Tag: Shure

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:

Omnidirectional:

Omnidirectional

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.

Subcardioid:

Subc

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:

Cardioid

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.

Supercardioid:

Supercardioid

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:

Hypercardioid

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.

Shotgun:

Shotgun

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.

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Professional Headphones 15 % Off Sale at Sonic Electronix

Professional Headphones Promotion

If you are looking for an upgrade in the field of home, DJ, or studio Professional Headphones now is the time to act. For a special limited time only Sonic Electronix will be offering a 15% discount on all of our Professional Headphones. As the holiday season comes around the corner now is the perfect time to purchase those high quality headphones you have always wanted. With manufacturers like Audio Technica, Grado, Sennheiser, Kicker and many more you are sure to find exactly what you want and need.

Professional Home Headphones

The want for high-quality sound reproduction is what sets the true audio listener apart from your average every day listener. Headphones like the SR60i and SR80i from Grado offer a fuller sound reproduction that is almost never seen in your standard pair of headphones. Here you will get cleaner, crisper and more accurate highs, mids, and lows. Kicker’s HP541 headphones also provide that higher-quality that makes listening to music a whole new experience.

Professional DJ Headphones

With professional DJ style headphones not only is sound quality important but aside from that they must feature some sort of swivel of the ear-cups and extreme flexibility. Pioneer’s HDJ-500K, and HDJ-1000 offer unique folding housing and joint movement that allow for flexibility during performance which allow for easier use when mixing. The same goes for the Shure SRH750DJ and SRH550DJ headphones. These headphones excel in low and mid frequency reproduction which is essential to a good DJ. A DJ is only as good as his equipment, and these DJ style headphones will allow for true artistic presentation.

Professional Studio Headphones

Studio monitoring headphones are a complete different ballgame in the professional headphone category. These headphones will pick up a very wide range of frequencies which is needed for proper monitoring and mixing. Audio Technica’s ATH-M50, Sony’s MDR-V600, and Sennheiser HD 280 Pro headphones all offer a very dynamic sound reproduction and are able to reproduce frequencies that are not always heard but play a significant role in the overall sound quality and production. Studio monitoring and mixing professional have a great sense of hearing but even they need a reliable pair of professional studio headphones to get the job done as accurate as possible.

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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.

Overheads

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.

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Ortofon Cartriges: Styli with Style


OM S120

Sonic Beauty at an Arm’s Length

On the end of your turntable’s tone arm there are typically three parts that make up the assembly that converts the grooves on your vinyl record into audio.   This process is called transduction and works just like the transduction process of a microphone or loudspeaker.  These components are the headshell, the cartridge, and the stylus.   The cartridge and stylus are the most important components of your turntable as they are directly responsible for the tonality and any coloration in the reproduction of audio from your record.

Put the Needle on the RecordOrtofon Pro S Stylus

The stylus or needle is diamond tipped and found in one of two designs; spherical, which is primarily used by DJs for scratching as the physical properties allow for better tracking force, or elliptical which is the preferred choice for audiophiles looking for higher fidelity and a true to life frequency response.

The stylus comes in contact with the grooves of the record and is caused to vibrate both back and forth as well as up and down forming the left and right side of a stereo signal.  This vibration is transmitted via the cantilever to the cartridge.

The cartridge is where the kinetic energy of the stylus’ motion is converted into electrical energy in the form of an audio signal.  This is done by an electromagnetic induction process very similar to that of a dynamic microphone.   In fact both processes are referred to as a moving coil electromagnetic induction.   So you can look at the cartridge as a little microphone and just like the vast array of microphones for various audio applications Ortofon has a wide selection of cartridges and styli for every possible turntable application.

Keep On the Right Track

Ortofon specifically designs cartridges for turntable applications from scratching to digital transfer even for use specifically with Serato time coded vinyl like the Ortofon Concorde DIGITRACK and Ortofon-Serato Concorde S-120 which uses asymmetric suspension technology allowing superior tracking force and seamless response, key for controlling Serato Scratch Live while preserving the integrity of your time coded vinyl with a low wear design.

Ortofon has revolutionized the DJ cartridge industry with their all-encompassing Concord assembly which combines the stylus, cartridge, and headshell into one assembly, although the majority of Ortofon’s DJ cartridge line is Ortofon Pro S Stylusalso available in an OM model, which is designed to be used with a traditional headshell such as the Ortofon OM Q.BERT.  Co-developed by one of the most legendary DJs of all time, this cartridge combines unmatched tracking ability and low vinyl wear with a high output level tuned with an elevated midrange that pulls the scratch front and center in a mix.

Outside of the DJ community there is a resurgence in popularity of vinyl records as both a novelty and a hi-fi alternative to the compressed digital media. This has prompted a need for both a high fidelity cartridge that is suited for digital transfer and recording such as the Ortofon CC ARKIV.

Ortofon cartridges set the standards to which all other cartridge manufactures are compared and SonicElectronix.com is proud to carry the complete line of the finest DJ cartridges in the world.

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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)

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