Microphones and the Proximity Effect

The shorter the distance between the source and the microphone, the more low frequencies are registered at the cost of high frequencies. This is what’s known as the proximity effect, and it applies to a lot of microphones. In practice, this usually means that the closer you close-mike your voice or instrument, the fuller it’ll sound. Read on and learn how to take advantage of it.

All Natural

The proximity effect is a natural phenomenon which basically mimics the way our ears work. After all, the closer we are to a sound source, the stronger any lows in the sound seem to be. For vocalists, the proximity effect is a great way to inject more warmth and depth into their vocals, making it a solid aid for more thin-voiced singers. If your vocals are already more full-toned by nature, then we’re sorry to say the proximity effect will generally be of no use to you.

Differences Between Microphones

The proximity effect hinges on the pickup pattern of your microphone. In fact, omnidirectional microphones aren’t affected by it at all, while it’s immediately obvious with all bidirectional (figure-of-8) microphones. Cardioid microphones fall somewhere in between. You could say that the more focussed the mic capsule is, the stronger the proximity effect will be. If you have the right type of microphone and want to know what the effect does to your voice, simply experiment a little with the distance between your mouth and mic.

Should Vocalists Always Use the Same Microphone?

Between rehearsals and gigs, some singers like to use different microphones while others always stick to the same model. The truth is there’s something to be said for either side. Always having the same sound guarantees consistency and can offer some peace of mind, but on the other hand, it can be important to take certain situational circumstances into consideration. Say you’ve got a good gigging condenser microphone with a satisfying dynamic range and a known proximity effect. While it might work well on stage, it’s going to sound different in every rehearsal room. Its high sensitivity combined with a wall of sound in a small backroom could potentially result in feedback, making a (cheap) dynamic microphone a better option for your pre-gig practice session. Then again, if your vocal microphone is causing feedback during rehearsals, it’s probably a good idea to turn the volume down before you destroy your hearing…

See Also

» Studio Microphones
» Live Microphones
» Wireless Microphones
» USB Microphones
» All Microphones & Accessories

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» The Difference Between Dynamic and Condenser Microphones
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