Acoustic shells

Discussion in 'Location Recording' started by srs, Jan 22, 2008.

  1. srs

    srs Guest

    I frequently record in a hall where they put up an acoustic shell for choral concerts to project the sound. It's a beautiful Wenger Diva shell, but to my ear, the sound is really harsh, both live and on the recordings. Has anyone encountered this? When I record concert bands or percussion ensembles in the same space, they don't have the shell, and the sound is very nice. Here's my signal path: Schoeps CMC62h -> Millennia HV3B -> Benchmark ADC-1 -> Tascam DVRA1000. I get a nice sound with this setup in most of the other spaces I record in. I'm only a novice at this, so I don't really know how to approach it. I do 20 or so events a year in this space and I'd like to try something different, I just don't which way to go. Different mikes? Different preamps? Thanks for any words of wisdom.
  2. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Hey SRS- long time no see.

    FWIW, I've found the CMC62h to be a tad unflattering for choral work in that it has a bit more edge than I like (or HF reach). I prefer the 2S if I go with an omni condenser.

    However, I'm also not a big fan of Wenger shells either for the same reasons you mention.

    If they're not set up properly, they can cause all sorts of problems. When they are set up properly, they contribute a little to HF beaming.

    See if you can get a little distance between the last row of singers and the shells. Maybe even put a heavy scrim between them. (I've done this once and it worked well - it was on wind ensemble but it helped to tame the trumpets and cymbals a bit.)

  3. srs

    srs Guest

    I forgot to say that I have to turn over the CD to the Director immediately after the performance, so I can't do any eq, etc.

  4. srs

    srs Guest

    Hey Jeremy.
    Now that you mention the distance thing, I'm remembering that the choir risers are always set as far back as they'll go. Maybe I can convince them that moving them forward might work better. Thanks for the suggestion!
  5. Simmosonic

    Simmosonic Active Member

    If the shell is the problem, the first thing you need to do is bring it to the conductor's attention.

    Make the recording, give it to him/her 'fresh', and then play him/her some of the other recordings you have done in the same space.

    I am not sure if that will make any difference, but my own experience with choirs is that if the conductor perceives the problem and understands the cause, measures will be taken to fix it.
  6. srs

    srs Guest

    Well, as a singer, I should have thought of this. Without the shell, they can't hear onstage, and that trumps the sound quality issue. So, back to square one. Any thoughts on taking the edge off?
  7. ptr

    ptr Active Member

    Can someone please post a picture or a link that explains what an acoustic shell is and how it works! some of us are unfammiliar with the term and its teoretical use... :?

  8. cathode_ray

    cathode_ray Active Member

    Look up Hollywood Bowl, 'cept on a smaller scale.
  9. eddyrock1

    eddyrock1 Guest


    and a video too !


    hope these ugly links work for ya.
  10. srs

    srs Guest

    Here's link to Wenger's product page for the Diva:
  11. srs

    srs Guest

    Here's link to Wenger's product page for the Diva:
  12. ptr

    ptr Active Member

    Interesting, we don't see much of the sort in my small corner of the world..


  13. Simmosonic

    Simmosonic Active Member

    Really... What are they performing in? A venue, or an anechoic chamber?!?!

    In all seriousness, unless the venue is terrible (and it isn't, according to your comments about other recordings you've made there), the shell thing sounds like an indulgence more than anything else. As with many others here, I've recorded many choirs in many different spaces, but I've never encountered a shell or the need for one.

    In a situation like this, I'd make sure the conductor is aware of the shell problem and its effect on the recordings. If he/she is unwilling to do anything about it, I'd politely bow out of it *if* you're not happy with the sound and do not think it represents the quality of your work. Because you will almost certainly be judged by it, in your absence, where you can't explain about 'the shell'.

    Here's what can happen...

    You continually record their concerts in this shell, and they all sound harsh and edgy and so on. Then one day they perform elsewhere and, for some reaon, you can't do the recording so they get another engineer to do it. They're not using the shell. The other engineer makes a better recording (sans shell, of course) and from then on gets all of their recording work because his/her recordings sound better than yours - i.e. not harsh or edgy or whatever the shell does. By then, it's too late for you to explain that the shell is the problem - you're already 'out'. Meanwhile, the new engineer has attempted one or two recordings with the shell, and explained to the conductor that the shell is a problem. The conductor is able to compare recordings made by the same engineer, same choir, with and without shell, and can hear the shell problem for him/herself.

    Because you never mentioned the shell problem and because they believe the other guy/girl to be the better engineer, they'll take it seriously and either make some changes or at least accept the recordings the way they are - cutting the new engineer some slack that you never got.

    The end result is that the new engineer looks like an expert and you, in comparison, look like an amateur...

    I'm sorry if this sounds harsh (I'm typing inside an acoustic shell), but in my experience the smartest thing you can do in situations like this is cover your back by diplomatically pointing out problems to the conductor asap. The ability to say "I told you so" after the event may sound bitchy, but, done the right way, it can go a long way towards establishing/saving your credibility and endearing you to the conductor.
  14. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Just one thought (or maybe a series of them)

    Does the choir sound bright in the hall? Or just through the mics?

    If it sounds really bright and grating in the hall, this might just be enough evidence for the director to lose the shells. Have him/her go listen from a seat in the hall.

    If it doesn't sound that way in the hall, I would advise trying a different setup. Do you have access to ribbon mics? How about a very nice EQ? (Crane Song Ibis comes to mind for being able to tame the high end while doing it without causing any harm anywhere else.)

    Simmo - Regarding the choir's inability to hear themselves - I'm not sure where SRS is located geographically, but here in the United States of Build-it-cheaper-and-faster, we like to create multi-purpose rooms. Concert halls will double as theaters, lecture halls, cafeterias and even gymnasiums in some cases. Our solution to this - throw up a shell and call it a world-class concert hall.

    In many cases, the fly space and wing space on these venues are so cavernous that if there isn't a shell, you simply can't even hear yourself speak on the stage. It's quite annoying, but all too common.
  15. srs

    srs Guest

    Simmosonic: I should mention that no one has expressed any dissatisfaction about the recordings that I've done, and in fact I'm getting lots of referrals. This is just my own quest for perfection. Also, these are concert performances being archived, not recording sessions. The stakes aren't anywhere near what you guys deal with! I'd like to get there, though, hence all the questions.

    Cucco: I like the idea of the ribbon mics over the EQ. I've got so much to learn regarding mike selection and placement that I'd rather not have another piece of gear to deal with. I've actually thought about trying the Beyer M/S setup that you've mentioned a number of times in posts, but I don't currently have a way to matrix it. And again, that would be another piece of gear to worry about! What about 2 figure 8s? Would the nulls maybe attenuate some of the reflections from the top of the shell, or am I way off?
  16. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    If you're going with 2 figure 8s, I'm assuming you mean with Blumleins?? I wouldn't try to null out HF peaks from the shells, the Beyers will do that just fine by taming the HF anyway. (Although not as much as Royer or AEAs...)

    To what medium are you recording? It's unusual in today's technologically advanced era to not be able to matrix a MS.
  17. srs

    srs Guest

    Pure simplicity: Mics -> Preamp -> A/D -> Recorder. I do have a firewire audio interface, but not with m/s matrixing.

    Yes! Blumlein--I couldn't remember the name. I guess the thing to do is try both methods and see what happens. I could record to my laptop with the ribbons, and experiment with the matrixing after the fact. Then, if that's the ticket, I can look for a matrixing device of some sort to use on location.
  18. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    A dirt cheap mixer with 3 inputs on it will do fine for your recorder setup.

    Take the outputs of the recorder, feed the "m" mic to channel 1. Take a Y cable output the left leg of the cable wired normally and the right leg with pins 2 and 3 reversed. Now, you can monitor from the headphone out of the cheap mixer to see if the balance or distance (more about distance than balance as the balance can be adjusted in post) is right.

    Even a cheap little $29 Be***nger mixer with line inputs would work.

    This should work too and not add too much to the load:
  19. srs

    srs Guest

    Ultimately I'd need a matrix before the recorder, though, because I hand over the recording to the directors after their performances.

    I wonder about using my Grace 101s. They've got dual outputs, so I could feed 2 mixer channels with 1 preamp, using 1 normal cable and 1 cable with the phase reversed. Is that the right terminology? Is there anything wrong with that electronically?
  20. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Yes, that would work, but you'd need to combine the signals in your recorder. I'd hesitate to use the cheap mixer if it's in your signal path.

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