Microphone Terminology: B (With Definitions)

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B-Format:

What is B-format in ambisonics? In ambisonic production, B-format is the proper positioning of the individual raw (A-Format) ambisonic mic signals. Each mic output in A-format needs proper panning and mixing to become B-format for various playback formats (stereo, surround sound, binaural, atmos, etc.).


Back Electret Condenser Microphone:

What is a back electret condenser microphone? A back electret microphone is a condenser mic with a permanently charged capsule due to electret material being fixed to its stationary backplate. Not having electret material fixed on the front plate (diaphragm) increases diaphragm accuracy and the electret is more durable since it’s stationary.

See: Microphone.


Backplate:

What is a microphone backplate? A backplate is the stationary plate of a condenser microphone’s parallel-plate capsule. The other plate is the diaphragm, which vibrates according to varying sound pressure, causing a corresponding variation in distance between the plates and a coinciding mic signal.


Baffle:

What is a microphone baffle? A baffle is the physical housing around a ribbon mic’s element. It holds the ribbon diaphragm in position and protects the sides of the ribbon. Baffles are made of magnets and pole pieces and provide the magnetic field necessary for electromagnetic induction and proper dynamic ribbon mic function.

A baffle may also refer to an acoustic barrier between a sound source and a microphone or between two microphones in certain miking techniques.


Baffled Miking Technique:

What is a baffled miking technique? A baffled miking technique is a stereo or surround sound miking technique that utilizes baffles or acoustic barriers between its microphones. Baffles are used in order to create separation between mics and sometimes to naturally increase SPL at the mic capsules.

The following are baffled miking techniques:


Balanced Audio:

What is balanced audio and what is its relation to microphones? Balanced audio is a clean method of connecting audio equipment (ie: mics and preamps) with a balanced line. A 3-pin XLR is a common balanced mic cable, which carries mic signals on pins 2 and 3 in opposite polarity. Balanced audio allows mic signals to travel through long lengths of cable effectively.

For a detailed read on balanced audio, check out my article Do Microphones Output Balanced Or Unbalanced Audio?


Ball Boundary Technique:

What is the ball boundary miking technique? The ball boundary miking technique is a surround sound technique that utilizes an artificial head (or a sphere) with omnidirectional mics in the ears of the head (or slots at even poles of the sphere) along with bidirectional mics pointed forward just outside the ears (or slots).

The channels of the ball boundary technique are as follows:

  • L = L-omni + L-bidirectional
  • R = R-omni + R-bidirectional
  • LS = L-omni – L-bidirectional
  • RS = R-omni – R-bidirectional

Bias Voltage:

Also known as DC-Bias.

What is Bias voltage and how does it power microphones? Bias voltage is a low DC voltage (typically between 1.5 – 9.5 V DC) that charges the capsules and powers the circuitry of some condenser mics. Bias voltage is often provided by a bodypack transmitter in order to power their electret lavalier mics. Bias voltage is not the same as phantom power.


Bidirectional Polar Pattern:

Also known as the Figure-8 or Figure-of-8 polar pattern.

What is the bidirectional microphone polar pattern? The bidirectional (figure-8) microphone polar pattern is equally sensitive to sounds from the front and the back with a ring of silence at its sides. Bidirectional mics are the truest form of pressure-gradient mics and exhibit the most proximity effect. Nearly all ribbon mics are bidirectional.

For more information on the bidirectional polar pattern, check out my article What Is A Bidirectional/Figure-8 Microphone? (With Mic Examples).


Binaural:

What does binaural mean and how does it apply to microphones? The term “binaural” translates to “having or relating to two ears.” In audio recording, stereo is binaural, though any format provides a binaural experience if the listener has two ears. A typical mic is not binaural but can be used to record audio to be mixed binaurally.


Bit Depth:

What is audio bit depth and how does it apply to microphones? Bit depth, in pulse-code modulation (PCM) digital audio, is the number of bits in each audio sample. When recording digitally or using a digital mic, bit depth is an important parameter. Higher bit depths mean higher resolution, signal-to-noise ratio, and dynamic range in PCM digital audio.


Bleed:

Also known as spill.

What is microphone bleed? Microphone bleed is any sound intended in a recording or reinforcement but not intended to be picked up in the mic in question. Examples of bleed include the headphone mix in a vocal mic during vocal overdubs and drums in the mics intended for other instruments during live performances.

For a detailed read about microphone bleed/spill, check out my article What Is Microphone Bleed/Spill? (With Methods To Reduce It).


Blimp:

Also known as Zeppelin.

What is a microphone blimp? A microphone blimp is a fully encompassing pop filter/windscreen, typically for the outdoor use of shotgun mics. Blimps often host the mic and the mic shock mount and are generally attached to the end of boom poles. Dead cats are commonly placed over blimps to further protect a mic from wind noise.

To learn about my recommended microphone blimps/zeppelins, check out my article Best Microphone Windscreens.


Blumlein Pair:

Also known as the Blumlein array or coincident figure-eights.

What is the Blumlein pair microphone technique? The Blumlein pair miking technique is a stereo miking technique that utilizes a coincident pair of bidirectional microphones pointed 90-degrees from one another (45-degree left and right of centre or the “front direction”).

Blumlein Pair

Bodypack:

Also known as a belt pack.

What is a microphone bodypack? A bodypack is a type of wireless microphone transmitter. Bodypacks are small, lightweight, and are easily concealed and carried by performers. They are often attached to the belt, but sometimes need to really be hidden on the talent (think of theatre actors, for example).


Boom Arm:

What is a microphone boom arm? A microphone boom arm is a general term for any piece of a mic stand that extends a mic’s position horizontally. Straight boom arms are often used in conjunction with vertical mic stands. Boom arms also refer to the desk mounted scissor/suspension mic stands commonly seen on radio and podcast shows.

To learn about my recommended microphone boom arms, check out my article Best Microphone Boom Arms.


Boom Microphone:

What is a boom microphone? A boom microphone is any mic that is attached to the end of a boom pole. Though any mic could be a boom mic, shotgun microphones are by far the most common boom mics. Shotgun mics excel as boom mics due to their extreme directionality. Pointing a shotgun mic at a sound source yields a clean capture.

See: Microphone.

For more information about boom microphones, check out my article What Is A Boom Microphone? (Applications + Mic Examples).

To learn about my recommended boom microphones, check out the following My New Microphone articles:

Best Boom Microphones For Film.
Best Shotgun Microphones For A Camera.


Boom Operator:

What is a boom operator? In film audio, the boom operator is the person responsible for maneuvering and holding the boom pole and mic in place. A boom op ideally positions the boom mic just out of frame while pointing the mic directly at the person speaking. Boom ops are typically tethered to a camera and/or field recorder.

To learn more about how to properly operate a boom microphone, check out my article How To Properly Hold A Boom Pole And Microphone.


Boom Pole:

Also known as Fish Pole.

What is a microphone boom pole? A microphone boom pole is a straight pole that houses a mic at one end. Boom poles are typically extendable and allow for dynamic mic positioning on film sets while keeping the mic and pole out of frame. Boom poles can also be attached to boom stands for similar but less dynamic mic positioning.

To learn about my recommended boom poles, check out my article Best Microphone Boom Poles.


Boom Stand:

What is a microphone boom stand? A microphone boom stand is any mic stand with an arm to extend it in the horizontal plane. Boom stands are perhaps the most common type of mic stand in the studio and live performance applications. The term boom stand also applies to heavy-duty film lighting stands with adapters to hold mic boom poles.


Boundary Microphone:

Also known as Pressure Zone Microphone (PZM)

What is a boundary microphone? A boundary mic is designed to be as flush as possible with a surface. Placing a mic capsule flush to a surface allows it to capture direct sound waves along with the wave reflections with negligible delay. This yields a flat frequency response by effectively eliminating audible comb filtering.

See: Microphone.

For a detailed read on boundary microphones, The Hemispherical Boundary Microphone/PZM Polar Pattern. For my recommended boundary mics, check out Best Boundary Microphones.


Bright:

What does the term “bright” mean in relation to microphones? The term “bright” means a microphone has an extended or accentuated high-end frequency response. The “brightness” of a mic is subjective and refers to the overall quality of the high-frequency range. Many condenser mics sound bright, especially when recorded digitally.


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