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Recording a string quartet

Discussion in 'Pro Audio Equipment' started by Ellegaard, Apr 23, 2004.

  1. Ellegaard

    Ellegaard Active Member

    Hello everyone,

    Next week I'll be buying some essential gear for my home recording
    studio. Still in doubt what monitors I will buy (it will be
    determined by careful listening though), I've quite settled on
    getting a pair of RØDE NT-5. A couple of condenser microphones that
    comes in a stereo pair.

    Firstly: Has anyone tried these or have any experience with them?

    Second: I'm planning to use them with my jazz string quartet. We had
    a session about a month ago in the studio here at the conservatory,
    and the way we recorded was with a single mic over every instrument
    (some sort of AKG, if I remember correctly) and a set of stereo
    microphones (Brüeler & Kjær, Danish high quality microphones) a few
    feet away from the ensemble. We ended up using only the individual
    microphones in the mix, leaving the stereo mics out. That decision, along with EQing and processing the acoustic instruments, wasn't very good though, and the sound on the Genelecs didn't transfer at all to any locations.

    But in regards to recording acoustic ensembles, namely string
    quartets, what techniques do you use? I like the close-up sound of
    the recording we made - it's very in-your-face, clear and authentic,
    but most importantly, is it possible to get the same sense of being close to the
    ensemble with a more ambience-kind of stereo microphones as the RØDE


    Christian Ellegaard, Denmark
  2. RecorderMan

    RecorderMan Distinguished Member

    I generally like Large Diaphragm condensers up. out and over Violins and Violas, and the same kind of mics, down and out a couple of feet, a bit above bridge level. A Stereo Pair or 3-mic Decca tree can be good in addition, but usually just for something bigger than a quartet. With the quartet I'm content with the sound of the individual mics, properly placed and balanced.
  3. Ellegaard

    Ellegaard Active Member

    I hear you on the individual mics issue - but in classical-style recording I believe one wants much more of an ensemble sound than instruments individually miked up resulting in an awkward stereo image. I know that it's a great way of recording strings for pop tunes, allowing you to freely distribute the parts to anywhere in the mix, but when a string quartet plays its own works alone I don't think it works.

    The RODE mics I thought of are, I see, small diaphragm microphones. Do you have any suggestions to other microphones that would give me a better result with plain stereo miking than the RODE, within the same budget?


  4. Munxcub

    Munxcub Member

    I have used RODE nt5's and compared them to Neumann km184 (both are small diaphragm condensers) used as an XY pair on an acoustic guitar, I actually liked the RODEs a little better. Now, I would suggest getting those rodes, along with an NT2. Use one of the NT5's with the NT2 in a MS pair, great imaging, lots of room ambience and perfect mono compatibility.
  5. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    So far the Rode microphones have been really amazing. They are not Neumann, AKG, Schoeps, or B&K but they do sound good and are really well built. I own the NTK and the NT-4. The NTK is very good for vocals and the NT-4 is great for drum overhead and picking up classical ensembles and stereo pickup for acoustical guitars.

    As to string ensemble recordings...

    I personally prefer the Decca Tree method of recording string ensembles but this is also the system we use for all our classical recording. I use three Audio Technicas AT4050s all in bi directional or omni pickup pattern. I very seldom. if ever, mic the individual players in the ensemble since it is not what most ensembles want unless their name happens to be Kronos.

    Hope this helps.

  6. Ellegaard

    Ellegaard Active Member

    Yes, that definitely cleared up some things. I'm not particularly experienced, being a musician myself but doing recording on a home basis. Seems to me that while there is room for studio experiment in the 'rhythmical' rock/pop genre, where the production in a sense may be a part of the composition process, the classical music (or, rather, acoustic music in general) is much more music in itself, so to say, and needs only to be put on tape as it is, with as little modification as possible.

    Like I said, my budged is pretty low, but the NT-5s seem like a very good option, especially after having heard your comments on them. Another product I've been thinking about is the ADK, Chinese made replica microphones that are quite cheap but said to sound very well too. Any experience with that brand?


  7. Ellegaard

    Ellegaard Active Member

    By the way, Tom, Oberlin, Ohio? Do you happen to have any connection to the conservatory there? I've been thinking of taking a year over there some time.
  8. Ellegaard

    Ellegaard Active Member

    Having investigated the case elsewhere also, another suggestion came up: Using omni-directional microphones. How does that sound to you? More specifically, within the budget, the Studio Projects' B3 microphone seems very versatile and maybe better suited for recording a string quartet ensemble.
  9. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    I was the Director of Audio Services and Concert Sound for 26 years at Oberlin but I quit there 10 years ago to start my mastering business.

    Great school, Great professors, rather high tuition. ($43,000.00 last time I checked for tuition, room and board.)

  10. lorenzo gerace

    lorenzo gerace Active Member


    I regulary use my pair of Rode NT5 for all of my acoustic/classical recording, and I agree with the above comments: they're not in the league of Schoepps or B&K, but for a small fraction of the price you get a very usable set of mics matched (one of mine got dropped during a session so I guess they're not matched anymore... :cry: ) for stereo recordings.
    I guess that the "you get what you pay for" sentence is applicable here, but the Rode are a pleasant surprise for mics that economic.

    As I'm writing this I'm preparing for tonight session: I'm recording a piano/double bass recital at the local conservatory (good room, with vaulted ceiling and lots of wood and stone) that will comprise pieces from Beethoven, Schubert and Schumann.

    I set up the NT 5 as an overhead stereo pair in an ORTF fashion (for smaller ensembles it's the stereo technique I favor), plus I supplemented piano with close miked AT 4040 (bass and treble side) and Blue Baby Bottle on double bass.

    I recorded the rehearsals yesterday (the producer wants to have a bit more material to be able to edit the performance for the record), and the sound is nice and airy, but you can add focus with the spot mics when mixing.

    I once used the NT5s in a string quartet session too, but I didn't like them as close up mics on violin and viola: too much detail for that kind of music (even though it was a contemporary piece); to me the best way to get a good quartet recording is to use a stereo pair and work extensively on mic placement and balance of the players, if the room sounds good you can back off a bit, otherwise something like 6 to 10' should be a good starting point, with a height of 6 to 7.

    As an alternative pair of mics I'd check out the AT 3031 serie (I have the 3035 and they kick some serious butt) or the 4051, Audio Technica being my favorite manufacturer for affordable yet killer sounding mics.

    Hope this helps

  11. lowland

    lowland Guest

    Hi All,

    I've had good quartet results with a Soundfield SPS422 placed at head height as if you were sitting down in front of the group listening to their performance, again about 6-10' back.

    The Soundfield is stereo and you can adjust things like polarity remotely - in a good-sounding room I think I was using a fairly 'soft' cardioid (i.e. tending towards omni) approach and the warm faithfulness of the mic was very well received by the players.

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