Microphone Pickup Patterns Every Audio Engineer Should Know

Polar Patterns are sounds that arrive from different angles. The shape of a polar pattern will help you determine to what kind of sound you are going for, which will be able to help you memorize visually a microphones directionality when it comes to mic placement in a recording session.

Image: Pexel - Jessica Lewis

When you look a view of a microphone from the top, the image is at zero degrees in the front of a microphone, 180 to the back, and the left and right sides are 270 and 90 degrees. The circumference of the imaging circle is a five db reduction in the audios sensitivity. Knowing a difference between a directional, omni, and cardioid helps an engineer understand which patterns would work best for what instrument in reducing feedback and controlling the proximity effect in isolating sound sources from one to another.

Some microphones are known to have two or more polar patterns, which is an indication that there’s two types of mic together in one. Understating the difference between microphones polar patterns can be difficult, but once you understand how each one works, you can get an understanding which mic you would need on your next session.


A cardioid picks up sound from the front of the microphone. It’s polar pattern is known as a directional because when pointed in the direction of the sound, it picks up the source. Cardioids are known for using when it comes to adding reverb for an effect for a room that hasn’t been treated, however; cardioids can suffer with the low bass frequencies when a mic is close to the sound source. 


Supercardioid is less directional than a hypercardioid pattern. It offers a narrower pickup than compared to most cardioids and has a more rejection to ambient sounds. They do have some pickups at the rear, though they are most suitable for single sound sources in loud environments to resistant from feedback.


Hypercardioids are more of a wider pickup compared to a supercardioid and provides more noise cancellation from the sides, which makes this more narrow than a supercardioid. Switching from supercardioid to this polar pattern only increases the sensitivity at the front of the mic and the rear.


An omnidirectional mic has a sensitivity that’s equal on all sides of the microphone, meaning that every sound in picked up from every direction. This polar pattern doesn’t need to be aimed at a certain direction for the sound source, though brings it disadvantage from being able to escape the unwanted sounds resulting in less headroom creating a feedback.


This pattern can pick up a sound source from both back and the front of a microphone equally, and it easily remembered for its figured eight pattern. A bi-directional mic avoids sounds coming from the left and right side. This can be more ideal for a one on one interview. Bi-directional patterns can be often found in either a ribbon microphone, or condensers.


A shotgun mic is found in a condenser model. These microphones are mostly seen used in for film, media, and television. These patterns are very directional, given the tight pickups from the front of the mic and having to be pointed directly at the source.

Check out which directional mics are best for your next recording sessions! See more at https://www.shure.com/en-US/performance-production/louder/multi-pattern-microphones-what-where-and-how