Discussion in 'Orchestra' started by gratefulredhead, Sep 2, 2007.

  1. Greetings! I am a professional conductor who wants to get decent recordings of the orchestras I conduct when travelling. I had an Audio Technica AT822 and a Sony DAT walkman, which did pretty well. I have replaced the SONY with a Korg MR1 and the microphone, unfortunately, was lost during travels.

    Are there suggestions out there for a good microphone that will not break the bank, be better than the AT822, be good for travel and location recording, and work with the Korg (i.e. which has 1/8 inch inputs, battery power, etc...) I might just buy another AT822, but I'd love to hear your thoughts.

    Beyerdynamic MCE 72?
    Rode NT-4??

    THANK YOU for your help!!

  2. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    You'll probably get a lot of suggestions for the NT-4, so let me be the first. It's better, IMHO, for in-close recording work than larger ensembles. It's got cardioid capsules, vs. omni - which you may find better for use with a full symphony orchestra, at least as a "Snapshot" type of recording. It's also a little bit larger than the usual "stealth" mics people prefer for recording discretely. Folks will definitely see it.

    Aside from the lost mic, how do you like the MR-1 so far? I'm curious also; when you DID have the mic, where did you place it? Did you have a stand for it, or were you able to fly it above?
  3. Thanks for the reply Joe. I have no need to be stealthy--these are usually MY orchestras, etc... I never was able to fly the Audio Technica above--always used it midway out in the hall, and came away with useful (if a little too ambient) recordings. A nearer placement would probably be better.

    The MR-1 is a great little machine. Two cons that I've found: 1. the battery life it limited (2-2.5 hours, which is the boundry for what I need in an orchestra concert) and you cannot replace the battery.

    2. the rec level setting takes a bit of menu work to access and is a bit time consuming to set. hard to do quickly, and there seems to be no option to set both L and R at the same time. There does seem to be a great compression/limiting program, but I've not explored it.

    Probably it is overkill for what I need--I will rarely use the 1-bit recording in the field and stick with the 16 or 24 bit. Still wondering if I should have bought an Edirol or Zoom if just for the swappable batteries...

    Would you say the Audio-Technica would be better than the NT-4 for what I'm doing? Any other suggestions?

  4. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Hey Jeff!

    Welcome to RO!

    I would be one of those to recommend the NT4 for a single-point stereo mic that won't break the bank. It should work pretty well with the MR-1 as it's battery powered (as an option - can also use phantom, but in the case of the MR1, I'd use the battery), plus it comes with the appropriate cable for interfacing directly with the MR-1.

    I would also agree that too far back with any single-point stereo mic would be a problem. As you've already experienced, you'll get excessively ambient stereo.

    I personally just picked up the MR1000 as a field recording device and have been exceedingly pleased with it. The sound is phenomenal and the features are very flexible. If you're looking at trading in the MR1, you might want to consider going this route. If you did, I would encourage you to still use the battery in the NT4 as it would lengthen the battery potential by not having to generate phantom power. With fresh double As (8 of them!!) I've gotten over 3 hours of recording using external phantom and no backlight.

    As a side note, when using the DSD option, (if you're so inclined), use a gentle sloped filter starting at 50kHz and going up from there. There's a significant amount of noise in the DSD signal at 100kHz and while it doesn't seem to manifest it in any way on the audible aspects of the recording, I can see it fooling some limiters and other processors as well as potentially giving "lesser" gear a bit of trouble.

    The noise that I've measured using the dBFS scale since that's the only meter I have which will measure it at the moment is pretty consistently around -5dBFS which is pretty darned loud. A gentle roll-off at 50kHz (or even a steep one at around 96kHz) seems to eliminate all or near all of the HF noise. Just another FYI, in double sample rate (5.6MHz) the noise is outside the scope of my measurement equipment. It's still there, but nothing that I have can detect it other than showing it visually.

    Cheers -

  5. Thanks, J. So, you'd definitely say that the NT4 would be a step up from the Audio Technica?

    Thanks for the info about the DSD! That will be helpful should I play around with it.

    Any tips on working with the Auto level control?? It has been years since I've REALLY done audio work (I almost went for a recording degree 15 years ago, lol)...

    It has the following options:

    Gain Decrease: Threshold and Slope
    Gain Increase: Threshold, Hold and Slope.

    I assume that this will be not so helpful with the huge dynamic range of the orchestra, but it might be worth a try??


  6. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    I would avoid the use of the Auto Gain Control at all costs. This may mean that you have to spend some time getting the levels right during a rehearsal or play it on the safe side and avoid setting it too high. These controls indicate to me that you will likely hear the amplitude changing when you don't want it to. (Super loud Ravel Pavanne, mildly loud Mahler 8, etc...)

    I can't speak to the quality of the AT stereo mic since I've never used that particular one. However, I've used plenty of AT mics (and still do) and find them to be consistent performers. They may not always be the BEST microphone, but I always know what to expect with them (and sometimes this makes them a winner!) As for the Rode, it has a very smooth, unhyped sound with good off-axis response which are characteristics that I look for in a main microphone pair.

    The trick with the Rode NT4 is that you really need to get it closer than you'd think. For the XY to portray a realistic stereo image, they can't be but a few feet behind you, high enough to "see" all of the performers but angled enough that the majority of the orchestra is within the direct axis of the mic. (The height and angle is such a critical and often overlooked adjustment. To me, this adjustment is more critical than a foot difference front to back in many to most situations).

    The bad thing with XY is, while it's very accurate stereo-image-wise, it's dreadfully boring and uninvolving. I would advise the use of a good, high-quality reverb to at least liven it up a little (tastefully). SIR is a great, free tool that winds up on more of my mixes than any other effect.

  7. Yeah, that's what I expected from an auto gain. Fool's hopes. :)

    What will I end up with if I need to put the Rode out farther in the hall, as circumstances sometimes dictate?

    Where can I find SIR? (I do own Peak 4 Pro as well).

    Thanks again for the great information.
  8. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    You'll get a washed out, overly reverby (new word??) sound if you place it too far out.

    SIR is here:

    I see they just released SIR 2 (which is not free), but SIR 1 is still available and works quite well!

    By the way, on a seperate note, I'm working on a DSD editing engine which, if successful, may be quite revolutionary.

    Here's the concept (already being built - if someone else "beats me to it" I'm okay, since if I do finish it, I will release it as open source freeware. I've already been able to be successful at combining DSD tracks and crossfading, just not much more than that.)

    The DSD engine will load each DSD track onto its own visual and mixer track but the track display will be made up of a 24 bit .WAV file (unfortunately, the only way I can do this at the moment is to manually convert each file and then load it. I'm working on getting it to do this automatically. This means that for each track, you'll have to load the appropriate DSD track as well as the appropriate PCM track. Clunky, but managable.)

    The playback/monitoring will be of that 24bit file, but any edits performed will be done on both the 24 bit file and the DSD file.

    At this point, this scheme allows for edits in length (trimming), splicing and crossfades only. There is no capability for VST, DX or other types of effects nor do I expect this functionality.

    This would essentially allow you to edit DSD files utilizing nothing more than your existing DAW setup. The crossfade editor isn't as visually appealing as the ones found in Sequoia, Sonic or Pyramix, but are useful and allow you to completely enter your own parameters if you so choose or select from a list of 6 presets. You can modify length of crossfades, but only symmetrically at this point (I'm having a glitch with editing one half of the fade.) Once I've cleaned up the interface, I may post some screen shots, but right now it's all marked up with indicators so I know what I'm doing in the coding process.

    I sure wish the folks at Cubase or Cakewalk or Sequoia would beat me to this - it's a PAIN IN THE A$$! It shouldn't be that hard, but I'm not a good programmer!

    Cheers -

  9. crap--i'm on a mac. :) looks like a nice program, though.

    there is a NT4 on ebay for between 375-400. a good deal?

    good luck with the programing!!
  10. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    I think I paid mid $300's on my used one from Ebay.

    Maybe a good deal...not sure. I think it's worth the cost for a new one, so I guess that means it probably is a good deal.
  12. Alécio Costa - Brazil

    Alécio Costa - Brazil Well-Known Member

    I have been recording a few small to medium orchestras since 1997.
    I would strongly recommend your the At4050.
    In fact I endedp up buying 5 of their mics.
    The At4040, much cheaper, is also nice but does not have the very same nice off-axis response. Perfect for close miking.
  13. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Probably not aimed in my general direction, but I'll add...

    AT 4041 is a very good and inexpensive mic - not stereo, but a pair won't be unmanagable with a good stereo bar.

    In the "not stereo but easy to work with" category, the AT 4050s and 4040s are good as mentioned (though not quite as easy to use as Small Diaphragm Condensers) as are the Shure line of KSM pencil mics. Shure also offers a great M/S mic (model number escapes me) but it's capable of being battery powered and is a WONDERFUL mic for stereo recording.
  14. hmmm... where would these line up in relation to the NT4??

    my main problem with the AT4040s is that I travel as light as possible, and sticking a couple of those in my suitcase with appropriate hardware is going to be a bit tricky.... the 4041 wouldn't be quite as tricky, it seems..

    is this the Shure you were talking about: http://www.shure.com/ProAudio/Products/WiredMicrophones/us_pro_VP88_content

  15. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    That would be the one.

    I don't think anyone can draw direct correlations in quality from mic to mic. It's all a matter of personal preference. For example, I don't like most DPA microphones nor do I like most Sennheiser MKH series mics. However, these are considered by many to be the finest microphones on the planet...

    I like Schoeps and some Gefells. Others don't. It's all preference. Just as some violinists prefer a Strat and yet others an Amati. I'm certain that Hillary Hahn could do a stellar performance on a Lewis student model violin though.
  16. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    OK, but could you see Mark Knopfler playing a violin on stage?

    In relation to the original post, I would second (third?) the Rode NT4, but I take Jeff's point about travelling light. I still have a Sony ECM MS957 stereo mic that I bring out from time to time, mostly to lend to others for use with minidisc recorders. It's not up to the NT4 in sound quality, but it's not bad, and packs away small. It can be a bit light in the bass when used with the input impedances typical of minidisc recorders, but it may be worth considering.
  17. I suppose that is true. Sigh. However, the Shure VP88 seems to have some interesting stereo features that might make it useful for both closer and far micing when the circumstances dictate...

    It seems like the two obvious choices, if I want to stay with a single stereo microphone, are the Rode NT-4 and the Shure?

    The AT4041 seems managable without too much extra equipment, but I think the 4050s would be too much for suitcase travelling..
  18. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    You're right; the 4050s (and I LOVE 'em!) are a much bigger deal, plus you'll need the clips that go with them, and a hefty stereo bar. DO NOT try to put these on anything lightweight, at least in terms of a boom.

    They're OK with a straight stand (and maybe a little sandbagging), but you're not going to get away easy with a pair of these; they're big enough to draw attention, esp with the clips.

    Still seems like the NT-4 would do the best job for you, at least for starters.
  19. Simmosonic

    Simmosonic Active Member

    Absolutely. As a comparison, I like DPA and Schoeps, but I'm not fond of Sennheiser's MKH series. I haven't had much to do with Gefells, but I did use a pair of their side-address condensers (look like miniature TLM49s or similar, cute little things) in ORTF and thought they were tonally acceptable.
  20. Simmosonic

    Simmosonic Active Member

    I haven't used the AT so I can't say anything about it. However, I'll put in a vote for the NT4 for all the same reasons as everyone else - it delivers good no-fuss results for the price, it can be battery powered, and it comes with the right cabling to plug directly into your recorder.

    Jeff... with the NT4, I'd suggest trying a starting position of about 1m behind you and 1m above your head. The NT4 uses a pair of cardioids crossed at 90 degrees, and that requires a 180 degree soundfield to create a stereo image that extends from hard left to hard right. You can move further back than that if required (e.g. if the recorded image is too wide for your liking and/or you want a greater sense of ensemble and/or more room sound), but if you go too far back the orchestra will start to sound very small, distant and mono.

    As for recording levels, if you end up using the NT4 consistently about 1m or so above and behind your head, you'll find that your recording levels won't change that dramatically from one performance/venue to the next. In other words, once you've found a good level, it will probably be safe to use that level most of the time. That means that you can spend more of your rehearsal time focusing on performance rather than recording...

    If you stick to 24-bit recording and keep the average level sitting around -20dB FS you won't have many problems.

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