Vocal Mics - Super-Cartoid vs. "Regular"

Discussion in 'Live Sound [BG]' started by Smallmouth_Bass, Aug 31, 2021.

  1. Smallmouth_Bass


    Dec 29, 2005
    How good is a dynamic super-cardioid vocal microphone versus a dynamic cardioid vocal mic at controlling feedback in a live setting? Are there specific advantages/disadvantages (other than having to be right on the mic for the super) of one over the other?

    I sing some backups and have a low volume and soft voice and do a fair amount of falsetto. Increasing the gain and having an open mic onstage often gives feedback issues and I am wondering if going to a super-cardioid mic would be worth it.
  2. DirtDog


    Jun 7, 2002
    The Deep North
    A super-cardioid - in theory and all other things being equal- will give you more rejection of signal off-axis than a cardioid. That means the s-c should reject more of the ambient signal than c and , ideally, avoid feedback. But the margin is pretty small.

    In either case, mic technique might be something to consider. If you’re a quieter singer, you may need to get your mouth right onto the mic so you get good signal/gain before feedback. Not completely swallowing the mic, but also not 6” away.

    You’ll also need to tinker with monitor placement in relation. To the mic(s). Also tinker with EQ to ring out that feedback if neither super-cardioid or mic technique solves your issues. Or use IEMs.
  3. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011
    The more directional a mic is, typically the more proximity effect it will have. The proximity effect should be viewed as a feature rather than a problem. A good audio tech will tune the channel so you get a natural sound, and you will end up with better gain before feedback in the low range. Essentially you apply a HPF to cut all of the frequencies that are below your vocal range. Then you apply a low frequency contour that sort of mirrors the low frequency boost provided by the proximity effect.

    In my experience you have to stay right on top of highly direction mics. With an cardioid my like an SM58 you can back away quite a bit and the signal does not get thin and drop off so much. People who are used to singing on an SM58 and working the mic tend to really hate more directional mics for this reason.

    One possible problem with singing so close is some highly directional mics exaggerate "P" pops and "S" hiss. Some mics are better than others, so best to try before you buy. Some of this problem can be overcome by revising your singing technique and adjusting how you approach the mic.

    The ideal monitor position varies by the mic's pattern.

    As you see in this image, the null with a cardioid mic is at 180 degrees. Supercard and hypercard mics have tails at 180 degrees. The nulls of the supercard are at 126 degrees and 234 degrees. The nulls for a hypercard are at 110 degree and 250 degrees. The idea is your monitor is placed in the null. If you don't follow this recommendation, the more directional mic can have more problems, rather than making things better.

    It addition to tuning the mic channel for overall sound quality, the system should be rung for feedback. This means bring the gain up until feedback occurs; and then identify and notch out problem frequencies. Ringing the system is typically done with system EQs rather than channel EQ. Also you typically ring out each channel separately. So if the system has left and right mains, and two monitors, you need 4 system EQs so you can ring out each channel. Typically 30- or 31 band graphic EQs are used for this.
  4. Ask sound techs to help you try a few different mics to see what works best for you.

    Get your stage volume lower and you’ll fix the feedback issue.
  5. Generally, a super-cardioid will give you more of what you're looking for, but there are many other factors that influence feedback - especially the mic's placement in relation to the speakers. The biggest down side of a super-cardioid is that the mic has to stay in a tighter spot in relation to your mouth. If you move around too much you could more easily move into the null zone and not be picked up.
    Smallmouth_Bass and AGCurry like this.
  6. AGCurry

    AGCurry Supporting Member

    Jun 29, 2005
    St. Louis
  7. Analogeezer


    Jul 29, 2021
    It really depends on the brand and model of the mic; some cardiods have tighter patterns than supercardiods, and the terms are kind of bandied about at random depending on the brand (e.g. Cheap mics will often claim to be supercardiod but are more like cardiod).

    If you don't want to spend a lot of money but want a SuperCardiod that works really well live, I would say to check out the Shure Beta 87A. I have used these for years with great results.

    The downside is it is a phantom powered mic, so you need to make sure you have a mixer/console to send phantom power to it.

    An inexpensive supercardiod that is not phantom powered is the EV PL80A, those are great but a bit darker than the Beta 87A.

    I bought three of the EV's on a deal some years back for $150 (that's right, $50 per mic); I set them up at our rehearsal space so I could just leave the Beta 87A's in the mic locker we used for gigs.

    They work great, are solidly built, not expensive and sound very smooth; but the caveat is they are not as bright as a lot of other mics.

    Smallmouth_Bass and Wasnex like this.
  8. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011
    Another thing that tends to help improve gain before feedback is if the vocalists are all using the same model of mic. The issue is each model of mic will have certain characteristic frequencies where it tends feed back. So if the system is tuned specifically to one model of mic and and you change one of the mics, suddenly the system will start feeding back again. I have had this happen a number of times.

    The point is, changing to a better mic can actually make matters worse, because the PA can no longer be optimized for one specific model.

    It's not unusual for pro audio techs to deal with this. The lead vocalist may require or have an expensive "diva" mic like a Neumann KSM 104. These run about $700 each and I don't think they work well in loud space, or sound particularly good on every voice. But they can be magic on the right voice and some vocalists will insist on using one just because of the name, "Neumann."
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  9. Analogeezer


    Jul 29, 2021
    That's a really good point about using the same mic for all the vocal mics if possible.

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  10. seamonkey


    Aug 6, 2004
  11. Smallmouth_Bass


    Dec 29, 2005
    Thanks for all the great feedback guys (pun intended)!

    My current mic is a Seinnheiser e935. I do have some Shure SM58's too. The others are using Seinnhisers too, but I don't think they're the same model.

    I do sing right on the mic, like lips touching the grill cover. I really don't have a great range and that's why I go to falsetto so often, as well as having some high parts. I really should work on my range. I do not consider myself a singer. I just try to be in time and in tune so that I can complement the lead vocals. I know I don't have a great tone!

    The monitor placement makes sense, however we (I) are often at the mercy of the venue and we play some very small places where there's not a whole lot of room to choose for ideal placement. Plus, we're generally only running vocals and guitar through the PA, which is not large. We generally run two 10's for the mains and one or two 10's (or smaller) for monitors. We run the sound from the stage ourselves. Sometimes the mains are behind us too. Not ideal, I know.

    I intend to try out some wired in-ear monitors soon.
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2021
    seamonkey, Groove Doctor and Wasnex like this.
  12. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011
    You could do better, but an E935 is a decent mic IMHO. An experienced audio tech could probably significantly improve results.

    1. High pass your vocal channel and the monitor mix if possible. If variable HPFs are available, run them up until they start to slightly thin out the lowest range of the voice. Unless someone is singing baritone, the HPF will probably be around 200hz or higher. In an actual live mix, you want to thin out the low mids a bit, as there tends to be a lot of build up in this range.

    2. Does the system have the functionality to ring out the mixes as I described? This can make a huge impact on the amount of gain before feedback that is available. It also tends to make the mixes sound way clearer and more natural

    3. If possible, make sure the instruments are not louder than they need to be. This can be a real challenge, especially on a small stage, as people tend to want "more me" than is actually possible. IMHO, people generally want their instrument and voice to be 6-10dB louder than other elements in the mix. If you are sharing a vocal mix with someone, or standing close to another player you can't get the desired 6-10dB.

    SPL drops off by -6dB for each doubling of distance. So if the guitarist is 6' from his cab, then you need to be 12' from his cab for the sound to drop by the desired -6dB. To get -10dB you need to be even farther away from the guitar cab.

    4. Since the E935 is a cardioid mic, the monitor should be at the 180 degree null (directly behind the mic). Running more monitors at a lower volume generally work better. If you are on a small stage you need small monitors.

    I had really good luck running Galaxy Audio HotSpots. The HotSpots are placed on a mic stand which gets it closer to your ears...meaning they can be run at a lower SPL. The frequency response of HotSpots is optimized pretty much for vocals. They don't put out extended highs or lows, but most people's vocal range is covered well. The model I used had a volume control, which allowed me to turn it up or down depending on my needs.

    Current Model HotSpot

    Boom Adapters are available so you don't even need an extra mic stand.
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2021
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  13. Maybe a simple ‘more me’ IEMs is all you need just when playing those tight stages/ feedback prone venues.

    Rolls PM351
    PM351 Personal Monitor System | Rolls Corporation - Real Sound
    Voice & Bass mix. I’d skip the Line In if lots of feedback happening, or just use an ambient mic carefully positioned.
    (It won’t fix the overall volume/ feedback issue, but you’ll hear yourself well & stop contributing to the bigger problem).
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2021
  14. Bartrinsic

    Bartrinsic Supporting Member

    Jan 6, 2018
    San Diego
    Not for everyone, but few mics reject feedback even close to this singing drummer mic:
    CM311 MiniXLR | Reference head-worn condenser microphone with mini XLR connector

    If nothing else works for you, this might--I'm two years in with it and stuck with it because there's nothing else like it. I use it with a Shure GLDX wireless system--it can be wired, though you may need a cloudlifter or the like to run wired without excessive noise. AKG or Crown CM311--same thing.
  15. AGCurry

    AGCurry Supporting Member

    Jun 29, 2005
    St. Louis
    I second the recommendation for the Hot Spot.
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  16. Smallmouth_Bass


    Dec 29, 2005
    I had and just sold a Mackie SRM150, which appears to be a very similar concept to the HotSpots, being placed as part of the mic stand. I didn't like it at all and the setup just didn't seem very stable and was more hassle than it's worth.

    I have and just started using a Soundcraft Ui24R, so there's tons capability in terms of mixing. Up to now, we've been using various non-digital model mixers with mixed results. I don't have any mixing experience, so the Ui24R kind-of scares me. I can't really practice using it until I get into a band situation and even at rehearsals, the setup isn't the same. We have used it on a few occasions with the just the two 10" mains behind the drums facing them at 180 degrees and that has worked well with no feedback issues. No monitors required. Once I get it out in the wild, I know it will be a different beast. I know it does have some feedback reduction presets in it.
  17. Smallmouth_Bass


    Dec 29, 2005
    I have one of those! I have yet to use it in a band setting. I had initially bought to practice with because I practice with noise cancelling headphones and couldn't hear myself sing. Judging by my wife's cringing face, I think my singing intonation was not the best!
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2021
  18. Rip Van Dan

    Rip Van Dan DNA Endorsing Artist Supporting Member

    Feb 2, 2009
    Duvall, WA
    I also have the Sennheiser e935. Prior to that I had (still have) the SM58, which sounds a lot like the Shure 565SD Hi-z mic I toured with in the early 70's. Additionally, I also used the SM58 Beta (one with the blue stripe around the ball) which was supposed to be optimized for vocals more so than the SM58. I sound better through the SM58 than the Beta version of it, which is backwards for most people. I also sound much better through the Sennheiser e935 than I do through the Shure mics.

    I generally like to keep about 2" away from my mic to avoid any big proximity effect. At about 2" away, that e935 picks up the subtleties of my voice night and day better than the SM58's. I'll listen the music level and move closer or farther back as needed to get a good blend on harmonies, being careful not to overshadow the melody. My Sennheiser just seems to do that better than my SM58 does. I am personally not a fan of proximity effect so I try to avoid it when I can.

    One of the problems I had with the SM58 is that they are not as hot of a mic as the Sennheiser which the rest of the group was using. So they'd just slide the pots all up to the same position on the board and I'd get lost. I used to go over to the board and give my mic slider a little bump up to get the same sound level to the rest. Then one day I thought, "you know maybe the gain is just not up enough." So I bumped up the gain instead and all of a sudden that mic came alive with much better sound than it had before. I actually expected that the gain bump might result in feedback, but it didn't at all.

    About that time I bought an e935 and haven't looked back. I really like that mic. I specifically did not buy an e945 because it was super-cardioid pattern mic and did not have good rear-rejection. Since we typically each have our own monitor when performing, and it is usually placed right in front of us, the regular cardioid was a better choice with its better rear rejection. I really like my e935 because it suits my voice nicely and what I do with it.
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  19. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011

    I never used the HotSpots with a boom adapter, so I can't say how stable they would be. I used two HotSpots on their own stands at about 45 degree left and right. I prefer tripod mic stands as they are more stable than nesting stands with small metal basses.


    Nesting stands tend to be unstable even with a long boom.

    One possible problem with the Mackie is it looks like it is aimed to shoot the sound straight up, rather than tilted back to shoot the sound at your head.

    As far as practicing with a digital mixer: What I do is setup the mixer with one or more mics, a media player, and several cabs on different mixes. Next I read/review the manual and figure out all of the little finger dances necessary to get around the user interface. Some of the things I practice: 1. the steps needed to make individual volume changes to each channel and each mix, 2 how to access and adjust the EQ, dynamics, and effects, 3. how to save and recall scenes and presets, and 4. how to adjust delay on the mixes. If you need to, you can also practice ringing the system for feedback.

    At the risk of sounding arrogant, I think I have above average aptitude for the skillsets required to run sound. This aptitude makes it easier for me to study and remember things, so it comes fairly easy for me. Also my life long passion for audio and gear has driven me to seek and study relevant knowledge. IMHO someone who lacks my passion and aptitude is unlikely to develop my level of proficiency as an audio tech.

    Running audio can also seem easy for someone who has a passion for it, but actually lacks the natural ability and drive needed to do a good job. This sort of person thinks they are doing a good job because they lack the ability to even recognize how incompetent/ignorant they are. Not everyone is meant to be/or able to be a good audio tech. If you get pressed into running sound without the necessary passion or natural talent, you just do the best you can until somebody better comes along.
  20. vvvmmm


    Dec 6, 2016
    Those are really good for recording guitar amps (and pretty easy to and should be converted to lo-Z).
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