Some people say a closely matched pair (consecutive serial numbers ideally) is the best possible way to record in stereo.

Others say the difference in capsules (i.e., unmatched pairs) is important to achieve a good stereo spread.

What is true for you, and why?


Well, if my unmatched ears are any indication, I'd say that functionally speaking the difference is negligible. The stereo image in my head does me well enough. It's kind of like debating the difference between Duracell and Energizer batteries in guitar pedals. I'm sure there is a difference, but only if you know there's a difference...


I think that a matched pair was a bigger deal years ago when things were handmade and there were not as many machines in the process. Today, even if a mic is assembled by hand, all of the major parts are built to spec by machines.

At least with decent mics, I think you'd be hard pressed to tell much of a difference between two of the same model built around the same time. My Sennheiser MKH800's are not matched, I can't tell them apart. Might be a different story with the cheaper mics, since their QC can at times be less than ideal.

  • An interesting aside: Another SSDer and myself recently bought Zoom H1s and both found that the right channel mic is more sensitive than the left. So the production techniques are now so good that they can perfectly replicate mistakes as well as successes. – g.a.harry Apr 20 '11 at 20:21

What are you recording with your matched or unmatched pair of mics? That has the most influence on whether matched or not mics matter.... ie context

If it was a pristine stereo image of a stunning performer playing a beautiful instrument that you were after, a matched pair might be essential.... But if its two discrete variations/extreme stereo of a sound source then matchedness might be irrelevant...


for interesting use of the stereo field, I thought I'd point out this song…. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GPVT8vrX8XQ&feature=related


If the aim is to capture as 'true' a stereo image as possible, my preference would be for a matched pair, to avoid uneven colouration which could subtly affect the imaging.

This would be particularly true for e.g. classical music recording. For recording in more unpredictable situations I would probably be a bit less concerned. I'm taking as a given that you do mean mics of the same make/model?

I would say that mic technique - spacing, angle, positioning etc is a much more important factor in getting a good stereo spread.


I had the opportunity to listen to recordings made on matched schoeps a while back and I remember the recordings sounding beautiful, but it was so long ago I don't remember what the recordings were of. I do remember the sound of recordings I made 5 years ago of a cello, flute and guitar being performed in a large 6 foot tall, 50 or so foot long colvert that went under a back country road near the Sandia Mountains just north of Albuquerque, NM.

I set up two AKG C-451B condensers (Serial #: 22793 & 22869); unmatched) approximately 5 feet into the colvert, the cellist about 15 feet deeper into the colvert, and the flautist (or Flutist; which ever you prefer)/guitarist another 20 feet deeper (using distance to create a natural mix presence). The stereo image was pretty well intact and balanced (both image wise and sonically). As you all know microphones capture everything, especially the things our minds tend to neglect when listening bare. At first I thought my levels were overloaded because of a strange sound that made me think the recording was distorting, then I realized the sound was a result of dry hairs on the cellist's bow scraping harshly along the steel strings of the cello. I asked the cellist to put more rosin on his bow. Unfortunately he forgot to pack his rosin that morning.

The recordings were a mixture of some very beautiful soft passages played in a largo and andante tempo, then moving quickly into moments of allegro and vivace, which caused the scratching of the bow; thus killing the moment for me. I don't think a matched pair would have made any difference in helping this session. Fortunately it was just for fun, not money; and the recordings were for private use of the cellist and his friend, the flautist/guitarist.

If I was hired to record an ensemble for real I would probably set up a matched pair of schoeps or another microphone similar in quality just for the heck of it. But as Chuck Russom mentioned, I don't think it would matter much with todays technology. I'd also consider setting up a 5.1 array just to give the ensemble the option to be ready for a surround release...and charge a bit more.

If your purpose for creating a stereo pair is solely for ambience recording, then a matched pair is not necessary. Tim Prebble makes a great point above, and when you watch his videos and listen to his recordings, you see that his approach is simple, using varied microphones, yet his work is stunning.

E. Santiago


Well, anybody who is still working as a stereo person is pulling the world down because technology is changing and we need people to think a little differently so go ahead and vote me down but I'm up.

  • You're probably right, but the principle behind the question still obtains. Would you prefer a matched quintuplet of microphones, or an unmatched one? – g.a.harry Apr 20 '11 at 20:19
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    Qn Jennifer. Would you turn down a job because it is being mastered in Stereo? Broadcasters dictate the specs not us dreamers ;) – ianjpalmer Apr 20 '11 at 22:13

Stereo images are outdated techniques.

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    Care to elaborate? – Filipe Chagas Apr 20 '11 at 19:23
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    Funny, I still tend to work mostly with 2 speakers somehow. damn i'm behind the curve! – Daan Hendriks Apr 20 '11 at 19:31
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    You're right. I just noticed my Android phone comes with full surround sound built in! – Daan Hendriks Apr 20 '11 at 19:43
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    And even on 5.1 mixes, ambiences are still built with Stereo recordings for the most part – Filipe Chagas Apr 20 '11 at 20:29
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    This debate could constitute a new thread. In this context it is beside the point. What's more, 5.1 most certainly inherits principles from stereo, which in turn inherits principles from mono. Take my example, I can't afford even a third mic, nor can I afford a third speaker, but what I know/learn now will still be true in 20 years when 5.1 is outdated. Your participation doesn't feel like you're trying to be progressive, it rather reads "quit if you don't have a 5.1". – Justin Huss Apr 20 '11 at 21:08

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