Best Microphones For Miking Electric Guitar Cabinets (Live)

So you’ve decided relying completely on your guitar amplifier just isn’t working at live gigs or in the rehearsal space. Though your amp sounds excellent, you need your guitar to come through the mains and the monitors. You need to mic that guitar cabinet up!

The Sennheiser e906 (link to check the price on Amazon) is my top recommended microphone for miking electric guitar cabinets live. This microphone is actually designed specifically for guitar amps/cabs. The e906 is designed to be positioned flat against a guitar cabinet and has 3 various frequency responses to capture the essence of your specific guitar style. This step-up for the Sennheiser e609 is very reasonably priced and deserves your serious consideration when contemplating buying a live guitar cab mic!

There are more reasons why the Sennheiser e906 is my top recommendation for miking guitar cabs live. Let’s talk about it!


Disclaimer:

“Best” is a dangerous word. There is really no such thing as a “best microphone” for any situation. The microphone(s) listed in my Recommended Microphones And Accessories” page are simply my recommendations. These recommendations are based on my own experience and are mindful of budget. It would be easy to suggest an ELA M 251 or U47 for most scenarios. However, these tube mics are very expensive, putting them out of a hobbyist’s price range and making it difficult for professionals to make their money back on the gear.

Another important note is that the microphone or equipment you choose is not the most important part of recording audio. In fact, there are many factors that are arguably more important than the choice of microphone. These include:

  • Performer (whether a musician, speaker, or otherwise)
  • Instrument
  • Microphone technique/placement
  • Number of microphones used
  • Natural sound of the room
  • Content (whether that’s the song, discussion, or otherwise)
  • Signal chain (including mic cable, preamplifier, console, and/or interface/computer)

With that being said, some microphones and gear suit some instruments better than others, prompting this series of articles under “Recommended Microphones And Accessories.”


What Does An Electric Guitar Cabinet Sound Like?

It’s critical to know the characteristics of the instrument we’re recording so that we may best match a microphone to the sound. So let’s start by discussing what an electric guitar cabinet sounds like.

Frequency Range Of Electric Guitar

  • Overall Range: 82 Hz ~6000 Hz
    Fundamentals range: 82 Hz – 1319 Hz (6 string, 24 frets, standard tuning)
    Harmonics range: 164 Hz ~ 6000 Hz (louder, more pronounced harmonics happen with distortion)
    Important Harmonics: First harmonics (164 Hz – 2638 Hz) 

Frequency Range Of A Typical Electric Guitar Amp/Cabinet

Typically a guitar amplifier will produce a frequency range of 70 Hz – 6,000 Hz, which will reproduce all the important information of an electric guitar signal.

A cabinet that produces a range that greatly exceeds 6,000 Hz at its high-end with sound harsh. If a cabinet produces a frequency range that’s well under 6,000 Hz in its top end, it will sound dull.

Remember that amp distortion or guitar pedal distortion increases the amplitude of these upper harmonics and has the potential to even add new harmonics.

So we need a microphone that’s particularly effective at reproducing the frequencies of the electric guitar cabinet (~70 Hz ~ 6,000 Hz) in order to capture all the good stuff!

What Makes An Excellent Electric Guitar Cabinet Microphone In Live Settings?

  • Tailored Frequency Response: As discussed, the frequency range of guitar cabs is typically 70 Hz – 6,000 Hz. Get a microphone that compliments the sound of the guitar cab.
  • Directionality: Choose a microphone that will effectively isolate the guitar cabinet from the rest of the noise on stage.
  • Versatility: There’s a huge variety of playing styles, musical genres, guitar and guitar amplifiers/cabinets. Pick a microphone that’s versatile enough to accommodate as many styles as possible.
  • Size and Mounting: Pick a microphone that has as little footprint as possible especially when performing on a smaller stage. Mounting a mic on the cabinet itself will reduce the potential for the mic to get moved during a performance.
  • Durability: As with any live instrument or microphone, select a live guitar cab mic that’s durable. Microphones are much more likely to be mishandled in live situations.

The Sennheiser e906 For Miking Electric Guitar Cabinets Live

Sennheiser e906

The Sennheiser e906 is a microphone designed with guitar cabinets in mind. Let’s see how it matches up to the above criteria.

Frequency Response Of The Sennheiser e906

The frequency response of the Sennheiser e906 is listed as 40 Hz – 15,000 Hz. Here is the frequency response graph of the e906:

Image from the Sennheiser e906 Specification Sheet

As we can see in the above graph, the e906 has a relatively flat curve in the range of the standard guitar’s fundamental frequencies.

The gentle roll-off of the low-end frequencies will be made up for by the proximity effect when the microphone is placed at the guitar cabinet’s mesh.

So the e906 does a great job at accurately capturing the frequencies of the electric guitar cabinet.

Versatility Of The Sennheiser e906

We notice 3 lines in the frequency response that correlate to the 3 switchable options of the e906. These options affect the mic’s response to the “high-end” of the guitar frequency range by increasing or decreasing the mic’s sensitivity to those frequencies. The 3 options are:

  1. Bright: The biggest boost in the high-end of the guitar frequency range. Use this to brighten up an otherwise dull sounding guitar cabinet.
  2. Moderate: This setting still does an excellent job at accentuating the top end of the guitar cabinet, allowing the guitar to punch through an audio mix.
  3. Dark: This setting causes a relatively flat response in the presence range. Use this if the guitar amp is a bit too harsh (too much treble or distortion).

By fully internalizing the sonic differences between these 3 options, you can opt for the best choice for any given guitar amp or playing style.

Directionality Of The Sennheiser e906

The Sennheiser e906 is a supercardioid microphone, meaning it’s very directional where it points and has a small “lobe” of sensitivity to its rear. Here is the polar pattern diagram for the e906:

Image from the Sennheiser e906 Specification Sheet

Let’s say we position the e906 right up against the screen mech of a guitar cabinet (the suggested placement). The guitar cabinet will physically take up just less than 180-degrees of the microphone’s directionality. This means the microphone will be most sensitive to the guitar cabinet while rejecting most other noises on the stage.

The rear lobe of the e906’s supercardioid patten picks up sound as well. However, the amplitude of these sound waves (if the guitar cabinet is positioned away from the other instruments/monitors) will be small compared to the cabinet’s sound waves. It’s also important to note that the rear lobe will also pick up much of the guitar cabinet sounds.

This directional pattern does exhibit the proximity effect, as mentioned earlier. This means there will be a slight boost in the bass frequencies of the microphone when it’s positioned against a guitar cabinet.

The supercardioid polar pattern of the Sennheiser e906 provides sufficient isolation of guitar cabinets even in live situations.

Size And Mounting Of The Sennheiser e906

I love the compact size of the e906. It’s roughly only 51/4” long, 21/8” wide and 13/8” thick. This makes it easy to carry around and easy to mount to a guitar cabinet.

The Sennheiser e906 is a side address microphone, so it gets mounted flat against the microphone cabinet. This makes it a super efficient mic when it comes to stage space.

The e906 (and it’s predecessor e609) are both often seen simply hanging in front of a guitar cab with their XLR microphone cable looped through the carrying handle of the cabinet. Of course, this puts unnecessary tension of the mic’s XLR connection and on the XLR cable. However, I’ve never heard of anyone complain about equipment damage from using this method. The only thing to really watch out for is that microphone doesn’t spin around and point away from the guitar cabinet at any time! Luckily the e906 has the “front” of the microphone labelled as such.

Alternatively, you may use a mic stand to properly position the e906 or an “amp clamp.”

Durability Of The Sennheiser e906

The Sennheiser e906 has a reinforced steel body that provides ample protection from physical harm. It’s also a passive moving-coil dynamic microphone. The capsule is relatively tough and there are no fragile electronic components that easily break.

The e906 is also recommended as a drum/percussing mic by Sennheiser. Sennheiser is a company that ensures their “drum mics” are very resistant to physical damage (ie: getting hit by drum sticks).

The Sennheiser e906 is road ready when it comes to durability!


Recap Of The Sennheiser e906

So now you know why the Sennheiser e906 is my top recommended microphone to capturing the sound of guitar cabinets in live situations.

The e906 is a durable, compact, and easily mountable microphone, making it optimal for road life and live performance. It’s got a versatile frequency response to compliment every guitar style and it does an amazing job at isolating the guitar cabinet on noisy stages. What more can you ask for in a live guitar cab mic?

For all the My New Microphone mic/gear recommendations, please check out my page Recommended Microphones And Accessories.