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Will TRP help?

I wonder if anyone could comment... I've recently purchased the Royer SF12 at a decent second-hand price. I've only had the chance to try it out once on the application for which I bought it - for small ensenble choral recording. I really liked the tone and the imaging, even though the mic placement was not ideal (too close). However, the noise generated between mic and pre at 60db was to my ears an annoyance - not terribly loud, but still a nuisance. I was using Metric Halo ULN2 pres, which are very quiet and have plenty of gain, so I'm thinking that the SF12, while excellent for some applications, may not be ideal for this type of recording. For the life of me, I can't find anywhere on the net the specs on the SF12's self noise.

My questions are two: has anyone here had success using the AEA TRP with the SF12 on quiet applications like choral recording? I guess I'm wondering if the TRP will be a magic fix. I'm pretty sure it won't be curing a mic's own self-noise though - so it's probably a silly question.

Secondly - and this question is only asked because I don't know the noise specs of the SF12: would a pair of Coles 4040s be a quieter alternative?

Any comments would be welcome.

Dave

Comments

Simmosonic Thu, 09/14/2006 - 00:23

Duckman wrote: I should clarify: 90% of the time the desert island will be inhabited only by a small choral ensemble singing Renaissance polyphony and Greg chant

Ah, that's different. I'll stand by my recommendation for the CCM4Lgs in terms of maximum utility, but for choral work these days I am using the little DPA 4023s in ORTF - especially good for live concerts due to less audience noise. Very nice, especially when using the little ORTF/XY bracket that comes with them. (DPA sell them in a stereo kit; it's actually a 4021 kit, but I asked for the same kit with the 4023s because they have removable cables with Lemo connectors):

http://www.dpamicrophones.com/module.php?MID=101&itemid=3521&PID=&function=pdescription

That kit would give you something very similar to the Schoeps kit I suggested, also very small and elegant and fast to set up, possibly more cost-effective in terms of supplied accessories/mounting systems, and more suited to choral work. It'll do your other work very well too.

I know that the standard choice for choral work is omnis, but I have moved towards the 4023s in ORTF because I get a much cleaner and useful sound. I don't mind adding a bit of reverb and EQing the bottom end if necessary - I'd rather be adding as much of this stuff as I want rather than trying to take away stuff I don't want. Most of the choral things I record are live concerts that take place in churches and halls that are close to main roads, and so omnis give me the dual problems of excessive audience noise and distant traffic rumble.

You've been given a lot of good advice from everyone on this list; I guess you just have to weigh it all up and make a decision. If it helps, and if you're in Sydney, I'll be happy to let you listen to some Schoeps and DPA ORTF choral recordings I've made, then at least you'll have a point of reference. (I won't send them as mp3s or similar because I don't have permission for that kind of thing...) If so, email me: simmosonic@gmail.com

Duckman Thu, 09/14/2006 - 04:55

Simmo, you're a gentleman. Thank you for the offer.

There is a possibility I might be in Sydney in October.... but chances are I will have made the purchase by then. I'd love to hear the samples anyway!

Cheers.

I guess it's the Romance of omnis (or ribbons) versus the practicality of cardiods.

Not being a professional recordist, I won't likely in the near future be very often in the situation of having to cope with 'audience noise' - it would be more session recordings in othewise empty churches or other ambient rooms.

rfreez Thu, 09/14/2006 - 05:39

All the really experienced people have given some great advice... i'm going to chime in with my inexperience... since you say these wil be your main "all purpose" mics and i've done a fair bit of research in this regard...

I think you should take a look at the AKG C414 B-XLS pair. Yes I know, they are LDCs and thats not what we've been looking at, but in terms of sheer versatility and signal to noise ratio, and cost to features ratio, they can't be beat.

(dead link removed)

that was a link to something about a guy who made acoustic recordings with these and is very impressed... also i've read a glowing recommendation from bob olhsson. (so what ?)

Also take a look at the Shure KSM44s and, parding your beggon, (ducking for cover)... the m-audio solaris. On paper and as per (suspect) reviews, they look good, and can save you a pretty penny.

i'd guess that the schoeps or other would be better at specific tasks, but whether the 414 pair, in terms of versatility and other things, is worth the (possible) tradeoff, is your decision.

many people will say (and possibly correctly... i'm yet to "know") that you always get what you pay for. I think all markets are changing faster than we can be sure of, an open mind is possibly a good solution...

regards, and keep us informed,

rfreez.

anonymous Thu, 09/14/2006 - 05:55

DavidSpearritt wrote: An alternative for Schoeps is:
musicians-gear.com

Avoid them at all costs!^^^^^^^^^^^^^

They are bottom rung criminals. Based in dubai...I got ripped off by them(for a large schoeps purchase), and recently, this:

ombudsmann.de/ombudsmann.php/cat/41/aid/504/title/Musicians-Gear/print/1

Their prices are not worth the heartache. Deal with a well known and respected dealer.

Cucco Thu, 09/14/2006 - 06:45

Duckman wrote: Anyone vote for MG M296 over Mk21 for choral (I know Teddy does!).

Either or both are great for choir. I know Teddy recommends the C426 too, but, while I think this is a good mic, I find it to be way too cost prohibitive and limiting in its capabilities to be considered a desert island mic - since you're limited to only coincident mic techniques (which definitely does not always suit choirs well).

I've done 3 major choral projects in the past year with the 296s as my mains and been very pleased with the results from all of them.

I don't find them to be "crunchy" or "grainy" as others mention. Paired with the wrong preamp, this can be the case (for example, I used the Gefells and Schoeps with a True Systems Precision 8 for the longest time and I couldn't figure out why I couldn't stand the high-end for it's harshness and brittleness. When I switched to Grace, Millennia, Buzz, or DAV, I found the highs to be far cleaner and more open.

J

Duckman Thu, 09/14/2006 - 16:01

rfreez wrote:
I think you should take a look at the AKG C414 B-XLS pair. Yes I know, they are LDCs and thats not what we've been looking at, but in terms of sheer versatility and signal to noise ratio, and cost to features ratio, they can't be beat.

(dead link removed)

Thanks rfreez. I love reading articles where the gear used is similar to my own: gives me hope that I might make a fairly decent go of it some day.

Haven't checked up on those AKG mics yet... but will do so.

Simmosonic Thu, 09/14/2006 - 16:13

Cucco wrote: [quote=Duckman]I know Teddy recommends the C426 too, but, while I think this is a good mic, I find it to be way too cost prohibitive and limiting in its capabilities to be considered a desert island mic - since you're limited to only coincident mic techniques (which definitely does not always suit choirs well).

Agreed, you'd be painting yourself into a corner with a C426 as your only stereo mic. You'll be able to do all the coincident techniques, but nothing else, and you won't be able to close-mic two different instruments at the same time.

I make my stereo pair choices depending on the size of the ensemble. For small ensembles (e.g. string quartet, piano duo, etc.) where pinpoint stereo imaging is worthwhile, I go for coincident techniques. For larger ensembles, such as choirs and orchestras, where a sense of size and space and 'bigness' is more important/impressive than pinpoint stereo imaging, I go for near-coincident techniques.

anonymous Thu, 09/14/2006 - 16:28

I dont know....Ive heard many great recordings with coincident techniques , in all sorts of situations....(and im not trying to encourage him to buy it..it is too damn expensive anyway! :)..just venting ) but I think that a lot of issues come from folks not spending enough time with the different techniques(I mean knowing them intimately, not just knowing the "specs" of the technique, but knowing how to make them work in ANY situation)

I dont know..I think we have too many choices now, too many channels at our disposal. too many options. as a result, recordings are suffering. immensely.

in a way I wish we were limited in our mic choices and patterns. It would force people to get good with what they do have instead of having so many choices and being mediocre in all of them. i find myself reaching for 50s and 60s/70s recordings now..hardly any of the past several years make me go WOW!(well, Waterlily and Harmonia Mundi and DG(not Deutsche Grammophon)

nevermind. i drank too much coffee. I should start another thread.

off to bed.:-? forgive me.

Simmosonic wrote: [quote=Cucco][quote=Duckman]I know Teddy recommends the C426 too, but, while I think this is a good mic, I find it to be way too cost prohibitive and limiting in its capabilities to be considered a desert island mic - since you're limited to only coincident mic techniques (which definitely does not always suit choirs well).

Agreed, you'd be painting yourself into a corner with a C426 as your only stereo mic. You'll be able to do all the coincident techniques, but nothing else, and you won't be able to close-mic two different instruments at the same time.

I make my stereo pair choices depending on the size of the ensemble. For small ensembles (e.g. string quartet, piano duo, etc.) where pinpoint stereo imaging is worthwhile, I go for coincident techniques. For larger ensembles, such as choirs and orchestras, where a sense of size and space and 'bigness' is more important/impressive than pinpoint stereo imaging, I go for near-coincident techniques.

Zilla Thu, 09/14/2006 - 16:52

Simmosonic wrote: [quote=rfreez]I think you should take a look at the AKG C414 B-XLS pair.

This is a very sensible suggestion...

When I was starting out and looking for my first and only pair of mics, I also reasoned that versitility would be important. I bought a pair of 414's because the multi-pattern feature would allow me to apply any stereo mic technique I wished. Later, when I got my next pair of mics (schoeps CMC6.4) the 414's tended only to be used when I wanted to do a 4-way. When I got additional schoeps, the 414's went on the shelf. After a couple of years of inactivity I sold them. I found the sound quality of the schoeps so much superior to the 414's that I was happy to constrain myself only to near-coincedent techniques with the schoeps. I was much more satisified with the recordings with the schoeps (or dpas or sennheisers) than I was with the 414's .

Given the amount of choral work you plan on doing, I would still highly recommend CMC6.21's.

Duckman Thu, 09/14/2006 - 18:17

Zilla wrote: Given the amount of choral work you plan on doing, I would still highly recommend CMC6.21's.

Given the warning about Musician's-gear, Schoeps may have slipped out of my price range. I'll have to consider it further.

If I could afford the AKG stereo mic, I'd be going straight for the SF24 - this thread started out as a ribbon discussion after all :-)
(but I know you were just throwing a quality alternative, albeit very expensive, into the mix Teddy. Ta! I appreciate your opinions)

anonymous Thu, 09/14/2006 - 18:31

Unless you are up against a deadline then consider Schoeps from ebay. You can usually save 20-25% off new. Definitely safer than Musicians Gear."

Also consider the DPA subcardioids that are likely not going anywhere because the opening bid was $1999US and the reserve was $2000 (perhaps he doesn't fully understand the auction thing?).

The item # was 230025225899 and they were not sold.

I would certainly take these over the 414s. Definitely "desert island mics."

Rich

FifthCircle Thu, 09/14/2006 - 20:05

Zilla wrote: When I was starting out and looking for my first and only pair of mics, I also reasoned that versitility would be important. I bought a pair of 414's because the multi-pattern feature would allow me to apply any stereo mic technique I wished. Later, when I got my next pair of mics (schoeps CMC6.4) the 414's tended only to be used when I wanted to do a 4-way. When I got additional schoeps, the 414's went on the shelf. After a couple of years of inactivity I sold them. I found the sound quality of the schoeps so much superior to the 414's that I was happy to constrain myself only to near-coincedent techniques with the schoeps. I was much more satisified with the recordings with the schoeps (or dpas or sennheisers) than I was with the 414's .

Given the amount of choral work you plan on doing, I would still highly recommend CMC6.21's.

I was getting ready to write something almost exactly like this (I have never owned 414's, but I'm just not a fan of them- perhaps with the exception a 414EB with a CK12 capsule), but Zilla hit it squarely. The Schoeps MK21 is probably one of my favorite choral mics out there. I use MK2 capsules and B&K4006 mics for a lot of my choral work and have never been disappointed. I've been collecting Schoeps bodies and a set of MK21's is quite high on my list of future purchases.

Oh, and I've never been disappointed with the imaging of a pair of MK21's- no need for a jecklin disc.

--Ben

Duckman Thu, 09/14/2006 - 20:39

Rich, thanks for the tip-off. Those DPAs look very interesting. Has anyone had experience with the 4015's? I see their noise level is around 19db (4db higher than the Mk21). Feel free to scoff publicly at my ignorance :-), but would that level of noise ever present a problem on quiet sources? I have read that DPA are very conservative regarding their noise specs - there was a bit of a debate about this on GearS a few months ago. Having heard a sample of the noise generated by the 4091 on acoustic guitar, I was a bit put off - but they were rated at 28db. Still, it has me on my guard.

Simmosonic Thu, 09/14/2006 - 20:49

Zilla wrote: When I was starting out and looking for my first and only pair of mics, I also reasoned that versitility would be important. I bought a pair of 414's because the multi-pattern feature would allow me to apply any stereo mic technique I wished. Later, when I got my next pair of mics (schoeps CMC6.4) the 414's tended only to be used when I wanted to do a 4-way. When I got additional schoeps, the 414's went on the shelf. After a couple of years of inactivity I sold them.

Good point, Zilla (and Ben, belatedly)!

A pair of 414s remains a *sensible* suggestion, in my opinion, but I have to agree with you. Being a regular user of Schoeps and DPAs, I can't imagine myself buying a pair of 414s at all.

I guess the question Duckman has to ask himself is: does he want a pair of 'stop-gap/learning' microphones for now that will be replaced by something better later, or does he want to immediately start building a 'keeper' set of microphones? (I'd be going for the keeper set...)

One advantage of the 414s is that he can try every different stereo technique (except a Decca tree) and will eventually find out which technique(s) he personally gets the most satisfaction from for his applications. Then he can buy the right microphones to do those techniques very well.

The downside is that if he decides to move up from the 414s, he's spent a lot of unnecessary money. He can try to sell them but he won't recoup all that he spent on them - whatever he loses will be written off as an 'educational expense'...

anonymous Fri, 09/15/2006 - 00:06

Duckman wrote: Has anyone had experience with the 4015's? I see their noise level is around 19db (4db higher than the Mk21). would that level of noise ever present a problem on quiet sources?

Your choral recordings will happen in rooms that at midnight will be no quieter than -65dBFS. Granted, one is rumble and the other isn't, but you will not be bothered by the difference in noise.

I have used the hi-volt version of the 4015. I still nominate the 4015 and 4016 and the Schoeps MK21s as a "desert island" choice. If you eliminate the MK2 because of the need to use a Jecklin when precise imaging is needed, then you are really down to those two, if your budget can take the hit.

If you are looking for "training wheel" mics, look at the Shure KSM141. Actual cardioid/omni for $800/pair.

Rich

Simmosonic Fri, 09/15/2006 - 00:34

Duckman wrote: Has anyone had experience with the 4015's?

The kit I regularly access has a pair of 4015s.

The on-axis response has a high frequency boost that is excellent for things like spot-miking a vocal soloist in a choir, or piano, or anything where you don't want to get too close but still want good focus - the HF boost gives it great 'reach', you can almost hear it getting inside the soundstage and pulling those delicate little upper harmonics out into the open! Not to mention that lovely lush bottom end (when it's appropriate)...

The problem, in my opinion, is that they are limited in terms of stereo techniques. My first use of them was on a choir, and I set them up as if they were an ORTF pair. Due to the 120 degree subtended angle and the on-axis boost, I ended up with a recording where the sides had a high frequency boost but not the middle. In other words, a quite detectable high frequency hole in the centre of the stereo image. I had to convert to MS and EQ the M and S channels separately to match the middle with the sides.

I use them regularly on pipe organs, modifying the near-coincident angle and spacing so that the high frequencies are even across the stereo image (based on where the actual pipes are). I can get the distance I need while still getting good detail on the pipes themselves.

For the right applications they are lovely microphones, but I'm not sure if they'd be the right choice for a desert island choir.

Duckman Fri, 09/15/2006 - 04:19

Simmosonic wrote: I ended up with a recording where the sides had a high frequency boost but not the middle. In other words, a quite detectable high frequency hole in the centre of the stereo image.

Simmo, would this be a problem with most mics that have a high frequency boost (even omnis like the MG M296)?

Any further ebay auction recommendations would be most welcome. The Mk2's went today, $890 US. Not to me though :-)

Simmosonic Fri, 09/15/2006 - 17:40

Duckman wrote: Simmo, would this be a problem with most mics that have a high frequency boost (even omnis like the MG M296)?

That depends on how strong the on-axis HF boost is, how wide the on-axis HF boost is, and the subtended angle of your microphones. With the 4015s in ORTF on a smallish choir (say, 30 singers in two or three rows), spread across a 90 degree (or thereabouts) recording window, it was quite apparent.

The 4015s really are superb microphones, some of my favourite recordings have been made with them. But I wouldn't like them as my only stereo pair.

anonymous Thu, 10/05/2006 - 10:34

If I remember far into the past, I think this thread started about the SF12/TRP combo.

I auditioned the TRP last weekend with a non-powerful bass-baritone and subtle piano. The main mic was the SF12. No hiss audible (on headphones) that could barely be identified as such, much less an objectionable amount. I think your problem is (was) somehwere else, such as channel trim that is set above 0 on the ULN.

Rich

DavidSpearritt Thu, 10/05/2006 - 14:10

I am not as down on the KM130 as Rich is. I think they are excellent mics for some things. They are bright, (as is the MK2S) but when used correctly, ie at a distance from the ensemble, they work well. They have a richness in the lower mids that the Schoeps and DPA 4003's do not have. For choral music in a large cathedral they are very suited, because you do not want the mics close, and a large church is somewhat dark.

In smaller rooms and closer micing, we prefer the MK21's or the SF12/24, much more suited. You need lots of mics in the collection ideally to draw on for flavour. The KM130's were selected by the main classical ABC producer for one of our early chamber music CD's in a darkish room, he even brought his own Sennheisers MKH20's and also tried the Schoeps MK2s's. I used the KM130's for quite a few years as my main pair when I started out.

I don't think they deserve the criticism they get, and the 183 version is very good value for money. In a DAW, EQ can be used to tame the top end.

Duckman Thu, 10/05/2006 - 20:02

Sonarerec wrote: If I remember far into the past, I think this thread started about the SF12/TRP combo.

I auditioned the TRP last weekend with a non-powerful bass-baritone and subtle piano. The main mic was the SF12. No hiss audible (on headphones) that could barely be identified as such, much less an objectionable amount. I think your problem is (was) somehwere else, such as channel trim that is set above 0 on the ULN.

Rich

Yes, it could be that I mucked up the gain settings.... I'm fairly new to the recording thing (don't know how much longer that excuse will last!) but I'm fairly certain I didn't.

I tested the SF12 on both the ULN and the TRP and, at 60db, the noise was to my ears the same on both... obvious, not overwhelming, but enough to make me desire something quieter.

I believe Dave mentioned earlier in the thread that his experience with the SF12 was, if not the same, similar; i.e. at high gain you can definitely hear hiss.

What gain settings did you have with your bass-barritone/piano combo? I'm guessing that at less than 50db, the hiss would be negligible.

I'm still trying to find a mic solution within my spending range, hence the question about the KM130, which I noticed Dave was fond of. I'm also looking seriously at the AEA R88. Have heard great reports about it, and the price is perfect. However, I'm still held back by you more experienced heads who say condensers should be a first purchase. But, like I said earlier, 95% of my recording will be with a small choir (4-16 singers), where I think blumlein imaging and ribbon naturalness would shine, given reasonable room conditions).

Thinking out loud.

Rode NT45-O omni is a cheaper mic I'd be interested in hearing too. If it were any good, I could manage Ribbon and Condenser, financially. It's got a gigantic 8db HF boost though.

anonymous Thu, 10/05/2006 - 20:27

Duckman wrote: What gain settings did you have with your bass-barritone/piano combo? I'm guessing that at less than 50db, the hiss would be negligible.

However, I'm still held back by you more experienced heads who say condensers should be a first purchase. But, like I said earlier, 95% of my recording will be with a small choir (4-16 singers), where I think blumlein imaging and ribbon naturalness would shine, given reasonable room conditions).

Rode NT45-O omni is a cheaper mic I'd be interested in hearing too. If it were any good, I could manage Ribbon and Condenser, financially. It's got a gigantic 8db HF boost though.

I used the TRP at 60dB of gain.

I hope this does not offend you, but this post illustrates the essential dilemma-- you really do not know what you want, so you are likely to keep bouncing from one mic to another.

There is a world of difference between the mics you have mentioned. I could simply say to get a pair of XXXX but it's YOUR group and YOUR ears.

I think that given your threshold of hiss awareness, condensers are your only option. The question now becomes whether you want an expensive sound or an inexpensive sound? All the hubris in the world will not change the fact that you will get what you pay for. I wish it were otherwise!

Rich

Duckman Thu, 10/05/2006 - 21:49

No offence taken. I know I'm indecisive. The post did start out as a ribbon post, but turned to condensers when the more experienced posters advised strongly for them as a starting point. Hence my question about the KM130 as a possible competitor to more expensive options.

If I could hear them for myself, I would. But most of the mics mentioned I cannot test for myself. So I have to ask about them.

I know there is a world of difference between the KM130 and the R88. Still, both are options, and I'm interested to hear about how they sound.

RemyRAD Fri, 10/06/2006 - 17:07

Duckman, five pages of posts later and your indecisiveness really QUACK's me up!!

Let me see if I can help to add some more insight for you?

I am a ribbon microphone freak! I love them. Couldn't live without them. I will use them on just about anything and everything if given the opportunity. The R88 is a lovely retro ribbon. It has a highly directional figure of 8 pattern. If you don't have a good microphone preamplifier that is reasonably quiet, you will be asking for trouble with this microphone. It will take anything that is strident or shrill and turn it into velvety smoothness. The sound of bows on strings may even appear to have better articulation than a condenser microphone can deliver. It will make the most mediocre opera singer sound like Maria Callas. Pretty nice on tenors also but may get a little too dark for the basses and baritones. Lovely on any brass or reed instrument. Output level is considerably lower than a modern condenser microphone. The closer you can keep your preamplifier, the better. Use good cables. Keep it away from 48 volt phantom. Keep it away from the wind and don't let any idiot blow into it.

The condenser microphone is a beautiful small capsule device offering wonderful airy high frequency response. Very quiet even with the most mediocre microphone preamplifier's. Can sound unnaturally bright and harsh on female vocalists. Can bring out the worst scratchiness from stringed instruments. Can make a trumpet sound brutal. Much more rugged, small, lightweight and more impervious to damage. Certainly gives you that condenser sound. The condenser is certainly more universal in its applications.

Mmmmm........Aluminum Ribbons
Ms. Remy Ann David

Simmosonic Sun, 10/08/2006 - 00:02

Right on, Remy! If this thread gets much bigger it's going to need its own postal code... :wink:

Duckman, Duckman, Duckman... Maybe I have said this elsewhere in this thread, but I'll say it here as well.

My first stereo microphone was a Royer SF12. I loved everything about it, and blindly stood by it for three or more years - it was so theoretically and historically correct, and when it was the right microphone for the job it was absolutely fantastic. You could not tell me that there was a superior stereo microphone or stereo technique in existence - that would be like telling a Macintosh user that Windows is superior, or telling a Wavelab user that Sequoia is superior. They're simply not going to listen. They just cup their hands over their ears, close their eyes and shake their heads singing "la la la la la la la".

After using the SF12 for three or more years I was becoming increasingly disgruntled. I looked back over all of my recordings and realised that I had about a 35% success rate - meaning that only 35% of the recordings I made were actually useful to anyone. I was too embarrassed to listen to the other 65%, in case someone walked in.

The most common problems were:

1) For recordings made in bad-sounding rooms I often pushed the mic quite close (to minimise the room sound), thinking I could always add some reverb later. The result? An excessively wide stereo image and complete loss of ensemble. When I added some reverb it sounded exactly the same, but with reverb.

2) For recording large groups I'd have to pull the microphone so far back to capture the full width that there was too much room sound. Using MS processing or similar to reduce the room sound never resulted in a better recording. Just a different version of bad.

3) In some venues I recorded in, the lighting above the stage (necessary for live performers to follow their scores) induced a hum into the ribbons. Depending on which way the mic was rotated, the hum would be in either the left or right channel. I could minimise it by turning the mic to the appropriate angle relative to the dimmers, but that didn't do any good for the music. And these induced hum recordings usually also suffered from either (1) or (2) above...

So, after three or more years of using nothing but the Royer SF12, I had become an expert at making useless recordings in glorious Blumlein ribbon stereo.

As you can imagine, recording was not the satisfying endeavour it was supposed to be. Instead, it was predominantly a frustrating experience. I would often feel like giving up recording altogether, especially when I'd be spending hours editing a terrible recording. The sound quality just wasn't worth the effort to edit it, but what else could I do? The client wanted their recording...

I went into each recording project with great hope, and usually came out with great disappointment and self-doubt, wondering what I was doing wrong, and wondering how Blumlein users like Waterlily Acoustics, Chesky Records and Opus-3 managed to make so many good recordings. One day I realised that, unlike Waterlily Acoustics, Chesky Records and Opus-3, I did not have the luxury of choosing who I recorded, where I recorded them, and how long I was going to spend recording them. From there, it was not a great leap of logic to deduce that my beloved SF12 was not capable of delivering all that I was unrealistically asking of it. The 65% of failed recordings were not a failing of the SF12, they were simply due to using the wrong tool for the job. As soon as I added condensers to my kit (ORTF, Blumlein, MS, whatever is most appropriate), things picked up. My success rate has since shot up to about 85%, the 15% of failures are usually due to factors out of my control, my clients are invariably happy with me, and recording is, at last, the satisfying endeavour it promised to be.

So, when it comes to ribbons and Blumlein, here's the halfway-to-the-bottom line: (See, I can be indecisive too! Or can I?)

1. A ribbon recording can sound beautiful to one listener, but dull to another. There are few things in the world more disappointing than handing over a 'perfect' recording that you're proud of for its natural tone and ribbon warmth, only to hear the client complain that it is too dull.

2. Ribbons are very fussy when it comes to preamps, so you can find yourself painted into a corner - when you buy a ribbon microphone, you have to buy the right preamp as well. And, if you're a wanker like me and decide to develop your own custom preamp, well, you are entering a world of physical, emotional and financial pain. Just don't go there.

3. Blumlein is a very fussy and demanding technique, and it really comes down to this: if the room is not excellent AND well-suited to the music and the ensemble playing it, forget it, dude. JUST FORGET IT!!!!!

Because you are indecisive, Duckman, I will try to help you make up your mind. When you find yourself entertaining the notion of having a Blumlein ribbon as your primary stereo microphone, let it go dude. JUST LET IT GO!!!! Take it from someone who's been there and lived to post the tale.

Caveat (look away, Duckman, or you'll be indecisive again): I still love Blumlein ribbons. I imported the very first SF24 (active version of SF12) into Australia and I'm pleased to say I still have access to both microphones when I need them. The SF24 is my all-time favourite microphone for recording string quartets, especially if the repertoire is classical stuff. For contemporary Bartok et al, sometimes it is more appropriate to use small diaphragm condensers for their harder 'edge', which better suits much of the contemporary stuff.

Simmosonic Sun, 10/08/2006 - 00:52

Duckman wrote: No offence taken. I know I'm indecisive.

Going back to your earliest post, you said your primary application is for small choral ensembles. Is it the same ensemble most of the time? If so, and if the recordings are for them, why not have a casual reconnaisance-style chat to the conductor? Ask the conductor to play you some favourite choral recordings and describe what he/she likes about them, in terms of sound. This sort of information will be very helpful if you want to make recordings that the client will be pleased with. And if you're not sure what to choose yourself, you may as well let your client's tastes dictate the choices.

Some conductors get into pinpoint imaging and so on, especially with smaller ensembles, in which case you're probably going to be looking for a coincident technique. Others don't care for that, but like things to sound big and spacious, in which case you're going to be looking for a near-coincident or spaced pair. Some conductors like a big deep sound with more emphasis on the notes rather than the clarity of the text, in which case omnis at a distance might be appropriate. Other conductors place great emphasis on the text itself, in which case cardioids or similar in ORTF or similar may be the go.

The question underlying all of this is goes back to something Gunnar hinted at in another thread: are you making the recordings for yourself or for someone else? Let the answer shape your microphone choice...

Duckman Sun, 10/08/2006 - 03:20

Hey Simmo... Remy and yourself take the cake for passionate, poetic and experienced advice... my favourite kind. Thank you!

I think I mentioned this earlier.... but I am not a professional engineer and, at this stage, I've no one to satisfy with recording but myself. The only ensemble I'll be recording in the near future is my own... we are small (between 4 - 10 choristers), sing Renaissance polyphony (not badly) and Gregorian chant (rather well) in a liturgical choir. I'm hoping to produce recordings for my own enjoyment and for those in our congregation, and for anyone else who might enjoy listening to us. So it's a hobby, rather than a professional venture.

Anyhow, I because I'm digging blumlein imaging and ribbon mics... I'm strongly leaning towards them. The SF12 gave me a taste of what might be possible. The only limiting factor I see with producing a recording that might satisfy the above objectives with these tools would be the room and, of course, the performance. Because there is only one ensemble to record, and because there are a few rooms around Melbourne that we might use (if we're lucky) and that might be appropriate (for example, Xavier College chapel... have you been there?), I'm still leaning towards the forbidden fruit combo of blumlein/ribbon. The price of the AEA R88 and TRP combo is right in the pocket, financially... and it was you, YOU Simmo, whose review of the R88 got my blood pumping in that direction :-)

I completely agree that a diversity of tools is required for all the different contingencies, and I thank you, Simmo, for detailing so eloquently the difficulties of aligning yourself dogmatically to a single technique when you started out. I'm just not sure that I will find myself in those situations which require so great a flexability.

SO the choice for me is perhaps - and I apologise for boring readers with all this guff and piffle about myself and my choir - should I go for a decent set of condensers (MK21 is the front-runner, but a bit out of reach) and be 80% happy with the sound in most situations, or go for a blumlein ribbon and be deliriously happy some of the time :-). Or is that second option just an illusion??? hehehe, the indecision!

Any polite abuse - please pm me.

Simmosonic Sun, 10/08/2006 - 04:25

Duckman wrote: ...at this stage, I've no one to satisfy with recording but myself. The only ensemble I'll be recording in the near future is my own... SNIP! The SF12 gave me a taste of what might be possible.

Ah, thanks for pulling me back on track there. I had forgotten that you have already tried the SF12 in your own specific recording application.

If you are happy with that sound then by all means pursue the Blumlein ribbon pair because when it is good it is very, very good. Either stick with the SF12 (if it ain't busted, don't fix it and keep the money - what's a dB or two of noise really worth to you?) or move on to the AEA R88 and TRP combo, which ought to give you a more detailed sound quality but with perhaps marginally less impressive imaging...

Be very careful getting the angle right; making sure both ribbons are perpendicular to the axis of the sound source. This is important with the SF12 and SF24, but even moreso with the R88 due to the length of its ribbons. Get it right and a little bit of imaging magic might happen...

Duckman wrote: The price of the AEA R88 and TRP combo is right in the pocket, financially... and it was you, YOU Simmo, whose review of the R88 got my blood pumping in that direction :-)

[insert image of Simmo with hands cupped over ears, eyes shut, head shaking from side to side]

la la la la la la la

DavidSpearritt Sun, 10/08/2006 - 13:17

Just to add confusion to the conversation. I was in an unfamiliar RC church last night recording "Australian Voices" for a CD project, a small but very high quality choral group singing modern Aussie stuff.

The white washed interior did not look promising, very reverberant, deep arched and domed ceiling shape, a bit echoey. I set up an MS pair in the middle, MK4/KM120 and the MK21's as outriggers, did a couple of takes and trials, and got crunch and harhness from the sopranos.

Fortunately I had the SF24 with me, replaced the MS pair with it, and got a HUGE improvement. Now the sound was smooth without the crunch, and the rest of the session went beautifully. I was going to use the Coles and the new TRP, but the limited setup time and their first real outing put me off experimenting with this project.

We even had a "surround" (choristers in surround, not the audio) piece to record, where half the singers were on each side of the SF24 facing each other, MK21's were switched off. This worked superbly.

Simmo makes sense, but if you have the source, the room, and ribbons, you can get some fantastic results, that more than make up for the specificity of the technique or gear, especially since you are not expecting to record all types of music. Use the SF12 with the AEA TRP, this will be a GREAT start with small choral groups and the repertoire they sing.

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