Basics: The Most Common Microphone Patterns

Direction of Microphone Pick-Up

The Microphone pattern shows the direction that the microphone will pick up in. There are several patterns. Each microphone will have a specific pattern, which is achieved by how the diaphragm is encased. It does not matter what type of construction the microphone pattern has (ribbon, dynamic or condenser); directional patterns can be given to any type of microphone. Three of the most common patterns in live sound and studios are cardioid and its two relations, hypercardioid and supercardioid.

The cardioid microphone pattern has the most pickup from the front of the microphone diaphragm. There is less pickup from the sides (about half strength} and the least pickup from the back of the diaphragm (about 1/10 the signal strength). The cardioid microphone is designated with a heart. The cardioid microphone pattern is the most-used pattern. Sometimes it is referred to as an unidirectional microphone (meaning “one” direction). (This term is not one that we use in our materials as unidirectional can refer to any microphone that has more pickup in one direction than any other. This would include cardioid, supercardioid and hypercardioid – although usually unidirectional refers to a cardioid pattern.)

To listen to the audio demo comparing the different patterns, click HERE.

Cardioid Microphone Pattern

The hyper-cardioid microphone pattern has its maximum pickup from the front of the microphone and less from the sides – similar to the cardioid pattern. Its minimum pickup is not directly in the back but at the side of the diaphragm’s rear. The minimum pickup is about 120 degrees from the front of the microphone. The hyper-cardioid pickup pattern is designated with a heart that has a small tail in the back.

Hyper-Cardioid Pattern

There are some microphones that have more than one pickup pattern. These microphones actually have more than one diaphragm in the case. There is a switch on the microphone that allows the user to change the microphone pattern. The switch activates one diaphragm, the other or a blend of the two diaphragms to get the different patterns.

Back Of Mic Pickup

One of the factors in choosing the microphone is how much leakage the back of the microphone picks up. The hyper-cardioid microphone rejects leakage over a wider angle, but at the expense of picking up more leakage from directly in back. The audio demonstration for this tip demonstrates the difference in pickup in the rear for these to patterns. Go HERE for the demo.

Pointing A Directional Microphone

The important part of pointing a directional pattern is to point the rejection of the microphone at what you don’t want to pick up. It is more important to point the rejection at what you don’t want than the front at what you do want.