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POLAR PATTERNS

Polar Pattern is another term that might shut your brain off and leave you wondering, do I really need to know this? Can’t you just recommend a microphone to me for podcasting and let us be done with it?


You should know how a microphone receives the sound and in what direction to point the microphone. You have to speak inside the polar pattern. Otherwise, you wont get quality recordings. If you are not speaking inside of the polar pattern (or the “sweet spot”), the microphone might still pick up your voice, but it would be the distant sound of a voice in a room and lack clarity.

As you are looking for a microphone to purchase you will see that there is an array of polar pattern options and you will probably want to know what polar pattern is right for you.

Podcasters most likely want a Cardioid Polar Pattern for your podcast microphone.

But let’s quickly cover what a Polar Pattern is, and the 4 most common polar pattern types.

Every microphone has a polar pattern ( imagine this as an invisible field that is the area the microphone will pick up sound from). This is the three dimensional space that surrounds the diaphragm or input of the microphone ( where the sound goes in). Polar patterns are characterized by different basic 3D shapes. These shapes have benefits when recording different sounds or different situations. Each shape has its own name which are the basic types of polar patterns.

And the most common are:

CARDIOID

Named after the heart, this pattern points outward in front of the microphone and mostly picks up sound directly in front of the microphone and a little on each side, which gives the shape the two bumps of the heart. It wont pick up sound from directly behind the microphone, which gives it the ravine of the heart shape.

This shape is what makes it ideal for recording a single voice. If you put a cardioid microphone close to someone speaking or a singer, it will mostly pick up what is directly in front of their mouths and not much behind the microphone.

BIDIRECTIONAL

You will also hear this called the figure eight polar pattern, because it’s shaped like an eight. This is a really cool polar pattern. As you can see from the graphic below, it is a shape defined by two equal spheres on each side of the microphone’s center.

This makes it ideal for capturing two voices at the same time, one each side of the microphone and it wont pick up any sound at all from the side of the microphone.

These were very popular in early radio and recording for background singers and they are still used frequently in many creative situations.

OMNIDIRECTIONAL

The word omni refers too: in all ways. And that makes perfect sense, because this pattern picks up sound equally from all sides of the microphone. It’s a sphere that begins at the center of the diaphragm or capsule.

This can be used in the center of a conference table to get great results. They are used all the time in live sound situations to catch ambient room sounds. And you will also find omnidirectional polar patterns on lavaliere, or small clip on microphones, that people wear for interviews, so they pick up a sphere of sound in front of the person wearing them.


SUPERCARDIOID

This shape looks a bit like an apple. It is more directional than cardioid but also picks up more from directly behind the microphone.

These microphones are less prone to feedback for live (on stage) situations. Shotgun microphones for Film and Television will be supercardioid, because they really only pick up what they point at directly. But they are less forgiving than a cardioid if the sound source moves a lot.

"Polar Patterns- Image courtesy of SHURE Microphones"



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