Microphone Polar Patterns

Microphones can have different pick up (or ‘sensitivity’) patterns based on the mechanical setup of the microphone (also called ‘microphone polar patterns’). The most popular patterns are cardioid, which is mostly front addressing, hypercardioid (or supercardioid), which is a bit narrower than cardioid with a little sensitivity towards the rear of the microphone, figure eight, which records equally on each side, and omni, which has is equally sensitive in any direction. 

Example of popular microphone polar patterns:

Microphone Polar Patterns

For most applications, a standard cardioid polar pattern is desired, as it will accurately record the sound source when front addressed, and as

Microphone Polar Pattern

AKG C4000B is a versatile microphone

such minimize the room’s effect, and other ambient sounds. Most vocal and general purpose microphones are cardioid for this reason. The other pattern types are generally desired for a specific recording application; for example, an omni pattern is great as a center microphone when recording an orchestra, capturing a nice image of the musical performance as well as the ambiance of the hall. A figure 8 may be used between two closely spaced acoustic guitarists.

Some of the more expensive microphones have built in switches that allow you to select the polar pattern. I find that 99% of the time my microphones with selectable patterns are set to cardioid, unless I have a unique recording application, but when that occurs I will admit that the selectable pattern feature comes in handy! For example, three vocalists huddled around one microphone can definitely benefit from a wider cardioid setting rather than a narrow one. The AKG C 4000B dual-diaphragm condenser transducer with has selectable cardioid, omnidirectional, and hypercardioid microphone polar patterns, is a versatile microphone that, based on it’s selectable patterns, can be used for many applications (another great option is the AKG C414, with 5 selectable patterns!).

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