When capturing the depth and dimension of audio, one technique stands out as a game-changer: The Midside Mic Technique. In this article, we'll explore this recording method, from its basics to its applications and advantages.
Before we delve into the specifics of the Midside Mic Technique, it's essential to grasp stereo recording. Stereo recording involves capturing sound in a way that reproduces the spatial attributes of an audio source. It allows listeners to experience a sense of width and depth in the sound, making it more immersive and lifelike than mono recordings.
The Midside Mic Technique, also known as M/S stereo recording, is a method that, as the name suggests, enables users to achieve remarkable stereo sound by using two microphones. One microphone, known as the "mid" microphone, captures the sound directly from the source. In contrast, the second microphone, the "side" microphone, captures the spatial characteristics and ambience of the environment, and combining both of them will allow a sound technician to create a stereo image.
Selecting the appropriate microphones is crucial for a successful Midside setup. Typically, this technique involves two microphones: The mid microphone should have a cardioid polar pattern, which means it captures sound primarily from the front while rejecting sound from the sides and rear.
On the other hand, the side microphone should have a figure-eight (bidirectional) polar pattern, capturing sound equally from the front and rear while rejecting sounds from the sides.
Proper microphone positioning is crucial for the Midside Mic Technique. The mid microphone should be aimed directly at the sound source, ensuring it captures the mono audio.
The side microphone, with its figure-eight pattern, should be positioned at a right angle (90 degrees) to the mid microphone. This configuration is essential for capturing spatial information accurately.
The mid microphone should remain in cardioid mode, which captures sound primarily from the front. The side microphone should be in figure-eight mode, picking up sound from the sides and rear.
During recording, it's vital to use headphones for accurate monitoring. This step is essential to ensure the stereo image is captured correctly. By using headphones, you can make real-time adjustments to achieve the desired results.
Maintaining the 90-degree angle between the microphones is a key factor. This angle allows the side microphone to capture the spatial information effectively while the mid microphone captures the mono sound. Balancing the levels of the mid and side microphones is crucial to creating a coherent stereo image.
To create the finalised sound, it is essential to properly mix the mid and side signals individually and together to create a perfect stereo image.
In post-production, you can adjust the stereo width by manipulating the levels of the mid and side microphones. This control allows you to widen or narrow the perceived stereo image, allowing you to tailor your recording precisely as you desire.
To further shape the stereo image and enhance the recording, use panning and equalization. These tools help you place instruments or vocals within the stereo field and fine-tune their tonal balance. A well-executed post-production process can transform your raw recording into a polished masterpiece.
With this technique, you have exceptional control over the stereo width, allowing you to create immersive audio experiences.
The Midside Mic Technique ensures that your stereo recordings sound great in mono, making it highly compatible.
It captures the natural ambience and spatial characteristics of the recording environment.
Compared to other stereo recording methods, the Midside Mic Technique minimises phase issues, ensuring a coherent stereo image.
While the Midside Mic Technique offers remarkable benefits, it's essential to be aware of its limitations. It can be a bit more complex to set up than traditional stereo recording methods, and post-processing is often required to achieve the desired stereo effect. However, the results are well worth the effort.
Keep in mind that proper microphone positioning is the key when it comes to Midside Technique. The Mid microphone should be pointing directly at the sound source, while the Side microphone should be perpendicular to it. Experiment with distances and angles to find the sweet spot for your specific recording.
To make sure that your MS recordings are working the way you want, always use a stereo monitoring system or headphones. This will help you identify phase issues, balance the Mid and Side signals, and fine-tune your mix.
Adjusting the level of the Side microphone relative to the Mid microphone will allow a technician to control the stereo width. When you increase the Side level, you will widen the stereo image, while reducing it will narrow it down. This will allow you to have a greater amount of flexibility to tailor the spatial characteristics of your recording.
Talking from our experience, we can say that not only recording is crucial, but decoding the sound is equally important. To convert the signal to a traditional stereo format, invest in a high-quality MS decoder that will help you with precise decoding and maintain the integrity of your recording.
Always be aware of any phase discrepancies between the Mid and Side channels. If you encounter issues, invert the phase of the Side signal to correct them.
As we have already mentioned a couple of times, when it comes to Midside recording, the choice of microphones is crucial in achieving a well-balanced and dynamic sound, so drawing from our experience, we have curated a list of some of the best microphones for Midside recording.
The Rode NT1-A is a popular choice for Midside recording due to its low self-noise and crisp, transparent sound. It's a large-diaphragm condenser microphone, which works exceptionally well for the Mid-channel. Its natural sound reproduction and affordability make it a go-to option for many sound enthusiasts.
The Sennheiser MKH 416 is a shotgun microphone renowned for its outstanding off-axis rejection, making it an excellent choice for capturing the Side signal in an MS setup. Its directionality and precision help in isolating ambient sounds effectively.
The Neumann U87 is a classic, high-end condenser microphone that can excel in mid and Side positions. Its versatility and pristine audio quality are well-suited for capturing the nuances of a sound source in an MS setup.
The Audio-Technica AT4050 is a versatile multi-pattern condenser microphone that can work well in both the Mid and Side roles. With multiple polar patterns, it provides flexibility in shaping your MS recordings to perfection.
The AKG C414 is another top-tier condenser microphone known for its transparency and adaptability. With multiple polar patterns and a wide frequency response, it's an excellent choice for both the Mid and Side roles in MS recording.
If you're looking for a dynamic microphone for the Mid-channel, the Shure SM7B is a strong contender. It's versatile, durable, and capable of capturing a wide range of sound sources with warmth and accuracy.
Concluding, we can say that the Midside Mic Technique is a powerful tool for achieving depth and dimension in audio. By selecting the right microphones, precise positioning, and thoughtful post-production, you can create captivating stereo recordings.
This technique's benefits, including precise stereo control and excellent mono compatibility, make it a valuable asset for sound enthusiasts. While it may require effort and care, the results are well worth it, making the Midside Mic Technique a must-have in your recording toolkit.
The mid microphone should have a cardioid polar pattern, and the side microphone should have a figure-eight (bidirectional) polar pattern.
Headphone monitoring allows you to make real-time adjustments and ensure the stereo image is captured correctly.
Yes, this technique is suitable for live recordings and can effectively capture the spatial characteristics of a live performance.
Yes, the technique can be used for podcasting to achieve a more immersive and spatial audio experience, especially in situations with multiple hosts or interviewees.