Pinnacle of Audio Recording Technology - What is it? Who uses it?
Given To Fly
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#1
31st July 2013
Old 31st July 2013
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Thread Starter
Pinnacle of Audio Recording Technology - What is it? Who uses it?

I saw an ad for AD/DA converters that will work at a sample rate of 384K which got me wondering, when it comes to recording sound/audio, what is the most powerful and accurate equipment and who uses it? It seems the pinnacle of any type of technology is not used by general consumers; think F1 cars, super computers, Space Shuttle, etc. I know people in this section have recorded rockets so I figured this question is most appropriate in the Remote Possibilities forum.

This is more of a "curiosity" thread than anything else. It will not inform any of my gear purchases.
#2
31st July 2013
Old 31st July 2013
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king2070lplaya's Avatar
Well, I don't have any of this stuff, but from my observations this is the niched professional gear that is at the very tippity top price-wise:

Mics:
Neumann M50 (the classic)
Sanken CO-100k
DPA 130-volt mics
Sennheiser MKH800/MKH800TWIN
But many of the best engineers still just use schoeps cmc/ccm series

Pres:
Gordon
Crookwood
Forssell (smp line specifically)
Millennia
GML
I admit I'm a little short on this list as to what the premo models are

Conversion:
DCS (I don't believe they still manufacture pro gear though)
DAD is getting very popular
Prism ADA-8XR/Dream
The Horus system is a new up-n-comer in conversion as well as preamp tech
#3
31st July 2013
Old 31st July 2013
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Plush's Avatar
The best equipment advice is to have the microphone in the right place.

thankya, thanyavermuh
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#4
31st July 2013
Old 31st July 2013
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rumleymusic's Avatar
If we are talking about audio equipment for music recording, the high end stuff we talk about here is really as good as it gets. Prism, DAD, Stagetec, and the like for audio conversion.

For measurement microphones B&K and Gefell are considered the best you can get. Other than that, it is the usual suspects.

I'm sure if there were some super high end 64bit, 5 trillion kHz converter out there we would know about it and someone would be using to record didgeridoo or something.

The 384kHz thing or "DXD" is really an in-between sample rate used to edit SACD or rather "DSD" files which can not be directly manipulated by an audio editor.
Given To Fly
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#5
31st July 2013
Old 31st July 2013
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Thread Starter
I was actually thinking the best equipment WOULDN'T be used to record music but rather used in scientific fields.
Also, 64bit/5 Trillion kHz converters are exactly the kind of thing I was thinking existed.
#6
31st July 2013
Old 31st July 2013
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#7
31st July 2013
Old 31st July 2013
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joelpatterson's Avatar
 

"Scientific music," technically... very interesting field, but I'm not allowed to talk about it...
#8
31st July 2013
Old 31st July 2013
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PuebloAudio's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Given To Fly View Post
I was actually thinking the best equipment WOULDN'T be used to record music but rather used in scientific fields.
Right.

When I was an intern at JPL (very briefly) I was in the lab which maintained the communication transmission from Voyager as it raced away from Uranus. The environmental conditions of the lab alone are a far cry from music studio conditions. Even an errant air current in the room could effect electronic performance!

How many reading this actually have faith that pro audio adc can REALLY achieve accurate sample acquisition at the LSB in a remote situation? Ha!
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#9
31st July 2013
Old 31st July 2013
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just.sounds's Avatar
 

Proably high frequency waveform/spectrum analysis.
#10
31st July 2013
Old 31st July 2013
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This question represents a symptom of many discussions about achievement and results, ie that if only I had the right "equipment" I could be a top recording engineer.

If only I had the same guitar and strings Tommy Emmanuel used my guitar playing would sound like his.... etc etc

After a certain level, equipment makes no difference, and to study it endlessly with a magnifying glass is unproductive.

Get out there and record, make mistakes, listen, make notes, learn and do it over.

As Mr Plush wisely points out, the mic position is everything.
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#11
31st July 2013
Old 31st July 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Given To Fly View Post
I was actually thinking the best equipment WOULDN'T be used to record music but rather used in scientific fields.
Also, 64bit/5 Trillion kHz converters are exactly the kind of thing I was thinking existed.
Well, it's not unheard of for an oscilloscope to have 100 GHz analogue bandwidth. Most audio gear seems to run from something in the range of 10 Hz up to 100 KHz (microphones excepted, although I would imagine that the device used to give ultrasounds is essentially just a microphone with extended bandwidth).

I'm not personally aware of a 64-bit ADC, but I suppose some lab somewhere might have one.

(Edit: Something like this?: http://www.home.agilent.com/en/pd-14...-lxi-digitizer)
#12
31st July 2013
Old 31st July 2013
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king2070lplaya's Avatar
Yeah. The work, the talent, then the placement is of utmost importance.

But the OP asked what the crazy expensive/advanced tech was.

Nowhere in his post does it say "if I have this stuff I will be able to FINALLY get THE sound". In fact, he says he has no intention of using the info to inform gear purchases. He just curiously asked what was out there, right?

So lets talk about the gear, eh?
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#13
31st July 2013
Old 31st July 2013
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The Listener's Avatar
Among others - high end audiophile and acoustic/classical recording companies, people with too much money, etc.

Usually the "pinnacle" would be some specially designed and/or modded equipment, starting with a great source technology in the first place -like using Gefell/DPA mic capsules, doing the electronics themselves, modding already great high end mics to crazy specs, etc., using Nagra, Studer, Ampex tape machines and modding them to perfection, building custom made "no compromise" preamps and converters, or asking the existing high end companies to design them to your specifications, building "no cost is excessive" ultra clean tube equipment - "esoteric" tube preamps, eqs, compressors, etc.

Some recording companies modify and develop their equipment themselves.

I don't think names count that much here - it is "on demand", "custom" stuff that is "pinnacle" - there are quite a few legendary designers and "modders"...

Many guys who get engineering grammies regularly use "pinnacle of audio technology" (but they are also good engineers in the first place ), or at least guys who get grammies for classical and surround albums... Guys like George Massenburg, Bob Ludwig, Morten Lindberg, Al Schmitt, Chuck Ainlay, Elliot Scheiner, Jack Renner, Michael Bishop, etc. - where money is not an objection they invest in the "meaningless" 1% extra... And some of those guys develop "pinnacle" things themselves...
nkf
#14
31st July 2013
Old 31st July 2013
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nkf
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David Spearritt View Post

As Mr Plush wisely points out, the mic position is everything.
Of course he didn't say this logical contradicting thing. For a start you need a microphone to think about a mic position ...
#15
1st August 2013
Old 1st August 2013
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Plush's Avatar
Some degree of govt. funding usually goes in to many very advanced designs.
Back in the 1930-1960 era some governments were funding audio research and materials science research.

V76, V72, TAB modules, U47, M49, M50 were all developed by govt. agency radio research organizations.

Today , as mentioned, the best performing and best sounding gear is constructed on a custom made basis.

FBI, NSA and the Library of Congress are also all engaged in sophisticated forensic audio research.
#16
1st August 2013
Old 1st August 2013
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king2070lplaya's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Plush View Post
Some degree of govt. funding usually goes in to many very advanced designs.
Back in the 1930-1960 era some governments were funding audio research and materials science research.

V76, V72, TAB modules, U47, M49, M50 were all developed by govt. agency radio research organizations.

Today , as mentioned, the best performing and best sounding gear is constructed on a custom made basis.

FBI, NSA and the Library of Congress are also all engaged in sophisticated forensic audio research.
That's really cool, with the exception of forensic audio I had no idea about any of that.

Makes me think of the current state-funded vs. privatized space flight/renewable energy debates.... But that's not a topic for Gearslutz.
#17
1st August 2013
Old 1st August 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by king2070lplaya View Post
So lets talk about the gear, eh?
<cynic hat on>
To what end? What does this gear give the engineer if he still doesn't know for sure where to put the mics. I have heard many audiophile recordings made with very esoteric gear, with poor mic placement, poor mic choices, poor performances, poor balance, all in all completely un-listenable.

What I think this gear does for the great engineer, is give her 0.0001% more air and clarity than normal "high-end" gear. A difference no-one can hear reliably.
</cynic hat off>
#18
1st August 2013
Old 1st August 2013
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John Willett's Avatar
 

Thumbs up

Quote:
Originally Posted by Plush View Post
Some degree of govt. funding usually goes in to many very advanced designs.
Back in the 1930-1960 era some governments were funding audio research and materials science research.

V76, V72, TAB modules, U47, M49, M50 were all developed by govt. agency radio research organizations.

Today , as mentioned, the best performing and best sounding gear is constructed on a custom made basis.

FBI, NSA and the Library of Congress are also all engaged in sophisticated forensic audio research.
There is also the stuff that was designed as a University project - or a company getting the design done in partnership with a university.

Examples being the Soundfield microphone, Harbeth's "Radial" loudspeaker material, the Gefell KEM 970 and KEM 975 microphones - and a lot more ...
#19
1st August 2013
Old 1st August 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David Spearritt View Post
To what end? What does this gear give the engineer if he still doesn't know for sure where to put the mics. I have heard many audiophile recordings made with very esoteric gear, with poor mic placement, poor mic choices, poor performances, poor balance, all in all completely un-listenable.

What I think this gear does for the great engineer, is give her 0.0001% more air and clarity than normal "high-end" gear. A difference no-one can hear reliably.
1). Isn't it kinda presumptive to assume the OP doesn't know what he's doing?

2). Isn't it part of our responsibilities as professionals in this field to be as up-to-date knowledge-wise on the technology available to us as we can? Just like doctors or other medical practitioners who do "continuing education"?

3). "To what end?". This site is called "GEAR Slutz". Enough said.

You also recently posted a pic of your new HORUS, so put your cynical hat back in its drawer and join us, because clearly you have the hi end bug too! :-)
nkf
#20
1st August 2013
Old 1st August 2013
  #20
nkf
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David Spearritt View Post
<cynic hat on>
To what end? What does this gear give the engineer if he still doesn't know for sure where to put the mics. I have heard many audiophile recordings made with very esoteric gear, with poor mic placement, poor mic choices, poor performances, poor balance, all in all completely un-listenable.

What I think this gear does for the great engineer, is give her 0.0001% more air and clarity than normal "high-end" gear. A difference no-one can hear reliably.
</cynic hat off>
In German wie have the terms 'notwenige Bedingung' (necessary condition) and 'hinreichende Bedingung' (sufficient condition). Good/Correct mic placing is a necessary condition but NOT a sufficient condition if the goal is to get a high end recording. You can place a SM57 as good as you can in front of a piano - you will never get a very good piano sound. Logically it's all about the fact that fulfilling one condition doesn't make another superfluous. Therefore reaching the goal (in this case high end audio recording) has a set of necessary conditions to get there, not one sufficient condition (in this example: mic placement).
Your thinking is focused on the importance of certain conditions (which are not sufficient) but it's all about setting a goal and from there working out 'backwards' the necessary conditions, solving these for maximum synergistic effect.
#21
1st August 2013
Old 1st August 2013
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Channel Classics is a small label that operates at the pinnacle of classical recording. Love for the music and craftsmenship flows together into very high end (SACD) recordings. Interestingly all their equipment is Rens Heijnis custom built/upgraded stuff: Equipment - Channel Classics Records

I liked this interview with the label owner/engineer: dCS: PEOPLE
(Interesting interviews with TF and Bob Ludwig on that website too!)
Given To Fly
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#22
1st August 2013
Old 1st August 2013
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Thread Starter
To be fair, I know enough to know that I "almost" don't know what I'm doing.
However, microphone placement is something of which I'm not totally ignorant, but I wouldn't know where to place the SM57 to accurately capture whale vocalization.

By the way, this looks cool:
SoundField: DSF-1 Digital Performance Microphone System
#23
1st August 2013
Old 1st August 2013
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As has been pointed out, even the most advanced technology being used to record music is nowhere near the state of the art in terms of actually capturing waveforms, DSP, etc. Given that tubes, transformers, and even analog tape and vinyl are still (to varying degrees) relevant technologies in the music recording world, I'd say that at least some people like it that way.

However, the Polyhymnia people are probably near the top in terms of esoteric gear that far outstrips what most of use. They have customized all of their mics and pretty much everything else.

The 5/4 (formerly Telarc) team also comes to mind. Recently, they have even done some recording at 11.2 MHz DSD.
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#24
2nd August 2013
Old 2nd August 2013
  #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nkf View Post
In German wie have the terms 'notwenige Bedingung' (necessary condition) and 'hinreichende Bedingung' (sufficient condition). Good/Correct mic placing is a necessary condition but NOT a sufficient condition if the goal is to get a high end recording. You can place a SM57 as good as you can in front of a piano - you will never get a very good piano sound. Logically it's all about the fact that fulfilling one condition doesn't make another superfluous. Therefore reaching the goal (in this case high end audio recording) has a set of necessary conditions to get there, not one sufficient condition (in this example: mic placement).
Your thinking is focused on the importance of certain conditions (which are not sufficient) but it's all about setting a goal and from there working out 'backwards' the necessary conditions, solving these for maximum synergistic effect.
Yes, well said and all correct of course. I am playing devils advocate. Its the important stuff that needs to be solved first, and I know this is GS. This board is concerned with the tiny effects predominantly rather than the important stuff which should be prioritized.

Now back to the thread subject.

What about digital mics. From the samples I have heard, they are very high end.
nkf
#25
3rd August 2013
Old 3rd August 2013
  #25
nkf
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David Spearritt View Post
What about digital mics. From the samples I have heard, they are very high end.
I would think so but people tend to look for some analog 'magic' or whatever, especially on GS, so digital microphones are usually not of broader interest.
I'm a boring guy and therefore nearly stopped using analog mics.
#26
3rd August 2013
Old 3rd August 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nkf View Post
I would think so but people tend to look for some analog 'magic' or whatever, especially on GS, so digital microphones are usually not of broader interest.
I'm a boring guy and therefore nearly stopped using analog mics.
Digital microphones have been discussed a few times on this forum. They have their supporters and their detractors. I have been impressed by some of the clips I've heard from digital mics.

Here's the question I would put to those who have actually used digital microphones:
The advantage is obviously that the signal path from capsule to converter is now as short as possible, and several stages of analog electronics have now been removed.
The disadvantages as I see them (disregarding "analog magic" or such things) would be that the on-board converters may not be of the same caliber as the finest dedicated ADCs, and I believe there are potentially some issues with clocking and a need for continuous variable sample-rate conversion. Are these factors a problem in actual usage?
#27
3rd August 2013
Old 3rd August 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by matyas View Post
Digital microphones have been discussed a few times on this forum. They have their supporters and their detractors. I have been impressed by some of the clips I've heard from digital mics.

Here's the question I would put to those who have actually used digital microphones:
The advantage is obviously that the signal path from capsule to converter is now as short as possible, and several stages of analog electronics have now been removed.
The disadvantages as I see them (disregarding "analog magic" or such things) would be that the on-board converters may not be of the same caliber as the finest dedicated ADCs, and I believe there are potentially some issues with clocking and a need for continuous variable sample-rate conversion. Are these factors a problem in actual usage?
I'm curious about this as well! How do you clock these mics together?
#28
3rd August 2013
Old 3rd August 2013
  #28
Gear Head
 

Frankly, I think the current recording technology has matured enough so that it no longer has the decisive consequence in our day to day recording activities. An analogy I like to use is the computers we use; when we need to perform basic task, like word processing and internet browsing, we can use just about any computer we can find regardless of what the maker or the model is, the OS it runs, PC or Mac, desktop or notebook. The difference in all those devises, although can be huge internally yet make no basic difference as far as the users are concerned. This phenomenon of maturity in audio recording technology is especially valid once it comes to the professionals who have been doing it for a while and who have accumulated enough professional equipment. These days, the recorded sound quality has a lot more to do with where you record and where to place the microphone, rather than the microphones and the rest of recording chain you use. We all can put our hands on good enough equipment for the job we need to do, through purchase, borrow or rental. It is the most basic things we still have to struggle as we have been struggling for years. Finding a good sounding hall that is available and affordable is already difficult; budgeting enough time to do a project is another. But fundamentally, the music and musicians being recorded have to be good and that is the reason we record. There are plenty audiophile recordings out there with the sound of God knows what, maybe that of a cow regurgitating, or something ridiculous as such. Who cares about a recording if the music itself is not great? If the performance is not great? Or otherwise has no redeeming artist value? Maybe someone out there will find listening to the sound of cow regurgitating artistically fulfilling but I sincerely hope none of us here does. Getting a great sound is important, but that is not the only goal. The good sound quality in the recording should only be one of the reasons listener keeps coming back to your recording again and again without ever consciously knowing they are attracted or even addicted to the sound quality as much as they are to the recording as a whole. I always maintain the music I record has to mean something, to me as well as to a lot of other people. It has to have the effect of affecting your mind and being, one way or the other. Having a good sound enhances that effect, but by itself it is meaningless. My point of my rambling; don’t get stuck on the recording technology, go out and make some good recordings of great music.

Remember this: lots of people listen to MP3 files on an iPod and apparently whatever they are listening to make them happy!





Best regards,


Da-Hong
nkf
#29
3rd August 2013
Old 3rd August 2013
  #29
nkf
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Quote:
Originally Posted by matyas View Post
The disadvantages as I see them (disregarding "analog magic" or such things) would be that the on-board converters may not be of the same caliber as the finest dedicated ADCs, and I believe there are potentially some issues with clocking and a need for continuous variable sample-rate conversion. Are these factors a problem in actual usage?
I see it pragmatically. If the ADC is so good that I get the results I get, I cannot fall into the critical mode easily - IMO a waste of time. At least the modular KM-D series from Neumann ADCs would be easily upgradeable with new mic bodies and thus ADCs. In the D-01s, which I also own, you buy converter technology from over 10 years ago. Do I care about this - no. The only problem I have sometimes with the D-01s is only their weight for certain setups. It's a pita to adjust them in the millimeter range for M/S etc.
Concerning word clock. 'Potentially' there could be always everywhere 'issues'. I work since around 1990 fully digital and know that word clock and digital connections need some attention. I'm clocking my digital mics from one clock always avoiding SRC. In my practical work it is a non issue but I'm used to complex digital setups.
nkf
#30
3rd August 2013
Old 3rd August 2013
  #30
nkf
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Quote:
Originally Posted by king2070lplaya View Post
I'm curious about this as well! How do you clock these mics together?
The interfaces for the AES42 microphones have word clock inputs or you use their internal clock. In Mode 2 of the AES42 specification the microphones get word clock sync externally. I know from Schoeps that they will come out with a Mode 2 mic body. The CMD-2 is discontinued and was not able to lock onto external word clock.
I have synced up to eight digital microphones at once this way. But it would be easy to sync much more of course.
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