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Understanding a Microphones Polar Pattern is
Key to a Killer Sound.
by Joe Schlicht

Previously I talked about the different types of microphones. Specifically, dynamic mics vs. condenser mics. Now I'm going to take it one step farther.

With all mics there are polar patterns, or pickup patters.

  • Omni
  • Cardioid
  • Super Cardioid
  • Hyper Cardioid
  • Figure 8

Omni mics pick up sound from all directions. They make good room mics for a bit of ambience with your recording, or they do well to pickup an ensemble where more than one source needs to be recorded.

Cardioid is a directional mic, picks up sound in front of it. These are good if you want to focus on a source in front of the mic while rejecting sounds behind it. The area not picked up directly by the mic is considered to be off axis.

Supercardioid and hypercardiod are the same as cardioid only more tightly focused on what it picks up in front while having a larger off axis response.

Careful!! Also with cardioid, hypercardioid and supercardioid, you have what's known as the proximity effect. Meaning that the closer a source is to the mic, the more lower frequencies are picked up due to harder pressure on the diaphragm. Some recording engineers exaggerate this effect to get a bigger sound, like on a kick drum for example, or to get a bigger sound from a vocal.

A figure 8, or bi-directional polar patter picks up sound on both sides of the mic but has null points on the side. This pattern is good for recording things in front of and behind the mic while rejecting sound from the sides that are off axis.

So to sum up...

Dynamic mics are generally less expensive and are robust, while condenser mics offer a wider frequency response and record transients better, but don't forget they need to have phantom power. Use omni directional mics to pickup room sounds or an ensemble, use cardioid mics to pickup a frontal source while rejecting off axis sounds.

What is your experience with microphones? Do you have any Tips, Tricks, or Tweaks you'l like to share? Email us. We'd love to hear from you!

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