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29th Feb

Microphone Polar Patterns


If you have ever bought a new microphone, you may have noticed some strange looking circular diagrams on the side of the box or in the instructions.  These diagrams are known as polar graphs.

The polar pattern of a microphone indicates how sensitive a microphone is to sounds coming from different directions.  This is sometimes referred to as its directionality.  The polar pattern of a microphone is represented in a polar graph, as shown below.

An Omnidirectional polar pattern, as the name suggests, is great at picking up sound from all directions.

mic polar patterns

A Cardioid polar pattern has a heart shaped pickup pattern.  Sound from these mics is mainly picked up from the front and to a lesser extent the sides.

Cardioid polar pattern

A Bidirectional polar pattern looks like a figure of eight.  It is good at picking up sound from the front and back.  Many ribbon mics have a figure of eight polar graph.

bidirectional polar pattern


Some microphones will also allow you to change the directionality of a microphone through a simple switch.

It is worth taking some time to experiment with different mics to get a feel for what will suit your particular recording situation.

Article written by Chris Haines.

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