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Advice on Mic Choice for Recording a Choir

Member for

21 years

I was asked by a friend to record his church choir. The choir size is 20 people and will be recorded at the church. I was leaning to the SM81's in an XY or ORTF configuration, along with one of my large condensor mics with the ISA428.

What would be the best mic choice and configuration out of the mics I have?

1-AKG D12
2-Shure SM81's
1-Neumann TLM103
1-Rode K2
1-AKG C414-B-XLS
4-Shure SM57's
1-Audio/Technica AT4050
2-Shure SM58's

Vintech 1272
Focusrite ISA428

Any info would be appreciated


Member for

15 years 11 months

RemyRAD Tue, 11/07/2006 - 16:03
One of my favorite ways to record choirs is utilizing the MS technique. It can be easily de-coded by most audio software. By virtue of the way it works, you only need to set up a pair of centered microphones. You can adjust the stereo width electronically, which is pretty cool. It also offers zero phasing problems because of the process used. It is also 100% mono compatible. Meaning that if your stereo signal is collapsed to mono, there will be no cancellation of signals due to phasing anomalies. In fact, the side to side microphone electronically disappears when the signal is collapsed to mono. Only the centered mono microphone is then heard. This is cool stuff and I dig it!! Can you dig it?? (This modern terminology may be too modern for you?)

Looking at your microphone list I would utilize the AKG414 in figure of 8 mode, which will face the side left and right opposing walls and is considered the "S" or side microphone of the MS pair. The "M" microphone is your middle microphone and its capsule must be mounted as close to the figure of 8 capsule as possible but at a 90° perpendicular position i.e. facing forward. There are numerous commercial stereo microphone brackets but none that really feature MS oriented placement that are easy to find. So you have to get imaginative with microphone mounting hardware to make it work if you are not using an already created single point MS stereo microphone, like the Shure 88 MS stereo condenser microphone.

So if I were you, I would utilize the Neumann TLM103 as the center or middle microphone, facing the choir as the director does. Usually around 6 to 8 feet behind the conductor and positioned from half as high to slightly above the choir.

Without an on-site transformer or operational amplifier decoder, monitoring is somewhat peculiar since you will be listening to a mono middle microphone (most likely in your left channel) and a mono-side to side microphone (most likely in your right channel). As long as your meters are moving and you hear no extraneous overload, distortion or other interference, you are good. Some software offers real-time VST style plug-ins which can allow your computer to decode the MS signal in real-time, such as Wave Lab from Steinberg for monitoring purposes but most can't do that.

For a real kick, try the above with an XY or ORTF pair utilizing the Shure SM 81's into a second pair of inputs and compare the 2! I think you will really enjoy the MS style?

Why do you think I'm called "MS Remy Ann David"?

Member for

21 years

Member Wed, 11/08/2006 - 07:34
Thanks Remy for the GREAT Info !!

I definitely Dig It................

I look forward to trying the MS Technique.
The "M" microphone is your middle microphone and its capsule must be mounted as close to the figure of 8 capsule as possible but at a 90° perpendicular position i.e. facing forward
As far as the MS mounting, with using the two mics you've suggested and using there shockmounts, If I use two stands, I can get the capsules as close as two inches which I believe is not close enough for this to work.

For this to work, these mics have to be practically touching, correct?
Now, if I come up with something to do this, it would have to be done without there shochmounts to get the capsules close enough.
Do you see a problem with mounting them without the shockmount?
Also, if I come up with somekind of mounting, do you feel that these two mics would give me better results over lets say the shure you've suggested .

Thanks again

Member for

15 years 11 months

RemyRAD Wed, 11/08/2006 - 09:23
When trying to mount large bulky microphones, I rarely use the shock mounts. They are just too difficult to deal with. I frequently find myself with an atlas stereo microphone bar, an adjustable elbow , 3 inch-long goose neck and other accoutrements if necessary? It's always a challenge. It is also best if you can hang the microphones. If not, try one of the Manfroto 14 foot collapsible aluminum light stands with a microphone thread adapter tip. They aren't cheap but they are wonderful stands. Shure also used to make some lightweight 12 foot tall collapsible aluminum stands for around $100 each.

Its best if you can get both microphone grills as close together as humanly possible (which is more difficult with shock amounts) since this technique relies on phasing differences to work properly. Don't have the capsules separated by more than an inch or 2. The stereo effect offers great directivity and that ability to adjust the stereo spread from ultra wide to mono.

MS Remy Ann David

Let me know if you have any further questions?

Member for

18 years 2 months

pmolsonmus Wed, 11/08/2006 - 17:44
Dearest Remy,

As long as you're on the subject of MS. Could you clarify how you route your paths inside the DAW? I've seen several options that allow for easy (easier anyway) monitoring and mixing. Mine seems to work but clarification from a real MS's MS would help. :wink:
I've just started experimenting with it and I think its the right technique for the room i record in.

Can you take the 2 mono singles as is and then bus them to their proper encoded and decoded paths? Or do the signals need to be encoded on the way in. Does it matter?

This is how I'm attempting it now..using 2 mono signals already recorded in Pro Tools. K2 is the M, 414 in figure 8 is the S.

I route the 2 prerecorded mono signals to a stereo bus with a MS plug-in (Waves S1) then route that tracks output to 2 mono aux tracks. This way (by my thinkg anyway) I should be able to get control of the M (left) vs the S (right). This allows me to adjust more M or more S with the faders. I route that track's output to another stereo aux to decode and send to my master fader. Correct? I'm guessing I probably shouldn't add anything (plug ins) at any point prior to the decoding or I create potential phase stuff?

Is my thinking correct or am I turning into the dumb singer with just enough knowledge to be dangerous? I've read the Waves manual and it isn't terribly helpful. The MS plug has absolutely no adjustable parameters and to be honest, I'm guessing about the encode/decode. My results aren't stellar yet, but they certainly aren't phasey crazy either.


Member for

19 years 2 months

David French Thu, 11/09/2006 - 11:14
MS is cool. Try this for fun: Take a stereo mix, and separate the two channels. Copy each channel so that you have two lefts and two rights. Make one new channel out of a left and right summed with the same polarity (mid), and make another new channel out of a let and right with opposite polarity (side). Now you can vary the width of the stereo image, investigate the mix engineer's use of panning, apply effects to just the center material... all kinds of fun.

Member for

15 years 11 months

RemyRAD Thu, 11/09/2006 - 11:30
David is absolutely correct especially when dealing with an analog console, as I have often done in the past. The M middle microphone, (recorded left Channel), goes into a single fader and is then panned to stereo center (mono).

The S side facing figure of 8 microphone (recorded right channel), can be passively split and sent to 2 additional console inputs. You will take each of those 2 channels and pan one left. Pan the second one to the right and invert the phase. Both of the Side microphone inputs levels, should be locked together.

You can then manipulate the M mono middle microphone level which will control your stereo width.

If you should so desire to do this within a software program, you will only be dealing with the original 2 channels of audio from the individual microphones. Many software audio programs features some type of preset for "MS to stereo" and "stereo to MS" and other innocuous descriptions such as " Channel mixer", etc.. These presents will negate the use of any other hardware or software patching. It will also keep the file within a 2 channel realm. If you're preset is nonadjustable, it is most likely set for an equal balance already, which would prevent you from adjusting the stereo width?

Once you have decoded the signal It's safe to add any other processing you might so desire.

Ms. stereo
Remy Ann David

Member for

21 years

Member Fri, 11/10/2006 - 08:57
Hi Remy,

Here's something I've been thinking about and wanted to run it by you,
to see what you thought.......

If I were to use my ISA428 going a Digi 002R for recording the choir. Then split the output of the S side mic (Figure8) going into the ISA428 and invert the phase on one input. Then set-up three tracks in ProTools ,two tracks to record the Side microphone inputs , (one being the inverted signal) and pan those tracks right and left.

The third track would be for the M middle mic panned center. Now I would have the recorded signals decoded ,which should take care of the monitoring issue, as well. Then I'd also have the option of duplicating the one side channel ( fig-8 )that was not inverted and decoding the signal, after the fact.

What do you think? Could this possibly be another option ,to what has been discussed?

Thanks Again

Member for

21 years

Member Sun, 11/12/2006 - 16:54
Thanks So much For the Replies!

DIGIT,As far as the Royer, I'd love to get something like the Royer, I also like the Earthworks TC30,but they'll have to wait. $$ are low right now.

So, I'm going to use Remy's suggestion of using the AKG 414 and TLM 103 with the MS technique, I'm really looking forward to trying it.
Thanks again Remy!
In fact ,right now I'm working on constructing a MS mouting bracket for the two mics.

Take Care

Member for

15 years 11 months

RemyRAD Sun, 11/12/2006 - 23:01
Thanks so much! I think you will really enjoy what MS does. It is a unique and interesting way of recording stereo and offers more flexibility, IMHO. Let me know how it turns out? I would love to hear some examples when you finish. Drop me a line if you have any further questions.

"MS" Remy Ann David

Member for

21 years

Member Mon, 11/13/2006 - 19:36
The 414 (any of the many versions) and the 103 will work well for MS on instrumental, but I think that unless the original poster likes vocal crunchies (as opposed to choral smoothness) it may not be the best direction to go.

The person who suggested the SF12 was more on-track for choral sound. If vocal sound is the goal, then the 414 and 103 are nice and bright.