Large diaphragm mikes versus small. Is there a winner?

    • February 1, 2023 at 10:49 pm #4564
      Bob Katz

        That’ll get your dander up 🙂 Let’s start the discussion.

      • February 1, 2023 at 11:08 pm #4565
        Bob Olhsson

          I’ve always preferred small! My favorite pattern is figure 8 so I’ve had few choices living in the rental world.


        • February 2, 2023 at 10:04 pm #4583
          Gary Gottlieb

            It depends on the application and what I will be going for in the final mix (since the mix starts with the mics we choose).


          • February 3, 2023 at 8:02 pm #4702
            Mary Mazurek

              Bob you’re quite the instigator, but we seem to have very even tempered members here with thoughtful comments.

              My answer is that it depends. Though, I tend to go for very neutral pencil condensers for recording orchestra and chamber music.

              However, I notice a lot of large diaphragms and color being used for scoring orchestras. I’d be interested to hear from someone who takes that approach.

            • February 27, 2023 at 10:04 am #5012
              Charles Lawson

                It depends on your circumstances and the coloration you may be desiring.  (And ALL microphones have their own coloration, claims to “neutrality” notwithstanding.)  It truly is an individual choice and an individual preference.

                If you are working in a live concert situation and someone objects to large microphones in the field of view, you can still get superb results with small diaphragm, low-profile mic bodies.  Modern designs are incredible in their performance.

                If you are seeking a particular “color” or “vintage” sound, one of the classic large-diaphragm mics might be just the ticket.  However, keep in mind that there are numerous processing packages which can apply a coloration mask to audio captured by a “neutral” small capsule mic in order to emulate a vintage mic.  Some of these packages are *very* good and can easily fool a trained ear.

                I guess, pretty soon we will be able to ask an AI to “make this tinny recording sound like it was recorded with classic Neumann M-50s at Abbey Road” and, Presto!, it shall be done.

                • February 27, 2023 at 2:40 pm #5017
                  Bob Katz

                    One thing that happens with large diaphragm mikes is comb filtering across the diaphragm surface affecting the polar pattern. A source coming in at an angle hits the large diaphragm surface at two points delayed from eachother, causing a DIRECTION-DEPENDENT filter. So I can’t see how a simulation plugins could come close to emulating a large diaphragm’s discrimination of ambience and especially large ensemble’s having a rolloff for instruments at the sides.

                    • February 27, 2023 at 2:42 pm #5018
                      Bob Katz

                        Then again, maybe that polar response rolloff could be a good thing, since with stereo speakers, there is normally a rolloff (centered around 3 kHz if I recall) in the phantom center , so a pair of large diaphragm mikes could institute a rolloff on the sides that MIGHT even out the playing field.

                  • February 27, 2023 at 3:20 pm #5020

                      Preferences aside (which can be completely valid reasons for microphone choice) there are physical reasons, some of which Bob has touched on, for the variations in response that people experience. Mostly, it’s not a difference between large and small but between dual and single diaphragm pressure gradient mics, i.e. how the phase differences are developed to perform the desired directional cancellation. This creates not only differences in azimuth but in distance, beyond the classical proximity effect at low frequencies. There’s a good article buy Guy Torio, who was at Shure at the time, about this.


                    • February 28, 2023 at 2:09 am #5024
                      Corey Bailey

                        I’ve always let my ears be the judge. That applies to the Mic type as well.

                      • February 28, 2023 at 9:35 am #5027
                        Charles Lawson

                          Best answer, Corey.

                        • February 28, 2023 at 10:52 pm #5033
                          Phil Koenig

                            I consider mic choice somewhat akin to an oil painters brush choice.  I record in a studio, and haven’t done much work in recording acoustic ensembles such as classical or jazz.  So it’s mostly a matter of micing individual instruments, usually close mic’ed (varying from inches to 8 feet, or sometimes further for capturing room ambience.

                            I like omni  SDCs for a realistic capture of sound in the room, mid/side for ultra realistic stereo field capture (especially nature sounds outside), and LDC cardoids for closer work.  Occasionally I’ll butt a SDC mic up tight to a wall to effectively get a PZM response which works surprisingly well.

                            They’re all just tools for a job.  I have no religious belief in ‘one right way’…

                          • March 12, 2023 at 10:23 pm #5474
                            TiKkO Rome

                              I had a funny smart ass comment but then I noticed the tags and now, with that context, the question makes more sense.

                              While I prefer to capture, lets say a large harp, with stereo SDCs on the room and an LDC near the strings; if I had to choose (maybe I’m out of preamps or something) I think I might prefer the close mic LDC because I can create the stereo SDC room mic sound in post with only the mono close LDC more easily than the other way around.

                              I know that’s probably more of an answer about mic technique than mic choice but I’m more prone to those particular mic choices for those purposes, so I suppose it answers the question too.

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