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What Is The Microphone Proximity Effect And Why Should You Care?

October 24, 2022 
BY DAN SPENCER
Microphone Proximity Effect Blog Cover Image
Last Updated on June 7, 2023

You may have heard about the microphone proximity effect in your recording endeavors, but have you ever answered the question what is it? Well, it's an important topic in audio and video production and one that needs close attention. It affects all that we do in a content-driven world and it's something you need to know about.

So, why should you care about the microphone proximity effect? If you’re an audio engineer, videographer, or content creator, it’s important to be aware of this phenomenon so that you can account for it. It can be a solution to a problem but in itself, it is also a problem. I know, it sounds confusing!

In this article, we are going to define what the proximity effect is, how it becomes audible, which microphones produce the effect, how you can use it to your advantage, and lastly how to avoid it altogether. So, keep reading to learn more about this amazing phenomenon!

What Is The Proximity Effect?

The proximity effect is a phenomenon that occurs when a microphone is placed within a certain distance of the sound source. This effect increases the low-frequency response of the microphone, which can be both desirable and undesirable. The effect is most commonly seen in directional microphones, such as cardioid and supercardioid microphones.

Scientifically explained, the proximity effect is caused by the increased amplitude difference in comparison to the phase difference of low frequencies at a close distance. This can account for gain increases up to 16 dB or more in the low end. This is all dependent upon the size of the microphone's diaphragm and how far away it is from the sound source.

To sum up the proximity effect, the closer you place a directional microphone to a sound source, the larger increase in low-frequency gain you will see.


Related Article: What Is Phase Cancellation? Don’t Let It Ruin Your Recordings!


At What Distance Does The Proximity Effect Become Audible?

So at what distance from a sound source does the proximity effect become audible? The answer depends on the type of microphone and the specific sound source. However, the proximity effect usually becomes noticeable at distances of less than one foot. Once you are within the one-foot range and you continue inward, the low-frequency gain will gradually increase.

Which Microphone Pattern Exhibits No Proximity Effect?

So, which microphone pattern exhibits no proximity effect? The answer is the omnidirectional microphone pattern. This type of microphone is able to pick up sound equally from all directions, regardless of the distance between the microphone and the sound source. This makes it ideal for use in situations where the proximity effect is unwanted.


Related Article: Dynamic Vs Condenser Microphones - What Is The Difference?


How Can You Use The Proximity Effect To Your Advantage?

As we have learned, the proximity effect results in a boost in the low-frequency response of the microphone. This can be beneficial or detrimental depending on the situation. Let's take a look at those scenarios now.

For our first example, if you are recording a voiceover for a video, you may want to use the proximity effect to your advantage by placing the microphone close to the talent's mouth. This will result in a richer, fuller sound that is sure to wow your viewers. This also holds true for recording podcasts.

On the other hand, if you are recording lead vocals for a song, you may want to avoid the proximity effect by placing the microphone further away from the talent. This will help to prevent the low-frequency boost from causing the audio to sound muddy or unclear. The mix engineer will probably remove these frequencies anyway with a high-pass filter.

No matter what you're recording, it's important to be aware of the microphone proximity effect and to try your best to capture audio the way you want it to sound in the end.

How To Avoid The Proximity Effect Altogether

There are a few ways to avoid the microphone proximity effect.

First, you can make sure to keep the distance between the microphone and the sound source at a comfortable level. If you keep it beyond one foot you should be good.

Second, you can use an omnidirectional microphone as the proximity effect isn't present within them.

Finally, you can use a microphone with a built-in filter to reduce the low-frequency sounds.

By following these tips, you can avoid the microphone proximity effect and make sure that your recordings sound clear and professional.


Related Article: How To Mix Vocals: 8 Tips & Techniques For Radio Quality Tracks


Final Thoughts

The microphone proximity effect is a problem and solution that has plagued the music production world since microphones have been around. As audio engineers, we can use it to our advantage or we can be prepared to address it. The point is, we need to know what it is. Now, you know what the microphone proximity effect is and what to do about it.

If you found the information in this article helpful, please consider subscribing to my blog to learn more music production tips, tricks, and advice.

"Some of the links within this article are affiliate links. These links are from various companies such as Amazon. This means if you click on any of these links and purchase the item or service, I will receive an affiliate commission. This is at no cost to you and the money gets invested back into Audio Sorcerer LLC."

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