Archive for November, 2009

Mid-Side recording and Microphone Sensitivity

November 1, 2009

Small technical backgrounder this time.

When recording stereo it is essential to have equal gain settings for the microphones at the risk of the stereo image shifting to either left or right. More gain on the right mic channel will shift the image to the right and the other way around. Equal gain settings are especially important in XY, ORTF or any other spaced or coincident microphone positioning.

With mid-side recording the gain setting for the mid and side channels allow you control the stereo spread. More gain on the side channel compared to mid will widen the stereo image. More gain on the mid channel will narrow the image. Ultimately, no gain on the side channel will leave you with a centered mono signal from the mid mic.

Reading gain or trim pot settings is easy enough but you usually end up with differences in signal strength if you don’t take into account microphone sensitivity even with an equal gain setting on your recorder or mixer. Unless you have a matched pair, microphones have different sensitivity characteristics.

A typical MS setup is the Sennheiser MKH60/ MKH30 microphone pair.

The MKH60 has a sensitivity of 40mV/Pa, the MKH30 has 25mV/Pa. With equal gain you will end up with a much stronger mid signal and consequently a narrow stereo image.

The calculation to compensate for sensitivity is as follows:

±dB = 20 x log(MmV/SmV)


MmV = sensitivity of the mid mic in mV/Pa
SmV = sensitivity of the side mic in mV/Pa

In our example we need 4.1dB more gain on the side channel compared to the mid channel to get equal signal strength on both of the recorded channels.

This is easy to realize on mixers such as the Sound Devices 302. With MS stereo linking set trim pots allow you to set gain for the mid and side channels separately. The input 2 fader controls the overall gain for the pair.