recording close-harmony live

Discussion in 'Location Recording' started by gcb, Mar 15, 2005.

  1. gcb

    gcb Guest

    Hi everybody!

    I'm new as of today, and I would like to launch this request for information:
    I sing in a close-harmony choir (pop, spirituals, classical music), and we are looking for microphones to record our live performances.
    We are a group of 12 people, 6 male, 6 female, and usually we sing in a semicircle. The places where we sing vary from churches to municipal halls, town halls, etc...
    We're looking for something of a certain level, say around 500 euros / dollars for a pair of microphones.

    Can anybody give me any tips?

    Thanx a lot!!
  2. DavidSpearritt

    DavidSpearritt Well-Known Member

    Now, I have recorded a barbershop quartet CD and the Ten Tenors that turned out really great, and used Blumlein of course. This is the ultimate mic technique for close harmony because you need the location accuracy and blend that no other technique does as well. The proximity "warming" effect of close miked Blumlein is also useful for vocal ensembles.

    But for live recording you do not want the rear of the array picked up so an ORTF pair is going to be your friend in this case. Also you have many pretty ordinary acoustics to deal with, again ORTF is useful here.

    I have a warm fuzzy feeling recommending an Aussie mic (not really), but a couple of Rode NT5's may be suitable but be warned they are harsh and "rock" sounding. You will need to EQ them to soften the result.
  3. ptr

    ptr Active Member

    I quite dislike the Röde NT5 on just about anything, especially voice, in Europe You can get a matched pair of Oktava MC012 with four capsules for about 450 euro.

    I agree with David that Blumlein would be best in the studio and ORTF for live situations..

  4. zemlin

    zemlin Well-Known Member

    I had great success with an omni/figure-8 "MS" setup, where I mixed in only enough of the side mic to give a little spread, but not enough to break up the blend.
  5. gcb

    gcb Guest

    ehmm... at the risk of sounding very ignorant, I have to inform you that I am not very familiar with the techniques you mention.
    You see: I never do these recordings, as I am part of the choir. The guy that does the recording will surely understand what you are talking about (assuming I succeed in translating to Italian, myself being Dutch... :D ). I will pass on everything anyway.
    The main issue for us at this particular moment, though, is that we would like to try out some microphones, renting them, before actually buying them, if possible.
    As I understand, the Oktava microphones with an ORTF technique would give a nice result? What exactly is an ORTF technique (just in case this acronym does not mean anything n Italian... :lol: )?
  6. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    For a bit more of an explanation of what they are talking about, go to: and then click on the "Microphone University" button on the toolbar on the left. (They also publish their website in Danish, I believe, if that is of any more use to you.)

    And be gentle with your sound engineer. He may get his hackles up if he thinks you're trying to tell him how to do his job. :twisted:
  7. gcb

    gcb Guest

    I went to the DPA University, and if I understand correctly, the difference between ORTF, XY, and Blumlein is all in the placement of the microphones: angle and distance? ORTF being 17 cm apart, with a 110 degrees angle?

    Don't worry about our technician: we virtually worship him!! and, besides, we have no choice: he is the husband of one of the altos, and does this as a favor to us... We can only say "yes, thank you very much, and that would be great".... :roll:

    No seriously: one thing this guy tells us is that it's going to be difficult to rent these things, those mikes not being top-line expensive studio equipment...
    Because of this, it is essential for us to obtain some information from experts before buying... That's why this forum seemed appropriate to me....
  8. John Stafford

    John Stafford Well-Known Member

    While I agree that Rode NT5s would not normally be my first choice for vocals (especially for such a small group), the reverberation of the hall can change this completely. I use my NT5s to record a group four singers in one particular venue, and the result is both detailed and warm sounding. The venue is very reverberant, but it's a very soft reverb, and I mic more closely than usual and things balance out very well. However, while this is the setup I use, I would be hesitant to recommend this setup to someone else, as the result is not what I would normally expect from the NT5.

    Be careful buying Oktava, as it's a bit like entering a lottery, especially if you want a matched pair. I recently bought an MKL500 and had to return it. The replacement was better, but I had to change the valve as the quality of the one that was installed was terrible. I'm currently looking for yet another valve that will improve the signal to noise ratio. It's a shame, as the capsule is wonderful.

    For a small group, a pair of Audio Technica AT4033s might be your best bet given your budget. You can get them cheaply at They will be VERY visible though.

  9. gcb

    gcb Guest

    visibility of the microphones is not an issue, I woould say. Worst case, they impress the public! :D
    I had word from our technician, and we are currently using a pair of Shure 516 EQ. I am not s(h)ure (pardon the pun) of what level these are, because the brand seems ok, but what of the model...??
    The whole idea is to make a significant step forward in quality from these mikes... preferably staying within our budget of 500 euros...

    I did not find the AT4033's on the site you indicated...
    Rode? Oktava? AT?

    tnx again,

  10. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    I think it's time you upgraded your microphones; I did a google search and found a picture of it at this site (pretty good place to find/see what these mics look like....they seem to be working on some master list of every mic ever made...):

    In any case, you've got a pair of dynamic, hand-held mics that were probably issued in the late 60's to mid 70s; good for pop music; live shows, tv, etc; usually hand-held. (At least that's when I remember using something similar to this, also made by Shure - looks very similar if not identical to something they sold called the "Unidyne" - what they called a "Unidirectional Dynamic mic" - a cardioid, but in laymans terms, I suppose.)

    First thing I'd do would be to switch all that EQ OUT of the circuit if you're going to use it for anything else. I doubt it's doing much good....use your mixer or software EQ to make any changes. Those switches are only going to add noise or muck up the signal more than it needs to be.

    But seriously, you'll want to upgrade from these mics as soon as possible; they're not very good for serious choral recording, and wont give you the detail and responsiveness of good condenser microphones.

    Dynamics work in a different way - they're a magnet & moving coil technology, and as such aren't as sensitive to sound pressure changes the way a fixed-charged membrane (condenser/capacitor) microphone works. I'm over-simplifying the explanation here for now, but suffice it to say: They're damn fine for stage work, close-up vocals with plosives (yelling, screaming, spitting, and blowing into, along with being dropped, rained-upon, etc.) but they don't capture the details like a good condenser will. (which is why, for so many years - decades, even - you rarely saw someone risk a high-quality condenser mic on a live stage setting, esp in rock and roll.)

    Nowadays you've got choices; PLENTY of them. It's a buyers market, and you have many many good options to get a better sound for your recordings.

    Have fun, and good luck with the results.
  11. John Stafford

    John Stafford Well-Known Member

    That's a little odd. I'm sure it's a mistake on the site, but you could try http://. They have both exported stuff to me in the past but I'm not sure they'll send to the Continent. You might also be interested in the AT4040, which was a replacement for the 4033, but due to public demand the 4033 was returned to the marketplace, but with a higher price tag.

    You might also like to try they export worldwide, and their prices are not bad. Also try but I haven't used either of these sites, although I have heard that Musicians Gear can keep you waiting several weeks, as they don't keep anything in stock.

    I'm a big fan of AT, and they have mics to suit every budget. I'd avoid Oktava unless you are buying from a good dealer who has tested them first. Their quality control is extremely bad so you might end up with junk, and there are dealers who sell their rejects. It's a shame, as good Oktavas are wonderful.

    Good luck with the search!

  12. gcb

    gcb Guest

    One of the more probable places where I will go to shop will be
    Of what stock they have, what would you recommend for our recording situation?
  13. John Stafford

    John Stafford Well-Known Member

    Perhaps others on the site can offer you better advice, but my choice would be the AT4040 or 3035. One of the reasons for this is that AT mics tend to be fairly well matched. This is not the case with all manufacturers, especially in this price range. I have to say that the price on the AT4040 is quite high -even by European standards. It's a shame considering the great price on the AKG 414 XLS.

    Another possibility is the AKG C3000B. However, many people hate this mic, as it can very hard sounding in the higher frequencies.

    The Rode NT1000 is a very good mic. I think that it's very worthy of your consideration. I'd probably choose a pair of these.

    Good Luck!
    John Stafford

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