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What Is a Supercardioid Microphone? How does it work?

Are you familiar with super-cardioid microphones? These specialized microphones have a unique pickup pattern that allows them to capture sound from a specific direction, making them a popular choice for recording and live sound applications. So let’s dive in and find out what makes a super-cardioid microphone so super!

In this article, we’ll explore what a super-cardioid microphone is, how it works, and some of its important characteristics. We’ll also provide tips on how to use your super-cardioid microphone and get the most out of it!

Image of a gray microphone on a stand with a pop filter on it. Source: anna pou, pexels
Image of a gray microphone on a stand with a pop filter on it. Source: Anna Pou, Pexels

What is a super-cardioid microphone? A super cardioid recording microphone has a narrow polar pattern. It is most sensitive to sound directed toward the mic’s on-axis because of the mic’s rear lobe, and the null points are at 127 degrees and 233 degrees.

What is a super-cardioid microphone?

A super-cardioid microphone is a kind of directional mic. The polar and pickup patterns of a super-cardioid microphone are very narrow. It is most sensitive to on-axis noises, with a large rear lobe of sensitivity and null points at 127° and 233°.

Supercardioid microphones have a heart-shaped pickup pattern, which is more directional than that of a cardioid microphone but not as directional as a shotgun microphone. This allows them to capture a slightly wider area of sound than a shotgun microphone while still providing good isolation of the desired sound source.

The term “supercardioid” refers to the mic’s ability to produce a “super-directional” sound wave. This means that, unlike a normal microphone, the thing simultaneously picks up sounds from everywhere. This extra data could improve the recording quality, making it easier to record voices and instruments that can be understood.

Characteristics of the super cardioid pattern

With these essential adjustments, your super cardioid mic will perform at its best.

A common base capsule polar pattern of lobar/shotgun microphones

You may find supercardioid and hypercardioid capsules in most shotgun microphones. The acceptance angle of these highly directional, specialized microphones is reduced by using interference tubes placed in front of the capsule.

A popular choice for close-miking in live, film, and noisy environments

A supercardioid microphone’s sensitivity is maximized depending on the sound source you direct it towards, making it ideal for close-miking. This makes it a great choice for recording many instruments close together or isolating a single source in a noisy environment. But a supercardioid mic has a sensitive rear lobe, so it needs to be placed carefully to separate sound sources.

Null points at 127° & 233°

The graph clearly shows that the optimal supercardioid polar pattern contains cold regions of 127 degrees on each side of the on-axis line. Theoretically, the microphone won’t pick up any sound from the directions shown with null points. As a result, the sound level will drop a lot, especially at high frequencies. Sound can reach the microphone from non-null point directions due to the physics of sound, acoustics, and reflections.

Rear cone of silence

The maximal rejection angles of a 2D supercardioid mic are shown by the null points at 127° and 233°. It’s the equivalent of a “cone of stillness” behind you in three dimensions. Note this because microphones have effects in three-dimensional space.

Suppose you know about the cone of calm and the back lobe of sensitivity. In that case, it will be much easier to place a supercardioid microphone correctly, whether you want to get the most gain-before-feedback or keep outside noise from getting in.

The rear lobe of sensitivity yields -10 d b at 180°

Its rear lobe is clear, but at -10 dB relative to its sensitivity on-axis, the signal from the mic’s rear lobe is usually weak. Therefore, the supercardioid pattern’s back lobe should be addressed. When we know that a supercardioid mic’s off-axis response is 10 dB less sensitive than its on-axis response, we can put the mics in better places.

It’s important to remember that the mic’s rear lobe might shift in character depending on the measured frequency. In other words, the ideal supercardioid mic has a 10 dB differential between 0° (on-axis) and 180° (rear lobe) sensitivity; however, this isn’t necessarily the case for all frequencies.

Roughly 10 dB less sensitive at the sides (90° & 270°)

The supercardioid pattern is more directed than the cardioid because it ignores lateral noises. In a supercardioid pattern, the attenuation at the sides (90 degrees and 270 degrees) should be 10 dB. So, supercardioid mics are excellent for picking up certain sounds.

The recommended decibel level is 10, so keep that in mind. A genuine supercardioid mic will have less than 10 dB of side attenuation at lower frequencies. On the other hand, the side attenuation is likely to be more than 10 dB for higher frequencies.

Exhibits proximity effect

Both sides of the diaphragm of a supercardioid microphone capsule are subjected to the ambient noise level. They work based on the idea of a pressure gradient and show the proximity effect. The bass response of a directional microphone gets better when it is closer to a sound source. This is called the proximity effect.

This is based on how the amplitude and phase differences at the front and back of a diaphragm work. The phase difference remains small, but the amplitude difference increases as the separation between the sound source and the microphone shrinks. 

Sensitive to vocal plosives

Again, the pressure-gradient capsules and cartridges of supercardioid mics make them sensitive to plosives in the vocal range and wind noise.

Because plosives are so short-lived, they can sometimes cause supercardioid microphones to clip. When making a “plosive” sound, the supercardioid diaphragm is put under intense pressure on one side and suction on the other. Due to rapid capsule overflow, a “pop” in the microphone signal is produced.

Excellent sound isolation

Most supercardioid microphones can separate sound sources because they have a narrow pattern and can pick up sound from all directions. Next, we’ll discuss how the supercardioid mic’s exceptional ability to isolate sound sources makes it a top pick for recording instruments and vocals in a room.

Great for miking a single source

The high isolation and directivity of the supercardioid make it a good choice for picking up a single sound source. This is true in a calm and raucous studio, broadcast, and live stage settings.

High gain-before-feedback

As a result of their pinpoint accuracy and the absence of any dead zones in their polar patterns, super cardioid microphones may achieve impressive levels of gain before feedback. For best results, any loudspeakers or monitors that face the mic should be placed at an off-axis angle of 127 or 233 degrees.

Becomes more directional at higher frequencies

At higher frequencies, any microphone tends to focus on a single source. This is because high-frequency sound waves have shorter wavelengths, which is how sound works. At higher frequencies, the polar patterns of a super cardioid mic often change into something more like hyper cardioid or even lobar.

Becomes less directional at lower frequencies

Similarly to what was just said, at lower frequencies, microphones tend to become less directional. This may cause a change in polar pattern for super cardioid microphones in the low end of their frequency responses, making them more resemble cardioid or subcardioid mics. Our examples of the super-cardioid microphone’s directional characteristics will show how they change as a function of frequency.

Works on the pressure-gradient principle

The pressure-gradient theory is at the heart of all directional microphones, including super cardioid mics, which bear repeating. The diaphragm of a super cardioid mic is symmetrical, allowing sound to enter from any side. Diaphragm movement and a corresponding mic signal result from pressure differences on opposite sides of the mic diaphragm.

This may be achieved with an acoustic labyrinth covering the back of the diaphragm.

The pressure gradient method used by supercardioid microphones needs an acoustic labyrinth to change the sound waves’ phase before reaching the back of the diaphragm. Using carefully planned acoustic labyrinths that reflect off the back of the diaphragm, the arrival times of sound waves are changed. This is the actual mechanism responsible for the characteristic supercardioid polar pattern.

A 5:3 ratio of an omnidirectional and bidirectional pattern

The supercardioid polar pattern may be thought of as a 5:3 ratio of the omnidirectional pattern to the bidirectional pattern, in contrast to a cardioid microphone’s 1:1 superposition of the omnidirectional and bidirectional polar patterns.

Image of black microphone on a stand with a midi and a black headphone. Source: los muertos crew, pexels
Image of a black microphone on a stand with midi and black headphones. Source: Los Muertos Crew, Pexels

Supercardioid microphone uses: when and when not to use?

Below are some examples of where it shines:

Mics with a hyper-cardioid pattern have the best potential for various purposes.

  • Mount on the end of a camera’s boom pole.
  • Do duty as a DSLR microphone to bolster the device’s ability to filter out noise while the subject is out of frame.
  • With a tighter acceptance angle and directed pickup.
  • As a means of isolating or close-miking individual sound sources in a loud environment.
  • To isolate and capture close-up details of a sound source, such as drums in a drum set.

In addition to those above, less ideal uses for supercardioid microphones do exist.

  • Avoid using while…
  • During live performances, position in front of the foldback screens.
  • Put it to use as a stationary microphone to capture sounds from moving objects.

If you want even more tips and insights, watch this video called “Cardioid and Super-cardioid Microphones” from the Pushing Faders YouTube channel.

A video called “Cardioid and Super-cardioid Microphones” from the Pushing Faders 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 supercardioid microphones.

Are hypercardioid and supercardioid the same?

The hypercardioid pick pattern is similar to the supercardioid but is even more limited. Also, it has heightened sensitivity to sounds approaching from behind. This is because a wider angle and higher amplitude are used to pick up sounds from behind compared to a super-cardioid microphone.

What is the difference between cardioid and unidirectional?

Some microphones, known as unidirectional or cardioid microphones, are more sensitive in one direction than others and block out sound from behind them. The name “cardioid” describes the microphone’s pickup pattern, which is shaped like a heart.

Are shotgun mics supercardioid?

Shotgun mics are examples of high-directionality microphones, which pick up sound from a certain direction. As a result, they have a narrower “sweet spot” than a standard cardioid or supercardioid microphone.

Conclusion

So, there you have it! A general idea about the supercardioid microphone. Many important factors must be considered when selecting the right mic for your voiceover project. But overall, a supercardioid microphone will give crisp and clear audio with rich detail.

However, just as you can’t become an expert cyclist by reading a book, you can’t become a great musician by reading articles alone. It’s time to take action! Go and put what you have learned into practice.

This article covered what a supercardioid microphone is, how it works, and the characteristic of a supercardioid mic. Here are some key takeaways:

Key takeaways

  • A supercardioid microphone is a kind of directional mic.
  • When recording voices, instruments, or other sounds near the microphone, supercardioid microphones are ideal because of their pinpoint directional pickup.
  • With these essential adjustments, your supercardioid mic will perform at its best.
  • Extra tips:
    • A cardioid mic has a useful pickup angle of 131 degrees, so it can accommodate one or two singers and is still forgiving enough to pick up a vocalist with a wandering mic technique. 
    • An omnidirectional mic can pick up a group of people sitting around a table, but it can’t be aimed to favor one source over another.

So, do you need a supercardioid 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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