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Hey guys. I have a class trying to find a good but affordable pair of stereo microphones and a 2 to 8 channel interface. I'm looking for anything good for instrumental recording for both large ensembles and solo recording. I'm a beginner, so I'd appreciate any help you guys could give me. Thanks


pcrecord Thu, 04/16/2015 - 09:33

At your price range you could go with this which has honnest preamps:
Which is USB3 (finally) !! ;)

But for ensembles recording, you'd want some high headroom preamps that won't produce noises when the music gets very quiet ppp
That's why high end preamps are often use for that kind of job. Something like Millenia preamps with quality converters. Or the focusrite ISA828 that offer a converter card option which could go to any interface with ADAT inputs.
Of course all this get over you budget.
I'm confident the Presonus will get you going and you could invest more later if the needs is there.

Boswell Thu, 04/16/2015 - 11:03

Christian, post: 428128, member: 49021 wrote: Sorry. Our budget is $900

You could indeed get a pair of microphones and an 8-channel interface for $900, but you would soon regret doing so. Electing to go for a 2-channel interface to match the stereo mics would be a small improvement, but you are still not going to get the quality you need for classical work.

So we need to know: do we go on and suggest what devices in the two categories you could get for a $900 total, knowing that the recorded results will not be the best, or do we give examples of what the minimum total would come to for reasonable microphones and an interface, and you go back to your funding people with that information?

I'm not trying to be difficult, but I have too often had the experience of being presented with classical recordings done with below-par gear, and it's something that others should be spared from if at all possible.

dvdhawk Thu, 04/16/2015 - 18:46

True $900 is not a particularly generous budget, but under the heading: *You have to start somewhere. You have to walk before you can run, etc.

You could either buy good mic(s), and a cheap interface - or cheap mics and a good interface. Pick your poison.

The Rode NT4 is a respectable X/Y stereo mic that doesn't cost a fortune and won't be thrown away if/when you get more good mics. Add the interface of your choice. Keep enough in the bank to buy a decent (heavy/sturdy) tall stand(s) and a few good quality, long mic cables. In that scenario, the relatively cheap interface you'll get with the balance is clearly the weak link. The thing I like about the NT4 is if I can move around the stage until I find that sweet spot where the ensemble blends well to my ears - I can place a single straight mic stand right where I'm standing, and I get a pretty good representation of what I was hearing on the recording. Chances are the conductor has the best mix in the house, so position the mic accordingly so they don't block the sound from your mic.

If you'd rather not be committed to the NT4 and its permanent X/Y - get a variant of the NT5 matched pair instead.

It won't put guys of Boswell's caliber out of business, but if you're a teacher doing this out-of-pocket for the benefit of your students, or if it's just something you're interesting in learning - *see heading above.

If you're expecting perfection, hire someone with the experience and the Grade-A equipment. (oh yeah and work with musicians who play perfectly in a magnificent sounding hall)

Boswell Fri, 04/17/2015 - 03:12

You are quite right, Dave, I probably came across as being over-prescriptive, and there are indeed other starting positions.

As it happens, I was dealing last week with a newbie recordist who had borrowed the NT4 from my hire stock for use (as it turned out) with his M-Audio M-Track 2-channel interface box. He needed to work USB-powered from a Macbook in a situation where mains power was not easily available, and was attracted by the battery operation possibility on the NT4, since someone had told him (probably correctly) that using 48V phantom power from the M-Audio box when USB-powered was not a good idea. On returning the NT4, he proudly played me some of the school orchestra recording he had made. I was as polite as I could be about it, but the shrieks in the upper mids made it very difficult to listen to. I know the NT4 gives good results when fed into quality pre-amps (DAV, API etc), otherwise I would not have it as a rental item, but I guess it's one of those mics that does not react well to being fed into lower-cost boxes. I've used the NT4 very successfully with an Audient Mico pre-amp (mains powered) and an optical connection into a Macbook Pro.

That certainly looks a good deal from Sweetwater, but it's my feeling that a pair of SDCs would be better for the OP for the usage he mentioned.

Christian Mon, 04/20/2015 - 07:03

Thank you guys very much for all of your help. If you had to pick, would you rather go with fair-quality mics, or would you rather get a pre-amp? It sounds like I'll have to choose, and I'm still not sure which would be a better investment. And, if I opt for the mics, how would this pre-amp (
fare with it? Thanks again.

pcrecord Mon, 04/20/2015 - 07:21

I would go for mics that I can use for life first.
The most important thing about preamps when recording classical music and ensemble is being able to have High levels with low noise.
Altought the Audiobox's preamps are not considered high-end, I think they are pro-level enough to get you going, until you can invest for the big thing.

Let us know what you buy and send some samples when you get to use them.. it's fun to follow the progress of our RO friends! ;)

DonnyThompson Tue, 04/21/2015 - 00:33

If I had to make a choice, in this situation, I'd put the money into mics first. That's not to say that preamps don't also figure into the equation in a major way, they do, but, as Marco mentioned, if you get a decent pre that can deliver sufficient gain with low noise, you'll be good for now.

Cheaper pre amps seem to sound cheaper the more you push them. This is generally where you hear the obvious differences between cheaper pre's and more expensive ones, although, your noise floor can be quite a bit more with cheaper models than more expensive ones.

I'd go with nice mics and something like a Presonus or Focusrite pre/i-o. The preamps in both models are decent, offer solid gain, are pretty quiet, and would give you acceptable results when used with studio quality mics like the AKG 414 or Neumann K series.

Personally, for what you want to do, I'd shoot for a pair of 414's. Having two of these will open up all kinds of nice sonic doors for you - because they are multi pattern, you can do differentl kinds of cool stereo miking arrays - Blumlein, M/S, XY, etc. And their quality and sound is unsurpassed for anything else in their price range.

IMHO of course.

pcrecord Tue, 04/21/2015 - 03:07

Boswell, post: 428140, member: 29034 wrote: it's my feeling that a pair of SDCs would be better for the OP for the usage he mentioned.

DonnyThompson, post: 428256, member: 46114 wrote: Personally, for what you want to do, I'd shoot for a pair of 414's. Having two of these will open up all kinds of nice sonic doors for you - because they are multi pattern, you can do differentl kinds of cool stereo miking arrays - Blumlein, M/S, XY, etc. And their quality and sound is unsurpassed for anything else in their price range.

Hey Donny I was also on the impression some LDCs would fit the job but Boswell interjected in favor of SDC.
Could someone fill my lack of knowledge about the impact of the size of the condenser capsule on the sound ? I always choose mics for their sounds and I'm a bit lost other then the instinct that SDC are often thighter in the HF..

DonnyThompson Tue, 04/21/2015 - 03:47

It's not that I disagree with Bos's choice. SD is a preference for many who do live ensemble recording. I guess I was thinking more in terms of the OP's possible future options and miking applications; I'm a big fan of the AKG 414 - in all of its various forms over the years, (although I will admit a preference for the older models, the EB's and before - but that's a personal preference ting, and based upon an opinion that there is really no such thing as a bad 414.) ;)

414's are great sounding mics, are workhorses, and because of their multi patterns, can be used for almost any application.

The general consensus is that SD's are more sensitive to high end detail, and this may be true in a kind of quick explanation, in a general sense, but I think it's more that because of the smaller size of the diaphragm, it's because their transient response time is quicker than that of an LD, ( generally speaking, I'm sure there are exceptions ) and because hi freq's are so much faster than lows, the fact that the smaller diaphragm reacts faster than an LD does figures into the equation, the result being that they tend to be more sensitive to those upper sonic reaches.

Although, I tend to believe that, when you are talking the differences in quality between two exceptional mics like an AKG 414 and a Neumann KM 184, the audible differences between them will be minimal.

You're more likely to hear dramatic audible differences between 2 LD mics of differing quality, such as between a high quality model (like a Neumann U87) and a cheap, low quality model ( like an Audio Technica 2020), or, with two SD mics of differing quality (like a Neumann KM84) and a cheap SD model (like an AKG CS1000) than you would hear if you would instead compare two high quality mics of different diaphragm size, such as a 414(LD) and a KM185(SD).

And, as we all know, the environment will play a huge factor, too.

In summation, I'm not arguing Boswell's suggestion. I suppose I was just doing a bit of "look-ahead" for the OP, and considering what might be the best all-round choice - choices that might fit the widest possible use, for the highest number of applications and scenarios - not only for now, but also into the future as well.

IMHO of course.

Boswell Tue, 04/21/2015 - 04:15

Christian, post: 428124, member: 49021 wrote: I'm looking for anything good for instrumental recording for both large ensembles and solo recording

pcrecord, post: 428262, member: 46460 wrote: I was also on the impression some LDCs would fit the job but Boswell interjected in favor of SDC

There isn't really a hard and fast rule, but there are a number of factors to take into account including things like expected usage, visual intrusion, cost, versatility and intrinsic noise level.

One major point is that SDCs tend to sound better off-axis than LDCs in a similar price bracket. If you have an artist sing into a U87 at 60 degrees or so off axis and listened to the recording you think "Did I put up the right microphone - let me check!" That's not to say it's a bad sound, but it's not the same as the on-axis sound of a U87 that we are all used to. When the expected usage includes large ensembles, there will be considerable off-axis sound arriving at the central stereo microphone pair, and it's important that all the instruments are captured with a similar sound quality. There are exceptions to this, for example, microphones like the AKG 414 that Donny mentioned and (in a lower price bracket) the mid-size diaphragm AT 4033 have a good sound quality evenness over their capture angle.

Because of the smaller diaphragm area and restricted magnet size, SDCs have a lower output than LDCs for a given sound pressure level, and for some instances of recording pieces with huge dynamic range, this can lead to a problem with microphone noise. I remember once carefully evaluating microphones for an orchestral concert and taking a chosen selection to the venue, only to be told when I got there that a video crew recording the event would be taking an audio split from my microphones, pushing my noise levels up by many dB. I was very cross about not being told in advance, but, largely because I had included noise in my mental evaluations, it worked out OK in the end.

It's not a big deal, but if I had to choose a stereo pair of mid-price microphones for a wide range of recording tasks, I would probably go for SDCs.

[edit] I thought I would clarify that if you split the output of a microphone it's not the microphone's signal-to-noise ratio that decreases, but its output amplitude (signal and noise), and so you need more gain in the pre-amps. It's the extra pre-amp gain that can bring out noise.