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The Handbook for Electro Acoustic Guitarists, Chapter 3: Microphones

Which pickup is the right one? This query from Facebook, related to the last episode, provoked a reaction followed by many likes. The answer was none. While the statement is true to some extent, such a simple solution does not serve us well in practice. So let's take a peek under the skirt of microphone solutions together.

The fundamental question is: To play or not to play (in public)? If you are not satisfied with the answer "42", i.e. you still want to play, let's tackle the trade-offs. Of course, a proper microphone is the best way to go, although transmitting the full range of "vibrational" effects of an acoustic guitar is quite a complex exercise, further complicated by the fact that few artists know the actual sound of their guitar. In fact, the playing position produces a rather distorted impression in the ear (more bass, less treble), which is why I advise, for example, when buying an instrument, to let someone else play the guitar – and listen to it from the distance. It's similar to the first time you try to record your own voice and wonder who's talking. But even when you pick up your favourite guitar with a top-notch microphone in a great studio, the beginnings are full of surprises. And then there's the usual problem – feedback.

Dynamic microphones are more resistant to feedback (e.g. vocal microphones) but they do not deliver a particularly faithful sound. Condenser microphones are almost unusable (and unused) on a louder/larger stage. Being tied to a stand – because every little movement changes the sound – is not very comfortable. It is hard to get an audience fired up these days when you're forced to stand stock still on stage.

The manufacturers did not waste time and offered quite elegant solution in the form of a microphone attached to the instrument, e.g. the excellent DPA 4099 with a special holder. However, this design can be in the way of some playing techniques, not to mention the fact that the price tag will probably make you dizzy. And the microphone is not the end of the story, you need, for example, a 48V phantom power supply, which raises further questions and issues.

Gradually, internal microphones (usually part of the preamp) started to appear. Unfortunately, the position inside the guitar is not ideal (the sound is often muffled)... and again there is the cursed feedback. So for real stage use, they didn't really catch on either. I always turn it off on stage because it's more annoying than helpful.

So, after many unpleasant experiences, I discarded microphones from my potential stage arsenal until L.R. Baggs came along with their patented TRU.MIC technology in the form of the internal microphones Lyric and Anthem. This is in fact the most faithful and also the simplest (just connect a conventional cable with jacks) acoustic pickup system I've seen so far, and I don't know how the developers at Lloyd Baggs did it, but it's also very resistant to feedback. It's not the cheapest solution, but in this case, it really pays off.

New and increasingly handy products are now appearing, such as the iRig Acoustic, which we'll touch on in a future episode dedicated to the simplified home recording of demos. And I hope you've stopped wondering why that crazy doctor keeps telling you that everything is a problem and nothing works properly. In fact, the real revelation will come in the next episode. The magic spell is "Multisource"...

Tagy handbook for Electro Acoustic Guitarists microphone

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Dr.Hyenik Orfanik
A multi-guitarist on an experimental journey towards unconventional sound and style contexts using all kinds of instruments, techniques and obscure tools. . . . According to Whiplash magazine, he is also a musical pervert, a mysterious intellectual with the visage of an overgr…