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Old 08-31-2013, 11:53 AM
Gcunplugged Gcunplugged is offline
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Default Large vs small diaphragm condenser mics

Does anyone have an opinion on large versus small diaphragm condenser mics for recording acoustic guitar at home?

I have a large diaphragm, and I've struggled to get decent sound from it. But, ill be the first to admit that a recording engineer I'm not! i seem to spend more time mucking with settings than actually playing, so I finally gave up and started using the built-in mics on my Zoom Q3HD.

What are the advantages of each type? I'm thinking maybe a matched set of smalls for Christmas.

Any thoughts own that?
Thanks,
GC
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Old 08-31-2013, 12:12 PM
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Does anyone have an opinion on large versus small diaphragm condenser mics for recording acoustic guitar at home?
Hi GC...

Recording is full of compromises.

I own large diaphragm mics (24-26mm) and small diaphragm mics (8-12mm) and medium diaphragm mics (20mm) mics. I actually prefer the 20mm to either the large or small for recording acoustic solo guitar.

The large diaphragm are very warm, the small diaphram capture the most detail in the high end (which can sound brittle without careful positioning), and the medium diaphragm are a good compromise between the other two.

If I have to do vocals with the same mics, I will choose large diaphragm in an A/B or mid/side array, and I'll work with placement and roll-off switches to help adjust down their bassy tendencies.

This is because I don't find medium or small diaphragm mics all that natural for vocals.


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Old 08-31-2013, 12:23 PM
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The conventional wisdom is that SDs are the better choice, but as with anything, generalizations like that aren't very useful. The difference between mics is usually quite subtle anyway, and there's probably more variation between specific mics than between "large" vs "small". You could think of it like guitars - which are "better", big ones or small ones? It really depends on which 2 guitars you're comparing and the same is true of mics, except that the differences between mics tends to be a lot smaller than the differences between guitars. Small condensers are a relatively new thing - if you listen to acoustic recordings from some time back - Beatles, Led Zeppelin, to John Renbourn, etc, those are all going to be large condensers. Even many modern recordings are done with large. Tommy Emmanual is usually seen recording with LD mics. My own last 2 CDs, I did with large (Brauner VM1s) and "huge" :-) (AEA R84), but I also like SDs and usually use Schoeps CMC6/MK41s for my You Tube recordings - but the main reason is that they're easier to fit into a video shot, with sounding great being an extra. So to me, it's not "large" vs "small", it's 1) having something worth recording, 2) getting a good sound from your guitar acoustically, 3) room acoustics, 4) mic placement, 5) mic choice.

Maybe if you posted some examples of the sound you're getting, you'd get some more concrete suggestions. For example, it may just be that you like the stereo sound of the recorder better than the single mic, nothing to do with LD vs SD. You asked for pros and cons of each type, and one simple benefit of SDs is that they're smaller - which means sometimes they're easier to place, and as I mentioned, for video, they're less in the way visually. LD's look more impressive, tho! :-)
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Old 08-31-2013, 01:28 PM
ombudsman ombudsman is offline
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Small condensers are a relatively new thing - if you listen to acoustic recordings from some time back - Beatles, Led Zeppelin, to John Renbourn, etc, those are all going to be large condensers.
Not necessarily. Neumann KM54s were used on Beatles acoustic guitar recordings (not exclusively of course).

The current conventional wisdom about small and large diaphragm mics being best for certain things is a fairly recent development. If you go back to 50s-70s recordings you'll find lots of exceptions.

Some notable ones being a period where Motown wanted a uniform sound across all their records, so they standardized to use the Neumann KM-86 on almost everything, including the vocals, on the "What's Going On" album (!). The Beatles rooftop concert for "Let It Be" was done with the AKG C-30 (SDC) for vocals and guitar amps.

Over the years I've noticed that the conventional wisdom choices lead to solid results. And then there are totally different rationales that lead to the opposite conclusions from the conventional wisdom, which also lead to solid results. I think some people just want to record while devoting as little of their time and resources to the technical side as possible, which is fine. That's how I feel about my Macintosh, to me it's a box with Logic in it and hard drive space and I don't want to know anything else about it.

But anyone that is into recording should just try different things. I'll try almost any mic for almost any application.

My acoustic guitar mics tend to be darker LDCs, brighter ribbons, and omnidirectional dynamic mics. Granted, I'm not going for "modern" very bright acoustic guitars, quite the opposite.
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Old 08-31-2013, 01:36 PM
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Not necessarily. Neumann KM54s were used on Beatles acoustic guitar recordings (not exclusively of course).

The current conventional wisdom about small and large diaphragm mics being best for certain things is a fairly recent development.
Good catch, that's a better way to say it. I suspect the "conventional wisdom" thing is largely due to the internet :-)
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Last edited by Doug Young; 08-31-2013 at 02:34 PM.
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Old 08-31-2013, 04:25 PM
sdelsolray sdelsolray is online now
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Originally Posted by Gcunplugged View Post
Does anyone have an opinion on large versus small diaphragm condenser mics for recording acoustic guitar at home?

I have a large diaphragm, and I've struggled to get decent sound from it. But, ill be the first to admit that a recording engineer I'm not! i seem to spend more time mucking with settings than actually playing, so I finally gave up and started using the built-in mics on my Zoom Q3HD.

What are the advantages of each type? I'm thinking maybe a matched set of smalls for Christmas.

Any thoughts own that?
Thanks,
GC
As Doug mentioned, there can be more differences among different SD mics with a group of SD mics (or LD mics within a group of LD mics) than the differences between certain SD mics and certain LD mics.

There are some differences that are due to simple physics:

1) Smaller diaphragm mics have higher self-noise than larger diaphragm mics (there are exceptions due mostly to mic amplifier design and parts used);

2) The frequency range of a SD capsule is wider and the transient response is faster than an LD capsule (this is usually compensated for with circuitry in the LD mic amplifier but this only affects the frequency response and not the transient response).

3) The sound pressure level before distortion is higher with a SD mic than an LD mic (hardly an issue for recording solo acoustic guitar, but can be an issue for recording loud sources).

4) Frequency anomalies due to sound reflections within the mic itself are more prevalent in LD mics than with SD mics (this is usually a minor issue with a well designed LD mic).

5) LD mics have a higher sensitivity than SD mics.
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Old 08-31-2013, 04:58 PM
runamuck runamuck is offline
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Originally Posted by Gcunplugged View Post
Does anyone have an opinion on large versus small diaphragm condenser mics for recording acoustic guitar at home?

I have a large diaphragm, and I've struggled to get decent sound from it. But, ill be the first to admit that a recording engineer I'm not! i seem to spend more time mucking with settings than actually playing, so I finally gave up and started using the built-in mics on my Zoom Q3HD.

What are the advantages of each type? I'm thinking maybe a matched set of smalls for Christmas.

Any thoughts own that?
Thanks,
GC
Hi GC,

Here's my experience:

Your problem is almost certainly not the microphone. As others have already said - the differences between mics (at least for someone just starting out recording) are relatively subtle.

Before you start throwing money at a problem that probably doesn't exist, try another guitar, new or different strings, the pick you're using (if you're using one) the position of the microphone in relation to the guitar, the room you're recording in.

In that order, those are the things I would pay attention to first.

And one more thing that's maybe the most important.

A recording doesn't lie. You might have played guitar for years never knowing exactly what you sound like.

Jim McCarthy
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Old 08-31-2013, 05:22 PM
Fran Guidry Fran Guidry is offline
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What a bunch of grown-ups!!

GC, you should go ask this question at GearSlutz where I can pretty much guarantee you'll get a ton of authoritative responses specifying exactly which vintage Neumann you _must_ have to make an acceptable recording <grin>.

I would add to all the mature wisdom dispensed above, that recording takes practice. I wish I could specify what to practice, but I definitely noticed that after doing it a while it got easier. So be prepared to put in some time before expecting the magic to happen.

One thing to think about as mentioned above, the recording is very likely to be accurately conveying what the mic hears, so think about ways to change that. Try lots of different mic positions, try lots of different room locations.

Volume level seems like it should be easy, but it ain't. Many of us listen to lots of _mastered_ recordings, then expect our raw tracks to sound like those mastered tracks. But they shouldn't. They _should_ be much quieter than a CD or mastered download track. So record at a reasonable level, well away from clipping, then adjust your playback volume to match your reference tracks.

Many people have gotten lots of great advice from the recording gurus around here by uploading a sample clip somewhere and sharing it. There have been some terrific threads based on that in the past.

Fran
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Old 08-31-2013, 05:45 PM
Gcunplugged Gcunplugged is offline
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Thanks all for the great advice. I'll be the first to say my playing is average at best, but I still think it will sound better when/if I hit on the right recording setup.

FYI, here are a couple of my clips, with various recording approaches:

This one was done with audio from a Boss BR-600 multi-track, synced with the video. And the guitars were plugged directly into the multi-tracker: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L2zEXOvZfbE

This one I honestly can't remember, but I think I ran the guitar (which has a built-in Fishman) into a Boss AD-3 Acoustic Processor pedal, and then directly into the BR-600. The guitar is an HD-28VR, which sounds great live, but is a beast to record. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nWU-CkJPfBw

This one was done as a single take, and no effects, with a Q3HD and the built-in mics: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vHFCTw-Zc9M

While I think these are my best recording, and they sound decent, they aren't in the same league as some I've heard here from others.

Thanks again,
GC
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Old 08-31-2013, 06:18 PM
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I don't know exactly what it is you're after but I hear two problems:

- the guitar, (maybe try another just to get some perspective)
- the room - or rather the excessive distance from the mic to your guitar
that accentuates the room.

I'd try placing the mic closer but pointed nowhere near the soundhole as that will pick up more bass response than there already is - and it's already muddy in the 3rd clip.

In the 2nd clip it sounds like you've got a mess of effects going on. Whatever it is, it's not good. Try experimenting with mic placement to get a dry, pure sound before you begin adding a little sugarcoating like EQ, delay or reverb.

And by the way. Not all reverbs are equal.

PS - What bothers YOU about how the recordings sound?

Jim McCarthy
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Old 08-31-2013, 06:39 PM
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Originally Posted by runamuck View Post
- the room - or rather the excessive distance from the mic to your guitar
that accentuates the room.
A new mic isn't going to make much of a difference here. I'm not sure I'm following your setups in each recording, but it seems like you're either recording with a pickup, with or without effects, or in a very lively room with the mic far away. If you don't have good room acoustics, your only viable choice with using a mic(s) is close micing - closer than a foot, maybe as close as a few inches - if you don't want the sound to be mostly about the room. There's tons of info out there that can help you get close to a pro-ish sound. You might find the article I did for Acoustic Guitar a while back helpful. The video part is online: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oNBRCam2YxQ Or check out Fran's HomeBrew blog - lots of demos and good stuff there, or google will turn up many others that can help you understand mic placement and room acoustics. If you just have one mic, I'd start with it aimed at the neck/body joint about 8 inches from the guitar and see if that doesn't move you at least a few inches in the right direction.
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Old 08-31-2013, 07:09 PM
Gcunplugged Gcunplugged is offline
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Thanks again!

There are a variety of recording techniques illustrated here, all of which show that I don't know what I'm doing :-) But as stated earlier, I'd much rather be playing than messing with recording equipment.

On Signe, the light colored guitar was plugged directly into my multi-track recorder. You can see the mic in the bottom left corner, but it was not used on that track. The dark colored guitar *was* mic'd with the LD condensor. The mic was approximately 30-36 inches from the guitar.

On the Led Zep tune, I abandoned the mic because the Martin dread, when combined with that mic was more than my (non-existent) recording skills could handle. So I ran it into a Boss AD-3, with Chorus and Reverb, and then direct into the Multi-tracker. Obviously I got carried away...

On the slack key tune, I am using only the built-in Mic's on the Q3HD, which are 5-6 feet away in order to not cut my head off.

So there is lots of good advice offered from you guys above for me, and I'll read the blogs as well. But a consistent theme is, I need to get the mic much closer to the guitar. And yes, right now, I only have one condenser mic. I do have a couple of dynamic mics, but I never considered using them for recording.

I really appreciate all your comments, and the opportunity to network with you guys here!
GC
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Old 08-31-2013, 07:17 PM
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A new mic isn't going to make much of a difference here. I'm not sure I'm following your setups in each recording, but it seems like you're either recording with a pickup, with or without effects, or in a very lively room with the mic far away. If you don't have good room acoustics, your only viable choice with using a mic(s) is close micing - closer than a foot, maybe as close as a few inches - if you don't want the sound to be mostly about the room. There's tons of info out there that can help you get close to a pro-ish sound. You might find the article I did for Acoustic Guitar a while back helpful. The video part is online: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oNBRCam2YxQ Or check out Fran's HomeBrew blog - lots of demos and good stuff there, or google will turn up many others that can help you understand mic placement and room acoustics. If you just have one mic, I'd start with it aimed at the neck/body joint about 8 inches from the guitar and see if that doesn't move you at least a few inches in the right direction.
Thanks for that link, Doug. Very helpful...what type of drum mic stands are you using? Received DADGAG Christmas today...looks like a great package! Thanks.
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Old 08-31-2013, 07:26 PM
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The Q3HD, which are 5-6 feet away in order to not cut my head off.
Yep, that's the basic issue with video recorder mics. I always record with an audio recorder that lets me place the mics where they need to be, independent of where the video camera needs to be. Then sync.

Quote:
I only have one condenser mic. I do have a couple of dynamic mics, but I never considered using them for recording.
I'd try them. Dynamics being bad for recording is another "conventional wisdom" thing that may or may not be true. I think they'll at least be an improvement over what you're getting, and you may even really like them.
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Old 08-31-2013, 07:28 PM
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Thanks for that link, Doug. Very helpful...what type of drum mic stands are you using? Received DADGAG Christmas today...looks like a great package! Thanks.
Uh-oh, hope the rest of your household doesn't hate me for starting Christmas music so early :-)

I have a couple of brands. The one I just checked is a DR, this one, I think:

http://www.guitarcenter.com/DR-Pro-D...41-i1170321.gc
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