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I've recently started recording some classical guitar pieces using a focusrite scarlett 2i2 and a pair of Rode M5 mics. The recordings end up being excessively bright unless there's a lot of EQ. This takes time and it's a shame to have to manufacture a sound rather than capture what the instrument is actually producing.

I've heard a number of really great and natural-sounding classical guitar recordings made using ribbon mics recently and wondered about getting something similar myself. Specifically, I'm looking at the sE Voodoo vr1 or vr2.

Does anybody have experience with these mics for any acoustic recordings and can provide some advice? Any suggestions for alternatives are also very welcome. How is the focusrite scarlett with ribbons? Is an active ribbon a must-have here or can I get away with the passive? Phantom power is available, but looking for any other reasons why I might choose one over the other.

edit: As per the rules I'm not looking for gear recommendations, just advice.

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Before you spend any money, experiment with mic positioning. The high frequency sound radiation pattern from an acoustic guitar can be very directional, and you may have phasing effects caused by sound reflecting from the floor and back up to the mic as well as the direct signal path. One way to fix that is to put the mics at floor level - or put some sound absorbing material on the floor, of course.

The high frequency sound is mostly radiated from the top of the guitar body, while the low frequencies are from the whole of the body. Again, small changes in mic positioning and aiming can make a lot of difference.

You might also try the "ORTF" mic position (mics about 7 inches apart, angled at about 110 degrees - similar to the position of human ears) instead of "X-Y stereo" (both mics at the same location, angled by 90 degrees).

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  • Thanks a lot for the advice. The room is carpeted, so no reflections from there. Walls may be a problem though. The room isn't huge! I've spent loads of time with different microphone arrangements and positions, but never with them positioned near the floor (although I've seen it used before). Currently I have to have the mics very close to the guitar, so moving some furniture around and positioning myself properly as well as the mics may be key. – user40739 Jun 2 '17 at 19:33
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Your pair of M5 mics may be budget-priced, but they're not rubbish, and should capture what's in front of them reasonably accurately (unlike ribbon mics, which are prized for being pleasantly inaccurate.)

Make sure there isn't overload anywhere in the signal chain. Try different positions, you may have a phasing issue. (Try a mono recording with just one mic. Is the tonal balance any better? Mono can be good!) And ultimately, if eq gets the sound you want, don't be afraid to use it. Twiddling a knob is a lot cheaper than buying new mics.

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  • Thanks a lot for the advice. I've maybe been a bit too harsh on the M5s in my question; I'm not against them (they're really good!), it's just not the sound I'm looking for. I'll give the mono recordings a go. There are definitely times when I get phasing issues (when I move during recording, etc.). My problem could also be the room... I have a lot of trouble getting a decent sound unless the mics are quite close. – user40739 Jun 2 '17 at 19:31
  • Since you brought up phasing, could the DAW or XLR cables have anything to do with it? The XLRs were cheap. I'm currently using Ardour, which has been fantastic so far (especially for a linux user like me), but I do worry that it could have some issues every now and then... – user40739 Jun 2 '17 at 19:35
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    Assuming they are correctly-wired XLR cables, they won't affect the tone. There's no magic tonal quality in an expensive mic cable. Whatever the air-heads on Gearslutz would have you believe! Same with the DAW. We can compare facilities, effects etc. But on a straightforward recording, Ardour will record exactly the same bits of information as any other program. What it won't (and can't) do is protect you from input overload. It is down to YOU to make sure the audio hits the analogue>digital converter at the right level. If the signal clips there, it STAYS clipped! Like any DAW. – Laurence Payne Jun 2 '17 at 20:08
  • Great, I can stop worrying about the software and cheapo cables then! Pretty certain it's not clipping, so back to mic positioning it is. – user40739 Jun 2 '17 at 23:03
  • Absolutely right re mono. Massive improvement! Starting to think I started too complicated. – user40739 Jun 13 '17 at 22:51

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