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Ribbon Madness....Some Comparisons Condenser Microphones
Old 15th October 2007
  #1
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Ribbon Madness....Some Comparisons

Hey Fellow Gearslutz!

One can never have enough mics eh?? heh heh So in true Gearslutz fashion I decided to put SIX mics on the piano to compare between them. The session was a "New Age" solo piano recording and I used ribbons exclusively for the close piano mics. Pretty fun. I thought you guys might like to do a little ribbon mic comparison / listening....

The comparison is just that - a comparison. It's not meant to be a full on shootout, or a critical double blind listening test. I was getting paid and had work to do! You know.....like a real life session. Take that into consideration as you listen. For fairness and your convenience, I've gain matched the main files within .1dB of each other with the room mics down 12dB as they will be in the mix.

For this session, I compaired 3 pairs of ribbons. One pair are old time classics that most of you know. One pair are what many are finding to be a new classic. And one pair are for all intents and purposes an unknown mic. (At least in comparison to the other two.)

For fair comparison purposes, Mic 1 is always the same mic on all the clips, Mic 2 always the same, etc. I'm not trying to trick anyone here....

I find when listening, I often find I like one mic for certain sections of music and another for other sections - but the bottom line is you have to choose one (or in this case, a pair). In the studio, the decision was unanimous for those in the CRM, with (thankfully) the artist choosing the same mic that my assistant and I liked as well. Ribbons were chosen because the artist loves a warm organic sound, and I've had success in the past with ribbons on piano for this type of application. If you're listening on computer, you're going to miss the huge bottom some of these files have.

Mics 1 & 2 were iniside the piano in a unique placement that I prefer with fig8 mics, and Mics 3 were right outside the piano in a more "classical / orchestral" type placement. Please keep that in mind when listening to the 3rd set of Mics, as they were further back from the strings. They were chosen and added almost as an afterthought, as there was no room inside the piano since it was beginning to look like a press conference in there. heh Also, there is a fourth pair of mics that are room mics (TLM170's) that can be added in with the close mics if you're lining up the files and listening in your DAW. If you're not in your DAW, you can use them as a reference to hear what the room sounds like. They were placed about 10-12 feet up and about 30-40 feet away from the piano and 30-40 feet apart with the piano being the apex of the triangle.

There is no EQ, no Compression or Limiting, no Verb. No nothing! All I did was adjust the gain via Audiosuite Gain, to match the gain for a fair comparison. The final product will have a little verb added to the main mics in addition to adding in the room mics. A little compression / limiting as well, but very minimal, and a little HPF EQ automated in at various places to remove some of the extreme low end pedal noise resonance that occationally gets in. If you're in your DAW and lining up the room mics with the main mics, what you hear is pretty much how the final mix will end up sounding. Later, there may be full bandwidth 24/44.1 WAV files up on the internet to download if any of your are interested in real critical listening, but for now..... it's mp3's. :-( They are rendered at 320kbit/s via PT's MP3 option.

After everyone is done listening and deciding which they like, I'll post some pics so you can see the kind of unique mic placement. And of course reveal the mics themselves.

Here's the important and fun GS technical stuff:

Artist: Jeff Bjorck - a "New Age" style solo pianist recording arrangements of Hymns.
Piano : Yamaha C7
Studio : Citrus Studio A (So Cal)
Console : Neve VR72
Mic Pre's:
Mic 1 - D&R Vision Mic Pre
Mic 2 - D&R Vision Mic Pre
Mic 3 - Apogee Mini Me (suggested by the studio manager)
Mic 4 (room) - Martech MSS-10
Conversion : Apogee AD16X clocked to Apogee Big Ben
DAW : PTHD3
Bit Depth / Sample Rate : 24/44.1


So Have Fun! This should prove interesting.......



(Clips 2, 3 & 4 to follow on successive posts due to the GS attachment limitations...)

Cheers,

Bill
Mindseye
http://www.mindseyeprod.com
Attached Files

Clip 1 Mic 1.mp3 (2.20 MB, 27848 views)

Clip 1 Mic 2.mp3 (2.20 MB, 25552 views)

Clip 1 Mic 3.mp3 (2.20 MB, 21742 views)

Clip 1 Room.mp3 (2.20 MB, 18450 views)

Old 15th October 2007
  #2
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Bill,

Can you describe your "unique placement" a little more? I'm very curious. The clips sound great!

I like mics 1 and 2 the best in clip 1. The low end is very powerful and commanding in mic 2 but I think I like the midrange in #1 better. A combination of those two mics would probably sound awesome. I did not care for mic 3 as much since it seemed weak in the lower registers, but it was still a nice sound.

I look forward to hearing the rest of the clips.

thanks,
Brad
Old 15th October 2007
  #3
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Clip 2 Mics

Clip 2 Mics....
Attached Files

Clip 2 Mic 1.mp3 (1.34 MB, 33122 views)

Clip 2 Mic 2.mp3 (1.34 MB, 16519 views)

Clip 2 Mic 3.mp3 (1.34 MB, 14240 views)

Clip 2 Room.mp3 (1.34 MB, 12927 views)

Old 15th October 2007
  #4
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Clip 3 Mics

Clip 3 Mics...
Attached Files

Clip 3 Mic 1.mp3 (2.74 MB, 15056 views)

Clip 3 Mic 2.mp3 (2.74 MB, 14787 views)

Clip 3 Mic 3.mp3 (2.74 MB, 13175 views)

Clip 3 Room.mp3 (2.74 MB, 12055 views)

Old 15th October 2007
  #5
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Clip 4 Mics

Clip 4 mics....

These are the last clips.

bp
Attached Files

Clip 4 Mic 1.mp3 (1.32 MB, 14322 views)

Clip 4 Mic 2.mp3 (1.32 MB, 13716 views)

Clip 4 Mic 3.mp3 (1.32 MB, 13066 views)

Clip 4 Room.mp3 (1.32 MB, 12210 views)

Old 15th October 2007
  #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brad McGowan View Post
Bill,

Can you describe your "unique placement" a little more? I'm very curious. The clips sound great!

I like mics 1 and 2 the best in clip 1. The low end is very powerful and commanding in mic 2 but I think I like the midrange in #1 better. A combination of those two mics would probably sound awesome. I did not care for mic 3 as much since it seemed weak in the lower registers, but it was still a nice sound.
Brad

Brad - good comments. I'm not going to say much more until more people have a chance to chime in. I will say that using both mics 1 & 2 in combination wouldn't really work for me due to phase considerations. With both of mics being "inside" the piano and so close (but not perfect) and with the harmonic complexity of the piano and with sound bouncing around all over and the added complication of both mics being Fig8..... It might be possible, but I prefered using only one set of mics.

I'll try to describe the placement, but a picture is worth a thousand words, and I've already said more than a thousand. heh heh Mic sets 1 & 2 (they are as close together with ribbons lined up as best as I could get them) were - as I said earlier - "inside" the piano. The "L" mic is located towards the keys, about 10" inwards towards the middle of the piano from the hammers firing not towards the strings, but towards the L/R outside edges of the piano. Those mics were about 10" off the strings. The second set of mics, "R", were down towards the end of the piano, maybe 18-24" from the end about midway L to R and also about 10" off the strings. BUT this mic was firing towards the strings and towards the lid. It's kind of like a blumlein setup where the mics are firing 90 degrees from one another, but unlike a blumlein setup, they are three feet apart at least and turned. Hope that makes sense. If not, it will when I post a picture later.

bp
Old 15th October 2007
  #7
Jai guru deva om
 
warhead's Avatar
 

They could all "work" but a comment on your positioning: I really like mic 1 position 2 for just hearing the piano itself. There is a depth there, and I can hear the piano casing also which makes it very realistic to me. Don't know if it's the position, mic whatever...but I like that clip personally as far as a stand alone clip.

None of these clips are bad, I play piano also by the way.

Very nice.

War
Old 16th October 2007
  #8
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Thanks for the reply, Bill. I guess the pic will reveal all.

Regarding using mics 1 and 2...what I meant was use mic 1 on the higher keys and mic 2 on the low keys. I wasn't suggesting sticking two pairs of mics inside the piano.

Brad
Old 16th October 2007
  #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brad McGowan View Post
Thanks for the reply, Bill. I guess the pic will reveal all.

Regarding using mics 1 and 2...what I meant was use mic 1 on the higher keys and mic 2 on the low keys. I wasn't suggesting sticking two pairs of mics inside the piano.

Brad
Brad, the mics weren't set up so that you can do it quite like that. If you're looking at the grand piano and the player is to your L and the lid is open towards you, one mic is a bit to your L and the other to the R. It's a stereo thing, not a "upper/lower" or "L/R" thing like most people mic pianos. Like I said, the pics will reveal all.... heh
Old 16th October 2007
  #10
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Ah, okay. I'm sure it will make more sense when I see it. Thanks.

Brad
Old 16th October 2007
  #11
This must be the comparison on GS with the best music. Amazing arrangements and player! My pc speakers doesn't do him justice.
Anyway... I really loved mic1, it sounded so smooth! I almost got a feeling of lying on my back on a meadow staring up at the sky and the trees and leaves blowing in the wind a summer day(you get the picture...)
I also think mic2 were fabulous. It had a more vintage feel. The attacks were perhaps a bit more muffled(not always apparent). I guess this must be the old classic?
Didn't like the mic3 as much. Could be the placement or I just got spoiled by the two first mic sets.

It would be really cool if mic1 was the unheard of mic, retailing at a fourth of the price of the others
Old 16th October 2007
  #12
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Zepplin - thanks for the kind words... Jeff is amazing. Recording is easy with a great instrument and someone who can really play. After that, the rest just falls into place.

Here's a couple of pics of the studio and piano setup without giving any mic details away.






Cheers,

bp
Old 16th October 2007
  #13
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thumbsup Nice place.

I wish I had a C7 to replace my dumpy upright. Oh well...

Brad
Old 16th October 2007
  #14
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Thread Starter
Quote:
Originally Posted by Brad McGowan View Post
thumbsup Nice place.

I wish I had a C7 to replace my dumpy upright. Oh well...

Brad
Ha! I wish I had a C7 to replace my dumpy baby grand, which probably isn't a heck of a lot better than your upright. heh
Old 16th October 2007
  #15
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Wow this is a nice sounding Piano. Had the chance 2 years ago to record a Yamaha piano, not sure of the model but it was sweet.

I really like Mic 1, in all the clips, sound amazing to my ears on these mmm so so speakers at work.
and I must be the only one, but I like Mic 3 too.

can't wit to get home and check these out.
Old 16th October 2007
  #16
Lives for gear
Man, that piano sounds great!I'm listening through a cheap pair of Sennheiser headphones and it already sounds amazing, can't wait to listen to these clips at the studio.

Overall I like the sound of mic 1 better, it just seems to sounds a little more open, a little clearer than the other 2, the dynamics of the playing come through a bit better, the sound just seems a bit wider. If I had to pick just one I would definitely pick that one.

However, I really like the way mic 2 sounds on the calmer parts, in the second clip, it really gives an intimate vibe to that part of the piece and it fits the music.

Mic 3 sounds cool too, and I'm sure in a denser mix it would sound quite good but since this is a solo piano recording, it doesn't have enough presence for my taste. Maybe placed closer to the piano they would've sounded excellent, but like you said this is a comparison, not a scientific shootout and in this application, with this mic placement, mic3 just does not cut it.
Old 17th October 2007
  #17
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well got a chance to listen to it at home now, and MAN what a difference!!
I absolutley love mic 1, I tend to love low end alot, so maybe that's why, it just has the whole picture to me.
Mic 2 is really nice, less low end on my system, but great as well
Mic 3 sounds the thinnest, and least pleasing to my ears.

I listened on some old school tannoy 6.5
and some paradigm monitors

thanks for this drBill

can't wait for the answer
Old 17th October 2007
  #18
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mic 1 and 2 are great...cant wait to know what they are !
Old 17th October 2007
  #19
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I have a sneaky suspicion that the mics are coles, and the Apex ribbon modded?
Old 17th October 2007
  #20
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Thread Starter
Quote:
Originally Posted by Inner Light View Post
Mic 2 is really nice, less low end on my system, but great as well

thanks for this drBill

can't wait for the answer
Inner Light - thanks for playing.... heh Interesting that you thought Mic 1 had more bass. Mic 1 definately has more "warmth" in the low mids, but not really low bass stuff. My preception (and this could be because I'm listening to WAV files instead of MP3's) is that Mic 2 has substantially more depth in the low end. So much so that it's a problem in the mix and I would have to automate a HPF in and out to remove extreme lows at times. Mic 2 will make the subs rattle the room on low notes or pedal resonances vibrating that big wood floor. And you GOTTA love that! heh heh

chandlersonic - I LOVE these discussions. We all hear stuff so differently. I think that mic 1 is more intimate and mic 2 is cleaner and more precise when Jeff plays harder. How come no mic has it all!!! I wish I could have uploaded entire pieces. I think it would have given a clearer picture of the entire spectrum. Oh well, you can always get the CD. heh I'll have to work on getting a GS discount going! heh heh

I'll reveal soon. Maybe tomorrow if I don't have to fight with loans bank stuff all day. Hate that stuff.

Bill
Old 17th October 2007
  #21
Gear maniac
 

hey, thanks a lot for this! it's a great exercise for my ears.
i really liked mic 1! clear, not too muddy in the lower range (mic 2, i thought, was slightly heavier down there), but it sounds like a ribbon, in that it doesn't have too much of that hammer or string noise like you'd get using a condensor real close. very nice!
i am also eagerly awaiting the revealment of the mics.
Old 17th October 2007
  #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by drBill View Post

chandlersonic - I LOVE these discussions. We all hear stuff so differently. I think that mic 1 is more intimate and mic 2 is cleaner and more precise when Jeff plays harder. How come no mic has it all!!! I wish I could have uploaded entire pieces. I think it would have given a clearer picture of the entire spectrum. Oh well, you can always get the CD. heh I'll have to work on getting a GS discount going! heh heh

Bill
I'll have to trust you on this one as you're the only one who's heard what the piano actually sounds like!

I'm listening again on my studio monitors and I still feel that mic 2 is more intimate, in the calmer sections it just moves me a whole lot more than mic1, can't really explain it but I definitely feel it.

Anyway looking forwars to getting the results.
Old 17th October 2007
  #23
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Chandlersonic - OK. Words don't really work all that well do they? heh I understand your thoughts a bit more now - and I tend to agree. I'm going to post the results soon, but I'll tell you guys a bit more right now :

We all unanimously chose Mic 2 as the keeper. I've used Mic 1 before for previous albums for Jeff and it's been stellar as well, but Mic 2 helps me out in a couple of areas. (see below) Mic 3 was out of the loop from the very first listen.

Listening to solo piano all day just wears me out. The complex harmonics coming off the piano somehow just tax my ability to listen critically and enjoy. Mic 2 was noticeably better in this respect. The lower mids were cleaner and the transient response seemed to be more pleasing. No, it didn't have the incredible richness that Mic 1 has in spots (especially when only a few notes are played - pp or ppp), BUT it is definately more defined and clearer when Jeff plays LOUD, AND it is still very rich and warm. And he does play loud - although there's not much of that in the clips. That's my bad. Second, the lows on Mic 2 are unbelieveable. Just thunderous. Really a stunner. Also the highs are more "open". Now, that's not to say that Mic 1 is bad. It's not. Just that I prefered Mic 2 for this artist, this piano. Every mic has it's inherant positives and negatives, and like I said earlier, I'm still looking for the perfect microphone.

Another thing not to overlook is the D&R mic pre's. Excellent for this application IMO. Lots of gain, very transparent and not cloudy or "phat". Perfect for this application. I feel incredibly lucky that after looking for close to 5 years I found a cool D&R Vision Rackmountable sidecar mixer for a reasonable price. I'll try to post a pic of that as well. Cheers, bp
Old 18th October 2007
  #24
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Tell us already
Old 18th October 2007
  #25
Post

Hmmm... yummy... interesting! Anytime I see acoustic piano and ribbon mics I gotta hear em files, but oh I'm mobile right now, will get to it at the studio later (so please don't tell yet).

I'd mention that, I tend to put up lots of mics at sessions with instruments and environments I'm not too familiar with, not knowing 100% what the final sound will be considering the "new unknown factors"... Here's a pic of a remote recording of a baby grand piano where I put up 4 mics

Old 18th October 2007
  #26
slau
Guest
Hmm... yeah, Mic 2 has a huge bottom, perhaps too much bottom, in my opinion. I thought Mic 1 sounded just as good, without the boominess that would have to be rolled off anyway. I'd pick 1 based on what I'm hearing.
Old 18th October 2007
  #27
krs
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First of all let me say this is a GREAT shootout. Loving the musical content.

I like your choice! The noise floor on mic 3 is really noticeable. The lows on 2 are indeed killer, though I think the shock mount (?) didn't do the best job shielding it from some low resonances, hopefully a high pass filter will clean this up. (Without those great lows, I probably would have gone for mic 1 - the mid range is very solid).

The room mic is excellent! Looking forward to the results thumbsup


Quote:
Originally Posted by drBill View Post
We all unanimously chose Mic 2 as the keeper. I've used Mic 1 before for previous albums for Jeff and it's been stellar as well, but Mic 2 helps me out in a couple of areas. (see below) Mic 3 was out of the loop from the very first listen.

Listening to solo piano all day just wears me out. The complex harmonics coming off the piano somehow just tax my ability to listen critically and enjoy. Mic 2 was noticeably better in this respect. The lower mids were cleaner and the transient response seemed to be more pleasing. No, it didn't have the incredible richness that Mic 1 has in spots (especially when only a few notes are played - pp or ppp), BUT it is definately more defined and clearer when Jeff plays LOUD, AND it is still very rich and warm. And he does play loud - although there's not much of that in the clips. That's my bad. Second, the lows on Mic 2 are unbelieveable. Just thunderous. Really a stunner.
Old 18th October 2007
  #28
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I'm going to guess that Mic 2 was Bill's Joly-modded 205. I'm dying to know what Mic 1 is. It's super super nice to my ears.

Brad
Old 18th October 2007
  #29
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Here's a pic of the little Vision that I drug down to the studio to use for preamps. Wasn't interested in the pre's in the VR, the API's, Apogee's, or Taylors for piano. I used the Martech's on the room and this Vision for the close mics in the piano.

Old 18th October 2007
  #30
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OK. Don't read any further if you haven't had a chance to listen yet and don't want to know what's what. If you do, read on!

First off, the artist, the second and myself both chose mic 2. The reason may not be obvious if you are using monitors (or worse, headphones or computer) to listen to the clips. The monitors I use & trust - JBL LSR8P's and the studio's Augsburgers (sp?) - are both very rich and NON-scooped in the mids. Both sets of speakers revealed too much of a mid-range boxy build up on mic 1 that turned to "honkiness" on occation for my personal taste. As I've said before, mic 1 is stunningly beautiful......SOMETIMES. Usually when the playing is delicate and soft. But as soon as Jeff revved up, there was an annoying "boxy-ness or honky-ness" in the low mid to upper mid range that was not complimentary to his playing.

A cursory glance at the metalwork surrounding the mic (hint, hint) should tell you something about what it's going to sound like. In comparison, (as many of you have noted) mic 2 does not quite have the full rich flavor of mic 1. But what it does have is a deep and extended range that mic 1 can't touch. Waaaay deeper lows and a gentle more open top. More desireable? To me, yes. To the artist, yes. To you??? Perhaps not.

Which is best? I dunno. Toss a coin. If I was forced to use either, I'd be absolutely happy. If I use Mic 1, I'm going to have to start carving in the mids - something I don't like to do on Piano. If I use mic 2, I'm going to have to automate a HPF to take out some of the pedal resonances. A PITA, but I can deal with it. If I had to use mic 3.....well....I'm not going there.

So......mic 2 it is. At least for me. For those of you that chose mic 1, I completely understand your reasons. You made a great choice. If you'd been at the sessions or had been using the monitors I was using with a rich full midrange, you may have chosen differently, but it's all good. We all hear things a little different, and I'm pretty sure we'd all agree that either makes a fine recording.

So without further ado...(too late!! too late!! heh heh)


Behind door #3





MICROPHONE #3
Easily the 3rd place out of 3 in everyone's mind.
A pair of AEA R92's going thru Apogee Mini Me Pre's
$1650 for a pair
AEA R92
(In defense of these mics, I believe they were designed to have LESS bottom and warmth so that they can get right up on top of loud sources without the proximity effect overwhelming the sound. At least that's what I've heard.) Still...not my choice.





Behind door #2




MICROPHONE #1
The runner up - 2nd place out of the 3 (In my mind)
A pair of Coles 4038's going thru D&R Vision Pre's
$2,700 for a pair
Coles 4038





Behind door #1....woohoooo!!




MICROPHONE #2
The Winner (at least IMO)
A pair of M. Joly modded Apex 205's w/ premium mods, Lundhal transformers & Shockmounts going thru D&R Vision Pre's
$680.84 for a pair
(minus $90 w/o shockmounts)
APEX 205 Mods (Oktavamod.com)
Apex 205


So there you have it! Glad you guys liked the recordings. If you're at all interested in hearing the final product (should be done in a couple weeks) or checking our Jeff's other recordings....

Jeff's Site

Thanks for everyone's comments! It's been fun.


bp
----
Mindseye
home sweet home.....



PS - I'll post pics of the micing technique we were discussing earlier Brad. As soon as I can. bp

PPS - more about D&R. A great company.
Home of the Vision, OrionX, Cinemix & other great consoles






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