Microphone Terminology: P (With Definitions)

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Pad (Passive Attenuation Device):

What is a microphone pad? A microphone pad (passive attenuation device) is a passive switch that reduces the mic signal strength by a given decibel ratio. Active microphones will sometimes have built-in pads to allow for greater maximum sound pressure levels before overloading the internal circuitry.

For more information on passive attenuation devices, check out my article What Is A Microphone Attenuation Pad And What Does It Do?


Pan:

What is pan and how does it affect microphones? Pan (short for panorama) refers to the left-to-right positioning of a sound in a stereo, surround sound, or other non-mono mixes. Because microphones are inherently mono devices (only one outputted signal), their signals must be panned in order to become “stereo” in a mix.


Pan Pot:

What are panning pots and how do they affect mic signals? A pan pot (panorama potentiometer) controls the panning of an audio channel in a mix. Pan pots are usually physical knobs in mixing consoles or representations thereof in DAWs.


Path Length:

What is microphone path length? Path length simply refers to the distance between two objects. Usually, this refers to a microphone diaphragm (front or backside) and its intended sound source.


Path Length Difference:

What is the microphone path length difference? Path length difference is the difference in the distances between a sound source and two mics intended to capture that sound source. The difference in path length between two mics and a source is a balancing game of phase coherence, stereo imaging, room sound, and other mic issues.


Parabolic Dish:

What is a parabolic microphone dish? A parabolic dish is a hollow half-sphere disc that resembles a satellite. An omnidirectional mic is positioned in the centre of the hollow sphere, pointing inward, to capture all the reflections inside the disc. This allows for far microphone reach.

To learn about my recommended parabolic microphone dishes, check out my article Best Parabolic Microphone Dishes.


Parabolic Microphone:

What is a parabolic microphone? A parabolic mic is used in conjunction with a parabolic disc. Although parabolic systems are highly directional and have long reaches, the best parabolic mics are omnidirectional in order to capture all the reflections within the disc. Small diaphragm condensers and lavalier mic are most common.

To learn about my recommended parabolic microphones, check out my article Best Parabolic Microphones.


Pascal:

What is a Pascal and why are Pascals important to microphones? A Pascal (symbol: Pa) is the derived SI unit for pressure. Standard atmospheric pressure is 101,325 Pa and sound saves vary against (above and below) this pressure. 1 Pa is equal to 94 dB SPL, though Pascals are linear and decibels are logarithmic.


Passive Microphone:

What is a passive microphone? A passive microphone does not require any external power in order to function properly. Practically all moving-coil dynamic mics and most dynamic ribbon mics are passive since they work on electromagnetic induction and typically do not have internal preamplifiers.

See: Microphone.

For more information on passive microphones, check out my article Do Microphones Need Power To Function Properly?


Pencil Microphone:

What is a pencil microphone? The term “pencil microphone” typically refers to a thin, top-address small-diaphragm condenser, though the term could refer to any thin, cylindrical mic (that resembles a pencil). The term pencil mic is not technical, but commonly used in audio industries.

See: Microphone.


Phantom Power:

What is phantom power? Phantom power (P48) is a DC voltage used to power the electronics of active mics and to charge the capsules of non-electret condenser mics. True P48 works by sending +48 volts up pins 2 and 3 (relative to pin 1) of a balanced XLR cable. Mics are designed to take what they need from the 48 V DC.

To learn more about microphones and phantom power, check out my article Do Microphones Need Phantom Power To Work Properly? and Will Phantom Power Damage My Ribbon Microphone?


Phase:

What is phase and why is it important to microphones? Phase refers to the amount that a wave has passed through its cycle. Because sound and mic signals are waves, phasing is important. Two identical waves/signals in-phase sum together while two identical waves/signal out-of-phase cancel each other out. Mic positioning is crucial for phase coherence.

For more information on microphone phase, check out my article Microphone Polarity & Phase: How They Affect Mic Signals.


Phase Coherent Cardioid:

What is phase coherent cardioid? Phase coherent cardioid is an AKG trademark technology that optimized speech intelligibility in their boundary mics.


Phase Flip:

What is phase flip and how does it apply to microphones? Phase flip is a method of reversing the polarity of a signal. Phase flip options are common on individual mic inputs in quality preamplifiers, mixing consoles, and in DAWs. Flipping the phase of a mic signal may align it in-phase with other mics, resulting in a more cohesive recording.


Phasey:

What does “phasey” mean in reference to microphones? “Phasey” is a term that refers to a sound that is thinned out due to phase cancellation. Phasiness is often heard between two mics capturing the same sound source, especially when mixed in mono. A single mic can sound phasey if the source is off-axis or if there are strong out-of-phase reflections.


Piezoelectric Microphone:

Also known as a crystal microphone.

What is a piezoelectric microphone? Piezo mics work with piezoelectric materials (known as crystals) that, when subjected to varying pressure (sound waves) produce an AC voltage (mic signal). They have very high output impedances and are mostly used as contact mics for acoustic instruments or to record in high-pressure environments.

See: Microphone.


Pin 1 “Ground”:

What is pin 1 or the “ground” pin? Pin 1 is the ground pin in a standard balanced XLR microphone cable. Pin 1 acts as a neutral ground and a reference point for the voltages carried on pins 2 and 3. It also acts as a cable shield, helping to reduce electromagnetic interference.


Pin 2 “Hot”:

What is pin 2 or the “hot” pin? Pin 2 is the “hot” or positive pin in a standard balanced XLR microphone cable. Pin 2 carries the mic signal in positive polarity (referenced to pin 1 ground) and +48 volts DC phantom power to a mic when needed. Pin 2 and 3 are often twisted together along the cable length to reduce EMI.


Pin 3 “Cold”:

What is pin 3 or the “cold” pin? Pin 3 is the “cold” or negative pin in a standard balanced XLR microphone cable. Pin 3 carries the mic signal in negative polarity (referenced to pin 1 ground) and +48 volts DC phantom power to a mic when needed. Pin 2 and 3 are often twisted together along the cable length to reduce EMI.


Plosives:

What are plosives and how do they affect microphones? Plosives are strong blasts of wind energy that come from the mouth of a speaker. Plosives happen on certain consonant sound when a part of the mouth gets closed (lips, tongue and teeth, or the back of mouth). English plosives happen on T’s, P’s, B’s, D’s, K’s, and G’s.

To learn more about microphone plosives, check out my article Top 10 Tips For Eliminating Microphone Pops And Plosives.


Plug:

What is a microphone plug? A plug is the male connector that is inserted into a jack to allow a signal flow connection. A “microphone plug,” therefore, can be considered the output connector of the mic or the male end of the XLR the connects the mic to a preamp or in-line device.

For more information on microphone plugs, check out my article What Is The Difference Between A Microphone Plug And Jack?


Plug-In Power:

What is microphone plug-in power? Microphone plug-in power is typically 5 volts DC used to power the JFET of inexpensive condenser and lavalier microphones. The plug-in power voltage can be sent on a separate conductor or the same conductor as the audio depending on the cable used.


Polar Pattern:

Also known as pickup pattern.

What is a microphone polar pattern? A microphone polar pattern is a representation of the spatial sensitivity of a mic relative to its primary axis. It tells us the directionality of the mic’s pickup. A mic’s polar pattern changes slightly across its frequency response, generally becoming more directional at higher frequencies.

Common polar patterns include:

For everything you need to know about microphone polar patterns, check out my article The Complete Guide To Microphone Polar Patterns.


Polarity:

What is polarity and why is it important to microphones? Polarity is the direction or charge of an electric current, magnetic force, or microphone signals. In balanced microphone output audio, pins 2 and 3 carry the same mic signal but pin 3 is in reverse polarity. This flip looks like a 180° phase shift but, unlike phase, is not based on time.

For more information on microphone polarity, check out my article Microphone Polarity & Phase: How They Affect Mic Signals.


Polarizing Voltage:

What is a microphone’s polarizing voltage? Polarizing voltage is the voltage applied to the parallel plates of a condenser microphone in order to charge it properly. Electret condensers have permanent polarizing voltages while non-electrets require an external polarizing voltage (often supplied by phantom power).


Pole Piece:

What is a microphone pole piece? A pole piece in a dynamic mic refers to the extensions made to the primary magnet in the mic capsule. Pole pieces optimize the shape and magnetic pole positions, improving the magnetic field around the voice coil or ribbon. This makes for efficient electromagnetic induction and stronger mic signals.

What is a microphone boom pole piece? A microphone boom pole piece is one of the extension pieces in an extendable boom pole. Each boom pole piece has its own locking mechanism designed for quick extension and retraction of the boom pole’s total length.


Polyhymnia Pentagon:

What is the Polyhymnia pentagon miking technique? The Polyhymnia pentagon is a surround sound miking technique that utilizes 5 omnidirectional mics positioned according to the arrangement of surround sound loudspeakers defined by ITU-R BS775. The 5 omnis are placed on a circle with a radius of 3 meters.

Polyhymnia Pentagon Drawing

Pop Filter:

What is a microphone pop filter? A microphone pop filter is an external screen designed to pass sound wave energy but dissipate plosive energy Pop filters are commonly made of nylon or metal mesh and work by absorbing and redirecting incoming plosive energy. Pop filters are an effective method of reducing microphone popping.

For more information on microphone pop filters, check out my article What Is A Microphone Pop Filter And When Should You Use One?

To read about my recommended microphone pop filters, check out Best Microphone Pop Filters.


Power Supply:

What is a microphone power supply? A microphone power supply is an external device that supplies a specific mic with its power needs. Power supplies are common with tube and vintage microphones. Many modern mics that require external powering are designed to accept phantom power or a DC-bias voltage.


Preamplifier:

What is a microphone preamplifier? A microphone preamplifier is an electronic amplifier designed to amplify mic level signals to line level signals. Preamplifiers are essential if we are to use microphones with any mixing console or digital audio workstation.

To learn about my recommended microphone preamplifiers, check out my article Best Microphone Preamplifiers.


Presence:

What is “presence” when in reference to microphones? Presence, in the audio world, refers generally to the upper-mid frequencies in the audible spectrum (roughly 3 kHz – 7 kHz). This frequency band, when boosted, gives a sound more “presence” in a mix. This is especially true on vocals since much of the human speech intelligibility is in this range.

For more details on microphone presence, check out my article What Does “Presence” Mean In Terms Of Microphones?


Presence Boost:

What is a microphone presence boost? A microphone presence boost is an increase in senstivity in the presence range (roughly 3 kHz – 7 kHz). Some coloured mic have an innate presence boost in their frequency responses, while other mics may have a presence boost option that increases sensitivity in this frequency range.


Pressure Microphone:

What is a pressure microphone? A pressure microphone is any mic that has one side of its diaphragm open to external sound waves and the other side closed in a fixed pressure system. Pressure mics are omnidirectional (sound pressure is a scalar quantity), they exhibit no proximity effect and they are fairly resistant to plosives.

See: Microphone.


Pressure-Gradient Microphone:

What is a pressure-gradient microphone? A pressure-gradient microphone has both sides of its diaphragm at least partially open to external sound waves. Pressure-gradient mics make up all the directional dynamic and condenser mics and pressure-gradient capsules even make up most of the omnidirectional patterns in multipattern mics.

See: Microphone.


Pressure Response Microphone:

What is a pressure response microphone? A pressure response microphone is a type of measurement mic that measures the actual sound pressure on its diaphragm. Pressure response mics work best in cavities and against surfaces, where they accurately measure the sound pressure at the boundary itself.

See: Microphone.


Proximity Effect:

What is the proximity effect? The proximity effect is the increase in bass responsiveness of pressure-gradient microphones as a sound source gets closer to the mic diaphragm. The bass boost is due to the increased importance on the phase difference between the front and back of the diaphragm relative to the amplitude difference.

For more information on microphone proximity effect, check out my article What Is Microphone Proximity Effect And What Causes It?


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