Light weight gear for recording strings and piano?

Discussion in 'Acoustic Keyboards' started by violaman, May 28, 2005.

  1. violaman

    violaman Guest

  2. PCM

    PCM Guest

    How many channels do you need at one time? If it's a small amount (4 or less), I would say get some great SDC's, and throw as much money as you can into a 2 channel pre (or 2). As I don't record classical, don't know if it's perfect for the job, but john hardy makes a nice 4 channel unit- pretty clean to my ears. If you need lots of pres and can use a soldering gun, the seventh circle audio stuff is cool.. stuff any variation of their three offerings into an 8 space rack and you're good to go. Their J99 pre is similar to the hardy stuff (jensen).

    If you need a wire with gain (no color), check the earthworks pre. Haven't used it, but know poeple who swear by it for this application.
  3. anonymous

    anonymous Guests

    Feb 10, 2001
    Good luck
  4. violaman

    violaman Guest

    thank you for the reply

    very good. I will be working with 4 channel most of the time and sometimes just 2. I have always heard fine things about the earthworks pre(for classical). But $3000 good? It may very well be the correct investment. I hope that it would add the warmth of sound that my gear lacks. I don't think that I'm getting any help from my current mics. I'll check out the 7th circle audio asap.
  5. tmcconnell

    tmcconnell Guest


    If you ask me, your mics are the biggest problem. Not only are they physically large, they arn't so hot for classical. The 414's are a little harsh, and I'm not sure about the AT's, but they all seem big. You can use lighter stands etc if you go with some sdc's - and did I see an sm58 in there? really bad for classical unlrss you are doing classical vocal work.

    I've had great luch with km184's, and Studio Projects C4's for violin. For close micing you might consumer the earthworks cardioids. They can be had on Ebay for a throu for a match pair of sr77's or z30x's - both amazingly accurate and smooth mics for classical work - but - they lose low end fast after going further than 6 inches from the source. Their off axis is so clear, the bleed will sound great, and the cardoid rejection is the best I've heard in a condenser.

    For overall recording, why not get RME fireface 800, with four pretty good preamps built in and great converters, and go firewire into your laptop? A single rack space. Then get a few of the great pre's that have been mentioned elsewhere in this thread. Two RU and you have world class gear.

    Anyway, for 5 grand you'd have lots of change. I'd put the change into a couple of the classic sdc's for classical - like the Schoeps or DPA systems, and have at least one hypercardiod capsule in your rig for those difficult moments, and at least one omni, for those moments when the room sounds beautifu, or you want to mic the "whole" instrument.
  6. tmcconnell

    tmcconnell Guest


    responding to sdc's post - yes the km184's can be boomy - but that's usually when there's boom in the room, so to speak. The attack transients in those strings go quite low so you don't want to lose them with a rolloff.

    On ribbons, I have an aea r84 - and its amazing for some things esp mando's and resonator guitars, and I don't know the coles except by reputation. The issue with a ribbon for live work would be they are so sensitive to wind, and to wind. Easy to kill. Also, since they all have an "8" pattern, for live work I might be concerned about either feedback or too much room.
  7. violaman

    violaman Guest

    sounds like great advice

    These are all important things to consider. Thank you for your replies. Fortunately the mic stands will be supplied to me at the festival. I'll be carrying over the rack, computer and cables. I would like to purchase light weight stands(very tall) in the Fall.

    Yes, I would like to keep the rack as compact as possible and the 2U rig sounds good to me. Have been so close to buying this RME Firewire in the past... almost pushed that button! I am very curious about the Motu Traveler, does anyone out there have any comparison with the RME interface in terms of sound quality/digital converters and mic pres?

    My concern about certain sdc's is that most string players are looking for a sound with a lot of air and less of the bowing/fingering noise. I have tried out the B-K 4011's and 4006's in a few sessions and found them to be so incredibly detailed (again on a Neve console, it's a beast!) that the slightest surface noise is picked up, also the inner- workings of large Steinways comes out loud and clear. Mike placement is critical and I must spend mucho time with each individual musician. With many mics (some further away) this works out great. I try to stay away from a lot of mastering.
    I would like to get a simple "live" sound in an ORTF config. which compliments with minimal set up and testing. A friend of mine who records for a famous string quartet uses the schoeps with good results. Just a pair. So yes, economy in the size of the mic is a big consideration in upgrading my mobile-gear and I'll be looking into sdc's. Still, I have heard many flattering remarks about ribbons and the way they compliment strings with a dark tone. Does anyone out there have this experience of hearing-- too much bow noise(raspy), fingering articulation, hammers, dampers and pedal of the piano? What's the mic of choice for a smooth string sound that compliments the instrument? My biggest problem is the viola!(no viola jokes please!) Also, I haven't had the chance to compare KM 184's against the AT 4041, seems like a competitive mic? I will most likely need to add some Neumanns to my mobile list. I prefer a durable mic and would rarely take an expensive mic out of the studio. How 'bout the Coles ribbon?
  8. ghellquist

    ghellquist Well-Known Member

    May 25, 2004
    a few ramblings from an amateur. I do similar recordings myself, mostly chamber and symphony orchestras. Also struggling to get a reasonable portable rig.

    Currently my rig is a Motu 828mkII + 8 channels in a 1U pre (Line Audio). I believe the RME has got really good reviews, but to my ears (unsophisticated) the difference really is no that large.

    A small idea is that the Acoustics forum a bit further down here has a lot of ideas and people.

    I think the starting point for acoustic music is the mics. And for acoustic music, small diameter condensors is sort of the starting point. Someone pointed me in the direction of omni mics and currently I am in love with that. A stereo pair in the middle and two outriggers generally. Plus when needed spot mics in the orchestra. The mid pair sometimes ends 50 cm apart, sometimes several meters. Depends on things. Omnis are generally more sweet and less harsh in my ears.

    If you find the strings harsh, you may be micing a bit too close and a bit too straight up. The fingering noises and such go away on a longer distance, and the harshness may come from micing straight above. At least 30 degrees forward, and a few meters away.

    Same thing with grand piano. Open half or full stick, two omni mics in the crook of the piano and perhaps a meter away seems best to me right now.

    The KM184 is a really nice mic (I have two), but find that I use them less and less. Used too close on strings the mic tends to be harsh. In an ORTF setup, a bit away and the mics pointed straight ahead (not down) they can give a good sound, but on the side of "clear" instead of "warm".

    A very good idea is to try to rent mics before buying. It is surprisingly cheap and will save you a lot in not buying the wrong mics.

    Happy recordings.

  9. violaman

    violaman Guest

    meant to say "how 'bout the Royer ribbon?" Late at

    I hear that the Coles is delicate, etc... But the Royer? I'm mulling over the RME Fireface idea... My goal is to start listening next week.
    Looking into a place in CT where I can rent some mics. Anyone? Feel bad about asking friends to lend me their mics as I know how protective you can get. And yes, omnis for classical recording would be a great try, I bet that would smooth things out. I'm leaning in the earthworks direction there. Will put up a few questions in the Acoustics forum. I'm new to this site and learning the ropes. Thanks.

    Several audio sources are advertising this Mojave Audio MA-200. Anyone own one and use it on strings?
  10. PCM

    PCM Guest

    back to mic pres...

    RME makes great stuff, but do you really need those four built in pres? My bet is you won't ever use them. I personally have an RME 8 i/o converter that is strictly AD/DA and it's a great unit. I also have a digi 002r which has 4 pres on it that never see the light of day. Waste of money and space if you ask me.

    BTW, here's a link to the hardy pre I mentioned earlier...I would highly suggest trying this out before you buy ANY pre. I think the earthworks, while very accurate, may not be the pre you're looking for if you want subtle warmth. The hardy will fit the bill's next on my list along with a great river mp2nv and focusrite ISA.

    (Dead Link Removed)

    best thing is, they are modular so you can buy two channels up front, try em out, and add two more later down the road into the same 1u rack chassis.
  11. violaman

    violaman Guest

    That's the stuff!!!

    Had a look at this link and yes! This is what I'm looking for with a subtle amount of warmth, plenty of gain. Which flavor would you recommend from the over a dozen listed, well, I guess it's really just between the twin and single servo models(since I need to start with 4 pres)... so what's the diff.? A simple amplified wire such as the earthworks might not do it for me.

    I'm curious why no one has said anything about the 4 channel Sytek mpx4Aii or Audient ASP008. There are so many glowing reviews out there. Anything bad about the Sytek in this application? Too much color? (price is amazing, specs look great). I've never heard one. I was about to give it a try until this hardy pre came up. Might have to audition both of them.
  12. Cucco

    Cucco Well-Known Member

    Mar 8, 2004
    Tacoma, WA
    Hey Violaman!

    Welcome to the sight. I'll try to tackle some of your questions here in no specific order. I tend to be a little ADD, so hold on, I might shift topics rather fast.

    First - your mics are fine.
    - The AT 4041 is a find mic for classical
    - the AKG 414s are mainstays for many classical studios and work well on piano. (I'm not a big fan of them personally, but many people are and they can't all be wrong :) )

    Also, your software is fine. Both packages are quite good and very professional. Personally, I would learn to use 1 of them in and out, that way you can eliminate any dependence on both packages.

    If you are looking for a warmer sound, the answer -may- be with your conversion, but can also be affected by mic placement. As Gunnar pointed out, too much string sound etc, from violins/violas comes from micing too close or perpendicular to the soundboard.

    As for the KM184 - I'm personally not a big fan of this mic AT ALL! I know a few people here use them, but frankly I find them to be unrefined and oafish sounding. The AT 4041, 4051, Gefell M300 and the Audix SCX1 are far better choices for less money. Of course, for a little more, you can always get Schoeps or Sennheiser too.

    On to the mic stands. I would be VERY leary of any mic stands that would be supplied. Chances are, they won't be tall enough. Check out the AEA 15B. It's tiny, VERY lightweight and cheap. Not to mention, it will get a pair of SDCs just under 15 feet in the air. (Heigth being a must for chamber music and classical in general.)

    Now onto the pres. Earthworks pres are "very transparent." That being said, I don't like them. First, they are very expensive. Second, I've heard far better for less. (Including the Hardy's, Millennia, True, Grace, etc.) As well, I know some fantastic recordings that have been made with Mackie boards. (I know - that's borderline blasphemy - but I'm serious. Apparently, their new stuff is actually pretty nice. Ask JoeH - he's using one regularly) But before I get off topic, here's what I would do with the $5K. Also, lightweight and good pres don't go hand in hand. To make a quality pre, you must have some serious inerds including rather hefty power supplies. This will drive the weight up a bit.

    Keep the laptop, software and mics you have (though you can get rid of the Shures)

    3 AEA stands ($500 total)
    RME Fireface ($1500 - and works VERY well with Samplitude.)
    2 Gefell M300s ($1500 total)
    Sebatron VMP4000e ($1500 - surprisingly warm and musical preamp for classical music. Plus great quality.)

    This would take up a total of 3 rack spaces leaving one open in the middle for ventilation. You now have a 4 space rack, a laptop bag (which, if you're creative with packaging, you can get 4 mics into - carefully) and 3 very light mic stands to carry in. (You could also probably rig something up that would allow you to strap the mic stands to your laptop bag.) You could get everything in with only one trip and have a VERY good setup.

    Hope this helps!

    J. :D
  13. hughesmr

    hughesmr Guest

    Lots of good, albeit varied, advice here.

    I can personally vouch for the Earthworks pre: I use the LAB102 extensively. No color at all to my ears: so, you'd better like your mics a LOT if you use it.

    For more bang and less bucks, you MUST check out the Benchmark MPS420. 4 channels of stellar pre PLUS on-board ability to optionally mix directly to two channels, all for under $1600. I've never heard an ill word about it, and I'm about to take the plunge myself.

    I also use both the Earthworks QTC1 omnis and Neumann KM184s. You will get a natural sound using the 184s in ORTF or NOS. You can do better, of course, but not much for the same $.

    OTOH, if you have $$ to burn, I'd be looking closely at Schoeps mics.

    Have fun!

  14. Cucco

    Cucco Well-Known Member

    Mar 8, 2004
    Tacoma, WA
    Michael's right - I forgot to mention the Benchmark and it is a fine pre. Worth FAR more than it's selling price.

  15. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    Dec 12, 2001
    Oberlin, OH
    Home Page:
    I am somewhat partial to the AKG Blue line microphones for recording of classical strings but have used ATs, DPAs, RCA 77DXs, AKG C414s and Schoeps as well. If I had your budget I would concentrate on the microphones and preamps/converter. The RME unit looks good and I would try and audition it before making a decision. You might also consider the Presonus Firepod as I have heard good things about it as well. Again try BEFORE you buy. I think relying on someone else's stands may be a disaster. I would find out as much as I could about the stands before going to the festival. Best of luck in your recording....Please let the group know what happens.

  16. Midlandmorgan

    Midlandmorgan Active Member

    Jul 21, 2002
    One more dissenting (because I'm just feeling ornery today)...

    I recently got a matched pair of Josephson C42s, that have essentially taken the place of everything else as my primary classical mic set...I put them in ORTF, put the ADK A51 Ser III as a widely set stereo pair, and go for it...

    The AT4041 is a fabulous mic for stringed instruments...I really like it for arco bass.

    Samp...what can I say - I think it was originally DESIGNED for classical situations, and has been bastardized (read: midi-fied) into something else, but it still is your best bet for platform...

    Now for the ornery part: I think your M80 would do you a lot more justice than what is being reported here...properly set, you can get some really stunning sounds, and since you already have it, you just saved a bunch of money....

    As for interfaces - I got hold of a Presonus Firepod not too long ago in a 'do or die' situation, and have been tickled to death with it as a remote, classically oriented device...the 8 pres are really pretty good (MUCH better than I expected them to be), have enough gain for any ribbons, and are more along the line of Millennia than Neve, API, or other esoteric brands...the FW interface works stupidly well, and everything you need in the way of adjustment in right in front of you...the only real downside is no ADAT, you are limited to 8 analog and 2 digital ins...

    Atlas and Mercenary both carry the Josephson mics, which I cannot recommend highly enough...the Firepod is available at most larger online stores (I deal with Sweetwater because I trust them not to give me a bunch of BS - just what I ask for, and David Klausner has always been straight up with me, even on stuff he doesn't sell....)

    Or, just say screw it, go into serious debt, and get a Cranesong Spider, a pair of Josephsons, 4 DPA 4011s, and a M/S pair of Gefell M390s....


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