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Another mic needed for recording classical ensemble?

Discussion in 'Recording' started by tunefoolery, Aug 4, 2015.

  1. tunefoolery

    tunefoolery Active Member

    Hello everyone,

    I'm not a professional recording engineer, but I do have a regular gig recording performances of classical music students at a local university. I have a pretty minimal mic collection. Generally, I use just two AKG C1000 mics, in an ORTF configuration, regardless of what instruments are being recorded. The stereo signal is recorded onto a cd using a Tascam cd recorder (CD-RW 750). Yes, a low-budget setup, but it works. The musicians have been satisfied with the results. I should add that it's been a long time since I've recorded only audio; these days everyone wants a DVD. I record the audio separately and drop it into the video during the editing process.

    I recently got a Zoom H6 Handy Recorder which will allow me to do multi-tracking. So I'm wondering if I should add some mics for an upcoming gig. In this recital, there will be the following ensembles:
    • voice (tenor) and piano
    • voice and piano trio
    • vocal duet with pre-recorded audio
    I have a Rode NT-1A that I can use for the vocalist. I also have a cheap omni mic, but I'm not sure if it would be of any use.

    Any suggestions about what mic setup I might use? I probably could borrow some mics from a friend. But I'm not averse to buying one or two new ones either.

    Thanks for any advice.
  2. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    C1000's are on the low end of the scale when it comes to SD condensers... they have a tendency to be somewhat harsh, and with a low end that lacks definition. You may want to consider upgrading to a nicer stereo pair of SDC's at some point, to a model that has a more pleasing overall sound. Neumann KM Series Mics are well known for their silky top end, natural mid-range and well-defined low end; Schoeps is another mic manufacturer that makes mics that are considered to be "cream of the crop" SD's... but neither of these mentioned are considered to be anything in the neighborhood of "cheap". As with anything, you generally get what you pay for.

    Depending on the model, Neumann KM's can run as much as $900 each, ad that's the price for used.
    Schoeps are even pricier. $1800 per mic isn't uncommon.
    (I'm not saying that you couldn't possibly stumble upon a deal somewhere, but you'd be jackpot lucky if you did. People who own these mics know what they're worth.) ;)

    But, they sound great. It's up to you to determine whether or not the difference in quality is worth the price, and, from a business decision point of view, whether or not you think you can recoup your investment over time.

    Omni mics can b useful for recording live performances, but the acoustics of the room and the placement of the mic(s) is crucial to sonic success. What Omni mic do you have?

    As a final thought, you mentioned that your clients are satisfied with the current results, so I'm assuming that you are asking about these possible upgrades because you think that the sound can be better. Often, the client doesn't really have anything to compare their current sound to, so to them, what they are getting now sounds fine, because they've never heard themselves recorded with better gear, so they simply don't know.

    I don't know enough about the Zoom you have to comment, other than to say that I have an older stereo model that sounds a lot better than my pair of AKG C1000's ( which I inherited as part of a bulk studio gear buyout, and which I hardly ever use), so you may want to consider using the internal mic(s) on the H6 instead - which are, if memory serves, set into a coincidental/ X-Y array. My bet is that you'd likely get better results using the mics in the H6 than you would using the C1000's.

    It would help to know what budget you have to work with; if it turns out that you only have a couple hundred to spend, then there's not really anything out there in that price range that would sound all that much better, if at all.

    I would seriously consider trying the Zoom as your primary recording device. Try it on sources other than on the job, get to know it, see ( meaning listen to) what it can do. You might find that you already own the equipment to improve your sound.
  3. paulears

    paulears Well-Known Member

    Totally agree. Many colleges here bought a set of C1000s to record 'stereo' threw away the hyper converters and used them without any thought to the sound. I'm not really sure that X/Y vs ORTF is audible with this kind of mic. I can hear it with larger diaphragm mics, even the Rodes mentioned, which. I quite like, although don't have one myself.

    If you are doing a recital, and using natural acoustic techniques on the ensemble, the mic for the vocalist needs to be a little further away to blend well. If a DVD is involved, then something discrete for the vocals might be better. One religious BBC programme here often had this kind of set up, and miming was often the end product because they just couldn't get decent audio on location. The mic techniques looked dreadful but sounded good, or looked nice and sounded poor, so with time and money in mind the singers mimed either to a studio track, or a instrumental prerecord. Often, they mimed very badly! Your cheap omni - what does it sound like? It may be quite nice on the piano. Have you tried it? With a limited kit list, you need to experiment, in the real space, and then critically listen. One tip. When you do it, announce what version each time, with the mic placement or you will get confused. I video these or at least take stills so you can listen in controlled circumstances and make appropriate decisions. I am biased against C1000 mics, I'm surprised AKG kept them going, but sales have been good, even thigh plenty of others are better value of money.
  4. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Abso-positivel-lutely. :)

    Always do a "slate" when recording different takes - as Paul mentioned, just use your voice to describe what you've done - or are doing - for that upcoming take; describe the environment or venue, the mics used, their patterns, type of array(s), height and distance (not only from the performance location, but also from each mic, if you are using an "A/B" array), along with any other details; like HPF or other filtering, pad, and placement location within the space.

    It will help you to sort out what is which, to determine which works best ( or which doesn't), and will help to insure that you aren't comparing apples to meatballs. ;)
  5. Dave Thomas

    Dave Thomas Active Member

  6. Dave Thomas

    Dave Thomas Active Member

    Hello, why don't you give our web-site a look. Angel Studios in the UK recently used several of our microphones for Classical Recording. Three CM67se in the Decca Tree, two CM12se out-riggers and a pair of CM28's on the woodwinds.

    We have some very affordable, rugged and high quality FET microphones. We can also give educators a 10% discount.

    Cheers, Dave Thomas
    member of the AES since 1975

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