When recording sound, it's often important to know which sounds a microphone is going to pick up. If you put the mike between the guitar player and the flautist, will you hear one or both? Which way should it be aimed? Polar pattern is used to describe a microphone's angular sensitivity. Most mikes have a symbol for one of the several standard patterns printed somewhere on the handle, so you can tell at a glance while setting up how it can be used. Some have switchable patterns, which is convenient and extra-nice if you can't afford a lot of different mikes.

The most common types of polar pattern are*:
  • Omnidirectional -- picks up equally well in all directions. Usually indicated by a circle.
  • Cardioid -- picks up in front of the mike and to the sides, not sensitive behind the mike. Indicated by a gentle heart shape.
  • Hyper-Cardioid -- picks up the front and a little on the sides. Usually sensitive to a narrow angle in the back, too. Indicated by a more sharply indented heart.
  • Figure 8 -- picks up in front of and behind the microphone, but not to the sides. Indicated by (you guessed it) a figure 8.

    *For the purposes of this node, the back of the microphone shall be the part that one would plug in on a non-cordless mike. The sides are perpendicular and surrounding angles to the microphone's length. The front is the part into which chatty people would more likely be inclined to talk.
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