5 Great Microphones for Recording Your Guitar on a Budget

As a guitarist who gigs occasionally, noodles daily, and creates or covers songs as much as possible, I spend an embarrassing amount of time researching the best guitar gear to get the sound in my head blasting out of the speaker cab on the end of my patch cable.

However, it took me a while to wrap my head around this: recording is part of the creative process, so recording gear choices also matter. As I’ve slowly transitioned my living room into a live room for home recording, I’ve begun to curate a collection of mics that, like my pedals, have their own unique quality and character. They might not make a sound, but the way they capture, interact, and respond to the guitar sounds I’ve created has made mics a critical item in my gear arsenal.

If, like me, your creativity far exceeds your budget, here are my top mic picks that will help you get more out of your guitar gear and extend your creative process in a home studio.

What is it? What makes it cool? What does it cost?
Shure SM57 Standard issue for a reason. $60-$100
Sennheiser e609 Honest and articulate. $60-$110
sE Electronics X1 S An affordable large diaphragm condenser. $136-$150
RODE NT1-A Bundle option gets you extras for a solid price. $100-$150
MXL R144 Warm, natural tone. $45-$95
Shure Beta 57A

Some gear is standard issue for a reason, and we would be remiss if we didn't start by recommending a longstanding staple in home and professional studios everywhere: the Shure SM57.

Its unidirectional cardioid pattern helps reduce background noise and focus at the source it's pointing at, which—in combination with its flat-topped grille—makes it great for placing in front of your guitar amp to capture an articulate representation of your tone. But while the SM57 is certainly tried and true for this application (evidenced by all of the records it has helped make), it's not the only Shure worthy of consideration.

The SM57's cousin, the nearly indestructible and exceedingly versatile Shure Beta 57A, also makes a great choice for recording your guitar. It's a lot like the SM57 (and similarly priced) but features a round-topped grille and extended frequency response, which makes it capable of delivering brighter, more sparkling highs and deeper, fuller lows.


Sennheiser e609

The sound capturing characteristic of the Sennheiser e609 is honest, yet articulate. As a hang-over-the-top-lollipop mic of sorts, the e609 is designed to work sans mic stand. This design is a huge space-saver for the already cramped home studio.

Simply plug it in and dangle it over your amp at the desired position over your speaker and stand by for the precision and punch you’d expect from a side-address super-cardioid pickup pattern. These sonic and structural assets also make it ideal for gigging: Toss one in your guitar case, and mic yourself up on stage to ensure you’re sending the sound engineer the sound you want.


sE Electronics X1 S

If you’re a recording guitarist, your studio mic arsenal should include at least one large diaphragm condenser mic. While this style of mic used to be reserved only for the holy grail of top-tier mics, these days, exceptional designs and expert craftsmanship doesn’t have to come with a huge price tag. I mean, what’s the point in building a home studio if you’ve got to remortgage the house?

Take the sE Electronics X1 S. Tucked beneath its rugged mesh grill and metal housing is a hand-crafted, custom condenser capsule and high-performance circuit to offer up class-leading sonic response while minimizing signal loss. The onboard attenuation switch to cut 10 or 20 db and switchable low-cut filter put the shape and contour of the mic literally at your fingertips.

For loud electric guitars or super bright acoustics, these provide a tailored attention to detail for your sound as soon as it enters the room.


RODE NT1-A

Another leading contender in the large diaphragm condenser category is the RODE NT1-A. Some might argue that these little silver bullets are the SM57 of this part of the mic world. They’re economical, rock-solid, and uncompromising in character and versatility.

The NT1-A is rightly hailed for its realistic quality: It gives you the organic sound of your guitar and the natural feel of your room. This is ideal for the home-guitarist-turned-producer whose looking to first capture a carefully crafted song, and then rework it through DAW plugins. As a middleman in that transaction, the NT1-A ensures that the finished product still has the heart of the idea that inspired you in the first place.

To stretch your home studio bucks further, check out the all-black RODE NT1-A bundle that goes all in with a shock mount, pop-filter, and black satchel that could double as classy gift bag for that bottle of whisky you’ll re-gift at next year’s Christmas gift exchange.


MXL R144

If you’re looking to try something completely different in the home studio, a ribbon mic just might do the trick. Ribbon mics aren’t only for the upper echelon. Designs like the MXL R144 put that legendary sound within reach for the economically minded, aspiring mic aficionado.

The figure-eight pattern of the R144 smooths out guitar signal peaks and lofty vocal pitches by gently cloaking them in a warm and natural tone. With a pickup pattern that listens in and relays sounds on both sides of the microphone, these are ideal for getting an entirely different sound out of your small space.

I’d recommend these for giving a classic and homey feel to a singer-songwriter setup, getting a full and rich sound for an impromptu living room jam session, or, my personal favorite, toying around with different mic placements relative to a washy and ambient amp. With all of these, the MXL R144 captures huge sounds in a small package.


Our natural inclination as guitarists is to gravitate towards gear that makes brilliant, inspiring, jaw-dropping sounds. Yet mics are so much more than traffickers of your guitar creations—they’re an extension of your setup. They pick up the job where your pedals and amp left off.

Whether recording live or in a living room, having a few mics to choose from will let you hear your guitar gear in fresh ways and extend your creative qualities as a writer and players turned producer.


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