This may be a bit of a beginner's question, but I moved to NYC from australia and left my second Oktava cardioid behind. I need to record some ambiences for a film, and I was wondering what you seasoned pros think is the best setup for this application?

I've had satisfactory results using A-B spaced omnis, and ORTF cardioids. So my options are buying another oktava for ORTF; buying a relatively cheap M/S; or getting hold of some omnis to do A-B recordings. Does anyone have an opinion on M/S for ambience recording? It seems to me that'd be mainly useful for spot FX.

Also, how does this affect the quality of an ambience for stereo, as well as 5.1 diverged slightly to the center?

Many thanks for your input!


4 Answers 4


There are a lot of options listed here, but remember that each is good at a different thing. I'd work backwards not just from what you have and can afford, gear-wise, but what kind of spatial-imaging results you need for how the sounds will be finally used. (Remember that you can always rent exactly what you need without buying!)

I like X-Y for general ambiences because, frankly, it's easy and fast to set up. Total no-brainer, even doable with one mic if you're willing to accept a fixed width. X-Y tends to have less of a central image, which is actually perfect when you need space for dialog or other sound sources coming from the center channel. ORTF's great if I have the time and space to do a proper set-up. I like spaced-pair for this same reason, but with even less of a detailed center, I find it's best for deep background ambiences that just need spread without a lot of directionality to specific sounds (which can be distracting at times).

When doing ambiences that need some central imaging figure, like birdsong in the wild, then MS can't be beat for flexiblity, and with the right mics an MS rig can be contained in a single windshield for easy carry and setup.

(These points of view would be totally different if the stereo miking was to be done for music rather than ambiences!)

  • Thanks for the summary, this board is like a buffet of food for thought. But with better quality food than buffets usually have. Commented May 11, 2010 at 18:26
  • Agreed. You don't get the amount of misinformation here that you have to sift through at other places and I have never seen any bickering.
    – Chris
    Commented Nov 20, 2011 at 17:32

I'm not a huge fan of XY ambience recording. Sounds very boring to me - not wide enough.

I'm a big fan of ORTF for more intricate ambience recordings (although, as Nathan said, it can be a bit distracting).

My favorite single point microphone is the Sanken CSS-5. It has 3 different settings, 1 mono, 2 stereo. The normal stereo mode is 115 degrees, which is a little wider than ORTF. It sounds amazing. The second setting is a "wide" setting, at 150 degrees. The wide mode just about completely eliminates the center image, which is very useful at times.

Also a big fan of M/S for it's flexibility. You can increase or decrease the center image as necessary. It can be difficult to get an M/S rig portable though if you don't have a dedicated M/S rig. I usually use 2 AKG C414s for my M/S rig. It's not very portable, but it sounds great. I'd like to get a DPA or Gefell rig though.

A/B, Spaced Pair, Blumlein, baffled pair, Decca Tree, NOS, Binaural, etc... are all great as well. What you choose should be based on your application and the gear available to you.

There's a great resource on DPA's site on the different types of stereo recording:


For Surround Ambiance recording, you'll probably utilize some sort of holophone, or a Decca Tree, Double M/S, Fukada Tree, etc.... DPA also has a great resource on that:



I've had some success with binaural using some stealthy mics from Core Sound. It's not for everything, but good for sneaky ambience recordings and such.



This is also a really nice article:


  • Please try to provide some answer to the question and not just links. The link some time may go "dead" and then there will be nothing left of your "answer". It's better if you provide an answer and use links and references to back it up or complement it than do the opposite and provide links as answers.
    – ZaellixA
    Commented Mar 29, 2021 at 22:29

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