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Mics for live recording of choir?

Discussion in 'Vocals' started by DanielS, Oct 10, 2005.

  1. DanielS

    DanielS Guest

    Hello all,

    I am a member of a university choir in Sweden and also a member of the "recording group" of the choir. The recording group is going to buy new recording equipment to the choir and have finally almost made up its mind on what to buy. The only thing we are really unsure of are the mics.

    The recording unit we have fallen for is the Edirol R-4 because of its 4 channels, its ease of use and mobility (and hopefully audio quality).

    The recordings are made in various concert halls (mostly churches) with 40-120 people in the choir depending on setup. The recordings are mixed/edited with computers and we make CD's for our own pleasure (e.i. not commercial).

    We have two ATM33a cardioids that we plan to keep as backup/extras/ch3&4. We have read a bit on this forum (which by the way is excellent) and are leaning towards new omnis. Variable pattern also sounds interesting and phantom power is a plus (as opposite to external power supply).

    Our budget is something like 1000-1500 EUR.

    One of the mics se have looked at is the Rode K-2. Could that be a good puchase for our scenario? The only negative thing we see is the external power supply, which makes them less mobile.

    What other/better mics would you suggest? Is omnis our best choice? And the Edirol R-4? Anyone with experience/knowledge of that one?

    On a side track:
    We have done our previous recordings using the ATM33a's as spaced pairs without any real knowledge of what we are doing. After reading a bit about stereo recording I'm starting to think we just have been lucky to get descent results just having fun and not knowing what we were doing.

    Many thanks in advance for any comments on this
  2. zemlin

    zemlin Well-Known Member

    I've done a number of choral recordings. I still consider myself an intermediate rookie in the field. I've had some very nice recordings, and a few that were less than great (although still good). Over time I have moved away from LDC mics to SDCs. I get better results with the small mics. It's also a lot easier to prop a pair up high on a stand.

    I have generally not been using spaced omnis - I often record in spaces that would not compliment that arrangement, and I find I spaced-omni recordings often do not present the image I like to hear in a recording.

    I decided to go with the AKB Blue Line mics for my affordable choral setup. These mics have very flat response, sound quite good, and the changeable capsules makes them a very flexible option without breaking the bank.

    I currently have the SE300B bodies, a pair of CK91 capsules, and a CK94 Figure 8. This lets me to XY, ORTF, and MS recording. I will soon be getting a pair of CK92 Omni capsules so I can go with spaced omnis or a Jecklin disk. Another CK94 (rather expensive) will add Blumlein as an option. In time I will also add another pair of C391Bs (SE300B+CK91) so I can setup two pairs when needed.

    I don't know what AKG Prices are like in Europe, but here a pair of C391Bs and a pair of CK92 capsules would fall well within your budget.
  3. ghellquist

    ghellquist Member

    You may count me as a beginner here as well, done only a few choir recordings. Done a bit of orchestra recordings though.

    I have tested the R4 and found it to be quite decent. It will definitely allow you to document yourself. You may read my review in the latest number of the magazine Studio (in Swedish). Used it to mic an amateur orchestra playing with a cello soloist.

    I would also go primarily for small diameter condensor mics and I tend to favor omni mics. Sometimes though that is not the right choice and cardoids may be a better choice.

    I will leave the recommendation of mics to better suited people at the moment (they are around at this forum).

    For mic setups in AB and ORTF I think that http://www.dpamicrophones.com has a good starting point in the "university". They do say some odd things about cardoids which you might want to take with a grain of salt though.

    For Swedish prices I recommend you to check out http://www.thomann.de . This is a mailorder house that sells with all taxes and such included. I have had only good experiences with them. Be sure to never pay more then their prices, with a bit of work you should be able to get below them. Swedish list prices can at times be much higher. Also keep an eye on the http://www.vendolin.se site, which seems to be the main internet site for this kind of things.

    Where in Sweden are you situated? Maybe we could arrange for some exchange of ideas (I am in Stockholm). Please feel free to call me on ghellquist (at) yahoo (dot) se.

  4. John Stafford

    John Stafford Well-Known Member

    http://www.musik-service.de and http://www.musicians-gear.com will only charge the German VAT rate, whereas thomann will charge at the Swedish rate, even though they are based in Germany. Musicians-gear can take a while to deliver.

  5. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    Fine arts choral microphones

    Condenser microphones, both large and small capsule, are fine, if you constantly like to battle a lot of sibalence (men seem to like that more but as a woman, it drives me crazy). One of my favorite choral vocal microphones are the Beyer M130 figure 8 and M160 HyperCardioid beautiful ribbon microphones. The warmth and lushness is second to none. The combination of these make for lovely middle side or MS recordings (with a proper mounting adapter and with a sofware or hardware decoder). Alternativley, a pair of M160s (with a simple stereo mic bar) in an XY (capsules together) or ORTF (capsules facing out) configuration is also very nice. These ribbon microphones, are smaller and much more affordable than the Coles and are more affordable than the Royer. You will need a decent pair of microphone preamplifiers that are quiet enough with a reasonable amount of gain available (I use APIs and/or old Neves). Of course, the ribbons must be handled more delicately than any condenser microphones (never blow into them to test them). These microphones are made in Germany and are much closer to you than China or Australia![/b]
  6. eoink

    eoink Active Member

    Hey Daniel. One thing you could try is a pair of sennheiser mkh 40s. I know they're a little out of the price range but not too much. I have done a few recordings of choirs and "choir and orchestra" with these microphones. If you can stretch that far, I would strongly recommend them. You could even try picking them up on Ebay.
    I recorded the choirs in a couple of very nice venues like the chapel in Trinity College Dublin and St. Patrick's Cathedral, both of which have very nice acoustics which the mics picked up very nicely.
  7. Sonarerec

    Sonarerec Guest

    The majority of our CD projects is choral and organ, and while nothing surpasses the Royer SF12 and 24 for capturing the choral resonance without excessive sibilants, they are expensive.

    For those on a budget the clear choice is the DPA4061 with the grid removed, which gives VERY flat response. Many have pointed out the nosie figure, but in the realm of live recording the noise floor of the room with an audience makes that a moot point.

    If you find this hard to believe with a mic that is about 400 euros, I have used them in conjunction with my 4003s and 4006s. While not identical, they sounded VERY similar. There is nothing comparable in their price range that I am aware of.

  8. DanielS

    DanielS Guest

    Mics for choir

    Hello everyone and thanks for your replies.

    It’s interesting to see that so many of you recommend cardioid mics instead of omnis. I would have thought that omnis gave the best result when recording large choirs? At least that’s the impression I have got by reading posts in various forums.

    I had of course hoped for a “Oh, yeah! Go for the Rode K-2. It’s your obvious choice.”, so that we easily could decide what to buy. But naturally that ain’t going to happen since different people have different views on how things should sound.

    As far as I can see, all of you recommend SDC instead of LDC. Don’t know much about the differences, except that which I have read at DPA’s site. Seems to give a wider frequency range at the cost of a higher self noise and lower sensitivity. Maybe that’s something to go for then…

    I am a little hesitant about buying cardioid mics since we already have the ATM33a’s. That’s one of the reasons we looked at omnis, as a complement to our ATMs. We had thought of using two new omnis as our usual AB setup and at the same time start experimenting with XY/ORTF position of our old ATMs. Would you really recommend that we buy new cardioids instead of omnis even if we already have the ATMs? Or are the ATMs not good enough?

    The changeable pattern of the Rode K-2s was an interesting feature for us since we are a little unsure of whether we should get omnis or not. But there are maybe SDCs with changeable pattern also? Is this type of changeable pattern recommendable or does it decrease the performance of a mic? The AKG Blueline Zemlin mentioned is of course one interesting option.

    In reply to Gunnars post:

    We have already read your review in Studio (one of very few revives we’ve been able to find of Edirol R4) and that review was one of the reasons we finally decided for it.
    We’ve already planned on buying some of the equipment from Thomann. Nice to hear a confirmation that they are an OK company. As for the location we are situated in Gothenburg. Chalmers University Choir (http://www.choir.chs.chalmers.se/)

  9. Sonarerec

    Sonarerec Guest

    I will be blunt: the only mics mentioned that are smooth enough for what you want to do are the Sennheisers (out of your budget) and the DPAs. And cardioids cannot (due to design and the laws of physics) capture the low end as faithfully as omnis. I have owned and used many AKGs and would not choose any of them for choral. There is only one Japanese/Chinese mic I would consider-- John Eargle uses the and they are not in your price range (even if I COULD remember the brand!).

    Either Sennheiser or DPA is something you will never want to get rid of later. And not having used the MKH40 cardioids I do not know if the midrange will be a problem with sibilance, often a problem with most brands. EQing that region (2k-6k) will muck up the imaging unless you have linear phase EQ, and even then can be problematic.

    Another advantage of the DPA 4061s is that they are small enough to use with even the lightest and thinnest of stands, and being so small they are almost perfect omnis and it matters little how they are aimed (but spacing and height are important).

    The disadvantage is that the extension cable and XLR adapters for the Microdot connectors is not cheap.

  10. zemlin

    zemlin Well-Known Member

    My choice of the AKG blue lines was clearly a compromise. At the time I was also considering saving up for Sennheiser MKH mics, but my cash flow simply wouldn't support that kind of investment - I have other parts of the signal chain that could stand an upgrade too.

    Am I going to try to convince someone that my humble setup sounds as good as Schoeps, Senn MKH, or DPAs - no. I don't even attempt to fool myself into that.

    What I can say is that I've done a number of choral recording with these mics and others (Rode NT5s & Oktava MK012s), for example) and my clients have all been very pleased with the results.

    Would the recordings have sounded better if I had better mics, better preamps, and better converters? DUH! My clients come to me because I provide a good product at an affordable price. If I invested in the gear I'd like to have I'd have to double or triple my rates to support the business and those clients would take their recording work elsewhere.

    Are the AKG Blue Lines first-rate mics for choral work? No. But they ain't bad for the price and offer an affordable, flexible setup.

    I've even had useable results with a pair of Behringer EMC8000s. The choir director pulled a last minute change of plans and those were the only mics set up to capture it - I intended to use them only for applause.
  11. zemlin

    zemlin Well-Known Member

    Here's a sample that was recorded with two ORTF pairs - NT5s and MK012s. It had to do with the arrangement of the orchestra and the choir. Sebatraon VMP preamp on the choir mics, A&H Mixwizard on the orchestra. MOTU 24i for converters. Recorded in a small, octagonal hall with a rather unattractive resonance. Choir is all volunteer of widely varying abilities.


    If you ask me, it isn't bad considering the 4 mics cost me $400 total. The client was more than pleased with this recording.

    My experience says you don't need to spend $2500 on mics to get a decent choral recording.
  12. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Well said Zemlin!

    Yes, I have some high-quality, good microphones. Why? Simple, I do like their sound and I know they'll always work.

    I also have some microphones that others here will call amateur (and have...) They include AKG Bluelines (which, IMO are GREAT mics and an excellent value!), AT microphones, Audix, Groove Tubes and Oktava. (BTW - I trust these mics and like their sound too. Every mic I own, I own because I like how they sound. I don't buy mics cuz they're cheap. If I did, I would own a closet full of MXLs and NADYs!)

    The fact is, I've made GOOD recordings using virtually all of these microphones. To say that no mic will be good enough for a choir recording unless it costs a certain amount is absurd.

    First, notice this isn't the Robert Shaw Singers we're talking about here. Second, I'm familiar with the Sennheisers and I would take my Audix or AKGs over them any time!

    The fact is, many people are making excellent microphones nowadays and to poo-poo them for where they come from or because they're not expensive enough is just silly.

    To those who state this, I really wonder if they have had the opportunity to work with some of these "lower priced" microphones or if they're just stating this to make themselves feel better about the tens of thousands of dollars spent on their mic collections.

    Let's face reality here- if you really worked at it, you could make a GREAT recording of a choir using a pair of SM57s through a Mackie board onto a 16 bit medium. The trick is manipulating the set up so that you are in control of your equipment and not vice-versa.

    J. :cool:
  13. FifthCircle

    FifthCircle Well-Known Member

    That would be the Sanken CU-41... Uses a dual diahpragm- a small and a large with an internal crossover network to achieve its frequency response. I've never used one, but I understand they are great. I just bought a pair of the small diaphragm Sankens- they should show up on Monday. I'll let everybody know how they are.

    I agree with this- there are a lot of mics that are cheaper than DPAs (although the 4061s are great and quite inexpensive) and you can make good recordings with them. Heck, I've kept my first mics I ever bought (a pair of SM81's) because they still do the job quite well. You just need to use them to emphasize their strengths and minimize their weaknesses.

    I realize you are trying to make a point here, but I would disagree with your statement here VERY strongly. I would never recommend a moving coil dynamic for any sort of distant micing situation. They simply don't have the sensitivity needed for this kind of music. For spoken word, instruments being played directly in a mic- absolutely... But lets not stretch things that far to make a point.

    (ribbons are the only dynamic microphone I would consider for distant micing- and even then they have their issues...)

  14. Sonarerec

    Sonarerec Guest

    We must have different definitions of great. A superb choir in a superb hall with no restrictions on time to sort out placement CAN yield a musically pleasing result. But there is no getting around the limitations of dynamic cardioids for this sort of music. If you include really good EQ in "your equipment" that will surely help, but it all gets down to a comparison with some truly GREAT choral recordings (the Robert Shaw things with Telarc done in Spivey Hall come to mind) and I submit that unbiased ears will find the SM58 version lacking in several ways.

    Money spent on gear is no guarantee of anything, but if spent wisely it will at the very least eliminate most barriers in the quest for technically and musically great results, IMHO.

  15. larsfarm

    larsfarm Active Member

    A university choir does not have to mean less than the very best. I don't know which university choir the OP refers to, but there are university choirs that are among the very finest choirs in the world. King's College Choir from Cambridge for instance...

  16. DavidSpearritt

    DavidSpearritt Well-Known Member

    Agreed KCC is wonderful of course. I use to sing in a couple of uni choirs, it was a lot of fun.

    But now, amateur choirs make me weep, and its not the emotion welling from the music.
  17. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:

    Okay - to all the neigh-sayers - here's a recording that was done with:

    3 SM57s
    2 Beta 57s

    It was recorded through a Peavey board into a 16 bit DAT. I had to set the levels prior to recording and then leave them cuz you see, I'm the principal horn in the group.

    Here it is:

    (Dead Link Removed)

    Oh and David - just for you, here's a real gem. Recorded with All Schoeps microphones going through Grace Preamps -

    (Dead Link Removed)
    I promise you'll love it so much, you won't be able to keep your dinner down!

    :lol: :lol: :lol:

    J. :shock:
  18. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    BTW - the only real problem with the recording of Lark is that it is characteristically bright. (A problem with the SM57s) This is not an insurmountable problem.

    (Oh, and there is that wierd oboe entrance too...)

    The reason I was using the Shures was simple. The church where we performed this event - the sound guy said - don't worry about bringing any equipment, we have it all to record for you. That was 6 years ago and I haven't trusted anyone like that again!

    BTW - sorry for the abrupt fade out - I was in a hurry when prep-ing the MP3 tonight.

  19. Sonarerec

    Sonarerec Guest

    The subject of university choirs is broad indeed. King's is one of the finest Oxbridge choirs, but many (myself included) consider St John's College ( 400 yards down King's Promenade) often a shade better.

    The boys function the same as in an English Cathedral, although only a handful are boarding schools as in days gone by. The boys rehearse by themselves in the morning, and in the afternoon with the choral scholars (in the choirs that use male students) or layclerks (adult males). Then at approx 5pm the entire choir sings choral evensong, everyday except for the one "dayoff", which at King's is Monday and the "King's Voices" sing-- a choir made up of "normal" university students as opposed to the cream of the crop. The boys are there on full scholarship for a first-class education.

    Not all the university choirs sing daily evensong, and some are mixed (make and female rather than boy trebles). Clare College is a good example. Those choirs will sing the Sunday chapel services and perhaps one or two evensongs during the week. The cathedral choirs sing daily evensongs except for the one day that may be men only or trebles only.

    It is interesting to compare the "historic" sound of King's under Willcocks with adult male layclerks and now with male student choral scholars.

    In either case, performance standards of any ensemble will always be higher when there are 2 rehearsals and at least one performance every day of the week! The cathedral choirs sing about 300 services a year, less in the collegiate foundations. All take off summer term.

    In all other countries things are very different, but the standards can be VERY high, such as Westminster Choir College, Concordia, and others in the US. There are similarly superb university choirs in all the western countries, I am sure. And as for professional vs amateur, one usually does not find such a uniformity of concept in professional choirs, as many are full of singers who trained to be soloists rather than sing in an ensemble where projection is secondary.

  20. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Ahhh, yes. This is a problem in deed. This is also common of the first violin sections of a lot of orchestras. Many feel that they are soloists or have been trained to be so, but in reality, that kind of playing (or singing) is detrimental to the group.

    I'm making the assumption that this chorus at the top of this thread is not of the type in which Rich speaks. If they were, they would not have the grade of equipment that they have. KCC has seriously good equipment and a staff of engineers for recording. (Not to mention contracts with larger labels too...)

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