Polar Patterns – Part 2: Cardioid

The Straight Story On Microphone Directionality

In this article, we’re continuing our in-depth look at microphone polar patterns. In Part 1 of the series, we learned all about the omnidirectional polar pattern—how it picks up sound, its strengths and weaknesses, must-have omni mics and more. If you missed Part 1, take a second and check it out.

This time, we’re getting up close and personal with the most popular polar pattern of them all—the one, the only, Cardioid pattern. So, without further ado, let’s get to it.

Cardioid is the most widely used pattern in professional microphones. It provides reliable performance in both stage and studio settings—making it an excellent “jack of all trades” polar pattern.

Cardioid mics have a heart-shaped pickup pattern and are most sensitive in the front of the mic. As you move around to the sides and bottom of the microphone, the cardioid pattern becomes less sensitive and will pickup less sound. A good way to visualize this is to think of the cardioid pattern as an apple, with the microphone as the stem. The closer you are to the ‘stem’, the less sensitive the mic is. 

Cardioid mics excel in recording instruments in isolation. What does that mean? Think of it like this: when you’re recording guitar, you don’t want drum sounds bleeding into the mic, because it would muddy the tone and clutter the mix. To make sure that doesn’t happen, you would use a cardioid mic to close mike your guitar cab for a clear, isolated track. But be careful, some cardioid mics have a tendency to boost bass frequencies if they’re placed too close to the instrument or voice. It’s a phenomenon called proximity effect, and it can cause trouble when you’re mixing tracks together.

When it comes to live performances, cardioid is king! The focused directionality of the cardioid pattern ensures that the singer’s voice—or any other instrument in front of the mic—is picked up clearly and accurately. It keeps unwanted sound out of the mic and minimizes the risk of feedback from PAs and amps. The next time you’re at a live show, check out the mics. More than likely, the amp cabs and singer’s voice will be miked with cardioids.

If you’re looking for a premium cardioid mic that delivers precision audio for stage and studio, check out AKG’s D5 cardioid mic.

And if you want a mic with added versatility, multi-pattern microphones—like the AKG C414 XLS and C314—feature cardioid settings as well as other polar patterns to suit any recording or live sound application. 

AKG Products with cardioid polar pattern:


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