I was reading an article about micing choirs and the writer advised that normal 3 prong XLR cables were insufficient for live recordings due to length of run and height of microphones. The danger was picking up radio broadcasts with suspended or elevated mics. He advised that only star quad cables be used - 4 conductors plus a braided shield. I agree that that cable should create less line loss and shield from interference but....
I also agree that radio signals can be an issue, but have only rarely ever had it happen and it was fixed by changing XLR cables. It was a poor cable.
Does this fall into the "monster cable" type hype or am I missing something that others are finding?
I don't know how much of it is hype but canare cable has two twisted pairs which seems to me would help with RF rejection and it's not that expensive if you make your own.
I am no expert on all things cable, but have also heard that quad cables are better for long runs. All my cables are quad - either Mogami Neglex or Canare. I built them myself and have lengths up to 80' but have joined them when I needed longer.Quad cables still go to 3 prong XLR connectors.
Look at http://www.redco.com/ and look at cable types. They sell bulk or you can arrange for them to build for you.
Yep, this is hype. StarQuad cable can actually be a detriment to you if used greater than 70 feet or so. The capacitance of this cable can affect the sound adversely.
The likelyhood of you picking up radio interference on just about any well-shielded, high-quality cable is slim as long as it's not run parallel with power or digital (specifically coax or AES)cables. You are more likely to have problems from annoying audience members turning off their cell phones. I've been recording orchestras and choruses (live and in-studio) for almost 15 years now, and I've yet to experience any noise caused by any mic cable unless I ran it the wrong way, and I've used just about every type of cable available.
One trick that I have tried with moderate success is to wrap two cables together in a helix type formation where each wrap is about an inch apart. Then, tape each end with electrical tape, about a foot or more back (just enough to make sure that you can spread the ends to your mics and your preamps) so that the wrapping doesn't come undone. It kind of looks like this:
The best upgrade one can possibly make for a live recording is proper microphone placement. And the good news here is, that doesn't cost a dime.
Just out of curiosity, what type of gear are you planning on using? I'm not one to usually focus on gear, but in recording live choruses and orchestras, one's equipment, as well as their ear, can have a profound effect on the end product.
Thanks for the feedback. I've been recording my choirs and orchestras for a number of years and have had the same experiences with RF interference as the rest of you (only when running parallel) which was easily solved. Usually the problem is room noise (churches/large halls) That's why I asked the question. The article appeared in the lastest choral journal and except for that suggestion seemed fairly straightforward.
For equipment, I've been using 2 AKG414-buls and/or 2-4 Crown PZM's fly mounted on a 12" square wooden platform. I run them through a Sytek pre (to my ears very transparent) and into a DIGI 002R.
As a conductor, this has been the closest thing that I've found within my price range that makes the ensembles sound like what I hear live and a pretty quick set-up.
What I've found helpful for large choral/orchestra groups is to put the PZM's in front of the orchestra and the AKGs in hypercardoid between the choir and orchestra. With high school voices I sometimes need to slightly alter the acoustic balance (especially in the guys section) and this allows me a little
luxury to tweak the mix.
I'm going to go a little off topic here and speak to your setup. Please don't think that I'm speaking negatively towards it; what you're using and the way that your using it has some key advantages. However, I bet that you could get far better results much easier by making a few mod's.
The C414 has been an orchestral recording staple for decades. The troublesome thing about them is that they definitely impart a specific sound on the recording. However, this is not necessarily a bad thing - the sound that they give is that of very controled lows, critical mids, and smooth and slightly rolled off highs. All of these traits can, of course, compliment classical recording.
The PZM's on the other hand should be used for a very specific purpose. Very rarely are they used for classical recording due to the occassionally unpredictable anomolies (especially in regards to the sound of orchestral music). Believe it or not, your 414's would be adequate in and of themselves to record a full orchestra with chorus.
Fly those suckers high in the sky - approx 10-12 feet above stage level. Space them out a bit - if you can use 2 seperate stands, go for it. Otherwise, I use a Sabra Som Stereo bar with a long (3 foot) rod in place of the much shorter rod that it comes with. Now for the last part, throw those mics into Omni. Don't be too afraid of room noises from the Omni mics - yes they will be there, but they also appear on cardioid mics too. The only difference is that the extraneous noises will sound far more natural through the omni's and therefore call less attention to themselves.
With that being said, don't be afraid to put a little distance between the mics and the front of the orchestra - not too much or you will lose any sense of instrument placement on the recording. One of the best things you can do is play around with the mic placement - this will completely alter your sound. Vary the degree and distance between capsules; vary the distance between your mics and the orchestra. Play around, you won't be disappointed. Just be sure that you don't lower the stand too much or your recording will sound compressed and lifeless.
Some of the best recordings in history have been made with 2, 3, or 4 omni mics. Check out Telarc's web page http://www.telarc.com, they have an interesting write up on their mic placement.
If you have a short list for upgrades, you might want to consider a couple small diaphram omnis - Schoeps Collettes, Sennheiser MKH20's, or Neumann KM183's are all perfect for the job. If you set a pair of these in front of the orchestra, spaced about 8 inches/20 centimeters apart, and flanked the stage with your 414's in omni, you would have an unbeatable sound! And for those really quiet choirs, you could still keep the small mics up front and throw the 414's in Hyper and stick them in front of the choir.
I haven't used the Sytek preamp, but I understand it rocks for orchestral music. I personnally like the Grace pre's and the Millennia pres, but I will be buying the 4 channel Sytek real soon. Certainly, that should be considered a strong link in the chain and you probably shouldn't need to change that for any reason.
Sorry for the long, off-topic post.
Great post, thanks.
I have used the 414s in omni exclusively and have gotten some of the great results you describe. It also has depended on the room whether I use the PZM's or not. As the choir director/engineer/producer...etc. my job has been to make choir recordings first. The parents of the choir kids and the choir kids are the ones buying the bulk of the recordings. If the orchestra didn't sound quite as good as the choir - that was OK. The orchestra is added for certain pieces only. Most of these are taking place in churches for organ and space for accapella things. It has been a pragmatic decision.
The other problem is consistently a balance issue between a full orchestra and a high school choir (even a large, good one) which is why I've been using the set-up I have. The PZMs have given me the best room sound with the equipment I have in the rooms we were using. I like the PZM's best for slapping on the lid of my grand piano, and I will be looking to upgrade. I am in the market for some small diaphragm mics for just that purpose. Thanks for the suggestions, I will be shopping in the next few months.