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What Is a Subcardioid Microphone? (Answered)

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If you want a microphone that can pick up the subtleties of speech, a subcardioid microphone might be the best choice. This microphone is often used for audio recording and broadcasting, where sound quality is very important. But what are subcardioid microphones, and how do they work?

In this post, we will answer these questions and more so that you can understand how this type of microphone works and how to use it effectively.

Image of a black subcardioid microphone in an upside down position. Source: michal dziekonski, pexels
Image of a black subcardioid microphone in an upside down position. Source: Michal Dziekonski, Pexels

What is a subcardioid microphone? Subcardioid microphones have polar patterns between omnidirectional and cardioid. It only works in one direction, so it’s more sensitive to noises along the axis, but it’s still clear in all directions (though with less volume).

What is a subcardioid microphone?

A subcardioid microphone is a cross between an omnidirectional and a cardioid microphone. It is also sometimes called a “broad cardioid” because it has a bigger pickup area in the front and a smaller one in the back.

There is less chance of the “proximity effect,” and the low end sounds more natural. But again, this has the downside of making the system more likely to pick up noise and start a feedback loop.

Subcardioid microphones are not subpar, despite their rarity. These microphones work well in professional recording studios with good acoustics and smaller, more personal settings. Remember that you will need to use in-ear monitors for your recordings since the subcardioid does not completely block sound from any direction.

If you’re a pro looking for the best subcardioid microphone you can get your hands on, the Shure KSM9HS is the mic for you.

  • Dual 3/4-Inch gold layered, low mass Mylar diaphragms provide superior frequency response
  • Dual polar patterns (cardioid and super cardioid) for maximum flexibility in a wide variety of performance applications
  • Class A, discrete, transformerless preamplifier provides transparent, extremely fast transient response with no crossover distortion and minimal harmonic and intermodulation distortion
  • Advanced suspension shock mount system that isolates cartridge from handling and stand noise
  • Accessories Included: Locking Aluminum Carrying Case & Stand Adapter

How do subcardioid microphones work?

Subcardioid microphones have a low-frequency response that allows them to pick up sounds like footsteps and other ambient noises that a standard microphone would have trouble picking up.

The pressure-gradient theory is at the heart of how subcardioid microphones function. Because of this, a subcardioid microphone’s diaphragm is susceptible to pressure from the sides.

What are the benefits of subcardioid microphones?

A subcardioid microphone is better than other microphones because it picks up less background noise. Because of this, it’s often used to record video and audio for podcasts and video blogs. Also, subcardioid microphones are usually more sensitive than regular microphones, which lets them record sounds more clearly.

When should you use a subcardioid microphone?

The best moment to use a subcardioid microphone depends on the circumstances and requirements. So, there is yet to be a universally applicable solution to this topic. On the other hand, here are a few suggestions that might be helpful:

  • If you need to record someone’s voice for a podcast or video interview.
  • When you need to capture a presentation or speech for later playback.
  • When you need to capture an audio clip for promotional uses.

When should you avoid using a subcardioid microphone?

While there are many reasons you would want to use a subcardioid microphone, there are some circumstances where you’d want to avoid it.

  • In settings requiring live sound reinforcement.
  • When recording individual sound sources where there are bad acoustics.

Subcardioid microphones can be helpful in many situations, but you should always try one out to ensure it works with your workflow.

Image of two woman with a notebook and two microphonewith a stand on top of a table. Source: george milton, pexels
Image of two women with a notebook and two microphones on a stand on top of a table. Source: George Milton, Pexels

If you want even more tips and insights, watch this video called “Microphone Polar Patterns: The Basics” from the Leisuretec Distribution Ltd YouTube channel.

A video called “Microphone Polar Patterns: The Basics” from the Leisuretec Distribution Ltd YouTube channel.
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Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

Do you still have questions? Below are some of the most commonly asked questions about subcardioid microphones. 

What are the three polar patterns?

The three most common polar patterns are designs are omnidirectional, unidirectional, and bidirectional.

What is a polar response pattern?

A microphone’s polar pattern specifies how much sound is taken up from various directions. If you choose the right pattern, you can change the balance between the dry and ambient sounds.

What is a figure 8 microphone?

A microphone with a bidirectional (Figure 8) or omnidirectional (circle) pickup pattern will pick up sound from the front and back but strongly reject sound from the sides.

Conclusion

With so many microphones on the market today, it can be hard to know when you’re choosing the right one. But subcardioid microphones are known for their high-quality sound, which lets you record professional-level audio from almost any angle. When using this type, you must keep the right distance between you and your microphone.

This article covered what a subcardioid microphone is, how it works, and its benefits. Here are some key takeaways:

Key takeaways

  • Subcardioid is the middle ground between omnidirectional and cardioid.
  • Subcardioid microphones have a low-frequency response.
  • A subcardioid microphone picks up less background noise.
  • Extra tips:
    • The subcardioid mic will exhibit a more hyper cardioid-like pattern at the upper end of its frequency response.
    • With some microphones, condenser microphones with many polar patterns, such as hypercardioid and subcardioid, may be toggled on the fly.
    • The subcardioid pattern excels when the sound source is mobile yet close to the front of the mic.
    • The super-cardioid polar pattern permits stronger cancellation than the more general cardioid.

So do you prefer to use a subcardioid microphone? And did I cover everything you wanted to know? Let me know in the comments section below (I read and reply to every comment). If you found this article helpful, share it with a friend, and check out my full blog for more tips and tricks on music production. Thanks for reading, and never stop making music.

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Audio Apartment Author
Written By Andrew Ash
Hey there! My name is Andrew, and I've been making music since I was a kid. I now run this blog all about home studios and music production. If you want to improve your home studio setup, this is the place for you!

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