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Binaural Microphone and Cardioid Microphone FAQ - learn the differences between Binaural, Cardioid and Hypercardioid microphones

FAQ: Binaural vs Cardioid vs Hyper/Super Cardioid

(a.k.a. Omnidirectional vs Unidirectional)

This FAQ will answer many frequently asked questions when considering whether you need to use Binaural, Cardioid or Hyper/Super Cardioid mics......

1- What are the differences between Binaural and Cardioid mics?

Binaural microphones are miniature Omni-directional microphones, used in pairs, placed on either side of a human (or artificial) head and placed in, or as near as possible to, the ears. Omnidirectional mics pick up sound in all directional fairly equally, so when they are used in this manner, they pick up sound very much like the human ear does. Note: These same microphones are also capable of making stereo recordings.

Cardioid microphones are Uni-directional microphones and pick up sound mostly in the direction you point them. They cannot be used to make binaural recordings, but can, of course, be used to make stereo recordings. Because of this directionality, they have certain advantages over Omni-directional mics in some situations.

2- How can a Binaural mic be used to make a stereo recording?
Basically, by moving omnidirectional microphones away from one's head and separating them by at least 6-8" or so, you will get a stereo recording instead of a binaural one.

3- I like to listen to my recordings with speakers, not headphones. Which mics are right for me?
If you mostly listen to your recordings with speakers (at home, in the car, with a boom box, etc.), you would get better results if you made stereo recordings instead of binaural recordings. Binaural recordings sound best when listened to through headphones. You can use Binaural or Cardioid mics to make stereo recordings. However, one exception to this is the SP-TFB-2 In-Ear Binaurals, which sound excellent with headphones or speakers.

4- When is it advantageous to use Omni-directional mics?
When you are recording in a venue that has good acoustics, the audience is fairly quiet and you are fairly close to the sound source, Omni-directional mics are capable of make excellent recordings and would be the mic of choice. Omni mics also are more forgiving of handling noise and wind noise, so are a good choice if you can't secure your mics firmly or have to record in windy situations and don't want to use large windscreens.

In addition, when you need a good sounding mic and have a limited budget, Omni mics would be a better choice as cardioid mics of the same quality cost 2 to 3 times as much as omnis.

5- When is it advantageous to use Cardioid mics?
When you are recording in a venue that does not have great acoustics, the audience is noisy and/or you can't get close to the sound source, Cardioids are the better mics to use.

Since Cardiods are directional mics, they will greatly reduce excess reflected sound coming at the mics from all over the venue. They do a good job of reducing unwanted audience noise from the sides are rear. While they can be used up close with excellent results, they excel over Omni mics when recording from a distance. In fact, there are different levels of directionality available, including Sub-cardioid, (regular) Cardioid, Hyper-cardioid and Super-Cardioid (sometimes called shotgun) mics. In general, the further you are from the sound source, the more directional the mic should be.

Cardioids are also the preferred mic to use on stage for sound reinforcement applications, since they are less likely to feedback through a PA system. On the downside, cardioids are more susceptable to handling and wind noise, so if you can't secure your mics firmly or have to record in windy situations and don't want to use large windscreens, omni's would be a better choice.

6- I need one set of mics to handle all of my recording situations. What kind of mic should I use?
Overall, Cardioid microphones offer more flexibility that Binaurals in that they can be used in a wider choice of applications. If you have many different recording situations and need one mic type to do them all, use Cardioids.

7- I want to record some really loud music. Which is the better type of mic to use?

Both Omnidirectional and Cardioid mics are capable of recording very loud music. There are other considerations, outside of the scope of this FAQ. See our battery module FAQ for more information on this subject.

8- I am going to record a loud concert at a large arena. What would be the right mics to use?

If you are going to be very close to the sound source, omni's or Cardioids would work well. However, if you are going to be a little further back (about 20 to 75 feet from the sound source), Cardioids would be a better choice. If you will be even further back, Hypercardioids or Shotguns would be the mic of choice. Some mics, like the Sound Professionals Premium and Slimline Cardioids have interchangeable elements that offer these choices without having two different sets of mics for different purposes.

9- Why do you call miniature Omnidirectional mics "Binaural microphones" Are you trying to confuse people?

No, but all of this can be quite confusing. The reason mini omni mics are sometimes called binaurals is that over the years, in the industry, these little omni mics have simply become known as "Binaurals".

Really, what they would be more accurately called is "dual channel miniature omnidirectional microphones that are capable of making binaural or stereo recordings", but we might grow old having to say that each time, so we just shorten it to "binaurals".

The Sound Professionals™, Inc.
3444 Sylon Blvd.
Hainesport, NJ 08036 USA