What Does On Axis Mean For A Microphone?

Dealing with recoding microphones is not easy work at all….

But, for most audiophiles it’s pretty enjoyable work.

Microphones have various applications and specs which allow you to do certain things….

For example, you may have come across the term “on-axis” which is a popular feature that you’ll find on most mics.

This post will therefore discuss what the term means in order to give you a better idea of mics in general.

This post is necessary because it will allow you use your mic more effectively, whether you’re a beginner or not…keep reading.

With that said, what does on axis mean for a microphone?

On axis for a microphone means the mic aiming directly at the sound source. If you’re recording a singer, this means the microphone facing towards the singer.

Therefore when a microphone is placed on axis, it means it is aligned to the center of the radiating sound source.

Things to consider with mic placement

When choosing to use a microphone whether on or off axis, you need to consider three important things for you to get the desired result.

End goal

First thing you have to consider is what you want to achieve with on or off axis microphone placement or recording.

Since we are concerned with on axis microphone use in this post…I’ll assume you’re looking to capture something in its natural sounding form.

Perharps a vocalist performing a song.

In which case, you have to consider various things such as the singers position and the position of the microphone itself.

On axis means facing the microphone which is how we usually record vocals for music creation.

Therefore, when doing this kind of work its in your best interest to record on axis and not off axis.

Microphone pick up pattern

Another thing that you should really consider is the microphone polar pattern which is just a microphone’s pick up range.

You’ll find that some mics only allow you to record from the front and you can’t really go around and record to the back of the mic.

Therefore its your best interest to research various microphone patterns and know which one will be best for your intended use.

Also research microphone types depending on what you’re trying to do.

For example, condenser microphones are great for recording audio to edit in a DAW which is the work carried out in music production…

Dynamic mics are great for stage work because of their ability to pick up even the loudest of noise.

All in all, what I’m trying to say is that on or off axis recording or microphone use also depends on the pick up pattern of the microphone so it’s definitely something you need to pay attention to.

Common pick up patterns

Omnidirectional

An omnidirectional  microphone picks up equal sound from all directions…it has the same 360-degree output regardless of its relationship to the sound source.

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. That means it is also prone to feedback.

Unidirectional Polar Patterns

A unidirectional mic is most sensitive to sound coming from one direction. To therefore get a clear output, the sound source has to be on axis.

Bidirectional

A bidirectional mic, sometimes is sensitive to sounds coming from the front and rear of the mic and least sensitive to sounds coming from the sides.

The sound source

The sound source being recorded is also of vital importance…

Are you recording an instrument?

Are you recording vocals?

Are you recording sound effects??

These are things that you have to consider.

For example in recording guitars on axis recording is the best way to get a full brighter sound and doing so with the right microphone is the best way of going about things.

Conclusion

On-axis basically means pointing the mic directly at the sound source with no angle, so in effect, the mic would be considered to be pointed at the sound source. Which could be an instrument or a vocal….or anything you wish to record.

With on axis mic placement the output tends to sound brighter…

but at the same time there is a greater chance of proximity effect. Off-axis means angling the mic a little to the side.

This can make the high end roll off a little and make things sound a lot smoother because the sound source isn’t directly aimed at the sound source.