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fred72
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8th February 2010
Old 8th February 2010
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Question Stereo Field Recording

Hi all, this forum has been a great source of information, thanks. I've got a question (well, maybe 3 dozen, but I'll try to keep it narrow) on stereo recording in the field. About 99% of the information I can find about stereo recording is concerned with recording orchestras or ensembles in large acoustically engineered spaces. But let's say you wanted to record a traditional fiddler in their living room, where they always play. What kind of mic pattern and stereo configuration would you use to record it in a relatively neutral way? I've messed around with A/B, near-coincident pairs and X/Y - the omnis captured too much of the room and the near-coincident "norms" (ORTF, NOS) seemed to be designed for a larger sound source as well. I would say the X/Y worked best. But I would be interested in what someone who knows what they're doing would do.

Yours,
Fred
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8th February 2010
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If you are recording the fiddler in that room in order to capture the ambience of that particular room, then it becomes a question of moving mics around until you find the sweet spot that naturally balances sound source with environment. Since the source is essentially mono, any stereo mic technique is going to give you lots of space. Your ears are the best judge, so try using something like NOS but tightening up the angle of the microphones or moving the microphones further away. You could also use a spot mic on the fiddler and use that to blend in with the stereo room mics, but watch for phase problems. It can be done...just have check your phase while you set up your mics and are getting levels... Moving them around will find the configuration that gives you the proper balance of fiddler to room.
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Excellent X/Y stereo SDC cardioid mic for field use? Schoeps X/Y CLONE?

The above linked recent thread winds up discussing MS verses XY... start reading from about post #18 and beyond. I'm a long time XY fan, but this thread has really enlightened me to MS.

Based on all this, I'd think that an MS pattern might be best. The "mid" mic will focus directly on the subject, and the "side" will grab room ambiance... then later you'll have the ability to vary the levels of the subject verses the ambiance... and in a small living room, this might be a very important degree of control to have.

If the room is really small you might want to use a supercardioid as the mid mic to really zoom in and avoid any weird close reflections. Experiment with the position, but I'd say set the mic at the same height as the fiddle and aim it directly at the fiddle... at least as a starting point. Make sure the mid signal sounds really good because you will likely rely heavily on it.

AB... yuck... AB never works for me... yes, it yields a "euphoric" sense of width / spaciousness, very unrealistic though, and ultimately very "vague" and inaccurate sounding. It may provide more "ear candy" for the inexperienced recordist, but, at least for small arrays / small rooms anyway, it just sounds plain goofy... the transients and detail become "smeared" etc (time arrival differences plus phase issues, etc). This is why I've been Mr. XY for a very long time...

But MS seems to be the way to go for many or most situations, especially if the source is a single point (as in one soloist) where the mid mic can really zoom straight in and capture it nicely with perfect accuracy.... and then the ambiance (which might be good or bad) from the "side" mic can be blended in per taste.

Also, an omni in a small room... bad idea... in my opinion.

I've done a lot of recording in mostly smaller rooms and very small venues... I rarely ever pick up an omni mic.... I can't remember the last time I even touched an omni mic. Any time I've ever tried them, the results were horrible... huge, unfocused, overbearing low-end frequencies... a rumbling, booming mess... due to the small / poor rooms I'm often dealing with. I almost always use cardioids or super-hypercardioids. And now that I plan to get way more into MS recording, a good figure 8 will likely be in my back pocket all the time now too.

Also, as you probably already know, in general, small diaphragm condensers (SDCs) have a more even frequency response off-axis than large diaphragm condensers. Within the SDCs pick-up field, you'll grab "all" the frequencies, low to high. With many / most LDCs though, in cardioid pattern for instance, the pick up field of say 8k and up may be a LOT smaller / tighter than the pick-up field of say below 1k... this means you'll be "zeroing in" on a small area (grabbing all freqs) while picking up a lot of extra low end from a much larger area. In other words, many LDCs are like supercardioids from 8k and up, but closer to very wide cardioids or nearly omnis in the lower frequencies. In an untreated room (like the average living room etc), this is not really a good thing... typically.

So, in SUM... I think if I had to make one single recommendation based on all this, to record a single soloist in a living room, I'd say use good SDC mics in an MS pattern. I don't think you can go too wrong this way.
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8th February 2010
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I would probably use MS - An MKH 30/40 in my case.
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Thanks, very interesting. I had read about MS before but it somehow hadn't registered as being useful for what I was trying to do - I'll definitely have a futher look into it now! I've been using a pair of Rode NT55s recently, which I got to experiment with the omni and cardioid capsules in various set-ups. They were a replacement to an AT825, so it was ironic that I ended up back in XY! I'll have to see about a figure-8 mic now...I do have a cheap multi-pattern mic with a figure-8 setting so I can see what that gives.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Willett View Post
I would probably use MS - An MKH 30/40 in my case.
After a couple years of messing around with X-Y, an MS or Blumlein sounds much more natural to my ears.
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9th February 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thehipcola View Post
Since the source is essentially mono, any stereo mic technique is going to give you lots of space.
Different stereophonic techniques/widths/angles/etc will give you differing senses of space, even when nothing is playing. The source and room are definitely not mono.

ORTF and MS have worked fine nice for me in tight spaces and aren't by any means reserved for large ensembles. For instance, lots of engineers record solo guitar with MS.

If you're recording someone in their living room in order to capture the authenticity, I wouldn't be afraid of getting the sound of the room in the recording. If you don't want it, don't record there, right?

Last time I did this was with a fiddler / guitar duo. I had a stereo mic in blumlein in the middle of the room, plus spot mics. The spot mics provided a lot of the signal (more than in an orchestral recordings) and the stereo mic really helped to make sure the spot mics blended appropriately.
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I like MS for small groups. Or a solo interview. It works sort of like an XY but you can play with it in post to tweak it more to your tastes. ORTF is good and AB does get that fine room sound but not as precise in instrument location.

If I want to be exact I use the Williams tables for mic arrays. If it is run and gun I know MS will not fail me. And it is unobtrusive.

There is no "one size fits all" setup but ORTF is plenty forgiving and MS gives nice imaging. Your call, really.

Cheers
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I was just reading up on ORTF... another technique I've heard about but never tried. It always seemed so much like XY that I never paid it much mind.

Curious, when you guys use ORTF, do you carry a little gauge or jig or template that helps you align and space the mics for the perfect 17cm / 110 degree angle? I know there are some mics sold that already come in a fixed ORTF configuration, but I personally would prefer to use existing SDCs and just align them appropriately.

I have to question how much different ORTF will sound verses XY. I guess it depends on the source, distance, etc.

I also wonder why the space between the capsules in ORTF does not cause issues. Typically with XY, the goal is to get the caps as close to each other as possible. THen again 17cm is not a lot of distance, but....?

All interesting stuff. Sometime soon I need to get myself to a live performance and just try ALL of these different techniques.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 666666 View Post
I was just reading up on ORTF... another technique I've heard about but never tried. It always seemed so much like XY that I never paid it much mind.

Curious, when you guys use ORTF, do you carry a little gauge or jig or template that helps you align and space the mics for the perfect 17cm / 110 degree angle? I know there are some mics sold that already come in a fixed ORTF configuration, but I personally would prefer to use existing SDCs and just align them appropriately.

I have to question how much different ORTF will sound verses XY. I guess it depends on the source, distance, etc.

I also wonder why the space between the capsules in ORTF does not cause issues. Typically with XY, the goal is to get the caps as close to each other as possible. THen again 17cm is not a lot of distance, but....?

All interesting stuff. Sometime soon I need to get myself to a live performance and just try ALL of these different techniques.
ORTF definitely sounds different than XY, except to the extent that the source is a point source and perfectly centered to the capsules. And ORTF does cause issues, for the frequencies that are shorter than the distance between the capsules on sources that are off axis. That is why I use a Crown SASS-P that has a baffle between the capsules, kinda of like a dummy head configuration. This is the most theoretically accurate configuration but must be used at a minimum distance of 3 feet, or excessive shadowing of the source happens. The neophyte might assume to put the mic at the "ideal" audience position but closer is almost always better. A physically "condensed" version is usually appropriate meaning at least half the distance you might think and then the musicians, if there are more than one, must be closer than they would normally be to each other, otherwise the image will be exageratedly wide. Once again, artificiality is required to convey the illusion of reality, not to mention the artistic vision. This is why XY or MS can sometimes be more effective in the end.

Edit: Just FYI, I've gutted my Crown and upgraded the electronics significantly as well as damping the housing to good effect. It is much better than stock, which, incidentally, has been recently discontinued, still available here and there.
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9th February 2010
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Small ensemble setup

Dear Fred72:

I have been experimenting with recording small acoustic ensembles for the past few years and the best way to capture the sound with a minimal number of mics and this is what I have settled on :

1. Solution 1
Two Royer R-122 mics facing forward spaced about 1 foot to 15 inches apart - (later I found out that this technique has been described as the Faulkner Array). To this I add a SF-12 Stereo mic in the center and use it in MS. All the mics are in a straight line and I use the Grace Spacing bar with the center mic holder for this setup. In post this gives me multiple options: Straight MS or using the M mic of the SF-12 and the "flanking" SF-122s as necessary or just using the flanking SF-122 etc. Since Fig-8 mics have an almost omni like uniform Frequency response pattern in the horizontal plane, this technique works really well. Also, having two Fig-8s in this manner reduce the chance of "flutter echoes" which can happen in some rooms and create problems for the standard AB stereo setup using omnis.

The other thing to remember is that the flankng mics are "facing" the lobes of the S mic; if they are closer than the distance I have indicated their acoustic shadow on the S mic is a factor that needs to be considered.

The other major negative of this technique is that it is an all ribbon solution with its attendant hi-frequency attenuation; I tried using the Schoeps MK-8 capsules for flankers but they don't have adequate bass response. If the room is really superb, I have used the DPA 4003 omni as the center mic or the Schoeps MK21 capsule if the room is less than ideal in order to get a more "full-range" response. But the ribbon blend is not that ideal with these mics and use the ability to use MS in post.

Finally, the stereo "spread" is somewhat dependent on how close the mics are to the source. If they are too close then even a small ensemble seems "too broad" in playback, an effect that I don't like very much.

The biggest advantage is of-course that you are able to vary room, stereo width, tone, center image etc all in post.
(most of the above solution I have posted about a year ago on this board)

2. Solution 2
In cases where the room is not that great and/or a condenser type mic is essential to get the entire spectrum of sound, one needs a cardioid as the center mic. But such a cardioid has to have its frequency response rivaling a Fig-8 ribbon in the horizontal plane. After experimenting with multiple cardioid/hyper cardioid mics (DPA 4011, AKG 414, Schoeps MK4, 41, Geffell 295, Pearl CC22), I finally purchased the prohibitively expensive Sanken CU-44 MKII; it is the first cardioid mic that has given me the result that I am after sonically. It is the most "natural sounding" cardioid that I have ever heard and has the ability to capture stunning detail while not missing out any of the big moves. With this as the center mic and the Royers, I have a really good solution that gives me decent flexibility considering the room. The center mic holder of the Grace bar gives me some flexibility to move the center mic forward and I use this to get an image that snaps together better. Of course the same effect could be obtained by using delays on the flanking mics in post.

The only weirdness that I can't explain is that in solution 2, the overall sound is better with the high-pass filter engaged on the two flanking mics otherwise, there is a tendency towards boominess when these mics are blended in.

I hope others such as yourself try some of these ideas and come up with better solutions than what I have proposed. If I come up with something better I will surely post here.

Good luck,
Baithak
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9th February 2010
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More great information, thanks. Wish I'd asked a year or so ago! I spent a couple of hours last night playing around with M/S and so far it does sound like a good solution. Thanks again.
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m/s is definately a gem. Try different EQ's on the mid and side channels! So much control.....
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Piedpiper View Post
Edit: Just FYI, I've gutted my Crown and upgraded the electronics significantly as well as damping the housing to good effect. It is much better than stock, which, incidentally, has been recently discontinued, still available here and there.
You mean just the SASS-P was discontinued, not the SASS-P MKII no?
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Quote:
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You mean just the SASS-P was discontinued, not the SASS-P MKII no?
No. The SASS-P has been the Mk II for many years now. I was using short hand by not including "MkII". The SASS-P in any form has been discontinued, although you can still get the ones that are still in stock. They are an excellent value stock but can be improved greatly with modifications. You can put in a search for it here and come up with some of my other posts about it, as well as others.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Piedpiper View Post
No. The SASS-P has been the Mk II for many years now. I was using short hand by not including "MkII". The SASS-P in any form has been discontinued, although you can still get the ones that are still in stock. They are an excellent value stock but can be improved greatly with modifications. You can put in a search for it here and come up with some of my other posts about it, as well as others.
I cannot find mention of that anywhere if I google "crown sass discontinued". Crown's website does not mention it either.

Just concerned because I like mine enough that if it was lost/stolen, I'd want to replace it.
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Originally Posted by leddy View Post
I cannot find mention of that anywhere if I google "crown sass discontinued". Crown's website does not mention it either.

Just concerned because I like mine enough that if it was lost/stolen, I'd want to replace it.
I got that from Crown directly in a recent phone conversation. Now you've got me questioning my sanity, or at least my memory.
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I just confirmed with AKG, who is now handling microphone sales for Crown, that the SASS-P Mk II is discontinued. They have 18 left not including those in stock at their retailers.
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10th February 2010
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I just confirmed with AKG, who is now handling microphone sales for Crown, that the SASS-P Mk II is discontinued. They have 18 left not including those in stock at their retailers.
Well I guess mine should be worth more if do sell it.
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11th February 2010
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I have made a lot of recordings of "traditional" musicians:
Fiddlers, pipers, etc. and sean nós singers in their homes solo or in groups of 2-4 players. I most often use a pair of Schoeps CK4 capsules (ORTF) or a pair of Neumann KM84's in X/Y. By adjusting the positions of the mics and by using spot mics on larger ensembles, I get excellent results. I avoid asking the players to move, as I want them to forget that the mics are there. The faster I can get set up, the better the feeling in the room. I often try to get to the locale early when I am dealing with more than 1 player. For 1 player I normally choose X/Y.

I am not a big fan of M/S, but there are times when it is appropriate.

Best;
Danny
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12th February 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NorseHorse View Post
Different stereophonic techniques/widths/angles/etc will give you differing senses of space, even when nothing is playing. The source and room are definitely not mono.
Wow, great information in this thread. Thanks to all!

I just wanted to clarify, I didn't mean to suggest the room was monophonic. But I perhaps wasn't clear enough... to my ears, in a stereo mic'd situation, a fiddler is monophonic-ish. This is what I meant by 'essentially'.

I do indeed love MS though.... reading this thread has got me dusting off my figure 8 as I type...
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