Stereo Miking Techniques
Having stereo sound, as opposed to mono, is important to getting separation of instruments in a mix, and creating a feeling of being in the room with the performers. The idea is that the left and right signals are slightly different from each other in a way that our ears are able to separate the left and right sounds.
The first, and I think most popular is the XY technique. This can be done with any type of microphone, but you need 2 of the same microphones. You simply place the capsules as close together as possible, at a 90 degree angle. In mixdown, In mixdown, the microphones are hard panned left and right, which means one microphone signal is sent to the left speaker, the other is sent to the right. The idea of this is to try and emulate what our ears hear in the natural world.
Let’s give it a listen. First, we hear just one microphone pointed directly at the guitar, played back in mono. Now, we hear the 2 microphones in an XY configuration.
The next method is the MS method. This is a little more complicated, but once you get the knack of it, it works really well. It is the best method for retaining good sound when played in mono.
You use a cardioid microphone pointed at the instrument, and a figure 8 microphone placed as close as possible to the cardioid mic, but pointed to the sides. In the recording, this gives you 2 tracks, but in mixdown, what you need to do to get the effect is make a double of the figure 8 microphone track, Inverse the polarity, and hard pan the 2 figure 8 tracks left and right.
You can also control the amount of stereo spread by adjusting the volume of the Center mic, and the 2 figure 8 mic tracks
Here’s how this technique sounds. Here’s just the Center mic, and I’ll switch the 2 figure 8 mics in and off.
Another stereo micing technique is to simply use one microphone pointed at the instrument, and record 2 separate takes which are as close as possible to identical performances. On playback, the 2 takes are hard panned left and right.
There are other stereo micing techniques, but I’m not going to cover them because they have less application in a home studio. I’ve covered the most common techniques.
So let’s give one final listen to hear how the various techniques sound.