In your search for the best studio recording microphones, there’ll come a time when you’ll have to choose between unidirectional, bidirectional, and omnidirectional models. But if you want a mic with all the 3 patterns, pick any of these best multi-pattern mics.
As we mentioned in our first write-up in this series of the different types of microphones, unidirectional microphones hear audios coming from its front only. On the other hand, bidirectional mics receive sound signals from the front and rear and reject all sounds from sides. Lastly, omnidirectional microphones receive audios from all sides.
Apart from these, there exists another quite interesting category of microphones that allows you to switch between any of the 3 patterns and even more. Some advanced models like the Blue Microphones Kiwi and the versatile AKG Pro Audio C414 offers you up to 9 directionality options! That’s incredibly versatile, right?
However, most multi-pattern mics are expensive ranging around $500. For instance AKG C414 costs around $950. Luckily, there are other powerful models like CAD GXL3000 Multi-Pattern Condenser Microphone for around $150
The thing with these mics is that they present you with more than 1 microphone at the price of 1 unit. So, if you wish to have a bunch of microphones but don’t have a deep pocket, here is your chance. Here, we’ll review the best multi-pattern microphones according to budget. You can also check our reviews of the best condenser mics
At the same price as the NT2A, (when writing this), you could as well go with the Audio Technica AT4050. The AT4050 is one the best-selling multi-pattern condenser microphones on the market today due to a combination of several remarkable reasons. Its costs around $700 but if you are on budget, Audio-Technica AT2050 Multi-Pattern Condenser Microphone is a great alternative for around $250, at the time of writing this review.
This is a condenser microphone with 2 large diaphragms which have been gold-vaporized and then aged to deliver consistent top-notch performance. The condenser also features a professionally-designed brass acoustic element for stability and outstanding sensitivity.
The AT4050 is recorded at 17dB self-noise. This is contributed by its floating internal elements technology that eliminates most of the self-noise and vibrations. Ideal for both studio and live performance recording, the AT4050 has an incredibly high SPL capability (159Db with the 10dB pad), 77dB signal-to-noise ratio and 17dB self-noise.
It also has a different frequency response from other mics here at 20Hz-18 kHz. It also offers an 80-Hz high pass filter to help you deal with any unnecessary sounds.
The large diaphragm design also boosts the frequency response while its transformerless circuitry design prevents low-frequency distortion. In use, the AT4050 multi-pattern microphone gives clear highs and mids with rich low-end qualities. There’s also a 3-polar pattern switch onboard that lets you navigate through the cardioid, omni, and figure-8 options.
Our first stop in the search for an affordable multi-pattern microphone is the Sterling Audio ST59 Condenser Microphone. Sterling Audio is a good looking mic with a brass body and a stainless steel head and grille.
Users who’ve interacted with this piece of studio equipment refer to it as a Swiss Army knife. This is a large condenser microphone utilizing a dual-sided 3-micron gold Mylar diaphragm. Without forgetting, like other microphones from this manufacturer, ST59’s capsule has been baked to eliminate residual moisture.
This process also enables the diaphragm to offer optimum sound reproduction while being stable for a long time. ST59 also features Aspen Pittman’s patented disk resonator that makes the diaphragm more sensitive to shorter sound waves. This enables it to accurately capture all the required higher frequencies.
This mic has a maximum SPL capability of 132dB. However, this can be boosted to 142dB by engaging the -10dB pad at the front. The face of this mic also has a 75Hz, 12dB/Octave high-pass filter. Moreover, there’s a multi-pattern switch at the rear that allows you to switch between cardioid, bidirectional (figure 8), and omnidirectional patterns. Its 20Hz 20kHz frequency response and 16mV/Pa sensitivity give you truly crisp and warm vocals when used for vocals or with about any instrument.
Are you in need of the best multi-pattern microphone for vocals and instruments at below 400 bucks? You may want to consider the NT2A from Rode. For your information, this microphone took over from the Rode NT2 which was the last mic that Rode produced before moving their facilities from China to Australia. A simple difference between the 2, therefore, is that the NT2 has the ‘Made in China’ label while the NT2A is a- Made in Australia- thing.
Putting the country of origin issue apart, Rode NT2A brings a whole new experience with its rather advanced control panel. Here, you’ll find 3 pattern, pad, and filter switches. The pattern switch offers you 3 variable polar patterns; cardioid, omnidirectional, and figure-8. When using it on its cardioid mode, the tops appear detailed and are not harsh. On the other hand, the lower ends appear focused and solid. While the figure-8 directionality is pretty similar to the cardioid pattern, the omnidirectional pattern brings in more sound effects from your studio’s room ambiance.
Rode NT2A blows the Sterling Audio ST59 out of the water with its amazingly high 147dB without engaging the pads. Engaging the -10 dB pads boosts the maximum SPLs to a spectacular 157dB! This mic is also impressively quiet at 7dBA and also has an impressive signal-to-noise ratio of 87dB/Pa.
The ST69 is a large diaphragm multi-pattern microphone. This 10.8lbs condenser mic has a machined stainless steel tube body and a nice finish that will most likely last for a pretty long time. It also boasts a 2-layer grille that holds back speedy sound waves if you use the mic at least 4’’ away. Like the ST59, it also uses an ultra-thin 3um Mylar diaphragm and has Aspen Pittman’s donut-shaped disk resonator in place. Positioned just above the diaphragm, the resonator boosts the capsule’s sensitivity and response in a natural manner.
Sterling Audio 69 has a 10dB pad at the front that lets you rev up its maximum SPL capabilities to 147dB. You also get a high-pass filter switch at the side that helps you eliminate any unwanted rumbles coming from other sources including fans and footsteps outside the studio. The pattern switch, at the back, offers the versatility of 3 directionalities; cardioid, figure-8, and omni.
A good thing to know about the ST69 is that it comes ready to use right out of the box. In fact, you don’t need to wait till you get a source of its phantom power- it has its own onboard. It also ships with the XLR cable and an attractive and highly functional shock mount. The ST69 shines in various applications including vocals, drum overheads, and several acoustic sources.
At this point, only the Rode NT2A has the highest SPL handling capability at 157dB with the 10dB pad in. While that is quite incredible, Rode K2 finds it easy to surpass that limit even without the need for the pad. At 162dBA, you’ll virtually have to find another way to make this thing distort.
Rode K2 shines not only in handling high sound pressure levels but also in being the quietest multi-pattern microphone. This is understandable considering that the microphone with the lowest self-noise, the Rode NT1A comes from the same Australian manufacturer. Rode NT2A seems to take over from the legendary RODE NTK but with a very attractive price for the blooming home studio artist.
The NT1A is an LDC microphone with a 1’’ dual-diaphragm capsule that houses the gold-sputtered Mylar diaphragms. Its circuitry system has been borrowed from a 6922 dual-triode tube design and configured in Class A operations.
Like most microphones in this list, Rode K2 offers cardioid, omnidirectional, and figure-8 directionalities. Uniquely, there are no switches or knobs on its body. You adjust the polar patterns by rotating the power supply. The K2 is rated at 20Hz-20 kHz frequency response which is way wider than of a standard dynamic mic. This translates to a wider spectrum of the sounds to be recorded.
At close to 2 grands, Blue Microphones Kiwi is the most expensive multi-pattern microphone in this list. Yes, it’s certainly the best multi-pattern microphone for the money. And the good news is that you can also get a used one from Amazon for a few hundred dollars less. So, what’s all this hype about this ‘larger-than-life’ studio hardware?
Kiwi features one of Blue’s most famous capsules, the B6. The thing with this capsule is that it offers more than the 3 directionalities that come with the other cheap multi-pattern microphones. This large-diaphragm condenser capsule offers 9 distinct polar patterns. Now, that’s all you need to capture your sounds as they really are at the source. But an interesting feature here is the freedom to engage a tight cardioid pattern to obtain signals from a single source in your studios. Even better, you can also widen the cardioid coverage to add in some room ambiance of your choice.
A glance at its technical specs shows an amazing 8.5dB of self-noise (the third lowest in this list), 138dB of SPL capability, and 85.5dB of signal to noise ratio. All these features (and others) make Kiwi the best multi-pattern microphone for vocals, electric guitar cabinets, acoustic guitar, piano, and drum overheads. Its almost-zero proximity effect and low distortion, on the other hand, make it one of the best multi-pattern mics for brass and wind instruments.
That’s it for now. Though the list is inexhaustible, it’s our hope that the above 6 multi-pattern microphones will help you find a way through in this arena.
Quinn is an audio engineer who is passionate about music production gear. He's been a journalist profiling popular musicians and the gear they use. When not helping musicians and audio producers in studios, he's scouring the market to find the latest gear and music production tech.