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Old 11th February 2013
Lives for gear
Silent Sound's Avatar
Basically, boominess caused from room nodes is going to sound different than proximity effect in ways that are hard to describe. They both will cause lower frequencies to be exaggerated. Sometimes, room problems will also smear those lower frequencies a bit, but that's not always something you can hear. Some of the more commonly used mics, like an sm57 have a very familiar proximity effect. If you've used the mic enough times and experimented with trying to use the proximity effect to your advantage, then you're probably familiar with what it sounds like. However, each mic's proximity effect is going to be different, and it's possible to have a room that builds up in those same lower frequencies that an sm57 would also accentuate through proximity effect, thus making the distinction between the two fuzzy at best.

So if you're familiar with the room, then you know what that room sounds like and you can factor that into your answer. If you know the microphone and it's distance from the source, then you can factor that into your answer. If you don't have access to any of that information, then you may be able to hazard a guess based on how similar it sounds to your previous experiences. However, with each assumption your making about the mic/room/instrument/setup/everything, your lessening the probability of being right in your guess.

So the more experience an engineer has with different mics, instruments, and rooms, the more he/she has to draw from to come to an educated guess. But in the end, it's always going to be a guess, and some of those guesses may be extremely accurate, and others may be a shot in the dark. There's not a litmus test, however. So that's why you're getting the answers that you are.