An important part of choosing the right microphone is considering its directionality, or pick-up pattern. Have you ever noticed when singing or speaking into the side of a mic, rather than the front, your volume will often decrease? That is because the front of that microphone has more pick-up capabilities than the side.
Understanding the various pick-up patterns can help you to not only maintain a good volume, but also to avoid picking up unwanted noises that might be present in the room. Here are some of the most common microphone pick-up patterns:
Cardioid — Named for its heart-shaped pattern, this design is optimal for picking up sound in the front of the microphone. The sides will usually be at about half strength and only one-tenth strength at the back. This is actually very useful, as all you need to do to reject unwanted sound is have the back of the microphone facing the source of what you do not want to pick up. This pattern is used for most vocal or speech situations.
Omnidirectional — Gives the mic the same pick-up strength from all angles. This can be great if you are trying to capture all of the intricate nuances of sound in a room, but can be very difficult to control and is susceptible to feedback.
Supercardioid — Has slightly less strenth in the front than a cardioid, with some sound pick-up capability at the rear. Sound rejection on the sides is better than with a cardioid.
Hypercardioid — With an even narrower pick-up pattern than a supercardioid, and a stronger pick-up in the rear, this type is more likely to be found in a recording studio than on a stage. As with the omnidirectional pattern, hypercardioids can make it difficult to prevent sound bleeding and feedback.
Some higher-end microphone models allow you the option to select your desired pick-up pattern, which can be quite useful. Examples of these types of microphones are: Sure KS44, AKG C414 and the CAD E200.
Now that you’ve learned about microphone types, uses, and pick-up patterns, we’re going to begin to talk about how to apply all of that knowledge toward the art of microphone placement. Stay tuned!