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Microphone Polar Patterns – Part 1: Omnidirectional

The Straight Story On Microphone Directionality

There’s a lot in this world that confuses people. Algebra, insurance policies, Stephen Hawking’s theories, to name a few. In the music world, microphone polar patterns seem to cause a bit of head-scratching. Of course, polar patterns aren’t as confusing as, say, the nutritional information on a food label, but they confound plenty of people. So to clear the air, let’s take a look at the different polar patterns and the benefits of each.

“Polar pattern” refers to a microphone’s directionality or pickup pattern – the three-dimensional space surrounding the capsule where it is most sensitive to sound. There are six main polar patterns: omnidirectional, cardioid, supercardioid, hypercardioid, ultra directional and figure of 8. Most microphones are designed with a specific pattern and are therefore best-suited for specific applications. Other microphones offer selectable polar patterns. For example, the AKG C314 professional multi-pattern condenser microphone offers all four patterns to allow artists to fine-tune the sound and adapt to different situations.

Let’s take a look at the omnidirectional pattern first.

An omnidirectional polar pattern picks up sound in a 360-degree radius – it is equally sensitive to sound at all angles. Imagine its pattern as a perfect sphere in three directions. This makes omnidirectional microphones ideal for studio recordings where the objective is a natural, open sound.
These microphones are especially well-suited for recording acoustic instruments and when recording a wide sound source, such as an orchestra or choir. They’re also good for lavalier mics, such as the LC82 MD of the MicroLite series, since the user can move his or her head without the volume varying. Of course all this means that omnidirectional mics are not generally recommended for live performances, where they’re likely to pick up unwanted sounds such as amplified instruments or a PA system and thus cause feedback. They’re also not recommended when recording in an untreated room with poor acoustics. In those situations close miking is advised, and that’s where a cardiod mic comes in. We’ll explore the pros and cons of cardioid mics in our next polar pattern installment.

AKG Products with omnidirectional polar pattern:

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