Best Microphones for Guitar Amps

The 10 Best Microphones for Guitar Amps (2020)

The time has come for you to take your guitar playing out of your garage or bedroom and into a studio. That can even be a home studio, but either way, it’s the next progression in your life or career as a musician. To get the right sound, a guitar amp microphone is recommended. What are the best microphones for guitar?

10 of the Best Guitar Amp Microphones

The following 10 microphones for guitar amps are considered the best:

  • Shure SM57-LC Cardioid Dynamic Microphone (Best Value)
  • Sennheiser E609 Silver Super Cardioid Instrument Microphone
  • Sennheiser e906 Supercardioid Dynamic Mic for Guitar Amps
  • AKG Pro Audio C414 XLII Vocal Condenser Microphone, Multipatterned (Most Versatile)
  • Sennheiser MD 421 II Cardioid Dynamic Mic
  • Royer Labs R-121 Large-Element Ribbon Microphone, Nickel (Premium Option)
  • MXL 2006 Large Gold Diaphragm Condenser Microphone 
  • Neumann U 87 Ai Switchable Studio Microphone
  • Beyerdynamic M160 Double Ribbon Microphone, Hypercardioid
  • Rode NTK Premium Tube Cardioid Condenser Microphone

In this article, we’ll review each of these 10 amazing guitar amp mics, covering pertinent information like pricing and features. If you’re stuck choosing between two or more mics, make sure you read through to the end for our buyer’s guide, which will include advice on how to choose the right mic for you.

Let’s get started!

We’ll cover guitar amp microphones at all price points, but if you’re looking for a budget pick, start with the Shure SM57-LC Cardioid Dynamic Microphone. We’re declaring it a best value pick for a reason.

That’s because despite the low price point, you get a durable microphone with great brand recognition. This guitar amp microphone comes wired and has a frequency response of 40 to 15,000 Hertz (Hz). 

If you are indeed doing home recording but you don’t exactly have a home studio (yet), this is the mic for you. It will capture great guitar sound due to its uniform cardioid pickup pattern. The main source of music–your guitar–gets highlighted while the background noise disappears into well, the background. 

Pros

  • According to Shure, this microphone can stand up to the “heaviest use” without any risk to its abilities. 
  • If you want to use the mic for percussion or instrument amp milking, it’s quite suitable for these purposes. It can even capture vocals. 
  • Shure promises less distortion on soundwaves with higher pressure levels. 

Cons

  • Some users have complained the mic lasts for only a few months before falling apart. 

Next, we’ve got one of several picks from the Sennheiser brand. We’ll begin with the E609 Silver Super Cardioid Instrument Microphone. As an Amazon’s Choice product, it’s certainly one to consider for your guitar amp mic needs.

This sleek microphone has a midrange peak of 3 to 6,000 Hz so your guitar’s “sonic character” stands out that much more. The pickup pattern, as the name suggests, is a super cardioid pattern that will reduce signals from other instruments if you’re recording with a group. You’ll also notice less electrical interference due to the hum compensating coil. 

A metal shell makes this Sennheiser mic quite tough. Within the microphone is a neodymium ferrous magnet finished with boron. Even if you take this mic from hot to cold environments, it maintains its stability. 

Pros

  • Sennheiser offers a warranty good for 10 years on its E609 Silver Super Cardioid Instrument Microphone.
  • You have plenty of options for mounting your mic your way. With a lateral design, you can forego the clip on this Sennheiser mic when attaching it to a speaker cabinet. 
  • The mic is acceptable for living playing too if you do gigs on your own or with your band. 

Cons

  • Certain users have called the sound brassy and bright, even excessively so. 

If for some reason the E609 from Sennheiser didn’t float your boat, maybe the e906 Supercardioid Dynamic Mic will. It’s flatter than the E609, as it’s intended for recording guitars and amplifiers. That said, it should suit other instruments well, too.

As you’d expect from Sennheiser, the e906 has a metal body that’s reinforced for durability and resistance to impacts. While the sound is full and lively by default, if you’re not quite happy with that, Sennheiser gives you three sound characters to choose from. These include dark, moderate, and bright. According to the manufacturer, these sound characters were chosen by guitarists like you. 

The super-cardioid pickup pattern flatters guitar amps, toms, snares, and percussion instruments especially. This pattern also voids signals from other players for a clearer, richer sound from your own guitar.  You can even get quite close to the source of your signal and still enjoy high-quality guitar amp milking. 

Pros

  • Once again, you can make a safe, smart investment with Sennheiser’s 10-year warranty on this microphone. 
  • An included MZQ 100 clamp makes attaching this microphone to or near the guitar amp and even a drum set very easy.
  • That the e906 is made for guitarists makes it an easy pick for your next guitar amp microphone. 

Cons

  • Some users have complained of static when recording with this Sennheiser microphone. 

Our next microphone earned our distinction of the most versatile. It’s also quite a pretty penny, but once you get your hands on the AKG Pro C414 XLII Vocal Condenser Microphone, you’ll understand why. 

This Amazon’s Choice premium microphone is coated with gold. If you knew and loved the AKG C414 B-TL II, this is the next step up. The C414 still boasts that same sonic sound and quality, making it especially adept at capturing the nuances of solo instruments like the guitar as well as a lead singer’s vocals.

Switch between three bass-cut filters to set your proximity effect, lessen stage vibrations, and erase wind noise. You can also adjust the attenuation level between 6, 12, and 18 decibels, switching between high-output sources or up-close recording in an instant. Further, you get your choice of polar patterns, with nine of these offered. 

Pros

  • The AKG Pro C414 XLII has an overload warning with an LED light so you know when your audio peaks are too much. 
  • Included with your purchase is a spider-type shock mount, windscreen, pop filter, and carrying case. 
  • It’s really cool how you get nine polar patterns so you can customize your sound from room to room or instrument to instrument. 

Cons

  • It can be hard to reach the threaded adapter from the microphone because of a piece of plastic that’s in the way, users have noted. 

Getting back to Sennheiser, here’s one more microphone for guitar amps we had to include: their MD 421 II Cardioid Dynamic Mic. This cardioid pickup-patterned mic has pronounced directivity that makes handling and using it a breeze.

The sound reproduction is high-quality, especially for a more inexpensive microphone like this one. With feedback rejection, you can ensure your guitar sound remains pristine. That will let you get your recording done faster so you can get back to making more music. 

The bass roll-off switch has five different positions for better customization of your recordings. The MD 421 is also quite a versatile microphone, as Sennheiser says it works for all sorts of uses, including radio broadcasting, group vocals, and instruments. This mic shines best when recording drums or guitars, as dynamic elements regulate sound pressure levels expertly. 

Pros

  • Although “conditions apply,” Sennheiser does offer a warranty good for two years on this guitar amp microphone.
  • The cardioid polar pattern prevents monitor feedback while enhancing ambiance. 
  • A dynamic capsule within the microphone lends it a more even-keeled signal response, even if you’re up close. 

Cons

  • Sometimes when recording, users have noted there are sharper high sounds emanating from the mic that you need to fix in post-production. 

Royer Labs R-121 Large-Element Ribbon Microphone (Premium Option)

Price: Premium/Expensive

Fair warning: you’d have to pay four figures for the Royer Labs R-121 Large-Element Ribbon Microphone, but that’s why we call it our premium option. If it’s within your budget, this is certainly a great mic for your consideration, as it will produce some of the highest-quality sound available. 

For instance, even higher frequencies aren’t distorted when recording with this guitar amp microphone. As a ribbon mic, something we haven’t seen on the list yet, humidity and heat won’t cause it to work less than optimally. If you live in an especially warm climate, you need a mic that can stand up to the temperatures like this one. 

All these perks are possible because the R-121 lacks active electronics within it. These can’t create distortion or overload the top sound pressure level rating. Another great feature of this mic is how its frequency response doesn’t change if you get closer or further away. It also picks up on fewer residual noises that can wreck the quality of your recordings. 

Pros

  • The figure-eight polar pattern gives the Royer Labs R-121 Large-Element Ribbon Microphone a great frequency response, from 30 to 15,000 Hz, give or take three decibels. 
  • The offset ribbon transducer in the mic is what Royer calls “the first of its kind.” You now have the freedom to move the ribbon element from the side to the front of the mic and vice-versa, retaining the frequency response along the way. 
  • The R-121 is Royer’s flagship product, and it has won awards for its quality. 

Cons

  • The price may be a deterrent to some guitarists on a budget. 

From a very expensive pick to one that’s not even three figures, the MXL 2006 Large Gold Diaphragm Condenser Microphone is another one we recommend for guitar amp recording with a microphone. 

It’s a sleek-looking mic with a diaphragm capsule that’s 32 millimeters. This enhances the sound quality, especially that of electric and acoustic guitars and vocals. Percussion instruments also sound good with this mic. The circuitry within is Class A to augment the natural qualities and purities of home and studio recording. 

This condenser pressure gradient microphone has a cardioid polar pickup pattern. Expect a frequency response of 30 Hz to 20 kilohertz or kHz. The transformerless output is balanced for quality with a FET preamp. 

Pros

  • The silver metal finish gives off an appealing metallic sheen.
  • An included MXL 57 high-isolation shock mount makes it easy and fast to attach this microphone wherever you want it.
  • You even get a rugged carrying case with your purchase.

Cons

  • Some users have said this mic is especially sensitive. 

Another high-budget pick is the Neumann U 87 Ai Switchable Studio Microphone, which is even costlier than the Royer Labs guitar amp mic. Neumann’s brand recognition with the U 87 model dates back to 1967, showing this microphone has a long history of excellence.

You can choose from several directional patterns, setting them one of three ways. These are figure-eight, cardioid, and omnidirectional. If you don’t want sound from the sides, try the figure eight. Omnidirectional sound is ideal for recording in a room with a bunch of musicians, as all sides get recorded. 

While usually reserved for vocals, the Neumann U 87 mic also suits home studio recordings especially well. Single instruments will shine, be that a guitar, bass, or even percussion. The frequency range for this mic is 20 Hz to 20 kHz. When you turn on the attenuation switch (at 10 decibels), you can reach sound level highs of 127 decibels, and all distortion-free, too. If you lessen the frequency response as you do this, you should still be quite pleased with the quality of the sound. 

Pros

  • This gold-colored microphone can catapult your home recordings into a more professional session with its quality.
  • You get an EA87 elastic suspension, cables, and a windscreen with your purchase, all packaged in a jeweler’s box made of wood. 
  • The balance and warmth you have from the U 87 is a Neumann staple.

Cons

  • Some musicians have said there’s no difference in quality between the Neumann U 87 and other mics for less money. 

Another ribbon mic for your consideration is the Beyerdynamic M160 Double Ribbon Microphone. Actually, this one is a double ribbon microphone transducer with an included hypercardioid polar pattern. 

The rugged styling of this mic gives it a more classic design and look. The sound it produces is described by Beyerdynamic as both natural and warm. That’s likely due to the frequency response, which is 40 to 18,000 Hz. The transient response, sound transparency, and lengthier frequency response are other great features of the M160.

Vocalists, drummers, and guitar players looking for an amp mic all appreciate the sound the M160 captures. According to Beyerdynamic themselves, this mic is a chosen pick for producers who have won Grammys for their work. It’s versatile, able to be used in the recording studio and even when playing live. 

Pros

  • Beyerdynamic produces every M160 by hand in Heilbron, Germany.
  • The combination of the hypercardioid polar pattern and the double ribbon style make this a strong contender for a top guitar amp mic.
  • The M160 eschews the darker sound common in most ribbon mics for more brightness when recording.  

Cons

  • Some musicians have reported the mic has a thick and crunchy sound, which every guitar player might not want. 

Our last pick for the best microphones for guitar amps is the Rode NTK Premium Tube Cardioid Condenser Microphone. A highly-rated pick, this silver condenser mic lends your studio recordings more warmth and detail.

You can also use this mic for all sorts of musical applications, from recording pianos, guitar amplifiers, drum overheads, acoustic instruments, and vocals. That’s due to the valve sound in this Rode mic, which is quite rich. Attention was paid to the electronic circuitry as well, as it boosts the transducer’s sensitivity. Also within are high-quality components suitable for an audiophile, such as twin-triode 6922 valves.

Using a dedicated power supply, the NTK Premium has a mesh head made of steel that’s heat-treated. This mic can withstand some heavier use then. More RF rejections keep your sound clearer so your fellow musicians won’t believe you’re recording at home. Single-instrument recording sounds especially good. 

Pros

  • The dynamic range on this Rode microphone is quite generous, as is how it reduces very low sounds. 
  • The valve circuitry is Class A so it’s of a very high quality.
  • The diaphragm is gold-plated with a one-inch capsule that’s considered large. 

Cons

  • The mids and highs of this microphone have been called harsh and brittle. 

How to Choose the Best Microphone for Guitar Amps

There were some pretty phenomenal microphones on this list, so no one can blame you if a few jumped out at you. While you might need multiple mics someday, if you just want to start with one, how do you choose which mic suits you best?

Consider these next two sections your buyer’s guide to a microphone for guitar amps. First, we’ll talk more about several types of microphones that came up in our list. If you know what sound you’re going for, that might make it easier to pick a guitar amp mic. 

Then we’ll go over the features you need to keep in mind before investing in a microphone. 

The Types of Microphones for Guitar Amps

Dynamic 

We’ll begin with dynamic microphones. These are named such because of what’s going on internally within the mics. Electromagnetism allows the sound you produce musically or vocally to become an electrical signal the mic receives. 

The lower frequency response makes the dynamic microphone a great choice for drums, live vocals, and loud guitar amps, as all increase the level of sound pressure. These mics also don’t need a power supply of their own, which makes them quite different from condenser microphones.

The rugged qualities of dynamic mics have made them a staple among live and recording musicians. Shure is one such brand known for producing many great dynamic mics that are durable and have exemplary sound quality. 

Condenser

Next, there’s condenser microphones. These are more studio mics than live mics because of their transient response and generous frequency range. Condenser microphones are suitable in some live settings, though. 

Like we said in the paragraphs above, condenser mics need a power supply such as phantom power at 48 volts. If you have an external source of power or even a mixing board, you should be able to get your phantom power from there. 

Condenser mics are known for their output, which can get quite loud. However, if you’re too noisy in the recording room, the sensitivity of these microphones becomes apparent.  

You can have a condenser mic with a small or large diaphragm. A small-diaphragm condenser mic enhances the transient response and opens the frequencies even wider. 

When increasing the size of the diaphragm, you get a warmer sound and better sound reproduction across the board. Transient noise sensitivity can be an issue without a pop screen if anyone is singing on your recording, though. 

Ribbon

We also have to talk about ribbon mics, sometimes called ribbon velocity microphones. Ribbon mics were quite popular until the 1970s, when they almost died out. Then, in the ‘90s, they returned, and they’ve been a favored choice among musicians ever since.

These have nanofilm or duraluminum within them, sometimes even an aluminum ribbon. This goes between two magnet poles to generate electricity to the ribbon. This process is known as electromagnetic induction.

With a bidirectional sound, ribbon mics record the best sound on both sides rather than in front of or behind them. Their polar pattern resembles a figure eight, allowing for a greater roll-off of higher frequencies as well as a pickup of the lower end. 

For capturing room ambiance, spoken or singing voices, and plenty of instruments, the ribbon mic is a suitable choice. It produces a sound that’s quite natural and warm. 

Features to Consider When Choosing a Microphone for Guitar Amps

If the description of microphone types didn’t influence your decision for a guitar amp mic, the factors we’re about to discuss should. 

Polar Patterns

The term polar patterns has come up several times in this post. If you’re not familiar, polar patterns are a microphone’s sound sensitivity depending on the sound’s angle or direction.

There are three polar patterns, supercardioid, cardioid, and omnidirectional. We already talked about omnidirectional polar patterns above, but not supercardioid and cardioid. 

With a cardioid polar pattern, all the sensitivity is focused at the front with far less around back. This increases feedback resistance and lessens ambient noise in your recordings.

A supercardioid polar pattern is one in which you get even less ambient noise. This is due to the pickup, which is much slimmer than a cardioid polar pattern. With an even higher feedback resistance, you need supercardioid sound when recording in a louder space.  

Frequency Responses

Almost every microphone we reviewed had a frequency response. These are expressed in Hz or kHz. 

All around us are frequencies. We hear these, sometimes without even knowing it. Whether your microphone will pick up on that expansive range of frequencies will depend on its frequency response. 

A lower bass frequency may be 20 to 300 Hz while a mid-frequency is between 300 Hz and 4 kHz. When you exceed 4 kHz, that’s a treble frequency. Ideally, you want a wider frequency response to capture as many noises as the human ear hears. This prevents your recordings from sounding sparse. 

Sound Pressure Level

Sound pressure level or SPL is also something that came up in our reviews. Sometimes called acoustic pressure level, the SPL tells you how much pressure that sound has based on that of a reference value. 

When you calculate an SPL, you get an expression in decibels. The higher the decibel count on a sound, the more damaging it can be to your own hearing as well as that of your fellow musicians. Also, you’re at a higher risk of audio distortion, which you don’t want. 

Materials

The materials used to construct your microphone are another important consideration to make. If you’re someone who will buy the mic and leave it in one place, then maybe you don’t need a guitar amp mic that’s as durable.

If you plan to travel with your mic often, such as to a friend’s house, rehearsal space, a gig, or even a professional recording studio, then you must buy a guitar amp mic that can handle some bumps and bruises. 

Price

The last consideration to make is price. Cheaper is almost never better when it comes to a guitar amp microphone. You don’t necessarily have to spend a fortune on a mic, but a good, mid-priced valuable one as a starter instead. 

Conclusion 

To augment the quality of your recordings, a guitar amp microphone really helps. The 10 mics we covered in this post come from all sorts of brands and at plenty of price points. From ribbon mics, condensers, and those with all sorts of polar patterns, you’re now ready to pick your guitar amp microphone. Best of luck! 

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