Recording Acoustic Guitars with sE Electronics Microphones

Recording Acoustic Guitars with sE Electronics Microphones

sE Electronics was founded in 2000 by Siwei Zou, a Chinese classical musician, who desired to produce microphones of exceptional quality and design. Since 2008 the sE factory has been run by Siwei’s daughter, employing 12 engineers and 80 employees, focussing solely on manufacturing their own products. This is different from other production facilities where many different products are produced for any number of companies.

sE has the distinction of being the only manufacturer to collaborate with Rupert Neve, a legend in the history of recording equipment and technological development.

All sE microphones have their condenser capsules and ribbons are designed and built by hand entirely in-house. And from the chassis to the shock mount the assembly of each component is even the same attention to detail. Every microphone produced is tested in an anechoic chamber and given approval of the highly-trained testers gifted with exceptional hearing.

sE embrace the philosophy of ‘great design makes for truly great equipment’ and have removed the distinction between affordable and professional.

So while sE microphones are found in world-class studios around the globe, they are an ideal match for home and project studio setups, producing great results but at very competitive prices for the average musician’s budget.

Acoustic guitars are a great passion of mine, especially solo fingerstyle. I’ve used 4 microphones from the sE range to record an original piece I am working on in DADGAD tuning on my Maton guitar. 

The X1 A microphone offers first-class sound and specs at an amazing price point for the home-studio musician. This mic is a true workhorse, being equally at home with vocals, acoustic instruments, electric guitars and percussion. The build quality is superb; this is obviously a series microphone and not a ‘toy’. With all-metal housing, integrated windscreen, attenuation and low cut switches and a gold-plated XLR connector, the X1A will offer you years of reliable service, it makes an excellent first studio mic and it may be the only mic you need!

As an all-rounder this microphone does a good job on the acoustic guitar, if not tending to be a little bright. In a band mix this could be ideal, for a soloist they might be reaching for the EQ to tone it down a bit.

The sE1A is a small diaphragm microphone (also available as a matched pair) ideally suited for recording acoustic instruments, percussion, drum overheads, and the like. The sE1A has a frequency range of 20Hz to 20kHz, with average noise levels and sensitivity that is more than enough for typical studio applications. 

Once again, the design and finish makes this look like a quality microphone, and the performance backs it up. For the money this is an outstanding choice. Yes there are better microphones on the market but you could expect to pay much more and even then, depending on where and how you are recording (and what you are recording), the results may not be noticeably better, if there is any discernible difference.

Small diaphragm microphones such as the SE1A pair exceptionally well with acoustic guitars. The SE1A captured a well-defined and very useable recording. It is also important to consider the context for the part within a recording. These mics do not have the same low end present as can be found in their large diaphragm counterparts, but this might be exactly what is required for the part. An EQ plugin can always help to shape the sound and add the low end in of required.
One of the challenges with recording acoustic is that the positioning of the mic can dramatically change the end result, even if only moved a small distance. When working by yourself this can be even more challenging because you are managing your DAW or recording device, possibly a camera or phone if shooting to video as well, and then trying to play and be aware of mic positioning too! Something like a walk-up stand can be very useful for this situation.

The sE 2200a has been used by countless artists across the globe. It has won multiple awards itself and also been used to record vocal tracks that have gone on to win Grammy’s. The latest incarnation adds multi-cardioid patterns, a quick-release shock mount with integrated pop filter, and a non-reflective black finish. The mic has a frequency response of 20Hz to 20kHz, with a slight bump around the 10kHz region which adds an airy quality to the mic, but it is decidedly subtle. The latest circuit also adds in some low-end warmth, flattering the signal, but once again it is very subtle. 

Whilst excellent as a vocal mic, this is also an outstanding mic for solo acoustic guitar. While a small diaphragm microphone might be more sonically ‘accurate’ a large diaphragm model will add more ‘lushness’ to the end result. When recording acoustic guitar parts that will be mixed into a band context, I will typically go for the small diaphragm mic as it ‘sits’ better in the final result. But when recording a solo performance or a simple guitar and vocal track a large diaphragm mic will make the track sound bigger, better and more engaging. 

I think the result on my Maton is outstanding. The 2200a is a terrific microphone and a great addition to any home studio setup. 

The 4400a microphone offers great flexibility with outstanding sonic results. Put it up to just about anything and it will sound great. With 4 polar patterns, a vintage-style brass capsule. two bass cuts and two pads with a very effective included shock mount, the 4400a is destined to become a modern classic.

On an acoustic guitar this mic really shines. It delivers the depth and ‘woody’ sound of an acoustic, as well as the transient detail of the strings. 

The design of the shock mount is also quite ingenious, in that it allows the use to position the mic so that it is practically touching the source. Most shockmounts will have spider arms or elastic supports getting in the way. The angle of the mic in the shockmount can also be adjusted for further tweaking.

This mic model might just be the best choice available in the mid-priced section of the market.

In all these microphones offer an affordable but very good option for recording quality tracks at home. 

Need advice on setting up a home studio? Or tips on getting better recordings? Email or drop into the store.

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