I was recently listening to The Home Recording Show – Episode 119, and Matt McGlynn did a fantastic job bringing attention to the fact that microphones have very different frequency responses when the signal is off-axis.
What is off axis? Well, it simply means the that the microphone is not pointed directly at the source. (If you’re miking a snare drum, the high hat will be off axis).
The off-axis frequency response of microphones can be very different from their on-axis response. What does this mean for you?
Learn what your microphone sounds like both on AND off axis.
Generally speaking, when the source is on-axis, directly in front of the microphone, the frequency response is the most flat…or at least the “widest.” When you move the source towards the side of the microphone, you can still hear the source, but it sounds different…oftentimes the high frequencies drop off, and the sound becomes darker.
For example: Have you ever seen someone mic a guitar cabinet with an SM57 angled instead of pointing straight at the cab? The engineer was likely going for a more colored, darker, off-axis sound.
Is the signal too bright? First try a new mic placement. If that doesn’t work, try an off-axis placement. It’s like a natural EQ (and it’s a great way to get it right at the source, without needing to reach for drastic EQ later).
One Mic – Lots of Sounds
As you can imagine, every microphone creates VERY different sounds. One mic could sound completely different when miking directly on axis, then 20 degrees off axis, then 45 degrees off axis. For all you know, you could have three different microphone sounds in ONE MIC.
I don’t know about you, but that’s really valuable information for me and my small collection of mics.
It’s like having multiple microphones!
If you have 3 mics, now it’s like you have 6 or 9…because each mic has its own unique off-axis coloration. Next time you’re recording something, whether it’s a bass cab or a lead vocal, try angling the mic a few different ways. Take an extra 5 minutes to have the singer sing into the different angles of the mic.
You may find a magical combination that you would have never found with the typical “on-axis” approach.
Do you play around with off-axis miking?