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Piano recording advice

Discussion in 'Piano' started by counterpoint, Nov 16, 2007.

  1. counterpoint

    counterpoint Guest

    Hey folks, I've been interested in recording myself play on my upright piano for my own use. I would like some advice if you have any to offer. I don't have an unlimited budget but at the same time don't want to buy something that won't last me a long time or will skimp out on sound quality. What I do have is my PC with Q6600, Zalman 9700 HSF, 4gig ram, 8800gts, m-audio audiophile 2496 that I built myself, currently running XP but I plan to switch over to Vista within a year.

    I've read Paul's guide and like the end result but also agree its a tad bit bass heavy.


    1. As of right now I am considering buying two AKG C 414 B-XLS. Is there any other mics I should consider? Groove Tubes maybe? Any arguments against the AKGs in terms of price/performace? Is buying a matched pair of any importance to me? Is buying used from ebay of any issue? Any demos I can hear of piano/akg available online? I'm looking for a warm sound.

    2. If the computer is in the same room will the mics pic up any of the fan noise? (my computer is pretty quiet btw, barely audible) If it will I want to keep my computer in another room. Does mic cable length have any effect on sound quality?

    3. I was also considering the Presonus Firepod. I've read lots of high praise for this unit. Any issues with it on Vista PCs?

    4. Is the mic pres on the firepod good enough? Should I be considering quality external mic pres? If I get something like The Brick what is the best way to interface to the computer? Any quality stereo pres that won't break the bank?

    5. What is the most suitable software I should consider? I want the best sound quality without the confusion, I'm not recording a 100 piece orchestra afterall.

    Thanks in advance.
  2. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Dec 10, 2001
    Pacific NW
    I read some of that article you put up and it makes sense. The one thing that stood out was the 'experiment, experiment,experiment' statement.

    His findings were of a singular nature. Each piano is a soul all by itself and uprights are the hardest of all to deal with. At least with a grand your playing position puts you physically away from the mics. An upright, not so much.

    I have an upright in my studio. Its at least 80 years old. I record it with the front off. I use tight pattern'd mics for this as I dont want any spillage from the back.

    I use a vintage U87 Neumann at around middle C and an Audio Technica 4033 positioned two and a half octaves above. I also (sometimes) use Crown PZMs on plexiglass panels a foot off of the back. It sounds like a piano.

    Both mics are in the cardioid settings (the 4033 is cardioid only). I set them both horizontally in a foot or so from the strings between the damper and the hammers. I rotate them in their baskets until the sound gets to that "place" and then I push the red button.

    I really like Focusrite Red pres for piano. I imagine any really good pre would do the job. I'm not sure a Brick would be my choice as they are a little on the dark side of things. I want to try John Hardys for this and would also like the Portico . I think you want clean and clear but also something that has dimension. All of these pres have all that and a bowl of soup.
  3. TheBear

    TheBear Guest

    regarding the akg's for piano...they are awesome, but two mics i like better, one of which might be to much out of ur budget.

    shure ksm44's sound awesome, akg c414's with a smidgeon of eq sound as good as the 44's to me.

    or a pair of u87's haha
  4. BobRogers

    BobRogers Distinguished Member

    Apr 4, 2006
    Blacksburg, VA
    I have two C414 B-ULS that I bought on eBay, and I've been very happy with them. I use them as a coincident pair. They were bought in separate auctions, but the serial numbers are fairly close, and they match well enough for me. If you are good at selling on eBay there is not that much risk in buying them there since the price for used ones is pretty stable. So even if you discover a mic you like better some day you won't lose a lot of money by having bought a pair of C414s.

    In general, having a pair of good multipattern mics like the C414s along with good mic stands and shock mounts (which will be a significant fraction of your investment) gives you a huge collection of recording options. As every one says - the key is experimentation. Every piano and every room is different. With a pair of multipatterns you can try all of the stereo techniques in the book - as well as the techniques you are looking at.

    Let us know what you end up doing. I'm going to be doing some experiments with recording my grand piano, and I'll let you know what I find.
  5. counterpoint

    counterpoint Guest

    Please help me narrow down my mic choices.

    1. one akg 414 b xls for roughly $650
    2. two akg 414 b xls for roughly $1300
    3. two AT4040s for roughly $500
    4. two AT4050s for roughly $900
    5. two studio projects B3s for $400
    6. two studio projects C3s for $650

    I'm going insane trying to decide!
  6. hummel

    hummel Guest

    Counterpoint, you shouldn't be posting your questions in two separate threads - that's 'bad' form :)
  7. counterpoint

    counterpoint Guest

  8. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Dec 10, 2001
    Pacific NW
    You cannot go wrong with TWO multipattern mics. Two 4050's or two 414's will keep you supplied in mics for many years to come. Both are superb at what they do.
  9. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Mar 8, 2004
    Fredericksburg, VA
    Consider the Shures already mentioned. To my ears, they're a tad sweeter on piano than the 414s and the 4050s are a tad too forward (good on Van Halen or Elton John style piano...) They represent a wonderful middle ground that many mics strive for.

    The 4040s are great budget mics. I own a pair of them and find that in many situations they work well. However, if they are used to pick up larger sections or instruments, they tend to show their limitations by getting a little boxy and closed in. They're a great spot mic for orchestra (harp, solo flute, etc.) but I wouldn't use them on piano.

    As much as I personally don't care for the 414, it's a studio staple and you've probably heard more pianos recorded with a pair of C414 B-ULS than most any other mic out there.

    As for mic cable length - no problems there. Not until you get to insane lengths. It's not uncommon for me to hit the 300-500 foot mark on cables and I often to mostly run 150 feet of cable even on low-gain ribbon mics.



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