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Which mics for ORTF orchestral recording?
Old 1st September 2015
  #1
Which mics for ORTF orchestral recording?

Hi All:

I do location ORTF recording for various orchestras, concert bands and choirs in San Diego. I'm currently using two KM-84s for this purpose. I'm planning on upgrading my mics and am looking at offerings from DPA, Sennheiseer, Earthworks and Schoeps.

Specifically:
1) Sennheiser MKH 8040; $2400.00/pair.
2) DPA 4011A; $3350.00/pair.
3) Schoeps Collette with MK4 capsules; $3125.00/pair.
4) Earthworks-not sure what model, but they must be cardioid for ORTF.

I want clear, open, and full-range mics that give me as close to the actual sound as possible, but not sterile or harsh-sounding. A bit of euphonic "enhancement" is fine, as long as the sonic fingerprint is not overbearing and works will all kinds of music. The mic has to have a very good self-noise spec, and, although I doubt I'll be shoving one down the bell of a trumpet, good max SPL-handling as well.

I like the specs of the Sennheiser MKH 8040, and reviews I've read state that they are not as "clinical" sounding as the MKH 40. On average, I record a concert of this type around 6-9 times a year, so I really can't rent pairs and try them out. That's why I need some of the gurus here to pipe in and help me decide. I also don't have the money to buy more than one pair. I don't want to go with a M/S arrangement for a number of reasons, and I don't want to go with spaced omnis for other, equally-important reasons. I'm hoping that some here have used these and can give me their opinions.

Any thoughts are very much appreciated! Thank you.

Robert

Robert Cartwright
perfectwavedigital.com/
San Diego, CA
Old 1st September 2015
  #2
Lives for gear
What in particular don't you like about your current KM84's ? They are generally assessed as being smoother than their newer KM184 equivalents, and you might be trading for a 'different' rather than 'better' sound with those contenders you list here ?

Maybe a change of preamp might achieve what you desire instead, for similar money...what's your current signal chain ?
Old 1st September 2015
  #3
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superwack's Avatar
I am absolutely not a guru (especially for the type of work you do) but I love ORTF and Schoeps mics so I'd add the Schoeps MSTC 64U to your list of possibles. Great sound, easy setup every time

ORTF Stereo Microphone MSTC*64*U - Overview - SCHOEPS.de
Old 1st September 2015
  #4
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boojum's Avatar
Ford and Chevy; Sennheiser and Schoeps. I started with the CMC64's and like them a lot. They work, they are accurate, they are flattering. This is pretty difficult but Schoeps manages. I would not touch Earthworks if you paid me. My bias. I know some folks like them a lot. DPA is very good, and very accurate. I have some of them, too. But I have that Schoeps weakness. YMMV
Old 1st September 2015
  #5
Quote:
Originally Posted by studer58 View Post
What in particular don't you like about your current KM84's ? They are generally assessed as being smoother than their newer KM184 equivalents, and you might be trading for a 'different' rather than 'better' sound with those contenders you list here ?

Maybe a change of preamp might achieve what you desire instead, for similar money...what's your current signal chain ?
I'm using a Metric halo ULN-8, so I'm well-covered there. I bought my (4) KM84s from the first studio I ever worked at many years ago. They were used for everything from horns/ww's/strings to snare. I picked the two that seemed best matched for my ORTF pair, and use the others when necessary for spot mics. I've had them so long that I can't help but suspect that they may be getting "tired", if such a thing is possible. I usually use a fair amount of UAD Pultec EQ to bring out some air and presence, with a touch of very low end. You may very well be right, but in my reading of Gearslutz and other forums, I noticed that when KM84s were mentioned, they got some respect but not glowing praise. I am definitely in the dark here, and trying to make a wise choice to improve my remote recordings, but I don't want to throw money at a non-existent problem!

Thanks,

Robert
Old 1st September 2015
  #6
Quote:
Originally Posted by superwack View Post
I am absolutely not a guru (especially for the type of work you do) but I love ORTF and Schoeps mics so I'd add the Schoeps MSTC 64U to your list of possibles. Great sound, easy setup every time

ORTF Stereo Microphone MSTC*64*U - Overview - SCHOEPS.de
I saw those and they were tempting for ease of setup, etc., but I'd also like to use my mics separately in a studio or spot miking situation. If I had the money, I'd spring for them and only use them for ORTF. A great form-factor though!
Old 1st September 2015
  #7
Quote:
Originally Posted by boojum View Post
Ford and Chevy; Sennheiser and Schoeps. I started with the CMC64's and like them a lot. They work, they are accurate, they are flattering. This is pretty difficult but Schoeps manages. I would not touch Earthworks if you paid me. My bias. I know some folks like them a lot. DPA is very good, and very accurate. I have some of them, too. But I have that Schoeps weakness. YMMV
In this case, the Ford pair (Sennheiser) is $1000.00 less than the Chevy pair (Schoeps). I'm not a great fan of the Earthworks either (worse noise specs for instance), but wanted to remain open-minded about them. As I mentioned in another reply, the Schoeps CMC64 ORTF mic is great, but not very flexible for other usage.

Thanks,

Robert
Old 1st September 2015
  #8
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PatrickFaith's Avatar
 

I moved from two km184's to double ortf pair ccm41. I have to do quick setups and not always in the best mic location, and just love the double ortf with the ccm41 for getting "there" quickly. As always I think you'd need to test this out to how you like to mic to see if that would work for you.
Old 1st September 2015
  #9
Quote:
Originally Posted by PatrickFaith View Post
I moved from two km184's to double ortf pair ccm41. I have to do quick setups and not always in the best mic location, and just love the double ortf with the ccm41 for getting "there" quickly. As always I think you'd need to test this out to how you like to mic to see if that would work for you.
What's a "double ORTF pair?"
Old 1st September 2015
  #10
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Bruce Watson's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by rcartwright View Post
I've had them so long that I can't help but suspect that they may be getting "tired", if such a thing is possible.
Before you make the decision to buy more mics, send your four KM-84s out to a respected mic tech for cleaning and tuning. That may be all they need. Could just be a dirty capsule, a dried out capacitor, etc. Also ask the tech if he can match up two of the four into a stereo pair.

Quote:
Originally Posted by rcartwright View Post
I usually use a fair amount of UAD Pultec EQ to bring out some air and presence, with a touch of very low end.
Nothing wrong with adding some EQ. All rooms are different, all ensembles are different. EQ is how we match the invariant mics to the infinitely variable conditions.

Last edited by Bruce Watson; 1st September 2015 at 04:17 PM.. Reason: clarity
Old 1st September 2015
  #11
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Bruce Watson's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by rcartwright View Post
I want clear, open, and full-range mics that give me as close to the actual sound as possible, but not sterile or harsh-sounding. A bit of euphonic "enhancement" is fine, as long as the sonic fingerprint is not overbearing and works will all kinds of music. The mic has to have a very good self-noise spec, and, although I doubt I'll be shoving one down the bell of a trumpet, good max SPL-handling as well.
All the mics listed will work fine for that duty. Which ones you actually prefer no one can guess but you. See if you can borrow or rent samples and use them in real world conditions and see what you think. Because what you think is the only thing that matters here.

That said, if you can't rent or borrow and you just have to leap in blindly, there are probably more people using the Schoeps mics than the others. That doesn't mean they will work for you. But it does increase the odds a bit. Clearly, YMMV.
Old 1st September 2015
  #12
Lives for gear
If you're able to post a few anonymous audio samples here it might help to hear the sort of sound you're getting already, and where there might be scope for improvement via new mics, as they all have their own sonic signatures
Old 1st September 2015
  #13
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Earcatcher's Avatar
The original ORTF array has been experimentally derived using Schoeps MK4 capsules. The French broadcasters who invented it might have arrived at a different setup if they had used any other brand/type of mic for their experimentation. Maybe they would have found a different angle, or a different capsule distance in that case.
Old 1st September 2015
  #14
Lives for gear
ORTF array was 'invented' when...early 60's ? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ORTF_stereo_technique

I think the MK Schoeps capsules came several years later ? Product history - SCHOEPS.de
Old 1st September 2015
  #15
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hbphotoav's Avatar
 

I have no Schoeps experience, and only a bit of KM84 time... that being "instrument" mics on an acoustic music show I work every December. When they come out, they're usually run through a Gordon mic amp, and, on mando/guitar, sound quite yummy. "House" mic for that job has been either a Brauner VM-1S or Royer SF12 in Blumlein. Both are owned by the guy with whom I work on that gig.

When I decided to upgrade my main cardioid pair from electrets (Sony C55FETs I've owned since the '70s) to RF condensers, I chose MKH8040s based on strong referrals from people I know and trust, and whose work I strive to emulate, and have enjoyed them on everything from huge choir/orchestra (400+ voices, two 7' grands and full orchestra at St. Paul's Outside the Walls) to regular sound reinforcement of school choirs here in Tennessee.

You can listen to acappella choir and pianos/orchestra here: (https://www.gearslutz.com/board/remo...ecordings.html) . It was my first outing with the 8040s, in 2009.

From 2011, here: (https://www.gearslutz.com/board/remo...ennheiser.html) is a blend of 8040s with Gefell M296 omnis in a small, old, noisy, hall in Mississippi, orchestra on a tight stage, with solo piano.

This (https://www.gearslutz.com/board/remo...omparison.html) is another outing in the same hall. Aside from a phase problem (brain fart related) with the Line Audio CM3 pair we put up for a listen, the DPA4061 and MKH8040 pairs and blends are right on. I'm headed back to Mississippi again in November with this gig (third time's a charm...?) and will likely deploy MKH8040s arrayed with Gefell M296s again, with a M/S pair of ribbons for comparison.

As you can tell, the constant (since 2009) is the primary MKH8040 pair. They have very flat frequency response (going an octave lower than most cards) with smooth off-axis, and, through a D.A.V. BG8, a very pleasing extended top-end... to my ears, "pleasantly revealing." Having the M296s up as well gives me some "room" options from a very tidy single-stand setup.

Good luck in your quest.

HB
Old 1st September 2015
  #16
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Plush's Avatar
Any quality mic will work. Buy the best you can afford. It should not be a ********M mic, however.

Also consider Pearl CC22 cardioid. Schoeps is the default choice.
Old 1st September 2015
  #17
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PatrickFaith's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by rcartwright View Post
What's a "double ORTF pair?"
Schoeps has a rig where they put two ORTF pairs back to back (called a Schoeps ORTF surround bar). I put the 4 mics into a Nagra VI which has built in a "Ambisonic" converter to a stereo mix. (i.e.on Nagra VI there is a ambisonic mode where channels 1-4 are mic in, channels 7&8 are mixed/recorded based on the ambisonic algorithm options chosen). My only real problem with the ambisonic mix modes is I'd prefer channels 1-4 recorded without processing and 7&8 with the algorithm, but what it does is "kind of" do a M/S record on 1-4 with 4 components and the final 7&8 mixed output.

skip in to about 2 minutes on this test: playing around with sound | PUDLS
Old 1st September 2015
  #18
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boojum's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by rcartwright View Post
In this case, the Ford pair (Sennheiser) is $1000.00 less than the Chevy pair (Schoeps). I'm not a great fan of the Earthworks either (worse noise specs for instance), but wanted to remain open-minded about them. As I mentioned in another reply, the Schoeps CMC64 ORTF mic is great, but not very flexible for other usage.

Thanks,

Robert
If you go Schoeps I would suggest a pair of CMC64's not the ORTF pre-built array. With the pair you can use them in other ways, too, and add other caps.
Old 1st September 2015
  #19
[QUOTE=Bruce Watson;11302279]Before you make the decision to buy more mics, send your four KM-84s out to a respected mic tech for cleaning and tuning. That may be all they need. Could just be a dirty capsule, a dried out capacitor, etc. Also ask the tech if he can match up two of the four into a stereo pair.

Hi Bruce:

I have wanted to have my KM84s checked out. Can any one here recommend the best place to send them? I know there are mic gurus who completely go through mics and make mods, and charge a ton of money. While that's out of my range, I'm sure there must be someone who does a great job of bringing old KM84s up to spec(?). I know Gotham in NYC used to repair Neumanns, but I really would like to send it to the best place nowadays.

Thank you!

Robert
Old 1st September 2015
  #20
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Tommy-boy's Avatar
 

I use Schoeps MK5 capsules on CMC6 bodies in the ST4g ORTF holder. Although this is not quite as slick as the MSTC 64U, it has the benefit of working with the regular mics so that you can use the mics for other situations as well. The downside is you need to buy the cables that run btw the capsule and mic body, and they are a bit pricey.

Here's a link to the ST4g:
ORTF Mounting Bar STC*4g,*STC*22g - Overview - SCHOEPS.de



Also, I have a pair of MK21s, and a Schoeps ORTF bar specially made for the MK21s. I don't think Schoeps makes this anymore. Basically, it maintains the same 110 degree angle, but increases the spacing between the caps to reach the same ORTF stereo recording angle of approx 96 degrees. This is a very full sound (deeper / fuller than MK5s [or MK4s]) and works well in good acoustic spaces. The MK5 ORTF is safer than the MK21 ORTF as it pics up less room.

-Tom
Old 1st September 2015
  #21
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Bruce Watson's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by rcartwright View Post
I have wanted to have my KM84s checked out. Can any one here recommend the best place to send them?
You might try Tom Onofrio. He's a GearSlut. I've never used him, but he seems to have a decent reputation. Give him a call and tell him what you want. See what he says.

Or search around on GearSlutz and other forums for recommendations. There are apparently a number of good microphone technicians around.
Old 1st September 2015
  #22
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bruce Watson View Post
You might try Tom Onofrio. He's a GearSlut. I've never used him, but he seems to have a decent reputation. Give him a call and tell him what you want. See what he says.

Or search around on GearSlutz and other forums for recommendations. There are apparently a number of good microphone technicians around.
------
Just on a lark I checked with Neumann (Sehhneiser) and their website says that there is a flat fee for KM84s of, wait for it, $500.00 per mic! Yikes.
Old 2nd September 2015
  #23
Thanks for the recommendation of Tom Onofrio! He seems like just the ticket to tune up my KM84s. I'm still very seriously considering buying a pair of Sennheiser 8040s. Some of the opinions I've read even prefer them to the Schoeps offerings (at $1000 more), although I'm still willing to be swayed. I also have to buy a new Mac Pro this year, however. That being said, if the Schoeps are superior enough, I would try to stretch to it.

Best!

Robert
Old 2nd September 2015
  #24
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Don S's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by rcartwright View Post
Thanks for the recommendation of Tom Onofrio! He seems like just the ticket to tune up my KM84s. I'm still very seriously considering buying a pair of Sennheiser 8040s. Some of the opinions I've read even prefer them to the Schoeps offerings (at $1000 more), although I'm still willing to be swayed. I also have to buy a new Mac Pro this year, however. That being said, if the Schoeps are superior enough, I would try to stretch to it.

Best!

Robert
The 8040 is great mic. Excellent front to back imaging and a fantastic low end. IMHO they are a compliment to the Schoeps, when you need a different sound. I say different because there were situations I could not use them. If you can only afford one pair, I would go with Schoeps. Not just because they always sound musical, but the flexibility to use multiple caps with one pair makes it a no brainer!
Old 2nd September 2015
  #25
Quote:
Originally Posted by Don S View Post
The 8040 is great mic. Excellent front to back imaging and a fantastic low end. IMHO they are a compliment to the Schoeps, when you need a different sound. I say different because there were situations I could not use them. If you can only afford one pair, I would go with Schoeps. Not just because they always sound musical, but the flexibility to use multiple caps with one pair makes it a no brainer!
Hi Don:

What was it that caused you to not be able to use the 8040s? Sounds like that would be important for me to know.

Thank you,

Robert
Old 2nd September 2015
  #26
Lives for gear
I use the MKH8040s in an ORTF array inside a Rycote windshield. Physically, their small size allows this array to fit inside a windshield that is the same size as the one for MKH30+40 MS. As others have said, the low end is robust, which I prefer for the field recording that I do.

Like others, I am anxiously awaiting the MKH8030, because then we will be able to have an MS array in something not much bigger than a ball gag!

So, let's get going, Sennheiser! Chop chop!
Old 3rd September 2015
  #27
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Don S's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by rcartwright View Post
Hi Don:

What was it that caused you to not be able to use the 8040s? Sounds like that would be important for me to know.

Thank you,

Robert
Hello Robert! When you get into mics of this quality (Schoeps, DPA, ect), it's always a balance between detail and musicality. There were times the 8040 was just too clinical when recording a less than professional ensemble. As I mentioned, the ability to have multiple pairs of capsules for amps is a huge plus. I own MK2, 2S, 21, and 4.
Old 3rd September 2015
  #28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Don S View Post
Hello Robert! When you get into mics of this quality (Schoeps, DPA, ect), it's always a balance between detail and musicality. There were times the 8040 was just too clinical when recording a less than professional ensemble. As I mentioned, the ability to have multiple pairs of capsules for amps is a huge plus. I own MK2, 2S, 21, and 4.
Of the mics mentioned, would the Schoeps be the "less clinical" one? I know DPA is often considered clinical. From my reading, the 8040 is supposed to be less clinical than the MKH40. I like that the 8040 has an extended frequency response in cases where I might be recording at high sample rates, and I hear the lowest octave goes lower on the 8040. In all my 45 years of recording, I've found that the recording chain, mics, pres, speakers, always change the sound from what's happening in the room. I'm usually adding some air, slightly dropping the lower midrange, and adding a spot of very low frequencies to make it sound more "real", usually using warmer plug ins such as the UAD Pultec, etc. I don't mind having a mic with a bit of built-in sheen up top and an extended low end, because it means I have to do less processing later. Having said that, thin, shrill and harsh are not what I'm going for. I wish I were in the position to borrow a Schoeps Cardioid pair and a couple of 8040s and use them both, perhaps even along with my current KM84s (6 tracks) and see for myself what the differences are. That's not going to happen, so I really appreciate picking the rather copious brains of the people on this list.

Thank you!

Robert
Old 3rd September 2015
  #29
Quote:
Originally Posted by hbphotoav View Post
I have no Schoeps experience, and only a bit of KM84 time... that being "instrument" mics on an acoustic music show I work every December. When they come out, they're usually run through a Gordon mic amp, and, on mando/guitar, sound quite yummy. "House" mic for that job has been either a Brauner VM-1S or Royer SF12 in Blumlein. Both are owned by the guy with whom I work on that gig.

When I decided to upgrade my main cardioid pair from electrets (Sony C55FETs I've owned since the '70s) to RF condensers, I chose MKH8040s based on strong referrals from people I know and trust, and whose work I strive to emulate, and have enjoyed them on everything from huge choir/orchestra (400+ voices, two 7' grands and full orchestra at St. Paul's Outside the Walls) to regular sound reinforcement of school choirs here in Tennessee.

You can listen to acappella choir and pianos/orchestra here: (https://www.gearslutz.com/board/remo...ecordings.html) . It was my first outing with the 8040s, in 2009.

From 2011, here: (https://www.gearslutz.com/board/remo...ennheiser.html) is a blend of 8040s with Gefell M296 omnis in a small, old, noisy, hall in Mississippi, orchestra on a tight stage, with solo piano.

This (https://www.gearslutz.com/board/remo...omparison.html) is another outing in the same hall. Aside from a phase problem (brain fart related) with the Line Audio CM3 pair we put up for a listen, the DPA4061 and MKH8040 pairs and blends are right on. I'm headed back to Mississippi again in November with this gig (third time's a charm...?) and will likely deploy MKH8040s arrayed with Gefell M296s again, with a M/S pair of ribbons for comparison.

As you can tell, the constant (since 2009) is the primary MKH8040 pair. They have very flat frequency response (going an octave lower than most cards) with smooth off-axis, and, through a D.A.V. BG8, a very pleasing extended top-end... to my ears, "pleasantly revealing." Having the M296s up as well gives me some "room" options from a very tidy single-stand setup.

Good luck in your quest.

HB
Harry-thanks! Very informative! I'll listen to the audio examples as soon as I dig myself out of this current project.

Thanks again,

Robert
Old 3rd September 2015
  #30
Lives for gear
Have you experimented with the variations on ORTF, such as NOS or DIN...or considered using wider cardioid patterns such Line Audio CM3 or Schoeps MK21 ?
Or are you a confirmed ORTF purist ?
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