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Why are the mics we use on guitar cabs so obviously the wrong shape?

Whoever designs microphones clearly thinks that they all should be microphone-shaped. But isn't it about time we had something more appropriate to the way we use them?

Think of a microphone.

OK, I'll tell you the image that's in your mind. It's either a thin near-cylindrical end-address microphone, or a fat near-cylindrical side-address mic.

You're thinking of a Shure SM57 or a Neumann U87!

Well, something like that.

The mics we use today are clearly descended from those designed in the 1940s and 1950s. And the classic shapes of the 'pencil mic' and 'bottle mic' are without doubt the most popular. Alternatives are very thin on the studio floor, or live stage.

I was watching some old concert footage on TV the other day and I noticed the mics on the guitar cabs.

They were clearly the Shure SM57 model, and they were simply hanging down in front of the cabs by their cables.

Of course, this can be seen as the lazy man's way to mic a cab. Or perhaps there weren't enough stands available.

But clearly when used in this way, an end-address mic is pointing in the wrong direction.

The problem wouldn't arise if we had microphones that were specifically designed for guitar cab miking.

If, for instance, a mic could be made in a rectangular shape with a side-address diaphragm, it could dangle from the cable with the diaphragm pointing at the speaker cone.

Or perhaps a new type of stand could be devised to fit onto the cabinet, rather than taking up floor space. Surely that would be better than using a conventional stand.

Perhaps the mic and 'cab-stand' could be one integrated structure.

Sometimes I wonder whether we are too set in our ways and we need a few 'crazy' ideas to refresh the process of making music.

Having mics that differ from the conventional forms could be a start.

Additional info: Drtek of Hospitalet, Spain, in the comments below, points out the Sennheiser E906 and the Alien Hand mic stand. Tristanjd of Long Beach, USA, mentions the Sennheiser E609. Well worth checking out.

By David Mellor Friday February 12, 2010