We’re sure you’ve noticed the words “OMNIDIRECTIONAL” or “BIDIRECTIONAL” on microphones for your work from home headset, streaming, or Karaoke Mic these days, but what does the term actually mean and why is it important to you?

Simply put all microphones have one of three directional sound pickup modes:
Unidirectional – From one position
Bidirectional – From two positions
Omnidirectional – All around.

Some microphones are also amplified to improve the sound quality, like our Volkano Clip Pro Lapel Microphone which has a built-in amplifier for enhanced sound reproduction.

When selecting a microphone, it’s important to keep in mind what you will be using the device for.
Are you taking work calls with a dedicated headset, recording a podcast or interview, or musical performances?

So what’s the difference and how do you pick which mic will be best for your needs?


Unidirectional mics are ones that pick up sound from one point – right in front of the mic.
The directional pattern (polar plot) for most unidirectional mics is cardioid which looks like a heart or apple (thank you for the images).

It will pick up sound from the sides, but the gain (the thing that controls tone, not loudness) dissipates when not in the optimal forward-facing direction, reducing the sounds coming from the sides and background.

Ideal uses for a unidirectional mic are:
⦁ Voice performances for recording like signing.
⦁ PA systems or outdoor (less pick up of wind and other sounds).
⦁ Voice over work where you’re speaking directly into a microphone from one point.
⦁ Headsets like the ⦁ Volkano Chat or ⦁ Chat 2 Series with directional microphones on a boom arm.

Bidirectional mics have what is called a “figure 8” polar plot – this type of microphone picks up sound from the front and back well, while “ignoring” sound from the sides.

These types of microphones are used most popularly in sound recording for music, as they pick up in two directions and you typically see them as condenser mics used in front of amplifiers.

Ideal uses for a bidirectional mic are:
⦁ Recording more than 1 instrument
⦁ When sharing a stationery mic between two people – Interviews, streaming, or podcasts
⦁ Overhead boom mics for production purposes
⦁ Lapel mics that clip onto your clothing, AKA Lavalier mics.

Omnidirectional mics pick up sound from all directions, their polar pattern is a great big O shape – meaning that if you have a microphone in the middle of the room, you’re going to pick up sound from all the directions of that room, but they offer little in the way of background noise rejection.

There’s some debate in the sound industry about omnidirectional mics – why they’re better than Unidirectional and what to use them for, but mostly it comes down to the type of PA system and sound Monitors you have set up.
Suffice to say that for the average user, an omnidirectional mic is best used when you have multiple speakers which need to be picked up from any given direction. Think of it as being on a conference call with your whole team sitting around a table and the mic is in the middle.

It’s also worth noting that most headphones and earphones make use of omnidirectional mics. Due to their location on the earphone cable, headset or earplug it’s easier to pick up the sound of your voice, however, keep that in mind when logging in to your next zoom call.

Best used for:
⦁ Conference calls or boardroom meetings. Check out the ⦁ Volkano Stream Meeting Series for this one.
⦁ Live recordings of multiple instruments or choirs
⦁ Large panels of speakers

There you have it.
We hope that this article has helped explain the differences between mics and what they should be used for.

Credit to Volkano

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