An omnidirectional microphone“hears” sound from every direction,so it wouldn’t seem like the bestchoice for capturing clear, clean, andisolated vocals in the studio, and onlya lunatic would sing through oneonstage amidst blaring amps, drums,and monitors. But this doesn’t meanthat omnis should be avoided as ifthey just caught very bad cases ofH1N1. These mics—or, more accurately, these polar patterns—offer somevery attractive characteristics tovocalists of all genders, styles, anddynamic levels.
Many musicians are introduced to theomni pattern via multi-pattern, largediaphragmcondenser mics such asthe AKG C414 (omni, figure-8, hypercardioid,cardioid, wide cardioid), Shure KSM44 (omni, cardioid, figure-8), and Audio-Technica AT4050(omni, cardioid, figure-8). Those whonever move the pattern switch off“cardioid” are missing a fair amountof aural treats. Sure, the heart-shapedcardioid pattern may appear to bemore of a “useable” option forrecording vocals as it mostly picks upsound from the front, and rejectsmuch of the sound occurring at itsrear and sides. But while cardioidpatterns minimize ambient noise andfocus on what’s coming out of thesinger’s mouth, they also exhibit offaxiscoloration (where the tone of thevoice changes as the singer movesaway from the front of the mic) andproximity effect (where low frequenciesare intensified as the singer’smouth gets closer to the mic), andare susceptible to plosives (thoseannoying popping “p” sounds).
Meanwhile, the omni pattern isoften considered the purest-sounding polar pattern because it adds very littlecoloration to the original sound.Omnis are also less sensitive to plosives,and, by virtue of the fact they capture sound equally from all directions,off-axis coloration is negligible.So if you desire a relatively pristine,accurate, and balanced vocal track—along with the bonus of some naturalambience that might make reverbunnecessary at the mixdown—theomni starts looking like an option oftrue genius. Here, then, are a coupleof tips to maximize the pattern’s benefits,while minimizing its potentialshortcomings.
As stated earlier, omnis capturesound from all directions, so you haveto be very conscious of your recordingenvironment in order to achieve optimum results. However, I view the360-degree audio field as a benefit.As long as your housemates aren’tcranking up the big-screen TV’s surroundsound, environmental noisesshouldn’t be too much of a problem,and gaining some ambience is a nice aural homage to the days when vocals were sometimes cut in big studiospaces. Look for a spot in your home that offers the most pleasant ambience. Do some test recordings,and listen to how the environmentaffects the tone and vibe of thevocal. Take care not to go too crazy,as you can’t remove the reverberationonce you record it down with thevocal, so what you get is what you’llhave always and forever. Too much ambience, for example, could sound unnatural in a mix where the other instruments are rather ...