Need stereo mic to round out chamber music recording rig

Discussion in 'Chamber' started by IanHowell, Jan 15, 2009.

  1. IanHowell

    IanHowell Guest

    Hi Everyone,
    I've been poking around on this forum for a few days and appreciate the level of education.

    Here's my situation.
    I am a countertenor (think classical opera singer male alto) who needs to buy the last component of my traveling recording setup.
    I have my little MacBook and my 24/96 Firebox (it sounds good with clean mics).

    What I need is the best sounding stereo mic set up for the $$. Oh, and of course I have $500-800 to spend.

    Don't you love the unreasonable requests?

    If I had my way, I would get a royer stereo ribbon mic. I'm also spoiled on Neumans and Schoeps from the major label recordings I've done (Warner Classics and Delos).

    Not to be. I need something that I can take with me on tours to help grow my ever expanding Youtube empire. Most of the time it will be me (countertenor), and any small combination of piano, classical guitar, violin, cello, portative organ (small organ) or harpsichord. We perform in nice spaces, sitting relatively close together, so I assume that I want to get a pair of matched omnis and use a spaced set-up (one stand with a bar).

    What I have looked at online:

    Rode NT-55 ($530 ish/pair). some folks complain about coloration.
    Avenson ST0-2 ($550/pair). some folks complain about noise floor, and we will be very quiet sometimes. the super flat response was attractive.
    AT 2050 ($600/pair) some folks complain about the brittle sound of the 4050, can't find much about the 2050.
    ADK TL (around $700/pair?) I can find nothing in reviews about this mic. does anyone own one/use it for classical chamber ensembles in a stereo pattern? They are the only mic in this price range that suggest use for acoustic classical instruments from a distance (orchestras, etc...).
    Studio Projects C3 or LSD (around $700-800?) some folks like these, and others think they have way too driven a sound.
    Fathead IIs in a blumlein config ($600/pair for the nice ones). Some good reviews, but no one using them for my application.

    Most of the online information available online on mics in this range is for guys who are recording their acoustic guitars in their living rooms (nothing wrong with that... I did that at one point too). I'm talking about trying to capture as much depth and texture as possible from a live chamber music performance. I am not wed to large or small diaphragms as I know that crappy examples of each can be found. I don't want to settle for a basic stereo mic if something remarkably better is just a few hundred $ away.

    Thanks for your help! If you would like an example of the sort of group I'm talking about, goto:

    all best,

  2. dvdhawk

    dvdhawk Well-Known Member

    Dec 18, 2008
    Western Pennsylvania, USA
    Hi Ian,

    Have you looked at the Rode NT-4 Stereo Mic? It's got two condenser capsules in a fixed X/Y configuration on one mic body. I use them for ensemble recording. It's very easy to use, you just walk around and find the sweet-spot where the ensemble blends back together and put the mic right there.

    Because it's stereo, it uses a 5-pin XLR on the mic. Rode gives you two cables. One that goes from the 5-pin to two standard XLR mic connectors. The other goes from the 5-pin to a stereo 1/8" mini, which might be convenient if you're recording directly into a video camera for YouTube purposes. You may or may not need a pre-amp for that. You can put a 9-volt battery in it to eliminate the need for phantom power. A nice case, stand adaptor, and windscreen are included.

    It's not going to make you forget those legendary high-end mics you've used in the past, but for a mic that rings up just under $500 it does a very nice job. And afterall, YouTube isn't exactly audiophile quality by the time they compress it.

  3. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Member

    Sep 26, 2005
    I made recordings for DELOS & I've recorded a few countertenor. Even a bargain countertenor.

    I think for your application, especially your particular style of singing and accompanying sound, you should seriously consider someone else's ribbon microphones if you can't afford David Royer's. Cascade's has a newer branded luxury model. I heard their cheap one and while I didn't think it sounded like my top shelf versions? It sure as heck sounded like a warm ribbon to me. I can only imagine this newer model sounds mighty fine? And you would have a character of sound that wouldn't be like everybody else's condenser bargain bags.

    Run them as MS instead of Blumlien. Because you indicated You Tube, meaning you're audio is going to play mono. And I believe in true mono compatibility.

    I love those half act operas.
    Ms. Remy Ann David
  4. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Well-Known Member

    Apr 19, 2006
    Home Page:
    The NT4 is very convenient, but uses the same cardioid capsules as are supplied with the NT55(MP). However, the omni capsules in the NT55 set are outstanding for the money, and used in A-B configuration into a top-end pre-amp punch well above their weight. It would mean carrying round an A-B spacer bar as well as a shorter stereo bar for X-Y use, but would give you great flexibility.

    Otherwise, the Cascade Fathead stereo kit is a good ribbon for the price. I don't know the new model that Remy mentioned, but it might just be the one for you.
  5. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    Apr 4, 2006
    Blacksburg, VA
    I have a pair of Rode NT-55 and like them a great deal. I have used them for classical recording with local HS musicians with very good results. Not going to make you forget the Schoeps, but money well spent within your budget range. Given that you get a choice of omni and cardioid capsules at that price, they are pretty hard to beat. Since I record mostly pop and jazz, the NT55s are about the most neutral mics in my collection. I am sure they are more colored than their more expensive competitors, but ... if you could afford the more expensive mics you would have asked a different question.

    I have a pair of Cascade Fat Head ribbon mics, and I've found them to be pretty useful. I have used them for spot mics on classical marimba and sax and use them regularly for jazz trumpet. I posted some tests of them here. I had a very easy time dealing with Cascade directly; they provided very good service. Of course, they have a Royer knockoff sitting there, tempting you with its low price. If my experience with the Fat Heads is anything to go by, it's not a piece of junk. But of course it's not up to the quality of the Royer -will you find it satisfactory? Can't say. If you try it, please report back.
  6. dvdhawk

    dvdhawk Well-Known Member

    Dec 18, 2008
    Western Pennsylvania, USA
    Coincidentally, here's a review of both the Cascade FatHead and the Rode NT4 on the same page.

    Both get favorable reviews, so as soon as I get this blasted building finished, I can see adding a pair of the Cascades to the collection.

    And thanks to Bob for the effort of making the soundclips in his post. Very useful stuff.
  7. pmolsonmus

    pmolsonmus Well-Known Member

    Jun 23, 2003
    Here's a thought you may want to at least consider based on Remy's mono compatible idea. I've just picked up a blue woodpecker which is a ribbon figure of 8 that I really like (I just picked it up so my experience with has been limited) but that and a SDC might be close to your price range.

    I own and use the Studio Projects NT5's and consider them great "bang for the buck" mics.

  8. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    Dec 12, 2001
    Oberlin, OH
    Home Page:
    The NT-4 is a good microphone for the price. We use ours for on location recording and for video uses with the extra cable that plugs right into our FX-1 camera.

    It is NOT a Schoeps but for the money sounds really good.

    The one BIG problem with RIBBONS is that they are FRAGILE and don't take kindly to a lot of rough handling so if you get some make sure they are stored and transported in really good shock proof cases. I had a professor in college that every year would take the cover off of a 77DX and blow on the ribbon to show how fragile it was and every year the tech staff had to send the microphone back to RCA for re-ribboning which cost a tidy sum. They finally found an old ribbon microphone, put a piece of aluminum coated mylar in for the ribbon and told him he could only use that microphone for demo. Problem solved.

    I can not say enough about the Blue Woodpecker. It is an amazing microphone and one I think EVERYONE who does acoustic instrument recordings should audition it. It has silky highs, a smooth creamy mid range and a very solid non tubby sounding bass region. I auditioned one at GC through my Robbie mic preamp and literally fell in love with the sound. It is going to be my next microphone purchase.
  9. Cucco

    Cucco Well-Known Member

    Mar 8, 2004
    Tacoma, WA
    For an affordable solution - I second the NT4. I have 2 of them that I use for quick-and-dirties such as recitals for 2nd grade piano students, etc. and it works well. I've also used it on jazz trap set and it works very well also.

    As mentioned, it doesn't compare to the Schoeps, but neither does the price. However, it's not night and day, it's just not a Schoeps.

    That being said, I really only use one of mine at a time and have decided to sell one of my NT4s. If anyone's interested, contact me off-list (e-mail below in my profile block.)

  10. Didier

    Didier Active Member

    Sep 8, 2008
    You might also consider a pair of Oktava MK-012. You can compare it with the NT5 and the STO-2 in a shootout here:]

    A pair of NT5 is a good choice anyway, more versatile than the NT4.
  11. ampexguy

    ampexguy Active Member

    Mar 3, 2009
    A stereo microphone doesn't allow you to do anything a pair of separate microphones won't permit you to do. The separate microphones are much more versatile.

    Since no one has mentioned the Behringer B-5, I'll do so. They are small diaphragm condensers that come with cardioid and omni capsules. Everybody sells them for $90 apiece; you can probably find them cheaper if you shop around and are patient. If you don't like them, they are lost or damaged in travel, etc., you aren't out a lot. The cardioid capsules in X/Y or ORTF will let you maintain good mono compatibility, probably desirable with Youtube.

    I think they sound good and pretty neutral. I have A/B-ed them with Neumanns and Schoepses on the same performances. In such a circumstance, it will be instantly obvious why people pay thousands of dollars and get hot and sweaty over the Neumanns and Schoepses and not for the Behringers. However, taken on their own terms, they sound excellent. Tell people you used DPA's and they'll ooh and ah over your sound! They'll pooh pooh them only if they know what they are, but not if they actually use their ears.
  12. Codemonkey

    Codemonkey Well-Known Member

    Dec 11, 2007
    Scotland, UK

    Says it all.
    Behringer is low quality, poorly built, self-noisy, and that's just a general broadsweeping statement. Most of the individual gear is lousy.
    Oh, and Behringer are reputed to steal ideas and designs.
  13. moonbaby

    moonbaby Mmmmmm Well-Known Member

    Feb 23, 2005
    "Reputed" is an understatement. Uli Behringer has been successfully sued over patent infringements and design theft in several countries, including his mother country, Germany. He is a whore.

    Ampexguy, welcome to RO!!! I am curious, guy. when you A/B'd these mics (BSW as them on sale for $79.95ea) with said Neumann and Schoeps SDC's (models?), what was the criteria for said shootout? And WHY would you do so in the first place? I mean, if you had these other mics at your disposal...
    You might spend a little time on the search engine here and research what has been discussed regarding experiences with Uli's product-the good, the bad, and the ugly.
  14. Cucco

    Cucco Well-Known Member

    Mar 8, 2004
    Tacoma, WA
    I'll let Ampex Guy speak for himself, but I can tell you that he's got the gear and the experience. And he's a helluva nice guy too.

    Welcome to RO!!

    I should have told you 'Behringer' is a curse word around here. ;-)
  15. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    Dec 12, 2001
    Oberlin, OH
    Home Page:
    Behringer does make a really nice microphone IMHO. It is called the ECM-8000 and you can read more about it here

    We use them every year outdoors for recording a band concert. They work great, they sound great and if they get rained on they are easy to replace and don't cost an arm and a leg if one gets dropped or trashed. They are not DPAs or Earthworks but for the price do an amazingly good job. I have also used them to record a $7000 classical guitar and a harp with good results. I don't know where Behringer stole the design from but it is a very good OMNI microphone for the price.

  16. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    Jun 22, 2004
    Philadelphia, PA/ Greenville, DE
    Home Page:
    I'm sure you can get serviceable resutls out of Behringer gear. I bought a bunch of their really cheap headphone amps for click track use in an orchestral/soundtrack recording. That's about as far as I'd go, though.

    Their biz practices alone (that whole theft thing) just puts me off to realize there are plenty of other choices out there for better overall value.
  17. ampexguy

    ampexguy Active Member

    Mar 3, 2009
    First, I apologize for using obscenities here, period, much less in my first post.

    Second--and this is a serious question--I'd appreciate knowing what SDC's cost under $100, have omni and cardioid capsules, and sound as good (I know this part is subjective) as the B-5's, since one reply said there were "plenty of other choices out there for better overall value."

    I've done a B-5 vs. the rest shootout twice.

    The first time a friend and I were using his multitrack gear. We had enough tracks to record everything we might need to an individual track. So we had consecutively-numbered (bodies and capsules) 221B's and KM84's in addition to the B-5's and factory matched pair of MK-012's. On playback it was a simple task to route each track to a separate input on the console, match levels, and solo whatever combination we wanted. The client got ORTF KM84's, and thus, IMHO, no rights to complain that the mikes weren't good enough.

    The second time was at the end of a recording session. I had done the recording with omni 221B's. When it was over, I asked the organist to play the same short piece while I recorded it using omni MK-012's and B-5's (i.e., two different performances) in exactly the same position as the Schoepses: I lowered the stands, removed the Schoepses, replaced them with the Oktavas or B-5's, and put them back to the same height (fully extended, so about as precise as can be managed).

    You can buy a CD of the recording session that preceded the shootout (i.e., all 221B and minus examples of the Oktavas and B-5's) from the Takoma Park Seventh Day Adventist Church. The CD is entitled "We Have This Hope." Be warned that it is all Christian hymns and avoid it if that program would offend you. Please buy the CD instead of downloading the lousy sounding mp3's from the web. I'm happy to let my reputation as a recording engineer stand or fall on the basis of this CD (but not the mp3's!). I don't make anything from CD sales, and I'm not a member of the church.

    So, in both these cases, the client got the "high priced spread."

    I also once recorded an Episcopal evensong service in a church I know well with the B-5's. I wrestled a bit with my conscience, but in the end came down on the side of "Why have them if you aren't going to use them?" and "I have enough experience that the recording won't be any worse than so-so" coupled with "This is a freebie and they can't complain no matter what." I have to say that the problem with this recording (microphones not where I would normally have put them in this hall because the choir was trooping up and down the aisle) would not have been solved with 221B's. Otherwise my only criticism is that the last organ note of *one* piece would have had a *little* more oomph with the Schoepses.

    So that's my story, and I'm sticking to it! <g>

    Thanks to the moderator for his kind words. He obvously doesn't know me as well as he thinks he does.

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