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July 6, 2024

Choosing Between Omnidirectional and Directional Headsets: An Interview with Alan Johnson, House of Worship Director for DPA Microphones

Houses of Worship

When it comes to miking your pastor or keynote speaker, choosing the right microphone can make or break the sound of your event. More importantly, it can be the deciding factor as to why your speaker could or couldn’t be understood, and let’s be honest, whether it’s for a religious service or other event, the message is the most important! To help demystify the decision-making process, we sat down with Alan Johnson, House of Worship Director for DPA Microphones, to get his expert insights on choosing between omnidirectional and directional microphones for church and corporate events.

Legend: Alan, thanks for joining us today! Let’s dive right in. When someone is setting up for a church service or a corporate event, what’s the first thing they should consider when choosing a microphone?

Alan: Thanks for having me! The first thing to consider is the sonic environment you’ll be working in. Where is the PA in relation to the speaker? In front? Behind? Also, what other sound sources are in the space? Live Band? Audience? For instance, in a church setting, you might have a pastor speaking on stage with a live band, or you might be dealing with the acoustics of a large, open space. Similarly, in a corporate event, you might have a keynote speaker in front of a PA system. Understanding the overall environment helps you decide between an omnidirectional or a directional mic.

Legend: What are the main differences between omnidirectional and directional mics?

Alan: Omnidirectional mics pick up sound from all directions. They provide a very open, natural sound, which is great for capturing the nuances of a speaker’s voice. However, they also pick up everything else in the space – background noise, reverberations, you name it. This can be challenging in noisy environments or where feedback is a concern, such as the microphone being in front of the PA.

Directional mics, on the other hand, are more focused. They pick up sound primarily from one direction – usually from the front, or aimed at the mouth – and reject sounds from the sides and rear. This makes them ideal for situations where you want to isolate the speaker’s voice from other sounds, like a live band on stage or a noisy room, or if the speaker insists on being in front of the PA.

Legend: That makes sense. So, if you were setting up a microphone for a pastor speaking in front of a live band, which type would you recommend?

Alan: In that scenario, I’d typically recommend a directional mic. The focused pickup pattern helps isolate the pastor’s voice from the band, reducing the chances of feedback and ensuring the congregation hears the message clearly. However, it’s important to place the mic correctly and adjust the gain to get the best isolated sound. This can be especially important if you’re livestreaming your message to other campuses. I’ve worked with churches whose main campus used an omnidirectional mic and when the Pastor was speaking while the band was playing, the band was coming through the Pastor’s headset. Not the end of the world, but in this instance they were broadcasting live to multiple campuses and the bands at those campuses weren’t all playing the same key. This led to those campuses hearing dissonant and conflicting song keys. Not exactly what they wanted in that moment.

Legend: How about for a corporate event with a keynote speaker in front of a PA system?

Alan: For corporate events, a directional mic is often the better choice for the same reasons. It helps keep the speaker’s voice clear and prominent, especially in a large room with a PA system that can introduce a lot of background noise. Omnidirectional mics can work if the room is well-controlled acoustically, but directional mics give you more control in most situations.

Legend: What are some common challenges people face when using these mics, and how can they overcome them?

Alan: One of the biggest challenges is gain before feedback. With omnidirectional mics, you have to be careful with your PA placement and volume levels to avoid feedback. With directional mics you don’t have that issue, but directional mics are more prone to plosives or “pops” as well as handling noise, both of which can be a distraction.

To overcome these, proper mic placement is key. For omnidirectional mics, try to keep the PA speakers in front of the mic and use acoustic treatments to reduce reflections. For directional mics, try and keep the mic out of the breath path to avoid plosives. You can experiment with the distance and angle of the mic to the speaker’s mouth to find a balance between isolation and natural sound, but typically a good starting point for a headset is to have the speaker smile and bring the mic element to that corner where their lips meet. And always do a sound check before the event to tweak the settings as needed.

Legend: Great tips, Alan! Any final advice for our readers?

Alan: Don’t be afraid to experiment with different mics and placements to find what works best for your specific environment. Every space is unique, and sometimes a bit of trial and error is the best way to achieve the perfect sound. And remember, the goal is always to make sure the speaker’s message comes through loud and clear.

Legent: Thanks so much, Alan. This has been incredibly helpful!

Alan: Absolutely any time! When you choose the right mic it makes everything easier, so anything I can do to help!

Legend Sound Systems is an authorized dealer of DPA Microphones, who focuses on clarity and durability, with their high-quality handmade products from Denmark. Contact us today to talk about how Legend and DPA Microphones can take your sound from good to great!