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Whether one is producing music, podcasts, game sounds, or film sound effects, Digital Audio Principles provides the tips and techniques that will make the project a success. Author Dave Schroeder explains the basics of digital audio production techniques and covers the essential hardware and software. He also discusses sound theory, frequency response, the range of human hearing, and dynamic range.
Frequency response refers to how sensitive a person or an animal or a microphone is to different frequencies, how sensitive it is at different levels. When you purchase microphones like the polar pattern graph and other spec sheet you'll get is the frequency response chart, which is what we're looking at here. Now ideally, everyone kind of is shooting for, in their microphone design initially, to create a flat frequency response or one that picks up all the frequencies from 20 to 20k evenly, in a flat sense equally.
It picks up the bass as much as it picks up the high end stuff, and it doesn't drop out the mids or whatever. But that's always the goal of devices. It's a really hard thing to accomplish. There's definitely devices that do it, some of them are expensive, some of them are cheap. But generally speaking, microphone manufacturers aim for that goal, but then they also make certain adjustments to the frequency response so that it works differently in different applications. So, this chart, it basically shows the footprint of the different frequencies and how peaks here appears as little bump around 5K.
Different microphones are going to have different bumps and dips, sort of, based on one, the technical limitation of the microphone, but also based on the manufacturer's designs in terms of what frequencies they think it's good for picking up. So, if they're making a microphone for vocals, specifically, or they want it to function very well for vocals, there are certain frequencies that they know that the vocal range works in, that they want to highlight. They want to pick up a little bit more or little less. There are also certain frequencies they know that might make your voice sound like you're singing in a boxcar, so they'll dip those little bit less.
So, based on the intent of the microphone and the application that the manufacturers want it to be used for, you're going to see different frequency response charts. Another example is they make a lot of microphones just for kick drums or for bass drums in low end, which do a really good job of faithfully reproducing the low frequencies and don't sweat it so much on the high stuff. As a manufacturer, if you're trying to build that perfect microphone, you have to focus on a certain aspect of it that's going to work really well and function really well. Then there are certain things where, A: it doesn't benefit from being flat, or B: we don't have the time and money to make this thing flat, and make it as durable as it needs to be.
That's the other limitation when you're dealing with a different element like a dynamic element or a condenser element. There's different manufacturing consideration in terms of the sensitivity and the durability of the microphone. So, it's good to get to know the frequency response charts and just scope them out when you buy microphones or when you're even thinking about buying a microphone. Go out and kind of, think about if you want a mic a guitar amp. Try and find some plots of frequencies that happen on guitars, and which ones they favor, which ones they don't. Most manufacturers will come right out and say in their paperwork, hey, this microphone is designed to record guitars or it works great on amps, or works on this, works on that. There is tons of specialty mics more or less.
The trick is as if somebody is just trying to sell you a million dollar microphone, and you look at the frequency response chart, and it's not very good, it's not very flat or close to flat, then maybe you don't want to get that one. But not too many people have perfectly flat microphones or use them. That's okay. The other thing I want to talk about is the proximity effect. What this is basically effect of when a sound source moves closer to a microphone, the microphone tends to be more sensitive to low frequencies. This only works on directional microphones. But as you get closer, you get boomier, you get bassier.
It's kind of the Barry White effect. I'll try and give you an example of it. So, right now, I'm talking at a fairly normal voice, but I'm getting closer to the microphone, and you can tell that I'm getting louder, but I'm also getting bassier. Here, here, here, Proximity Effect, cool! Now if you want to do, the Barry White thing, that works great. If you're trying to pick up certain instruments where you want a pickup more of the low-end, that works great. In other circumstances, where you don't want that to happen, especially if you're dealing with like a vocalist, working in a sound booth like me right now, and you don't want that all over the place where the bass is going up and around.
Then there's a thing called a bass roll-off switch, which you'll find on a lot of microphones, which I'll show you what that looks like in one of the movies coming up. So, sometimes you can use the Proximity Effect to your advantage, and if you want a pickup more at low-end, you can play that. You can put the microphone real close to something and get it. If you're a singer, and you're crooning, you can get, kind of, that deeper tone. But a lot of times, it's a problem if you're trying to record a voice-over, or if you're trying to record a vocal, and you want it to be more even, then you want to set it up so that someone can still move around freely, but not have the Proximity Effect take place.
So, to counter this problem, a lot of microphones will have what's called the bass roll-off switch, which enables you to lower the sensitivity to lower frequencies, or kind of cut the sensitivity down. Another workaround is you can use an Omni-directional microphone. I'll show you what a bass roll-off switch looks like on an actual microphone in this next movie. After that we'll take a look at placing microphones. I'll try and show you how moving around a microphone can generate the different Proximity Effects.
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