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Decoder™ Using & Applications

This page describes the basic hook-up and functionality when using the Decoder. For complete details feel free to click on the icon at the left to download the full manual.

What is Mid/Side:

Mid/Side is a stereo mic'ing technique that has been around since the 1930's, and has been used on countless stereo recordings ever since. The idea is that a cardioid or omni-directional middle (MID) microphone is aimed directly at the source to capture the direct sound, while a figure-8 SIDE microphone is pointed 90° off axis to capture the ambient energy from the two sides. The SIDE mic is then split into two separate channels, and the phase is reversed on the second channel. While it all sounds very complicated, reversing the phase of the copied signal simply allows the user to hear a left and right stereo image as it is captured by the front and back of the figure-8 microphone.

The result is a stereo image that can be manipulated by adjusting the levels between the Mid and Side microphones. Raising or lowering the level of either will change the width of the stereo image, and the Mid microphone will act as a center channel, keeping the source focused and present. The engineer can quickly tailor the balance between Mid and Side to create a stereo image that is perfect for the application.

M/S is also popular in broadcast as it allows for better mono compatibility than any other stereo mic'ing technique. Because the Side channels are out of phase with one another, they cancel one another out when the mix is collapsed to mono. While other stereo mic'ing options tend to disappear in mono mix downs, M/S allows the source microphone to become more focused and present in the mix. The center is never lost!

Connecting the Decoder:

Turn levels off or down

Begin by connecting the Left and Right XLR output jacks of the Decoder to your audio interface or mixing console. Ensure that the inputs on your audio interface are set at +4dBu line level and balanced cables are used throughout. Attach the included 15VDC power supply. The Decoder is not equipped with a power switch so it automatically turns on when the power supply is connected.

Mid/Side Recording – 1 cardioid microphone, 1 figure-8 mic

  1. Set up microphones in the standard M/S configuration. The cardioid mic should be aimed at the source, and the figure-8 directly below it at 90° off-axis. Try to place the capsules as close together as possible to minimize phase issues.
  2. Ensure recessed switches on the Decoder's top panel are all set to "Mic".
  3. Connect the cardioid MID mic to Input 1, and the SIDE mic to input 2a on the back of the Decoder.
  4. Press LINK button on Decoder's front panel.
  5. Apply phantom power on both channels if required.
  6. Start by bringing up the level control of Input 1 to an audible level on your system.
  7. Slowly bring up the level controls of Inputs 2a and 2b.
  8. Have fun! You will notice the stereo image widens and narrows as you bring up the Sides. Experiment by lowering the level of MID mic as well. Don't forget to watch the meters on your recorder… it is easy to get carried away!

Mid/Side Recording – 3 cardioid microphones

The Decoder is equipped with a 3rd microphone preamp. This allows the user to substitute a figure-8 used in traditional M/S recordings with a pair of cardioid microphones.

  1. Set up the MID microphone by aiming it directly at the source. Connect this mic to Input 1 on the Decoder.
  2. Set up your Left SIDE microphone by placing it directly below and 90° off axis from the MID mic. Connect this mic to input 2a on the Decoder.
  3. Set up your Right SIDE microphone by aiming it directly opposite of your side mic. Initially the goal is to replicate a figure-8 polar pattern, so try and get the capsules as close together as possible. Side-address microphones work great!
  4. Engage the 180° phase reverse on input 2b (Button IN). LINK button should be OUT.
  5. Apply phantom power on channels 1 and 2 if required.
  6. Start by bringing up the Gain control on input 1 to an audible level on your system.
  7. Slowly start bringing up the Gain controls of inputs 2a and 2b.
  8. Have fun! Experiment with different placements of your Side mics. Spacing mics far apart or even running stereo room mics through the Decoder can lead to some interesting results!

Mid/Side Reamping™ – Operating at line level

The Decoder can be operated at line level for Reamping pre-recorded material. This allows the engineer to record using the mid/side microphone technique, but wait to run the tracks through the matrix at mix-down.

The Decoder features +4dBu balanced XLR inputs on all 3 channels. Set your workstation or mixer to send the pre-recorded MID signal to Input 1, and the SIDE microphone to Input 2 of the Decoder. If using two SIDE sources, patch the second line into Input 2b. Be sure that you are monitoring the return channels from the Decoder's outputs to hear the processed stereo image.

  1. Set Input Level Selector switches on top panel to 'Line' position.
  2. Ensure that the Gain controls are turned all the way down on the front panel before proceeding.
  3. Engage LINK button on the front panel if only two inputs are being used.
  4. Engage 180° button on the front panel if all three inputs are being used.
  5. Start playback on your recorder and slowly increase the Gain on Channel 1.
  6. Once the signal is audible, begin increasing the Gain on inputs 2a and 2b.
  7. Have fun! Change the stereo image by increasing or decreasing the levels of all three inputs. Experiment with Reamping different stereo recordings like overheads or room mics… there are no rules!

Using the Decoder as a 3-Channel Mic Preamp

The Decoder is perfectly well suited to be used as a two or three channel microphone preamp with a mixed mono output. This could be for field recording, podium use or other applications where a high performance, yet compact mic pre may be required. Because the Decoder is able to produce as much as 65dB of Gain, it is well suited for condenser, dynamic and most ribbon microphones. You can also use the Decoder to power an active direct box like a Radial J48.

Option 1 - 2-Channel Mic Preamp In The Studio

  1. Connect the first microphone to input-1 and the second microphone to input-2b.
  2. Connect the LEFT output to the input of your recording or PA system.
  3. Activate the phantom power if needed. The 48V phantom power switches are recessed to prevent accidental use. Note: Some ribbon mics can be damaged if phantom is present. Please check with the manufacturer to ensure safe use.
  4. Bring up the Gain on the two channels as needed.
  5. To change the polarity of the second mic, depress the 180° switch, and then adjust the level using the 2b Gain switch. Changing the polarity can be used to widen stereo tracks or time-align tracks to bring them into focus. Try it!

Option 2 - Portable Preamp For Live Sound

Option 3 - Three Microphone Mixed to Mono Output