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Best Microphones for Recording Piano

The piano is a complex instrument with lots of nuances, overtones, and harmonics that make them sound the way they do (and that we all love). Everything, from the instrument’s wood and soundboard to the room that it is in will greatly affect its tone.

Naturally, when recording an acoustic piano, we want it to sound as natural as possible. To achieve the perfect audio quality, we must choose the right microphones for the job and position them in an optimal way.

Today, we’re reviewing 8 products to find the best microphones for recording piano. As this is a complex instrument that is not always easily mic’d, we are also going to give you a few tips and tricks regarding techniques to be employed in the sound capturing process; As well as discuss the best miking configurations (stereo pair, off axis, etc). Keep reading to learn more.

Tip: If you’re also looking to record vocals or want a microphone that can be employed in a variety of tasks, make sure to also check out our Best Microphone for Vocals article.

We Tested 8 Products and Found the AKG C414 to be The Best Microphone for Piano Recording

AKG C414

The Audio-Technica AT2020 and the LyxPro SDPC-2 Were Our Prefered Budget Options

Best Microphones for Piano Recording – In-Depth Review

Table of Contents

#1 AKG C414

AKG C414

The AKG C414 initially came out in 1971 and has been a staple in the music industry ever since. It has been used in tons of records to record anything: from vocals to acoustic guitars, drums, and, of course, acoustic piano. It is one of the most popular condenser microphones in the world.

Product Specifications

  • Condenser Microphone
  • 9 Selectable Polar Patterns
  • 3 Switchable Bass-Cut Filters
  • 3 Attenuation Levels
  • +48V Phantom Power Required
  • XLR Connection

Pros

  • There are 9 selectable polar patterns (5 patterns, 4 intermediate settings). This makes the AKG C414 one of the most versatile condenser microphones in this list. The possibilities are virtually endless.
  • There are 3 switchable bass-cut filters built-in in the body of the microphone. This can save a lot of time in the mixing process later.
  • There are 3 attenuation levels (-6/-12/-18dB) for optimal gain-staging. You can adjust these settings according to how loud the sound source is and how close the microphone is to it.
  • A very sturdy and professional-looking metal case is included with the microphone.
  • The signal-to-noise level is pretty impressive, meaning even the quietest, highly dynamic recordings will sound their clearest.

Cons

  • The price is very expensive.

Verdict

Considering the AKG C414 is an industry-staple and one of the most famous condenser microphones there is, there’s no doubt about its sound quality and design. The unit is one of the most versatile on the list, too. It can be used to record pretty much anything. The drawback is the price: it is a big investment and not so affordable for those on a budget.

Alternative: AKG C214

#2 Behringer C-2

Behringer C-2

The Behringer C-2 is sold as a matched stereo pair of condenser microphones. Matched pairs are excellent for recording piano because they’re not only designed to work their best together, but can lead you to achieve a natural sound. Behringer is a brand that usually offers very cost-effective products, so we decided to review these units.

Product Specifications

  • Condenser Microphones
  • Matched Pair
  • Cardioid Polar Pattern
  • Switchable Low-Frequency Roll-Off
  • Input Attenuation (-10dB)
  • XLR Connection

Pros

  • A matched pair works wonders when miking acoustic piano. You can achieve a natural-sounding stereo recording with ease.
  • The construction and design of these microphones are very rugged and sturdy.
  • The Behringer C-2 matched pair uses transformerless FET inputs to eliminate distortion in the low frequencies.
  • The frequency response is pretty flat in the low frequencies, although it has a bump in the high frequencies.
  • The pair is very cost-effective and affordable.
  • You can easily use the Behringer C-2 matched pair with another microphone (usually in the middle of the acoustic piano) for an improved sound. We will talk about these miking techniques further down the article.

Cons

  • None that we found.

Verdict

For a price so low, the Behringer C-2 matched pair does a very great job. Sound quality-wise, it is impressive; And if you search for product reviews about these units on the internet, you’ll find that most buyers are pretty happy with it.

Sure, these condenser microphones are not the most versatile, since for most applications, such as vocal recording, a large-diaphragm mic is usually preferred (not to say that you can’t do it with a small one, though). But, the affordability of this product makes it perfect to be used as a complement to other microphones.

#3 Neumann TLM 107

Neumann TLM 107

Neumann is one of the industry-leading brands when it comes to microphones. The TLM 107 is a state-of-the-art condenser mic that can be used in a variety of studio recording situations, including capturing all of the nuances of the tone of a piano. This versatility comes not only from the design quality but the multiple polar patterns, pad, and switchable filters.

Product Specifications

  • Condenser Microphone
  • 5 Selectable Polar Patterns
  • Switchable Low-Cut Filter
  • Switchable Attenuation Pad (-6dB, -12dB)
  • XLR Connection

Pros

  • There are 5 selectable polar patterns (omni, wide cardioid, cardioid, hypercardioid, and figure-eight), making this microphone very versatile and excellent for testing different configurations while recording piano.
  • The microphone comes in a wooden case with a pretty impressive build quality.
  • The navigation between the switchable low-cut filter and attenuation pad is pretty unique and intuitive.
  • The very wide frequency range is extremely flat but has a small bump in the high frequencies that can help give your recordings more shine.
  • Apart from being great for recording piano, it is an excellent microphone for recording vocals too, due to its flat frequency response.
  • Reduced sensitivity to dust and humidity, ensuring the durability of the product.

Cons

  • High price.

Verdict

The Neumann TLM 107 is an investment for life and will work wonders for recording piano. The most astonishing fact about this microphone was, for us, the flat frequency response. That will be a great advantage when capturing the natural sound of acoustic instruments. The price, however, is not that affordable, topping $1,395 by the time this article was written.

#4 Sennheiser MKH 8020

Sennheiser MKH 8020

The Sennheiser MKH 8020 looks unusual upon first look. This is because the pencil-style condenser microphone has a modular design. It is sold both as a single mic and as a stereo matched pair: one MKH 8020 can already go a long way in terms of capturing all of the nuances of an acoustic piano, but you can get an even better result employing a stereo pair to the job.

Product Specifications

  • Condenser Microphone
  • Omnidirectional Polar Pattern
  • +48V Phantom Power Required
  • XLR Connection

Pros

  • This microphone has a quite impressive frequency range, going from 10 – 60,000Hz, according to the manufacturer. 60,000Hz is far past the human hearing capabilities, but the increased response comes super in handy when capturing piano higher frequencies.
  • The omnidirectional polar pattern can capture sound coming from all sides of the microphone equally. This means you’ll have a great result putting this mic inside a piano body.
  • The Sennheiser MKH 8020 has extremely low self-noise. Self-noise is the amount of noise produced by the mic itself. Obviously, a smaller level is always preferred, especially for highly dynamic instruments like the piano.
  • If you have a nice-sounding room, this microphone will capture the nuances of it very well.

Cons

  • High price.
  • Not as versatile as other options on the list.

Verdict

The Sennheiser MKH 8020 is an excellent piano mic because it can be easily fitted inside the instrument’s body. Also, its omnidirectional polar pattern is perfect for the job because it has a much wider sound capturing than a cardioid, for example. However, you must have a properly sound-treated and isolated room for it to sound nice.

The only drawback with this model is that it is quite expensive, especially the stereo matched pair option. Also, it is not as versatile as other mics on the list that have multiple polar patterns, such as the AKG C414.

#5 Shure SM7B

Shure SM7B

The Shure SM7B is one of the most famous dynamic mics in the music industry. Originally made for broadcasting purposes, it quickly found its way through many vocal recordings. It is a great microphone to use if you’re after a more aggressive and compressed piano sound.

Product Specifications

  • Dynamic Microphone
  • Cardioid Polar Pattern
  • XLR Connection

Pros

  • The frequency range of the Shure SM7B is considerably flat and easy to work within the mixing process. All the frequencies of the sound source are translated relatively naturally.
  • The advanced electromagnetic shielding ensures a noise and hum-free audio recording.
  • This microphone sounds awesome for recording vocals too.
  • If you already own a condenser microphone, it can be a great idea to use it with a dynamic mic like the Shure SM7B, near the piano strings for a sound with a greater impact.
  • If your recording environment is not optimal, the Shure SM7B will do a pretty good job at keeping background noise out of your audio due to its dynamic capsule and cardioid pattern.

Cons

  • Not all audio interfaces’ preamps have enough power to drive the Shure SM7B. You may need an external one or a cloud lifter.

Verdict

Depending on what kind of piano sound you’re after, the Shure SM7B can be a great choice for the recording process. You can use this one mic with a close miking style to achieve an aggressive and impactful sound.

It may not be the best option if you’re seeking a more natural sound though. If you already have a condenser mic, you can play a bit with microphone placement and use the Shure SM7B as a complement.

#6 MXL 770

MXL 770

The MXL 770 is a pretty cost-effective solution. It has a balanced sound with a great dynamic range and the price is pretty affordable: around $100 by the time we wrote this article. As it is excellent for being used with vocals too, we consider this to be an all-in-one option.

Product Specifications

  • Condenser Microphone
  • Cardioid Polar Pattern
  • Switchable Low Cut Filter
  • Switchable Attenuation Switch (-10dB)
  • +48V Phantom Power Required
  • XLR Connection

Pros

  • The MXL 770 is a pretty versatile and affordable mic. You can not only record piano with it but tons of other musical instruments.
  • It has pretty good extras for a mic so affordable, such as the low cut filter and attenuation switch (-10dB). It’s also great to know that MXL is very transparent about the components inside this microphone.
  • The microphone has an excellent response in the low-end and a solid bass. There’s also a boost in the very high frequencies (up from 8kHz) that can give more clarity and air to your piano sound.

Cons

  • The small diaphragm of the capsule may limit you a bit.
  • Only one choice of polar pattern.

Verdict

For piano recording on a budget, the MXL 770 performance is solid. It is a versatile unit that can be used with other instruments and will be a breeze to set up in the recording process. If you plan on using it as your only mic though, you may feel a little limited especially when it comes to microphone placement inside the piano.

The reason for that is that the diaphragm in the MXL 770’s capsule is smaller than other condenser mics and there’s only one choice of polar pattern. Not that the product won’t do the task though.

#7 Audio-Technica AT2020

Audio-Technica AT2020

Audio-Technica has a lot of high-quality mics in its catalog. The AT2020 is the entry-level model from the company and you can usually find it for a very affordable price. We tested this microphone in other product round-ups and it is one of our favorites when it comes to condensers on a budget.

Product Specifications

  • Condenser Microphone
  • Cardioid Polar Pattern
  • +48V Phantom Power
  • XLR Connection

Pros

  • Considering the value for the price and the versatility that it brings for recording studios and home-recording musicians, this is one of our favorite products among budget condenser microphones.
  • Pretty good sound quality and audio sensitivity.
  • The high maximum SPL in this microphone ensures that it won’t distort when subjected to very high volumes and close miking situations.
  • The Audio-Technica AT2020 has a surprisingly flat frequency response.
  • The pivoting stand mount may help in the mic placement process.

Cons

  • No switchable filter or attenuation pad.
  • Only one option of polar pattern.

Verdict

The value for the price paired with the sound quality has led us to pick the Audio-Technica AT2020 as our favorite recommendation of budget microphone for recording acoustic piano. Especially if you’re looking for your first mic, you can’t go wrong with this unit: it will be versatile and suitable for a ton of applications.

One of the features we liked the most about was that it has a very high maximum SPL. The maximum SPL level measures how much sound pressure the mic can withstand. A higher SPL means that you will get less distortion and clipping in your recording at high piano volumes and when close miking the instrument.

Tip: We made a special article for microphones on a budget on Best Microphone for Vocals Under 100.

#8 LyxPro SDPC-2

LyxPro SDPC-2

The LyxPro SDPC-2 is a matched pair of pencil-style condenser microphones. Similar to the previously reviewed Behringer C-2, it brings a great balance between sound quality and affordability, and their particular design could help you achieve a stereo accurate recording.

Product Specifications

  • Condenser Microphone
  • Matched Pair
  • Three Polar Patterns
  • +48V Phantom Power Required
  • XLR Connection

Pros

  • These are a matched pair of microphones. They’re made to be used together and can be employed to achieve a stereo recording, more true to the real piano’s sound.
  • The bundle comes with 3 capsules for each mic, each one with a different polar pattern: omnidirectional, cardioid, and super cardioid.
  • The price is very affordable.
  • These mics have an extremely flat frequency response on all three of the polar patterns and a very linear performance.
  • The aluminum case looks great and is very sturdy and trustable for transporting your microphones around.

Cons

  • None that we found.

Verdict

We decided to consider the LyxPro SDPC-2 as our runner-up budget pick only because it is not as versatile as the Audio-Technica AT2020. The LyxPro product will give you a great quality recording and is an excellent piano mic that can be used in a stereo configuration. Plus, it has 3 different polar patterns to be selected, ensuring a great deal of experimentation.

Factors to Consider When Selecting a Mic for Piano Recording

Let’s list some of the important factors to keep in mind when shopping for microphones for recording piano.

Condenser Vs Dynamic

This is the first point you will come across when shopping for microphones: condenser vs dynamic. Condenser mics have more sensitivity and are usually employed in recording studios that have a sound-treated and soundproof environment so that there’s no background noise in the recording.

Most dynamic mics, on the other hand, have less sensitivity than a condenser one and are preferred for situations where there is a lot of noise in the recording environment, such as live shows. A dynamic mic will also not require +48V phantom power as condensers do.

Both types of microphones will work for recording piano, the main difference being what kind of sound you’re after. You can even employ the two types using some microphone placement techniques.

Polar Pattern

The polar pattern of a microphone determines in what direction the mic will focus on capturing. There are several different polar patterns, here are some of them:

Cardioid

If the microphone has a cardioid polar pattern, it will focus on sounds coming directly from the front of it. This is great if you want to reduce background noise and off axis sound.

Supercardioid

Similar to cardioid, but with an even more focused pickup pattern.

Omnidirectional

The capsule will pick up sounds from all around the microphone.

Figure 8

The capsule will pick up sounds from the front and the back of the microphone.

Maximum SPL (Sound Pressure Level)

The maximum SPL determines how much volume a microphone can take before it distorts. Pianos are loud instruments so you want a mic with a high maximum SPL, especially if you’re close miking a grand piano, for example.

Extra Recording Equipment Needed

Not related to the quality or design of the microphone, but if you want to connect your mic to a computer for piano recording, you’re going to need a few extra things.

First, you need a digital audio workstation. A DAW is the heart of any modern recording studio and will work to record, sequence, and edit your songs. You can learn more about them in our Best DAW Software article.

Second, an audio interface. An Audio interface will intermediate the communication between the mic and your computer. Nowadays, they are pretty affordable and compact. Check some options in our Best Audio Interface article.

Tips for Recording Pianos

Recording piano is one of the most complex tasks in the music making process since the instrument is full of nuances and details that must be captured in their entirety. Here are some tips for achieving a superb piano recording.

Consider the Type of Piano you’re Recording

Depending if you’re recording a grand piano or upright piano, you will have to employ different miking techniques. These two types of instruments are made differently and each one has its own sound particularities.

Try Opening or Closing the Lid

Opening or closing the lid will have a major effect on a piano sound. If you’re recording an upright piano, a closed setting may sound more intimate and smooth, but an open lid may help the instrument cut through the mix, giving it more air.

In the case of a grand piano, you can try different heights to find the optimal sound. Tone-wise, a grand with an open lid will greatly reverberate and resonate across the room; With a closed setting, it will sound more contained.

Try Different Polar Patterns

Especially if your microphone has selectable polar patterns, it is a great idea to try them all to achieve a natural piano recording. Try, for example, an omnidirectional mic in the center of the instrument.

Try Different Miking Techniques

There are countless miking techniques that can be employed when recording piano. You can use a pair of condenser microphones right above the keys for a natural piano sound, or a combination of a room condenser and a closed-miked dynamic for an extra bite.

Consider the Genre you’re Recording

Obviously, different genres will require different techniques and considerations. If you’re recording classical music, for example, you will want the most natural piano sound possible. For genres like pop, you usually have more room for experimentation.

Tip: Check out our shotgun microphone product round-up at Best Shotgun Microphone for Film

Conclusion

In our best microphones for recording piano article, we reviewed 8 great products that will do the job excellently, but three of them caught our attention: the AKG C414, the Audio-Technica AT2020, and the LyxPro SDPC-2. They were our overall top pick and budget top picks, respectively.

When recording piano, remember to consider the rest of your recording equipment too. Always use an audio interface with a clear-sounding preamp and a digital audio workstation that you’re comfortable working with. And, of course, good quality cables.

AKG C414

AKG C414 – Overall Best Microphone for Recording Piano

The legendary microphone AKG C414 proved to be a versatile solution that can be employed for nearly anything and is a perfect piano mic that will capture all its details. It is a life investment.

Audio-Technica AT2020

Audio-Technica AT2020 – Best Budget Option

The Audio-Technica AT2020 is the perfect solution for musicians on a budget. Apart from being a superb microphone for recording piano, it is an excellent choice for vocals too. Plus, it is very affordable.

LyxPro SDPC-2

LyxPro SDPC-2 – Runner-Up Best Budget Option

The LyxPro SDPC-2 matched pair can be used for stereo miking and comes with three capsules with different polar patterns for each mic. This configuration will provide you with nearly endless options at an affordable price.

How to Buy

If you decide to buy or want to learn more about any of the microphones reviewed in this guide, the link to their Amazon product page is at their respective titles on the list.

We hope that our article was helpful in showing you some of the best microphones for recording piano. Be sure to read our related posts, share them with your friends, and contact us if you need any assistance!