By Emile Menasché
Microphones are one of those things that nobody really notices until disaster strikes. Nothing says “fail” like playing to a crowd of people who’ve just shoved their fingers in their ears. Enter the Beyerdynamic TG I51, an affordable ($129 street price) and compact dynamic mic designed to withstand high sound pressure levels and offer high gain before feedback. At first glance, those qualities seem better suited to amps and percussion than to acoustic guitar. But another item on the feature list caught our attention: “Extremely fast transient response.” Could this mic give acoustic players the detail of a condenser with the toughness and feedback protection of a dynamic?
Small Size, Large Range
Physically, the TG I51 is short and stout—79.5 mm (around 3 1/8″) long with diameter of 44mm (just under 1-3/4″). The rugged housing contains the mic stand hardware, so you don’t have to worry about losing mic clips. The package just feels and looks professional. Like many dynamics, the TG I51 has a cardioid pickup pattern designed to reject ambient noise and deliver high gain before feedback, making it especially suited for close-miking in loud situations.
Close-miking an acoustic guitar, however, is different from miking drums or an amp. The spec sheet shows a wide—though not flat—frequency response topping out at 19kHz with a pronounced proximity effect affecting the bass range. With the mic 1 cm from the source, bass goes all the way down to 33Hz. From a meter away, that rises to 80 Hz—around the same frequency as a guitar’s low E string.
After a slight bump in the low-midrange, response is relatively flat before rising gently from about 1.5 kHz. After another bump at 5 kHz and peak at 10 kHz, response slopes down and doesn’t dip below 0 dB until 19kHz. That’s more than enough top end for acoustic guitar.
COVID-era restrictions on live performance meant I couldn’t demo the TG I51 onstage with actual people in the same room. Instead, I auditioned it with my recording rig and through a Crate 125D acoustic guitar amp turned up. I tried the mic on its own an in combination with pickups. As a dynamic mic, the TG I51 doesn’t need the phantom power (or batteries) required by condenser mics. I was therefore able to use the XLR mic input of my phantom-powerless Crate without needing an extra power supply or preamp.
The mic’s size makes positioning easy. That’s fortunate, because the TG I51’s extended low end means placement is extra important. Close-miking too near the soundhole produced a bottom-heavy tone. In a live setting, this could easily get the guitar’s top vibrating and produce resonant feedback. If your mixer or preamp has a bass cut switch or even a basic EQ, you can tailor the bass and still keep the mic tight to the source. I needed to be more cautious with the Crate’s barebones mic input. However, backing off just a few inches really helped the balance, allowing me to get a full tone from the low strings without shaking the floors.
That said, the low-end bump has does have an upside. Right-hand percussion on the guitar’s top produced an impressive kick drum effect. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to test the TG I51 on acoustic bass or baritone guitar, but I think it would excel.
While the bass response was sensitive to mic placement, the midrange was smooth at a number of mic positions. I especially liked the way it captured my nylon-string. It was warm and full with a strong attack. The upper frequency range is where the TG I51 really separates itself from most dynamic mics. It sounded crisp and detailed on the nylon string and airy on the steel string. The fast transient response let the detail come through on both single-note runs and chords.
While it performed well on its own, I found the TG I51 to be more effective in combination with a pickup. Even without EQ or other processing, all I had to do was adjust the respective gain levels to get a good blend between mic and pickup.
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Dynamic mics aren’t usually my first choice for recording solo acoustic guitar, but I’ve gotten good results using a dynamic for recording live with percussion. So while I wasn’t totally surprised at how well the TG I51 performed in the studio, I was impressed. Actually, the close-mic bass bump can be advantage in the studio since resonant feedback is less of an issue. You can always tame the bass during the mix.
Again, the mic/pickup combination was my favorite best option. I’d still pull out one or two high-end condensers for most situations, but TG I51 sounded great on hard percussive strumming, which can overload more delicate mics. It can also add body in tandem with a small diaphragm condenser.
The Bottom Line
The Beyerdynamic TG I51 is well-built, affordable, and has a very wide frequency response. For the acoustic guitarist, it has something to offer both on the stage and in the studio. If you specialize in acoustic music and need a main mic, this is probably not your best option. But if you also play electric guitar, bass, or percussion—or want to add some new tonal colors to your acoustic mic locker—this solid performer merits serious consideration. north-america.beyerdynamic.com