Mics with Switchable Polar Patterns: January 2017 Subscriber Question of the Month

Shure Notes® email newsletter subscribers submit their burning audio questions every month, and we pick one to publish in the email and here. This month, we focus on the benefits of microphones with switchable polar patterns, the KSM9 in particular.

Christos in New York asked about vocal mic selection:

I am on my way to purchase a QLX-D® Digital system with the KSM9 capsule. So far I’ve been using the BETA 58A® (also own the BETA®87C) and used an SM58® recently. I really like the BETA 58A and love the KSM9. However, the only times I’ve used the KSM9 is on big stages with acoustic instruments. Most of my gigs are on loud stages and sometimes without in-ears. Will I be able to use the KSM9 hassle-free or will I need to bring the BETA 58A capsule to switch?

Shure product support explained why polar pattern matters:

One of the outstanding features of the KSM9 is that it can switch between a cardioid and a supercardioid polar pattern. Typically, a cardioid works better for use with in-ear monitors because it allows a little more pickup of ambient sound from the sides of the mic. This can help prevent the feeling of isolation that you sometimes get with a tighter pattern like a supercardioid. On the other hand, a supercardioid mic usually allows better gain-before-feedback.

The KSM9 should work well for you, but since you do have the other capsules, you can always experiment. Just a reminder: the BETA 58A is a supercardioid, and the BETA 87C is a cardioid.

More resources:

Our Multi-Pattern Microphones blog post offers a polar patterns refresher, a walk-through of Shure microphones that feature switchable polar patterns, and polar pattern selection advice for recording and live sound applications.

The Mic Listening Lab allows you to compare how different Shure microphones sound in a variety of applications, including vocals. Nothing beats trying out mics in person in the environment in which you’ll use them, but this tool is the next best thing.

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Allison Wolcott

Allison Wolcott

Allison Wolcott started singing at Shure and now sings wherever they'll let her. She wishes she were Brandi Carlile, Neko Case, and Johnny Cash all rolled up in a voice box. Her favorite mic is the BETA®87A. Interviews with product developers and general Shure news are her beat.

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