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The Decca Sound: Secrets of the Engineers
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21st January 2013
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The Decca Sound: Secrets of the Engineers

The Decca Sound: Secrets Of The Engineers – The Polymath Perspective
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The Decca Sound: Secrets Of The Engineers – The Polymath Perspective



<p>“Of course, in those days the technique was a closely guarded secret and, in fact, there was a ‘no poaching’ agreement between EMI and Decca. It was an informal agreement which said that when a Decca or EMI technician was let go the other company would not hire them, because they had their own little secrets. That continued well into the ’70s and ’80s even though their studios were located within a mile of each other!”</p> ...
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21st January 2013
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Good find! Perhaps we can get Mr. KINGSWAY to comment on some of this.
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21st January 2013
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Nice read, thanks


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21st January 2013
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Yes buying The Decca Sound set is essential listening. This way, from listening, one educates oneself. Then look up the recording details in the accompanying 200 pp booklet.

After 3000 hours of listening, you are then qualified to begin to discuss recording technique.

best from Chi-town,
home of the Solti Sound
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21st January 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Plush View Post
After 3000 hours of listening, you are then qualified to begin to discuss recording technique.
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21st January 2013
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Yes that's right. You should have already begun listening to recordings in grade school. Then by the time you get to college or conservatory, you could have the 3000 hours done. Even better would be1 hour a day for 10 years.

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21st January 2013
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Agreed.

Although listening to 3 or 4 classical live concerts a month for that same sort of period is also required and really rounds out your ability to know confidently what the correct sound should be for each musical style.

I find live concerts still the best ear training for recording engineering.

Finally, a real/genuine love of classical music is essential. It drives the two training tasks above and makes them mandatory.
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21st January 2013
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Submerging is the verb. Sponge the noun. Live is the shit. Really.

THEN, try to recreate that experience.
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21st January 2013
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Look really close at the session notes sheet. Pretty cool to note how they use pan and EQ, and also artificial reverb!

Also, as it was 1971, note how they are using the 4- mic tree described by Kingsway in the old "Wilkinson" thread.

So they had 30 channels, comprised of:
4 km53
7 m50
10 km64
10 km56

I'm actually surprised at the length of this list. All this mixed down live to 2tk. I wonder how they did the multitrack backup?

And the first engineer name listed: "JL" :-)

That, ladies and gentlemen, is a primary source! Gotta love it.

(Modified to remove some bad info)
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Quote:
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Eventually you should deploy the most expensive and best Mic you can get. It should be hideously expensive.
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21st January 2013
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Ordered a copy of the set from Amazon. So cheap.

Any good resources on mic'ing choir with/without organ/string ensemble?
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24th January 2013
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I am surprised no has mentioned musical training above and beyond all of that required listening. How about playing in an orchestra, in a Big band, fronting a rock band??? How about being in a recording studio as a player from a very early age to know what that feels like; creating "sonics" from a very early age, practicing your instrument for years and years to create a tone and intonation worthy of being in front of an audience? How about amazing musical mentors that you study with daily for years, mentors known for their ability to pull apart a performance and teach you how to really "listen" to what is being played and the sonics of the music in order to make it better. How about a well rounded musical upbringing exponentially greater than the measly 3000 hours of Decca listening? How about growing up beginning day after day with a program and musical experience such as Robert J Lursema's Morning pro musica playing in your home. This music should be listened to not as background music, but as foreground music.

How about actually listening to those recordings on high performance level gear that recreates sound stages and frequency response properly? I am amazed at how few musicians, let alone engineers insist on quality home playback systems. After all, all that listening doesn't help a bit if it is being played back "wrong".

This is all before all of the actual studying, testing and re-testing of various recording techniques one needs to have at their fingertips.

Face it! There is a lot that goes or should go into training a well rounded recorder of music. The 3000 hours of Decca music only makes you a fan. I would love to get my hands on the package though.

Cameron
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24th January 2013
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Decca box set is 50 CDs which gives around 50 hrs of music, so I should listen to every one of them at least 60 times (to get 3000 hrs) before trying to setup few microphones?
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24th January 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Plush View Post
Yes buying The Decca Sound set is essential listening. This way, from listening, one educates oneself. Then look up the recording details in the accompanying 200 pp booklet.

After 3000 hours of listening, you are then qualified to begin to discuss recording technique.

best from Chi-town,
home of the Solti Sound
According to Malcom Gladwell, that is still 7,000 hours away from really knowing your shit.
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24th January 2013
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Im a Tommy Beecham type Brit
Know nothing about music but love the noise it makes
I can record noise after 40 years of training.
Just about.
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24th January 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by richgilb View Post
According to Malcom Gladwell, that is still 7,000 hours away from really knowing your shit.
But it was Anders Ericsson et al. who said it first.

By the time I've logged 10000 hrs, it is time to retire from recording.
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24th January 2013
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Ha. I love these follow up posts. I was actually going to mention one more hugely important thing. How about raw talent?

Certainly along the road of my musical training I have witnessed folks who just absorb info or technique faster. They are just plain talented. Folks can be "musical" without the musical training. It is extremely rare that I run into these folks, but it certainly happens. Of course this is true for many types of studies.
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25th January 2013
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I dunno, what's easier to record:

1) an incredible orchestra in Kingsway Hall with the best mics in existence
2) a sloppy local indie band in an untreated bedroom with CAD mics thru an ART PRO VLA onto an unforgiving digital medium

The studio engineers of the 50s and 60s had it easy in the sense that if you were working, you were probably working in a great room with great equipment. Nowadays, a majority of the folks on this site are working in seriously compromised conditions trying to diagnose unfixable problems. It's madness.
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25th January 2013
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Remember the pressures on the Decca boys though
The sheer costs of the musos ,the halls and the huge egos of performers and producers.
Their recordings had to work,the mechanical process was often fraught and frail.
Not sure they had it easy.
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Originally Posted by Rolo 46 View Post
Remember the pressures on the Decca boys though
The sheer costs of the musos ,the halls and the huge egos of performers and producers.
Their recordings had to work,the mechanical process was often fraught and frail.
Not sure they had it easy.
Talking about Decca, I wonder when would one choose to use a Decca Tree. In this video, you see a Decca Tree around 2:07 + spots. What advantages does the Decca Tree have in this case as opposed to AB omnis or whatever?
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25th January 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by polytope View Post
What advantages does the Decca Tree have in this case as opposed to AB omnis or whatever?
Usually, it just sounds different. Many ways to skin a cat, and so on.
An L-C-R type setup gives you clean L, C, and R signals for 5.1 playback, which an AB or ORTF setup of course can't.
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25th January 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jdsowa View Post
I dunno, what's easier to record:

1) an incredible orchestra in Kingsway Hall with the best mics in existence
2) a sloppy local indie band in an untreated bedroom with CAD mics thru an ART PRO VLA onto an unforgiving digital medium

The studio engineers of the 50s and 60s had it easy in the sense that if you were working, you were probably working in a great room with great equipment. Nowadays, a majority of the folks on this site are working in seriously compromised conditions trying to diagnose unfixable problems. It's madness.
Very good point.
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26th January 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rolo 46 View Post
Remember the pressures on the Decca boys though
The sheer costs of the musos ,the halls and the huge egos of performers and producers.
Their recordings had to work,the mechanical process was often fraught and frail.
Not sure they had it easy.
Read 'The Ring Resounding' by John Culshaw if you want an idea of the pressure Decca were under in the early years of the stereo LP.
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26th January 2013
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Pinhead's question

OK, Decca made some masterful recordings in their heyday. It seems they used the Decca Tree for a lot of them. Is this technique still in use? If not, why not if it is so good? I am not trying to be snarky and I would really like to know.

Thanks
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26th January 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by boojum View Post
OK, Decca made some masterful recordings in their heyday. It seems they used the Decca Tree for a lot of them. Is this technique still in use? If not, why not if it is so good? I am not trying to be snarky and I would really like to know.

Thanks
If you watch the end of the video that I referred to, you will see the Decca Records label.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by boojum View Post
OK, Decca made some masterful recordings in their heyday. It seems they used the Decca Tree for a lot of them. Is this technique still in use? If not, why not if it is so good? I am not trying to be snarky and I would really like to know.

Thanks
Yes, it still is in use often. It's the most common main setup in score music (because of L-C-R, of course!). With lots of additional spots.
As it never had just one fixed spacing (like ORTF has), but every engineer tried out different approaches, one might call quite a few LCR setups "Decca-ish". Doesn't necessarily need to be on one stand.

Other setups like ORTF or XY, and even spaced pairs, are way easier to calculate - see Williams' Stereophonic Zoom or the hauptmikrofon.de web app. When setting up a Tree-style main system, you need to listen even more carefully. Actually, the ORTF setup was developed by french radio (which ORTF stands for!) in order to have a quick-setup, good-enough sounding standard way to record. Very bureaucratic
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26th January 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pkautzsch View Post
Usually, it just sounds different. Many ways to skin a cat, and so on.
An L-C-R type setup gives you clean L, C, and R signals for 5.1 playback, which an AB or ORTF setup of course can't.
I strongly object When you pan this LCR on 5.1 you get double imaging mayhem!! (decca)

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27th January 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by polytope View Post
Talking about Decca, I wonder when would one choose to use a Decca Tree. In this video, you see a Decca Tree around 2:07 + spots. What advantages does the Decca Tree have in this case as opposed to AB omnis or whatever?
There are certainly enough mics for phase wazoo. I would not consider a tree or most of those mics in that small room. A tree was intended for large scenarios. There is an interesting story about those sessions -- but I cannot tell it!

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27th January 2013
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Originally Posted by king2070lplaya View Post
And the first engineer name listed: "JL" :-)
That would be James Lock
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29th January 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by king2070lplaya View Post
Also, as it was 1971, note how they are using the 4- mic tree described by Kingsway in the old "Wilkinson" thread. Look at the panning on it: inside pair, 50% L and R, outer pair hard-panned (Does anyone here know what the typical panning on the 3-mic tree was?)
For a Decca tree, or indeed a simple spaced omni array with centre pair plus L/R outriggers, is it advisable to pan the centre pair anything other than 100%L/R ? Intuitively it would seem that the centre mic pair (esp. if an AB pair) hears a blend of left and right at its location, and thus a 50% left and 50% right pan would be truer to its positioning ? Outriggers would be panned hard L/R However if only an AB pair was used, without outriggers, 100% L/R would be correct. Am I missing something ?
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30th January 2013
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Modified, contained some not so good info
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