What Does It Mean When A Mic Is Off-axis?

There are various nuances that come with sound engineering equipment.

Something as simple as a microphone can be a complicated tool for audiophiles trying to use them in a very specific way.

This post will walk you through what “off-axis” means because it’s probably something you’ll run into when dealing with recording gear especially mics.

It pays to have a good understanding of certain things like this because you could never really know what to expect from recording clients.

Therefore, it’s important to be armed with knowledge to better handle clients well.

With that said, what does it mean when a mic is off-axis?

When a microphone is off axis it means the microphone is not directly aimed at a sound source.

 This results in off-axis coloration; a distortion or change in the frequency response of the reproduced audio signal.

Often this coloration is put to good use. For example, many engineers intentionally set up mics on guitar amps so that they are slightly off access to control the amount of high frequencies captured.

A microphone will generally produce the “truest” results if it is used on-axis ( directly in front of the sound source).

What does off axis rejection mean?

Off axis rejection means that a microphone rejects any sound to which it is not pointed.

This is the case with condenser microphones that are meant for studio recording.

In recording studios, the singer or artist has to be facing the microphone when singing. A microphone with off axis rejection in this case would be ideal because it would reject everything coming in from behind and  it would only pick up what’s in front of it which is the voice of the singer.

What is a benefit of using a microphone in an off axis position?

One benefit of using a microphone in an off axis position is that you can eliminate the proximity effect.

The proximity effect is simply what happens when a person is too close to a microphone and ends up recording a highly loud vocal that may clip or distort.

Being slightly on angle can be helpful if you’re looking to avoid this.

But it’s important to know the kind of microphone you’re working with.

How does mic placement affect speech frequencies?

If a sound source is closer to a microphone, the mic will put out a stronger signal. 

A flat-response omnidirectional microphone increases the signal evenly across all frequencies; however, with a directional microphone…you notice that it puts out more bass frequencies compared to the mid and high frequencies.

What is the 3 to 1 rule of microphone placement?

This rule basically deals with minimizing the phasing problems when summing several microphones to mono. The rule simply states that the source-to-microphone distance of a number of mics should be three times the distance between the sound source and the nearest mic.

Do Condenser Mics have the proximity effect?

Condenser do have the proximity effect especially unidirectional microphones that offer no other alternative recording position except the front.

If the person recording is too close to the mic, you’ll run into proximity effect issues which could leave you with a badly recorded vocal.

Either too distorted or clipping.

So you might want to keep a healthy distance between the singer and the mic…this will allow you to record a better quality vocal.

How does mic placement affect pitch?

If you place a mic a few feet away from a loudspeaker, it will be able to pick up the sound accurately.

But if you place the mic close to the woofer …the sound will have too much bass.

Placing a mic on an instrument pretty much does the same thing, it emphasizes the part of the instrument that the mic is closest to.

Being off axis with a microphone that is meant to only pick up sound from the front only can also affect pitch.

How close should you sing into a mic?

3 to 4 inches away from a mic is a pretty good distance. It is the most recommended by most audiophiles.

However, its important to carry out some research on your own and figure out a good distance for the microphone you’re working with.

Have the singer record at various distances and then analyse the results in your digital audio workstation.

Because one thing that is worser than being close to a mic is being too far from it.

You want the singer not too close and not too far from the mic.

You therefore have to strike a good balance which usually entails carrying out some tests like the one I’ve recommended.

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