Surround and Acoustic music

Discussion in 'Location Recording' started by ptr, Oct 7, 2005.

  1. ptr

    ptr Active Member

    I've got an upcoming Orcestral concert to record and I have a chance to experiment a bit with surround recording. Having very little xperience with this other than having listened to a bunch of surround DVDs with classical music, always feeling ripped of because the mix sounded unnatural and nothing like a "live concert experience".. (I'm expecting my first won't either..)

    I'm planning to use my regular stereo orchestral setup for the front channels (cutting the center channels as I really don see any use for it in music).

    But then?

    I discussed the set up with a local collegue and he sugested trying 8's for the back channels (in 4.1 or 6.1), with the null of the 8 facing the stage (Something he said had been developed by Japanese radio engineers?).

    What do the collective wisdom say about this?

    Any other suggestion on back channel setups?

    I'll be multitracking so there'll be space to record lotts of channels and try stuff later in the mix..

  2. DavidSpearritt

    DavidSpearritt Well-Known Member

    Go have a beer. Surround is very overrated. :)
  3. ptr

    ptr Active Member

    I never fool around with beer when I work! (I once drunk Castlemaine 4X and was f-upped for days just wanting more.. :p )

    From my listening experience I already know its overrated, but its fun to experiment with things that You dont know..

  4. DavidSpearritt

    DavidSpearritt Well-Known Member

    Although I live in the city that created Castlemaine, I hate the stuff. My way out in front favourite beer is
  5. Stradivariusz

    Stradivariusz Active Member

    Have you ever tried a Polish beer? No? Poor you!!! (y) Best beer in the world!!! And stereo still gave me so much fun - before and after beer :wink:

  6. satyr607

    satyr607 Active Member

    not to bring thing back to topic,...being drunk and all, first exp. in that env. ( :shock: ) would be to drag mike's up to the nosebleed sections and pan them to the rear channels,...kinda give that wierd live, big hall, from behind, reverb feel. Just a thought
  7. Sonarerec

    Sonarerec Guest

    Go to > microphone university> surround techniques

  8. ptr

    ptr Active Member

    Interesting, Thanks Rich..

  9. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Hey ptr!

    For what it's worth - I love doing surround recording for orchestral works. The problem is, so very often people can't afford or don't wish to have SACDs or DVD-As (or DTS, DVD-AC3s) produced. But, I still enjoy mixing them.

    I think much of what is being done in surround is borderline absurd - such as making the winds come from the rears, the outer strings appearing from left and right and middle strings appearing from center. Those that mix this way (and there are a few recordings like this) have never attended an orchestral concert.

    Personally, I do like the appeal of a good surround mix - one that properly approximates the real concert experience by providing a little bit of detail from the surrounds cueing one into the ambience of the particular hall.

    For all of my current surround endeavors, I have used omnis as my rears (as I have for my fronts too - did I mention, I like omnis...)

    Often, if there is a balcony (which, obviously, there usually is), I will affix my rear microphones to the balcony itself and use 19" goosenecks to get them away from the physical structure of the balcony so there's not too much of a problem with nasty reflections.

    Then, when I mix, I'm sure to keep the volume at an appropriate level so as not to produce the "in a small box" surround recording.

    The important thing is, as in 2 channel work, to have a good monitoring chain. Make sure your surround monitor system is up to the task.

    My favorite surround monitoring system so far is the Blue Sky system. It's affordable and sounds surprisingly good. You can mix your mains through your primary system then move the whole mix over to the Blue Sky and check for level accuracy.

  10. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    There are many reasons why folks don't like surround; Resistance to change is one of them, poorly done recordings another, plus the cost of a system good enough to do it all justice.

    Personally, I hate gimmicky stuff with guitars flying around, and pointless moving of things from the center soundstage. On the other hand, creating a true "You are there" experience for the 'best seat in the house" kind of listening (esp jazz and classical) is very rewarding indeed. It's not for the faint of heart, however, and you must have the chops to pull it all together properly. From knowing how to mic things properly for surround, to mixing it all on a costly (accurate) system, to the authoring softare, one can easily understand why it's not on everyone's favorite list.

    I have several favorite discs so far; interestingly many of them are lowly dolby 5.1 soundtracks for movies (make of that you will). I have fewer favorite "stand-alone" surruond audio-only (DVD-A & SACD) recordings, for the reasons mentioned above.

    I was fortunate enough to hear a couple of representative surround recordings (Pop AND Classical) over the weekend at AES NYC at the Lipinski booth, where they were demo'ing their L-707 system: 5 cabinets plus the Lipinski subwoofer, and let me tell you, with that kind of system, it becomes immediately apparant that every bit of effort that went into those recordings was well worth the effort indeed.
  11. alexaudio

    alexaudio Active Member

    Well-said Joe. Hope you had an enjoyable time at the AES this past weekend. I made presentations on two panels regarding surround. Guess we didn't cross paths. Next time we should set some time aside and meet one another.

    I agree that surround is certainly not for the faint at heart. This past weekend in NYC, I heard some wonderful examples of surround and some, well, pretty awful / awkward sounding ones too. Personally, I own many DVDs and SACDs of surround content, and have examples of well-produced material (Sting is a good example) and some rather poor material. I admittedly listen to content in all music genres, as I think it is important to understand and experience what is occurring in the surround mixing/producing market.

    Recording orchestra's and acoustic music in surround can be an extraordinary experience. Over the past year, I have recorded over 220 hours of surround material of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, May Festival, Vocal Arts Ensemble and others. I have also produced and/or am producing several recordings in surround including the Cincinnati Ballet Orchestra, St. Peter and Chains Cathedral (Choir and Organ), Vocal Arts Ensemble and several others. I’ll probably be thinking of producing a surround demo disc sometime next year.

    Far as storage/playback, I utilize Universal DVD as well as some of the newer versions of composite surround encoder/decoder solutions for HD Radio. I am very familiar with Neural Audio’s 5225 encode/decode product, SRS Labs Circle Surround and Dolby’s Prologic IIx system. I also have DTS and AC3 encoders.

    As many of you probably know, the AES Convention this past weekend just wrapped up in New York City. Many surround recordings, demonstrations, tutorials and workshops occurred. I myself gave the preliminary results of a cross-compatibility test on the composite surround encoder/decoder solutions for HD Radio as well as a live surround sound recording tutorial at the convention. Both were well received. It was very nice to see both young college age students as well as some of the most well respected engineers in classical, jazz and popular music all participating with one another in these topics. I had the wonderful opportunity to have one-on-one conversations with George Massenburg, Elliot Schneider and others whom I have a high degree of respect for regarding the acceptance of surround. I’ll be following up with many of them in the coming months.

    Regarding surround, I will simply state that surround is not over-rated. Surround can be an incredibly wonderful experience, but it takes time, practice and proper implementation of recording techniques, hardly any use of clipping and so much more to make it really shine. Once you understand the playback systems and recording techniques for surround, many have found surround ‘mixing’ MUCH more rewarding and satisfying than mixing in stereo.

    This topic is something that neither I nor anyone else can sum up in a short email or posting. However, if you would like to dive into recording acoustic ensembles in surround (in appropriate acoustic spaces of course), I can at least say that there are few things that are some good places to start.

    First off – read this document completely – to understand playback systems:

    Second, start studying and trying some of the recording techniques that have been developed for recording surround. For instance, the OCT Triangle (see is a wonderful technique. There is good information on DPA’s website. Also Soundelux is a good resource. The only system I recommend steering away from is the Holophone, simply not a sound solution (both how the system works as well as how they do business).

    The only other thing I will suggest, especially when you are learning with paying clients…work on the stereo recording first, then if you have time, dive into the surround recording setup. Another useful tip is to try and utilize techniques that can be applied to both stereo and surround (Decca Tree, OCT and the Schoeps Surround Microphone System utilizing the sphere and dual figure eights would apply). Listen to ITUR downmix’s of your work as this will often show errors in one’s ways with rear microphone placement (like having strong first order reflections off a back wall, balcony rail or similar surface becomes quite troublesome).

    Have fun and good luck!
  12. DavidSpearritt

    DavidSpearritt Well-Known Member

    I am so jealous of you guys in the States. You always have a market for anything. Here in Australia, I dunno any music lovers or pro musicians that have surround playback gear. Some hifi nuts, may have it, but they probably don't have to live with someone else in the house.

    Who listens to these surround recordings? When I want to listen to surround I go to the local concert hall. I really love music and listening to it but I don't think I ever want a surround playback system in my home. I do not want 6 speakers, subs, wires, amps etc in my lounge, and I suspect neither do a lot of the general public.

    I am still not sure its ever going to get up. I applaud all the research and effort by eveyone, but for the life of me cannot see it ever getting into the mainstream home.
  13. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Jeez - careful David!!! I hear if you utter those words in Australia right now, you might just find yourself on a raft outside the reef! :lol:

    Well, we have the same problem here. I did a questionnaire recently at 10 of my live recording concerts. (When folks came to buy a disc, my sales girl would hand them the questionnaire and offer a dollar off their purchase if they completed it.) The overwhelming majority did not have surround playback as a capability. Many of them (in fact, the vast majority of them) had not heard of DVD-A/SACD or even DTS or Dolby Digital! The age ranges on these forms were from as young as 15 and as old as 92.

    I do. But then again, I built my house around my listening room. You won't see cables anywhere and the speakers aren't *too* obtrusive. I love SACD and DVD-A and a great mindless action-adventure movie gets my spine tingling too.

    What I'm finding though, is that you are more or less correct. Most folks do not have this kind of set up. There are the occassional "twenty-somethings" out there who have taken the plunge and quite a few "Bose-heads" out there, but far more don't have this set up than do. (And trust me, I live in an area where the biggest/best house is a competition. You can order your custom built house with whole house audio provided by AMX/Niles systems with Revel speakers throughout the house - homes costing 2.5 million for 3500 sq feet!!!)

    I hope you aren't right, but I'm afraid you probably are. The scary thing is, if anything will drive folks to the surround-sound environment, it won't be good music or even crappy movies. It will be video games. Pure and simple - the market that really cares about surround sound is the video game market. A market that is made up more of 25 year olds than teen-agers nowadays! The problem is, they go to best buy and purchase these crappy Labtec surround setups for $79 (and it includes a sub!!!! Woo-friggin-hoo!)

    So, even if surround sound DOES catch on, I'm seriously afraid that quality will not be the order of the day, rather it will be what kind of sounds you can have flying around your head!

    Personally, I mix most concerts nowadays so that if the client comes to me 20 years from now and asks for a discrete surround mix, I can give it to them. However, in reality, I usually use only the mains and the surround channels may occasssionally be used for ambience.

    It truly is a shame. A well-mixed surround disc can sound great! Here's a few of my favorites (Most are Telarc...)

    Beethoven 9 - Telarc / Atlanta
    Mahler 1 - San Fran / Private label (they actually mix their own...)
    Mahler 6 - Telarc / Philharmonia Orchestra
    EPICS - Telarc / Cin Pops
    Diana Krall - forgot album/producer/engineer/label - sorry
    Classics - Telarc / Cin Pops

    And for sheer enjoyment, the Jerry Goldsmith tribute by Cin Pops with Telarc is just friggin cool. The star trek track gives me a woody every time!

  14. DavidSpearritt

    DavidSpearritt Well-Known Member

    One recent experience will be useful to relate. This year, I went to a very special live performance of Tristan und Isolde here in Brisbane. Local Brisbane girl, Lisa Gasteen sang Isolde and the very large and very powerful Australian Youth Orchestra almost stole the show. The shattering climax at the end of Act 1 was an outstanding experience, awesome in the true sense of that abused and diluted word.

    Now there's no way one could create that sound pressure level, that atmosphere or that acoustic image with any recording. Recordings are still a long way from a live concert and although surround will be moving it closer, trying to do this in the domestic environment is nuts. There's something very silly about trying to listen to an orchestra squeezed through a few little loudspeaker boxes. I can only really listen to orchestral music and opera live.

    I live in a small apartment, neighbours are close, I would be hauled off by the cops if I had a surround system. But I guess if you are wealthy, can build a huge house, away from complaints, then you may get close to getting the surround playback conditions right, but then you are still miles from Wagner in a theatre and my experience of such people is that they have no interest in music.

    Life is complicated enough now, and the preference with many people is not to go for buckets of electronics in the home. Hence the popularity of the iPod.

    I am watching the whole surround marketing machine with great interest, but feel great when I am at the box office. :)
  15. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    I don't know David. I kind of disagree.

    While I think it's very difficult to get a good sounding performance from loudspeakers of full orchestral material, there are many systems which do a VERY admirable job.

    I have listened to systems containing B&Ws, Revels, Vienna Acoustics, Sonus Faber and other fine components and have consistently been impressed. Would I trade any of these systems for a live performance? No. But some get REALLY close!

    I wouldn't say that people who have built out their systems to accomodate this aren't interested in the music - I would tend to think the exact opposite. When I want to hear Beethoven's 7th, I can either find out if one of the 17 professional ensembles within driving distance is playing it any time soon, or go to my listening room, drop in the SACD, grab a glass of Cabernet or Shiraz and close my eyes and listen.

    Granted, if someone's playing it, I'll go. But, in the mean time, I get my fix for the drug known as music through artificial means (a la loudspeakers - kind of a synthetic drug if you will.)

  16. alexaudio

    alexaudio Active Member

    Jeremy -

    I would be very curiious to see the wording of the questions, the demographics if collected (age, race, where they live, etc), number of questionaires answered and how the tabulations where done. Also, I'd be curious to know what type of gigs these were (when/where more specifically). Can you provide those details? That information would be very helpful.
  17. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    No problem Alex!

    The data's on my wife's laptop (she's my business manager). As soon as I can steal it away from her to put it into a more user-friendly format, I'll get it posted. Hopefully within the next 24 hours.

    I think you'll find it's pretty much what you expect.

  18. ptr

    ptr Active Member

    This has turned out to be a quite interesting thread despite the somewhat false start..

    Thanks for the intresting answers and keep 'em comming..

  19. alexaudio

    alexaudio Active Member

    Thanks -

    What I am particularly interested is not the responses, but more of the demographics and where you gathering the information (was it a recording of at a high school, local volunteer orchestra, mainstream ensemble). Demographics and how the information is gathered plays a significant role in how to interpret the information.
  20. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Well, the responses without demographics is useless. However, demographics without responses is equally useless. So, here it goes.

    There were 10 venues polled. Of them, they consisted of:

    1 College Wind Ensemble
    1 College Orchestra
    1 College Chorus
    1 Community Wind Ensemble
    1 Professional Jazz Ensemble
    1 Amatuer Chorus
    1 Professional Chorus
    2 Professional Orchestras
    1 Amatuer Orchestra

    Professional is defined as paying at minimum Union scale and performing 20 services or more yearly.

    Amatuer is defined as paying but either not to Union scale or with a minimal amount of services yearly.

    Community is defined as non-paying.

    All answers listed are based on a percentage of the total answers provided. All groups garnered approximately the same amount of responses - no group being significantly more or less than another. (50 questionnaires were handed out at each performance. No group listed above had any less than 46 returned. Some for the $1 credit, others simply to fill in papers while enjoying the concert.)

    In cases where there were less answers (such as - which format do you prefer to buy? or -will you be purchasing an MP3 player) the percentage given is based upon the total number of responses given.

    Let me know if you spot any wierd inconsistencies - I only ever used this for my own good and just tonight slapped it together into a usable document.

    Here's the link:

    (Dead Link Removed)


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