When it comes to recording live music, many challenges can come into play. No live band is alike, but more importantly neither is the space they are playing in. When recording live music, you need to take into account both the instrumentation of the band and the natural acoustics of the performing venue. Are there vocals? Are they playing in a church? A basement? If one mic is all you’re given, can it do the job?
Depends on the microphone!
Here is a list of the best microphones for recording live bands.
1. Most Versatile: Hooke Verse – Wireless binaural microphone
Compact, portable and versatile, this Bluetooth binaural microphone brings stealth concert recording to a whole new level. It works on any phone, camera, recorder or computer. Utilizing a proprietary Bluetooth recording codec, Hooke Verse can record wireless 16bit 44.1kHz stereo binaural audio to Android or iPhone at .043ms. With the included recording cable, it can also record wired binaural audio to any camera or recorder at the sample rate of your choosing. Hear the difference below (headphones on):
2. Best Field Recorder: Zoom H4N
Field recorders are great for compact mobile recording, built in storage, microphones and effects controls. The built in mics on these are known to get the job done, but not provide optimum performance, plus sharing the recordings will require some work in post. If you’re just looking for an audio recording in a small package, this can work nicely.
3. Best Stereo Microphone: Audio Technica AT2022
Will require some additional setup and you won’t be able to just walk into a venue with it. But this mic is professional grade for the pro recordist. Designed to capture instruments, ambiance, vocals and performances in stereo. There are two cardioid swiveling capsules that can fold flat for storage and transportation. Easily position the capsules to allow for narrow or wide stereo operation. A low frequency roll-off switch minimizes noise due to proximity effect, ambiance, wind and more. The AT2022 is battery operated (only) and includes a cable, stand clamp and windscreen.
4. Best On Camera Mic: Rode NTG4+
Contrary to the NTG4, the NTG$+ does not require phantom power, making it a super easy to record live music on small camera rigs. The built in battery is said by Rode to last about 150 hours. It fits securely on most steady cam rigs and has a very low signal to noise ratio for recording live music.
5. Best Phone With Built in Mic: LG V40 ThinQ
While I would never recommend using your phone to record music, if you HAVE TO, the LGV40 ThinQ is the best you’re going to get. It’s not going to be able to handle loud SPLs, but for classical or acoustic performances, it will do. It sports a complicated setup with redundancies and the ability to record 24-bit/192kHz audio files and 24-bit, 48kHz output for video (taken from the LG V30). While that’s definitely overkill, having that much extra data allows you to tweak the audio in post-production if you so choose. However, in some modes you’ll wind up recording only mono, so keep that in mind.
No one mic is created equal, just like a photographer has several lenses for several different looks, microphones should be approached in similar fashion. Remember to to keep in mind the space in which you’re recording in, instrumentation, time of day and what you can get away with bringing in. For me, recording concerts is all about capturing the essence of “being there” so you can relive again and again. This is why I choose Hooke Verse, the ultimate and most portable microphone for capturing live music.