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Direct guitar, SM57's and a good guitar sound

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Nate Hamann
Direct guitar, SM57's and a good guitar sound
on Apr 22, 2008 at 3:26:22 pm

Hey all,

I have had frustrations with mic issues and less than cooperative recording locations. However, even though I got very comfortable with recording my Rocktron Chameleon direct, I had to join the big boys club and learn about mic placement, combination of multiple mics on 1 cab, phase and the balance of multiple mics in the mix.

I think Line 6 and Rocktron, and many other companies alike have a good idea. However this isn't the be all end all solution to home recording. Yes you can layer to your hearts content and sound pretty much as heavy as you want but why not try to do the same with a little ingenuity and some elbow grease.

Heres an example of some of my own direct guitar recording with a Rocktron Chameleon (green model).

This was all done on a M-Audio fast track with Fruity loops and direct bass at my living room computer. So I know it's not that well mixed. I did it on headphones. It's just an outlet for ideas. I mixed it on Audition 1.5 so I really just did the basics.

Let me address the issue of Shure's SM57. When engineer and gear heads suggest mics, they fail to include many important, and critical pieces of info. What are you running it through? (preamp, soundboard, soundcard). What are you running it into ( soundcard, firepod, etc.)

Mics (especially most dynamic) have very little personality that things like EQ, compression, and wackidoo plugins will never help, if you have a very limited recording setup.

I have found that people like the SM57 because other people like the SM57. It's the same reason people like McDonalds. It's cheap, there's one everywhere you go, everyone's had it once, and it can be tried and true. However, there are many many many mics that cost the same or little more that will respond much differently when you combine them and could unlock that tone you thought was unattainable.

Here are a few mics that in combination will give you a rounder and fuller punch to your recording.

Sennheiser e609

Specially designed for miking guitar cabs.

The Sennheiser e609 Silver Dynamic Guitar Mic makes getting killer electric guitar sounds in your project studio or onstage a cinch. Its laterally mounted capsule can get extremely close to the speaker while the supercardioid pattern provides isolation from other signals. The lightweight voice-coil construction and rigid dome diaphragm provide extended high-frequency performance and a long-wearing capsule assembly. Also suitable for miking drums, especially toms. 40Hz-18kHz frequency response.
"I've been recording for years and I've always been disappointed with how the sm57 makes my guitar sound thin and grainy. I though I had been doing something wrong all these year. It turns out I did by not using this mic. I just bought this mic today, did a back to back test with the 57 and this mic is by far a better mic for electric guitar. I have a Fender Tele going through an Epiphone Valve Jr. head and cabinet. It made my clean tone very full, and my distortion much more warm. This mic definitely captures the sound of my amp closer than the sm57." Quote from user.
Sennheiser e906

An excellent mic for guitar amps.

The Sennheiser e906 instrument microphone was primarily designed for guitar amplifiers, but it is also an excellent choice for percussion and brass applications. It has a supercardioid polar pattern, a flat body shape, very fast response, a hum-compensating coil that minimizes self noise, and 3 selectable characters (Bright, Normal, and Smooth).


Buy this mic! I've used SM57's and Beta 57's and even the e609 before and have always been just short of what I thought was 'the perfect guitar sound'...until I bought this mic!

Placement is EVERYTHING, but with this you have that AND the dip switch that offers hi-cut, flat or hi-boost to tailor the frequency response to a given situation.

My guitar tone has NEVER been so good! Thanks Sennheiser! user


Audix i5

Versatile and rugged.

The cardioid pattern Audix I-5 Instrument Microphone is a dynamic mic with a smooth, uniform frequency response of 50Hz-16kHz with SPL handling of 140dB. It's versatile enough to handle a wide variety of applications and music genres. Features a durable cast zinc alloy body, dent-resistant grille, and black E-coat finish. Attractively laser etched with its model and serial number. Audix includes a heavy-duty mic clip and carrying pouch with the I-5 Instrument Microphone.
I started exchanging micing tech.'s with other engineers in my area and someone randomly mentioned the i-5. I had heard a few recordings with audix drum mics and was impressed, but not enough to change from my akg's and shure's that I'd grown to love. I placed the 57 and the audix on a cab, made sure phase was right, and compared the microphones. I couldn't believe the difference. I-5 won in a heart beat. However, when trying another mic I recently bought, e609, that won on guitars. Now here's what the I-5 was clearly made for...the top of a snare. I put the i-5 on top slightly angeled (45% or less) and then the E609 on the bottom to capture the snares (normally I use a 57 for both purposes) and got the best sounding snare drum I've ever recorded in my life. I am not screwing around, it made for a great recording. Mind you I was recording an Orange County snare, and this could be different for other snare types, but it got the pop, the sustain, and the warmth of the snares from underneath.

DRUMMERS! - i-5 on top, e609 on the bottom! user

I feel that for a normal low budget recording this is a pretty good micing technique for a full and beefy foundation. The Following is the last setup I used

Senhesier e906 on the top left speaker of a 4x12 slack against the mesh slightly angled to catch the top of the speaker.

Shure PG52 kick mic on the bottom left speaker slack against the mesh angled to catch the bottom of the speaker.

Shure PG81 for overdubs on the top right speaker dead center to the cone. This catches the super high shrill.

I panned the PG52 75 left, e906 55 left, PG81 15 left. Then the same for the right channel guitar. I was working with a 2 guitarist band so this worked well for their sound.

Now, what I did with the Sennheiser was run it through my cheap Presonus Tube pre and used its Pad and gain accordingly.

The other two mics were run direct into my Firepod and recorded raw.

I made use of this plugin post because I found it after I tracked that session.

It's called the Crow preamp emulator and it works very well. Warms up and opens up any mic that lacks a proper preamp with Class A/B switching.

This is one of the best plugins I've ever used and it truly works. Most plugins offer some effect but distort and overwhelm when pushed hard. This acts like a preamp and keeps opening up as you turn it up. If you don't understand how preamps work, this will be a good tool.

I used Mogami and monster mic cables so I had a bit better sound than I would have had with cheap bargain bin cables. I also put the amp in a small room to cut down on room noise and bad reflections. It turned out very tight.

Now you have a very solid foundation that you can fine tune with some EQ, slight compression and side chain effects. Be aware that your input gain on your interface must be well balanced first off and not pushed too hard. This will result in less headroom for the Crow to work. Also, if you don't have a good drum mix these guitars will sound end up eating you alive. But drum micing is a different tale for a different day.

Any questions I can be reached at



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