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In The Studio: When Proximity Effect is Your Friend
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This article is provided by Home Studio Corner.


With all the tutorial videos, podcasts, and webinars I do, I spend a lot of time in front of a microphone, recording spoken word.

I almost always use a dynamic microphone (my trusty AKG D5).

When I first started doing tutorial videos, I would go for my best “radio voice,” and put the microphone right up next to my mouth.

As we all know, our good friend—Proximity Effect—exaggerates the bass frequencies of a source as you move the mic closer to it.

While my voice sounded big, it also sounded a bit boomy. I would use some EQ to dial back the low end.

Eventually I decided to back the mic away to maybe 6-8 inches away from my mouth. The result was a much more natural signal without the excess low end.

It sounds more natural and requires less EQ.

The trade-off? The mic picks up more “extra” noise. Since the mic is “seeing” more than just my mouth, it picks up more of the sound of me moving around in my chair, making hand motions, etc.

After using both techniques for many hours, I’ve migrated back to the close-mic technique. (The mic’s not touching my lips, but it’s maybe an inch or two away.) To my ear it sounds bigger, tighter, and more “intimate.”

And with a little EQ it sounds great.

When the mic was farther from my mouth, the recording was just missing that “bigness” that I wanted. I listen to a lot of talk radio, and most of those guys “eat” the mic. And it sounds really awesome.

You just can’t get that sound without putting the mic closer to the source.

While this technique DOESN’T work for me with something like acoustic guitar (the close-mic is FAR too boomy), it’s worked nicely for spoken word vocals.

Why was I able to experiment with different placement? Because I knew what I can and can’t do with EQ.

And with that knowledge, I can balance the pros and cons of close-mic’ing and proximity effect to get the sound I want.

To learn the ropes of EQ (which will inevitably make your recordings better, too), check out

Joe Gilder is a Nashville-based engineer, musician, and producer who also provides training and advice at the Home Studio Corner.Note that Joe also offers highly effective training courses, including Understanding Compression and Understanding EQ.

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