Take Your Mixes To The Next Level

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

How To Find The "Sweet Spot" - The Ideal Microphone Position


How do you find the ideal position to place the microphone on an instrument? This position is sometimes called the “sweet spot”, and it means different things to different engineers. For some, it's the spot with the most balanced, natural sound. For others, it's the spot that sounds larger than life, but not necessarily lifelike. Either way, finding it is actually a pretty simple process but surprisingly not taught that much. So here's the simple way to find the sweet spot on virtually any instrument with any kind of microphone.
  • To correctly place an omni-directional microphone, cover one ear and listen with the other. Move around the player or sound source until you find the spot that sounds best for your tastes and needs. Even though omni’s aren’t really used that much in modern recording (especially when you’re just learning), you’d be surprised at the results that you can get from them since they have a lot of positive properties (like no proximity effect and flat response). I was once consistently hired by a producer to record vocals because he loved the vocal sound I was getting for him. My secret - I always had the mic (an original Neumann U-87) switched to omni!
  • To place a cardioid microphone, cover one ear and cup your hand behind the other and listen. Move around the player or sound source until you find the spot that sounds best. Your cupped ear simulates the way a directional mic hears. You’ll notice that the frequency response is altered somewhat, so keep in mind that’s usually what a directional mic is hearing as well.
  • To place a stereo pair, cup hands behind both ears. Move around the player or sound source until you find the spot that sounds best.
Before you start swapping gear, know that the three most important factors in getting the sound you want are microphone position, mic position and mic position.

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