A cardioid microphone picks up sound directly from its front and—to a lesser extent-- from its sides. When the source’s distance from the microphone is too large, everything appears to be muffled. In the first recording of the poem The Death of Allegory by Billy Collins, my voice is about a foot away from the microphone. The diction is clear and without popping (because the microphone is not directly in line with my mouth, the air from my breath doesn’t directly hit the mic). The vowels in this recording are clear and the words are easily distinguishable.
The second recording is of lower quality because the source is farther away from the mic. In this recording, I am sitting at least two feet away from the microphone. Despite the fact I am still facing the mic, the sound has much farther to travel before being recorded. Because of the increased distance, the diction is less crisp, the volume is lower, and, as a result, some words of the poem are harder to make out. However, on the bright side, this distance ensures that there will be minimal popping when I pronounce consonants harshly.