Mike Jasper's Bigass Small Diaphragm Mic Shoot-out

$300 to $500 SD mics

In my travels to studios to beg for mics, I ran into Dixie Chicks producer Lloyd Maines who told me his favorite mic for acoustic guitar was the Josephson C42. I'm guessing a lot of you will stop reading and start buying at this point.

For the rest of us hard-headed types, I'd like to list a few more in this price category, but first things first -- thanks again to Mark Viator for providing his Josephson for the test, Mark Donovan again for the AT4051 and Danny Stapleton for the Beyerdynamic MC930. Tim Britton of Pied Piper Productions also shipped me his AKG Blueline 391/393 set to try and Kelly Donnelly of Studio Plush let me hold onto his Shure SM81 for a while. Other mics in this category include the Sennheiser e 914, the Shure KSM141, Crown CM-700, Peluso CEMC6, JZ BT-201, and the Violet Designs Gold-Finger.

I know. The Violet Finger ($325) sounds like a cross between a Dirty Sanchez and a Rusty Trombone, but it's one of the outstanding mics in this category, along with the KSM141 ($400), AT4051a ($350) and the MC930 ($500). I'll also give an honorable mention to the e 914 ($375) -- an unusual sounding mic with a rich and full-bodied sound - as well as the SM81 ($350), a very familiar sounding mic almost nostalgic. One note about the new AT4051b -- according to the folks at Audio-Technica, it sounds sonically identical to the AT4051a.

There were quite a few good mics that worked well on acoustic guitar in this price category, but the one I keep coming back to is the Beyer MC930. It had a sweet high end as opposed to the bright and shiny high end of the Josephson C42. If you like that shiny high end sound of the acoustic guitars on the Black Crowes albums then you might want a C42, but if you prefer the sound of acoustic guitars in bands such as Wilco or the Jayhawks you would definitely lean toward the Beyers. The MC930 has one of the sweetest sounds I've ever heard on picked guitar. Unfortunately, I wasn't as happy with the strummed sound. But for a lead or a nice arpeggio, you'd have to spend a lot of money to do better than the MC930.

The Violet Finger also has a bright sound, but seemed easier to control than the Josephson. A couple of the mics in this category were too bright to my liking, specifically the JZ BT-201 and the Peluso CEMC6. I even emailed Peluso to see if they'd like to send another mic in case the one I bought used was a bad example, but I never heard back from them. It's possible that the one I bought used on Gearslutz was not representative, but I really found it to be harsh and brittle sounded. A huge disappointment.