CAD's $300 Instant Microphone Collection

Recording an acoustic guitar is not a gig for whiners, apologists, short-attention-spanners, or nervous types of all stripes. Documenting the beautiful shimmer and sparkle of a fave steel- or nylon-string takes ingenuity, intuition, and an obsession with minute details. You also need a damn good microphone. Actually, you need more than one, because a single mic—no matter how expensive and critically lauded—can’t always capture the myriad colors of an acoustic’s boom, snap, and chime.

For stereo-miking strategies, it’s a “duh” that you’ll need two mics. Recording very fine and expansive tonal details typically requires a condenser mic, and scores of engineers employ two small-diaphragm models for a bitchin’ left-right spread. For maximum versatility, a large-diaphragm condenser should be hanging on the sidelines to add some warmth and a tight low end to the equation.

Now, you could spend a gazillion dollars for those three mics, and many professional recording studios boast microphone collections that should be protected by armed guards. Thanks to CAD, however, you can grab a trio of fine mics for a very affordable 300 bucks, and forget about budgeting for a home-studio security force. The company’s GXL3000 Stereo Studio Pack ($399 retail/$300 street) offers the GXL3000 large-diaphragm condenser and two small-diaphragm GXL1200 condensers. Included in the deal is a shockmount for the GXL3000, as well as a mammoth pop filter that looks as if it could protect the mic capsule from demon spew. And although these babies value out at around $100 a pop, they aren’t “cheap” mics. They sound marvelous, and their metal casings are solid. Both models require 48-volt phantom power.


The large-diaphragm GXL3000 is a multi-pattern mic (omni, cardioid, and figure-8) with high-pass filter and pad (10dB) switches. Maximum SPL is 145dB, which means a triceratops can play punk-rock downstrokes on a jumbo and the GXL3000 won’t flinch. The mic slightly emphasizes frequencies in the 2kHz-5kHz range (this is called a “presence peak”), which nicely enhances note articulation. I tested the 3000 as a solo mic and in tandem with a single GXL1200 (the 3000 was positioned off-axis to the soundhole, while the 1200 was pointed at the 12th fret)—tracking a Larrivée jumbo, a Yamaha LS6, and an unidentified “beater” classical—and the 3000 always captured a meaty bottom end, sparkling mids, and an airy and dimensional high end. The mic’s warmth was especially useful in slightly diminishing string squeaks while playing the classical guitar. The GXL3000 is a versatile workhorse, and my only complaint has nothing to do with the mic: The metallic clacking of the shockmount’s locking pins prompted me to tape them down whenever a boisterous performance rocked the mic stand.


The CAD pack’s two small-diaphragm, cardioid condensers were used to record each guitar in high-low (one mic near the soundhole, one by the 12th fret), audience perspective (placed 12 feet away with one mic pointed at the body, and the other aimed at the headstock), orchestral (positioned behind and about eight feet above the performer), and ambient positions (placed in two corners of the room at approximately 15 feet away). In all of these stereo-miking approaches, the 1200s delivered a beautiful and very dimensional sonic spectrum. Close-miking techniques captured more attack, of course, but even the ambient positions produced articulate and appropriately jangly timbres. While the 1200s certainly aren’t the most expensive high-end condensers, they nonetheless manage to deliver a big-buck sound.