Tag: Microphones

Polar Patterns (Demystifying Microphones, Part 2)


In the first Demystifying Microphones blog entry, we focused on two of the most common types of transducer principles of microphones: dynamic and condenser. In this blog, we’ll be learning about the various “polar patterns,” of microphones.

Polar what?

First of all, no; polar patterns have nothing to do with cold temperatures or the North/South Poles, so feel free to toss that idea out of your head right now. Polar patterns are simply directional measures of microphones’ sensitivity to sound. Not simple enough? Okay, let’s break it down some more.

It should be noted that the diagrams below are relative to the “address type,” of the microphone. Fortunately, those aren’t difficult to understand, as there are only two: side address and top address, which just mean microphones pick up sound from either the top or the side. Easy, right?

Anyway, as of now, there are 7 main types of polar patterns:



An omnidirectional microphone, as you might infer, is one that picks up sound from all directions (hence the prefix “omni”). Technically, such a thing is physically impossible because the microphone’s body itself gets in the way of sound pickup. Try picking one up and recording something with the capsule facing away from the sound source and you’ll hear what I mean. Regardless, the idea is that it picks up sound from all possible directions, which can be fantastic for recording natural ambiances for use in post-production or video games.



If you were to do a Google search on “subcardioid microphone,” (as of the date of this blog) you’d find one Audio-Technica microphone in particular (the AT808G) and a few separate microphone capsules. The idea with this polar pattern is to combine the advantages of both omnidirectional and cardioid patterns; specifically, a fuller low-frequency response but less “proximity effect” (which is just an increase in bass that occurs when the microphone is placed close to the sound source), and clearer, more accentuated side and rear sound pickup than a cardioid. The usefulness of this polar pattern is debatable due to its relative scarcity.



Cardioid, plain and simple, is the most common unidirectional microphone, and is named such because of its heart shape. This pattern is most common due to its rejection of sound reflections (or “reverberation,” or “echoes”). It serves to reduce feedback (which can be terrible if it gets out of control, believe me), and can be particularly useful for picking up a specific sound amidst noisy environments. However, they are susceptible to “plosives,” (popping wind sounds that occur with “P” and “B” words) and the aforementioned proximity effect. Despite its shortcomings, the pros of this polar pattern certainly outweigh the cons.



You know, it seems like whoever came up with the names for these polar patterns probably should’ve given it a bit more thought. Rather than having 5 variations (that I know of) of “cardioid,” it seems like these other patterns could’ve had more descriptive, or at least more creative names. Anyway, I digress. The “supercardioid,” is a slight variation of the cardioid pattern, as you can see in the diagram. It does well to capture direct sounds and it has a little lobe in the back to pickup more natural reflections; great in situations where you want a little more environmental sound in the mix.



Hypercardioid is pretty much the same thing as supercardioid, but with a slightly larger lobe in the back to capture a little more environmental sound.

Bi-Directional or Figure 8:

Figure 8

Now, we have the bi-directional – or Figure 8 – pattern. Microphones with this pattern pickup sound equally as well from either direction. Most often, you’ll find this pattern in ribbon microphones. You’ll usually see bi-directional microphones used in headsets and broadcast microphones due to their natural, uniform sound quality.



At last, we have the shotgun polar pattern. Unlike their ammunition-filled counterparts, microphones with this pattern are highly directional. Due to their slim frames, shotgun microphones are often used in film and theater in order to pick up sound while remaining relatively out of sight. Shotgun microphones have a unique design that has the pickup capsule located behind an interference tube with tiny slits on the sides. This interference tube significantly diminishes sound from the sides because of phase cancellation. In short, the longer the tube, the tighter the pattern, thus greater sound rejection from the sides and greater focus in the front.

So, that’s that! For now, at least… I hope you all enjoyed and learned something valuable from this.


Last Week At The Winter 2012 NAMM Show…

Sonic Electronix was at the NAMM show, and here’s just a bit of what we saw:


Special 50th anniversary edition with stunning traditional urushi lacquer finish, hand-painted Japanese maple leaves, etched-on serial number, and carefully crafted wooden carrying case



Did you hear that guy say that those microphones were hand-painted with a mouse hair brush? How awesome is that?! Anyway, even beyond its aesthetic appeal, it’s quite an impressive microphone. It’s got a dual-diaphragm capsule, three switchable polar patterns and transformerless circuitry that almost completely eliminates low-frequency distortion.






ATH-M50s/LE : LIMITED EDITION Professional Studio Monitor Headphones (with straight cable)

Special 50th anniversary edition in silver-colored metallic finish


This pair of headphones, while not hand-painted with a mouse hair brush, is another pretty sweet offering from Audio-Technica for their 50th anniversary. They’re collapsible and include a carrying pouch for easy transportation, they boast a frequency response of 15 – 28,000 Hz (8,000 Hz above the range of human hearing – perfect if Fido wants to listen to his favorite doggie tunes on his next walk) and proprietary 45 mm large-aperture drivers with neodymium magnets. Worth every penny, if you ask me.


Keep an eye out for more Audio-Technica gear coming soon to your favorite audio gear e-tailer, Sonic Electronix!

This next video is of the amazing Reactable – an electronic instrument that uses numerous sound generation and manipulation modules to create music in a way that, as far as I know, is completely unique:

As stated in the video description, for those of us who don’t have the luxury to decide between buying a brand new car or buying an awesome new instrument such as The Reactable, there’s a delightful alternative: a Reactable app that’s available on both the Apple App Store and the Android Market. Check out http://www.reactable.com for more information.

Also, be sure to check out SonicTV on YouTube for more informative and fascinating videos of products to come!


This Holiday Season, Treat Yourself to Superior Earbud Headphones from Klipsch

Klipsch Image S4i (Black)

Ever since Apple revealed the iPod back in 2001, those little white earbuds that conveniently come with Apple’s portable media players have been ubiquitous. Heck, it’s near impossible nowadays to walk down the street without seeing several people wearing them. Now, while those earbuds might satisfy the average, casual listener, people who want more impact from their music have to look elsewhere. Well, if you’re one of those people, look no further.

The Klipsch Treatment

Klipsch Image S4i (Black) Image 13
Since 1946, Klipsch has been making stellar quality audio products and the Image Series earbuds are certainly a grand addition to their catalog. Specifically, these black S4i earbuds have a frequency range of 10-19,000 Hz, going below and beyond the range of human hearing to reproduce infrasonic elements of your favorite music that you might never have known were there without headphones like these. Plus, with Klipsch’s proprietary noise-isolating technology, you can fully immerse yourself in your music like a true fan* should. These beauties also come with 3 sized pairs of washable ear tips (yes, washable. Aural hygiene is important!): Small, Medium and Large. They’re also available in white: Klipsch Image S4i (White), for those of you who may have grown comfortable with the Apple earbud design.

More Than Just Another Set of Headphones

As if all that wasn’t enough, these Klipsch earbuds also include a 3-button microphone and volume remote on the wire (see above image) for full control of your iPhone, iPod touch or regular iPod (be sure to check the compatibility list in the product description). Don’t feel left out, Android users! Klipsch has earbuds for you, too: Klipsch Image S4A (Black). Android users will want to download the free Klipsch Control App to customize the functionality of your calls and music through the single button remote. Despite that slight difference, both of these models have a 360° pickup mic with advanced echo cancellation built-in, so your callers will be able to hear you well in nearly any environment. If you’re concerned about the tenacity of the cable, fret not dear reader(s). The cable is not only durable, but tangle resistant as well. Who needs all the fussing with knots when all you want is to enjoy music?! Certainly not this writer.

Make sure to pick up a set for you and yours soon, ’cause they’re flying out of our warehouse as we speak! (Well, as I write and you read. You get the point.)

* “Fan” is short for “fanatic.”


Proper Microphone Technique for Drums

Properly micing your drum set can make or break the success of your performances or recordings sound.     Improper mic placement can result in an amateur sound at best.   So here are a few tips to help you get the most out of your microphones and drums.

The Kick

The majority of microphones to be used on a drum set will be dynamic microphones.   This is because dynamic moving coil microphones feature a faster transient response.    That means they they are better at picking up the initial attack of the drums.    As with all bass instruments it is better to go with a larger diaphragm microphone.  So on the kick drum a large diaphragm dynamic mic is the obvious choice such as the AKG D112 or the Shure Beta 52.     There are a few things to consider regarding the placement of the microphones on drums.   The closer the mic is placed to the center of the drum  thicker and creamier tone may result.  This may be a desired effect for funk and rock n roll sounds but what if you play in a jazz trio and you’re looking for a more natural sound.   Try placing the mic closer to the rim of the kick drum to  pic up the ringing shell, or try and off axis placement where you may place the mic near the center of the drum but aim the mic toward the shell or vice versa.   In this way you can dial in a combination of the two desired sounds.     For you metal guys try miking the other side of the kick by the beater.   I find an off axis technique aimed right for the point of contact works the best.   For even more attack  tape a quarter to the beater to give you enough attack to cut right through those muddy guitars and basses and really articulate blast beats.

The Snare and Toms

The same principles apply to the snare drums as kicks.   Thicker, fatter sounds can be found toward the center of the drum while more natural shell sounds can be found on rim.    The glaring problem with this is that you will need the mic out of the way of the sticks so for the snare and toms an off axis placement is implemented.    The preferred mic of choice for snares and toms are also dynamic microphones however in the case of a snare drum a smaller diaphragm top address instrument mic is preferred such as the Shure SM57.


Now that you have all of the drums mic’d up you can shift you attention to the cymbals.

Rather than using dynamic microphones on cymbals you should use condenser mics.   You wont need as much transient response so you can feel free to take advantage of the added clarity and detail offered by condenser microphone.    The over heads will be placed on boom stands and as you can imagine elevated over the drummers head.    The most common techniques call for the use of two mics to be mixed in stereo either in coincident, where the mics are placed close together and aimed in different directions, or spaced pairs where the mics are placed further apart and aimed at specific cymbals.    In both cases the mics are typically aimed at the ride and hi-hat.    To simplify the overhead set up a stereo microphone can be particularly handy.   My personal favorite is a stereo ribbon mic like the AT4081.

Accent Mics

So say you have you have your drums mic’d up and you have a few extra condensers available.   To cover your bases you can add a few accent mics to your cymbals.   Typically the first choice for a spare mic will be on the high hat or the bell of the ride cymbal.    Cymbals have similar properties to drums in that micing closer to the edge of a cymbal will result in mid range washy sound while micing the center or bell of a cymbal will yield a tinny higher pitched tone.      Another popular technique using a small diaphragm condenser mic is to pair it up with a small diaphragm dynamic mic on the stare maximizing the best of both worlds and combining fantastic transient response with clarity and detail.    Phase issues may result in the combination so it may be necessary to make some adjustments on your preamps or physically manipulate the two mics so that the sound arrives at both mic capsules at the same time.   Placing a mic on the underside of a snare drum may give you some extra sizzle.


Demystifying Microphones

Samson Gtrack

An Introduction to TransductionShure SM57

Microphones are how we convert sound into audio, or more specifically electrical impulses that represent sound waves using an analogues wave form where the various peaks and troughs of a sound wave are represented in both frequency and amplitude by an electrical signal.   This process, as well as any process in which one form of energy is converted into another form of energy, is called transduction. In fact this is the exact opposite of how loud speakers work.

Different Kinds of Microphones

The key component of a microphone is the transducer which is commonly referred to as the capsule.   In music production there are two basic microphone designs.  These types are based on the type of capsule they use.

Dynamic MicrophonesDynamic Microphone

Dynamic or moving coil microphones such as the Shure SM57 (pictured above) use electromagnetic induction to recreate the electrical signal interpreted as audio.   Sound Waves from your voice or guitar amp come contact with a mylar diaphragm which is attached to a coil suspended over, on, or around a magnet.    The intended frequency response and polar pattern is the direct result of the size and type of magnet being used being ferrite or neodymium and the orientation of the coil.

Condenser MicrophonesCondenser Microphone

Condenser Microphones condenser mics such as the Audio Technica AT2020 (pictured below) operate a little differently.   Sound waves still contact a diaphragm in the same fashion but instead of being directly attached to a moving coil the diaphragm serves as one of two metallic plates suspended with an electrical charge between them.  The diaphragm plate is free to move in direct correlation with the sound waves that contact it while  the fixed back plate  remains stationary in relation to the diaphragm. Audio Technica AT2020 The electrical charge between the two plates exhibits a variable level of capacitance.  As the plates move closer and further apart with the sound waves, a bias signal directly modulated by the capacitance is interpreted as audio.  Because the transducer as well as the bias signal requires an electrical charge to operate, an external power supply is needed and is most commonly found in the form of Phantom Power.  Phantom Power is +48V of DC power typically supplied by a microphone preamp, although sometimes condenser microphones are powered by internal batteries as well as AC power supplies.

Less physical energy is needed to move the diaphragm of a condenser microphone therefore they can be much more sensitive. For this very reason dynamic microphones are used more frequently in live sound reinforcement as open air monitors tend to cause condenser microphones to feedback. Dynamic microphones are favored on drums as their simpler circuitry results in a faster more articulated response as well as high SPL tolerances.

Be sure to check out Part 2 for further information:
Polar Patterns (Demystifying Microphones, Part 2)