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Sound beginner building a recording package, classical and jazz music

Greetings all.

As a photographer, filmmaker, lifelong audio enthusiast, and beginner sound recorder, I'm glad to have found this website to research, ask for, and perhaps sometime, offer advice for the art of recording.

My first post here I will keep as simple as possible for now. For the past year or so I've read a couple of books on audio recording, some articles here and there, flipped out while flipping through the pages of Sound on Sound magazine, etc, and am ready to jump into the process.

I've recently developed an affinity to listening to classical music and have gone to several live performances here at the world great Symphony Hall in Boston. I would like to start capturing the sounds of classical music, although it won't be at the Hall anytime soon. Eventually I'd like to be able to help record entire orchestras, but I think for someone like me who hasn't recorded anything yet, something like a smaller solo or quartet performance at a local high school or college will be a more realistic place to start.

For now, I guess I'm not so interested in mic placements yet, although I know that's most important, and the further details, so much as I'm interested in the basics of what types of equipment will help me begin recording excellent sounds from instruments and vocal chords.

So with some research I've decided on a few pieces of equipment and would like to know what you think, along with any advice you can offer with what you're thinking.

Going with the idea that I might begin recording soloists(strings,winds,piano,drums,brass,etc), or small ensembles, quartets, and ever perhaps slightly larger groups, in spaces ranging from small rooms to slightly larger halls during rehearsals (no audience). Even small jazz/blues clubs and restaurants capturing audience recordings(from the soundboard and mic recordings), I've decided that I may purchase the following to begin with:

Microphones: Neumann KM 184's . Probably the pair, but I'm on budget so am considering one to start, but will probably end up with a pair of whatever mics I go with.

XLR Cables: I'm still researching these and am looking for a quality brand, maybe not the most expensive, but a type that will carry quality. How are Mogami's?

Mixer/Recorder: I'll be mobile and also recording sounds/dialog from the field(for film making), so I'm looking at a field mixer/recorder. I'd love to be able to get a nice Sound Devices PreMixD or 302 to start, but I can't afford that yet. I was directed toward a Fostex DC-R302.

At this point, should I be thinking about purchasing mic preamps, equalizers, or compressors, or would a setup like this be a good place to start.

Thanks for taking the time to read this and I'm looking forward to join the conversation here.


Aaron

Comments

kmetal Tue, 01/20/2015 - 02:02
Your list looks good. I'd go w. Canare cable to save money with no difference in quality or qc between them and mogami. The quadflex is good stuff and in potential noisy wifi busy places, this is where the real difference in cable matters. Durability and shielding.

A nice pre for you would probably be a true precision 8.

If you go th route of a standalone recorder, wich is good for quality and reliably, you would still need a daw for any serious mixing and editing. This would include an audio interface and their are a ton at any price point. There is also the option of a Mac mini or laptop, and an interface and pre, or something like a digital mixer from mackie or Allen and Heath or presonus is also a nice turnkey option too.

If you have a tablet you can get some decent low Channel count interfaces and some pretty heavy editing and mixing capabilities in some of the premium apps for around 50 bucks they or also GarageBand which is free and quite good I use it it's I don't miss my home in DA W set up at all,other then the capability of moving projects from the studios back at home

anonymous Tue, 01/20/2015 - 02:05
Aaron, post: 423889, member: 48792 wrote: For now, I guess I'm not so interested in mic placements yet, although I know that's most important, and the further details, so much as I'm interested in the basics of what types of equipment will help me begin recording excellent sounds from instruments and vocal chords.

with classical recording, mic technique/placement is everything, and you are going to want at least 1 pair of good condensers for field recording. The Neumann's are a good choice, but you're really going to need 2 - so that you can record in stereo.

At this point, capturing the audio with as high fidelity as possible is the key, so yes, preamps will matter a lot - much more-so right now than things like compressors. You will want to look at a multi-channel pre amp that is as transparent as possible, meaning you don't want a pre that will color the sound (like a tube preamp for example). You will also want a pre that has good converters as well. There's no point in going the cheap/budget route for this, because you won't be happy with the sound, and you'll just end up having to replace it with something better a short distance down the road. For what you are doing, I would suggest something like a Grace or a Millennia. They ain't cheap, but if you want a pro sound, you're gonna need to accept the fact that the only way to get that is to use pro gear.

I don't know anything about the Fostex, someone else will have to chime in on that. What you should be doing right now is researching multi-mic arrays, because this is going to be key - not only in getting a nice recording, but also getting a natural sounding recording as well.

pcrecord Tue, 01/20/2015 - 02:57
Its a nice project but it's a bit sad that you start with the 'on a budget' road.
If you want a pair of mics. You better buy a match pair, you will have more consistent stereo field result.

Being able to go on site is great. Althought you will often be victime of room acoustics, it is important to choose gear that will be of high quality.

If dealing with a computer is not a problem. You could use a laptop and a Antelope Zen studio (Great 12 preamps and many more inputs with nice converters. Easy to move in a bag or a case.) http://www.antelopeaudio.com/fr/products/zen-studio-portable-audio-interface

anonymous Tue, 01/20/2015 - 03:29
pcrecord, post: 423893, member: 46460 wrote: Being able to go on site is great. Althought you will often be victime of room acoustics, it is important to choose gear that will be of high quality.

Yes, but if he's recording mostly classical/orchestral, the venues where those types of performances take place generally have very nice acoustics to begin with. But, Aaron is still going to need to familiarize himself with multi mic arrays in order to capture that ambiance in the most natural and pleasing way. I'm not kidding on this... mic quality and technique is really really important for classical music - especially on-site.

Truthfully, Aaron, if you had mentioned being interested in doing simple rock and roll or blues or something, you could have probably "gotten by" with a cheaper rig - I'm not a proponent for cheap gear at any point or with any style, but rock can be more forgiving of those gear inadequacies than other genre's - and classical is a style where the caliber of the gear matters the most.

In short, you've chosen to record a style of music that is probably the most expensive to do - if you want to do it right, that is.

Believe me when I tell you - and I'm speaking from experience here, having learned this while doing a stint as an assistant engineer years ago with Telarc Records (which was the official record label of The Cleveland Orchestra), that classical aficionados - those people who love classical music - are fanatical about the recordings they listen to, and they want the highest quality possible, they want to hear everything, and in a way that is as close as possible to actually going to the performance.
And, you won't be able to provide that cheaper gear; you won't get that with one good mic, or, two cheap mics, either. But it's not just the mics that matter. Your conversion is going to need to be stellar, because classical is so dynamic in character; there are lots of ultra-soft passages that then explode into crescendos, and you're going to need a conversion system that can handle insuring that the music sounds just as fantastic when it's soft, as it does when it's louder.

pcrecord Tue, 01/20/2015 - 05:10
Donny, I think I focused on a different part of this sentence than you ;) :
Aaron, post: 423889, member: 48792 wrote: Going with the idea that I might begin recording soloists(strings,winds,piano,drums,brass,etc), or small ensembles, quartets, and ever perhaps slightly larger groups, in spaces ranging from small rooms to slightly larger halls during rehearsals (no audience). Even small jazz/blues clubs and restaurants capturing audience recordings
Soloists in small rooms are those who can bring room acoustics challenges. But of course, there is a lot to care about before getting there...

I should emphase on the fact that classical music is a very dynamic art. Going from ppp to fff, you will need high quality, low noise microphones but also highquality preamps that offer a fair amount of power while producing a very low noise signal.

Aaron : Your list of activities is a bit too wide to begin with :
soloists(strings,winds,piano,drums,brass,etc),
small ensembles, quartets, and ever perhaps slightly larger groups
spaces ranging from small rooms to slightly larger halls during rehearsals (no audience).
Even small jazz/blues clubs and restaurants capturing audience recordings

Many of the things you want to do call for different approach and equipement. If you would narrow the needs on which you want focus first, it'll be easier to guide you.

anonymous Tue, 01/20/2015 - 05:34
I beat ya to that one, pal:

DonnyThompson, post: 423894, member: 46114 wrote: But it's not just the mics that matter. Your conversion is going to need to be stellar, because classical is so dynamic in character; there are lots of ultra-soft passages that then explode into crescendos, and you're going to need a conversion system that can handle insuring that the music sounds just as fantastic when it's soft, as it does when it's louder.

LOL

;)

pcrecord Tue, 01/20/2015 - 05:52
Well I thought I'd say it again to be sure the OP gets it ;)

Portability, clean preamps and converters : that's why I suggested the zen studio.
As for mics, recording a blues band in a club and a classical ensemble in big theater are very different things.

I think we should wait that the OP returns and narrow down his needs.

Aaron Tue, 01/20/2015 - 07:14
It's great to be surrounded by people who are far more knowledgeable from where I'm at with recording, so thanks so far everyone.

kmetal: I'll check those cables and do a little more comparative research on those with reviews,etc. For editing DAW, I'll go with a MacBookPro and software, perhaps ProTools, but that is far beyond my capabilities now and realize that's going to require quite a learning curve before I can exploit what it does. I may start with something more simple from Adobe or related.

DonnyThompson: I do like what I've read about the Neumann 184's so far and will get the pair of mics. I was looking at the preamps you recommended and they look great. I realize the importance of having professional gear throughout the chain, however, I'm not at that level yet and won't be creating work for high caliber record labels, just yet (sounds like a great possibility that I hadn't considered), and given other important places where I need my money to go, a new MacPro, and non-related and more important, a car, I cannot afford multiple thousands of dollars on a preamp just yet. When I've got a bit more of cash flow, yes. Although it won't be as high caliber as what you've mentioned, can you or anyone else reading this recommend a good quality 2-channel, portable preamp that would a balance between, unfortunately, price, specs/sound quality, and my and potential clients' happiness, given a nice pair of the Neumanns? And yes, I know of the character and dynamic range of classical music you speak of; I've got several cd's of recorded pieces where it'll be the silence of a solo violin followed with the explosion of the entire orchestra. Again, could you recommend a preamp that puts that dynamic range into consideration?
With listening to and eventually recording music, yes my ears do think in terms of enjoyment of high-fidelity sound and capture and look forward to the challenge of recreating that, so I am aware of the importance of mic placement of given instruments in various rooms, which leads me to pcrecords comments.

pcrecords: Thanks for the recommendation of the Antelope Zen Studio. I'm not aware of that and what it does so I'll look more into that. Yes, I do realize my list of activities are quite a range. I'm thinking a little too far ahead in what I'd eventually like to record. I'll start with smaller rooms for classical recording: soloists and quartets, probably not in a live audience setting so I'd be able to work with the musicians and get nice close mic placements. From what I've read, recording piano might be better in a room with higher ceilings to give some breathing room to the natural sound of that. Recording violins and violas, I've read it might be a good idea to place the mics over the shoulder, some distance away from the instrument to mimic the sound that the musician is hearing. Keeping in mind the idea of starting in a smaller place versus an entire 1,500 seat hall, I would also like to record jazz and blues bands, rock bands at clubs eventually. With that I'm thinking of direct mixing/recording from the house board, if possible, and also audience recordings. I used to goto concerts (10,000 seat arenas to several hundred person bars/clubs) where friends would make audience recordings using shotgun mics, which I know are better to shut out recording the endless, unwanted sources of ambient sound of being in an audience, and pointed at the source house speakers. I'll do that type of recording eventually, maybe, but for now I'm interested in the smaller, quieter, controlled scene of those non-live, probably classical rehearsal recordings,etc. I mention the jazz/blues bands because there are several restaurants/ tiny clubs who do have bands and I wouldn't mind capturing the 'quieter' ambiance of places like that, with perhaps an audience more interested in listening to the music versus drinking booze and talking to everyone around them about what their day, or whatever.

Aaron Tue, 01/20/2015 - 07:25
I ordered what looks to be a good book to start reading about live recording, ' Recording Music On Location : Capturing The Live Performance ' by Bruce and Jenny Bartlett , which I think will be a good additional educational reference. It just arrived as I was typing my last post :) If anyone reading this is starting to think about recording live music, check it out SPL

pcrecord Tue, 01/20/2015 - 07:53
I suggested the Antelope because of the count of good preamps and they might fit your needs. Of course they are not as good as some outboard preamps like Millennia or Focusrite Red or others very clean pre. But the Antelope pre are very close to them, close enough to do a great job in studio and remote location. + you got 12 of them and eight line inputs for other pre or line level signals

Thing is, specially in studio, most could go and buy a converter/interface like the Orion32 and buy some selection of outboard preamps.
But for the sake of portability, the zen seems like a good choice... My opinion might be teinted by the fact that I'm considering it for my next interface, but I assure you I'm no Antelope seller ;)

Regarding recording live, recording the master bus of a live mixer is far from ideal. You should know that mixing for a live venue imply that your priority is to make the show sound good for the audience, so we always compensate for the room and for the speakers and for the direct sound of the instruments.
I tell you, it doesn't sound good on recording..
What you want to do is to have a recording unit or interface that have enough inputs to grab the direct outs of the mixer (which gives a signal before EQs if possible)

Tony Carpenter Tue, 01/20/2015 - 07:59
+1 on Antelope Zen studio. However, if your having an initial budget constraint, equally, and for less money, a MOTU may do the trick. As for 2 channel preamp (interfaces) there are MANY to choose from. RME, Universal Audio, Focusrite, Presonus all make smaller quality hookups. You'll regret starting too cheap on that style of recording, that much is very certain, but if you're really going to do it, at least come in semi decent, and, it doesn't hurt to keep an eye on eBay, can save 100s if someone got broke and or can't use something anymore.

My .02 FWIW.

Tony

paulears Tue, 01/20/2015 - 09:34
I looked back to the first post and this sentence.
For now, I guess I'm not so interested in mic placements yet, although I know that's most important, and the further details, so much as I'm interested in the basics of what types of equipment will help me begin recording excellent sounds from instruments and vocal chords.
I'm wondering that maybe before investing in the nice kit suggested in this topic, the basics of direct to stereo recording need to be tried out - just in case you discover it isn't for you. Top class mics, in a top class acoustic space with excellent musician doesn't remotely guarantee a good recording until you've 'tuned' your ears to the tiny differences that all the variables control. A friend of mine used to record musical performances in a rather dreadful venue. He spent more and more money until he got fed up and gave up. If you have a nice space, can you physically get your mics where you want them?

I bang on about how difficult acoustic recordings are and have always found that the space and the techniques, coupled with positioning have much more real impact than the microphones - until you have that bit sorted, and then you can hear the difference the better mics reveal.

Is it worth spending serious money right from the start? Not sure.

Aaron Tue, 01/20/2015 - 11:36
pc - Recording live from the board; makes sense what you wrote. I was helping as stage tech for a recent show and their sound person brought the XLR's from the house mixer directly to his digital mixer and controlled things that way(let alone the bands' wireless ear monitors and wi-fi i-pad mixing from stage during sound check).

Mak - Thanks for the advice and recommendations on those. I'm going to look further into options from some of those manufacturer's. Have you or anyone heard the sound from the Focusrite ISA Two? http://global.focusrite.com/mic-pres/isa-two#

Paul - I haven't set anything up yet, but for starters I'm looking to record events like rehearsals and music classes for children and adults, so I think after I talk to the various music directors or musicians and explain my situation it'll be easy to experiment and set proper mic placements. I've also read of people recording orchestra concerts by setting up stereo mics a few rows back from stage, 10+ feet up(although I'm not sure what anyone in the audience though about that). I haven't heard what those recordings sound like though. As far as spending money, I can't afford the best pro gear, but I also don't want to buy the equipment of where my skill level is currently. I want to be able to establish a certain level of quality and grow into and learn more about the fairly good/great equipment and techniques for capturing proper sound.


Concerning preamps, before I purchase one, would it be a good idea to buy the mics and the Fostex mixer/recorder that I mentioned above to see what the sound is like? I've talked to a few people who have used/heard the sound coming from the Fostex and Sound Devices 302 mixer and although the SD is superior, they said there was barely any discernible difference, if at all, in regular listening situations. Are some of the preamps in these mixers good enough for someone like me(non-pro as of yet) , or will a separate preamp from the start very noticeably send out punchier, cleaner, smoother, obviously notable sound to the mixer?

Kurt Foster Tue, 01/20/2015 - 12:21
with the type of recording you want to do, the first thing you should investigate is, can you place your mics where they would need to be?
if you can't do that, it's not worth pursuing.

correct mic placement and selection are paramount. nothing else is as important. next would be mic pre choice. there are a lot of neutral sounding / uncolored, high resolution mic pres marketed but be ready to pay for them. this is not an avocation for the light hearted. you need to have deep pockets in most situations.


















paulears Tue, 01/20/2015 - 12:22
When I did a lot of this type of recording in the late 90s, I had a second hand one of these (from ebay)
http://www.canford.co.uk/PANAMIC-CATHEDRAL-MICROPHONE-STANDS
Really useful, and with a couple of stage weights on the bottom, it was quite good. The new one says carbon fibre, but I'm pretty sure my one was aluminium?

I would always take a small mixer and a couple of monitors and if possible work near field in the vestry, if it was a church, or any convenient quiet spot in a theatre or concert hall. The biggest problem I ever had was any kind of recording with an audience - they are a real pain, but just the musicians, and it's fine. If you do it regularly, then a mic and an active speaker going the other way, so you can talk to the conductor is very handy.

Never expect it to be easy. Especially when the musicians are either too 'thin' quantity wise, or not experienced at playing in ensemble. You frequently find with these types of musician, tuning is a bit tricky, and before you record it, you need a bit of courage to mention it, quietly to the conductor. Making a superb recording of an out of tune orchestra is quite awful. Although most examples on Youtube are dreadful quality in technical terms, the original recordings were sonically good, but dreadful to listen to - a bit of a quandary.

dvdhawk Tue, 01/20/2015 - 19:17
These Manfrotto Quick Stands are really nice 12ft. tall stands. They're lightweight, but have a wide enough base to be very sturdy. The way they fold flat and lock together for transport is pretty clever too. Since you're a photographer / videographer, you might find them useful for softboxes, and similar lights too. When I can, I use one to get a Blumlein pair up behind the conductor (AKG C414XLS).

Aaron Tue, 01/20/2015 - 19:57
Thanks again for your help and time everyone.

Kurt- I will be able to get my mics anywhere I want them. I mean, everyone in this conversation are artists, and we all know we're more privileged than average citizens, so that we can eventually get the shots or sounds what we want. We're confident and courageous. There is no other choice. And, recalling the great prophet, Mahatma Gandhi, who once said, " I believe in equality of all people except reporters and photographers. ", it'll be relatively simple! Plus, if we look to sell our work, before we're artists, we're salespeople, aren't we? We're sharks, not minnows.
Also, the more I read from you all, the more I'm realizing the importance of mic pres. Still, it'll be awhile before I can afford the ones I would like, and I'd like to start recording before that time. The Grace and the Universal Audio Apollos look like something to be had. Probably sound too.
Thank you too for posting those great photos of the orchestra and mic configs. I'm a visual learner. So thank you sir

Paul - That's another sort of recording I'm thinking of, choirs or musicians in churches. Great points on the out of tune musicians too. Something we might not think about before we hit the record button. After reading all those critical, sometimes negative, and unnecessary, comments of world-class orchestras, from classical CD's on Amazon, I'm sure there will be some out of tune musicians and will keep that recommendation in mind.
Concerning the audience, when I'm working with people, usually photographing, and in this case recording audio, there is no audience to contend with. Only me and the people I'm photographing or recording. The audience doesn't really exist in my mind, and if they do, they work around me and the orchestra or band.

dvdhawk- thanks for the ideas and writing in here. You read my mind. I have those exact stands, two of them, twelve footers and literally a few hours ago was thinking why the hell can't I use those to mount a couple of stereo mics on. I'm looking into that AKG mic you mentioned because I've heard some great sounding live recordings from AKG's before, also preferable, along with the Neumanns I'd like, and Schoeps that I can't afford yet.

Was Alan Blumlein a genius?

Aaron Wed, 01/21/2015 - 05:44
Why aren't you sold on matched pairs? Do you get a certain sound character with various specs?

Does anyone here have online links to live recordings they've made; posted on Soundcloud or related site?

Also, is there anyone from the Boston, Providence, Worcester, or around there that will be recording performances soon? To where I might be able to see how a recording team sets things up?

pcrecord Wed, 01/21/2015 - 06:23
Aaron, post: 423911, member: 48792 wrote: Mak - Thanks for the advice and recommendations on those. I'm going to look further into options from some of those manufacturer's. Have you or anyone heard the sound from the Focusrite ISA Two? http://global.focusrite.com/mic-pres/isa-two#

I have 2x ISA Two, they sound wonderfull on guitars, bass and drums. They have a ton of power with a low noise ratio. But while they can sound pretty clean, they are not considered to be transparent. The transformers they have give you a certain sound signature which is pleasing for many of my applications.
For classical music, there are more transparent ones. Not that the ISA can't work, they will nicely!! One thing to consider is that they don't have a converter option as other ISA units have (ISA 428 and 828 have an adat outputs option).

Aaron, post: 423945, member: 48792 wrote: Mahatma Gandhi, who once said, " I believe in equality of all people except reporters and photographers. ",
I think he forgot about lawers ! ;)

paulears Wed, 01/21/2015 - 06:30
I note you said you read Sound on Sound. I'm sure there is a good article about recording this kind of stuff quite a while back - Hugh Robjohns, who I have a lot of respect for.

I don't quite understand the bit about audiences only existing in your mind? Do you mean all your recordings will be recording sessions only? I've never found any audience willing to work around a recording, they ALWAYS make their presence known - clapping in an orchestral pause, or coughing, and don't even get me going on cellphones! Police sirens, aircraft and fire alarms have been present in many recordings over the years. There are even internet groups who listen to recordings to see if they can hear what shouldn't be there.

Seriously though, if the musicians are playing for the recording, as in it's the primary objective, it's quite different to capturing a realistic live performance with people. There's always a kind of excitement to live stuff.

TheJackAttack Wed, 01/21/2015 - 08:24
Aaron, post: 423969, member: 48792 wrote: Why aren't you sold on matched pairs? Do you get a certain sound character with various specs?

Most modern production microphones are very very close to each other if the company is reputable and has done their quality control. If I purchase two AKG C414 XLS they will be close enough to make fine transparent recordings. If I purchase two DPA mic's they will be even more so. Tube mic's are slightly different due to the tubes if nothing else. Ribbon mic motors age differently as well. I don't think one gains anything audible by "matched" pairs.

Now let's look at even the best human ears. Our ears all hear different frequencies differently. Some freq's are emphasized or de-emphasized just by the aural structure itself let alone through damage or disease (cauliflower ear from fighting or swelling through ear/sinus infection or TMJ acting upon the bones or decibel overload). Are our ears "matched"? Not hardly.

Here is the other end of it. Say you purchase a "matched" pair of mic's. They still aren't equal just very very very close on the day they were tested and left the factory. Now as they age and get used they will become unmatched just from that process. Folks used to obsess about unfelt earthquakes and all kind of "white" noise and air pressure changes aging the microphone diaphragms. One can go crazy with possibilities if one wants to. I do keep my stereo pairs matched together as much as possible especially my ribbons, but I don't fret about it. I have only purchased one pair as a matched pair and I can hear audible (to me) differences in the microphones. What preamp you use is going to make infinitely more difference than whether your microphones were tested and matched at the factory. How you position the microphones will be the difference between a good or great recording and garbage even if you spent 40k on a matched gold plated ornately engraved Klaus Heine blessed concoction.

Aaron Wed, 01/21/2015 - 09:14
pcrecord, post: 423971, member: 46460 wrote: I have 2x ISA Two, they sound wonderfull on guitars, bass and drums. They have a ton of power with a low noise ratio. But while they can sound pretty clean, they are not considered to be transparent. The transformers they have give you a certain sound signature which is pleasing for many of my applications.
For classical music, there are more transparent ones. Not that the ISA can't work, they will nicely!! One thing to consider is that they don't have a converter option as other ISA units have (ISA 428 and 828 have an adat outputs option).


I think he forgot about lawers ! ;)

I can agree with that one :)

Aaron Wed, 01/21/2015 - 09:26
paulears, post: 423972, member: 47782 wrote: I note you said you read Sound on Sound. I'm sure there is a good article about recording this kind of stuff quite a while back - Hugh Robjohns, who I have a lot of respect for.

I don't quite understand the bit about audiences only existing in your mind? Do you mean all your recordings will be recording sessions only? I've never found any audience willing to work around a recording, they ALWAYS make their presence known - clapping in an orchestral pause, or coughing, and don't even get me going on cellphones! Police sirens, aircraft and fire alarms have been present in many recordings over the years. There are even internet groups who listen to recordings to see if they can hear what shouldn't be there.

Seriously though, if the musicians are playing for the recording, as in it's the primary objective, it's quite different to capturing a realistic live performance with people. There's always a kind of excitement to live stuff.

I searched for that article and found this. Is it the one you're referring to? http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/apr99/articles/recstrings.htm

Audience-Yes I think to start they'll be without an audience, but want to record live sometime. We were thinking of the audience in a different context though. After listening to several live recordings and going to some performances it is interesting how many people cough during pauses or during quiet passages during the work. It's like a coughing ensemble in itself. I don't understand why people seem to wait for those times? Regarding unwanted background noise though, how difficult is it to edit out or atleast minimize that in post production?

Aaron Wed, 01/21/2015 - 09:51
TheJackAttack, post: 423978, member: 34377 wrote: Most modern production microphones are very very close to each other if the company is reputable and has done their quality control. If I purchase two AKG C414 XLS they will be close enough to make fine transparent recordings. If I purchase two DPA mic's they will be even more so. Tube mic's are slightly different due to the tubes if nothing else. Ribbon mic motors age differently as well. I don't think one gains anything audible by "matched" pairs.

Now let's look at even the best human ears. Our ears all hear different frequencies differently. Some freq's are emphasized or de-emphasized just by the aural structure itself let alone through damage or disease (cauliflower ear from fighting or swelling through ear/sinus infection or TMJ acting upon the bones or decibel overload). Are our ears "matched"? Not hardly.

Here is the other end of it. Say you purchase a "matched" pair of mic's. They still aren't equal just very very very close on the day they were tested and left the factory. Now as they age and get used they will become unmatched just from that process. Folks used to obsess about unfelt earthquakes and all kind of "white" noise and air pressure changes aging the microphone diaphragms. One can go crazy with possibilities if one wants to. I do keep my stereo pairs matched together as much as possible especially my ribbons, but I don't fret about it. I have only purchased one pair as a matched pair and I can hear audible (to me) differences in the microphones. What preamp you use is going to make infinitely more difference than whether your microphones were tested and matched at the factory. How you position the microphones will be the difference between a good or great recording and garbage even if you spent 40k on a matched gold plated ornately engraved Klaus Heine blessed concoction.

Interesting real world ideas that make sense and I guess not everyone thinks about. Thanks

Aaron Wed, 01/21/2015 - 19:51
There's been a lot of talk about the importance of mic pres during this little conversation but I haven't heard anything about the mixers and recorders and the pres in them. What units are everyone using to mix and record their work. As mentioned in my initial post, I've decided to start with a field mixer, the Fostex DC-R302, link removed , which will be used for both the music recording we've be talking about, and also dialog recording for film projects, and sound recording in the field, nature, traffic, coffee shops, etc. Here's a quick youtube video of that recording (although I don't know if they've gone directly from mic to the recording unit, or from mics to pres to the mixer/recorder)
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I was initially interested in purchasing a Sound Devices MixPre D, or the SD 302, along with a separate recorder. ( Really I'd like to have the Sound Devices 744T or 788T, but I could buy that decent used car for that price now), but there were several people who recommend the Fostex, saying it was just as quiet as the Sound Devices units. I don't own the Fostex yet, so obviously haven't made a recording from the microphones plugged directly into it. Assuming the pres in there are of high quality, how much of an advantage will I get by adding a thousand dollar mic pre unit into the chain of quality mics and a reasonably high quality mixer/recorder. How much more will a separate unit clean, smooth, and add punch to the sound already being cleaned, smoothed, and punched from the Fostex, or any other very good quality mixer/recorder with excellent pres in them?

paulears Thu, 01/22/2015 - 03:22
In need of a solution in a hurry, and petty cash prices, I bought a Zoom H4N before christmas. I needed a recording of a show to send away to calculate PRS payments - sound quality wasn't an issue - just an evidentiary thing really. However, I was pleasantly surprised. The revues and various forum comments about noisy preamps and other weirdnesses were, in my humble view, vastly overplayed. It was connected to a Yamaha digital mixer, headsets were countrymans, with Sennheiser radio systems. I tried using the recorder to do recordings of the various singers in the show - some quite well know names, and as we were using live musicians, plus some BVs and effects on multitrack, it saved our bacon when one of the top turns lost her voice - used the wav file into the playback system and a bit of lip-sync cured the problem till her voice returned. The quality is fine, the singer happy and having sold a decent amount of music in her time, she's well aware how her voice should sound.

Sure, we're talking live sound rather than studio, but newcomers are being fed misinformation on how 'quality' is achieved regularly.

The technical people want sonically pure e to e, but then want colour, texture, immediacy all the fancy buzzwords that really mean artistically 'nicer' and technically 'worse'.

I remember aspiring towards the German microphone starting with a U when I first started out, because everyone talked about it's quality. Then it started to change to the sound, and now it's changed to colour - even sometimes acknowledging that the sound is far from perfect, but the coloured sound is the one to aspire to?

People like DPA went towards clean and uncompromised, and yet the 4000 series have sort of faded away in popularity because now people don't want transparency.

If you are a beginner, it's common sense to buy good budget kit first, and only replace it once you have reached the limits of what it can do.

You can buy a zoom, and a couple of cheap small diaphragm condensers and produce some great recordings. The sound quality of the microphones and the slightly higher noise floor will still be under-utilised until your technique and skill level improve - and that takes time and effort.

I get the feeling that for what we talking about here, there is a feeling that equipment is paramount, and I really do not agree - recording orchestral or choral music is so much more than equipment.

We still listen to music recorded in world class venues with marvellous musicians and singers that was recorded on VERY basic equipment by todays even amateur standards.

Adding a thousand Dollar mic pre may be totally pointless - cascading amplifiers with most modern kit doesn't improve the noise performance because so many designs now pad down the line inputs, then amplify them again - and not every manufacturer provides specs.

Recording is falling fast towards audiophile territory, where price is always taken to mean quality, and claims are laughable.

Coming back from a long term away job, I spent yesterday reinstalling kit in my studio, and went straight onto a job and it only dawned on me later that I was using a different audio interface - I really didn't notice. With the monitors up quite high, no hisses leapt out at me, no obvious difference in the sound from what I remembered, and unless I crank up my gains to 75% or more, which I don't have to, no pre-amp noise I can hear. I can see a tiny quivering of the screen meters that tells me something, but can I hear it.

Sorry, this turned into a bit of a rant, didn't it? I just fear that we are doing the equivalent of saying to somebody that you shouldn't start out making music on anything less than a four figure guitar, and slamming the Squires and Epiphones as junk. Learn the chords first, and then you can shell out on a better guitar.

Aaron Thu, 01/22/2015 - 09:18
paulears, post: 424034, member: 47782 wrote: In need of a solution in a hurry, and petty cash prices, I bought a Zoom H4N before christmas. I needed a recording of a show to send away to calculate PRS payments - sound quality wasn't an issue - just an evidentiary thing really. However, I was pleasantly surprised. The revues and various forum comments about noisy preamps and other weirdnesses were, in my humble view, vastly overplayed. It was connected to a Yamaha digital mixer, headsets were countrymans, with Sennheiser radio systems. I tried using the recorder to do recordings of the various singers in the show - some quite well know names, and as we were using live musicians, plus some BVs and effects on multitrack, it saved our bacon when one of the top turns lost her voice - used the wav file into the playback system and a bit of lip-sync cured the problem till her voice returned. The quality is fine, the singer happy and having sold a decent amount of music in her time, she's well aware how her voice should sound.

Sure, we're talking live sound rather than studio, but newcomers are being fed misinformation on how 'quality' is achieved regularly.

The technical people want sonically pure e to e, but then want colour, texture, immediacy all the fancy buzzwords that really mean artistically 'nicer' and technically 'worse'.

I remember aspiring towards the German microphone starting with a U when I first started out, because everyone talked about it's quality. Then it started to change to the sound, and now it's changed to colour - even sometimes acknowledging that the sound is far from perfect, but the coloured sound is the one to aspire to?

People like DPA went towards clean and uncompromised, and yet the 4000 series have sort of faded away in popularity because now people don't want transparency.

If you are a beginner, it's common sense to buy good budget kit first, and only replace it once you have reached the limits of what it can do.

You can buy a zoom, and a couple of cheap small diaphragm condensers and produce some great recordings. The sound quality of the microphones and the slightly higher noise floor will still be under-utilised until your technique and skill level improve - and that takes time and effort.

I get the feeling that for what we talking about here, there is a feeling that equipment is paramount, and I really do not agree - recording orchestral or choral music is so much more than equipment.

We still listen to music recorded in world class venues with marvellous musicians and singers that was recorded on VERY basic equipment by todays even amateur standards.

Adding a thousand Dollar mic pre may be totally pointless - cascading amplifiers with most modern kit doesn't improve the noise performance because so many designs now pad down the line inputs, then amplify them again - and not every manufacturer provides specs.

Recording is falling fast towards audiophile territory, where price is always taken to mean quality, and claims are laughable.

Coming back from a long term away job, I spent yesterday reinstalling kit in my studio, and went straight onto a job and it only dawned on me later that I was using a different audio interface - I really didn't notice. With the monitors up quite high, no hisses leapt out at me, no obvious difference in the sound from what I remembered, and unless I crank up my gains to 75% or more, which I don't have to, no pre-amp noise I can hear. I can see a tiny quivering of the screen meters that tells me something, but can I hear it.

Sorry, this turned into a bit of a rant, didn't it? I just fear that we are doing the equivalent of saying to somebody that you shouldn't start out making music on anything less than a four figure guitar, and slamming the Squires and Epiphones as junk. Learn the chords first, and then you can shell out on a better guitar.


Nope, not a rant. It all 'reads' good to me and makes practical sense, and besides, somewhere is always a good place to start!

TheJackAttack Tue, 02/17/2015 - 22:44
Technique is more important than the equipment. I have made quality live orchestral chamber recordings with a pair of EV RE27's. Get the best quality you can afford and then experiment until you have made the stone bleed bright crimson blood enough to entice a vampire. Only then will improvement in mic's or preamps or whatever be money well spent.

pcrecord Wed, 02/18/2015 - 03:32
TheJackAttack, post: 425214, member: 34377 wrote: Technique is more important than the equipment. I have made quality live orchestral chamber recordings with a pair of EV RE27's. Get the best quality you can afford and then experiment until you have made the stone bleed bright crimson blood enough to entice a vampire. Only then will improvement in mic's or preamps or whatever be money well spent.

This is a debate that comes back on the forum again and again. In fact it is a reflect of consummer modos so it is not only with recording gear but with any technological thing you can buy. Computers are nearly in worst situation then recording gear.

On each sides you have ; those who buy small and dispose to grow against those who buy big a keeps for a long time. And I must say, I have equal respect to both sides.

Right now, I admit, I'm on the side of those who buy big (if you are sure you are serious about it). Of course I could change any day. But the reason I say that now, is that I'm stuck with a piece of gear the I regret buying and can't afford a replacement for now. I went and spend 1k on an audio interface but now realise that I could have invested that 1k on something a lot better if I had waited to have another 1k to invest. But NO I was exited and wanted to record right away and thought it was a good buy and in fact it is. It is a good product FOR the price. But not good enough for my ears to love. So, I can replace the first one (at 1k) with a 1500$ interface with the risk that I want to change it again in a year or go for the big thing at 2500$. OK OK, I know, I'm a gear freak. Thing is my ears are aware of quality exists so how could I settle for less ?? Well my budget did that to me... :eek:

So each one of us need to ask ourself, what can I settle for ?

DonnyThompson Wed, 02/18/2015 - 03:44
pcrecord, post: 425224, member: 46460 wrote: This is a debate that comes back on the forum again and again. In fact it is a reflect of consummer modos so it is not only with recording gear but with any technological thing you can buy. Computers are nearly in worst situation then recording gear.

On each sides you have ; those who buy small and dispose to grow against those who buy big a keeps for a long time. And I must say, I have equal respect to both sides.

Right now, I admit, I'm on the side of those who buy big (if you are sure you are serious about it). Of course I could change any day. But the reason I say that now, is that I'm stuck with a piece of gear the I regret buying and can't afford a replacement for now. I went and spend 1k on an audio interface but now realise that I could have invested that 1k on something a lot better if I had waited to have another 1k to invest. But NO I was exited and wanted to record right away and thought it was a good buy and in fact it is. It is a good product FOR the price. But not good enough for my ears to love. So, I can replace the first one (at 1k) with a 1500$ interface with the risk that I want to change it again in a year or go for the big thing at 2500$. OK OK, I know, I'm a gear freak. Thing is my ears are aware of quality exists so how could I settle for less ?? Well my budget did that to me... :eek:

So each one of us need to ask ourself, what can I settle for ?

Hey Pal ....Care to share what piece of gear you regret buying? It might benefit others to know which piece you are talking about and why you regret buying it ... ;)

pcrecord Wed, 02/18/2015 - 05:39
DonnyThompson, post: 425227, member: 46114 wrote: Hey Pal ....Care to share what piece of gear you regret buying? It might benefit others to know which piece you are talking about and why you regret buying it ... ;)

It is the Focusrite Liquid Saffire 56. It is a nice unit with tons of good features. I bought it to replace 4 Delta cards and the upgrade made a big difference. But since then I started to use hi-end preamps and I realise the preamps of the 56, while being of honest quality for the price, are not quite good enough for me anymore.
So to this point, I need to decide if I go for something like the ISA828 or better with a interface with only converters. Or with a Zen studio who has 12 good preamps and enough expension possibilities to use the pres I have and add more later on. But for now, I don't have any money and selling the 56 won't give me enough to buy alternatives..

kmetal Fri, 02/20/2015 - 08:41
The thing is to really blow the 56 out of the water, a couple channels of conversions can cost what the entire 56 does. a lot of people get caught in the cycle of incremental upgrades and next level stuff, and remain dissapointed. The price of quality goes up exponetially. That last 10% in subjective quality, can cost 10x as much as what is being upgraded. and in some things, mainly mics, price doesn't necessarily reflect quality.

Kurt Foster Fri, 02/20/2015 - 09:04
nothing is "transparent". transistors can color sound worse than transformers. no playback systems are "transparent". mics aren't "transparent". no audio component is "transparent". there is no piece of equipment or software that actually improves audio. ("no Virginia, there's no such thing as a goodulator.") all we can do is modify a signal. we may correct for some percived issue but in the end there is a cost for that correction. the signal is degraded. more distortion, more noise. now we have A to D and D to A converters and DAW programing / coding to add to the list.

imo the only thing to do is to is to try to make things "sound good". i want the best i can do in mics and pres. i feel this is priority. there is no second take. it is the only chance to capture ...... bringing a mic up to line level is where the largest gain boost is applied. best to get it "right". why compromise?

what person wants to work with tools that are sub standard?

an investment in quality mics and pres can last years and will help attract business. once you have your locker you are free to buy into the stuff that gets replaced every 18 months (computers/software/plugs/converters).

now you can go for good a/d for 2 mix (bus)($600 +/- ?) , then as good as possible conversion for the DAW a/d & d/a. it's going to cost either 6 to 10 grand or 250 bucks ... one or the other. diligent research of converter chips can reveal a few gems on the wrong side of the tracks. mixing to a second destination uncoupled (analog) sans src is the last trick to getting it right. again, imo .......

Aaron Sat, 02/21/2015 - 07:32
TheJackAttack, post: 425214, member: 34377 wrote: Get the best quality you can afford and then experiment until you have made the stone bleed bright crimson blood enough to entice a vampire.

Agreed. No one can get what they can't afford. Whether or not someone wants to purchase something now or wait and save is up to them. And I'm sure we can all agree that stones bleeding bright crimson blood is an interesting concept in itself.
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