Friday, November 22, 2013

Mailbag: Should I buy a multi-pattern mic?

From reader Anshul:

Hi dude,
I just saw you review on the SE Electronics sE2200a II Multi-Pattern Condenser Microphone. I'm mainly a vocalist and I'm looking to upgrade my microphone. I've been told I don't need a multi-pattern microphone as I am only a vocalist but after watching your Polar Patterns tutorial I've realised that different patterns are important but I still don't understand why. Please could you explain to me what each pattern will change in my recorded sound and when to use each one. And is this microphone a good value for money because I don't want to be wasting money.
Thank you

So here's the deal.

Recording has a "feel" to it. The more you do it, the more you intuitively make adjustments on how things sound based on "feel". This learning experience takes a little time, and that time is crucial to you being able to get what you want out of a recording. I can tell you about recording stuff all day long, but as I don't have my ears in your space, it's all hypothetical.

As a general rule your polar patterns will do the following:
***Cardioid - A wide but directional recording pattern. Front is live, sides are dim, rear is dead. As it is directional, your recordings will experience proximity effect.

***Omni - Everything around the mic is live. You'll pick up what's in your environment 360 degrees around the mic. As it is not directional, you will not experience much proximity effect working the mic closer. Some people think this sounds too thin, but it can often provide the most accurate sense of what your subject and environment sound like.

***Figure of 8 - Front and back are live, sides are dim or dead. Each "lobe" is smaller than cardioid, making the mic more directional, which on many mics will increase the proximity effect on top of what you would experience in cardioid.

Ok. So all that is scientific and good, and I basically just repeated what I put in the video. You now "know" that, but it wont really mean anything to you until you put it into practice and actually try and change the sound of your recordings. You'll have to play and fail and play some more. You'll have to develop your ears, and start listening for nuance and (maybe hardest of all) objectively decide on what aspects of a recording you like, and what tone you're trying to achieve.

To answer your question specifically, I don't think I'd recommend you buy a multi-pattern mic just yet. I don't know what kind of mic you're currently using, but I'd recommend playing with whatever you have now some more. Get REALLY good at using it. Play with distance and angle of attack. See if you can thin out your voice with placement, see if you can make your sound fatter or nasally.

If you're working on something really entry-level like a headset mic, I'd recommend moving to a basic "nice mic" like an Audio Technica AT2020. Once you have something like that, or if you're already using a mic of that level, run it into the ground and develop your senses before moving onto nicer gear.

If you don't have your ears in shape, you won't get much of a benefit by upgrading. Take a little time, get a LOT more bang for your buck!

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