Microphones: Polar pattern / Directionality

Microphones: Polar pattern / Directionality

Polar pattern graphs visually represent the microphones sensitivity to sound relative to the direction or angle from which the sound arrives. Or in other words, how well the microphone “hears“ sound from different directions. The most common types of directionality, plotted as polar patterns are: Omnidirectional, Cardioid and Supercardioid.

For the basics on each polar pattern, continue reading below. Alternatively, you can learn about polar patterns and microphone directionality in more detail on our blog.


Microphone Cardioid Pattern
Cardioid polar pattern

Cardioid microphones are most sensitive to sound at the front and least sensitive at the back. Their unidirectional pickup makes for affective isolation of unwanted ambient sound and high resistance to feedback when compared to omnidirectional alternatives.

Cardioid microphones are essential when considering a mic for live performance.


Microphone Supercardioid Pattern
Supercardioid polar pattern

Supercardioid microphones offer a narrower pickup than cardioids and a greater rejection of ambient sound. However, they also pick up a small amount of sound from directly behind. For this reason, it is particularly important to place monitor speakers to the side facing the 'dead spots'.

Supercardioids are highly suited to very loud stage environments as they are very directional with high gain before feedback. 


Microphone Omniderectional Pattern
Omnidirectional polar pattern

Omnidirectional microphones are equally sensitive to sound arriving from all angles. Therefore, the microphone does not need to be aimed in any particular direction. This can be particularly useful when using a lapel mic to capture a speakers voice, as the individual can move their head without affecting the sound.

The disadvantage is that an omni mic cannot be aimed away from undesired sources, such as PA speakers, which may cause feedback.



Figure of Eight (bidirectional)

Microphone polar pattern figure of eight
Figure of eight polar pattern

A microphone with a figure-of-eight polar pattern picks up the sound from in front of the microphone and from the rear but not the sides (90 degree angle).

Microphones with a figure-of-eight polar pattern are typically ribbon or large diaphragm condenser microphones.

Symbols for Polar Patterns

Symbol  Richtcharakteristik
 Figure of Eight


INFO: Proximity Effect

All directional microphones (i.e. cardioid, supercardioid) are subject to the proximity effect.


'Proximity effect' happens when the microphone moves closer to the sound source, resulting in an increase in bass response. Professional singers often work with this effect to increase 'warmth' when desirable.