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10/25/2018 7 Stereo Miking Techniques You Should Try | Sweetwater

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7 Stereo Miking Techniques You

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By Sweetwater on Apr 27, 2016, 11:58 AM


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Engineers have been discovering unique techniques for recording in stereo for decades. Most of us are
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familiar with two or three techniques, but there are well over a dozen great methods to choose from,
each with its own particular strengths. Here’s a list of the top seven stereo recording techniques we’ve
used here at Sweetwater, with some nods and honorable mentions to a few others. Next time you need
to record in stereo, we hope these methods help to fuel your creativity. Privacy Policy | Unsubscribe anytime

1. XY Stereo
If you’re like most engineers, then the XY technique is probably
the first stereo miking technique you learned. This one is
extremely simple to set up — just position two cardioid mics
(usually small-diaphragm condensers) at right angles, aligning
the front of the capsules, and you’re good to go. This method is
ideal for close-mic applications and provides a clear but not
terribly wide stereo image with minimal phase issues.

Pro Tip: You can explore many variations on the standard XY

stereo mic technique by making the angle of the mics greater
than 90 degrees. This increases the stereo width and decreases
the strength of the center.

2. A-B Stereo
For medium-distance stereo miking for choirs, orchestras, and even drum kits, A-B stereo may be your
best bet. This stereo mic technique involves spacing a pair of cardioid or omnidirectional microphones
apart in such a way that they cover the space but don’t create phase issues for each other. Many
engineers adhere to the 3:1 rule, in which the microphones are placed three times as far apart as either
one is to the closest sound source in the area they’re covering. Some also add a third center microphone

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to strengthen the center image, but this can lead to other phase
Depending on the space, this may not be possible. To help
facilitate stereo separation and reduce phase problems, a pair of
microphones may be isolated with an absorbent baffle. Commonly
known as a Jecklin disk or the
modified Schneider disk, when
properly applied, a baffled pair
may be much closer together
than a regular A-B stereo pair.
The stereo separation you’ll
experience with a baffled A-B
stereo pair is even more pronounced if you use omnidirectional mics.

Pro Tip: Any time you have microphones covering the same sound
source from different distances, you’re likely to run into some phase
problems, as the offset in distance causes the sound to reach the
microphones at different times. When in doubt, use your ears,
reevaluate your mic placement, and make adjustments to get the
results you want.

3. Mid-Side Stereo
Don’t want to worry about phase issues? Then you should definitely check out the Mid-Side (M-S)
stereo technique. All you need to set up this totally phase-coherent stereo technique is a cardioid mic
(the mid or M mic), a figure-8 mic (the side or S mic), and an M-S decoder of some kind (or some clever
summing in your DAW).

Here’s how it works. You arrange your mics so that the figure-8 pattern is facing the sides (with the null
side of the mic facing the source) and place your cardioid mic on top of it, facing toward the sound
source. This way, there’s minimal overlap between the microphone patterns. Assuming you’re managing
your Mid-Side processing manually in your DAW (there are plug-ins and other software that do all of
this), the first thing you need to do is duplicate the side mic and
flip the phase, panning the in-polarity channel to the left, and
the inverted-polarity channel to the right. When you combine
these with the mid mic, you get a stereo image comprised of
mid + side for the left and mid – side for the right.

A good idea is to
bus the two side
channels to a
separate stereo
bus, so you can
control both side
volumes with one
fader. Now, when
you raise or lower
the volume of the
combined side mics, you will be adjusting the stereo width. Best of all, since the stereo side channels are
completely phase coherent (both derived from the same mono source), they’ll cancel each other out
when summed to mono, leaving your final stereo mix completely phase coherent.

Pro Tip: It’s a good idea for both microphones to sound identical, or you may have trouble matching
levels, so many engineers use the same multi-pattern condensers for both microphones, but that isn’t
strictly necessary.

4. Blumlein Stereo
In a way, Blumlein stereo (named after Alan Blumlein) is a lot like XY, only with greater stereo separation
and potentially better room ambience. This setup uses two figure-8 microphones positioned so that the
elements cross at right angles and as close to one another as possible. Because the figure-8 polar
pattern offers complete off-axis (side) rejection, these mics pick up an almost completely isolated
(coincident) stereo field.

Pro Tip: Depending on where you position your Blumlein pair, you can pick up more or less of the room
ambience. Position it very close to the source and far enough away from the rear wall, and you’ll get
pure stereo with virtually no ambience.

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5. Decca Tree

Decca Tree technique was developed by Decca

Records in the 1950s, and it’s one of the most
popular methods of recording stereo and spacial
ambience in orchestral and symphonic
productions. The Decca Tree itself consists of an arrangement of three omnidirectional microphones —
the Neumann M 50 tube condenser is a perennial favorite — suspended around 10′ over the
conductor’s head. The rear two microphones are two meters (about 6.5′) apart, and the center mic one
and a half meters (just under 5′) in front of the others in a triangle formation. The effect is a natural and
highly musical stereo recording. There are many variations on this theme and mic spacing, such as the
Fukada Tree and the OCT array, which owe their inspiration to this timeless microphone arrangement.

Pro Tip: While it’s great for full-scale orchestral and symphonic productions, the Decca Tree is also
excellent for capturing drums, choirs, and other small ensemble arrangements.

6. Binaural Stereo
At some point, a cunning recording engineer must have
thought that the best way to capture natural stereo was to
build a head and stick microphones in it, just like we hear,
because that’s exactly what the binaural stereo technique is.
There are a few keys to this technique that make it appear
highly technical, but anyone with a bit of time and the right
resources can pull it off.

First, you need a pair of small and precise omnidirectional

microphones, such as DPA 4060s. Then you need an artificial
head. A mannequin head is a good place to start. Set the
microphones into the openings of the ears, and you’ll have a
stereo effect that sounds amazingly convincing over
headphones. As great as it sounds on headphones, the only
downside of binaural is that it doesn’t translate as well to spaced loudspeakers.

Pro Tip: To pull this off right, you’ll need to ensure that the ears are as accurate as possible. Some DIY
engineers have gone so far as to make plaster molds of their ears to create latex models, but there are
many other ways to pull this off.

7. ORTF Stereo

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Born in the Office de Radiodiffusion Télévision Française French broadcasting company, the ORTF stereo
technique is an improvement on the traditional XY stereo technique. This method uses a pair of first-
order cardioid microphones with their diaphragms spaced 17cm (6.7″) apart and at a 110-degree angle
from each other. The idea is to mimic the way human ears hear, but without the hassle of constructing a
head analog to get the job done. This recording method yields a stereo image that’s wider than XY
stereo, without completely omitting center information.

Pro Tip: Like XY stereo, the ORTF stereo technique works best at close distances.


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