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M/S Technique

Discussion in 'Recording' started by Markd102, Apr 7, 2004.

  1. Markd102

    Markd102 Well-Known Member

    Can someone please explain to me in step by step instructions how to use the mid-side micing technique? It's something that's always intrigued me, but I've never understood it.
    Also, when would I use M/S?

  2. johnwy

    johnwy Well-Known Member

    Ok, here we go, this is one way of achieving M/S

    1. Place a cardioid mic facing the source, console mic pre channel 1 for this exercise---phantom power as needed

    2. Place a figure 8 (bi-directional) mic facing left to right of the sound source, as close as possible to the cardiod mic (I usually put this mic behind the cardioid mic)

    3. Patch the figure 8 mic into a mult and bring it up on 2 seperate mic pre's (console mic pre channels 2 and 3) --if you are using a phantom powered mic, only use phantom on one channel or you will probably smoke your mic

    4. Reverse the phase on console mic pre channel 3 (the mult'd figure 8 mic)

    5. Bus to tape the cardioid mic to tape tracks 1 & 2, then bus the figure 8 mic (mic pre channels 2 and three) to tape tracks 1 and 2 respectively.

    6. Bring up your tape monitor return faders to unity gain, but do not pan them yet, leave them in mono.

    7. Set your trim and input level to the figure 8 mic (console mic pre channel 2), then set the trim and input level of the out of phase figure 8 (console mic pre channel 3) until you have achieved complete cancellation.

    8. Pan the tape monitor returns to full left and right.

    9. Set the trim and input levels to the cardioid mic so that you achieve the widest stereo image.

    This method is if you want to decode your m/s to tape. Some of the guys like to just record the figure 8 mic and cardiod mic to tape first then worry about decoding it after tape as sort of a safety feature.

    The best way to decode M/S that I know of is if you have a dedicated calibrated decoder box (I think Sanken still makes one, though I am not sure). Just plug the mic's in and out comes a perfectly decoded stereo signal.

    I think the TC Finalizer Plus has an m/s decode program, but I have yet to try it out.

    Some engineers like to mix and match their microphones, I like to use a pair of the same mic's (like u87's, u67's, tlm170's etc.) if possible. Either way, use what you like best. (If it ain't broke.....)

    You can bassically use this on anything you want. I have seen engineers use this on acoustic guitars, room mic's, and overhead mic's on drums, string dates, etc. Hell, I have seen it used on a kick drum for a jazz session!

    let me know if this makes sense to you
  3. Markd102

    Markd102 Well-Known Member

    Fantastic. I think even I could follow that! :wink:

    One question... to get the figure8 mic into two channels, is a simple splitter cable ok to use, or is there a propper multi input box?
  4. johnwy

    johnwy Well-Known Member

    A simple splitter ("Y") cable should suffice in this case, because that is pretty much what a mult accomplishes on a (96 point) patch bay for those big honkin' consoles like a Neve or an SSL.

    A splitter box (whirlwind makes one) may work as well, but they use transformers to isolate the lines (primarily made to go to more than one mixer at a time, more for live applications), which may or may not cause phase problems later down the line.

    Read this if you have the chance, it is a posting on the Whirlwind USA website about splitters and whatnot. (Don't worry , its not required reading for this excersize, but it is good to know!)


    Hope it works out!
  5. sonixx

    sonixx Guest

    If you are you using a DAW, you won't need a splitter cable. Everything can be accomplished in the DAW with the two tracks.

    Try this:

    record two mono tracks (Mid and Side)

    copy the side track to another track

    pan one Side track Hard Left

    pan one Side track Hard Right

    Invert one of the Side Tracks

    Mid track should be straight down the middle

    Always adjust the two Side track volumes together

    Now the balance between the two Sides and Middle give the Stereo

    Start with the Mid Track up and the two Side Tracks down... now bring up the two Side Tracks together... viola... Stereo.
  6. johnwy

    johnwy Well-Known Member

    sonixx' version will work..you have to wait until after it is recorded though to finish the job...but I for one want to here it decoded in some fashion (whether pre or post tape, DAW whatever) as it is recorded

    here's (yet) another variation (for Protools at least):

    Protools has the generic trim plug in that has a phase reverse switch so what you could do is

    record the figure 8 mic on two tracks

    Group the figure 8 tracks (CMD+G in mac) for edits and mixes

    have the trim plugin on one of the figure 8 tracks with the phase reverse button engaged

    pan then hard left and right if your using a stereo output pair or continue following the steps above for DAW's or if your mixing outside the box.

    Soak in as much as you can about the methods listed above, figure out what works best for you, and roll with it. They will get you to m/s nirvana.
  7. CanopuS

    CanopuS Guest

    Hi, I've been trying to understand M/S, and while I understand HOW to use it, I don't really know WHY and WHEN to use it. What do you achieve by this mic setup? Could you give an example of when to use it? Cheers!
  8. johnwy

    johnwy Well-Known Member

    Even though it is used alot by television broadcasters,you can use it on anything that you want to keep your stereo localization accurate and have excellent mono compatibilty, or to have an sense of an ensemble playing together in a shared space. For instance, choral groups, string ensembles, brass quartets, orchestras, classical piano, crowd noise/reaction, xylophones etc... anything that you think that can have more of an impact in stereo.

    The engineer that I mentioned before uses m/s for his kick drum sound (placed about 1 to 3 inches in front of the front head) probably likes what it does to the entire drum kit in relation to the other mics that he uses since he does not even think about gating the kick drum.

    Another example of where m/s can be useful is at live concerts. Since you cannot adjust the mic's during the concert, you can adjust the ratio of the mid to the sides so that you can get the best stereo spread.

    Here is a couple of web pages with great articles that goes more into stereo micing techniques:



  9. FifthCircle

    FifthCircle Well-Known Member

    I use mid side whenever I need absolute mono compatability... This is especially true for broadcast situations where good mono is a must. I'll use it as a main pickup for orchestras or chamber ensembles. Also, on film production sound gigs, stereo is often best done with M-S for those exact reasons.

    I also use Mid Side as a spot mic because of the sound that I can get with it.. While mathematically the same as X-Y, the sound is nothing like it because you have a capsule that is pointing straight ahead... When you need a bit of "dig," you can modify the pickup to a hypercardiod in the center or perhaps even a fig-8, each with their own specific sound. I've avoided woodwind mics in an orchestra by aiming the hypercardiod capsule right at the section.

    As drum overheads, M-S can work well because in a minimalist environment, it can negate the need for a snare drum mic (a VP-88 can be great in this use). I also have used it in situations where I need a spot mic in front of a conductor- allows for a single small mic (like a C-34) in front of the conductor and the cardiod pattern in the center gives plenty of isolation from sounds the conductor may make. It also is a great piano micing technique... Allows for good direct vs. ambient sound.

  10. CanopuS

    CanopuS Guest

    Thanks both of you :D I guess it wouldn't really apply to something small like an acoustic guitar. Thanks for the information!
  11. sonixx

    sonixx Guest


    I've had good success on acoustic guitar. I good use is a single guitar down the middle, not real wide but not mono. The fact that it gives great Mono when colapsed is an added benefit. While M&S won't give you the same level of spaciousness as spaced mics, M&S can work very, very well.
  12. johnwy

    johnwy Well-Known Member

    that's an understatement in this industry!
  13. FifthCircle

    FifthCircle Well-Known Member

    Man... Mid side can sound amazing on guitar.... When I record classical guitar (acoustic, of course) in performance, one of the best ways I've found to record is with a mid side pair on a small stand from below the instrument. I sometimes need to place a little bit of foam on the floor to minimize floor reflections, but the sound can be quite good... Especially when I've use the Schoeps tube mics for this (221B's).

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