Picking up the voice: antipop, distance from the microphone and its angle.

Microphone distance

Let us assume that we have an ideal large professional room that is acoustically treated with state-of-the-art engineering care; let us imagine placing the microphone at an ideal point in such a room, close to the centre but not coinciding with it; in this way, it will be possible to obtain a neutral and pleasant room-induced acoustic colouration.

In this case, it will also be possible to move the microphone considerably further away from the singer's mouth, up to a considerable 50 cm, which will have a number of positive effects, including:

  • reduction in the incidence of more aggressive consonants, which will sound more 'rounded' and natural
  • total elimination of air turbulence
  • almost total elimination of the proximity effect, which manifests itself in a progressive tonal emphasis of low frequencies
  • greater incidence of resonances in the singer's head, neck and chest, giving an even more natural sound to the voice
  • feeling of spatiality around the source

It goes without saying that in small studios and in the case of imperfect or insufficient acoustic correction, it will be advisable for the singer to assume a position closer to the microphone, in order to minimise the negative influence induced by ambient reflections.

Summarising, therefore, the ideal distance would be in some ways close to 50 cm, while the minimum usable distance should be no less than 10 cm. 

In most applications in professional studios, a distance of 20 to 30 cm will be the best choice, while in home studios with imperfect acoustic treatment it may be necessary to reduce the distance by up to half (10 to 15 cm)

Doubling the distance will decrease the acoustic pressure on the microphone, forcing us to increase the gain level of the preamplifier (by about 6 dB). In order to do this, the microphone and preamplifier must be sufficiently quiet, especially when shooting delicate vocal sources (with low output volume), or relatively high ambient noise. 

For more delicate voices, the sensitivity of a microphone will also be important: an insensitive microphone may not be able to capture dynamic and tonal details accurately enough.

Tilting the microphone

In order to decrease the incidence of detonating and blowing consonants, it will often be advisable to have the microphone at an appropriate angle. In this case, the capsule should be positioned approximately at nose height and directed towards the mouth, with an inclination of approximately 20° or 30° (see figure below). This inclination is very advisable in the case of a very close microphone (10-20  cm) while it would lose its significance when moving away from it (to 30 cm and more).

Antipop and elastic support

Even the use of a anti-pop sock (see figure) is particularly advisable to avoid the incidence of detonating and blowing consonants, and can also be used in conjunction with the inclination  of the microphone. The anti-pop is also a safeguard for the microphone, as it protects it from moisture induced by the singer's unintentional 'spitting'. As with the tilt, the use of the anti-pop is also highly advisable in the case of very close positioning (15-20  cm) while it gradually loses its significance as it moves further away (30 cm and more). Another advisable element is the elastic shock-absorbing support (see figure to the side), which allows the microphone to be isolated to a good extent from the vibrations induced on the microphone stand and the floor; its use becomes more important if a high Gain value is used in the preamplifier.

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