If you are recording acoustic guitar on a regular basis and you want to take capture a good stereo image then one option is to use a matched pair of microphones.
The RØDE M5 matched pair are now at such an attractive price point that I felt it was worth investing in a pair to see how they worked out against some of the much more expensive competition such as the DPA d:dicate 4011 which I reviewed here back in March 2015.
The M5’s are compact condenser microphones with ½” gold-plated membranes and a fixed cardioid pattern. Like most RØDE microphones they have a very low self noise (19dB-A) and can be phantom powered from a 24 or 48V source.
I purchased the optional Stereo Bar which allows both mics to be mounted on a single mic stand and to be set up in the three most popular configurations, XY, ORTF and Stereo Spaced Pair. The bar has got useful and clear white markings to make positioning of the mics easy to set up. The bar doesn’t have a swivel joint so it’s a bit trickier if you are using a boom arm but with the spacers supplied and the ability to rotate and tilt each of the mics, it’s possible to set up in each of the configurations.
Even with their very compact dimensions the mics have full size XLRs to connect to. The small physical size makes it really easy to keep the mics close enough to the guitar without overwhelming the performer.
My first session with the M5’s was working with an R&B artist to record five tracks of new material. All of the tracks had acoustic guitar as a foundation of the song, in this case using an Australian Cole Clark ‘Fat Lady’ Six String Acoustic with Bunya Top with Queensland Maple Back and Sides. This is a very vibrant resounding guitar so I was interested to see how the M5’s coped with the range of tones and strong resonance of this great guitar.
We settled on an XY recording configuration which gave enough stereo width without it sounding artificially wide. I pointed one mic towards the rear of the sound hole and the other down towards the 7th fret which I find gives a nice range of tones to work with.
The mics had plenty of sensitively and I used a pair of Safe Sound P501 mic amps recording at 24bit 88.2kHz into Sonar.
So how do the M5’s sound?
In the main I found the tonal balance very good. In most cases I added a touch of low end EQ reinforcement; just enough to bring out the natural body of the guitar. The stereo field was generally fine as recorded but I did some fine adjustment using a 500 series Stereo Toolbox which includes stereo width adjustment within its toolkit. Generally the Cole Clark didn’t require any track compression but I did use a bit of 2-buss compression (SSL …….) just to pull the track together.
The very low noise of the M5’s means that you don’t have to mic too close and this helps the recorded tonal balance a lot. It also means that the quieter elements of picked guitar and the beautiful resonance of the Cole Clark were accurately captured.
And of course you can use the M5’s to record a whole range of instruments either as a stereo pair or used separately for mono tracking. We did some Djembe recording in the same session and the results were really excellent. Plenty of bass response and just fine in coping with the high acoustic level (read very loud!) of the Djembe.
The M5’s are well made, have good sensitively matching and at a street price of around £130, €180, US$200 you really can’t go wrong. I know they can’t match the shear class of the DPA 4011 capsules but at a mere fraction of the DPA price, the RØDE M5’s would be a fine addition to any studio. I’m going to get myself another couple of pairs!