Decca Tree mounting options??

Discussion in 'Location Recording' started by TeddyBullard, Aug 2, 2006.

  1. TeddyBullard

    TeddyBullard Guest

    I just got a matched trio of B+K 4006 and will surely be experimenting with Decca Tree in the future. Just curious if anyone here uses it, and what mounting options are tried and true. I am aware of the AEA bar, but would like more ideas. does everyone fly the mount or is anyone using a stand??
  2. Simmosonic

    Simmosonic Active Member

    Normally I keep my mouth shut about the Decca Tree, but sometimes I feel l just have to chime in because...

    ...I did many recording sessions with an ex-Decca Engineer, very old school guy with numerous awards and even an Emmy to his recording credit. Of course, I was a stickler for correctness and had all of this information about the supposedly correct dimensions and so on, and I was surprised to see how he set up what he called the 'real' Decca tree. Three omnis, preferably large diaphragm tubes like M149s, on three separate stands. There was no tape measure, no special rig or mounting bar, and *not a moment* of attention was ever given to the relative symmetry between the mics. One mic went over the violins, and was positioned until they sounded good. One mic went over the cellos/basses, and it was also positioned until those instruments sounded good. Likewise, the centre mic was positioned over the winds/violas (whatever is there, depending on the orchestra) and, you guessed it, it was positioned so that it sounded right. Each mic had to sound good on its own, so you had to move it until it did. Sometimes the distance between the two outside mics would be 2m or more - you're not going to do that with some kind of bar, unless it is extremely strong and your mics are very light!

    He tended to politely scoff at all this 'theory' about the measurements and so on - he said they never did that at Decca, and implied that all the theoretical stuff came from people who never actually engineered at Decca and who were trying to put some formal 'method' and theory onto an approach that evolved out of necessity and just worked as it was.

    BUT... another thing he did and said was standard procedure at Decca was to use a pair of flanking omnis (they were always placed as far apart as possible, usually a couple of metres in front of and at each end of the orchestra), and always to spot the tympanis. So, his minimal 'Decca Tree' orchestral recording rig had at least five mics, six if there were tympanis. If there were French horns or harps or similar, they would also be spotted. AND, he would use nothing but omnis for *everything* if they were available.

    He made amazing recordings, mixing six to 18 mics live direct-to-stereo every single time, riding the faders and so on. Huge, rich, glorious orchestral recordings that made everyone say 'wow'...

    I am always amused when I think of those sessions and how he would show such total disregard for all of this supposed 'theory' (that apparently came after the event) and yet turn out the kind of big dramatic orchestral recordings people dream about making. And, whenever I hear a Decca Tree recording made with some kind of special bar or with attention to the spacing between the microphones and relative levels and so on, it usually pales in comparison.

    I will also mention that I have made numerous orchestral recordings using the same approach, and it works very well. I just do what he did, although I go to multitrack because I don't have his experience, natural talent and 'knack' for mixing it live as he used to do.

    Try it...

    I think sometimes we put too much emphasis on the 'technique' of stereo microphones, to the point of becoming reliant on them. The Decca Tree is one example of that. ORTF is another - many people don't realise that it is simply one of a zillion possible near-coincident configurations, and each one of those configurations will be ideal for a certain pair of mics recording a certain width ensemble in a certain space at a certain distance with a certain direct/reverberant ratio. People hang on to ORTF's dimensions as if they are some great unblemished panacea, and they're scared to alter the relative distances/angles/polar responses of the mics or anything like that. And yet, anyone who has read 'Stereophonic Zoom' will know that ORTF is just one possibility, and not necessarily the best for the job at hand.

    There I go again, blah blah blah, this is almost as bad as my recent rant about headphones and isolation... Sorry!
    audiokid likes this.
  3. ghellquist

    ghellquist Member

    Simmosonic -- great thank you for your writings. I have been wanting to try Decca tree, know I understand how I can tackle it with the equipment I have.

  4. FifthCircle

    FifthCircle Well-Known Member

    As I posted in your Gearslutz post, I use stands for decca trees most of the time. I've also flown a homebrew rig that used 3 pipes with mouting rings on the ends with mic clamps...

    For DPA 4006's, you'll likely want to try them with the balls on the end. I've found that when using my DPA's that they are so "omni" that the image has a tendency to suffer unless the tree gets rather large. When the tree gets that large, then you have other issues (especially if your orchestra isn't huge).

    audiokid likes this.
  5. TeddyBullard

    TeddyBullard Guest

    Thanks , Ben. Yes, I am going to order those balls. Suggested retailer??
  6. FifthCircle

    FifthCircle Well-Known Member

    Whoever your DPA dealer is of choice. They come in 30, 40, and 50 mm. 50 will likely get you the closest approximation to the "M50" directionalty at high frequencies.

    audiokid likes this.
  7. TeddyBullard

    TeddyBullard Guest

    Duly noted. I bought these 4006 used, so I dont really have a dealer, but I will see who I can find. Thanks much.
  8. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    I have access to a machine shop so I made our "Decca Tree" out of plans I found on the web. We use the Decca Tree for most of our choral recordings and, except for driving the video people wild, it works very well. We just did a two day recording session of an all male high school choir in a high school chapel and used our Decca Tree and the recording (IMHO) came out GREAT!

    I talked to the vice president of Decca when he was here in the US. I had all kinds of questions but unfortunately he was not an engineer and so could only tell me what he had observed in sessions.

    Getting the best sound from a recording session is knowing your equipment and having the ability to listen to a setup and then make the changes you need and to keep on refining your choices until you have the sound you want.

    I talked to Jack Renner of Telarc records (I have known him for years) and he told me that while the artist is rehearsing he is in the control room listening to the set up. Telarc puts out way more microphones than they are going to use for a particular session and they keep switching between them to find the best setup for a particular venue and artist. I have been at about 5 of his recording sessions and know the process fairly well. You will need to do a lot of listening to your new setup and refining it as you go. The 4006s are not your "typical" omni's.

    Best of luck with your used 4006s. I had use of three of them when I worked for the local college and they were a superior microphone. I agree with the choice of the Omni Ball for the microphone. It works GREAT!
  9. TeddyBullard

    TeddyBullard Guest

    Thanks, Mr. Bethel. I was wondering what you have found different about the 4006s vs the usual suspects? I have used them in the past but am not intimately familiar with them yet. I have found some used pressure balls, so that is one less thing to worry about.
  10. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    I was able to use them in many different situations from live concert recordings to days long recording sessions and always found them to be very easy to listen to and to work with.

    They were detailed without being harsh. The were warm without being muddy and they had a very nice very refreshing top end that seem to make everything I recorded with them have a nice patina.

    I really loved those microphones.

    Too bad I no longer have access to them.

    Maybe I will be as lucky as you and find a used pair somewhere.
  11. TeddyBullard

    TeddyBullard Guest

    I do like them a lot so far. People say I should get them modded to the xformerless version, but I dont want to mess up this good thing. Thoughts on that??

  12. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    Never had a problem with the tranformers in the microphones. Suggest leaving them in for the present.
  13. TeddyBullard

    TeddyBullard Guest

    That is my feeling too. I like the way they sound. Thanks for the help Mr. Bethel.

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