Far Field Recording

Far field recording is defined somewhat vaguely as recording with microphones further from the sound source than in near field recording. For the wild soundscape recordist, the distance from the microphones to the sound source can be anything from 10 feet (3 metres) to maybe half a mile (1 km).

The distance to the sounds of interest is often utterly unpredictable in advance as many of our recordings are opportunistic. It's extremely difficult to get closer to most wild creatures than the minimum far field distance without setting up speculatively in advance and waiting for them to come to us. It follows that we should set up for far field recording in most cases unless we're grabbing sounds with a hand-held reflector mic.

As directional microphones get further from the sound source, they pick up less of the wanted sound and more of the general background. Unless the background - noise - is very loud, the overall sound level at the microphone will also be lower than in near field, so microphones for far field recording need to be highly sensitive - providing a large output signal in response to quiet sounds - and have low self-noise so it doesn't obtrude in the presence of quiet sounds.

There are various different microphone setups for far field stereo recording, and each has its advocates. Some rely on approximating to the position of the human ears and some are based on other principles, but in general they divide into two main categories - those that deliver a two-track recording that can be reduced to mono - single track - without sounding bad and those that can't. This was terribly important when stereo was first introduced, as many people couldn't play records in stereo for quite a few years, and it's also important for broadcast radio and public address systems as mono is still widely used. But part from these specific requirements, there's less need these days for mono compatibility, so we have more choices of microphone setup than we did.