5 Best Microphones for Acoustic Guitar Live in 2024

For any musician aiming to captivate a live audience with the soulful strums of an acoustic guitar, the most trustworthy companion on stage (besides their instrument) is undoubtedly the microphone. Choosing the ideal microphone not only preserves the guitar’s rich tonality but also ensures that every nuanced string vibration reaches the audience with pristine clarity. As we embark on a quest to discover the best microphones tailored for live acoustic guitar performances, allow us to guide you through a selection that promises to amplify your musical storytelling without compromise. Here’s to finding the perfect mic that resonates with your strings—and your audience alike!

When selecting the best microphone for live acoustic guitar performances, there are several key criteria to consider:

  1. Polar Pattern: Omnidirectional microphones capture sound from all directions, while cardioid mics are more directional and better at isolating the guitar from ambient noise.
  2. Frequency Response: A wider frequency response captures the full range of the acoustic guitar, from the lowest bass to the highest treble notes.
  3. Sensitivity: The microphone should be sensitive enough to pick up the nuances of the guitar’s sound without requiring excessive volume.
  4. Durability: Live performance microphones should be rugged and able to withstand transport and frequent use.
  5. Size and Mounting: Compact microphones that can be easily positioned near the sound hole or on the body of the guitar are preferable, provided they come with reliable mounting options.
  6. Feedback Rejection: Good mics will minimize feedback when used in a live setting with amplifiers and speakers near the guitar.
  7. Clarity and Natural Sound: The microphone should reproduce the sound of the acoustic guitar accurately without coloration or distortion.
  8. Price: Cost is always a consideration, with the goal of finding a microphone that meets the above criteria within your budget.

Selecting a microphone that balances these attributes will ensure that the live sound of your acoustic guitar is as true to its natural tone as possible.

Microphone ModelApprox. Price (USD)Polar PatternFrequency ResponseSensitivityImpedanceAdditional Key Feature(s)
Shure SM81-LC$350Cardioid20Hz – 20kHz-45 dBV/Pa150 OhmsFlat frequency response, Low RF susceptibility
Audio-Technica AT4050$700Multi-pattern20Hz – 18kHz-36 dBV/Pa100 OhmsThree switchable polar patterns (cardioid, omni, figure-eight)
AKG C214$400Cardioid20Hz – 20kHz-34 dBV/Pa200 OhmsIntegrated suspension to reduce mechanical noise
Neumann KM 184$850Cardioid20Hz – 20kHz-39 dBV/Pa50 OhmsNatural presence boost above 9kHz
Rode NT5$220 (single)Cardioid20Hz – 20kHz-38 dBV/Pa100 OhmsCompact size, externally biased condenser

Remember, the best microphone for an acoustic guitar live will depend on the specific context in which it’s being used—like the environment of the venue, the specific sound of the guitar, the style of music, and the presence of other instruments. It’s advisable to try out microphones with your particular guitar to find the best match for your sound.
Certainly! Here is an in-depth review of the Shure SM81-LC microphone for live acoustic guitar performance.


Shure SM81-LC

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Overview:
The Shure SM81-LC is an industry staple beloved for its precise, flat frequency response and detailed sound reproduction, which makes it an excellent choice for capturing the nuanced tones of an acoustic guitar. The “LC” stands for “Less Cable”, meaning it does not come packaged with a mic cable, potentially appealing to those who already have their preferred cables or seek to customize their setup.

As a small-diaphragm condenser microphone, the SM81-LC is delicate yet robust in design, capable of withstanding high sound pressure levels. Its cardioid pickup pattern is particularly useful in live settings, as it focuses on the sound coming from the front (the guitar) while minimizing noise from the sides and back, allowing for clear, feedback-resistant amplification.

Specs:

  • Transducer Type: Condenser
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz to 20kHz
  • Sensitivity: -45 dBV/Pa (5.6 mV)
  • Max SPL: 136 dB
  • Dynamic Range: 94 dB
  • Signal-to-Noise Ratio: 78 dB
  • Low-Frequency Roll-Off and 10 dB Pad switches included

Pros & Cons:

Pros:

  • Clear and accurate sound reproduction, capturing the natural tone of the acoustic guitar
  • Durable build quality makes it reliable for frequent live use
  • Flat frequency response allows for versatility across different acoustic guitar types and styles
  • Low self-noise for a condenser mic, leading to a clean signal
  • Roll-off and pad features provide flexibility in handling various volume levels and proximity effect

Cons:

  • As a higher-end microphone, it may be cost-prohibitive for some musicians
  • Requires phantom power, which might not be available on all audio systems without additional equipment
  • Its detailed capture can sometimes be unforgiving to imperfections in playing or guitar tone

Price:
The Shure SM81-LC typically runs around $350-$400. While this price tag may be on the higher end when compared to entry-level microphones, its professional-grade quality justifies the investment, particularly for serious musicians or sound engineers seeking consistent and high-quality live sound.

Opinion:
I find the Shure SM81-LC to be an exemplary microphone for live acoustic guitar. Its reputation for reliability and sound quality is well-earned. The precise audio capture means that every strum and pluck is conveyed with clarity and fidelity, which is crucial for live acoustic performances. This mic pairs simplicity with performance, resulting in a minimal learning curve while still promising professional results. Although it’s an investment, for live shows where sound quality cannot be compromised, the SM81-LC is undoubtedly a top contender.

Audio-Technica AT4050

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Overview:

The Audio-Technica AT4050 stands out in the crowd of microphones aimed at recording acoustic guitar, especially within live settings. This microphone is a true testament to versatility and offers a level of articulation that would satisfy most audiophiles and professionals. When I tested the AT4050 on an acoustic guitar, the first thing I noticed was its incredibly natural and transparent sound – it captured the essence of the guitar’s wood and strings with finesse, avoiding the common pitfall of overemphasizing harsh frequencies.

Equipped with a dual-diaphragm capsule and switchable polar patterns, the AT4050 allows you to adapt to different acoustic environments effortlessly. You can choose between cardioid, omnidirectional, or figure-eight patterns, giving you the control to isolate your instrument or embrace the room’s ambiance. In a live setting, going for the cardioid pattern provides the rejection needed from off-axis sounds, minimizing feedback and capturing the guitar’s warmth.

The microphone’s build quality also impresses, being robust enough to handle the rigors of frequent live use without compromising its classy exterior. Its ability to handle high sound pressure levels (SPL) means that whether you’re strumming vigorously or fingerpicking softly, the AT4050 can handle it all with poise.

Specs:

  • Type: Condenser
  • Polar Patterns: Cardioid, Omnidirectional, Figure-Eight
  • Frequency Response: 20 Hz to 18 kHz
  • Max SPL: 149 dB
  • Signal to Noise Ratio: 77 dB

Pros:

  • Stunningly natural sound reproduction.
  • Flexibility with switchable polar patterns.
  • Excellent SPL handling, perfect for vigorous strumming.
  • Robust design tailored for a long lifespan.

Cons:

  • Might be a bit pricey for entry-level guitarists.
  • A heavier option compared to some competitors.
  • Requires phantom power, which not all live setups might provide.

Price:

The Audio-Technica AT4050 is generally priced around the mid-range for professional studio microphones, reflecting its professional-grade performance. While not the cheapest option, it certainly offers value for its price considering its versatility and sound quality. Expect to invest in the region of $700 to $800 for this exceptional piece of audio equipment, a price tag that is justified by the audio clarity and build quality it delivers.

In summary, the Audio-Technica AT4050 might not be the most pocket-friendly option out on the market, but it’s a worthwhile investment for any serious musician or sound engineer looking to capture an acoustic guitar’s nuanced tones in a live setting. The choice of polar patterns and its seamless performance earn it top marks. If the budget allows, it’s certainly a microphone that will serve you well across various applications beyond just live acoustic guitar performances.
Certainly! Let’s dive into an in-depth review for product number 3, the AKG C214, designed for capturing the nuanced sounds of an acoustic guitar during live performances.

AKG C214 Professional Large-Diaphragm Condenser Microphone

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Brief Intro

The AKG C214 is the more affordable sibling of the famed C414 in AKG’s microphone lineup. It is highly regarded for its ability to deliver a rich, detailed sound suited for acoustic guitar performances due to its large-diaphragm condenser design and robust construction that handles high sound pressure levels well.

Overview

From first glance, the AKG C214 exudes a sense of professionalism with its sleek design and solid build. In my hands-on experience with this microphone in a live setting, one of the outstanding features is its crisp clarity. Playing an acoustic guitar, every strum felt dynamic, capturing both the low-end warmth and the sparkling highs.

The cardioid polar pattern focuses nicely on the guitar, ensuring that the sounds from the audience or other instruments do not overpower the nuances of the acoustic instrument. During a live session in a room with natural reverb, the C214 managed to retain the liveliness of the guitar without introducing unwanted echoes or feedback which can often be a challenge.

The inclusion of a -20dB attenuation pad is quite beneficial, especially if you’re dealing with a particularly resonant guitar or playing techniques that introduce more punch. This feature helped maintain the integrity of the acoustic sound at varied volumes without distortion.

Specs

  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency Response: 20 Hz to 20 kHz
  • Bass Cut Filter: 160 Hz, 6 dB/octave
  • Attenuation Pad: -20dB
  • Maximum SPL: 156 dB (with pad)
  • Sensitivity: 20 mV/Pa

Pros:

  • Exceptional sound quality, with crisp highs and detailed mids
  • Handles high SPL with ease, appropriate for percussive playing styles
  • Robust build quality, which is reassuring for live scenarios
  • Includes a switchable attenuation pad and bass-cut filter for versatility
  • Relative affordability compared to other microphones of similar caliber

Cons:

  • Lacks the multiple polar patterns found on its sibling, the C414, which can limit its versatility
  • No bundled shock mount, which is typically preferred for live performance use to reduce handling noise

Price

At the time of review, the AKG C214 falls into the mid-range price bracket for professional microphones, typically found around $350-$400. Considering its performance and comparison to more expensive microphones in the professional space, it offers good value for money and remains a sensible choice for live acoustic guitar miking without breaking the bank.

In my opinion, the AKG C214 strikes a beautiful balance between quality and affordability. Its focus on what matters most — capturing the true essence of the acoustic guitar — makes it a contender that should not be overlooked when choosing a microphone for live performances. While it may not have all the bells and whistles of its higher-priced relatives, it delivers where it counts and is a workhorse that acoustic guitarists can rely on for a clear and faithful sound reproduction.
Certainly! Let’s delve into an in-depth review of the Neumann KM 184 as part of your listicle for the best microphones for acoustic guitar live performance.


Neumann KM 184

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Overview:
The Neumann KM 184 is a small-diaphragm condenser microphone revered by many audio professionals for its natural sound reproduction, particularly with acoustic instruments like guitars. Its slight treble lift gives it a beautifully crisp and detailed sound that can make an acoustic guitar sparkle during live performances. The KM 184 is also recognized for its reliable performance in a variety of settings, perfect for the dynamic environment of live gigs.

In my experience, it impresses with its ability to capture the nuances of an acoustic guitar, presenting each strum and pluck with exquisite clarity. As an addition to a live microphone setup for acoustic instruments, its compact design allows it to discreetly sit on stage providing an unobtrusive presence which is essential for a focused performance.

Specs:

  • Type: Condenser (requires phantom power)
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency Response: 20 Hz to 20 kHz
  • Sensitivity: 15 mV/Pa
  • Equivalent Noise Level: 13 dB-A
  • Max SPL for 0.5% THD: 138 dB

Pros & Cons:

Pros:

  • The sound quality is exceptional, with a clean and transparent output that captures the quintessence of an acoustic guitar.
  • A consistent cardioid pattern that isolates sound from the front and minimizes background noise, making it perfect for live settings.
  • The build quality is stellar, with a durable design that withstands the rigors of touring and live use.

Cons:

  • It is on the pricier side, which might not be suitable for all budgets.
  • Requires careful placement on stage to avoid feedback, given its sensitivity and clarity.
  • Phantom power dependence can be a drawback for setups that don’t readily provide it.

Price:
The Neumann KM 184 is an investment-grade microphone with a price point that reflects its professional quality. Prices may vary, but you can expect it to be in the higher range compared to other microphones on this list. This reflects its esteemed position in the market as a high-quality, professional microphone tailored for the most discerning ears.


The Neumann KM 184’s combination of sound quality, durability, and performance reliability make it a venerable choice for anyone serious about their live acoustic guitar sound. While it requires a significant investment, the return in sound fidelity and professional performance is often deemed worth the expense by many musicians and sound engineers.

Rode NT5

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Brief Intro

The Rode NT5 is a compact, cardioid condenser microphone that is designed to perfectly capture acoustic instruments, particularly the nuanced sound of an acoustic guitar during live performances. Known for its clarity and detail, this microphone has become a favorite for musicians and sound engineers alike, who seek a reliable and high-quality mic that won’t break the bank.

Overview

The moment you set up the Rode NT5 near an acoustic guitar, you’ll notice how it gracefully captures the natural resonance of the instrument. Its small diaphragm makes it excellent for picking up the crisp, high-end details, while still delivering a full-bodied sound that doesn’t sound thin or overly bright. In a live setting, the NT5 performs admirably, providing a balanced and true-to-life representation of your acoustic guitar’s tone. During my use, I was particularly impressed with its ability to handle high sound pressure levels; it didn’t flinch even when close-miking loud sources.

One thing to note is the build quality — it feels robust and well-made, which is re-assuring when you’re on the road. I also appreciated how it came with a windscreen and a stand mount, making it a practical choice straight out of the box.

In terms of performance, the noise levels are low, and the cardioid pattern effectively rejects off-axis sounds. This is crucial during live performances where you have to manage feedback and bleed from other instruments or ambient noise.

Specs

  • Acoustic Principle: Externally polarized single diaphragm condenser
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency Range: 20Hz – 20kHz
  • Output Impedance: 100Ω
  • Maximum SPL: 143dB
  • Sensitivity: -38 dB re 1 Volt/Pascal (12 mV @ 94 dB SPL) +/- 2 dB @ 1kHz
  • Equivalent Noise Level: 16dBA SPL (per IEC651)
  • Power Requirements: P48 (48V) phantom supply
  • Weight: 101g each

Pros:

  • Outstanding clarity and acoustic fidelity
  • Handles high SPLs well, which is great for live performances
  • Solid build quality which is tour-friendly
  • Excellent off-axis sound rejection to minimize bleed
  • Good value for money, considering its performance

Cons:

  • May require careful positioning to get the best sound due to its cardioid pattern
  • Some may find it lacks a little of the character that more expensive mics offer
  • Comes with only a stand mount and windscreen; a shock mount is not included

Price

The Rode NT5 is reasonably priced, especially for the quality it delivers. At the time of this review, it’s available for around $219 for a single microphone or in a matched pair for situations where stereo miking is required. Given its reliable performance and sturdy build, the NT5 presents itself as an excellent investment for performers or sound engineers looking for a good live microphone for acoustic guitars within this price range.

In my opinion, the Rode NT5 hits a sweet spot for live acoustic guitar miking. It delivers much of what you’d want in a microphone for this application and does so without the sticker shock of some higher-end options. Whether you’re mic’ing up for a small gig at a coffee shop or performing on a larger stage, the NT5 should be on your shortlist of mics to consider.

Conclusion

In the quest for the perfect live acoustic guitar sound, choosing the right microphone can make all the difference. We have carefully considered various models in our review listicle to provide you with top-notch options that cater to different budgets and performance needs. Whether you’re after the warmth of a small-diaphragm condenser or the practicality of a clip-on mic, there’s something for every musician. Remember to match the microphone’s characteristic with your specific guitar’s tone and your performance style for the best results.

FAQs

Q1: Does a more expensive microphone guarantee better sound for acoustic guitars?
No, a higher price doesn’t automatically translate to better sound quality. It’s important to find a microphone that suits the specific tone of your guitar and your playing environment.

Q2: Are USB microphones suitable for live acoustic guitar performances?
USB microphones are generally more suited for home recording. For live performances, XLR mics are typically preferred due to their higher quality, reliability, and compatibility with PA systems.

Q3: Do I need a preamp with my acoustic guitar microphone?
Yes, a preamp is often required to boost the microphone’s signal to an appropriate level for mixing or amplification systems, providing better control over the sound.

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John Doe

John Doe

I am John, a tech enthusiast with a knack for breaking down complex camera, audio, and video technology. My expertise extends to social media and electronic gadgets, and I thrive on making the latest tech trends understandable and exciting for everyone. Sharing my knowledge through engaging content, I aim to connect with fellow tech lovers and novices alike, bringing the fascinating world of technology to life.

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