Which side of the microphone is the front?

David Mellor

David Mellor is CEO and Course Director of Audio Masterclass. David has designed courses in audio education and training since 1986 and is the publisher and principal writer of Record-Producer.com.

Sunday February 17, 2019
FREE EBOOK DOWNLOAD ►

'Point the microphone at the source of sound.' That's rule number one of audio with very few exceptions. But how can you tell which is the pointy end?

BBC Marconi Type A microphone

It isn't always obvious how a microphone should be pointed. For instance some microphones are end-address (sometimes referred to as front-address), others are side-address, and in some cases it's tricky to know - take for example the Sennheiser MD421 which looks very much like a side-address mic but it is actually end-address.

Sennheiser MD 421

When you know that a microphone is end-address it is obvious how to point it. But what about side-address microphones?

Normally a side-address microphone will have the manufacturer's badge or logo on the front and any pad and filter switches on the back. But what about the sE Electronics 4400a? That's an exception - the switches are on the front.

sE Electronics 4400a

The reason for having switches on the back is clear - the artist shouldn't be messing about with them. That's the engineer's job. But many recordists and podcasters are self-op, so it makes a lot of sense for the switches to be instantly accessible.

But what about the mic on the cover of the Radio Times? This is a vintage BBC-Marconi Type A designed by the BBC as a $12 alternative to the $168 RCA Model 44 way back in the 1930s.

Clearly this is the back of the mic. There's no way the BBC would place the screw terminals of the mic (no XLRs in those days) directly in front of the artist. Perhaps it was photographed in this way because there is a BBC logo on the front and the Radio Times, which used to be a mouthpiece for the BBC, these days is broadcaster-agnostic.

Perhaps it's not even a real microphone but a digital model.

But there's one more thing...

The BBC-Marconi Type A is a ribbon microphone. It is therefore figure-of-eight pattern, so it sounds exactly the same from the front and from the back.

In conclusion therefore, it isn't always obvious which side of the microphone is the front. A listening test will reveal all.

One more thing... You probably want to know what the BBC-Marconi Type A sounds like (with a few crackles due to this 1940 recording being made to disc). Here it is...

Like, follow, and comment on this article at Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Instagram or the social network of your choice.

Come on the Audio Masterclass Pro Home Studio MiniCourse - 60 great hints and tips to get your home recording studio MOVING

It's FREE!

Get It Now >>

The Internet goes analogue!

How to choose an audio interface

Audio left-right test. Does it matter?

Electric guitar - compress before the amp, or after?

What is comb filtering? What does it sound like?

NEW: Audio crossfades come to Final Cut Pro X 10.4.9!

What is the difference between EQ and filters? *With Audio*

What difference will a preamp make to your recording?

Watch our video on linear phase filters and frequency response with the FabFilter Pro Q 2

Read our post on linear phase filters and frequency response with the Fabfilter Pro Q 2

Harmonic distortion with the Soundtoys Decapitator

What's the best height for studio monitors? Answer - Not too low!

What is the Red Book standard? Do I need to use it? Why?

Will floating point change the way we record?

Mixing: What is the 'Pedalboard Exception'?

The difference between mic level and line level

The problem with parallel compression that you didn't know you had. What it sounds like and how to fix it.

Compressing a snare drum to even out the level

What does parallel compression on vocals sound like?

How to automate tracks that have parallel compression

Why mono is better than stereo for recording vocals and dialogue

Clipping and compressing a drum recording to achieve an exciting sound texture

What can we learn about room acoustics from this image?

Can you hear the subtle effect of the knee control of the compressor? (With audio and video demonstrations)