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Why do Transients Sound Different on Different Microphones? Descriptions of the Initial 50 ms across 14 microphones

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Since the early days of recorded music, producers and engineers have been aware that different microphones can produce strikingly different results when capturing transient sounds. This has led to the widespread use of specific microphones for capturing particular types of sounds, such as drums or vocals. While this approach may seem logical, a comprehensive review of 14 microphones revealed a surprising amount of variation between devices. Current wisdom dictates that frequency response graph determines the response of the microphones to most signals throughout the duration of the signal. The underlying misunderstanding is that microphones respond the same throughout this duration. In reality, each microphone will have a different response across the initial 50 ms of a transient. As such, it is critical to capture the beginning portion of the transient with a microphone that has the appropriate behavior. When empirically tested, we notice that 14 microphones responded differently to the same signal in terms of their time domain response during the first 5 ms. We write this paper as a detailed question to the larger community, to explain phenomena that might explain this behaviour. In doing so we hope to encourage more research in this area so that further advances in objective measurement of microphone performance are possible. To set up this question, a single transient is measured across 14 microphones. Each microphone has been set up with its capsule equidistant to the source. The transients are analysed with numerous feature extraction methods, and in doing so, we compare the results and discuss the reasoning and rationale of each feature extraction method. We present our findings in the context of a question, to stimulate discussion and further research. The discussion is extended with possible explanations for the differences between microphones with our counterarguements therein. We conclude the paper by suggesting several hypotheses which posits the characteristics of the microphones that seem to deviate from other more typical responses. Our findings might help producers and engineers to better understand the behaviour of specific microphones when considering which microphone is suitable for the transient necessary.

Express Paper 36; AES Convention 153; October 2022
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