Best Microphones For Miking Recorder


I remember learning to play the recorder in my Canadian elementary school. This was before I had taken an interest in music and way before I had become interested in microphone technology.

Although I’ll personally remember the recorder as an inexpensive plastic woodwind instrument in a classroom, the recorder really deserves more credit. It’s a beautiful, full-sounding instrument with a gentle character.

When it comes time to record or spot-mic a recorder, microphone choice should be considered. So what microphones lend themselves best to the recorder? Here are my top 2 recommendations:

Top 2 Recorder Microphone Recommendations:

  • AKG C414 XLII: The AKG C414 XLII (link to check the price on Amazon) is a multi-pattern large diaphragm condenser microphone. The immense versatility of the C414 makes it suitable for each type of recorder. It can be used in nearly any miking technique in order to best reproduce an accurate capture of a given recorder’s sound. The AKG C414 XLII is my top recommended recorder microphone.
  • Shure SM57: The Shure SM57 (link to check the price on Amazon) is a famous cardioid dynamic microphone. It is my top recommended “budget” recorder microphone.

Let’s discuss these microphones further in this article and talk about why they are excellent recorder mics.


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 A Recorder Sound Like?

When choosing a microphone for any application, it’s to our great advantage to know the characteristics of the sound source. So what does a recorder sound like?

The recorder is a woodwind instrument with a whistle mouthpiece. This instrument is a cylindrical open-ended tube. The recorder, therefore, produces off and even harmonics.

With that being said, the upper harmonics of the recorder are lacking, giving the recorder a calm, warm sound (unless overblown)!

The recorder’s sound is projected from its whistle, open end and open sound holes. The instrument is fairly directional, becoming more omnidirectional at lower frequencies.

The recorder family consists of many recorders with different ranges. The piccolo recorder in C6 (highest pitched) ranges from C6-D7 while the sub-contrabass in F1 (lowest pitches) ranges from F1-E2.

A Note On Miking Recorder

Position a directional microphone between half a foot to three feet away from the recorder and point the mic at the holes in the centre of the instrument (not at the end opening). Experiment with the distance and positioning to get the best sound.

For more information on microphone placement, check out my article Top 23 Tips For Better Microphone Placement.

Frequency Range Of Recorder

Note that there are various sizes of recorder with differing ranges. Let’s look at the overall range of the most common recorders starting with the bass recorder (lowest note C3) and ending at the soprano recorder (highest note D7):

  • Overall Range: 131 Hz ~ 14,000 Hz
  • Fundamentals range: 131 Hz – 2,349 Hz (C3-D7)
  • Harmonics range: 262 Hz ~ 14,000 Hz

So we want a microphone that will accurately capture the true sound of the recorder. Knowing the fundamental frequencies and the harmonics of the recorder is a great place to start. On top of this, there are a few more criteria to keep in mind when choosing the best microphone for every type of recorder.


What Factors Make An Ideal Recorder Microphone?

Let’s discuss a short list of the critical specifications that make up a great recorder microphone:

  • Flat/Extended Frequency Response: Choose a neutral microphone with a flat frequency response to accurately reproduce the sound of the recorder.
  • Directionality: Select a microphone to best suit your miking techniques and performance situations.
  • Sensitivity: Pick a microphone capable of accurately reproducing the nuances in tone and the dynamic range of a recorder.

So we have a general idea of what we’re looking for. Let’s discuss the recommended recorder microphones through this lens:


The AKG C414 XLII

AKG C414 XLII

The AKG C414 XLII is a multi-pattern large diaphragm condenser microphone modelled after the legendary C414 microphone. With 9 selectable polar patterns, 3 high-pass filters, and 4 pads, the C414 is king when it comes to versatility. Regardless of the type of recorder, the C414 will be a top microphone choice.

Frequency Response Of The AKG C414 XLII

The frequency response of the AKG C414 XLII is given as 20 Hz – 20,000 Hz. The C414 XLII (omnidirectional position) frequency response graph is as follows:

Image from the AKG C414 XLS/XLII User Manual

I chose to show the frequency response of the C414’s omnidirectional polar pattern (of the 9 polar pattern options). This is because omni microphones often yield the most natural sound when miking a solo recorder. You can check out the other polar patterns and frequency response graphs in the manual here.

The C414 has a very flat frequency response. This means the microphone will reproduce sound (in the form of a mic signal) with pristine accuracy.

The slight boost in the upper presence range will help to accentuate the recorder in a mix. The boost of the upper-frequency range helps enhance the “brilliance” or “air” of the recorder and the space in which it is being played.

The high-end boost and the brightness that comes with it could be subjectively good or bad. It all depends on the role of the recorder, the room, and how we want the recorder to sound. The roll-off at the very top of the frequency response range help to dlightly brighten the recorder sound without it becoming overly harsh.

For more information on microphone frequency response, check out my article Complete Guide To Microphone Frequency Response (With Mic Examples).

As for the high-pass filters (HPFs), the C414 will capture the entire tenor recorder’s range with the 160 Hz HPF engaged. I’d recommend experimenting with the filters, listening to which sounds the best to you on any given recorder.

For more information on microphone high-pass filters, check out my article What Is A Microphone High-Pass Filter And Why Use One?

Polar Response Of The AKG C414 XLII

As mentioned, the AKG C414 XLII has a whopping 9 selectable polar patterns. A common choice for recording the natural sound of a solo recorder is the omnidirectional mode. The C414 omnidirectional pattern graph is shown below:

I chose to show you the graph the coincides with the omnidirectional mode polar pattern since it’s a common pattern for solo recorder studio recordings. When spot-miking a recorder, cardioid patterns would likely work better. You can check out the other graphs in the manual here.

For more information on microphone high-pass filters, check out my article What Is A Microphone High-Pass Filter And Why Use One?

Sensitivity Of The AKG C414 XLII

The sensitivity rating of the AKG C414 XLII is given as 23 mV/Pa (-33 dBV ± 0.5 dB). This means the microphone will output a strong signal when miking the recorder.

For more information on microphone sensitivity, check out my article What Is Microphone Sensitivity? An In-Depth Description.

The large diaphragms of the AKG C414 are incredibly reactive to the subtle changes in sound pressure level that happen around them. In this meaning of the word, the C414 is very sensitive. This means the microphone will capture the nuanced tones and transient information of a recorder with pristine clarity.


The Shure SM57

Shure SM57

The Shure SM57 is a very popular dynamic microphone. It’s often the best microphone choice simply due to it being so readily available. At a low price point of under $100 USD (as of the writing of this article), it seems like a no-brainer to acquire a few of these workhorse microphones for your locker.

When it comes to miking a recorder, the SM57 is a simple and effective choice. The mic is small and easy to position; it provides excellent isolation; it naturally filters out low-end rumble and high-end brilliance; and it accentuates some important harmonics and frequencies in the presence range of the recorder.

Frequency Response Of The Shure SM57

The frequency response of the Shure SM57 is given as 40 Hz – 15,000 Hz. The SM57 frequency response graph is as follows:

Image from the Shure SM57 Specification Sheet

The low-end roll-off effectively reduces low-end rumble and noise from the mic signal without thinning the sound of a recorder.

The presence boost of the SM57 helps the recorder to cut through a mix (similarly to how it helps a vocal stand out in a mix). If the presence boost is too much, try EQing it down slightly.

The high-end roll-off warms up the sound of the recorder and reduces brilliance and harshness that could be present on stage or in a lively room.

Polar Response Of The Shure SM57

The Shure SM57 is a directional cardioid microphone. Here is the polar pattern diagram for the SM57:

Image from the Shure SM57 Specification Sheet

As we can see from the graph, the Shure SM57 does a magnificent job at rejecting sound from its rear while being sensitive to sound coming in from the front.

The cardioid pattern is ideal for close-miking the recorder. The rear null point makes it easy to position the SM57 in front of a foldback monitor with little risk of microphone feedback. It also helps to isolate a recorder from surrounding instruments and sound sources.

With most directional microphones, a word should be said about the proximity effect. Note that as the 57 gets closer to the recorder, the bass response of the microphone will increase. Caution should be exercised to avoid an exaggerated low-end response on the recorder mic signal.

For more information on the cardioid microphone polar pattern, check out my article What Is A Cardioid Microphone? (Polar Pattern + Mic Examples).

Sensitivity Of The Shure SM57

The sensitivity rating of the Shure SM57 is given as -56.0 dBV/Pa (1.6 mV). This is low, but not out-of-the-ordinary for a dynamic microphone. I’d recommend a mic preamp with lots of clean gain in order to get the strongest results from the 57 on recorder.

The moving-coil diaphragm of the Shure SM57 isn’t overly reactive to changes in sound pressure. Therefore, the transient response and overall accuracy of the microphone is slightly compromised. This, however, shouldn’t pose any severe issue when miking recorder.


Let’s Recap

So these are my 2 recommended microphones for capturing the sound of a recorder. Of course, there are many microphones that sound amazing on the recorder, but in considering price and setting, these are my top 2 recommended recorder mics. Let’s recap:

  • AKG C414: The recommended microphone on recorder.
  • Shure SM57: The recommended budget microphone for recorder.

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

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