Help with mic selction for new sancturary

Discussion in 'Live Sound' started by BarryB, Mar 1, 2006.

  1. BarryB

    BarryB Guest

    This sanctuary, currently under construction, was designed by a local architectural firm with acoustical and PA recommendations from one of the leading consultants in the field. The problem is the consultant’s design was a bit too expensive for the budget and now has now left the scene. I’m trying to pickup the pieces needing to find a way to put together a system, which will provide a half decent capability of recording our choir and organ. I’m hoping someone out there will be able to lend a hand.

    First some background. The sanctuary will sit about 500. It’s traditional in design with every attempt made to insure the wettest possible acoustical environment. (All hard surfaces.) The pipe organ chamber sits at the rear of the chancel spanning about 30 feet with the floor of the chamber about 9 feet off the floor of the chancel. The chancel floor is 3.5’ above the nave floor. The 50 member choir sits on risers above the chancel floor in a three row 34 foot semicircle just below and in front of the pipe chamber.

    These are the locations where mic drops are already placed in the ceiling of the partially constructed sanctuary. All dimensions are referenced to the front most extension of the organ pipe façade:

    Loc. A – two drops each 6’ off center @ 7’ (above heads of choir)
    Loc. B – three drops, one on center and two each 6’ off center @ 26’
    Loc. C – two drops each 6’ off center @ 42’

    There is one more stereo mic connection set for the front face of the rear balcony @ 60’ where I plan to mount a SASS.

    The consultant originally specified Neumann KD185s for Loc. A and a combination of Schoeps omnis and cardioids for Loc. B and C. The latter breaks the bank.

    Finally my question: Will I get good coverage and half decent quality recordings of choir and organ by using the Neumanns at Loc. B center in a ORTF pairing and install a pair of Neumann KD183, Earthworks QTC40, or some other set of equivalently priced omnis also at Loc. B, thus leaving Loc. A and C empty for the time being?

    Any recommendations will be greatly appreciated.
  2. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    Sep 26, 2005
    I think rather than going with some of those more expensive West German style microphones, the Australian made Rode series of microphones are quite nice and quite affordable and I believe will last as long as those German Mercedes-Benz microphones. I believe they are far better than any of the Russian/Chinese microphones which I really wouldn't waste my time on unless I wanted something really cheap. I have heard some good things about the Octava Russian microphones but I would trust an Australian before I would trust the Russian. No prejudice here just manufacturing sense.

    Birds ear view
    Ms. Remy Ann David
  3. hughesmr

    hughesmr Guest

    I think that Loc. A would be too close to the organ to get a good sounding pickup of the instrument: for choral pickups from there, you'd need a highly directional mic choice with nulls aimed at the organ....then, the spacing of the drops becomes an issue.

    I like the solution proposed at Loc. B (ORTF center pair with flanking omnis). It's possible that the distance (26') might be a reach for getting good choral clarity....3 rows of singers (at about 4' per row) in front of the case might bring the front row to about 10'-14' away from the Loc. B array.

    Why not try just one pair MK21 dropped from the center of Loc. B? Or instead a 2-3' spaced pr (on a stereo bar from the center drop) of MK2H with added 40mm spheres, in case you need the extra "reach"? I think one good pair flown at the right spot would likely cover things pretty well. (I'd forget about Loc. C, unless you want to hear babies crying and bulletins shuffling... :D )

    Thinking out loud...

  4. hughesmr

    hughesmr Guest

    BTW (and I hope this isn't violating a list rule, but the original poster might be interested....)

    I'm selling a matched pair of Neumann KM184 (cardioids). Contact me off-list if you are interested at:

    ttlaudio AT hotmail DOT com
  5. BarryB

    BarryB Guest

    Thanks for the recommendations.

    Loc. B is a bit far from the choir, however that position is right above the top step of the chancel. It's anticipated that there will be occasions where a chamber orchestra will be positioned in front of the choir. Therefore, the designer selected this position to cover both contingencies. Sorry, I failed to mention this in my original post. Does this change any thinking on what to use at Loc.B? Also, remember the sanctuary will be extremely live so sound (read consonants) should carry well.

    Does anyone have experience with the mics I listed in my first post?
  6. fiddler59

    fiddler59 Active Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    For the omnis consider the Peluso CEMC6,s with the omni capsule. There around $600 for the pair plus another $180 or so for the omni capsules.
  7. hughesmr

    hughesmr Guest

    I own a pair of QTC1s (the same thing as the current QTC40). I like them a lot, but others will tell you they are too noisy. For live applications on organ (with wind and action noise) and choir (shuffling robes, sheet music) you'll never hear it.

    Will the Loc B array be in front of an anticipated chamber orchestra, or above it?

  8. BarryB

    BarryB Guest

    Loc B will be probably about 5' in front of a chamber orchestra. I hope this works. It's always a problem to get a good balance between orchestra and choir. We do have a fair amount of height (30') to work with.
  9. hughesmr

    hughesmr Guest

    I guess I'd be inclined to look into one of the following:

    1. Loc B: One pr MK2H in spaced A/B (~ 2-3'). Aim them at the choir risers, but get them sufficiently high to balance potential orchestra. Low end from the organ is well covered. The HF rise on-axis will help with choral clarity at that distance, but not be too much for the near-field pickup of orchestra. Maybe add the spheres?

    2. Loc B: Use four less expensive mics -- one ORTF pr (KM184 or Joesphson C42 are reasonably priced) with flanking omnis (KM183, QTC40, maybe Sennheiser MKH20). Overall this is a pricier setup, and I think the ORTF array will be too close to the orchestra.

    I like option #1 myself .... it's simpler, I think it will do a very nice job, and you have top-flight Schoeps mics. The only big concern is if you want more rear rejection than omnis will provide (not a concern to me with a nice room).

    If future funds materialize, perhaps a well-aimed hypercard pair at Loc A dialed in just enough to improve vocal clarity might be warranted.

  10. BarryB

    BarryB Guest


    Thanks for your input. The above config. appears to be the best idea so far. At least it doesn't require purchasing 4 Schoeps that were in the original equipment list. BTW, I already have a pair of Neumann KM185s, which I can use at Loc. A. Can you elaborate a bit on what "well-aimed" means. Are the nulls pointed toward the organ chamber?

  11. hughesmr

    hughesmr Guest

    Right. I'd approach usage of the 185s as subtle touch-up for any vocal clarity not covered by the omnis at Loc B, and that's it. It'll likely take a good deal of experimentation in aiming the 185s, setting the height of the hangs to minimize bleed from the organ, plus setting mix level for them, but I think you'll get nice results with careful calibration.

    An alternative setup using the same mics would be to place your KM185s in ORTF at Loc B, and move the MK2H to the flanks at Loc B. So, just purchasing the Schoeps pr alone still gives you some options.

    My $0.02. I'm interested to hear others thoughts ..... I'm sure there will be some variety to others suggestions!

    Best of luck,

  12. BarryB

    BarryB Guest

    This latter possibility of placing the KMs at Loc. B works better aesthetically since the ORTF would be a tighter cluster and it possibly could be located just below the main sanctuary speaker cluster where the height would allow aiming above the heads of the orchestra to the middle of the choir. Hopefully these mics have the reach.

    Anyone with experience the KM185s in this config?
  13. hughesmr

    hughesmr Guest

    I think reach for choral pickup from hypercards at B will be fine, just that an orchestra may be too close. If the 185s are too high, you may get mostly off-axis orch pickup. I've used 184s quite a bit, but not 185s.

  14. BarryB

    BarryB Guest

    Thanks again, Mike, for your input. After thinking this over, I'm going to put the KM185s at Loc. A at 9' off the floor of the chancel. That puts their null pointing toward the lower portion of the organ chamber. The Schoeps will be suspended from Loc. B center, separated 3' at the ceiling and lowered to about 12' above the chancel floor. Since the center array is placed about 5' behind the Loc. B, I think it would look better to separate the cables above rather than below the speaker. Do see any problems with this setup, other than a need to properly level and maybe even EQ the KM185s to enhance sibilance?
  15. hughesmr

    hughesmr Guest

    I thought the center array WAS at Loc B, not 5' behind it... ??

    It's hard to anticipate problems since it will depend on actual placement of performing forces and the (as-of-yet unknown) room acoustics. You may find no need at all for the 185s. Experimentation will be in order once everything is finished.

    If appearance is an issue, you might consider the CCM-U version of the MK2H, which has a much smaller profile than CMC6 amplifier bodies have. (The miniaturization comes at a cost, though). You can then hang them using Schoeps HC miniature cable hangers.
  16. Simmosonic

    Simmosonic Active Member

    Jan 13, 2005
    You've been given a lot of good advice from a lot of knowledgable people, but it is all hypothetical - as is the original consultants' location of mic drops, so don't be enslaved by them...

    IMO, there are way too many variables to be able to give any truly useful advice. For a start, no-one here is able to hear the room, so we don't know how much reverb there is OR what it sounds like. Also, every person has their preference in terms of direct/reverberant ratios, brightness/dullness, polar responses, and so on. And finally, there might be other as-yet-unknown problems that will only be revealed when the room is in use and which may prohibit the use of certain microphone designs or positions. Any microphone purchases made at the moment are essentially leaps of faith, and they're being made at considerable expense with someone elses money!!!

    I'm going to suggest an alternative approach that ought to get your client exactly what is needed without wasting any money or relying on hypothetical assessments and so on:

    Wait until the room is complete and ready for use. Then, hire someone you trust who has good gear to make some recordings of the actual performers in the actual space. Don't worry about using the installed mic drops, just let them get on with it using their choice of microphones in their chosen positions. After a few such recordings (perhaps using different engineers who you know have different preferences and philosophies; maybe some omni guys, maybe some ORTF guys, etc.), you will have a collection of recordings to assess. After consultation with the client about which recordings they prefer the sound of, you'll know which mics work best in which positions in the room - based on the actual performers in the actual room.

    Then, you can buy exactly what is needed (no more, no less) and place/hang them exactly where they're needed. No matter what, I would expect you'll be using some monofilament to pull the hanging mics into the right spot, so don't feel confined to the mic drops that the consultant guestimated would be the correct places - I don't think I've ever used a mic drop that put the mics at the ideal distance (or spacing, for that matter) without needing a bit of forwards or backwards movement. This is hardly surprising considering that, with some microphone techniques, a matter of a couple of inches forwards or backwards (or closer together or further apart) can be the difference between 'good enough' and 'truly excellent'.

    I cannot imagine that there is much pressure to buy the microphones yet, is there? Also, I find that a client usually doesn't mind if something takes a bit longer to complete (i.e. settling on the right microphone purchases) provided the final results are good. I'd hate to see you buying a bunch of excellent and expensive mics that are simply the wrong mics for the job.

    Also, doubtless they'll want the premiere performance in the venue to be recorded, and it will be a bit disappointing if the hypothetical mic choices prove to be wrong! With the suggestion above, you should be able to avoid all of those problems...

    So, in summary, pay someone else to do the initial guinea pig recordings with their own equipment, and base the microphone purchases and positions on the outcomes of those recordings and the client's preferred 'sound'.

    And now to add my hypothetical suggestion: ditch the SASS-P idea. ;-)
  17. Simmosonic

    Simmosonic Active Member

    Jan 13, 2005
    Nice! Forgetting the mic choice for now, this stereo connection will be greatly appreciated when/if they decide to do pieces that require some performers at the other end of the room.

    It happens...
  18. Simmosonic

    Simmosonic Active Member

    Jan 13, 2005
    This is not necessarily a good thing!

    You'll need to know what the conductor values more in the choral sound - the text, or the notes? If he is not so concerned about the text, then you can go for the omnis and/or a bit of distance and embrace the room sound and the sense of 'bigness'. But if the text is important and you're in a very live room, you're going to need to get closer and/or use tighter polar responses to keep the text discernible.

    Harking back to my earlier post, this is yet another good reason to defer microphone choices and positions until you're able to get the performers in the room and a) hear what the room is actually giving you, and b) learn what the conductor (or whoever calls the shots) is expecting to hear in the recording. Then you'll be able to experiment until you find the microphones and positions that allow you to extract (b) from (a).

    And everyone wins... :)
  19. BarryB

    BarryB Guest

    I appreciate your thoughts about waiting until we get some experience in the room to make final selection of mic types and locations. It might be a possible scenario as long as I can provide some mic coverage for radio broadcasts and archival recordings right from the start. The SASS and a pair of KM185s are in the inventory right now and I've contracted for the installation of same, but have not committed to the purchase or installation of the Schoeps or equivalent. I'll have to think about this a bit more. We will be starting to use the new sanctuary in June with a scheduled recital of a world-class organist in November, so I do have some time to work out the final details.


  20. Simmosonic

    Simmosonic Active Member

    Jan 13, 2005
    Those radio broadcasts and archival recordings sound like the perfect opportunity to get someone in with good equipment to make those initial recordings. (By the way, I wasn't implying that you couldn't do it yourself - if you're able to hire or borrow the appropriate equipment, why not?)

    I haven't used the KM185s, but if they're anything like the KM184 and the KM183, they ought to do a fine job. Being hypercardioid, you could do some test recordings by setting them up as a coincident pair angled about 120 degrees. That's what MS with a cardioid M capsule decodes to at 1:1 ratio. It's a fine stereo technique; not necessarily the best for your situation, but it might give you an *acceptable* result for those early radio broadcasts and archival recordings.

    I expect you're going to get the best results from a near-coincident pair (e.g. ORTF or similar) or spaced pair, or a combination thereof, rather than a coincident technique.

    Read up on Stereophonic Zoom, build yourself a crocodile, and create a custom near-coincident configuration for those performers in that space using the KM185s...

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