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Will TRP help?

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

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

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

Any comments would be welcome.

Dave

Comments

Duckman Wed, 09/13/2006 - 03:28
Simmosonic wrote: That *is* strange. If you can't afford an SF24, how can you afford a pair of Schoeps?!?!

There's an ebay listing for a mk2 pair of caps. Adding two new CMC6 bodies would make it around $3300, depending on the bidding. A brand new a pair of schoeps caps and bodies would cost around $4600 - according to one Melbourne dealer. If you know of a cheaper deal, please let me in on it. I'm pretty green about all this and am still finding my feet as to where to look for the best deals.

Re the SF24, my local dealer could get me one for around $5400 - and that's the cheapest I've seen it. Frontend Audio has them listed for $6805
http://www.frontendaudio.com.au/catalog/FEA%20RETAIL%20PRICING.pdf

Both prices are beyond me - I'm prepared to spend around $4000

Problem with the second hand schoeps deal is that the Mk2 would probably be a bit dark for micing a choir from a few meters away.

I'm open to any further ideas about a better deal on the SF24.

Cheers,

Dave

Duckman Wed, 09/13/2006 - 03:41
A pair of Coles 4040s on the other hand can be had for around $3840 - which is within range... and perhaps the best option sonically for the application for which I want them.

Since however, this is a once only, 'desert Island' kind of purchase (ie, I won't be buying any other mics for a long time - budget restrictions etc), I am a little confused as to whether I might best be served by omni condensers as 'all round' microphones. I would also be recording guitar/folk music, and hopefully some early music instrumental stuff - lutes, viola da gamba etc. Problem is, I can't get rid of the idea that ribbons just sound better :-)

DavidSpearritt Wed, 09/13/2006 - 05:29
There is no question that a pair of omnis is a better all round purchase, much more versatile than a pair of Coles. The Coles are huge, heavy, difficult to mount in Blumlein, you could never use them in a live concert as a main pair. Blumlein is one of the trickiest techniques to setup and get in the right position, omnis are much less critical on placement.

Blumlein with ribbons is just another flavour that you should try and it succeeds with many instruments and voices.

But your first pair of mikes should defintely be a pair of omnis.

Duckman Wed, 09/13/2006 - 06:05
Dave, thank you for the tip - the saving represented there on Schoeps is pretty stunning (around $1000), bringing them well within range.

[I know this is a Ribbon thread BUT: would you say that the Mk2S capsule is more appropriate for choral - I see you own a pair. I'm hearing from other friends on this site that Gefell M296 is a very nice alternative too.]

Choosing 'desert island' is impossible!

Back to ribbons: are there any comparable 'factory outlet' type sites that include Royer?

*** just noticed your latest post: thank you Dave for the advice... I need such words of wisdom at the moment ***

ghellquist Wed, 09/13/2006 - 08:29
Actually I think the problem may be the preamp.

The ULN is probably very good (I have to admit I have not used them), but running a ribbon mic on quiet sources will be a bit above what it can handle. The micpres are targeted mainly at running condensor mics. Used with a ribbon you are not at the optimal impedance, the mic pres has extra stuff for handling phantom power and is tuned for something like 40dB. One extra stage of amplification might be what is needed to get the ULN up to the task.

As for the SF24 which I have used I think the noise level is around 18dBA, a little more than many mics used for recording quiet perfomances but well below the ambiance noise in most rooms. With correct gainstagin you should be able to reach about the same performance from an SF. But the output is very much below what you get from a condensor and hence the topology of the mic pre should be different (mark, not better, only more suited for this specific application).

Regardless, the SF24 is a difficult mic to use. In the right circumstances it gives the best sounds you can ever get in a recording, really lovely. Very often though the Blumlein pattern simply does not work with the acoustics of the room. It would take a brave person to have an SF12 (same goes for SF24) as the single tool used for recording. There is definitely a reason why most of the world moved to cardioid mics once they where perfected.

So in a tangent to this posting, my "single-tool" mic setup would be two cardioids in ORTF, and then why not the Schoeps MK4 then. My favourite setup (recently tested) is the MSTC64, where the capsules are fixed in an ORTF setup.

Gunnar

Pro Audio Guest Wed, 09/13/2006 - 10:58
I own and use an SF12 alot, either through Millennia or Broadhurst Gardens, and either on choral or brass.

Perhaps I am not listening correctly, but the micamp noise (which is really what we are talking about as the SF12 is a passive device) simply is not distracting to me or my clients for either application.

Having said that, would an SF24 be quiter? Yes, definitely. Is the difference worth the money? For me, no.

You wondered about the Schoeps MK2S for choral-- if you are after a crunchy, pop vocal sound, then go for it. Otherwise, you would have to get so far back that it would be more wash than anything, amd only in rooms that had significant reverb.

Schoeps MK21 is a much better all-around choice. If that is not financially possible then the MK2 in conjunction with a Jecklin and LPEQ would also be viable. Note: I am not advising the use of Jecklin on everything, but for chamber and bigger the imaging is just superb.

Life is full of tradeoffs!

Rich

ghellquist Wed, 09/13/2006 - 14:28
Now, let me stick my head out a bit. Shop it off if you know better.

It does not matter that the SF12 is totally passive, it still has a noise level. Noise levels are generally (in mics that is) expressed as an equivalent sound level. Say that the noise level is 18dB, then the electrical noise coming out of the mic is as strong as if there had been a sound of 18dB in the room. Well, my understanding at least.

Now for the noise part of a passive mic. There are two different mechanism. The mic membrane is continuously impinged on by air molecules (mostly nitrogen gas, but still). This brownian motion creates a signal that goes out of the mic. Due to the mechanics of randomness, the larger the membrane is, the lower the noise level is. A ribbon membrane is generally rather small, especially if you compare it to a typical one-inch Neumann type of mic, so the noise level is higher.

The second effect is the so called Johnson noise that occurs in all resistors. Long time ago I could calculate on this, my memory is that larger resistance gives higher noise voltage and higher temperature has same effect. This effect can also be expressed as an equivalent sound level.

So, cut my head off again, from a purely theoretical point of view, the SF24 and the SF12 would have about the same noise level as they use the same membrane. The difference in practical usage is that the SF24 has one stage of amplification optimized for the actual impedances and levels, and that most mic amplifiers at that impedances / gain requirements are rather far off their optimum.

Typically a mic amp has a potentiometer to control gain. This to me generally signifies that the amp has one gain stage which is controlled by the potentiometer. The Millennia and the Dav are not typical in that they use several decks on a switch. This means that the gain can be controlled at two (or even more) gain stages. The effect is that the Millennia / DAV has a larger optimum range than the preamp controlled by a single pot. (Again, as I understand from the little I have learned over the years).

Gunnar.

DavidSpearritt Wed, 09/13/2006 - 14:49
Rich is on the money re the MK2S being too crispy for choral music. The MK21 pair is a much better bet. But we have found the Royers best of all for choral. The SF24 is also a stunning vocal mic, especially on soprano.

As Gunnar points out correctly, the SF24 is only a tiny improvement on the SF12 for self noise, I estimate for ambient micing of chamber and choral, the difference ends up being about 2dBA on so.

But the SF24 sounds more solid in the lower mids that the SF12, so there is more than a marginal noise improvement in the price difference.

Duckman Wed, 09/13/2006 - 18:00
ghellquist wrote: Actually I think the problem may be the preamp.

G'day Gunnar. I wish it were the ULN2 that was noisy, then the AEA TRP would be the ticket. However, I AB'd the SF12 on both preamps, and the noise level was virtually identical. The only difference was that the TRP gave the sound a bit more body and depth (probably assisted by the whopping imput impedance). Those ULN2's really are very quiet even at very high gain; and I'm not just saying that because I'm an owner.

Simmosonic Wed, 09/13/2006 - 18:18
Duckman wrote: There's an ebay listing for a mk2 pair of caps. Adding two new CMC6 bodies would make it around $3300, depending on the bidding.

Aah, that explains that...

Perhaps you could approached the local Royer importer, explain your situation, and ask if they would perhaps take a trade-in? I have no idea what their reaction would be, but it might be worth a try. A happy brand owner is always better than an unhappy brand owner...

Simmosonic Wed, 09/13/2006 - 18:36
ghellquist wrote: It would take a brave person to have an SF12 (same goes for SF24) as the single tool used for recording.

Either brave, or pigheadedly dogmatic. :wink:

The SF12 was my *only* microphone for about 18 months! I made some absolutely lovely recordings with it, but for every great recording I made three or four substandard ones. It took me a long time to admit that it wasn't the right tool for every job, because for some bizarre reason (probably inspired by listening to too much Water Lily, Chesky and Opus 3 recordings, all made with Blumlein) I had dogmatically aligned myself to the Blumlein technique and that was all there was to it.

What was I thinking?

Simmosonic Wed, 09/13/2006 - 18:53
ghellquist wrote: The difference in practical usage is that the SF24 has one stage of amplification optimized for the actual impedances and levels, and that most mic amplifiers at that impedances / gain requirements are rather far off their optimum.

Apart from the built-in amplification circuitry, the only difference between the SF12 and the SF24 is a re-designed transformer. If I remember correctly, it is the interface between the ribbon element and the built-in preamplifier. The SF12's transformer will always be the limiting factor for any custom-made preamplifier - as I found out. It was quite disappointing to spend so much time and money developing that thing, only to find that when the SF24 came out it generally sounded better all around (thanks to that re-designed transformer) - it was pulling sounds out of that ribbon that the SF12's transformer simply couldn't get at.

Doh!

Simmosonic Wed, 09/13/2006 - 20:45
Duckman wrote: Since however, this is a once only, 'desert Island' kind of purchase (ie, I won't be buying any other mics for a long time - budget restrictions etc), I am a little confused as to whether I might best be served by omni condensers as 'all round' microphones. I would also be recording guitar/folk music, and hopefully some early music instrumental stuff - lutes, viola da gamba etc. Problem is, I can't get rid of the idea that ribbons just sound better :-)

Ribbons sound very nice indeed. But please read my earlier post (a few messages up) about having a Blumlein ribbon pair as my only mic pair. If you're choosing your only pair of microphones, get ribbons and Blumlein out of your mind immediately!

If it's a desert island selection, I definitely agree with Gunnar's earlier suggestion: get a pair of cardioids. Considering the list of things you want to record (above), I think they will provide the most utility.

You can use a pair of cardioids in ORTF (and any other near-coincident configuration), and you can also use them in situations where it is more appropriate to close-mike two different sources at once.

But get *good* cardioids with good off-axis response and so on. I'm recommending either DPAs or Schoeps. Considering the list of things you want to record, I think you'll prefer the tonality of the Schoeps over the DPAs.

I regularly use a pair of Schoeps CCM4Lg miniature cardioid condensers in Schoep's handy little ORTF holder. A great sounding and elegant system that gives good results on everything and is outrageously quick to set up. (Poke the mics into the holder and voila! Instant ORTF!!). I can recommend this system to you with absolutely no reservations whatsoever. The small physical size of the mics makes them a breeze to work with, and they never dominate the scene (whether live or in session). To me, that's an important thing - the less the performers are aware of the recording rig and process, the better.

Also, I'd be sticking with plain old cardioid (not super or hyper or hypo), if it is your only mic pair. Omnis are cool, but I think in this situation you'll be better served with cardioids. (There's no point having lovely extended bottom end if you've got too much room sound and can't get your mics any closer...)

Duckman Wed, 09/13/2006 - 22:07
Simmosonic wrote:
If it's a desert island selection, I definitely agree with Gunnar's earlier suggestion: get a pair of cardioids. Considering the list of things you want to record (above), I think they will provide the most utility.

I should clarify: 90% of the time the desert island will be inhabited only by a small choral ensemble singing Renaissance polyphony and Greg chant (hoping to imitate the sound of groups like the Hillard Ensemble, Ensemble Organum etc), at least for the next year or two, and also me strumming made-up folk ditties on acoustic guitar. But the choir thing is THE thing for me, and I'm prepared to sacrifice quality in other applications in order to get the highest quality I can afford in this application. In general then (ie abstracting from other important elements like room quality), would that translate to omnis, or cardiods (with a bit of altiverb ambience assistance)?

Pro Audio Guest Wed, 09/13/2006 - 22:40
If choral is job #1 and you also need to record other things, then the MK2 or MK21 are your capsules, not MK4 (IMO). DISCLAIMER: I own and use the 4 and 21, but not the 2 (I have 2S and have owned 2H).

REASONS: MK4 LF rolloff and off-axis tonality-- something to consider gven your primary use in reverberant rooms. Don't know about your performing/recording venues, but I rarely encounter so much ambience that I must go to cardioids to tame it.

About your other MK21 questions-- I would not try to make them work with a Jecklin disc, and unless you are doing organ or bass drum concertos I doubt you would miss the LF. And they can be used spaced in reverberant rooms or a modified NOS (14 inches and 100 degrees) the rest of the time.

If you are considering the CCM series-- you will give up capsule interchangeability, a big plus with Schoeps. However, if low profile is important then they are the ticket (or use active cables for more $$).

Rich

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