Bad Mic choice?

I’m having a first go at recording acoustic guitar. I’ve watched all the videos and I’m sure I have a good set up.
I’m going into a 3rd gen Focusrite, have the Mic about 10 inches in front of the sound hole and it’s a nice Taylor guitar with plenty of body, however the signal is pitiful.

I have to crank the input on the focusrite to full and even if I move in really close to the mic I still have to bash out some very heavy chords to reach 50% on the meter, twiddly stuff barely registers.

I’m guessing it’s the mic, it’s a Shure SM57. Is this the completely wrong mic for recording acoustic instruments?

I’ve tried putting the 48v on, using both inputs and switching between “inst” and “air” but it’s hard work!

I can get a recording done but there’s no way I’m going to get any subtlety like this.

If I need a different mic what would you recommend, home studio level is fine.


SM57 is a very good mic, though many might say it’s not ideal for acoustic instruments. Personally, I like it for certain uses, I’m a violinist and an sm57 works nicely for live performance, mainly due to its warm and not-so-detailed sound which makes it easy for an engineer without a lot of experience with upper strings to get a good result, also it can take a beating, such as high sound levels as from drums or amplifiers, which is a common use for them.

Do you have the pad turned on? Check the manual for your interface for what that is.

You’d probably do well to learn about is the difference between dynamic mics and condenser mics, it will be super informative to you.

By the way, dynamic mics put out much lower gain than do condensers. They do not use phantom power (the 48v switch you refer to). Note that feeding power to a dynamic mic can break it, though usually there are (electronic component) safeguards in place to prevent that.

I’m no real expert…but when I started recording acoustic guitar, I used an SM-57 going into a 1st generation Focusrite 18i8 interface, and had similar results to what you said. I bought myself an SE-Electronics Z-3300-A condenser microphone (delisted now, but there are plenty of similar performing mics available - or check eBay) and my results improved massively. Obviously it all depends on your budget, this was around £180, but they do some cheaper models which may get somewhere near the results you want. Definitely go for a condenser, though.

PS if it is an electro-acoustic and you have 2 inputs, record a DI signal as well.

The sm57 has not the hottest output, but far more than a sm7b or a ribbon.
I would prefer a SDC or a LDC mic.
The last place I would put any mic. would probably be in front of the sound hole. Close to the 12 fret is my preferred placement if I only have one mic.

You can feed the output from one preamp to the next, but might be a hassle if you only got that interface ( monitoring, phantom power, etc)

Thanks for everybody’s advice.
It seems I need a nice condenser for the acoustic, been watching more vids after reading all your thoughts.

I’m leaning toward this Rode NT1A:

It’s been recommended by several of the channels I watch and seems good value, then I’ll keep the SM57 for vocal duties.
What do you think?

Wait, step back from that conclusion you are jumping into.

Both of those mics are capable of recording a guitar just fine (I’ve got 'em both). They will sound different, but neither is right or wrong - just different. And that Rode will nicely record your vocals too. Good budget choice.

If you are using the same guitar on multiple Tracks you might even want to purposefully switch mics so the Tracks sound a bit different.

I’m not specifically familiar with the Focusrite interfaces but a lot of audio interfaces have internal controls that let you adjust the gain levels beyond what the external knobs can do. What is the exact model you are using?

I’m a bit surprised no one has mentioned another possible cause of level problems - one that gets me every 10 years or so & takes me way too long to figure out. :blush: Make sure you don’t have a marginally bad cable.

The cable is brand new raino and good quality, this recording was its first use!

There aren’t any software options to increase the gain, its a focusrite 2i2 3rd gen. While I’m certainly a newbie I have been through all the levels on the buss and mixer in cubase. As I say I can get a recording but it’s with everything at maximum leaving no wriggle room.

I will buy the Rode Mic and give that a go, the worse way I will have 2 reasonable mics to faff with!

Appreciate everyone’s time, I will update the thread when the new mic comes and let you know if it helped.

And the cable is xlr to xlr?
The focusrite 2i2 3rd gen, has a preamp gain of 56dB, that should be enough to get a decent signal.
A signal level of -12dB is fine for recording.
Anyhow the NT1a is a great LDC for the price.

Hi peakae, so in layman’s terms that means I should be able to get a decent signal even on a relatively low gain setting on the focusrite?

Definitely not getting that. As I said, gain turned all the way up, mixer volume on the input channel very high, guitar played loud and tight to the mic and I still only get about 50% showing on the cubase meter.

Something is not right!

The new mic comes on Tuesday, I’ll try that first in case there is a problem with the Shure, I’ll eliminate one thing at a time. If I have the same issue with the NT1A then I’m clearly not doing it right (which is most likely!)

Good point about the connectors. If your mic cable has a phone connector instead of xlr the Scarlet will expect a line level which is much more than a mic level.

From the manual

The front panel input sockets are “Combo” type, which accept either an XLR male connector or a ¼” (6.35 mm) jack plug.

The full gain range of the microphone preamplifier is only available to a mic connected via the XLR contacts. If your microphone has an XLR plug on the end of the cable, you can simply plug it in. If it is a “condenser” (or “capacitor”) microphone, you will need to turn on the 48 volt phantom power for it to work. Most modern microphones of other types, e.g., dynamic or ribbon, will not be damaged by the inadvertent application of phantom power, but note that some older mics may be; if you have any doubt, please check the specification of your mic to ensure that it is safe to use.

If your mic has a jack plug on the end of the cable, it will probably require an adaptor to make it usable with the XLR part of the Combo connector. Inserting the jack plug will configure the preamp with reduced gain, which is likely to be insufficient for the mic (see below). Mics intended for use with computer sound cards may also require a much lower phantom power voltage, so an adaptor specific to the mic type should be obtained in this case.

The Scarlett 2i2 has no “Mic/line” switch – the Focusrite preamp stage is automatically configured for a microphone when you plug an XLR into the input, and for a line or instrument when you connect a jack plug. Set the INST switch ON (‘INST’ illuminates red) if you are connecting musical instrument, e.g., a guitar in the example, using an ordinary 2-pole (TS) guitar jack. Set the INST switch to OFF if you are connecting a line level source such as a keyboard, synthesiser or the balanced output of an external audio mixer via a 3-pole (TRS) jack. Note the Combo connector accepts both TRS and TS types of jack plug

Even if you resolve the gain issue, you should still use it as an excuse to get that second mic.

Sure, you’d think a brand new cable would be good, but you can’t really assume so - been down that road before. Best way to test is to use it on a different mic… Guess you really need that Rode for debugging purposes :wink:

Gday CombatPython.

I’m pretty sure the 3rd gen 2i2 uses the Focusrite control software, just the 1st and 2nd don’t. Try downloading that and see if you can tweak in there to improve the signal strength.
I have both the Rode Nt2A and 1A and they are a both brilliant Vox and acoustic mics a good choice IMO and a great price. It took me awhile to get my acoustic guitar sounding how I wanted it to sound, and not thin and watery. I agree that anywhere near the sound hole is just too explosive close up and you lose strength to far away, somewhere near the 12th fret, a few inches off and on an angle pointing to the sound hole I find is the spot for me but that’s my opinion and as we all know, opinions are like arses (we all have them).
Forgot to ask, are you using XLR to XLR?

I also use the iRig Acoustic Stage mic from IK Multimedia. It sounds pretty bloody good especially if you blend with other sources, pretty cheap too.

Good luck with your search for the perfect wave (sound wave :wink: )

To answer some questions:

The cable is xlr to xlr, I have another which I tried with the same results.
There is control software with the 3rd gen Focusrite but doesn’t have any options to tweak the gain, just an onscreen method of pushing the buttons really.
I’m not under the “Inst” setting and I’ve tried both xlr channels with the same result.

I am positioning the mic in front of the guitar but pointing at the 12th fret and about 12 inches from the instrument which is recommended on lots of youtube stuff, this only results in about 10% signal though. I mentioned having it right up against the sound hole because then I can get it up to about 50% with heavy chord playing but this is with everything turned up to max. I wouldn’t use that position to record it’s just the only place that the guitar actually gets picked up!
Been trying again this morning and I just can’t get any volume out of it, even with full gain on the focusrite and blasting the guitar straight at the mic.

I’ve recorded a real Bass guitar and a couple of channels of electric guitar in this same project with no problems and everything is playing back fine so I don’t think it’s a mixer balance issue or anything like that.

Anyway, I appreciate all the help, the new mic should be here tomorrow so I’m going to stop bashing my head (and your heads!) on the wall and wait for that. If it’s exactly the same result then I have to start tearing things down but I’m a bit suspicious of this Shure mic, knowing me I’ve probably plugged it into a lawnmower or something and broken it! I know I’ve used it before but cant recall the results, perhaps I tried to put phantom power through it and fried it.

I’ll update when the Rode arrives, if it gives me the same issues then I’ll probably take up stamp collecting.

Thanks for everyone’s time.

I recorded an acoustic guitar with an SM 57 a while back (UR 22 mk II interface) and managed a decent level. Now I’m using an NT 1 for guitar and am very happy with the results, You won’t regret buying the Rode: hopefully it’s the Shure at fault.

My guess is that this is probably not a microphone issue at all (except that you should not be switching on 48V phantom power on a dynamic microphone).

For troubleshooting purposes a screenshot of your Cubase mixer may be helpful here, including input channel, and ROUTING and PRE rack sections.

I don’t use the focusrite 2i2 3rd gen. but do I understand correctly that this uses the Focusrite Control software? Is the Focusrite Control software set up correctly? How are you routing the signal from the microphone?

In my opinion, you might be expecting too much from an SM57 and if this is a ‘first go’, you may be trying to record too hot and not monitoring loud enough. A recording doesn’t have to have the meters hitting the top of the scale in order to be a good recording, especially when tracking. It’s a common misconception. Also, what you see on the meters would generally be described in terms of peak and average levels in dBs and not in terms of a percentage. An SM57 should be able to give you reasonable levels. If you are recording at 24bit you can achieve a good recording by aiming for peaks between -10dBFS and -6dBFS, for example. If the level is ‘too low’ boost the input gain on the interface. If it’s still ‘too low’ you have another 48dB of gain on the input bus in Cubase in the PRE section. But in my opinion be careful of what you mean by ‘too low’… you may be trying to record too hot while monitoring too low.

Do you have any nearby musician friends where you can test the mic on their setup and/or borrow a known working mic.

In the MixConsole for the Input Channel (not the Channel you are recording to, but the one for the physical input) can you expand the Pre section and verify that the gain isn’t being changed there.

Another possibility is that the Focusrite is messed up and treating your mic level signal as if it were a line level signal. Unlikely, but…

stingray is right that some screen captures might be useful. In addition to the MixConsole, go to Studio Setup and right below the VST Audio System entry there should be one for your Focusrite (something along the lines of ASIO Focusrite) on that page click the button Control Panel which will open the Focusrite settings - take pics of everything there, even on different pages or tabs.

For what it’s worth
although it is for 2nd gen.

Right, new mic arrived this morning.
It’s like night and day!

With the Rode sitting about 25cm from the guitar I’m getting a really clear and strong signal into the DAW with the Focusrite gain set at about two thirds, lovely stuff. I tried swapping out the mics with exactly the same settings and once again the Shure picks up virtually nothing, I have to start cranking everything and moving in to get some signal.
You might think this would make the Shure suspect but last night I set up a vocal track and tried some mid volume vocals into it and it performed absolutely fine. It has to be something to do with my room or the guitar or something, I’m too noob to suss it but I’m very happy now anyway.

Thanks for everyone’s assistance, no doubt with a lot more experience I may find out what I was doing wrong but for now I have everything covered.
Happy days!

Raino, you said:
“In the MixConsole for the Input Channel (not the Channel you are recording to, but the one for the physical input) can you expand the Pre section and verify that the gain isn’t being changed there.”

I don’t understand this mate, I have Pro 10.5 but I can’t find this Pre section on my Stereo In, I’ve looked in the setup options for the mixer but can’t see this setting. Would be handy to know what this is in case I do have this setup wrong. Could you noob me through it please?

Hi you - you made a good choice with the rode - still things are strange somehow - your vocal recording with the Sure worked as expected… I cannot imagine the issues have something to do with your guitar or your room.

Was the Sure Mic connected and routed the same way as when you tried to record the guitar with it?

Regards, Ernst

Gday Mate.

In answer to your question about the “where the hell is the “Pre” part of the Mix Console.”
In the Mix Console window, The channel that has your input level (guitar in your case) there is a section above that, that has access to EQ, sends routing etc and of course “Pre”. It has a little slider that you can adjust. This is used for gain staging and stuff (I don’t personally use it that much, but it’s there). If you can’t see it it may be that it is hidden, in which case you will need to unhide it by pressing on its little coloured circle…I think it’s near the “configuration” tab up the top, I’m not near my Cubase computer at the moment, so trying to remember. Anyway, good luck with it and I’ve put an image below to highlight what I’m banging on about, which I stole from the internet.

And Raino. I apologise in advance if I’ve hi-jacked your comment with an answer, especially if that’s not what you meant…coz I’d look like an knob if that’s the case.

Oh, yeah, good news on the Rode mic!! As I said, it’s a kick ass little piece of kit. Enjoy!

Hi Matt, appreciations from this Pom for your time!

The Pre line is the only one I don’t have. I’ve been in to the configs and ticked everything. My Mixer looks identical to the one in your pic but without the Pre section. I’ve had a quick butchers in the Preferences and can’t see anything regarding this. Not sure why mines different.