In this installment of guest blogger Frank Klepacki’s series on music production he explores different miking options for guitar amps. If you missed Frank’s previous post, you can read it here.
Miking the guitar amp properly requires knowing your tone, and then knowing what to capture it with. What is going to respond to your sound the most faithfully? You can’t just stick any mic in front of the amp and expect instant perfection; it requires patience, positioning, and careful listening. You have to acknowledge where your mic position is and get within ear level of your speaker to know the difference. It’s a huge difference in perception when you’re standing well above the speaker versus getting right in front of it. Once you’ve got it dialed in, though, it’s such a joy to record. So have patience.
I use combinations of the following mic choices to capture tones I feel are the closest representation of what I hear straight away, without having to work harder in the mix. I’ll start with least expensive to most expensive.
If you’re on a budget, compared to other dynamic instrument mics in the same price range, this hypercardioid dynamic mic placed in the right spot will get you a very directional and bright sound. I often place it more toward the edge of the speaker cone, or sometimes back it up six inches from the amp. It excels in capturing high-mid range frequencies which accentuate the “attack” of the strings, or the crunch of the gain. It just takes some time to find the sweet spot given the tight pattern.
While this was made to be a broadcast mic, it serves many other useful purposes. I love this on “clean tone” guitar cabs. Dare I say it’s the best representation of a clean guitar tone next to the AT5045 for the warmth and rich, buttery tone? On distortion tones, however, (even when the bass EQ of the amp is turned down a bit) the bass response (again up close on the speaker) is very present, even with the roll-off engaged. It can “whomp” noticeably on palm mutes when playing metal, for example. But I would not hesitate to use this on clean or semi-dirty tones for classic rock, jazz, or funk – it is very full, warm and rich.
I would definitely put the AE2300 as a new overall favorite. This is the mic I’ve been waiting for from Audio-Technica, and in my opinion it’s a new standard of a workhorse mic for most applications. It captures accurate, great tone, not tough to position, small enough to get into tight places, and handles high SPL so you can crank it to 11 and have no worries in any genre. It has great rejection of bleed, very close to a hypercardioid. I put it right against the speaker of a very loud rocking amp and the tone was fantastic, very accurate, and I didn’t have much work to do in the mix, which is always the best indication. One of the best guitar amp mic choices I’ve heard for accuracy of tone, on any type of music.
Finally, I have to say this is my number one favorite mic to use on a guitar amp, and finds the sweet spot and perfect frequency range quicker and more accurately than any other mic I’ve worked with. I’ve found if I place it about six inches away and just off-center of the speaker, it gives me the absolute best and accurate range of frequencies and natural tone of the amp I have ever heard. It sits perfectly in a mix right away, and has so much fullness, body, and meaty mids in the tone. Clean or distorted, from jazz to metal, this mic is absolute perfection in every sense of the word and worth every penny. You will get “your” tone with ease, and won’t have to work hard in a mix. Put your ear in front of your amp, then record it with this mic. You’ll be amazed at the accuracy.
Experimenting with mic positions and combinations of multiple mics together, of course, will yield a variety of results depending on what you’re after. But between these four mics, you should be able to get any characteristic you’re looking for.
Frank Klepacki is an award-winning composer for video games and television for such titles as Command & Conquer, Star Wars: Empire at War, and MMA sports programs such as Ultimate Fighting Championship and Inside MMA. He is the audio director for Petroglyph, in addition to being a recording artist, touring performer, and producer. For more info, visit www.frankklepacki.com.
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