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Large Diaphragm condenser for choirs/orch/etc.

Discussion in 'Vocals' started by Ardroth, Jan 24, 2008.

  1. Ardroth

    Ardroth Guest


    Well... I'd like a few suggestions on Large Diaphragm condensers. Basically, I need something to record choirs and orchestras, and possibly concert bands with. Also, as a Mid mic for M/S recording. I was only hoping to spend $100 - $200... but it looks like I would have to spend a minimum of $600 to get a quality mic! However, I've been looking at the following:

    Studio Projects C3
    MXL 2003/2006
    Shure KSM 32
    CAD GXL 2200/3000
    Rode NT2000

    The Rode and the Shure are expensive... but I might be able to score them cheaper if I find a used model. However, I figured I might as well see what some of the pros think. Maybe you have suggestions not listed above? I've read great things of the Shure KSM 44, but that's just unrealistically expensive for me (I'm still a college student!).

    Thank you.
  2. Ardroth

    Ardroth Guest

    I forgot to mention that I actually have a mic very similar to the MXL 2200... but it's a "no name" mic that I bought from someone for like $30. I don't know what the brand is. I used it for a M/S recording for a choir once and everyone was happy with the results... so I guess it works OK. I think I might prefer something that I KNOW myself is good.
  3. droc8705

    droc8705 Active Member

    i'm not a professional, so take this for what it's worth.

    i went to sam ash one day to buy a couple mics to do exactly what you want to do. i out of them, i tried out the Rode NT2000 and the NT2-a. Honestly, i didn't a difference. The only thing different between the NT2000 and the NT20-a is that the NT2000 has the variable polar patterns, bass roll offs, and pad. If i'm not mistaken, they actually share the same capsule, but don't quote me on that. I ended up going with the NT2-a since it's $200 cheaper. Also, try playing the used market to see what you can come up with; i liked my rode so much that i just bought another on ebay for $260.

    as far as the shure ksm mics, i have the ksm27 and love it...got that on ebay too. i don't have the ksm32, but when my band recorded our ep, our producer Lee Dyess actually used one to cut the vocals over a AT4060 (a badass mic, btw) and a Neumann M149...to me, that says something.

    You could also check out the audio-technica stuff. the at4033 and at4040 are definitely worth checking out. do a search on here and you'll find a lot of fans of both.

  4. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    Don't spend any real cash until you've at least checked out the AT 4000 series.

    The 4040 and 4050 are two of their best, and I use them a lot on a variety of things, including choral and instrumental work. The 4040 is simply a good work-horse single element LD cardioid mic, with a -10 pad and bass rolloff switch for under $500. The pricier 4050 has those features as well, but is a dual-element capsule, which means it also has a figure of eight setting for bluemline use, as well as an omni setting for use as an omni on its own, or used with another 4050 in MS mode. very nice options to have in a mic that's under $600. They look great onstage (disappear on most TV shoots since they're jet-black) and they're quite rugged.

    Another good one to check out is the 4033, in the same price range as the 4040. Their lower end mics aren't bad either; the 3035 is wonderful too, regardless of price. (Usually about $299 each.)
  5. bent

    bent No Bad Vibes! Well-Known Member

    +1 on Joe's post.

    Search for Audio Technica on this here site.
    Many of us have given a rundown or offered an anecdote or two about their mics.
  6. Keith_K

    Keith_K Guest

    Just curious - can the AT4050 be set between the pattern positions, to give a wide-cardioid pattern for example?
  7. droc8705

    droc8705 Active Member

    no it can't...just the 3 patterns.

  8. Simmosonic

    Simmosonic Active Member


    I'll be using a pair of 4050s to record some 'lhamo' (Tibetan Opera) in the nicely reverberant hall at the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts (TIPA) in 1.5 hours from now. I'll be using them in MS Blumlein cofiguration (MS with a bidirectional M capsule, facing forward), because I am not sure if they are a matched pair or not; so putting them in MS spreads any tonal differences between the mics across the stereo image, rather than one side only. Also, the soundstage is not huge - one main vocalist with two others standing behind him, forming a triangle. So most of the direct sound will be in the M channel, with the S channel mostly capturing the hall reverberation. There'll also be some reverberation picked up by the rear of the M microphone, of course, due to its bidirectional response. Coming from the rear, rather than the sides, means the reverberation in the M channel will be nicely decorrelated from the direct sound (assuming the mic is a good distance from the rear wall!) and ought to sound fine when summed to mono for radio broadcast (a lot of broadcasters in this part of the world are still using mono, especially national shortwave stations).
  9. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    While I generally don't advise LDCs for choral, orchestral or concert band (although concert bands fare far better from LDCs than the others...) I can whole heartedly recommend the Shure KSM line as well as the AT 4040/4050. They're both great mics for the price and work well in a myriad of situations.

    Also consider the Blue Bluebird. This one has a bit more bite than any of the mics I've mentioned so far, but it's a good sounding mic with great off-axis response (so critical in this type of work).

    It's damn cheap too for what you get. If I had heard and used this mic first, then someone told me it cost $900, I'd still have dropped the cash.
  10. Ardroth

    Ardroth Guest

    Hmmm... I'm curious as to why you say this. Please elaborate. I guess I was under the impression that LDC's are the best to use (as opposed to medium or small DC).

    I've taken into consideration the AT 4000 line of mics. They are reasonably priced (mostly in the used market... though I hate buying used mics). The 3035 looks good too.

  11. bent

    bent No Bad Vibes! Well-Known Member

    SDC's by nature exhibit a faster transient response, as well as better stereo imaging and capturing of low frequencies.

    LDC's are slower to respond, due to the added mass of the capsule, comparatively speaking, and have a tendency to color sound more so than an SDC.
  12. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    In addition to what Bent stated -
    Because of the larger surface area of LDCs, there is a greater potential for non-linearity (both caused by tolerances in material and breakup due to high or conflicting SPLs) and the smaller the diaphragm, generally the better off-axis response.

    This is why you will rarely if ever see any major orchestra recorded with LDCs (there are exceptions, but fewer than you might think. I think the Neumann Solution D was probably the most commonly used LDC over the past few years due in part to Neumann's aggressive marketing of the technology.) The M50, which looks like an LDC, is definitely not an LDC but is without a doubt, one of history's (and present, but not as much currently) most popular mics for this task.

    Currently, the most common mics for this task are SDC mics from:
    Sennheiser (MKH line)
    Schoeps (Collette)
    DPA (40xx)

    The only real disadvantage to a SDC is a potentially higher noise floor (though WELL under the capabilities of most playback systems) due to the laws of physics and the smashing together of air molecules.
  13. Simmosonic

    Simmosonic Active Member

    When choosing microphones for this kind of work, you need to find the right balance between two virtues: 1) low self-noise, and 2) good off-axis response.

    As the diaphragm gets larger it is capable of collecting more sound energy and therefore has lower self-noise - i.e. the microphone is quieter. But the larger diaphragm (and the housing around it) creates a larger obstacle to sounds arriving off-axis, resulting in poorer off-axis response. The result is a coloured sound. LDCs are fine for close-miking, but not so good when you're miking from a distance and need to capture all sounds cleanly.

    As the diaphragm gets smaller it becomes less of an obstacle and so the off-axis response improves, resulting in a more natural sound when miking from a distance. The downside is that there is less surface area to collect sound energy, resulting in higher self-noise.

    SDCs from 10mm to 15mm or so generally provide the best compromise between good off-axis response and low self-noise. Hence they are very popular with people who record acoustic music.

    To give two examples from DPA's stable: their 4060 series of omnis use 5.4mm diaphragms and have a textbook omnidirectional response, but their self-noise is 23dBA or thereabouts. At the other extreme, their 4041 omni has a 24mm diaphragm and offers a self-noise of only 7dBA, but it's off-axis response deviates considerably from omnidirectional, especially at higher frequencies.

    Horses for courses. If low noise is a priority, there are few mics that can come close to DPA's 4041. But if excellent off-axis response is a priority, it's hard to beat their 4060 series.

    Most DPA owners have the models with the 16mm diaphragms, such as the 4006 or similar, which offer a good compromise between off-axis response and self-noise.

    I hope that's helpful...

    [This edit was added after discovering that Jeremy had posted something similar while I was writing this. Sorry for doubling up...]
  14. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Yes, but you did it so much more eloquently.
  15. Simmosonic

    Simmosonic Active Member

    The staph made me do it...

    [see recent post under 'Recording Orchestras' for clarification...]
  16. Ardroth

    Ardroth Guest

    Sweet. Thanks for the info... I did not realize this about the diaphragms.

    Unfortunately, those mics recommended are FAR too expensive... I'm no professional yet! I just have a project studio that's probably only worth 2 of those mics. For recording live acoustic music (small choirs, chamber, solo, etc.), would a M/S (figure 8 ribbon paired with a LDC or SMD) work well?

    Perhaps there are cheaper alternatives to SDC's which has a good balance between low self noise and off axis coloration? I guess low self noise IS indeed a big priority for me. Mostly because I'm using cheaper pre-amps (Presonus) and cables (Peavey w/Neutriks)... also, the hall I generally record in contains a lot of noise from the air system (HVAC I think it's called??!). I'm guessing that the only way to get a good balanced mic is to spend no less than $1000... Then it's either noisy mics, or less accurate mics... right?

    Thanks for the help guys.
  17. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    I would not focus on the low self noise at this point. Even the mics with self noise of 20+ dB would suit most every recordist and would still be lower in noise than the traditional concert hall of most mid-level ensembles.

    Not to mention, self-noise is only have the equation. Sensitivity is the other. SDC can be made to be quite sensitive (although, usually beaten out by their larger siblings). A mic with a high sensitivity and a medium to low self-noise will seem quieter on the recording in most cases than a quiet mic with low sensitivity.

    This is how Earthworks gets by with their "Quiet" series mics. Check the specs, they're no quieter than their non-QTC series mics, they're just far more sensitive.

    In an affordable range of SDCs, you might want to consider the Shure KSM series, AT 4041/4051, Rode NT55 and similar.

  18. d_fu

    d_fu Guest

    Yes, I used to think so, too, but that's not quite the way it is... Self-noise is not related to sensitivity, it's measured in SPL.

    Other way round: Sensitivity is measured at 94 dB SPL. Regardless of the electrical level that 94 dB SPL will translate into (aka sensitivity), the mic's S/N ratio (usually quoted in relation to 1Pa/94 SPL as well) at e.g. 20 dB of self noise will be 74 dB, and at 6 dB it will be 88dB. Higher sensitivity will not change that. (Hope I'm not stating the all-too-obvious...)

    I've found an Earthworks SR78 (which does not claim to be particularly quiet) to be way too noisy to be even used as a harpsichord spot mic...

    As for good low-cost SDCs, I'd like to mention the Beyerdynamic MC930.
    But I've also use a pair of AKG 414 B-TL (not TL-II) as AB main mic quite successfully...

  19. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    I know what you're saying and agree - however, the quoted spec of a fixed dB noise rating for each mic is directly related to (or more accurately to say - "impacted by" or "affected by")the amount of gain applied to that mic using your mic preamp. Where you have to use less gain, you will have lower (relative) noise levels. However, there's no escaping the S/N ratio - it's a matter of maximizing the headroom and gain of the mic at hand.
  20. Simmosonic

    Simmosonic Active Member

    There are many suggestions being made here...

    I'd forget about MS for now, mostly because you'll need a means to decode it, and also because it is not the most versatile technique around for the money.

    I'd put in a recommendation for a pair of Rode NT5s, which are SDC cardioids and are sold in matched pairs. A pair of those will allow a range of near-coincident (ORTF, etc.) and coincident (XY) methods, making it equally useful for large or small ensembles.

    If you can stretch the budget a bit further, a pair of NT55s with cardioid and omni capsules is also a good choice. IMHO, the NT55 with omni capsule performs well above its price point. That set-up won't cost you much and adds spaced omnis (AB) to the near-coincident and coincident methods offered by the cardioids.

    They're also very versatile for close miking, which sometimes is the best thing to do...

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