Many instruments are in need of more than one microphone during recording. Sometimes it’s just not possible for one microphone to capture the fullness, body, attack and brilliance of an instrument.
By using a stereo pair you pick up the different characteristics of the instrument and mix them together.
The X/Y stereo microphone technique is a popular recording technique. It is also one of the simpler ones to use. It involves two cardioid microphones, normally condensers, pointed in such a way as to capture the whole instrument.
You want the full tonal spectrum of an instrument in a proper stereo recording. The X/Y technique is one of the fastest, most simple and easy to use in your bag of tricks.
How to Use?
This microphone technique involves two mono microphones to capture a stereo image of (usually)one instrument. Many portable recorders have built-in X/Y microphones that work really well if you want to capture an idea on the fly.
We must position the microphones correctly, or as close as possible to each other so that they are facing each other in an angle of 90° to 110°.
I recommend having the microphones as close to 90° as possible, but if you are close-miking a large instrument, you might need to open the angle a little more.
Any more than 120° and you risk losing the stereo image of the instrument by neither microphone picking up the center.
Advantage of the X/Y Technique
- Since it’s a stereo recording technique, panning both microphones to each side will result in a wide stereo image.
- Converting the recorded tracks to mono result in a fuller sound that you wouldn’t get with one microphone.
- Since the microphones are so close to each other, there is almost no chance of having phase issues.
Some Tips for Using an X/Y Pair
Today, we record every single drum with at least one microphone if not more. When the time comes to mix your drum-kit, many mixing engineers tell you they always start from the overheads.
- The overhead microphones are the ones that pick up every single thing the drummer does. They are the most valuable microphones in the mix. So an X/Y pair is a good choice for drum overheads. It automatically has the advantages of being a great stereo technique and doesn’t have problems with phase.
- If you can’t position an X/Y pair as overheads try using the technique for capturing the room sound. Not only if you are recording drums, but also for whatever you have that sounds good in a room.
- X/Y can work well on acoustic guitar. Positioning them a foot(30cm) or so from the 12th fret will pick up the whole instrument perfectly.
- If you have a percussion player playing assorted percussion instruments such as congas, bongos and such you can position a X/Y pair a few feet above the instruments, capturing the group of instruments as a whole.
Stereo Sound – Impressive Sound
Knowledge of a few stereo microphone techniques is a good thing to have in your utility belt. Being able to whip out two condensers and get a wide stereo sound in minutes is impressive to your clients.
Just follow the above guidelines for setting it up, and use some of the advice I’ve given and you’re up and running in minutes spreading stereo all over the place.
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