Mid-Side Miking

Mid/Side Stereo

  • A way of dealing with the stereo image as center and sides, instead of left and right.
  • A truly stereo coincident mic setup (not 'fake' stereo)
  • Different set of advantages/disadvantages from L/R stereo– extremely flexible!
  • Can also be used in post-production (unrelated to miking)

Two Mics:

1 Bi-directional

1 Cardioid (variations are possible)

Usually condensers, like most stereo pairs  

Unlike other stereo pairs, mics needn't be the same

What You Need

  • 2 Mics:  Cardioid & Bi-directional
  • 3 Mixer channels
  • The ability to reverse polarity
    (i.e. 'flip the phase')
  • The ability to split the same mic to 2 channels
  • A sturdy mic stand!

What You Need

Set up Mics at 90°

Cardioid facing 0° (forward)

 

Bi-directional positive side of the  (manufacturer emblem) facing 90° (left)

Cardioid = Mid Mic (picks up center of the stereo image)

Bi-directional = Side Mic (picks up width of the stereo image)

cardioid = middle

bi-directional = side

cardioid = middle

bi-directional = side

  • Split, for identical signal in 2 different channels
  • Those channels panned L & R
  • Polarity reversed in the R channel only

Routing

Cardioid:  Panned C

Bi-Directional:

Remember:  A bi-directional mic is not stereo!  
It outputs only 1 signal.  It must be combined with the center mic to capture stereo.

Split & Polarity

Analog

Split & Polarity

Sony

  1. Touchscreen: Audio > Input Routing
  2. Select the physical input of bidirectional mic
  3. Select the channel to use for the R side of the bidirectional split

Split & Polarity

Sony

  1. ACCESS R side channel, activate its polarity reverse (to the left of BUS ASSIGN)
  2. Gang the L & R side mic faders

Split & Polarity

Pro Tools

  1. Set the 2 side tracks to the same input & pan L/R
  2. On the R track, insert the Trim plug-in with a polarity reverse on
  • Clever application of basic old-school analog principles (devised by Blumlein in 1933!)
  • Image comes from electrical interaction of the signals, not 2 stand-alone mics
  • Requires the entire setup to work correctly

How Does this Wacky Thing Work?

Record the mid and side tracks separately to the multitrack.  Decode them to L/R only for monitoring (listening in M/S is usually not very useful).  This makes it much easier to adjust the mid/side balance when mixing later.

 

This happens automatically with the Sony (because of pages 1–24), and with Pro Tools (because it records the track before the mixer).

Recording

  1. Listen to just the mid (cardioid) channel. This will be in mono, the center of the stereo image.
  2. While lowering the level of the mid, bring up the two side (bidirectional) channels together. The image will get wider, and the amount of room sound will increase.
  3. Adjust the faders of the mid vs. side channels to balance width and reflections.
  4. When listening to the sides only, you should hear an out-of-phase signal with more reflections.  The 2 side channels should always move together at the same level.

Balancing

The mid mic is usually a cardioid, but any polar pattern can be used.  For example, use an omni for a wider, more spatious center.  Use a hypercardioid for more focus from a distance.  The side mic must be bi-directional.

Variations

Unlike L/R setups, completely different mics can be used for mid & side.  For example, use a ribbon for the mid to keep a source from getting too bright, and use a condenser for the side for clarity of room sound.

  • Change direct sound vs. room balance
  • Different mics for mid and side
  • Better width control of stereo pickup = easy to make the image narrower/wider
  • Easy adjustment from the control room
  • Easy adjustment after recording, in the mix!

Advantages

Ability to control the width  is very useful

Based on their placement, levels of different drums can be adjusted later!
(somewhat)!

  • Can be awkward physical setup
  • More complex routing = opportunity for error
  • Requires an extra channel
  • Can sound 'phasey' if side is too far up in the mix 

Disadvantages

  • Want to be close to a large source
    (piano, drum set, big acoustic guitar sound)
  • Might need to make significant changes to the width or room sound balance
  • Want the sound of a coincident stereo pair:
    More precise imaging, less blend, less space/depth
  • Are recording SFX, for film/TV/web, or anything else that might be heard in mono 

Consider M/S When You...

Recording guitar + vocals is notoriously difficult.  M/S helps here...

null spot

far off-axis

width control is important when close

The Double-M/S monstrosity records surround in a stereo-friendly way.

  • M/S processing can be used to adjust any stereo pair of any kind– even if not recorded in M/S.
  • This includes pairs within a mix, and also stereo mixdowns after they are finished!
  • The signal path can be 'reversed' to split the stereo image into sounds panned C vs. to the sides.

Post-Production

Mid/Side Stereo

By Brian

Mid/Side Stereo

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