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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

Simmosonic Fri, 09/15/2006 - 00:34
Duckman wrote: Has anyone had experience with the 4015's?

The kit I regularly access has a pair of 4015s.

The on-axis response has a high frequency boost that is excellent for things like spot-miking a vocal soloist in a choir, or piano, or anything where you don't want to get too close but still want good focus - the HF boost gives it great 'reach', you can almost hear it getting inside the soundstage and pulling those delicate little upper harmonics out into the open! Not to mention that lovely lush bottom end (when it's appropriate)...

The problem, in my opinion, is that they are limited in terms of stereo techniques. My first use of them was on a choir, and I set them up as if they were an ORTF pair. Due to the 120 degree subtended angle and the on-axis boost, I ended up with a recording where the sides had a high frequency boost but not the middle. In other words, a quite detectable high frequency hole in the centre of the stereo image. I had to convert to MS and EQ the M and S channels separately to match the middle with the sides.

I use them regularly on pipe organs, modifying the near-coincident angle and spacing so that the high frequencies are even across the stereo image (based on where the actual pipes are). I can get the distance I need while still getting good detail on the pipes themselves.

For the right applications they are lovely microphones, but I'm not sure if they'd be the right choice for a desert island choir.

Duckman Fri, 09/15/2006 - 04:19
Simmosonic wrote: I ended up with a recording where the sides had a high frequency boost but not the middle. In other words, a quite detectable high frequency hole in the centre of the stereo image.

Simmo, would this be a problem with most mics that have a high frequency boost (even omnis like the MG M296)?

Any further ebay auction recommendations would be most welcome. The Mk2's went today, $890 US. Not to me though :-)

Simmosonic Fri, 09/15/2006 - 17:40
Duckman wrote: Simmo, would this be a problem with most mics that have a high frequency boost (even omnis like the MG M296)?

That depends on how strong the on-axis HF boost is, how wide the on-axis HF boost is, and the subtended angle of your microphones. With the 4015s in ORTF on a smallish choir (say, 30 singers in two or three rows), spread across a 90 degree (or thereabouts) recording window, it was quite apparent.

The 4015s really are superb microphones, some of my favourite recordings have been made with them. But I wouldn't like them as my only stereo pair.

Pro Audio Guest Thu, 10/05/2006 - 10:34
If I remember far into the past, I think this thread started about the SF12/TRP combo.

I auditioned the TRP last weekend with a non-powerful bass-baritone and subtle piano. The main mic was the SF12. No hiss audible (on headphones) that could barely be identified as such, much less an objectionable amount. I think your problem is (was) somehwere else, such as channel trim that is set above 0 on the ULN.

Rich

DavidSpearritt Thu, 10/05/2006 - 14:10
I am not as down on the KM130 as Rich is. I think they are excellent mics for some things. They are bright, (as is the MK2S) but when used correctly, ie at a distance from the ensemble, they work well. They have a richness in the lower mids that the Schoeps and DPA 4003's do not have. For choral music in a large cathedral they are very suited, because you do not want the mics close, and a large church is somewhat dark.

In smaller rooms and closer micing, we prefer the MK21's or the SF12/24, much more suited. You need lots of mics in the collection ideally to draw on for flavour. The KM130's were selected by the main classical ABC producer for one of our early chamber music CD's in a darkish room, he even brought his own Sennheisers MKH20's and also tried the Schoeps MK2s's. I used the KM130's for quite a few years as my main pair when I started out.

I don't think they deserve the criticism they get, and the 183 version is very good value for money. In a DAW, EQ can be used to tame the top end.

Duckman Thu, 10/05/2006 - 20:02
Sonarerec wrote: If I remember far into the past, I think this thread started about the SF12/TRP combo.

I auditioned the TRP last weekend with a non-powerful bass-baritone and subtle piano. The main mic was the SF12. No hiss audible (on headphones) that could barely be identified as such, much less an objectionable amount. I think your problem is (was) somehwere else, such as channel trim that is set above 0 on the ULN.

Rich

Yes, it could be that I mucked up the gain settings.... I'm fairly new to the recording thing (don't know how much longer that excuse will last!) but I'm fairly certain I didn't.

I tested the SF12 on both the ULN and the TRP and, at 60db, the noise was to my ears the same on both... obvious, not overwhelming, but enough to make me desire something quieter.

I believe Dave mentioned earlier in the thread that his experience with the SF12 was, if not the same, similar; i.e. at high gain you can definitely hear hiss.

What gain settings did you have with your bass-barritone/piano combo? I'm guessing that at less than 50db, the hiss would be negligible.

I'm still trying to find a mic solution within my spending range, hence the question about the KM130, which I noticed Dave was fond of. I'm also looking seriously at the AEA R88. Have heard great reports about it, and the price is perfect. However, I'm still held back by you more experienced heads who say condensers should be a first purchase. But, like I said earlier, 95% of my recording will be with a small choir (4-16 singers), where I think blumlein imaging and ribbon naturalness would shine, given reasonable room conditions).

Thinking out loud.

Rode NT45-O omni is a cheaper mic I'd be interested in hearing too. If it were any good, I could manage Ribbon and Condenser, financially. It's got a gigantic 8db HF boost though.

Pro Audio Guest Thu, 10/05/2006 - 20:27
Duckman wrote: What gain settings did you have with your bass-barritone/piano combo? I'm guessing that at less than 50db, the hiss would be negligible.

However, I'm still held back by you more experienced heads who say condensers should be a first purchase. But, like I said earlier, 95% of my recording will be with a small choir (4-16 singers), where I think blumlein imaging and ribbon naturalness would shine, given reasonable room conditions).

Rode NT45-O omni is a cheaper mic I'd be interested in hearing too. If it were any good, I could manage Ribbon and Condenser, financially. It's got a gigantic 8db HF boost though.

I used the TRP at 60dB of gain.

I hope this does not offend you, but this post illustrates the essential dilemma-- you really do not know what you want, so you are likely to keep bouncing from one mic to another.

There is a world of difference between the mics you have mentioned. I could simply say to get a pair of XXXX but it's YOUR group and YOUR ears.

I think that given your threshold of hiss awareness, condensers are your only option. The question now becomes whether you want an expensive sound or an inexpensive sound? All the hubris in the world will not change the fact that you will get what you pay for. I wish it were otherwise!

Rich

Duckman Thu, 10/05/2006 - 21:49
No offence taken. I know I'm indecisive. The post did start out as a ribbon post, but turned to condensers when the more experienced posters advised strongly for them as a starting point. Hence my question about the KM130 as a possible competitor to more expensive options.

If I could hear them for myself, I would. But most of the mics mentioned I cannot test for myself. So I have to ask about them.

I know there is a world of difference between the KM130 and the R88. Still, both are options, and I'm interested to hear about how they sound.

RemyRAD Fri, 10/06/2006 - 17:07
Duckman, five pages of posts later and your indecisiveness really QUACK's me up!!

Let me see if I can help to add some more insight for you?

I am a ribbon microphone freak! I love them. Couldn't live without them. I will use them on just about anything and everything if given the opportunity. The R88 is a lovely retro ribbon. It has a highly directional figure of 8 pattern. If you don't have a good microphone preamplifier that is reasonably quiet, you will be asking for trouble with this microphone. It will take anything that is strident or shrill and turn it into velvety smoothness. The sound of bows on strings may even appear to have better articulation than a condenser microphone can deliver. It will make the most mediocre opera singer sound like Maria Callas. Pretty nice on tenors also but may get a little too dark for the basses and baritones. Lovely on any brass or reed instrument. Output level is considerably lower than a modern condenser microphone. The closer you can keep your preamplifier, the better. Use good cables. Keep it away from 48 volt phantom. Keep it away from the wind and don't let any idiot blow into it.

The condenser microphone is a beautiful small capsule device offering wonderful airy high frequency response. Very quiet even with the most mediocre microphone preamplifier's. Can sound unnaturally bright and harsh on female vocalists. Can bring out the worst scratchiness from stringed instruments. Can make a trumpet sound brutal. Much more rugged, small, lightweight and more impervious to damage. Certainly gives you that condenser sound. The condenser is certainly more universal in its applications.

Mmmmm........Aluminum Ribbons
Ms. Remy Ann David

Simmosonic Sun, 10/08/2006 - 00:02
Right on, Remy! If this thread gets much bigger it's going to need its own postal code... :wink:

Duckman, Duckman, Duckman... Maybe I have said this elsewhere in this thread, but I'll say it here as well.

My first stereo microphone was a Royer SF12. I loved everything about it, and blindly stood by it for three or more years - it was so theoretically and historically correct, and when it was the right microphone for the job it was absolutely fantastic. You could not tell me that there was a superior stereo microphone or stereo technique in existence - that would be like telling a Macintosh user that Windows is superior, or telling a Wavelab user that Sequoia is superior. They're simply not going to listen. They just cup their hands over their ears, close their eyes and shake their heads singing "la la la la la la la".

After using the SF12 for three or more years I was becoming increasingly disgruntled. I looked back over all of my recordings and realised that I had about a 35% success rate - meaning that only 35% of the recordings I made were actually useful to anyone. I was too embarrassed to listen to the other 65%, in case someone walked in.

The most common problems were:

1) For recordings made in bad-sounding rooms I often pushed the mic quite close (to minimise the room sound), thinking I could always add some reverb later. The result? An excessively wide stereo image and complete loss of ensemble. When I added some reverb it sounded exactly the same, but with reverb.

2) For recording large groups I'd have to pull the microphone so far back to capture the full width that there was too much room sound. Using MS processing or similar to reduce the room sound never resulted in a better recording. Just a different version of bad.

3) In some venues I recorded in, the lighting above the stage (necessary for live performers to follow their scores) induced a hum into the ribbons. Depending on which way the mic was rotated, the hum would be in either the left or right channel. I could minimise it by turning the mic to the appropriate angle relative to the dimmers, but that didn't do any good for the music. And these induced hum recordings usually also suffered from either (1) or (2) above...

So, after three or more years of using nothing but the Royer SF12, I had become an expert at making useless recordings in glorious Blumlein ribbon stereo.

As you can imagine, recording was not the satisfying endeavour it was supposed to be. Instead, it was predominantly a frustrating experience. I would often feel like giving up recording altogether, especially when I'd be spending hours editing a terrible recording. The sound quality just wasn't worth the effort to edit it, but what else could I do? The client wanted their recording...

I went into each recording project with great hope, and usually came out with great disappointment and self-doubt, wondering what I was doing wrong, and wondering how Blumlein users like Waterlily Acoustics, Chesky Records and Opus-3 managed to make so many good recordings. One day I realised that, unlike Waterlily Acoustics, Chesky Records and Opus-3, I did not have the luxury of choosing who I recorded, where I recorded them, and how long I was going to spend recording them. From there, it was not a great leap of logic to deduce that my beloved SF12 was not capable of delivering all that I was unrealistically asking of it. The 65% of failed recordings were not a failing of the SF12, they were simply due to using the wrong tool for the job. As soon as I added condensers to my kit (ORTF, Blumlein, MS, whatever is most appropriate), things picked up. My success rate has since shot up to about 85%, the 15% of failures are usually due to factors out of my control, my clients are invariably happy with me, and recording is, at last, the satisfying endeavour it promised to be.

So, when it comes to ribbons and Blumlein, here's the halfway-to-the-bottom line: (See, I can be indecisive too! Or can I?)

1. A ribbon recording can sound beautiful to one listener, but dull to another. There are few things in the world more disappointing than handing over a 'perfect' recording that you're proud of for its natural tone and ribbon warmth, only to hear the client complain that it is too dull.

2. Ribbons are very fussy when it comes to preamps, so you can find yourself painted into a corner - when you buy a ribbon microphone, you have to buy the right preamp as well. And, if you're a wanker like me and decide to develop your own custom preamp, well, you are entering a world of physical, emotional and financial pain. Just don't go there.

3. Blumlein is a very fussy and demanding technique, and it really comes down to this: if the room is not excellent AND well-suited to the music and the ensemble playing it, forget it, dude. JUST FORGET IT!!!!!

Because you are indecisive, Duckman, I will try to help you make up your mind. When you find yourself entertaining the notion of having a Blumlein ribbon as your primary stereo microphone, let it go dude. JUST LET IT GO!!!! Take it from someone who's been there and lived to post the tale.

Caveat (look away, Duckman, or you'll be indecisive again): I still love Blumlein ribbons. I imported the very first SF24 (active version of SF12) into Australia and I'm pleased to say I still have access to both microphones when I need them. The SF24 is my all-time favourite microphone for recording string quartets, especially if the repertoire is classical stuff. For contemporary Bartok et al, sometimes it is more appropriate to use small diaphragm condensers for their harder 'edge', which better suits much of the contemporary stuff.

Simmosonic Sun, 10/08/2006 - 00:52
Duckman wrote: No offence taken. I know I'm indecisive.

Going back to your earliest post, you said your primary application is for small choral ensembles. Is it the same ensemble most of the time? If so, and if the recordings are for them, why not have a casual reconnaisance-style chat to the conductor? Ask the conductor to play you some favourite choral recordings and describe what he/she likes about them, in terms of sound. This sort of information will be very helpful if you want to make recordings that the client will be pleased with. And if you're not sure what to choose yourself, you may as well let your client's tastes dictate the choices.

Some conductors get into pinpoint imaging and so on, especially with smaller ensembles, in which case you're probably going to be looking for a coincident technique. Others don't care for that, but like things to sound big and spacious, in which case you're going to be looking for a near-coincident or spaced pair. Some conductors like a big deep sound with more emphasis on the notes rather than the clarity of the text, in which case omnis at a distance might be appropriate. Other conductors place great emphasis on the text itself, in which case cardioids or similar in ORTF or similar may be the go.

The question underlying all of this is goes back to something Gunnar hinted at in another thread: are you making the recordings for yourself or for someone else? Let the answer shape your microphone choice...

Duckman Sun, 10/08/2006 - 03:20
Hey Simmo... Remy and yourself take the cake for passionate, poetic and experienced advice... my favourite kind. Thank you!

I think I mentioned this earlier.... but I am not a professional engineer and, at this stage, I've no one to satisfy with recording but myself. The only ensemble I'll be recording in the near future is my own... we are small (between 4 - 10 choristers), sing Renaissance polyphony (not badly) and Gregorian chant (rather well) in a liturgical choir. I'm hoping to produce recordings for my own enjoyment and for those in our congregation, and for anyone else who might enjoy listening to us. So it's a hobby, rather than a professional venture.

Anyhow, I because I'm digging blumlein imaging and ribbon mics... I'm strongly leaning towards them. The SF12 gave me a taste of what might be possible. The only limiting factor I see with producing a recording that might satisfy the above objectives with these tools would be the room and, of course, the performance. Because there is only one ensemble to record, and because there are a few rooms around Melbourne that we might use (if we're lucky) and that might be appropriate (for example, Xavier College chapel... have you been there?), I'm still leaning towards the forbidden fruit combo of blumlein/ribbon. The price of the AEA R88 and TRP combo is right in the pocket, financially... and it was you, YOU Simmo, whose review of the R88 got my blood pumping in that direction :-)

I completely agree that a diversity of tools is required for all the different contingencies, and I thank you, Simmo, for detailing so eloquently the difficulties of aligning yourself dogmatically to a single technique when you started out. I'm just not sure that I will find myself in those situations which require so great a flexability.

SO the choice for me is perhaps - and I apologise for boring readers with all this guff and piffle about myself and my choir - should I go for a decent set of condensers (MK21 is the front-runner, but a bit out of reach) and be 80% happy with the sound in most situations, or go for a blumlein ribbon and be deliriously happy some of the time :-). Or is that second option just an illusion??? hehehe, the indecision!

Any polite abuse - please pm me.

Simmosonic Sun, 10/08/2006 - 04:25
Duckman wrote: ...at this stage, I've no one to satisfy with recording but myself. The only ensemble I'll be recording in the near future is my own... SNIP! The SF12 gave me a taste of what might be possible.

Ah, thanks for pulling me back on track there. I had forgotten that you have already tried the SF12 in your own specific recording application.

If you are happy with that sound then by all means pursue the Blumlein ribbon pair because when it is good it is very, very good. Either stick with the SF12 (if it ain't busted, don't fix it and keep the money - what's a dB or two of noise really worth to you?) or move on to the AEA R88 and TRP combo, which ought to give you a more detailed sound quality but with perhaps marginally less impressive imaging...

Be very careful getting the angle right; making sure both ribbons are perpendicular to the axis of the sound source. This is important with the SF12 and SF24, but even moreso with the R88 due to the length of its ribbons. Get it right and a little bit of imaging magic might happen...


Duckman wrote: The price of the AEA R88 and TRP combo is right in the pocket, financially... and it was you, YOU Simmo, whose review of the R88 got my blood pumping in that direction :-)

[insert image of Simmo with hands cupped over ears, eyes shut, head shaking from side to side]

la la la la la la la

DavidSpearritt Sun, 10/08/2006 - 13:17
Just to add confusion to the conversation. I was in an unfamiliar RC church last night recording "Australian Voices" for a CD project, a small but very high quality choral group singing modern Aussie stuff.

The white washed interior did not look promising, very reverberant, deep arched and domed ceiling shape, a bit echoey. I set up an MS pair in the middle, MK4/KM120 and the MK21's as outriggers, did a couple of takes and trials, and got crunch and harhness from the sopranos.

Fortunately I had the SF24 with me, replaced the MS pair with it, and got a HUGE improvement. Now the sound was smooth without the crunch, and the rest of the session went beautifully. I was going to use the Coles and the new TRP, but the limited setup time and their first real outing put me off experimenting with this project.

We even had a "surround" (choristers in surround, not the audio) piece to record, where half the singers were on each side of the SF24 facing each other, MK21's were switched off. This worked superbly.

Simmo makes sense, but if you have the source, the room, and ribbons, you can get some fantastic results, that more than make up for the specificity of the technique or gear, especially since you are not expecting to record all types of music. Use the SF12 with the AEA TRP, this will be a GREAT start with small choral groups and the repertoire they sing.

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