequency response and detail with guitar amp speaker cabinets, can save you a mic stand...and that's it! Honestly, I recommend the Sennheiser e 609 if already have a SM 57 and don't need an all around dynamic microphone on the studio which may be a problem if you're on a budget.
Nevertheless, and excellent choice for guitar recording!
We call the Audix i5 the SM 57 clone. It has a similar design, rugged metal body with capsule, and similar results. The main difference between both is that the i5 has more high-end response. This can be good, this can be bad, this depends on the sound you're looking for.
For acoustic guitars we think the Audix i5 is the best from these three, for guitar cabinets it does need a little more careful placement due to it's high-end response. This microphone is also very sensitive to off-axis placement so you might loose a couple more minutes moving around the mic stand. Sounds great on the snare drum! Gets more snappy than the SM 57 and it adds a little more bright to the sound, very good for more light snare sounds. Our hardcore producer still prefers the SM 57 because it's more warm sounding. It's a great bottom snare mic, it captures very nicely the springs on the snare and this is one of the best hi-hat microphones I've ever heard! Yes..Hi-hats! The Audix i5 is an excellent hi-hat microphone and I've just released a small condenser microphone to capture that extra splash or china cymbal some drummers like to bring on to the studio.
Just like the SM 57, we think you have nothing to loose with an Audix i5 and it does come cheaper. You can get a pair for 130$ which is outstanding for those with a studio on a budget.
This clone gets the job well done!
Nowadays digital technologies bring us such tools we cannot deny any longer. While digital guitar amplifiers and guitars amplifiers simulator still sound...digital or lifeless the same does not apply to speaker cabinet simulators.
Here at Audiogeek we choose IK Multimedia Amplitube, for us the sweetest sounding cabinet simulator on the market. Running your guitar sound from an amplifier straight to the audio interface through the 'line out', 'recording compensated', effects loop 'send' or even headphone output available on almost every guitar amplifier from solidstate design to full tube vintage tone one can easily achieve remarkable results. Just bypass the software amplifier simulator, pedal effects, and effect rack and get full stack tone, warm pounding distortion or even crystal clear Roland JC type.
With this software you can choose different can choose between different speaker cabinets, microphones and mic placement. It's easy, comes cheap and by what we ear today from radio stations and MTV...I'm pretty sure that this is how they're are doing it on major commercial productions.
Give it a try...believe us, you'll sound like a pro!
The "Expensive" Guitar Microphones:
The world of guitar recording is as big as a guitarist rig. There's no perfect solution, this article is more base on a musicians budget and recording simplicity.
Other key factors do play a heavy role with recording electric and acoustic guitars: Microphone preamps, the cabinets, the equipment used and more important: The guitar player. The SM 57, the Audix i5 and the Sennheiser e 609 represent 50% of recording engineers today. But in the world of sound designing there are more choices, those expensive ones that do not suit all producers mainly because of a budget that limits everyone. This does not mean you cannot get a perfect pro guitar sound, as stated before the greatest rock albums of all time we're recorded with an SM 57.
Here are some popular, non-budget, guitar microphones:
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