X-Y Pair Stereo Microphone Techniques

X-Y (coincident) stereo miking consists of using two microphones that are placed right next to each other so that the diaphragms are as close together as possible without touching one another. X-Y stereo miking is the most common type of stereo microphone setup and the one that you’ll likely use if you do stereo miking.

The following illustration shows a basic X-Y setup. Notice how the mics in this figure are attached to a special mounting bracket. This bracket makes positioning the mics easy.

The X-Y stereo mic approach uses two matched microphones placed close together.
The X-Y stereo mic approach uses two matched microphones placed close together.

When you record using the X-Y technique, keep these points in mind:

  • The stereo image (the placement of the instruments in the sonic environment) isn’t as wide or realistic as it is in real life. The X-Y technique is easy to set up and results in a decent sound, so (as with all things in life) you have to deal with the compromise this ease creates.

    No solution to this exists, so if a wide stereo image is important to you, consider using a different stereo technique, such as the spaced pair or perhaps a Jecklin disk.

  • Don’t use two mics when one is enough. After you get a pair of nice mics for X-Y miking, you’ll want to use them on everything. A stereo-mic approach to a classical guitar composition is nice, but honestly, recording the acoustic guitar in a rock ballad with five other instruments playing isn’t necessary and just makes life more complicated when you mix the song.

  • Keep some distance between the mics and the sound source. The X-Y technique has no benefit over a single mic if you place your mics within a couple of feet of the sound source.

    You simply don’t have enough space for a stereo image to develop until you’re at least 6 feet from the instrument or group of instruments. In fact, you should be at least 10 feet from the sound source before using the X-Y stereo miking approach.

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