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Mapleshade Records: Wedge Microphone
john caldwell
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#1
19th October 2008
Old 19th October 2008
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Talking Mapleshade Records: Wedge Microphone

Are you aware of the work in stereo recording done by recordist Pierre Sprey on the Mapelshade label? I learned of him last week in a conversation with Mr. Josephson when I asked Mr. Josephson about use of his omni mics with a Jecklin disc, and he directed me to Mapelshade and Pierre Sprey. Pierre uses a plexiglass wedge to mount his Josephsons in a PZM topolgy, but I'm not yet certain of all the details. An image of the setup can be seen here.

Pierre was receptive to my telephone call, and I plan an additional contact after listening to the recording I ordered from the Mapleshade label.

In essence he uses a modified Jecklin disc that is a "wedge" made of three 2'x2' sheets of 1/4" plexiglass to construct an equilateral triangle, and his Joesphson omni's are mounted in a PZM style to two surfaces of the wedge. The angle between the mics' long axes is therefore 60 degrees. The inter-capsule distance is 12 inches.

I chuckled when I asked Pierre about mono-capability of his recordings. He was polite, but I believe he thought me absurd to even care about such an irrelevance.

I'll let you know as I learn more.

John-
#2
19th October 2008
Old 19th October 2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by john caldwell View Post
Are you aware of the work in stereo recording done by recordist Pierre Sprey on the Mapelshade label? I learned of him last week in a conversation with Mr. Josephson when I asked Mr. Josephson about use of his omni mics with a Jecklin disc, and he directed me to Mapelshade and Pierre Sprey. Pierre uses a plexiglass wedge to mount his Josephsons in a PZM topolgy, but I'm not yet certain of all the details. An image of the setup can be seen here.

Pierre was receptive to my telephone call, and I plan an additional contact after listening to the recording I ordered from the Mapleshade label.

In essence he uses a modified Jecklin disc that is a "wedge" made of three 2'x2' sheets of 1/4" plexiglass to construct an equilateral triangle, and his Joesphson omni's are mounted in a PZM style to two surfaces of the wedge. The angle between the mics' long axes is therefore 60 degrees. The inter-capsule distance is 12 inches.

I chuckled when I asked Pierre about mono-capability of his recordings. He was polite, but I believe he thought me absurd to even care about such an irrelevance.
John, I've got several of his CDs. I really like his combination of retro and modern techniques. The rooms he records in sound boxy like a livingroom to me, which isn't to say they're bad, it's just sonically not to my taste.

In the late '70s and early '80s many people experimented with boundary techniques. Hadn't heard of a wedge setup though.

Low frequencies roll off, up to 6dB I think, when the boundary surface area is small. As the surface gets smaller the attenuation --like a shelf filter-- moves up, well into the midrange frequencies.

P.S. I use Josephson 617s on a Schneider disk. Awesome mics.
john caldwell
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19th October 2008
Old 19th October 2008
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Yeah Michael, his rooms appear just that - living rooms. Several of the photos on the Mapleshade site show them to be fairly modest spaces - some pantries almost.

I just bought a pair of the Josephson 607b with MK202 capsules, so I'm eager to experiment with boundary/baffle techniques for a signer-songwriter album I'm doing. My plan is to build a traditional Jecklin disc, and also a Schneider-style disc, for some tests. But I did find the plexiglass wedge notion to also be of interest, so I might consider mocking one up.

What capsule do you use on your 617 body, Michael? As I understand it, the Josephson 607b - MK202 capsule, which I now own, should be similar to the 617-Mk221 combination, but the 221 capsule offers a few db better noise figure.

John-
#4
19th October 2008
Old 19th October 2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by john caldwell View Post
What capsule do you use on your 617...?
It's the 617-Mk221 combination. Product model is C617set. "Set" just means their 200volt body bundled with a 200volt Mk221 capsule.
#5
20th October 2008
Old 20th October 2008
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I would love to hear that recording
#6
16th January 2009
Old 16th January 2009
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Pierre is a friend and mentor of mine and I can attest to his friendliness and well intentioned helpfulness.

I haven't visited him in a few years but I would be surprised if he wasn't still using the modified Crown PZMs as the mics on his wedge. He uses his Josephson and other Crown PZMs as spot mics, blending them with the main stereo wedge feeds via minimalist single ended battery powered mic pres that he has built himself, mixed directly (with no mixer) live to two track tape. Cables of his own design and manufacture factor in no small way into the stunning presence that he achieves, requiring no bandaids of EQ, compression, or other processing. He rides the gain meticulously to avoid the "necessity" for compression.

The low frequency shelving that occurs with small boundaries is precluded by 2' square plexiglass panels that make up the wedge.

Frequencies with smaller wavelengths than the distance between the mic capsules are shaddowed to the extent that they are off axis, and consequently non-equidistant from the source, by the "nose" of the wedge, thus ameliorating to a great extent the mono compatibility issue.

I use a Crown SASSP stereo mic, designed on the same principals, that I've rebuilt, incorporating a pair of minimalist battery powered mic pres. The un-hyped naturalness of this type of recording, especially if done without spot mics, is rather disarming, and often hard to get used to in contrast to the business as usual approach. Of course, the room becomes even more important than usual.
#7
16th January 2009
Old 16th January 2009
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I have followed this group closely for three years but withheld my first post until I could contribute something meaningful and about which I have had considerable experience.

In 2003 I spoke to Pierre at some length about his techniques and have not only the notes I took but copies of absolutely everything on his website describing his equipment and techniques. I went so far as to make CAD drawings of the living room and entry hall where he makes his recordings. I also have several photos of his wedge and entry hall (all available from his site).

The technique he uses dates to the early 1980s when Crown introduced their PZM boundary mics. Full documentation about the "PZM wedge" probably still is available on the Crown Audio website but you'll have to comb through a lot of PDF files to find it all. The files also illustrate a schematic of Pierre's preamp and mention a few other things about his recording methods.

After I had spoken to him I was able to duplicate his wedge and used it almost weekly for nearly a year to record small jazz ensembles in a variety of rooms. I happen to have a pair of the identical mics he uses. While I recorded to a DAW rather than to a Sony tape deck my results were comparable. I might add, as Michael Patrick points out, room acoustics are critical.

While I still like some of Pierre's recordings and check his site periodically, I suspect you ultimately may achieve better results with a more traditional approach and different mics.

Many are unfamiliar with the better Crown PZMs and others have criticized them more than they deserve. (Today's PZM equivalent to Pierre's mic is the 30D.) I have no desire to sell my old 30S pair. But I can say without bias and in all honesty you may find you achieve more pleasing results by recording digitally with a pair of Schoeps (or something equally fine) and a high quality mic preamp.

I was really blown away the first time I heard Pierre's recordings. But I was far more blown away when I heard the recordings of Ben Maas, a member of this group. Ben has never used a PZM. I wonder what kind of magic he might work with them ....

Russ Reinberg
#8
16th January 2009
Old 16th January 2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by john caldwell View Post
...
In essence he uses a modified Jecklin disc that is a "wedge" made of three 2'x2' sheets of 1/4" plexiglass to construct an equilateral triangle, and his Joesphson omni's are mounted in a PZM style to two surfaces of the wedge. The angle between the mics' long axes is therefore 60 degrees. The inter-capsule distance is 12 inches.
...
So it has a fixed range for imaging full L/R. Rarely desirable direct/diffuse ratio and reasonable imaging match in the same point. It is the same problem with all these fixed acoustic baffle/dummy head setups for loudspeaker reproduction.
#9
16th January 2009
Old 16th January 2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by audio ergo sum View Post
So it has a fixed range for imaging full L/R. Rarely desirable direct/diffuse ratio and reasonable imaging match in the same point. It is the same problem with all these fixed acoustic baffle/dummy head setups for loudspeaker reproduction.
You could have the plexiglass panels on a hinge instead of a triangle-shaped box that would allow you to change the angle.
#10
16th January 2009
Old 16th January 2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by leddy View Post
You could have the plexiglass panels on a hinge instead of a triangle-shaped box that would allow you to change the angle.
Then there would still be the extreme spectral smearing of phantom sources, not my cup of tea.
#11
16th January 2009
Old 16th January 2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Uncle Russ View Post
I was really blown away the first time I heard Pierre's recordings. But I was far more blown away when I heard the recordings of Ben Maas, a member of this group. Ben has never used a PZM. I wonder what kind of magic he might work with them ....
Common Russ.... Baiting me like that You know my general feelings on boundary micing. I've heard your recordings with a wedge and I was the first to admit that they sounded a whole lot better than I thought that they had any right to.

That being said, if you remember, my principal complaint was that the recording seemed really flat to me. The all important 3rd dimension was missing. Image from Left to Right was fine and individual instrument sounds were fine. My issue was a lack of depth of sound.

There is a time and a place for baffled pairs and there is a time and a place for boundary micing (although I'll stick with my Sanken CUB-1 when I need directionality and I'll rent a Schoeps BLM if I want a true boundary mic), I'm just not a huge fan of using solely boundary micing techniques.



--Ben
#12
16th January 2009
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This CD was recorded with a big wedge like the one of Pierre Sprey, but bigger (each panel 1mX1m) and MBHO omni mics in holes with the caps shown on the surface of the panel.

JMM
#13
4th June 2009
Old 4th June 2009
  #13
Gear interested
 

Here is the "Crown Boundary Microphone Application Guide", which describes the Wedge, and several other interesting PZM configurations, and pretty much everything one would want to know about boundary miking .

I personally like what I've heard from Mapleshade a lot. I'm sure that recordings I would like just as much or better could be made via 'normal' methods, but I'm drawn to the minimalism of it because it's a methodology I can approximate on my own, and pretty cheaply.

I record mostly when a musician friend of mine visits from Europe about once a year. It is (suprise suprise) all acoustic, in a living room. Prior to learning about Mapleshade, I bought a pair of Crown PZM 30-D and found the results astoundingly better than trying to do a normal spaced omni method. Just laying them on the floor ~2'-3' apart and the sound is great (relative to my limited abilities and experience). I've since drawn some inspiriation from Mapleshade and plan to try a wedge as well, just bought some acrylic sheet for it...

Peace,
Sanaka
#14
4th June 2009
Old 4th June 2009
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I love some of Mr. Pierre's work, and have the utmost respect and admiration for those labels which focus on *sonics*(quality of sound and sonic integrity) and quality of source/room above all else.... rarity in these days it seems.



MA, Chesky, Waterlily, Yarlung, Tacet, Opus 3, Dabringhaus Und Grimm, Acousence, Blue Coast, .the now defunct POPE Music, Fone..Alia Vox..all those labels produce results that I aspire to...amazing.
#15
7th June 2009
Old 7th June 2009
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Live at Ethels.....Clifford Jordan

I've been a big fan of Mapleshade Records for many years now!

After purchasing many disc's, I can say that some of their recordings / artists are better suited to his wedge mic'ing methods then others.

That being said...
One of the best I ever heard is his recording of
"The Clifford Jordan Quartet - Live at Ethels"
This has to be of the most realistic presentations of a group I've ever heard on my stereo.
Listening on my home system, (Wilson, Cary, Wadia, & Mark Levinson) you are transported into the club...REALY AMAZING!
#16
8th June 2009
Old 8th June 2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nobtwiddler View Post
I've been a big fan of Mapleshade Records for many years now!

After purchasing many disc's, I can say that some of their recordings / artists are better suited to his wedge mic'ing methods then others.

That being said...
One of the best I ever heard is his recording of
"The Clifford Jordan Quartet - Live at Ethels"
This has to be of the most realistic presentations of a group I've ever heard on my stereo.
Listening on my home system, (Wilson, Cary, Wadia, & Mark Levinson) you are transported into the club...REALY AMAZING!

which Wilson??

I didnt know you were an audiophile, Mr. O

(we spoke about Genex some time ago)
#17
9th June 2009
Old 9th June 2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Teddy Ray View Post
I love some of Mr. Pierre's work, and have the utmost respect and admiration for those labels which focus on *sonics*(quality of sound and sonic integrity) and quality of source/room above all else.... rarity in these days it seems.



MA, Chesky, Waterlily, Yarlung, Tacet, Opus 3, Dabringhaus Und Grimm, Acousence, Blue Coast, .the now defunct POPE Music, Fone..Alia Vox..all those labels produce results that I aspire to...amazing.

Where as I applaud anyone's efforts to strive for sonic perfection I do have a couple of problems with "audiophile" labels.

Firstly by implication it suggests that the rest of us that neither own or work for an audiophile label are failing to strive for better sound quality and that is blatantly untrue. One only has to look at some of the posts here to see how much sound is important to most of those involved in location recording. It is also the case that many of the posters here have a good selection of some of the best microphones/mic pre's available.

Secondly, I would have less problem with them if these recordings really stood up, but as some people have mentioned not always do these recordings work. Often there are problems with balance and perspective caused by operating a "rigid" recording policy that can't possible work in every situation or environment. Many "audiophile" recordings also tend to fall down on musical grounds. Many of these labels in the past have either recorded some of the great names, who are, for whatever reason, past their sell by date, or performances, that just don't really cut it. IMHO a fantastic recording of a poor musical performance is really a waste of time. If you take a look at the greatest vocal recording thread (somewhere around on Gearslutz) often what many describe as a great vocal recording on closer examination, is not that well recorded. What they all have in common is great performance.

Regards


Roland
#18
9th June 2009
Old 9th June 2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Roland View Post
Where as I applaud anyone's efforts to strive for sonic perfection I do have a couple of problems with "audiophile" labels.

Firstly by implication it suggests that the rest of us that neither own or work for an audiophile label are failing to strive for better sound quality and that is blatantly untrue. One only has to look at some of the posts here to see how much sound is important to most of those involved in location recording. It is also the case that many of the posters here have a good selection of some of the best microphones/mic pre's available.

Secondly, I would have less problem with them if these recordings really stood up, but as some people have mentioned not always do these recordings work. Often there are problems with balance and perspective caused by operating a "rigid" recording policy that can't possible work in every situation or environment. Many "audiophile" recordings also tend to fall down on musical grounds. Many of these labels in the past have either recorded some of the great names, who are, for whatever reason, past their sell by date, or performances, that just don't really cut it. IMHO a fantastic recording of a poor musical performance is really a waste of time. If you take a look at the greatest vocal recording thread (somewhere around on Gearslutz) often what many describe as a great vocal recording on closer examination, is not that well recorded. What they all have in common is great performance.

Regards


Roland

your mileage has obviously varied, but id rather take my chances and support those guys for what they are doing..bucking trends, loudness, the need for edited to death perfection...you are certainly right about the musicality..some of what is out there and lauded by audiophiles ("famous blue raincoat" by jennifer warnes, "closer than they appear" by sarah K)... is just dreadful..shlock. elevator music even!

I do admire very much this commitment to sound. I get the feeling listening to some of what is out there that sound sometimes takes a back seat. I've listened a lot, am hearing new music constantly...much of what is out there on the "majors" does nothing for me.(I feel the same way about "secular" ie pop/rock).. I am certain that the big guys have access to whatever gear they wish to have(best mics and pres anywhere--doesn't seem to mean much)but.. The formula of working in great acoustics with simple microphone/recording techniques and custom-built recording chains appeals to me a great deal.

My favorite recordings of all time(A meeting by the river and "spirit and the blues") come from the "audiophile" ranks... I had never heard sound like that before, and have heard nothing to rival it since.

so yeah, we have to wade through a lot of less than stellar music(the majors have a lot of the "good" artists) , but there are some gems that outshine anything I have ever heard anywhere else.
#19
9th June 2009
Old 9th June 2009
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Hey Teddy...

Hey Teddy;
Long time no speak!
I do remember our Genex chat, back then you weren't around for a bit?

Yeah, I've got a few different systems, but the one in my small apartment listening room features, Wilson Cubs...
But I am considering changing to the Watt Puppy 8's.

Almost bought a pair of Maxx's (was a GREAT DEAL) but way too much for my space.


What's new by you.

Cheers
Paul
#20
9th June 2009
Old 9th June 2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nobtwiddler View Post
Hey Teddy;
Long time no speak!
I do remember our Genex chat, back then you weren't around for a bit?

Yeah, I've got a few different systems, but the one in my small apartment listening room features, Wilson Cubs...
But I am considering changing to the Watt Puppy 8's.

Almost bought a pair of Maxx's (was a GREAT DEAL) but way too much for my space.


What's new by you.

Cheers
Paul
Yessir, I had just come off tour with the Stamps(Elvis backup group) , around the same time we talked..
oh wow..the Puppys are great! I have heard the Alexandria too, and man..Dave Wilson knows his stuff!I bet your system sounds amazing. I just got into the whole "hifi" thing about 3 years ago... I am a big fan of low wattage SET Amps and High Sensitivity Speakers..primarily listen to vinyl.

got the whole GX thing sorted, KB sent me a new machine. (well..a new machine sans the hard drive, which I had to purchase myself. )

audio wise..dont do as many location gigs, primarily studio stuff now..still green as they come, but learning something every day.

oh yeah, Sir.. never got to tell you, but thank you so much for taking the time. That meant a lot to me as I was frazzled from trying to get hold of Kevin. You are a kind and gracious gentleman, Mr. Paul. we young guys could do with a lot more folks like you.
#21
10th June 2009
Old 10th June 2009
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Anytime buddy...
My pleasure!




PS.
SET amps are the way to go....
I got two pairs, made custom for me by Dennis Hadd at Cary Audio.
#22
10th June 2009
Old 10th June 2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nobtwiddler View Post
Anytime buddy...
My pleasure!




PS.
SET amps are the way to go....
I got two pairs, made custom for me by Dennis Hadd at Cary Audio.

ah! Cary is right up the road from me..great gear! my amp is a
Due Venti by Mastersound ..I also have a hot rodded Jolida 102B for the office.

love the sound of SETs.
#23
18th May 2011
Old 18th May 2011
  #23
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I'm ressurrecting this thread, as I've been listening to certain Mapleshade albums over and over recently.

Namely Archie Edwards' Blues N Bones (best sounding Piedmont blues album ever?) and Harvey Thomas Young's Highways of Gold.

I'm finding all of Pierre Sprey's techniques really quite fascinating. Piedpier was kind enough to answer some questions of mine in a PM, but there's a couple of things I'm wondering about still, which I figured I'd throw open to the floor.

1. One thing I don't understand about PZMs is this: if the size of the surface they are mounted upon affects the sound so much, then what difference does it make what size the plate on is? For instance, the Crown website says that the PZM6D's performance is the same as the 30D (which has a larger plate). If you are going to mount your PZMs on a 2'x2' surface anyway, what difference does the size of Crown's plate make? Could be that I don't properly understand the principles of PZMs here...

2. In the picture of the Redwine Trio here
Mapleshade Artists - Redwine Trio
that doesn't look like a 2'x2' wedge to me. It looks rectangular, not square. Again, maybe I'm being dumb, or maybe it's the perspective of that photo...

3. Here's a quote from an article: "Mr. Sprey adjusts Miss Williams' microphone—an invention of his that puts a mike the size of a shirt button onto a metal plate the size of a saucer". This sounds to me much like Sprey's equivalent of something like the DPA BLM4060 (a circular boundary mic). That sound about right? On this note, can you turn any mic into a boundary mic simply by taping it to a surface, or is the distance between the mic and that surface critical and specially calibrated?

4. Another question that's probably stupid: if Sprey records direct to tape, without using a mixer, how does he get more than 2 mics on there?
#24
18th May 2011
Old 18th May 2011
  #24
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I'd venture a guess that the actual plate size attached to the mic has little bearing on the bass roll-off of the mic....rather, that being determined by the total surface of the (larger) area that the mic element is coupled to...in this case the plexiglass panel. The smaller plate is just there to give the mic element some physical strength and integrity (something to hang onto, so it doesn't get stepped on when placed on a stage floor to pick up dialogue in a theatre play, for example).

Doesn't really matter what shape it is..it's the total surface area of the boundary that determines it's low frequency roll-off. Wish I had the formula handy for calculating that roll-off but I don't (it's somewhere in the 'classic texts' )

Yes, you can pretty much turn any omni mic into a boundary/PZM mic by lying it on it's side and taping it to a boundary. If you get more than one boundary intersecting (the planes face and join one another), such as placing it at the corner of a wall and floor...or even moreso by placing it in the corner of a room...you'll accentuate the gain of the mic. You get 'free gain' with intersecting boundaries ! At this juncture I'd suggest dredging up and wrapping your brain around PZM theories and applications, the Crown articles could be a good place to start ?

Check out the latest "Pinmic" by Rode, it could be the latest incarnation of the 'shirtbutton' mic !
#25
18th May 2011
Old 18th May 2011
  #25
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Aha..... https://pantherfile.uwm.edu/type/www...yMicsStudy.htm

This is what I remember reading years ago....glad it's still around. Now you can see why boundary area is significant (and why you wouldn't mount a PZM mic in a standard mic clip holder on a regular mic stand !)
#26
18th May 2011
Old 18th May 2011
  #26
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Thanks for the link to that article.

I love that "double-boundary monaural “rig” designed in 1998 by George W. Swenson, Jr. of the US Army Corp. Swenson describes it as a,“…flat-reflector microphone designed for the frequency band [from] 10 to 40 Hz [to capture] sounds produced by explosions [at] a military artillery training facility.” That picture put a smile on my face.

If you're right in thinking that "the actual plate size attached to the mic has little bearing on the bass roll-off of the mic" then there wouldn't be much point, for my purposes, in buying a PZM30 rather than a PZM6.

I think I'll email Crown to ask them for more details about the differences between the two. If the capsules are the same then I don't really see what the difference in price pays for (an extra 100 dollars for a larger piece of metal plate that might not be making any sonic diference?)
#27
20th May 2011
Old 20th May 2011
  #27
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Yes I agree...the bass rolloff is much more likely to be determined directly by the boundary area it's sited on, although there could be other differences between the capsules eg sensitivity, HF extension etc, but you're wise to investigate deeper to see if it's the case. When thinking of the enhanced gain and LF pickup of a PZM mic with respect to boundaries, think of the similar gains you get if you place a subwoofer bass module in a corner, or against a wall vs located in 'free space' in the middle of a room. Of course, in the subwoofer instance there's such a thing as 'too much bass'...or rather, indistinct, woolly, boomy bass vs clean, impactful and punchy bass.
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