Use The EQ Built Into Your Microphone

2013 Nov 11, 2013

We all know that EQ is a powerful tool when recording, as it can help you sculpt the perfect sound before it hits your DAW. But what if you don’t own a hardware EQ or a channel strip that bundles one with the preamp? Can you still EQ your recordings without one? The way I see it, your microphone has a simple EQ built in.


Via Ilmicrofono Oggiono Flickr

Two Things You Need To Know

If you can grasp these two simple concepts it will help unlock a lot of potential in your recording sessions, no matter where you record or which microphones you use. I’ve written at length that mic placement in general is paramount to getting a great recording. But specifically there are two facts you need to understand about how most mics work.

The first fact is that when you angle a microphone off axis from the source (roughly 45 degrees) you tend to tame the high frequency response that it picks up. The second fact is that when you move a microphone closer to the source you get more bass response, and vice versa. Both of these facts assume you are using a cardioid polar patter with your microphone, which most of you are. 

Smooth Out The Top End

It’s funny how so many people are critical of affordable $100-$200 microphones, especially when it comes to supposedly how harsh they sound. Now I’m aware that many of these microphones have a little high frequency bump to give you more presence, but you know what? So do many high end microphones.

Either way, let’s say you’re miking up your guitar amp and the recording you’re hearing back with your microphone in front of the grill is just too bright. The first EQ move you can make is to remember fact #1 from above and simply turn the mic to a 45 degree angle. This off axis response will likely give you a smoother top end that might be the perfect balance for your recording.

Give It More Bottom End

Now remember fact #2? When you move a cardioid microphone closer to the source you get more bass response? This is because of something called the Proximity Effect. The Proximity Effect can either be your best friend or your enemy. It simply depends on what kind of sound you need on that given recording.

In our previous guitar amp example, you finally smoothed out the top end, but found that the sound was still a little thin. No more harshness, but now not enough bottom end. Solution? Move the microphone a little closer to the amp. The closer you get, the more bass response the mic will pick up because of the Proximity Effect. It’s as simple as that.

Don’t Miss The Big Idea

Now, forget the specific example I gave because I don’t want you to miss the point. The big idea here is that by changing the angle and distance of your microphone you can dramatically alter the tone of the signal. In essence you have a high and low frequency knob built in.

Once you understand the concept you can easily tweak your mic as needed to sculpt the perfect sound, no hardware EQ required. Pretty cool huh?

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