purist 2 mics vs spot micing setups?
jnorman
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#1
25th January 2013
Old 25th January 2013
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Thread Starter
purist 2 mics vs spot micing setups?

i used to do pretty much only 2-track (mostly just a ORTF pair) for piano duos and small ensemble work. after recognizing that the results often did not sound like commercial recordings, i switched to using a stereo pair of omnis on piano and a c414b-uls on the soloist. then i started adding an ORTF pair into the setup - 5 mics for a piano duo type recording. string quartets mostly an AB pair of omnis with spots on cello and maybe the violin.

i just got a copy of the royer CD where they had recorded an orchestra with just the SF12 and no spots, and it sounded wonderfully natural to me, which makes me rethink all the spot micing i have been doing, and even the idea that i should be trying to match commercial CD sound for piano duos.

there is a mix of 2 channel purists here along with those who tend more toward multi-spot micing, and those who use main pairs with multiple spots.

i would be interested to hear your philosophy on pure 2 channel vs multi-micing vs main pair plus spots for duos and small ensemble work, and i would laso like to hear your opinions on whether we, as live recordists, should be trying to mimic the sound of commercial CDs with our work.

thanks.
#2
25th January 2013
Old 25th January 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jnorman View Post
i just got a copy of the royer CD where they had recorded an orchestra with just the SF12 and no spots, and it sounded wonderfully natural to me, which makes me rethink all the spot micing i have been doing, and even the idea that i should be trying to match commercial CD sound for piano duos.
I heard that track online a while back. I couldn't believe what I've heard. The SF12 sounds like a very good mic to have around.
#3
25th January 2013
Old 25th January 2013
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For me (a dozen "serious" recordings a year... maybe two with anything like a decent budget) keeping the client "happy" is paramount... as well as hearing "This is the best a recording of us has ever sounded." That, in my estimation, keeps the door open, and jobs on the calendar.

"Commercial" sound (i.e., referenced to Decca or TelArc or Masterworks) is, for nearly every reason, an apples-to-coconuts comparison... in equipment choices available, in the room, in the quality of the ensemble, in the budget (though that may be getting closer these days), to the experience level and time available to the recordist (me). It works as a "target" and as an aspirational goal... but, ultimately, if I provide a recording to my client better than has been done before, at a reasonably good budget (for them and for me), as I continue to learn technique, application and to refine my craft (especially since a Decca internship is never going to be available here in TwangTown)... I shall be satisfied that my client is satisfied... elated when they are elated, and always striving to do it better on the next opportunity.

I'll also continue to listen critically to work I hear via samples here, and be hugely thankful for the virtual apprenticeship that regular reading of this forum can supply, to those who would try what's suggested and learn from criticism of posted work.

Works for me.

HB
#4
25th January 2013
Old 25th January 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by polytope View Post
I heard that track online a while back. I couldn't believe what I've heard. The SF12 sounds like a very good mic to have around.
From my limited use of one... that's a very true statement. It's also likely that there was ample time to set and check position until those beautiful Blumlein ribbons were at an optimal spot. Or... dude got very lucky. Either way, it just goes to show you, whatever it goes to show you.
#5
25th January 2013
Old 25th January 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hbphotoav View Post
From my limited use of one... that's a very true statement. It's also likely that there was ample time to set and check position until those beautiful Blumlein ribbons were at an optimal spot. Or... dude got very lucky. Either way, it just goes to show you, whatever it goes to show you.
I have heard some choir samples recorded with the SF12. Absolutely yummy. But I'm quite sure that in my hands, I won't be able to record an orchestra like that.
#6
25th January 2013
Old 25th January 2013
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tourtelot's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by hbphotoav View Post
From my limited use of one... that's a very true statement. It's also likely that there was ample time to set and check position until those beautiful Blumlein ribbons were at an optimal spot. Or... dude got very lucky. Either way, it just goes to show you, whatever it goes to show you.
Yep, two-mic stereo is ALL about mic placement. I use the SF12 on lots of choirs and over a few years, can pretty well pick the spot for the stand pretty quick. Lately, I have had great luck with pianos and soloist (vocal) using a Schoeps MS pair, although almost without fail, I use too much "side" in my headphone mix and need to push in with the mid (usually a cardioid) after I get back to the studio and speakers.

I highly recommend the SF12 but make sure that you get a preamp with enough quiet gain to run them. I use a Grace M201 or an AEA The Ribbon Preamp.

When it works, two-mic stereo is awesome!

D.
#7
25th January 2013
Old 25th January 2013
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Don S's Avatar
 

Yes, and the SF24 is even better! There are times when a well placed SF12/24 in a good sounding room with a professionally balanced ensemble will sound great on it's own. But 90% of the time all those variables listed above will need to be compensated (or augmented) with wings and/or spots.
#8
25th January 2013
Old 25th January 2013
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pkautzsch's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by jnorman View Post
5 mics for a piano duo type recording. string quartets mostly an AB pair of omnis with spots on cello and maybe the violin.
Typical setups. Some engineers prefer a stereo spot for the singer, making it 6 mics for a piano duo. Or even more, one could mic the piano at the tail and in the bend with a stereo pair each, and adding a room pair, making it 10 mics.
This always happens when you can't find a place where just one pair sounds good - because of space restraints, audiences, or because you don't have enough time to try out. Then you always end up using a few different standard setups, and deciding later which to use.

Quote:
orchestra with just the SF12 and no spots, and it sounded wonderfully natural to me
Great orchestra, great playing, great conductor, great room, enough time to perfectly place the mic. Remember, this CD is intended to show how good the mics are.

Quote:
trying to match commercial CD sound for piano duos.
Ask the client.
I don't think this is a question of "live recording" vs. "session recording". Lots of commercial CDs are made as an "enhanced live recording", that is, recording a few rehearsals for backup, and using the concert as the "master take" - or re-recording train wreck passages afterwards.
Sometimes, I set up a few more spots than necessary. These aren't even plugged in at the board. This avoids musicians asking, "why don't I get a mic? Am I not important enough?" and thus gives a better performance.

Quote:
Originally Posted by tourtelot View Post
almost without fail, I use too much "side" in my headphone mix
This is funny: I tended to mix too narrow in cans.
After a lot of comparing, I can now quite accurately guess how much of a center hole is good when listening in cans for the recording to translate well on speakers.
#9
26th January 2013
Old 26th January 2013
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tourtelot's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Don S View Post
But 90% of the time all those variables listed above will need to be compensated (or augmented) with wings and/or spots.
God, I hope it's not 90%. The SF12 is the only mic I take out on most choir dates. One mic, one stand, 100' of duplex Canare. Mostly it is really good and my clients like the result. I guess it is a case of good luck coupled with experience or a case of YMMV.

D.
#10
26th January 2013
Old 26th January 2013
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edva's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Don S View Post
in a good sounding room with a professionally balanced ensemble .
Mostly this.
#11
26th January 2013
Old 26th January 2013
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Don S's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by tourtelot View Post
God, I hope it's not 90%. The SF12 is the only mic I take out on most choir dates. One mic, one stand, 100' of duplex Canare. Mostly it is really good and my clients like the result. I guess it is a case of good luck coupled with experience or a case of YMMV.

D.
It sounds like the groups are well balanced and prepared which always makes a better recording. Good luck always helps! But if they added a couple soloists or did the Brahms Serenade for 2 horns and harp with chorus or Britten Ceremony of Carols, you would want to be ready with a spot mic for any balance or acoustic issues. Some concerts I have to be ready for almost anything. For example a conductor once said (after hello), "Oh, we decided to have the soloists up the balcony".
#12
26th January 2013
Old 26th January 2013
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tourtelot's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Don S View Post
Some concerts I have to be ready for almost anything. For example a conductor once said (after hello), "Oh, we decided to have the soloists up the balcony".
Yep, you're right about these things. I, or my boss regularly work with the same ensembles and there is a fair amount of pre-pro and rehearsals seen before we commit to the one mic one stand technique. I do tend to take the kitchen sink to jobs I have no previous contact with but I HATE spot mics. Even the best still sound pasted on to me and it distresses me to hear recordings like that. Again, everyone is entitled to their own technique and as long as the check clears the bank. . . .

D.
#13
26th January 2013
Old 26th January 2013
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Im a 2 miker ,always have spots on hand but never use em except when narrative PA is employed
Use 2 stereo pairs on occasion but never together
Have Poulenc 'Gloria' and Faure'Requiem' coming up
Sinfonia, 3 choirs,2 soloists,Organ in a vast cathedral with only 6 chs of Sonosax mixer
Think there will be some hot cross plugging on that one.....
#14
26th January 2013
Old 26th January 2013
  #14
Gear nut
 

Blumlein in a great room

All that has been said so far makes sense. Great mics, (OK. really, REALLY great mics) certainly, but also great players in a great room.

I have recorded the National Symphony of Ukraine in the room in which that Royer demo recording was made (Ukrainian National Radio in Kiev) and it is a wonderfully "natural sounding" hall. Microphones like that space. Although it has some audience seating it is not a concert hall. It is a classical music broadcast venue and was apparently designed from the ground up for microphones. (We used a Neumann SM69 in Blumlein there as our main pair. I didn't own a Royer at the time.)

The Royer SF12 and SF24 are amazing instruments. The SF24 is my favorite main pair for chamber groups or choirs when I am in a great space. (A Stravinsky Octet for Wind Instruments we did at Mechanics Hall stands out in my memory. I tried several main pairs and spot miked the whole ensemble but the final mix was almost entirely that Royer.) Get that mic in the right place and it sounds spacious without sounding distant and just plain musical. Something about those ribbons I guess. We are planning a saxophone quartet in Mechanics for later this season and while we will test a bunch of the usual suspects, I expect that when it comes down to it, the Royer will be front and center. For classical saxophone it's usually a great choice.

And Dave Royer's service and advice? Exemplary. As perfect as his microphones.

Bob Miller
#15
26th January 2013
Old 26th January 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dr Bob View Post

The Royer SF12 and SF24 are amazing instruments. The SF24 is my favorite main pair for chamber groups or choirs when I am in a great space. (A Stravinsky Octet for Wind Instruments we did at Mechanics Hall stands out in my memory. I tried several main pairs and spot miked the whole ensemble but the final mix was almost entirely that Royer.) Get that mic in the right place and it sounds spacious without sounding distant and just plain musical. Something about those ribbons I guess. We are planning a saxophone quartet in Mechanics for later this season and while we will test a bunch of the usual suspects, I expect that when it comes down to it, the Royer will be front and center. For classical saxophone it's usually a great choice.

And Dave Royer's service and advice? Exemplary. As perfect as his microphones.

Bob Miller
Does the SF24 need less gain than the SF12?

EDIT: Never mind. I should have read the specs before asking.
#16
26th January 2013
Old 26th January 2013
  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by polytope View Post
Does the SF24 need less gain than the SF12?
Yes. The SF24 is 48v phantom powered while the SF12 is the more usual ribbon design with lower output.

Bob Miller
#17
26th January 2013
Old 26th January 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dr Bob View Post
Yes. The SF24 is 48v phantom powered while the SF12 is the more usual ribbon design with lower output.

Bob Miller
Thanks.

BTW, the difference in price between the SF24 and SF12 is enough for a quality preamp. And the SF24 still needs a preamp. Are there any sonic reasons to go for the SF24?
#18
26th January 2013
Old 26th January 2013
  #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by polytope View Post
Thanks.

BTW, the difference in price between the SF24 and SF12 is enough for a quality preamp. And the SF24 still needs a preamp. Are there any sonic reasons to go for the SF24?
I have never compared them directly. The Royer literature seems to indicate that the ribbon motors and so on are essentially identical in both the SF12 and SF24. I believe both are evolutions of the older Speiden ribbon mics. I know the Royer people monitor these forums so maybe someone there can speak to this.

I chose the SF24 because I often have fairly long cable runs back to the mic pre's and the greater signal level makes sense to me in that case: clean, quiet signal and no worries with impedance matching for the pre amps. (I use Metric Halo ULN-8's and/or True Precision 8's on location. I am told they would have enough gain to be fine with SF12's but I don't have any direct experience to report.)

I do use other non-powered Royers (121's) sometimes in an original Faulkner phased array and for that I use the AEA TRP pre and put it as close to the mics as possible. Works well.

Bob Miller
#19
26th January 2013
Old 26th January 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dr Bob View Post
...The Royer literature seems to indicate that the ribbon motors and so on are essentially identical in both the SF12 and SF24.
That's right. And SF-1 (discontinued) which is a mono version of the same motor. The ribbon inside all these mics is 1.8, micron making them quite compliant at higher frequencies and lower SPLs than 2.5 micron ribbons.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dr Bob View Post
I chose the SF24 because I often have fairly long cable runs back to the mic pre's and the greater signal level makes sense to me in that case: clean, quiet signal and no worries with impedance matching for the pre amps.
That's a good analysis. For a passive ribbon short cable runs are important because amplifying a long cable is noisy. High-enough terminating impedance is also important because a low impedance load tends to damp the ribbon, attenuating lower frequencies.

Low current 48V head amps are not optimal. I like passive ribbons like SF-12 or AEA R88 with a quality preamp right under the mic stand. Remote-controlled Gordon Model 5 preamps are perfect.
#20
26th January 2013
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edva's Avatar
I do not own a Royer, but I use a Cloudlifter CL2 to drive long cable runs with my ribbons, and also with moving coil dynamics from time to time, and it works very well IMHO.
#21
26th January 2013
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tourtelot's Avatar
A bit OT. Am I incorrect in hearing some sort of distortion from the Cloudlifter? I have had two units and I hear something that I don't like in both units. I describe it as an edginess in the high mids. It's subtle but I believe I hear it. Any one else?

D.
#22
26th January 2013
Old 26th January 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MichaelPatrick View Post
.

That's a good analysis. A short cable run is important because amplifying a long cable is noisy. High-enough terminating impedance is also important because a low impedance load tends to damp the ribbon, esp at lower frequencies.

Low current 48V head amps are not optimal. I like passive ribbons like SF-12 or AEA R88 with a quality preamp right under the mic stand. Remote-controlled Gordon Model 5 preamps are perfect.
How short do the cables need to be? Would 25ft be considered long?
#23
26th January 2013
Old 26th January 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by polytope View Post
How short do the cables need to be? Would 25ft be considered long?
Short as it can be. But being practical, for lengths of 25' or less, cable quality matters as much as length. Ideally the cable will be 12' to 18' - just enough to come down the stand into a preamp.

50', IMO, is too long for a ribbon motor to drive. Yes, it can sometimes work just fine, but the noise goes up significantly along with the risk of RF and EMI. Cable quality and solid XLR connections are vitally important any time ribbons are used.
#24
26th January 2013
Old 26th January 2013
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Westrex used ribbons on movie stages ,mixed them at mic level and sent them sometime half a mile,still at mic level, to a machine record room and optical sound camera.
That was in the 30's .
#25
26th January 2013
Old 26th January 2013
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Two mic's CAN work.

You are at the mercy of the size and depth of the ensemble, the critical distance of the room, and your ability to get the main pair in JUST the right spot.

In terms of chamber ensembles or a cappella choir, a two-mic pickup can often work well. With a large orchestra, and/or especially when it is coupled with choir and soloists, it starts to get a lot more complicated to achieve the proper balance, perspective, and direct-to-reverberant sound with just a single stereo pickup.

I won't say it's impossible, but I will say that, at least in my experience, it is rather difficult to achieve.

If you get a Royer SF12, you are essentially limited to a single technique that has fixed pickup angle, and you may find it challenging to record in an acoustic that is less-than-ideal. When it works, I am sure it works beautifully.
#26
27th January 2013
Old 27th January 2013
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MichaelPatrick's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rolo 46 View Post
Westrex used ribbons on movie stages ,mixed them at mic level and sent them sometime half a mile,still at mic level, to a machine record room and optical sound camera.
That was in the 30's .
Low impedance terminations and lots of transformers helped them keep common-mode noise down. But in those days the audio bandwidth was limited, overall noise was higher and dynamic range was lower compared with today. Of course, the recording media, playback systems and listener expectations were also quite different.
#27
27th January 2013
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MichaelPatrick's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by RobAnderson View Post
Two mic's CAN work.

You are at the mercy of the size and depth of the ensemble, the critical distance of the room, and your ability to get the main pair in JUST the right spot.

In terms of chamber ensembles or a cappella choir, a two-mic pickup can often work well. With a large orchestra, and/or especially when it is coupled with choir and soloists, it starts to get a lot more complicated to achieve the proper balance, perspective, and direct-to-reverberant sound with just a single stereo pickup.

I won't say it's impossible, but I will say that, at least in my experience, it is rather difficult to achieve.

If you get a Royer SF12, you are essentially limited to a single technique that has fixed pickup angle, and you may find it challenging to record in an acoustic that is less-than-ideal. When it works, I am sure it works beautifully.
Good points. Because of the incredible flexibility of patterns and directions in mixdown, a mic like Josephson's C700S might be an ideal coincident pickup.
#28
27th January 2013
Old 27th January 2013
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sonare's Avatar
I do a lot of choral and I have yet to find a better mic than the SF12 (and that includes a test of the tube SF24). And lately I have discovered preamp nirvana-- Pueblo Audio. I am talking +/- 50dB of gain and I must really try to hear any noise- and that is with 250ft cable runs. A big plus is the sound of the pre (or lack thereof)-- totally relaxed and natural. Scott Sedillo is a genius.

Rich
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#29
27th January 2013
Old 27th January 2013
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MichaelPatrick's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by sonare View Post
...lately I have discovered preamp nirvana-- Pueblo Audio. I am talking +/- 50dB of gain and I must really try to hear any noise- and that is with 250ft cable runs. A big plus is the sound of the pre (or lack thereof)-- totally relaxed and natural. Scott Sedillo is a genius.
Rich, that's another endorsement for Pueblo. I've got to find a way to try them out.
#30
27th January 2013
Old 27th January 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sonare View Post
I do a lot of choral and I have yet to find a better mic than the SF12 (and that includes a test of the tube SF24). And lately I have discovered preamp nirvana-- Pueblo Audio. I am talking +/- 50dB of gain and I must really try to hear any noise- and that is with 250ft cable runs.

50 dB gain on 300 ohm SF 12 shall produce white noise, minimum level of which is 10 x log(4kTR) + 10 x log(20000) + 50 dBV = -80 dBV, which corresponds to -83 dBV A-weighted
To get the same signal level with a Schoeps MK 2, the gain shall be 50 dB minus the sensitivity difference -36 dB re. 1V/Pa - (-52 dB 1V/Pa) = 16 dB, that is 34 dB gain.
With any decent preamp (EIN < -125 dBu), the self-noise from a SDC (noise above 10 dBA, sensitivity above -40 dB re 1V/PA) is well above the self-noise from the preamp.
The self-noise from the MK 2 after 34 dB gain is 11 dB SPL A-weighted - 94 dB SPL - 36 dB re. 1V/Pa + 34 = - 85 dBV dBV A-weighted.
So, even with the lowest feasible noise level preamp, the noise from a SF 12 should be above the one from a MK 2 coupled with a normal preamp.

Quote:
Scott Sedillo is a genius.
Did he change the laws of physics ?
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