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Hi, I'm just starting out and want to exclusively record solo violin. I wondering if it's better to record it in stereo or mono? Considering that I'm just starting out, would it wiser to spend my dollars on a better quality mono setup or a lesser quality stereo setup. Thanks.

p.s. is it possible to buy one microphone (ie. AT4051) and then buy another down the road to make a stereo pair, or do I have to buy them matched together?


JoeH Sat, 03/26/2005 - 09:24

Great screen name for a violinist! ;-)

I don't know what your budget is, and as you're just starting out, I'm guessing you want to do this as an adjunct to your main calling - playing the violin. Perhaps you need it for demos, practicing, the occasional recital recording, that sort of thing?

There are dozens of great mics & systems (preamps, etc.) for recording a solo violin, be it in stereo or mono, and you're wise to seek advice on how to get started. I (and many others here) really like the AT mics for a lot of things, and if budget is a consideration, the AT 4051 is a good mic, BUT....I"m not sure if that's the one I'd pick for solo violin. I have a pair of the 4049's (same mic body/amp, but an omni capsule). They're a good mic package (esp if you have two) if you're going to swap out capsules and use them on a variety of things. (I'm all about making the most of any purchase I make, within reason...)

As for stereo vs. mono, 1 mic or will all come down to cost, and how far you want to go with this...a hobby or career; something that pays for itself over time, or just something you are comfortable and happy to spend a lot of $$$ on as you expand.

You can certainly mic yourself in mono, and with a good DAW add some room sim/reverb later. Theoretically, you can place yourself in any concert hall in the world, if you buy the right reverb/room sim plugin. But many here - including myself - are of the opinion the room you're actually IN is as important as anything else.

I'd suggest this as a rule of thumb: when recording in MONO, be prepared to add room sims to make it natural. When recording in STEREO, be much more aware of the space around you, and make every attempt to incorporate THAT into your recordings as well. That's an oversimplification, but you get the idea. (A quick suggestion would be: 1 solo mic up close for detail, and 1 omni pair further out for ambience. Mix it all, later, to taste, and you'll have yourself one slammin' solo violin recording.)

I'm sure you'll get a lot of good advice and opinions on here as to mic choices and recording systems to help get you started.....

John Stafford Sat, 03/26/2005 - 09:51

Audio technica mics such as the AT4051 you mentioned tend to be pretty well matched if you buy each of them new, and you don't leave it too long between purchases -as there are often changes made to the mic without a change in the model number. I know this has happened with the AT4050 and there have been many changes to the 4033 (although there have only been about three or four official versions). I don't know what the situation is with the 4051, but you should be ok buying them separately.

Some mics are sold as stereo pairs that are not matched at all, such as the Neumann MK180 series, but they do have consecutive serial numbers indicating that they come from the same production run.

You can buy a matched pair of Rode NT5s or Studio Projects C4s (?) for a very good price, but I don't think I'd be inclined to use the Rode on violin though. Don't know about the SP.

Stereo is my preference, especially in a nice acoustic. The instrument can be captured quite well as though it were a single point source (which , of course, is not really the case), but a great reverberation really needs to be captured in stereo. That's just the way I do things and I have to admit that you can do some very fine mono recordings.

Good luck!


anonymous Sat, 03/26/2005 - 10:05

Thanks that answered some questions. My "current" plan, which seems to change daily, is AT4050 or 4051 - Grace 101- Emu1212M - Computer - Sennheiser HD280 headphones. I thought I could start with some headphones because I'm also planning a modest hifi system and thought I could use that to play back with. Since it's just solo violin and I'm not going to be mixing anything I thought headphones would be ok for now. Then I can playback on my hifi and impress myself :) The recordings are entirely for shits and giggles, kinda like a hobby. Though, I'd like to make it the best I can given my budget and my lack of knowledge about recording.

What would be your suggestions for gear within the price range of the stuff I listed above? Out of curiousity what would be used for a true professional recording?

John Stafford Sat, 03/26/2005 - 10:57

I must have been typing my reply when Joe posted, as I only saw it after I posted. I'm considering the AT4049, but I really want the Sennheiser MKH 20.

Any of the gear you mentioned would be suitable for use in a professional recording, but I'd like to some GML pres. to go with the Sennheisers, as well as a pair of Neumann M-149s, and a few Schoeps pairs as well. I wouldn't mind a pair of M-150s either!

When you start, don't be disappointed if the results aren't as good as you'd hoped; it takes a lot of experimentation to get the most out of your gear.


anonymous Sat, 03/26/2005 - 12:18

I am a clarinetist and started out years ago in very much the same way as you. So I will answer your questions as specifically as possible and as relevant to your situation as I can:

You are on the right track. Grace preamps are superb; no need to consider anything "better". There is no such thing as a perfect monitor or phones so get something good, such as the HD280s and, over time, you will learn to interpret how their sound translates to other phones and speakers (should that become necessary).

You can spend a LOT of money on gear so you must base your selection of the A/D converter and microphone on budget versus quality. At this stage, I'd say your choice of a $200 audio card is responsible. You always may upgrade if your requirements change.

Similarly, your choice of a medium price mic makes sense. I hope Ben Maas will chime in and suggest a couple of others at that price range for comparison. For example, you could consider a large diaphragm condenser (from AT or Shure or another good manufacturer), staying with your idea of starting out in mono. Later, should it seem appropriate, you could enhance that with a matched pair of small diaphragm condensers or perhaps a single point stereo condenser or ribbon microphone.

Finally, I would start out recording in mono. It is much easier at first to learn where to position a single mic relative to your viloin, and to enhance the sound with digital reverb, than to suffer the frustrations of trying to record good sounding stereo in a mediocre acoustic environment.

From what you say are your goals and from what seems to be your budget, you have done your homework. Keep it simple now. Do not complicate matters by messing with stereo (yet) or wasting months on a decision of exactly what mic or preamp or A/D converter is "perfect" because NOTHING will be perfect. Address those issues down the road, if you feel the need to get more sophisticated. Your present concept and choice of gear should be sufficient to produce a commercially viable recording. What more do you need? -- "Uncle Russ" Reinberg

ghellquist Sat, 03/26/2005 - 13:01

not_heifetz wrote: Am I on the right track at least?

In my mind, absolutely. Any of the mics mentioned and the rest of the equipment will get get you moving along nicely. You will be abel to do a lot of good recordings with them. There is a lot of "test-listen-modify" when it comes to recording. Moving the mics a bit, hanging some damping textiles in the room, perhaps changing room will give you a lot of possibilities as for sound. I have a fully tiled bathroom, where I have tried recording myself playing trombone. Well, to say it simple, I will not do it again. But every experiment teaches me something.

So, to copy and old ad slogan, just do it.


anonymous Sat, 03/26/2005 - 14:27

Thanks alot! That really helps me. I was kinda leaning towards the AT4050 because it has a good reputation and has multiple patterns. That way I can experiment some to find out "what does what":) I mentioned the 4051 because I started thinking that maybe I should instead start with that and then i could buy another one down the road and have a pair for stereo recording. Could I still buy another AT4050 for stereo recording if I wanted to? Or is that usually done with sdc's? The idea of sticking with mono for the time being makes sense, all the different stereo setups I've read about still make my head hurt. I guess if things develop than I can always get a stereo pair later. What recording software would you recommend for my situation? I've used Audacity before and like how simple it was. Could I still use that since I'm only recording one track or possibly two down the road? I (hopefully) don't need any fancy autotuning features :D

Thanks everyone

John Stafford Sat, 03/26/2005 - 15:35

There's no need in my opinion to stick with small diaphragms. You can get wonderful violin recordings with LDCs. For stereo work there's no need to stick with small diaphragms either. Another thing is that LDCs start to get very good at a lower price-point than SDCs. I probably deserve to get flamed for this, but that's my opinion. But of course LDCs are WAY more expensive at the upper end of the market.

I would suggest that you take care if you are choosing a mic that has an enhanced upper end, as this can make accentuate the 'scratchiness' of the violin unless it's placed quite far back, in which case it's very important that you are recording in a very good acoustical environment. Even some mics that have a very flat frequency response can make the violin sound terrible as you need a smooth high end regardless of the frequency response. Having said all that, positioning can get rid of an unpleasant high-end even at relatively close quarters.

You might try a clip-on mic as well. DPA miniature mics are great value for money and sound amazing, although many people don't use these for classical music.

As far as headphones go, I wouldn't use anything but Grado unless you are spending $1000+. The SR80 is their basic model (I think the SR60 has been discontinued and you might get a pair quite cheaply on ebay). I hate cheap Sennheisers, but if you need a closed headphone to avoid feedback they'll do the trick. A lot of fairly expensive Beyers are pretty crap as well -even the 'standard' studio models. They're fine to use while recording, but not for serious listening, but I have to acknowledge that a lot of them are designed for studio or DJ work anyhow. I don't want to dismiss any company's products out-of-hand, but Grado happen to be serious headphones without the serious cost. I suppose they're a little like Grace preamps in this respect.


Cucco Sat, 03/26/2005 - 19:09

Hey not_heifetz:

Some good questions here. I'll hit on them randomly:

On AT mics - in general, all of their mics are quite good, even their budget ones. The 4051 is a great choice as is the 4049. I'm generally an advocate of omni mics, but they don't work in all scenarios. The 4050 is a GREAT choice. It's a phenomenal microphone and worth twice its weight in gold. However, I wouldn't use it on solo violin. Mainly because of its size. For solo violin, I like to position the mic above the head of the player and aiming down at the bridge. With a mic the size of the 4050, you had better have a great boom stand or you'll have a bad headache! The other 40 series mics would work quite well too, but you still have to beware of their size.

The Grace preamps are fine units, some of the best I've used. However, for solo violin again, I might go with something different. These are some of the most transparent mic pres on the market, but frankly, I like a little meat with my mic preamp when recording solo violin or viola. Personally, I would consider the Summit 2B-A221 or even the GT Brick. Both are tube designs yet amazingly transparent with the exception of a slight thickening of the lower harmonics. (The Summit has a variable tube gain-stage and can run the gamut of tube sounds.)

As for other mics, here's a partial list of relatively inexpensive mics that are fantastic for violin. (Bear in mind, some of these are LDCs and therefore, a large boom stand and sandbags are mandatory)
**DPA 4061 - Awesome price and great mic. I would also consider the 4060 but I've never used this one (it's higher sensitivity.)
**AT 4040, 4033, 4047, 4050, 4060 - All great mics in various flavors
**AKG Blueline - the sleeper of the AKG lineage. Great mics and often on E-bay for next to nothing.
**Pearl mics - relatively expensive, but every once in a while, you can find a cheap one.
**Oktava MK012 - get a good one - check the Sound Room
**M Gefell - M300 - not TOO expensive but FAR better than the KM184
**Schoeps CMC6/2 or 6/21 - very expensive, but well worth the $$
**M Gefell M296 - Drool worthy mic, but damned expensive. I'm thinking real seriously about replacing my Schoeps with all MG M296s.
**Audix M1290omni, SCX-One, SCX-25 - all very fine and affordable mics. Definite "American" sound to them.
**Blue Baby Bottle - Despite all the "bad press" on these mics, I find them refreshing from time to time.
**Beyer M160 - the pattern's a little tough to get used to, but this has been my favorite sounding ribbon for a while, especially on violin.
**GT 33,34,43,44,53,54,55,56 (hell, I don't remember all their models, but I do like the GT mics - great deal for the money!)
**Rode NT-1A, NT2000, NTK - all can be had on e-bay for cheap!
**Then there's the new cheapies -- SP C4, Rode NT5, Cascade Microphones (forget the model, but they are a matched pair of SDCs), Peluso's, AT 30 series...

There are SOOOO many more, but this is a decent starter list.

You may buy one mic now and the other later to make a pair for recording. In general, I find WAAAYYY too much emphasis placed on matched pair microphones. Yes, it's good to have mics with very similar plots, but the majority of microphones manufactured today are done to such incredible tolerances and precision that matching is relatively implied. Of course, don't expect to buy one today and then one 10 years from now and get one that sounds exactly as the other.

As well, if you were intending to capture the EXACT sounds with both mics, matched pair would be critical, but you aren't. Minor differences in mics will be very difficult to detect in a standard stereo mic setup. Most errors I've heard attributed to mis-matching are usually more likely to be placement issues more than plot issues.

As for mono versus stereo - whatever floats your boat. Personally, I would go for stereo, but learning mic placement with a single mic and how to properly use reverbs are quite important. At least you have set yourself up for future stereo capabilities.

Stereo recording may be done with either SDCondensers or LDcondensers. I find myself using SDCs more often, but there are still many recordins where I reach for a pair of LDCs as the mains and rarely regret it.

Sorry to rattle on, but I hope this helps at all.


anonymous Sat, 03/26/2005 - 19:32

I am going to suggest a different plan that I think will yield a more pleasant and accurate violin sound, and save you at least $400 compared to your current scheme of AT4051/Grace101

DPA 4061 omnis and a Broadhurst Gardens 2ch mic pre. This is designed by Mick Hinton, who designed and built much of the in-house Decca gear. A very musical unit. And about $900.

The 4061 are omnis and with grids removed are flat. About $400 street price. Good enough to stand alongside other DPA omnis and not be embarrassed.

Also, I think you would be disappointed in a mono result so wait if neccesary to do stereo.

This is a combo I would not hesitate to use to produce a complete CD project.


anonymous Sat, 03/26/2005 - 19:40

Forgot 2 things-- the musician in you will loathe most reverbs, but one you will love is Altiverb. In that software are some of the greatest acoustics on planet earth. The Waves convolution reverb is good but twice the money.

With the $$ you saved buy a first-class sound card-- a LynxTWO. You will not be sorry, nor will you feel compelled to upgrade later. The ADC is good enough to keep for good.

BTW, the 4061s should be used as any other mics-- do NOT attach them to your bridge as you would for sound reinforcement. In classical recording the room is also an instrument.


JoeH Sun, 03/27/2005 - 00:34

I"m going to hijack this thread for a little bit and ask Rich for some more info in the DPA 4061 omni. (I think you've recommended this before, or someone else has?)

I've seen these mic's used with as lavalier and over-the-ear human-head mics (for singers in musicals, shows & announcers on TV.) They say they work with a beltpack transmitter, which I'm sure sells separately.

How do you make use of these for work as omni mics; do you have a seperate preamp (or line amp) nearby, how long is the cable, do you need an adapter, etc., and although I see them shown for about $399 each, what does it REALLY cost to bring a pair online for any kind of serious use as a main omni pair. (They should would "disappear" easily enough with that size!

Thanks in advance for the info, Rich. I'd love to hear a real-world recording done with a pair of these as well. There ARE times when a smaller, less-obtrustive looking pair would come in handly. (I'm thinking opera and other dramatic productions where a traditional big pair or bracket of omni's would get distracting.)

anonymous Sun, 03/27/2005 - 11:32

JoeH wrote:
I've seen these mic's used with as lavalier and over-the-ear human-head mics (for singers in musicals, shows & announcers on TV.) They say they work with a beltpack transmitter, which I'm sure sells separately.

How do you make use of these for work as omni mics; do you have a seperate preamp (or line amp) nearby, how long is the cable, do you need an adapter, etc., and although I see them shown for about $399 each, what does it REALLY cost to bring a pair online for any kind of serious use as a main omni pair. (They should would "disappear" easily enough with that size!

I have used them in both a single pair application (with and without grids) and recently a pit band low-visability gig using 3 on the saxes and pairs on the bones and trumpets. I removed the grids, taped them to the end of 1/8-inch steel rods and taped the other end to a mic stand. The saxes were bent over to get closer to the instruments, but the brass were about 2 feet above the level of the bells.

Alan Siverman at Arf Digital in NYC (who is mixing it) commented that the brass actually sounded like brass!

I chose these for that gig for several reasons-- low viz, smooth and natural sound, and I could get 8 of them. The 8th was used on upright bass with the DPA mounting kit (and a baffle between the bass and ride cymbal). The goal was a recording that would be quicker and easier (and cheaper) to mix than one mic per horn.

The stereo pair recordings I have done are choral and organ-- very demanding. I am not exaggerating to say that it would not sound all that different than if I used 4003s rather than 4061s.

I sometimes use the DPA extension cables , but in either case I use the MicroDot/XLR adapters (DAD6001). The mics are small enough to tape to a small diameter wooden dowel that you can easily trim to desired length, and increase the diameter at the center point to give a snug fit in a single shockmount. Many ways to do this-- be creative! If wood is too archaic try carbon fiber.

You can be out the door for well under $1000 for the pair. I rather doubt you'll ever have the itch to sell them, especially due to the bass miking option (preferred by Chuck Ainslee) and the ability to hide them anywhere. The small diameter means polar orientation is non-critical. When the grid is removed the response is very flat, but extreme care must be taken, as the diaphragm is exposed.


JoeH Sun, 03/27/2005 - 12:33

Thanks, Rich! that sure sounds interesting, and worth looking into. (I like the McGyver aspect of it, as well!)

I keep hearing about Alan Silverman's work, so this interesting. I'm also a big fan of DPA mics, and I'll keep an open mind about getting pair. I do a fair amount of video production and there are certainly times when a smaller profile mic would come in handy; esp one that sounds good.

anonymous Sun, 03/27/2005 - 21:22

I checked out that Altiverb but it seems that it's only for MAC. Are there any reverb plugins for PC on the "value" side that are worth checking out? The 4061's are cool but a pair of those with a 2 channel preamp pretty much blows my budget out of the water. Maybe if I decide to get a stereo setup down the road I'll consider those. The Summit preamp is interesting. What I like is that it appears that it has a broader palette to experiment with than the Grace. However, I'm still on the fence because even though the Grace is a "one trick pony" it does it's thing really well and I respect that. I think I'll start with the AT4050 because it seems like a good all-around mic that will allow me to experiment with different polar patterns and such. You pros probably can mentally hear what different setups and settings will sound like before you've even plugged anything in, but for me I have no clue how a figure-8 pattern will sound compared to an omni and I would like to find out. Will recording in Audacity have an effect on the sound quality? I looked at some of the other commerical programs but I think they might be overkill for what I'm doing. With the simple editing that I do and maybe a reverb plugin, it seems like Audacity would be ok? I appreciate everyone's help.

anonymous Sun, 03/27/2005 - 21:33

My opinionated advice is to get a pair of 4061s and then go from there. How much could you spend on a micpre if you spend $900 on mics?

As for reverb-- find a live church and forget software reverb. The Altiverb is about $400 and the Waves is $800 or so. Driving to a good room is alot cheaper. If you don't have access, then find a nice reverberant church and offer to play some for free in order to record there.

The mic is without question the most important element in the chain, and I predict that you will want to upgrade from the ATs sooner than later.


Cucco Mon, 03/28/2005 - 05:37

Gee Rich -- So opinionated... :lol:

Seriously, Rich has a good point. Get a couple good mics (the 4050 fits that bill, but so do the 4061s) and worry about the rest later. You could even get away with a lower end pre for the time being until you save up a tad bit more. For example - Aphex 207 - decent pre, inexpensive and useful later in life if you choose not to sell it.

As for the Grace vs. the Summit - I wouldn't think of the Grace as a one-trick pony, but you're right, it does what it does quite well. I've used the 101s for several years and swear by them. However, for a first pre, the summit is just a darn good introduction to high-quality multi-colored pres. You can't go wrong with either of them. FWIW, I think the gain structure on the 101 is the best I've ever seen. Stepped gain in 5 dB increments then a continuously variable 10 dB attenuator - friggin brilliant.


anonymous Mon, 03/28/2005 - 08:05

:? My poor little brain hurts now :?

There are a couple performance spaces in town that I might be able to use occansionally, but the reality is that this will be mostly used in my living room. What I'm really trying to achieve are decent recordings made at home. I want to use this gear weekly, not only for recording polished pieces but also as a polisher :) Is it possible to make a decent recording in my living room?

p.s. I should note that my living room is average size with hardwood floors.

Cucco Mon, 03/28/2005 - 08:10

Yep, it sure is. Sure, the space around the performance is important. That doesn't mean your living room automatically sounds like crap. Just as you wouldn't want a woodwind quintet trying to fill the Concertgebouw, you wouldn't need Carnegie Hall for a solo violin. Sometimes, the intimate acoustics of a small, real space are all you need.

Of course, do your best to minimize noises, etc. A little bit of damping material goes a long way, so does the properly placed book-case.


JoeH Mon, 03/28/2005 - 12:13

well, I hope we haven't overstimulated you with all these responses. :lol:

If you're going to use your own living room, you really can't go wrong for starters with a single mic (for now) and see what you can get. Add a little reverb/room sim when/if you can, and build from there. The main thing is to just get started, you'll learn a lot about recording as well as your playing.

FWIW, the 4050 is a gorgeous mic, and I haven't had bad results yet from it. As Jeremy pointed out, it's heavy and you'll need a good stand for it.

Have fun & go make some recordings!


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