Audio Solutions Question of The Week: How far away will my microphone pick up sound?

Question: How far away will my microphone pick up sound?

Audio Solutions Team
Answer: As in all things audio the answer to this question is “it depends.” It depends on how loud your sound source is versus how loud the background noise is. It depends on how high you can set the gain on your audio system before it begins to feed back. It depends on how the microphone is being used:  for sound reinforcement within a room, for audio-video conferencing, for recording, etc. And it greatly depends upon the acoustics of the room.

However, microphones are like ears, and they can sense distance. And, as with ears, microphones can vary in sensitivity. The greater a microphone’s sensitivity the greater its potential pickup distance. The microphone’s directionality, or polar pattern, is also a factor. A cardioid polar pattern, for example, will pick up sounds from farther away than an omnidirectional polar pattern will.

BP 4027 Shotgun Microphone

 

BP4027 Stereo Shotgun Microphone

We hope you found this information helpful. Be sure to check back each Wednesday for a new “Question of Week.” And, remember, if you need assistance with your Audio-Technica gear, please contact our Audio Solutions Department. We are always happy to help!

Audio-Technica

4 Comments

  1. I get this question all the time. For those looking for something more tangible in terms of actual distance, I offer the following estimates. Note that this is information referencing overhead boom miking for filmmaking, not music recording. The distances quoted are based on normal conversational levels from an actor on a quiet soundstage. The distances are not the maximum of what you could hear for a documentary or reality series, but for what we might consider feature film quality or broadcast quality dialog. The BP4073 condenser shotgun is amazing up to 6 feet overhead. The 4051 cardioid shotgun eliminates echo, but is best sounding at under two feet overhead. The BP4071 long shotgun may increase interior echo, but can easily reach over 8 or 9 feet overhead. The AT897 electret condenser video shotgun sounds best at under 4 feet overhead. I hope this information helps.

  2. Fred, this info helps a lot. Can you also make suggestions for authors creating their own videos to talk about their book? Many times authors want to get creative and say, shoot video at the beach. The waves end up dominating the sound instead of hearing their voice. Presently many are trying to use a smart phone or iPad to do video. The same happens indoors where many are trying to record people doing keynote talks – recording on iPad. What do you recommend for mics, distance and why???

    Thank you.

    • Getting clean audio at the beach is one of the hardest tasks you will ever do! Most beach scenes in movies and TV end up being looped. But there are a couple of techniques that ought to help you get usable dialog. You could use a radio mic that is equipped with a lav that rejects background noise, such as the AT896. Another approach might be to use a very directional long shotgun mic, such as the BP4071-L (in a full Rycote blimp with furry cover) and angle the mic so that it points away from the ocean but towards talent. You want the ocean to strike the mic at about 90 to 120 degrees off vertical axis (perpendicular or more than perpendicular to the mic). However, do NOT point the mic 180 degrees away from the ocean (the ocean directly behind the mic) as that will actually INCREASE the noise. One final trick would be to use a dynamic handheld reporter’s mic (such as the AT8004, 4001, or 4002) and allow talent to hold the mic just beneath the chin (the mic will be in the shot). Hope this helps!

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