You may have heard the phrase “proximity effect” used by audio engineers.
It may seem complex, but it isn’t.
And it’s something you’ll need to know if you’re going to record music using a microphone, particularly if you’re working with a singer.
What Is the Proximity Effect, and How Does It Work?
The proximity effect occurs when the sound captured by a microphone gets more powerful as the sound source approaches it.
You’ll notice a difference in sound if you move your lips closer to the mike when recording voice, for example.
If you’re using a cardioid or figure-8 mic, the closer you go to it, the more low frequencies you’ll hear. The proximity effect will not be present if you use an omnidirectional microphone.
Polar patterns, on the other hand, govern how sensitive a microphone is in various directions.
A cardioid pickup pattern, for example, focuses on collecting sounds from the front. As a result, if you overcrowd that area by coming too near, you’ll experience an overabundance of proximity impact.
Omnidirectional microphones, on the other hand, don’t focus on a single spot; they capture sounds from all directions. As a result, there will be no proximity impact with them.
The presence of low-end noises typically occurs below 100Hz and may result in a 16-dB increase.
To be clear, just increasing the gain level will not alter the proximity impact. It has to do with the physics of the sound source’s distance from the microphone.
Getting too near may also cause distortion if you’re not cautious.
However, if you know what you’re doing, you can take advantage of the proximity effect (more on that below).
How To Avoid Too Much Proximity Effect
You must understand how to prevent an excess of proximity effect in order to avoid distortion and bass-heavy recordings.
Fortunately, there is a straightforward remedy.
You may either utilize an omnidirectional mic or a mic that doesn’t have a focused pickup pattern. This is arguably the most reliable method of avoiding the proximity effect.
Keep in mind that an omnidirectional microphone will capture sounds from all sides, so make sure you’re in a controlled, calm area.
You may also use a condenser mic instead of a figure-8 mic, which will have less proximity impact. Then simply stay away from the microphone.
How To Use The Proximity Effect To Control Your Sound
Cardioid microphones are often used for voices since they allow for some proximity impact but not too much. They emphasize the pleasant low tones, making voices seem warmer, thicker, and larger.
That’s why, when done properly, many vocalists like the proximity effect.
It may also be used to make a bass drum or floor toms larger and more bassy.
So, if you know what you’re doing, the proximity effect may be your best friend. However, if you allow it get out of hand, it may become your deadly adversary.
Remember that it will be more apparent — and perhaps more of an issue — with singers who have a deeper voice.
Is it possible to fix the proximity effect after recording?
Let’s suppose you go to great lengths to capture just the positive elements of the proximity effect. You aim to stay away from muddiness, distortion, and too much bass.
However, when you edit, you discover there’s a bit too much low end.
So, what exactly do you do? Is it possible for you to delete it?
In post-production, you won’t be able to fully repair it. However, if you find yourself in this situation, you may use a plugin called TDR Proximity.
This plugin uses stereo width modification, high frequency absorption, and other techniques to simulate the depth or proximity of a sound source.
It’s no substitute for obtaining the proper proximity effect when recording. However, it may assist in fine-tuning it after the fact.
The proximity effect has no hard and fast rules. This is something you’ll have to hear for yourself and adapt to your preferences.
However, you now understand how it may help you enhance your tracks. You also understand how to prevent its drawbacks.