So Here's the deal...

One night, one take, one preamp, six mics. That's right, I captured the same take on a bunch of guitar tracks with six different mics. I thought this would make for an interesting comparison by eliminating the variables in multiple preamps and mulitple takes. Sorry if the tracks sound redundant--it's what I was working on last Thursday night. And I'm sorry if they don't sound like you sound--I'm not you. I worked with limited sounds and just a couple guitars--otherwise the combinations would be endless.

This little experiment won't tell you which mic to buy. There are still too many variables for that--the room, your amp, your guitar, your playing style etc. But this shootout will help reveal some of the differences in these mics--especially helpful if you're already familiar with one or more. By hearing how the mics compare to one another, you may be that much closer to finguring out your next flavor...

Another note: while I took extreme care to find a sweet spot for each of the six mics at once, there was no one perfect tone for all six at once. So I had to find a happy medium. For the most part, my amp sounded good in the room; I recorded it as it was. With one mic at a time, it would've been different: more high end for the ACM3, less high end for the e609, etc. So it's not perfectly fair to all mics. Again, you get to see the relative differences.

By the way, no EQ was applied post-tracking. Except for the wet ('verb & delay) on the lead tracks (and some matching gain), everything is posted as it was tracked. No EQ, compression, etc. And just so you know, all the tracks (except for the solo) use the same drum loop (at 112 bpm) and I recorded the bass with the direct in on the Octane.

Why Mix and Match?

It's called mix and match because you can do exactly that. I've posted six assembled mixes for each track--one mix for each of the six mics. So if you only had one of these mics (or enough money to buy one of them) this is what the mix would sound like with just that mic.

However, I've also taken the time to post a file for each part of the mix. First you'll see a rhythm track--that's got the drum loop and bass guitar just as it in the completed mixes. Then you'll find a file for each guitar track--that's one for each part with each mic. That's six for the leads, and since I double tracked all the backing guitars (then hard panned them left and right) there are twelve backing guitar tracks: six left (one for each mic) and six right (yep, you guessed it, one for each mic).

So now you can download them and line them up in your DAW (they're all trimmed to match; just start 'em at the same point) pan them how you like, and see for yourself what the track would sound like with a Shure SM57 on the left guitar, an Audix i5 on the right, and a Sennheiser e609 on the lead. Feel free to mix multiple mics on the same parts too. (I do this a lot--espcially with the ACM 3 ribbon mic and the SM57 on leads). And since I've added no EQ, you can do so yourself and see how the various mics respond to your mutations. Have fun!

By the way, even if you're not inclined to make your own mixes of the various mics, I'd still recommend you download some of the single part tracks for each mic. After performing the tests myself, I was surprised at how similar many of the mics sound once they're in the mix. (Which can be good: maybe you really can get a decent electric guitar recording with almost any mic...hmmm.) In any case, their differences are much more pronounced in the solo tracks.

The Gear

The mics used: Shure SM 57 (an old made in the USA Unidyne III); GLS ES-57 (popular SM 57 "clone"); Sennheiser e609 (the newer silver model); ACM 3 Ribbon Mic (sorry no Royer, but at least there's a ribbon in the mix); Sennheiser e835 (primarily a live vocal mic, but hey, I had one handy); and an Audix i5.

Guitars were an Epi Les Paul (solo & first 3 three mixes) with two humbuckers, and a maple neck MIA Fender Strat (last 2 mixes). The preamp was an 8 channel M-Audio Octane. Not my favorite for electric guitars, but it's fairly transparent, and it gave me enough channels of the same thing. The cables used were black. The mic stands were black, too.

The amp was a B-52 AT212. That's a 100 watt all tube combo with two 12" speakers. For the classic rock sounding tracks (the solo and the first 3 mixes) the gain was on about 5 for the backing guitars and between 6 & 7 for the leads. The last two tracks were through the clean channel with no gain. And yes, the amp was black as well.

And Now, the Tracks (click to go the page for that track):

The Solo (single track of gratuitous wanking--Epi Les Paul)
Track 1 (Drums, bass, left & right guitars distorted guitars, no lead--all Epi Les Paul)
Track 2 (Drums, bass, left & right distorted guitars, distorted lead--all Epi Les Paul)
Track 3 (Drums, bass, left & right distorted guitars, distorted lead--all Epi Les Paul)
Track 4 (Drums, bass, left & right clean guitars, clean lead--all Strat)
Track 5 (Drums, bass, left & right clean guitars, distorted lead--all Strat)