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LDC mic pickup patterns for home recording

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LDC mic pickup patterns for home recording

Postby forumuser915213 » Wed May 15, 2019 9:02 pm

I've been home recording for just a few years. I've been learning slowly, partly because I know so few people who record but also I guess because my musical niche is a minority taste.

One thing I think I have learned the hard way is that the rooms in my house - not unlike rooms in most houses, probably - are generally terrible places to record until I put in quite a lot of effort with duvets, reflection filters and the rest.

I've found that although I can sometimes to use eq to cut resonances, it usually can't be done without detracting from the overall tone of a voice or an instrument. So I've learned to work in front of a wadded corner with the least sensitive end or side of my mic pointed into the centre of the room, and to use a reflection filter as well, if possible. I sometimes use a four-sided clothes-horse based duvet gobo to separate vox and instrument. Having done all that, I've also found that using reverb with no delay can also help to obscure 'small room sound'.

Thinking about my experiences with my generally skinflint gear collection and also thinking about the mics that are marketed for home recording, I've noticed that some have been much more useful than others - because some are more troubled by room noise than others.

For some years I was baffled (I thought I must be doing something wrong), until I realised that some large diaphragm condenser cardioid mics have tighter pickup patterns than others. So, for example, my pair of Oktava MK219s have tighter cardioid patterns than my pair of AT4040s, and so the Oktavas get more use, at least until I can find a way of controlling the room sound that creeps into them.

I've noticed one LDC model aimed at the home recording market is sold as cardioid, but when when I look at the 1khz polar pickup pattern published by the maker, it looks more supercardioid than cardioid. Not surprisingly, it's useful.

I would probably have made different mic choices, if years ago I had known what I know now, and I can't help thinking that a list of 'tighter cardiod' and 'unadvertised supercardioid' LDCs found to be useful in home recording would be helpful, in addition to the known supercardioid LDCs.

So here's a very short start. It would be nice to see this list grow... Or even improved. And, to manufacturers, I'd suggest it would be nice to have more supercardioid choices!

- 'Advertised supercardioids': Samson C03* (multi-award pattern), t.bone SC400, Shure SM27 Beta*, sE4400a* (multipattern).

- 'Unadvertised supercardioids': t.bone SC1100

- 'Tighter cardiods' (a bit more arguable): Studiospares S400, Oktava MK219

- 'Looser cardioids that may sound nice but can may be difficult to work with in an untreated small room in a house (more controversial this... ): AT4040, sE2200a

*Mics I don't own and haven't used marked with an asterisk.*

Thoughts? Am I right or wrong? Have other people had interestingly different experiences?

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Re: LDC mic pickup patterns for home recording

Postby innerchord » Wed May 15, 2019 9:41 pm

Whilst this type of list maybe useful to some, I think it's too simplistic.

The polar response will vary wildly across frequencies. I think engineers should to get to know their microphones, position them appropriately and treat the space.

Some uses are more critical than others. A good live sound engineer will know the polar characteristics of their vocal mics, for example, and choose accordingly.

I recall seeing a YouTube video of Warren Huart testing some vocal mics, and seeing him check the off-axis response to see how the mic will sound as a singer moves around.
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Re: LDC mic pickup patterns for home recording

Postby Bob Bickerton » Wed May 15, 2019 9:54 pm

Your experiences with poor room acoustics have been well discussed in these fora and whilst microphone choice can ameliorate the problem to a small extent, there is no substitute for room treatment. That would be the first step to explore further.

In terms of exploring microphone specifications, I find this website http://www.microphone-data.com/ to be most useful as you can pull up and compare polar patterns side by side.

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Re: LDC mic pickup patterns for home recording

Postby forumuser915213 » Wed May 15, 2019 10:24 pm

It is certainly simplistic, doubtless to the point of being crude or even absurd.

But this is a forum linked to a hobbyist magazine website, and there are obviously many different levels of hobbyist. There are surely all sorts of people here, at all sorts of levels of knowledge, equipment and resources, and lots of us will never be engineers or have a room available to treat.

In the situation we're in, an innocent beginner will likely see an ad, read a few reviews, watch a few YouTubes, and then buy budget equipment and make a few recordings with dreadful results spoiled by room sound, despite doing their best.

I'm sure it happens all the time. And I'm sure many of these folks become unhappy and give up because they can't see what to do next.

That's a shame for them. It's also a shame for the industry that exists to make and sell the gear they would have bought.

And I'd still argue that with a bit of temporary room treatment (they'll see that on YouTube) and a tighter cardioid or two (they likely won't see that on YouTube) they'd have a chance of getting something more pleasing though surely not nearly professional. But why shouldn't folks like them have their fun?

When they appreciate the challenges better, perhaps they will know why and when they should spend money on hiring a studio and an engineer.

Now, about that list...

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Re: LDC mic pickup patterns for home recording

Postby forumuser915213 » Wed May 15, 2019 10:33 pm

Bob Bickerton wrote:Your experiences with poor room acoustics have been well discussed in these fora and whilst microphone choice can ameliorate the problem to a small extent, there is no substitute for room treatment. That would be the first step to explore further.

In terms of exploring microphone specifications, I find this website http://www.microphone-data.com/ to be most useful as you can pull up and compare polar patterns side by side.

Bob

For me at least - with my rooms, my equipment, my temporary room treatment and my production standards - 'narrower' mics can make make the difference between dreadful recordings and better or even acceptable ones. What is acceptable to me may change over time, but hey.

Thanks very much for the Microphone-data website link. That search facility is very useful. Straight into my bookmarks folder...

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Re: LDC mic pickup patterns for home recording

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Thu May 16, 2019 12:29 pm

Off topic... but there is an interesting story behind that microphone-data website.

When I started working as a lecturer in 1990 at the BBC's training centre, Wood Norton, one of my new-found colleagues was collating the data for all the microphones in regular use throughout the BBC to published the data as an in-house reference booklet. (WN produced single-sheet A4 handouts on individual mics before that time).

This new compact (A5-sized) book was well received within the Beeb and, within a couple of years, a greatly expanded Version 2 was published. However, by 1996 WN was in a rapid downsizing phase and my boss couldn't justify the budget to produce a new third edition.

As it happened, at around the same time I was involved in developing and running some bespoke training courses for Rycote's production staff, to help them understand what their shock-mounting and wind-shielding products were used for and what an important difference they made.

On those courses I made reference to the Beeb's Mic Data book which Vivienne Dyer -- Rycote's owner -- thought was a brilliant resource. She was so disappointed to learn that it wasn't going to be updated that, over the following months, she negotiated an arrangement to fund and take on its production herself, anonymously (and independently of Rycote), as a benefit to the industry -- she was like that! :thumbup:

That decision led to the creation of the absolutely enormous commercial publication of the Microphone Data book. This publication standardised all the different manufacturers' mic specs into a common format, was wholly independent of (but warmly supported by) the mic manufacturers. I was involved initially in its creation, but most of the work was done by Chris Woolf (a freelance design engineer who developed many of Rycote's windshield and shock-mount systems). The book also contained a wealth of articles and information written by the industry's experts (even I contributed some of it!). And my wife acted as its distributor for a year, too.

However, it was such a large and heavy book that it was very very expensive both to produce and post to customers -- around £100 each as I recall, so sales were slow after the initial flurry from enthusiastic recording engineers! Added to which, this was when a lot of boutique mic companies were starting up and so a lot of new mics were coming onto the market and it just wasn't cost-effective to publish regular new editions of the book...

By now we're into the year 2002 and the internet was a readily accessible thing for most people, so the obvious solution was put the whole thing online... and that's what was done. A commercial web developing company did the back end stuff, and the site quickly proved a big hit. That's the site mentioned above which is still going today.

Administratively, 'Microphone Data' was set up as an independent company with Vivienne Dyer, Chris Woolf, and myself as its original directors. When Vivienne retired she ceased to be a director, but Chris and I continued with it for many more years. However, it cost us money to maintain and, although we could have commercialised it, we both thought that was against the independent principles of its creation. There was a plan for it to be taken over by the Institute of Professional Sound at one point, but that didn't happen for various reason, and in the end it was taken over by Rycote who now manage and maintain it themselves.

I don't know how often they update the database, but it remains a wonderful resource that I still use regularly.

... and I still have the two BBC Mic Data books, and the mammoth commercial Mic Data book on my library shelves! :D (First BBC edition left, second BBC version centre, Commercial version right)

library shelf small.jpg
covers small.jpg
open pages small.jpg


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Re: LDC mic pickup patterns for home recording

Postby Eddy Deegan » Thu May 16, 2019 12:57 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:Off topic... but there is an interesting story behind that microphone-data website.

You weren't kidding, that really was interesting!
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Re: LDC mic pickup patterns for home recording

Postby forumuser915213 » Thu May 16, 2019 1:15 pm

It was interesting.

I think it's somewhat out of date - I didn't find the SM27 Beta when I looked - but it's still big and full enough to be useful.

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Re: LDC mic pickup patterns for home recording

Postby Darren Lynch » Thu May 16, 2019 1:45 pm

I popped down help my nephew (13 year old aspiring grime producer!) deal with excessive bedroom sound on his vocal recordings. He uses the Focusrite branded LDC which came in bundle. The mic sounds fine, but at handspan working distance it was swamped with bedroomverb. I handed him a Senn 945, told him to hold a large pillow behind his head, and try again. Bedroomverb barely audible. IME, LDC's (even supercardioids) like to 'hear' a broad frontage of signal, sounding best if you back off the mic. *If* I record in an untreated room, I take the compromise option of a room-killer dynamic which you can really eat. Beyer102, Audix OM3, and Shure SM7 perform well here. Aside from obvious reverb as an issue, the one problem which I can't shake (in an untreated domestic room) is a 'hardness' to the sound, which I attribute to almost instantaneous HF echoes.
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Re: LDC mic pickup patterns for home recording

Postby forumuser915213 » Thu May 16, 2019 3:34 pm

So narrow cardioid patterns /are/ helpful for other people too!

I've found that stage dynamics definitely help - including a t.bone mb75 (best with a foam windshield), an AKG D5 (ditto, probably - I need to try it) and an sE V7. The Rode M2 stage condenser also works. But they've all got downsides, which between them include lack of detail, noise and some eq challenges, compared with LDCs.

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Re: LDC mic pickup patterns for home recording

Postby Bob Bickerton » Thu May 16, 2019 10:40 pm

forumuser915213 wrote:So narrow cardioid patterns /are/ helpful for other people too!

I've found that stage dynamics definitely help - including a t.bone mb75 (best with a foam windshield), an AKG D5 (ditto, probably - I need to try it) and an sE V7. The Rode M2 stage condenser also works. But they've all got downsides, which between them include lack of detail, noise and some eq challenges, compared with LDCs.

Gavin

OK, if we’re going to explore this further we’ll need to know what you’re recording and in what genres. Audio recording is a complex business based on a huge number of variables. To put up a list of ‘tight cardioids’ is of minimal use and those resources are already available.

Your comment regarding stage vocal microphones misses the point to some degree. The reason you’d use a stage vocal mic is because they are designed to be used in close proximity, which will result in the unwanted reflections being attenuated RELATIVE TO the source. Think inverse square law. There are very good microphones designed to be used in close proximity. The Shure SM7 is often a a first pick vocal mic over much more expensive studio condensers. The Neumann KMS105 will give you all the detail you need and the Beyer M201 is also worth exploring. The e945 (mentioned above) has a particularly strong high end lift.

Of course using such microphones in close proximity requires much more disciplined microphone technique as even small movements away from the microphone will impact on the proximity effect.

Research and understanding of polar patterns is to be commended and knowledge of nulls is especially useful in mic placement (for attenuating unwanted sources). I have worked on projects where I had to amplify a whole choir who were immediately behind a loud percussion section of an orchestra - you have to know your nulls (and a lot more) in that situation.

But at the end of the day nothing beats acoustic treatment. I guess a mantra you could use is to spend as much on acoustic treatment as your gear and you’ll go a long way to solving the issues.

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Re: LDC mic pickup patterns for home recording

Postby Darren Lynch » Fri May 17, 2019 10:19 am

"The e945 (mentioned above) has a particularly strong high end lift."

Lord yes - you could grate cheese with the top end of the e945. TBH, in a home recording context the sound is harsh. No doubt the e945 cuts through a mix in a live context (for which it was designed after all). To the OP - classic dynamics such as the Beyer M102 and Shure SM7 present very few issues when used up close. The M102 does have a pronounced bass lift/proximity effect, but also sounds gloriously smooth compared to very bright mics such as Sennheiser Evolution range. The SM7 just works.
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Re: LDC mic pickup patterns for home recording

Postby forumuser915213 » Fri May 17, 2019 10:54 am

Yes. I've been thinking about an SM7b, on and off. I wouldn't ever want to be 3in-away close-miced, for reasons of style, genre, taste and what-have-you, but from what I see and hear they still work very nicely from 8in or a foot away, and from what I've figured out, I'm sure it would work well. Even plain cardioid dynamics seem to have relatively tight pickup patterns compared with many cardioid LDCs.

I've been asked what I records, so here goes. I realise I'm taking my life in my hands but here are some recent examples...

https://youtu.be/s-MOKQ2w0v0
https://youtu.be/0S0msRczHeg
https://youtu.be/E4q1OdLc764
https://youtu.be/tChq9XuPpzY

So you see... All of this was done using what I regard as 'tighter' cardiod LDCs.

The space I use is the quietest area of the house, as it's furthest from the road. It measures 12 by 12ft by 9, and half the ceiling is sloping because it's under the roof.

The room is crammed with book cases and pictures, and It's also our regular bedroom, which is why permanent treatment is probably not an option in general, though there are ceiling corners that /could/ have bass traps with my partner's agreement.

The room is dominated by a large bed and it occurs to me that it has a topper that could double as temporary treatment, but I haven't tried that yet.

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Re: LDC mic pickup patterns for home recording

Postby John Willett » Fri May 17, 2019 11:19 am

forumuser915213 wrote:So narrow cardioid patterns /are/ helpful for other people too!

There is no such thing as a "narrow cardioid" pattern.

Microphone patterns are:-
Omni
Hypo-cardioid (also called wide cardioid)
Super-cardioid
Hyper-cardioid
Figure-8

The only "pure" patterns are omni and fig-8 - omni is a pure pressure microphone and a fig-8 is a pure pressure-gradient microphone.

Cardioid is 50% omni and 50% fig-8.
Wide cardioid is 75% 0mni and 25% fig-8.
Super-cardioid and hyper-cardioid are approx. 25% omni and 75% fig.8 (which is why they have that out-of-phase rear lobe) but the hyper has a bit more fog-8 in it than the super, which is why it is a bit more dierctional and has a larger rear lobe.

You may find this useful in understanding microphoines - it's a pdf of the handouts I give out on the presentation I give on microphones. I gave it at the AES in Paris and Berlin and (provisionally) will do again at AES Vienna next year.

I hope this helps.
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Re: LDC mic pickup patterns for home recording

Postby forumuser915213 » Fri May 17, 2019 11:50 am

Thanks. That's good to know. I hadn't realised about the fractions and it's really helpful.

Is there any reason why in use some cardioids /might seem/ less wide than others?

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Re: LDC mic pickup patterns for home recording

Postby Mike Stranks » Fri May 17, 2019 11:55 am

To the O/P:

I understand what you're trying to do as you seek to compile a list of 'narrow(er) cardioids', but as you've seen from the comments here the simple, non-technical overview for the uninformed can quickly become complicated by those who are informed and introduce 'Ah; yes; but...' detailing into the equation.

It's a dilemma and it's always hard to know where to draw the line. It's easy (usually) to answer a specific question about a specific mic, but when you start to compile a reference list things become more complicated.

Manufacturers - particularly at the shallower end - can use a catch-all 'cardioid' on the basis that potential users will have a sort of grasp of that whereas the types of cardioid would leave the lightly-informed just confused. (There's a pertinent post in another thread about 'experts' giving useful explanations, only to find the other person's eyes glazing over. :) )

The other major complicating factor is that what the mic 'hears' isn't just about the polar pattern. Frequency response, intended use and the room in which the mic is being used all play a very significant part.

I'm a great believer in keeping things as simple as possible and not introducing unnecessary detail. I've debated that approach several times in this forum. But bottom line is that sometimes something can be too simple and, although well-intended, can actually raise more issues than it solves.
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Re: LDC mic pickup patterns for home recording

Postby forumuser915213 » Fri May 17, 2019 12:04 pm

So, there no shortcuts.

It sounds like I'd better keep on keeping on finding out what works for me in my context, and probably best to keep quiet about it too ;-)

I don't want to cause confusion.

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Re: LDC mic pickup patterns for home recording

Postby Bob Bickerton » Fri May 17, 2019 12:12 pm

forumuser915213 wrote:Yes. I've been thinking about an SM7b, on and off. I wouldn't ever want to be 3in-away close-miced, for reasons of style, genre, taste and what-have-you, but from what I see and hear they still work very nicely from 8in or a foot away, and from what I've figured out, I'm sure it would work well. Even plain cardioid dynamics seem to have relatively tight pickup patterns compared with many cardioid LDCs.

Couple of points: I believe the SM7 works best as a close mic and sounds very thin at 8 inches or so, but more importantly, if you’re using that mic or a standard (stage) dynamic at that distance, you’re not benefitting from the concept of minimising room RELATIVE TO source as previously discussed. This is evidenced in your recordings. By the way, the capsule in the SM7 is already set back in the microphone body anyway.

And just to pick up on your comments of style, genre and taste nearly all studio recordings of folk musicians I’ve worked with have been happy to work mics relatively close if necessary. It is, of course, fine to work the mics further away if you’re in a good room.

Concertina Chap of this parish may be along shortly for comment as he specialises in your genre.

forumuser915213 wrote:The room is crammed with book cases and pictures, and It's also our regular bedroom, which is why permanent treatment is probably not an option in general, though there are ceiling corners that /could/ have bass traps with my partner's agreement.

The room is dominated by a large bed and it occurs to me that it has a topper that could double as temporary treatment, but I haven't tried that yet.

Gavin

My home studio is probably not dissimilar. I have a bed which I can easily fold up and hook onto one wall and that makes a rather good bass trap. I then have removable acoustic panels which line a proportion of the walls and two panels that sit in the window panel. I use ‘Autex’ panels which are light and a little more efficient than Fibreglass/Rockwool (and much nicer to work with).

So it strikes me that you may have to work the mics closer in your environment.

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Re: LDC mic pickup patterns for home recording

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Fri May 17, 2019 12:25 pm

John Willett wrote:There is no such thing as a "narrow cardioid" pattern.
Microphone patterns are:-
Omni
Hypo-cardioid (also called wide cardioid) ...

Hmmm... call me Mr pedantic, but I don't think you can fairly shout the OP down for using the term 'narrow cardioid' and then cheerfully throw in the equally invalid term, 'wide cardioid'!

In practice, of course, we all know what is generally meant by these terms, and that's entirely adequate for the descriptive purposes they are being used for here.

However, you are right in that -- technically -- the 'standard' polar patterns (omni, hypo-cardioid, cardioid, super-cardioid, hyper-cardioid, and figure-of-eight) are all precisely defined by the maths*. But, as we all know, the theory and the reality diverge in real-world microphones so that a nominally 'cardioid' mic may well have a polar pattern which is a bit wider or narrower than the definition states... and of course the polar patterns of pretty much all mics also vary considerably with frequency.

So 'narrow cardioids' do exist in reality, even if not officially in the academic text books, and I think the OP's quest to identify them informally is worthwhile. Although understanding the theory is always a good thing too! ;-)

*Polar Equations:

Omni = 1
Hypo-cardioid = 0.7+0.3CosØ
Cardioid = 0.5+0.5CosØ
Super-cardioid = 0.37+0.63CosØ
Hyper-cardioid = 0.25+0.75CosØ
Figure-of-Eight = CosØ
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Re: LDC mic pickup patterns for home recording

Postby forumuser915213 » Fri May 17, 2019 12:35 pm

Panels for the window is a good idea. I hadn't thought of that.

Closer micing would have advantages and you're quite right about most folkies.

But (i) I'm basically a traddie rather than a more contemporary performer, which makes a difference in my mind, and (ii) with my wife's formally trained voice the 'nightclub' close-miced approach feels all wrong also.

We've both tried it repeatedly, both intentionally and by accident.

Are there affordable mics that don't produce that unnatural 'night club close miced' effect when close-to? Might an omni combined with a reflection filter do it?

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