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Hello, I'm a timpanist with little knowledge of audio recording. I'm simply looking to record myself practicing at home (mic 12' away) and at my orchestra hall with the (mic 80' away). I have an AT4040 and Sennheiser HD 512 headphones. Recording into my Mac with Amadeus Pro for simplicity (not doing any editing). BUT my problem is the playback is far boomier (resonant) and bass heavy than what the ear hears. Any ideas how to adjust my setup to replicate ears? :) Any and all thoughts are much appreciated!


pcrecord Tue, 01/27/2015 - 18:24

Recording from far away often call for noisefree powerfull preamps.

You don't say how you get the AT4040 signal in your DAW.
For the problematic bass, you can switch on the HiPass 80hz filter on the AT4040 and/or on the preamp if present.
What is nice to note is that this mic capture from 20hz to 20k and if you put if far away (say in a corner) it's exactly the right place to grab more bass.
Also bass and hi frequencies do not disperse the same way on a long distance. So, what I'm saying is that you are not helping yourself.

I'm gonna wait that you specify what is the rest of your gear.. ;)

DanTimp Tue, 01/27/2015 - 20:17

Thank you very much for your help so far! The mic is connected via a Blue Microphones Icicle XLR to USB Converter and Preamp. Ultimately I'm most concerned with having it sound true at a distance of about 80' in the hall (as it would in an orchestra audition with a panel of listeners). I did raise the mic from around drum level to slightly above, which gives some more highs and attack sound of the drum. But the equipment still sounds "altered" or filtered to me. And again I know next to nothing about all of this! Thanks again for any help!

pcrecord Wed, 01/28/2015 - 03:10

DanTimp, post: 424337, member: 48828 wrote: But the equipment still sounds "altered" or filtered to me. And again I know next to nothing about all of this! Thanks again for any help!

This is the frequency response curve of the AT4040 :

You can see that it has not been created to be transparent and even if it was, a single microphone can't reproduce what the human ears interprete.
I think the mic is not the unit that colors the sound the most. I would bet that the XLR to USB cable is where the transparency is missing the most.

At this point it is very important to set bounderies. How much time and money are you willing to spend to get to your perfect sound.
One could get the Lynx Hilo with USB (2500$) and 2 mics to grap a stereo image (2 AKG 414). Still you would face problems with reflexion from the walls and frequency dispersion.
I wonder if a shutgun mic would not be a better choice.
Know that I'm not an expert in orchestral recording, I'm just trying to expose a few options.

Boswell Wed, 01/28/2015 - 03:17

Dan, I'm sorry to say that I believe you are assuming that a microphone and recording system "hear" the same as a human ear plus all the associated brain processing - it doesn't. The human hearing system is very good at ignoring a lot of the reflections of the venue's walls, floor, ceiling and other bits of furniture, presenting the illusion that you are hearing just the source. It can be a shock when you use a microphone to pick up what is actually being heard, and because a lot of the directional clues are discarded in the recording, listening to the result is very different from being present at the time of the recording. Even assuming perfect recording gear, boominess in the result can usually be attributed to the venue reflections reinforcing low frequencies.

In addition, when you record a sound using a microphone positioned at the same place as your head, that's only the waveform capture. This waveform still has to be replayed on a monitoring system or hi-fi system, and this replay process has associated with it the room sounds in which it is happening. These interact in a not always desirable way with the venue sounds being reproduced from the recording.

The result of all this is that you have to record in a good acoustic environment using microphones a lot closer to the source than your ideal hearing distance.

In your home rehearsal/performing environment, you would have to make a substantial investment in acoustic treatment to get recordings that could be played on a hi-fi system and sound realistic in terms of frequency distribution. Have a look at some of the posts over in our Studio Construction and Acoustics Forum on this RO site and see how much emphasis is placed on bass traps and other absorbers to get somewhere close to having an acoustic environment where recordings can be made that have a chance of approaching professional standards.

In a hall, try placing the microphone starting at the conductor's rostrum and then at decreasing distances towards the timps, recording a few minutes of varied material at each distance.

It's really good that you are making these mono test recordings and asking the questions about the result, but I think a considerable step up would be to use stereo microphone(s) and 2-track recording. A little of the set of clues that the human hearing system uses to suppress unwanted reflections is present in a good stereo recording, and this would enhance the listener's experience.

Good luck!

DonnyThompson Wed, 01/28/2015 - 04:28

Totally agree with Bos. You're going to need a very well-balanced acoustical signature to the room you are in, and it's not always inexpensive to improve the acoustics of a room. Even if you could balance the space you are in, You'll never be able to naturally replicate the sound of your timpani as it's heard from 80' away, you would need to use artificial reverb to achieve anything even remotely close to that, and, without having a balanced room to record in to begin with, it's gonna be nearly impossible to replicate.

Perhaps a more realistic solution for you, would be to gain access to the hall in which you normally perform, and using a stereo mic array, as Bos mentioned, try to capture the sound that way, starting at the conductor's position, and then by trial(s), move it accordingly until you achieve the sound you seek.

If you do decide to go this route, You might want to look into some articles on multi mic arrays, as there are definitive right and wrong ways in which to place multiple/stereo microphones.


paulears Wed, 01/28/2015 - 08:01

Tips are the spawn of the devil to record so the player like the sound, rather like trombone and trumpet, who also never hear the effect from the audiences perspective. The distant mic position more than seven feet away won't help the booming. I suspect that you can tame this by careful mic positioning, certainly to the extent that eq will work. Timps seem to be a little like a piano - the actual sound you hear comes from a big area, so with a pair of sealed headphones, experiment to find the optimum place - when I have to amplify times in an orchestra pit, I can usually cover three with two mics that can never be more than just above the players head and forward of him. Closer miking sounds a bit thin, and also you pick up lots more unwanted sound. Oddly, a low noise preamp isn't something that is very important on timps because the damn things are so loud, so it may actually need a pad - most preamps are quiet when they don't have much gain dialled in. The preamp you have actually gets pretty reasonable reviews, being one of the few simple ones to have a gain control!

The other thing to check is how your monitors reproduce times. Check with a piece of commercial music that features them prominently and see if they sound like your recordings? Your speakers may well not be helping. Timps are very demanding things.

Boswell Wed, 01/28/2015 - 09:14

DanTimp, post: 424367, member: 48828 wrote: This is all wonderful and fascinating! Would TWO AT4040's be a decent starting point? I don't think I would want to spend too much more at this point, but down the road I might. Thank you all very much!

Yes and no. Getting a second microphone of the same type as you already have is going to be cheaper than buying a pair of new ones of a type that might be more suitable for recording timps, but this is only one aspect of the story. Your Blue Icicle interface is only a single-channel unit, so you would need to replace that with an interface box that had at least two channels, and although you do not need to spend huge amounts on an interface that would work acceptably in this application, many, if not most, of the cheap units are simply not up to this sort of job.

A tympanum when struck hard shifts a lot of air, and large-amplitude soundwaves can easily overload not only microphones but also the pre-amps they are plugged into. Ideally, you need microphones that have a built-in "pad" (attenuator) switch and also an interface unit that can cope with large transients. Luckily, there are a couple of fairly recent two-channel interface boxes that stand out above the others in this regard: the [=""]Presonus AudioBox iTwo[/]="http://www.presonus…"]Presonus AudioBox iTwo[/] and the [[url=http://="http://uk.focusrite…"]Focusrite Scarlett 2i2[/]="http://uk.focusrite…"]Focusrite Scarlett 2i2[/].

As for microphones, a pair of AT4040s would be good but not the ideal for timp capture. They could be made to work, but not easily at close range. For better results, particularly for closer use, you would need a pair of small-diaphragm condenser (SDC) microphones such as the [[url=http://[/URL]="http://www.rodemic…"]Rode NT55-MP.[/]="http://www.rodemic…"]Rode NT55-MP.[/]

My feeling is that, before committing to expense in the electronic hardware department, you should experiment first with recording using your existing mono microphone and interface unit but with the microphone considerably closer to the timps. This includes your own rehearsal room, where it would pay to invest even a modest amount in sound absorption units. I'm no expert in what's available on that front, so it may be worth asking that question in our Studio Construction and Acoustics Forum. You could refer to what we have been talking about in this thread, but be sure to phrase a question carefully over there!


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