9 Best Microphones For Acoustic Guitar; Affordable Mics

Knowing how to record an acoustic guitar is a fundamental skill in audio engineering as it teaches you concepts like proximity, phase, and tonality to name a few.

Since acoustic guitars don’t have a volume knob to turn the volume up or down, it can be difficult to record every detail. This is where the microphones come in handy and can provide you the best solution for recording acoustic guitars. 

To help you in selecting a good affordable microphone, we went ahead and did the research and came up with our recommended list of best budget mics for recording acoustic guitar under $500.

Shure SM81

If you’ve been looking for a versatile, precise, and rugged mic, you should seriously consider the Shure SM81. Besides being an industry-standard microphone for acoustic guitar, this small-diaphragm condenser’s ruler-flat frequency response offers natural-sounding reproduction of other acoustic instruments, such as mandolin, violin, and banjo. It also performs admirably as drum overheads. 

The Shure SM81’s uniform cardioid pickup pattern achieves maximum gain before feedback onstage, while offering excellent off-axis rejection in a myriad of applications. 

Shure SM57-LC

When it comes to recording guitars, there are few microphones that can compete with the Shure SM57. From the biggest live stages to the top recording studios worldwide to the presidential podium, the Shure SM57 is one of the most widely used microphones the world over. The sound of the SM57 isn’t the only thing that makes it a fantastic workhorse microphone. Its tight cardioid polar pattern gives you exceptional isolation. Plus, being a dynamic microphone, it can withstand ridiculously high volume levels – certainly higher than the human ear could ever cope with. 

Audio-Technica AT2020

The AT2020 gives you classic Audio-Technica sound quality at an incredibly low price! Capture the subtleties and nuances of vocals and acoustic guitars, then take on screaming guitar amplifier cabinets – all with one mic. The Audio-Technica AT2020 is one of those rare microphones that give you good sound quality but at a very affordable price. Because of its attention to acoustic detail, it is also perfect for recording acoustic guitars and other acoustic instruments.

Related: Best Microphone For Recording Music; Reviews

Sennheiser MD 421 II

The MD 421-II is a highly versatile mic. Its ability to handle high-pressure levels makes it a natural for guitars and drums, but that’s just the beginning. The MD 421-II’s full-bodied cardioid pattern and five-position bass control mean it’s an excellent choice for most instruments. The microphone’s sound quality is excellent; it has accurate reproduction and is very transparent. It’s beautifully built and competitively priced, as it’s competitively designed.

Mics For Acoustic Guitars That We Recommend

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1. Shure SM81

Shure SM81-LC is a very neutral and transparent instrument condenser with electret bias. It is mainly used in studios for the recording of guitars, pianos, and cymbals but it’s also suitable for a wide range of different instruments. 

It is considered the industry standard and although there are plenty of different SDCs (small-diaphragm condenser mic) available on the market today, few of them can quite match the Shure SM81 in terms of quality.

The SM81 has a very flat frequency response and this makes the mic useful for a lot of acoustic instruments. 

In the studio, this mic excels on any source that needs focus, high-end detail, flat mids, and a full–or with the mic’s two positions high pass, not quite as full–low end. 

10-15″ off the 12th fret on an acoustic guitar and you have an instant tone that fits perfectly in a rock mix with zero EQ.

Because of its flat response and resistance to feedback, the SM81 is also good for live shows.  

Related: Best Large Diaphragm Condenser Microphone; Reviews

Moreover, choirs, woodwinds, orchestras, background vocals, female voices, or percussion-anything where an extended low end isn’t necessary will reproduce nicely.

Note that you will need external phantom power to run the SM81 and some very long cables to reach the stage.

The SM81 works fantastically on nearly every type of instrument thanks to its transparent sound and incredible definition. 

With the right placing, it can capture almost anything from acoustic guitars to pianos to drum overheads.

Click on this link to find the Shure SM81 Microphone on Amazon.

2. Shure SM57-LC

If you are looking for a budget-friendly microphone to record acoustic guitar, should get the Shure SM57.

If you’re just starting out in the music world and don’t know what to get, this is a great introductory option. It’s dynamic and doesn’t require external power to operate. 

It can handle extreme sound pressure levels, which means distortion should rarely be an issue. 

The cardioid polar pattern minimizes background noise recording and relays just the intended sounds.

The Shure SM57 has been the go-to mic for professionals, amateurs, and hobbyists for a generation. 

Still, to this day, it offers the perfect blend of reliability, robustness, and clear, consistent sound across a range of applications.

Dynamic (moving-coil) microphones such as the SM57 are some of the most durable as well, suitable for the toughest conditions. 

Related: Best Large Diaphragm Condenser Microphone Under $500

It provides more clarity than most microphones in this category which makes it perfect for recording guitar. 

Whether you’ll be tracking guitar at home or on the road, you can always rely on the SM57. It even works wonders for live recordings. It’s incredibly versatile and durable – TWO qualities that every microphone should possess.

What truly distinguishes this microphone from other dynamic (moving-coil) microphones is its atypical grille design. Instead of incorporating the typical “bulb” grille design, the SM57’s is flat.

The advantage of a flat microphone grille is that it allows us to get closer to the sound source. 

Click on this link to find the Shure SM57-LC Microphone on Amazon.

3. Audio-Technica AT2020

Audio-Technica’s AT2020 is a ‘no frills’ mic, with a basic standmount and a soft zip-up vinyl case. 

The polar pattern is a fixed cardioid, and there are no switches for pads or filters. 

Slightly smaller than Audio-Technica’s other side-entry vocal mics, the casing contains a 16mm-diameter back-electret capsule, which is slightly smaller than the usual one-inch-diameter capsules adopted by most microphone designs of this type.

This is a great entry-level mic for recording acoustic guitar players.

The Audio-Technica AT2020 works really well in reproducing the high-frequency zing of spruce top acoustics, without having to drill a hole in your pocket.

When recording acoustic guitar, the mic immediately gives a well-balanced sound, and it is very easy to find a sweet spot where the acoustic sound of the guitar resembles the miked sound. 

There’s plenty of depth and clarity, but without that scratchy honkiness that some mics seem to lean towards.

This particular small diaphragm mic handles loud instruments well with a max SPL of 158dB with pad, without compromising much of the low end compared to other small diaphragm mics in this price range. 

This makes the AT2020 have a brighter sound which is ideal for steel-string acoustics.

This microphone is extremely solid, weighing in at 12.1oz, and is built like a tank.

AT2020 is not only a tough-looking microphone but also has a nice professional look. It has a pivoting, threaded stand mount, that can be detached if it is not needed. It does, though, provide a secure and stable placement of the mic in your position of choice.

Click on this link to find the Audio-Technica AT2020 Microphone on Amazon.

Related: 10 Best Stereo Microphones; Top Mics For All Budgets

4. Sennheiser MD 421 II

The MD 421-II is one of the best-known microphones in the world. The MD 421 is a large-diaphragm dynamic microphone designed to give a wide frequency response (30 – 17000 Hz). 

Its cardioid pickup pattern offers great rejection outside of your intended source and its rugged build quality and handling of high SPLs mean that it’s sturdy enough to live on busy and loud stages, as well as in the studio.

The MD 421 II has been a perfect go-to close-mic for snare drums, acoustic guitar, and toms, for decades. 

The MD 421-II has been used to mic up countless guitar cabs over the years and also remains a popular mic for broadcast speech and podcasting too.

With a robust, refined steel basket and a high-end, hardy enclosure, you can rest assured that it’ll cope with a little rough handling. 

The internal electronics are expertly designed and manufactured with tough quality control, ensuring the field generation and response are optimal for a professional capture.

The roll-off switch gives this mic flexibility, letting you tailor it before the signal is sent. You can use the switch to enlarge or reduce the size of the cardioid field to control what it captures.

For an up-close and personal recording, it means you get an honest, clean signal capture. You can also place the mic at a greater distance for something with higher decibel levels.

Click on this link to find the Sennheiser MD 421 II Microphone on Amazon.

5. AKG C 451 B

The AKG C-451 B is an excellent tool for accurately capturing signals rich in transients, such as instruments with a percussive sound, acoustic guitar, or for overhead miking.

The AKG C451 B really shines with the recording acoustic guitar. Guitars on this mic sound “sparkling” and fresh, with a clarity that’s bright without sounding grating. 

It’s fantastic on other instruments as well, giving cymbals and shakers presence, and working well with strings, piano, horns, and percussion.

This microphone has a 3-micron gold-sputtered diaphragm in an electret design that’s designed to be almost completely reject handling noise. 

The AKG C451 B also has highly sophisticated electronics that are complex but durable. 

With its light diaphragm and all-metal body, this mic has sufficient protection against RF interference. 

It also feels compact and sturdy, and is manufactured and assembled in Vienna, Austria.

The microphone has a neutral, smooth midrange and a gentle presence boost at 5kHz that flatters any acoustic instrument. 

It also has fantastic clarity, allowing guitars to stand out in the mix without overwhelming the other instruments.

The C 451 B capsule is permanently fixed to the preamp to increase overall stability under mechanical stress. It includes a switchable pre-attenuation pad to increase the C 451 B’s SPL capability. 

A switchable highpass filter at 75Hz or 150Hz prevents low-end distortion. The AKG C 451 B microphone makes a great addition to any professional studio or recording setup.

Click on this link to find the AKG C 451 B Microphone on Amazon.

6. AKG Perception 170

The AKG Perception 170 is a small‑diaphragm, true‑capacitor cardioid microphone with a switchable 20dB pad that’s accessed via a recessed slide-switch in the side of the body. 

It comes in a simple foam‑lined cardboard box with a stand clip.

Using the pad switch, the mic can, again, deal with SPLs up to a maximum of 155dB SPL, making it suitable for drums and percussion, as well as more delicate acoustic instruments

The lower price tag of the AKG P170 makes it very appealing to new musicians who are setting up a studio and don’t have a lot of extra money in their budget.

The AKG 170 Instrumental Microphone also has a rugged, all-metal body. This makes it so that it can handle daily use without breaking down. 

Even if it takes a bit of a hit, this microphone won’t break, which makes it perfect for taking on the road as it won’t fail if it falls or takes a bump.

The AKG 170 is a pretty small mic, following the standard design of most cardioid pencil condenser microphones.

But, don’t let the P170’s small size fool you, though. Although its smaller size and affordable price might feel too good to be true, it’s a great performer

Although it might have some airiness at its presence peak, its low end is solid and detailed. The AKG 170 microphone stands out thanks to its clarity, making recording acoustic instruments like guitar easier than ever.

The cardioid polar pattern of the AKG P170 is perfect for picking up one instrument without a lot of coloring and background noise. 

This is ideal in recording situations where the user wants to record a single source but doesn’t want to deal with any ambient noise. 

Click on this link to find the AKG Perception 170 Microphone on Amazon.

7. MXL 990

If you’re serious about recording vocals and instruments and are looking for a cheap mic for recording acoustic guitar under $100, then you should look at MXL 990.

The MXL 990 Condenser Microphone has a 3/4″ gold-sputtered diaphragm and a frequency response range of 30Hz-20kHz.  That makes it ideal for recording vocals and acoustic instruments. 

The tone balance, though, feels superb. It makes it work with guitars just as much as basses, albeit it will always punch the high-end frequency sounds.

With its vintage design and champagne finish, it looks like a premium microphone. Moreover, it can work just as good as pricey items.

MXL achieves such results with its proprietary FET preamp. The preamp modifies and cleans the sound signal. The FET solution provides a balanced output with nice high ends and focused mids and lows.

Another defining feature is its cardioid quality. A cardioid microphone can only pick up sounds from the front, which means it cancels sounds from the back and the sides. 

This is a great, simple mic for recording vocals, both male and female, doing voiceover work, and podcasts. 

There aren’t many features, but one very cool feature that the Blizzard Edition does have is its 4 blue LED lights located inside the wire mesh around the diaphragm. 

These are powered off the 48V phantom power that’s most likely supplied by your audio interface.

Click on this link to find the MXL 990 Condenser Microphone.

 8. Rode NT5

If you’re looking for affordable small-diaphragm condenser microphones for recording your acoustic guitar, take a look at a matched pair of RODE NT5s

These mics give you the kind of performance that far exceeds what you’d expect from condensers at this price point. 

Intended for recording acoustic instruments, drum overheads, cymbals, and live performances, the compact externally polarized mic employs a 1/2″ capsule, an active J-FET impedance converter with bipolar output buffer.

The interesting part of these mics is their frequency response mainly flat with little low shelving from 100Hz and high shelving from 4kHz.

This interesting characteristic makes them ideal for overhead recording where you often need to cut low frequencies and boost highs. 

The NT5 is available singly (NT5-S) or in matched pairs. The Rode NT45-O Omnidirectional capsule is sold separately.

The Rode NT5 matched pair are true “externally polarized” condenser microphones that require external phantom power to operate, unlike electret microphones which don’t need external power to work as they integrate an internal capacitor battery.

The good news is that you don’t need a dedicated phantom power supply as long as you are hooking the NT5 matched pair to a mixing desk, audio interface, or portable recorder with dual XLR microphone input.

The NT5 matched pair mics feature a gold-sputtered small diaphragm, which means the NT5’s 1/2-inch capsule diaphragm (also known as membrane) is coated with a thin film layer of real gold.

The NT5 matched pair perform exceptionally well with both acoustic and electric instruments. If you plan to do outdoor audio field recording or whispering recording like ASMR, the NT5 are also perfect thanks to their high sensitivity and low noise.

Click on this link to find the Rode NT5-MP Cardioid Condenser Microphones on Amazon.

9. AKG Perception 220

AKG does not only produce microphones at the very top of the range, but they also produce what you might refer to as affordable microphones.

The AKG Perception 220 Professional Studio Microphone has been designed and built to allow those on a lower budget to experience AKG quality. It can sound almost as good as 3-5 times more expensive mics with few nuances but usually good LDCs are always pricey.

AKG P220 is one of the best microphones for acoustic guitar under $200 and it features a relatively flat response curve and warm sound overall. The lows are definitely rich and responsive, though probably not the cleanest. 

The P220 features a rugged feel, as well as a clean and minimalist all-metal chassis, with a matte black finish. The grille also features that nice vintage champagne color to break up the monotone.

The P220 is capable of just about any application you have in mind. Recording vocals is no issue, and this mic offers a full, clean and crisp recording with just the right amount of warmth. 

Thanks to the -20dB pad, which pushes the max SPL to the full 155dB, recording a wide range of instruments is no bother either. 

Ultimately, it’s robust and reliable – a real workhorse. For these reasons alone, the P220 is one of the most popular condenser mics in this price range.

Click on this link to find the AKG Perception 220 Microphone on Amazon.

 

Features To Look For In A Acoustic Guitar Mic

Diaphragm

Since acoustic guitars produce similar frequencies to vocals, large-diaphragm condenser microphones work great with them.

Small diaphragm condenser mics and ribbon mics, with their high-frequency response and high SPL capabilities, work considerably well with the acoustic guitar’s inherent treble emphasis and varying dynamics. 

Small Diaphragm mics tend to have more low-frequency roll-off than their large-diaphragm counterparts which makes them more suited for use multi-miked recordings.

Polar Pattern

Cardioid is the simplest and most effective polar pattern used in mic designs today. It is especially great for capturing single sound sources like acoustic instruments, where you just move the mic around to find the sweet spot and start capturing. 

Still, it’s good to have mics with multiple patterns because they can be useful for other purposes, like when capturing multiple instruments that play simultaneously.

SPL

SPL is important during mic selection because you wanna use the more sensitive mics for softer sounds like cymbals and acoustic guitars while using dynamic mics for snares. 

Note that some condenser and ribbon mics have switches on them which make them more friendly when recording louder sources like guitar amps.

Your Budget

Condenser microphones can be as cheap as under $100 and can go up to thousands of dollars. 

The more you spend, the better you’re going to get. Having said that, it doesn’t mean you can’t find a good condenser microphone at an affordable price. 

Obviously, high-end microphones will be equipped with more features, but the sound quality you get on the inexpensive models might be exactly what you need. 

If you are on a small budget, it’s important to consider what is more important to you and what you are willing to sacrifice.

Included Accessories

Some condenser mics come equipped with tons of accessories. One thing to bear in mind is the more accessories you go for, the higher the price of the microphone.

The accessories that the microphone comes equipped with can include mic stands, shock mounts, popper stopper, etc. But you have to decide which accessories are really important and what you can get by without having if you are on a lower budget.

 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How to Choose the Best Microphone for recording an Acoustic Guitar?

There are a few important factors that you have to consider before buying the most suitable acoustic guitar mic. You have to consider the type of microphone that you want to purchase, and how much you can spend on it. The size of the diaphragm is a very important feature to consider before you finalize on a mic for acoustic guitar. Diaphragm size can have a huge impact on the kind of sound quality of your acoustic guitar recording.

Which is the best type of microphone for recording acoustic guitar?

Condenser mics are the best type of microphones for recording your acoustic guitar. Condenser microphones come in different diaphragm sizes and are available in many price ranges. 

Small diaphragm microphones are often used on woodwinds and other delicate orchestral instruments, acoustic guitars, cymbals, hi-hat, small percussion instruments, or anything where a lot of detail needs to be captured.

Large-diaphragm microphones tend to be used on things where a certain amount of coloration or a big sound is desired. Things like: Vocals, guitar or bass amps, drums, acoustic guitar, and some big brass instruments.

Written by:
AJ Mani
AJ Mani

AJ has been intimately involved with music for more than 25 years as a composer, electronic musician, guitarist, writer, music software developer, and keyboard technician.

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