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Stereo Microphone Techniques
The phrase: “Stereo microphone techniques”, refers to the use of two or more microphones to create a stereo image.
Recording stereo sound is generally favoured because it sounds more natural to the human ears than a mono recording.
There are several common stereo microphone techniques:
1. Spaced Pair
This technique generally uses two matched microphones placed a few feet apart in front of the performer(s). It is one of the most popular stereo microphone techniques.
If positioned right, the spaced pair, or “AB” technique, can create a beautiful natural sounding stereo image. However, if the position of the microphones is not quite right, then you may risk getting a “hole” in the stereo image.
The XY technique uses two identical microphones pointing at an angle (90° to 135°) against each other in front of the sound source.
The XY technique is generally considered to give a narrower, but more focussed stereo image
The M/S (Mid-Side) technique uses two closely spaced matched pickups. In the classic M/S stereo microphone technique, one of the microphones is designated to be the M (mid) and faces the sound source. The other is chosen to be the S (Side). The S, or side, is generally a figure of eight microphone and picks up the ambient and reverberant sound.
The outputs of these microphones are then combined through a decoder. (There are many computer plugins that can do this automatically these days). One of the big advantages of the M/S technique is that it allows you to alter the stereo width and depth at a later time.
4. Decca Tree
This is a less popular and more classical microphone technique, which was attributed to Decca engineers Roy Wallace and Arthur Haddy in 1954. The Decca tree uses three omnidirectional microphones.
The left and right microphones are placed 3 feet apart, while a third microphone is placed 1.5 feet in front and panned to the centre of the stereo field. This technique is often used in orchestral situations.
These are the most popular tried and tested stereo microphone techniques, but they are by no means set in stone. It is always worth experimenting with different microphones in different positions to see what works best for your particular needs.
By Chris Haines
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