The different types of polar patterns and how to use them

If you’re a sound enthusiast, then you’re probably aware of the importance of polar patterns in audio recording. Polar patterns refer to the directional sensitivity of a microphone and are crucial in determining where and how much sound the mic will pick up.

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There are several types of polar patterns available, each with its unique characteristics and uses. In this article, we will explore the various polar patterns and how to use them effectively for different recording situations.

Understanding polar patterns is essential for achieving high-quality audio recordings. Whether you’re recording music, podcasts, or voice-overs, selecting the right polar pattern can make all the difference.

From cardioid to omnidirectional patterns, each has its distinct advantages and limitations that must be considered when choosing the appropriate microphone. Additionally, knowing how to manipulate polar patterns can also help you eliminate unwanted background noise and achieve clearer audio recordings.

So let’s dive into the world of polar patterns and discover how they can enhance your audio recordings.

The Cardioid Polar Pattern

When it comes to polar patterns in microphones, the cardioid pattern is perhaps the most commonly used.

As the name suggests, this type of pattern is heart-shaped and picks up sound from the front while rejecting noise from the back and sides.

This makes it great for recording vocals or instruments where you want to capture clear sound from a specific source while minimizing any unwanted background noise.

The cardioid pattern is also commonly used for live performances as it allows performers to move around on stage without compromising sound quality.

It’s important to keep in mind that different microphone models may have slightly different interpretations of the cardioid pattern, so it’s always a good idea to check with your specific microphone’s manual before recording or performing.

The Figure-Eight Polar Pattern

The Figure-Eight Polar Pattern, also known as Bidirectional or Figure-Of-Eight, picks up sound from the front and back of the microphone while rejecting sounds from the sides.

This polar pattern is commonly used for recording duets or interviews with two people facing each other. The microphone should be placed perpendicular to the source of sound, with one person speaking into one side of the mic and the other speaking into the opposite side.

It’s important to note that this polar pattern can also pick up unwanted sounds from behind the microphone, such as noise from a computer or air conditioning unit. Therefore, it’s essential to choose an appropriate recording space when using this polar pattern.

Additionally, some microphones have a switch that allows you to choose between cardioid and figure-eight polar patterns, making them versatile for different recording situations.

Understanding how to use the Figure-Eight Polar Pattern can enhance your audio recordings and help create a more professional sound.

The Omnidirectional Polar Pattern

While the figure-eight polar pattern is ideal for capturing sound from two opposite directions, the omnidirectional polar pattern is designed to pick up sound from all directions.

This type of polar pattern is perfect for recording ambient sounds or capturing a group of people or instruments in one take.

With no directional bias, the omnidirectional polar pattern picks up every sound it encounters, making it an excellent choice for live recordings or outdoor environments where there are multiple sources of sound.

However, it’s essential to note that this type of polar pattern can also pick up unwanted noise, such as background chatter or wind noise. Therefore, it’s crucial to consider the environment and adjust your microphone placement accordingly when using an omnidirectional polar pattern.

Overall, understanding the different types of polar patterns and how to use them effectively can help you achieve professional-sounding recordings and capture the essence of any performance with ease.

The Supercardioid/Hypercardioid Polar Pattern

The Supercardioid/Hypercardioid polar pattern is a directional pattern that is highly sensitive to sound coming from the front of the microphone. It offers a narrower pick-up angle compared to cardioid pattern, and therefore, reduces ambient noise and feedback.

The supercardioid pattern has an even tighter pick-up angle than hypercardioid, making it ideal for situations where there are multiple sources of sound or where feedback is a concern. However, it also picks up more off-axis sounds than hypercardioid does.

The hypercardioid pattern is good for recording in noisy environments as it rejects sounds from the sides and back of the microphones. This makes it perfect for recording live performances where there are many instruments and amplifiers emitting sound.

Understanding how to use these patterns properly can make a significant difference in your recordings, allowing you to capture clear and precise audio with minimal interference from background noises or unwanted sounds.

Combining Polar Patterns

Now that we have covered the supercardioid/hypercardioid polar pattern, let’s explore how to combine different polar patterns for optimal sound quality.

One common technique is using a combination of cardioid and omnidirectional patterns. This is achieved by placing an omnidirectional microphone in front of the sound source and a cardioid microphone facing away from it. The result is a recording that captures both the direct sound and the ambient sound.

Another popular combination is using a figure-eight pattern with a cardioid pattern. This technique allows for recording sounds from two opposite directions while rejecting sounds from other angles. It’s useful for recording interviews or dialogues where there are multiple speakers.

Lastly, some microphones come with switchable polar patterns that allow you to switch between different types depending on your specific use case.

These are just some examples of how combining polar patterns can enhance your recordings and achieve better sound quality overall.


In conclusion, understanding the different types of polar patterns and how to use them is crucial for any sound engineer or musician. Each pattern has its unique characteristics and can be used to achieve specific effects in recordings or live performances.

One interesting statistic to note is that cardioid polar patterns are the most commonly used in both studio and live settings. This pattern provides a directional pickup, making it ideal for isolating a single source while minimizing background noise.

On the other hand, omnidirectional patterns are often used for ambient recordings or capturing the sound of an entire room.

As someone who works in the music industry, I have found that experimenting with different polar patterns can lead to exciting creative possibilities. Combining multiple patterns can create unique soundscapes that would not be possible with just one.

It’s essential to remember that understanding these tools is just as important as having top-of-the-line equipment.

In conclusion, by mastering the different types of polar patterns available and knowing when to use them, you will be able to produce high-quality audio recordings and unforgettable live performances that truly capture your artistic vision.