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Orchestra recording-which hanging mics here

Discussion in 'Microphones' started by Aaron, Feb 8, 2016.

  1. Aaron

    Aaron Active Member

    Some of the orchestras I've seen have engineers using various types of mics hanging from the ceiling and I've been wondering which ones the tiny ones are in this video from Symphony Hall,Boston. From what I've seen they generally use maybe a half dozen hanging across at the front of the stage, what appear to be "full size" small-diaphragm, omnis maybe. But over different sections of the orchestra they use small-diaphragm mics that look like they're no more than 2" or so.
    In this video you can see a good array of them at :20 and closer detail of the tiny ones at :35

    What types of mics are these and are there any places online I can read more about models, specs, pricing, experiences with them, further sound samples,etc?

  2. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    Schoeps is a major orchestra brand mic. Neumann Km's i believe also. Some orchestras use a 'decca tree' which is a stand that holds a 5 mic array, usually in a sweet spot near the conductor.

    My buddy actually recorded them one time for wgbh, I believe he used Neumann mics.

    I think the general idea is the room first, i.e. Orchestra as a whole, then a few spot mics over each section.

    Schoeps run in the 1700-3500 range price wise, I am not sure which models are regarded as preferable for this application. Sweetwater reps might have some more insight.

    Lol that's all I got... Orchestra recording is fascinating to me, just haven't looked into it much.
  3. Sean G

    Sean G Well-Known Member

    Sorry off topic...but I can't help but watch an orchestra and think of this....

    - Leopold !!!
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  4. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    and DPA 4011, 4006 and so on. DPA are top on my list.
    kmetal likes this.
  5. dvdhawk

    dvdhawk Well-Known Member

    Those might all be Sennheiser MKH series.

    Schoeps, DPA, Royer, Earthworks, Neumann would be candidates for an orchestral job.
    kmetal likes this.
  6. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member


    Royer, Schoeps, Earthworks, DPA's and Neumann's are the orchestral go-to's. Possibly Bruel and Kjar's ( B&K) as well.

    But as Hawk mentioned, there are others too; like Sennheiser, and upper level AT's could likely be found as well.

    But none of them are cheap, or budget series mics from these manufacturers - LOL, I don't even think that Schoeps has a "budget" line. Schoeps is one of those mics where if you have to ask how much... well... ;)
  7. Aaron

    Aaron Active Member

    It's never off topic seeing Bugs Bunny conducting orchestras ;) classic.

    From what you all were saying, I did a search and noticed Schoeps and the Sennheiser's make the minis like that; other brands too probably. And yes of course I would love to be able to afford all of the mics you mention. I was reading an older forum piece where a grammy-winning Decca engineer was described as using several of the Neumann M149 tubes http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/M149 . Must be nice being able to purchase many $5,000+ mics
    And the Royer ribbons recording pianos, gorgeous

    Thanks for the info,
  8. paulears

    paulears Well-Known Member

    Where there is an orchestral imbalance, especially for TV, flown spot mics are the only practical way to get that one oboe line audible. With no cameras, they'd be using different mics for each instrument that needed assistance. Flown ones will be the big budget ones if the production merits it, in lower budget ones, flown omnis, like MKE-2's have been used, and even a few flown cardioids can help, if you can aim them properly.

    From my own experience, the biggest problem is the balance and blend. It's so easy to mess up the stereo field with multimics and a stereo pair or cluster, like a Decca Tree. I'm far too inexperienced to make the damn things work properly.
  9. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    When I assisted at Telar c, for a short time, years ago ( early 90's)... the one thing that made those Cleveland Orchestra recordings sound so fantastic was the environment that they performed in - Severance Hall. That place is an acoustic dream.

    The engineers spent as much time - if not maybe more - getting the room miked up, as they did the orchestra itself.

    Decca Trees were common, so were Neumann Dummy Heads. There were also "flown" and "spot" Neumanns, Schoeps and Bruel & Kjars. To the best of my recollection, all the preamps were solid state. I don't recall seeing any tube mics or tube preamps anywhere, although they did have some tube based limiters and EQ's in their production facility's post room.

    In fact, for the short time I was there ( I got the assistant gig because I had rented them a DAT machine; I was one of the first engineers/studios - if not the first studio in the Cleveland area - to actually have a DAT; they heard that I had one and called me in for a few weeks to operate the deck and show their guys how to use it; ) I spent most of the time simply watching, learning, and volunteering to help lug gear and wrap cables. I saw several SSL racks, along with some API gear as well. They also had a Euphonics console at the time for post-pro. I don't recall seeing any Neve gear, but that doesn't mean they didn't have any... I just didn't notice any at the time.

    Severance Hall, the winter/fall home of The Cleveland Orchestra. It's as wonderful sounding as it looks. Notice the lack of right angle corners, and how everything is "curved" where walls and ceilings meet each other. The drapes hanging from the ceiling are "clouds" that along with the room's construction, are also crucial to the sound. ;)

  10. Sean G

    Sean G Well-Known Member

    That looks like an amazing space...such style and grandeur fit for an orchestra.

    I watched a Warren Huart vid on YT a few weeks ago and they were interviewing Rocco Guarino at Lavish Studios...they had red velvet drapes on the ceiling just like the image above of Severence Hall...this was the first time I had seen a cloud like this. Very Interesting.

    I wonder if changing the length or the size of the "wave" of the cloud would change the frequency it responds to ?
  11. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I'm sure that changing the mass would... making it thicker would result in it absorbing lower frequencies; the amount of the RT60 attenuation would also be dependent upon the type of the material, too, of course; density/mass being a factor.
    I don't know if they have a way to easily change the amount of that at Severance or not, or if they'd even want to. I've been there many times and I've never noticed it ever looking any different than it always does... but I can't say for sure.

    But for more detailed technical info on that, we'd have to turn to Brien or Kyle as they are far more knowledgeable in that area than I. ;)
    (@Brien Holcombe @kmetal )

    There is another concert hall near me that is located on the University of Akron Campus - E J Thomas hall; which is - or at least was, the last time I heard - the home of the Akron Symphony Orchestra; as well as having some more current and popular music acts, and some off Broadway touring plays; but, they've recently fallen on hard times, so I'm not sure if they are even doing anything there now, or if it's even open anymore.

    I know I've been on that stage several times as a musician, doing shows in several different acts over the years. The first time I walked across its stage I was a Senior in high school, graduating and getting my diploma, although it had only been around for just a couple years then. ;) I think it was built in '74 or so.

    It does have remote-controlled movable acoustic baffles; entire sections of the ceiling can be altered in position using a system of motors, pulleys, cantilevers and suspended cylinder weights - although I've never been able to get close enough to the panels to see what they are actually constructed of, as they are recessed into the ceiling. Actually, the baffles are the ceiling; which is broken up into many different movable sections.
    Here's a pic of the hall, showing the ceiling sections with the baffles built in:


    And one of a section of the lobby, showing one group of the suspended weights that act as counter balances to the ceiling sections; I remember playing there years ago, talking to a stage hand, and he told me that the cylinders weigh around a ton... per cylinder.

  12. Sean G

    Sean G Well-Known Member

    Wow..thats one amazing ceiling.

    My question was more on the "loops" that fall in series on the drape cloud at Severance Hall, and being of curious mind, whether the loops respond differently according to their size, or radius of the loops...

    - Would a loop with a bigger radius absorb a lower frequency than say, a loop with a smaller radius in theory ?
    Does the radius of the hanging loop corellate with the size of the soundwave ?...or am I on the wrong track here:confused:

    Maybe one of our resident experts may be able to answer this ?

    Edit - my apologies to the OP for steering the thread in another direction, but I'm intrigued by this...and thinking if replicating this on a smaller scale would have any benefit in any way.
  13. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I think RT60 attenuation has to do more with the mass/density of the treatment than it does with the shape or configuration, Sean.

    I guess you might get some diffusion by using different configurations, but I'm not sure how much, or, if at all. To my knowledge, diffusion is more of a harder surface thing, like using wooden slats, or brick surfaces that are irregular. But I suppose you could have a treatment device capable of delivering both absorption and diffusion at the same time. I've seen convex shaped parabolic diffusers that were filled with dense absorbent material.

    Again, Brien or Kyle needs to weigh in. I'm just guessing.
  14. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    Concert halls are above my pay grade. :) in general the larger the airspace behind an absorber the more low end it attenuates. I'm not sure if the loop correlates with the sound wave but my guess would be where it reflects sound so. The wider the loop the wider the dispersion and vice versa. I can't really tell what it's made of so its difficult to say how much is reflecting or at what frequencies. If your talking bass traps the depth of the trap has to be 1/4 of the wavelength of the frequency it's trying to absorb. So if 30hz is 40ft long, the trap would have to be 10ft thick. This is I'm guessing why you see tuned traps, to hit frequencies without cavernous depth. Again some of this is speculation. My guess is the cloud is draped to be broadband in nature. That way your keeping a well rounded range of frequencies being handled. As opposed to focusing on a more narrow set.

    I think with stages like that it's important to have them fairly live with reflections aiming back at the orchestra. They don't have stage monitors so they ate playing to the stage sound.

    I'm curious about what's going on w those side walls.

    Theater design is another level. The art of natural application and even dispersion dates way back to the Roman era or before. They understood they're geometry. I'm not sure at what era helmholtz discovered/invented the resonator, but it has become a huge part of acoustic design since. Wiki says 1863.

    With rooms this size dispersion, diffusion, decay times, and reflections become the focus. In small rooms the parameters are different, mainly focused on keeping a free undisturbed path from speaker to ear, and the mighty all important bass trap.

    I'm sure I'll have to say in this area as I start learning classical theory and orchestral type things.

    I belive there's a couple convolution reverbs out there with some models of famous orchestra halls, I think the one in Amsterdam is modeled.

    Lol my reply could not have been more vague and non-descript. Always room to learn in the music world.
  15. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    from wiki:

    "Some acoustic problems were soon observed in Severance Hall shortly after its opening in 1931. These were attributed in part to the use of velvet curtains for the boxes, thick carpeting throughout much of the hall, and the fact that the stage, designed for theatrical productions, had a large, sound-absorbing fly space above it. In addition, the removable stage shells created for the orchestra to play within were constructed of non-sound-reflective materials, which also allowed sound from the hall's original organ to be heard from its position above the stage's fly space. The 6,025-pipe Ernest M. Skinner organ was a massive instrument for its day, but its positioning outside the auditorium itself was something of an experiment and limited choices for addressing the auditorium's dry acoustics.

    In 1958, at the instigation of Music Director George Szell, a complete acoustical redesign of the hall was undertaken. To make the auditorium more resonant, the original proscenium and blue velvet drapes were removed and the placement of carpet was reduced to a minimum. On the stage a permanent acoustical shell was built (affectionately known as 'The Szell Shell'). The new shell consisted of thick wooden walls surrounding the orchestra in a series of convex curves. The heavy wood walls were further filled with sand to heights of up to nine feet to make them less absorbent and more reflective of sound.[4] The result was a new, vibrant-sounding space which complemented the refined, brilliant sound of the orchestra under Szell's direction.

    Visually, however, the severe new Modernist stage clashed with the elegant Art Deco design of the auditorium. In addition, the organ's pipe chambers were effectively sealed off from the auditorium by the new shell. This made the organ all but non-functional, its sound being transferred into the auditorium via microphones and speakers."

    source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Severance_Hall
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  16. Aaron

    Aaron Active Member

    No problem at all! I've been away from the computer for a day and am reading this great information. It's all sound candy to me and appreciate reading the knowledge for future reference. Let it go where it may. Agreed too, that ceiling is spectacular in design and I'm sure function.

    I have this article bookmarked from when I saw it last year sometime. It's an interview with the founder of Sound Mirror http://www.soundmirror.com/ , the company that records, archives, and helps broadcast the Boston Symphony concerts. They have quite a discography too.
  17. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Apparently, Severance Hall started out as too dead when it was originally built in 1931.

    It was in 1958 that their director at that time ( George Szell) called for modifications to be made to the room to "liven" it up. You can see the wiki excerpt above for more info if you like.

    I've seen it ( Severance Hall) occasionally as a convolution reverb response choice; I don't remember where though, it's been a few years. It may have been part of one of the Bricasti convolution libraries, or maybe TC Electronics. Those two manufacturers do offer convolution impulse responses for many famous rooms and environments, although I would doubt they would sound as good as a real TC or Bricasti, and I'd certainly be dubious as to them being as good as the real spaces.

    Severance Hall is one of those places that you really have to actually be there to truly experience.

    Or, you could probably find Telarc recordings of the Cleveland Orchestra on youtube that could at least give you an idea, and perhaps get you close to the audial experience of being there.
  18. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    recorded live at Severance:

  19. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

  20. Aaron

    Aaron Active Member

    I'm an architecture photographer and will share that video with my 'network'. I'm sure the architects will get a kick out of that. I'm also listening to the audio of that Severance Hall recording and although I can't comment about every moment of this hour-plus masterpiece, it sounds glorious and rather 'present'.
    Here's an article from yesterday about the newly re-designed engineers' control room at Symphony Hall Boston.

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