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Depth Renditions in Microphones, do microphones have micro-contrast?
Old 15th April 2017
  #1
Gear Nut
 

Depth Renditions in Microphones, do microphones have micro-contrast?

I would like to know if anybody has ever noticed,tested or heard something about depth and 3d sound in microphones (mono). I began thinking about this when I read some stuff about photography lenses:

When comparing recording music to photography or videography I think you can compare the sensor of the camera to the converters and the lenses to a microphone.

In the world of lenses there is such a thing as micro-contrast which means contrast between lines at a micro level resulting in a 3d and lifelike image. It is like looking at a picture in real life with 2 eyes instead of a picture with low micro-contrast which is like looking at it with one eye closed

The thing with micro-contrast is that it is usually dismissed as fairytales since it is not something measurable. Whereass sharpness and overall contrast can be measured and corrected by manufacturers.

What is going on is that allmost all of the modern lenses are super sharp and contrasty because the manufacturers put a lot of glass/plastic elements in them to correct weird colourings and curvatures.
However all these elements and corrections cause the light to enter the sensor without any dimensionality, as if you were looking at the picture with one eye.

Vintage lenses used on film camera's usually consist of 4 to 7 elements and have less corner sharpness and less overall contrast but much and much higher micro-contrast. Resulting in as they call it '3D pop'.

So I am wondering: Could this also be true for microphones?

I have a 1988 Neumann U87ai and recentrly bought a Blue Bluebird as a cheap and brighter vocal mic when the Neumann was too thick sounding.
To my ears the bluebird sounds streamlined and more high end but also flatter. Whereas the Neuamann drew me into the space it was recorded in.

Sorry to criticize Steven but all the comparisons I heard from the Slate VMS I could not easily tell the difference between the real mic and the moddled Slate mic tonewise but I couls easily pick them appart when listening for dimensions in the sound. This is easiest with a vocal of course.

Does anybody else have any experiences like this or some thoughts on the matter?
I can imagine that modern mass production of microphones and people wanting a thick bottom and airy high end for every mic can get manufacturers to aim for a perfectly balanced and modern sounding mic with a flat and lifeless sound.

Are vintage microphones sounding better than modern ones because of this, just like with vintage lenses vs modern lenses?

I guess just like in music in general where the depth and dynamics in mixes and masters slowly faded during the past decades and made room for loud, tight and big but flat sounding music.

I want to add that there are of course still lenses being made that have great micro contrast just as there is still great music being made with good depth and dynamics.

Allright let me know what you think. Curious to see if anybody shares these thoughts or thinks it is total bull****
Old 16th April 2017
  #2
Some types of microphones do pick up what you call micro-contrast IME, that 3D realness that makes the sound almost palpable.

The phenomenon is much evident when you compare something like an MD421 to a U47 tube for instance.
I know these are almost at the extreme ends of the scale, both price and tone wise but that's what I had the chance to directly compare thus can comment on.

I put them both on a heavy-rock guitar cab once, both thru a pair of Brent Averill Neve 1272.
When soloed the MD421 sounded in your face with an enhanced upper-midrange whereas the U47 sounded darker (warmer?) and with an added sense of front to back depth going on.
Together, they complemented each other very well.

Polar pattern, Diaphragm material and dimensions, electronic components, subsequent output impedance, and probably a 1000 other variables contribute to the difference.

To attribute which components contributes the most is difficult but certainly tubes and transformers play an important role.

But really you don't even need a direct comparison to hear what's going on!

Not to poo on the MD421, is a great microphone and a classic I love!
I personally wouldn't want to have the U47's 3D effect on all of my tracks. Contrast is what makes things interesting IMO.

And I bet I would choose the MD421 over the U47 if I were to track for instance guitars for an old-school, in-your-face punk-rock band.

Horses for courses I guess!

To different extents but whenever I use something like Schoeps', DPAs, and even new Neumanns I get a sense of depth so is not necessarily specific to vintage mics... although probably the vintage ones have a certain vibe to them.

Cheese
Andy

Last edited by andyisdead; 16th April 2017 at 02:49 AM.. Reason: typo
Old 16th April 2017
  #3
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IanBSC's Avatar
I can definitely hear it, and that sense of depth or "the back wall" is something I tend to look for in a mic. Preamp circuits figure into this as well, some collapsing the depth and putting everything up front, some accurate, and some exaggerating via harmonic distortion. I have noticed that my Neumann and Neumann-type mics and Schoeps seem to do the depth thing the best. DPAs/H&K aren't bad either, but Schoeps have more depth. Interestingly my Bock 251 and 507, while being excellent mics, seem to be more flat and up front.
Old 17th April 2017
  #4
Gear Nut
 

Thanks for the responses!
So the high end Neumanns and Schoeps do have depth while low end microphones don't, as to be expected.
How about modern U47fets vs vintage U47fets. New SM57 vs Old SM57 or even a good SM57 vs a pair of Schoeps?

Did you ever notice a difference in this quality with Tube vs solid state?
Do you have any experience with ribbon mics regarding this matter?

Thanks!
Old 17th April 2017
  #5
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DougS's Avatar
 

The new Chandler REDD mic has the 3D thing.
Old 17th April 2017
  #6
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I for one would welcome simply a definition - any definition - of "3D sound" in relation to mono microphones. I'm not suggesting for a moment that people who use the term are having auditory hallucinations, but I have difficulty translating this - shall we say - term-of-the-art into the more familiar lexicon of sonic description.
Old 18th April 2017
  #7
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IanBSC's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by hyper.real View Post
I for one would welcome simply a definition - any definition - of "3D sound" in relation to mono microphones. I'm not suggesting for a moment that people who use the term are having auditory hallucinations, but I have difficulty translating this - shall we say - term-of-the-art into the more familiar lexicon of sonic description.
I've noticed that "3D Sound" tends to refer to two different things:

1. Soundstage has depth of perspective, different sound sources can be heard to be at different distances (not simply amplitudes) from the microphone. The opposite is when the soundstage is Foreshortened and sound sources of different distances seem clustered together.

2. A sound seems to project itself beyond the speakers and into the room. This can be seen as augmenting the soundstage or adding dimensional presence to a sound.

Both definitions reference prominent spatial characteristics and the spatial contrast present in a sound. I suppose you could use the term "Perspective", but that doesn't encompass the second definition.
Old 18th April 2017
  #8
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by hyper.real View Post
I for one would welcome simply a definition - any definition - of "3D sound" in relation to mono microphones. I'm not suggesting for a moment that people who use the term are having auditory hallucinations, but I have difficulty translating this - shall we say - term-of-the-art into the more familiar lexicon of sonic description.
I must agree that it is something that is hard to grasp and hard to put a label on.
The same as in photography, whenever the subject emerges people get confused with resolution and sharpness and say those are all that matter.

Also with photography it can be easier to percieve the depth than with microphones somehow.
But still I do believe that a mic can sound greatly balanced and hi quality but be lifeless, and on the other hand an average vintage mic can sound a bit band passed but be life-full.

Unfortunately this could never be measured on a frequency spectrum.. that would make things a lot more easy!
Old 18th April 2017
  #9
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by IanBSC View Post
I've noticed that "3D Sound" tends to refer to two different things:

1. Soundstage has depth of perspective, different sound sources can be heard to be at different distances (not simply amplitudes) from the microphone. The opposite is when the soundstage is Foreshortened and sound sources of different distances seem clustered together.

2. A sound seems to project itself beyond the speakers and into the room. This can be seen as augmenting the soundstage or adding dimensional presence to a sound.

Both definitions reference prominent spatial characteristics and the spatial contrast present in a sound. I suppose you could use the term "Perspective", but that doesn't encompass the second definition.

This is interesting! Do you have any experience with microphones that do and don't have this? Or certain elements?
China vs Europe/VS or tube vs solid state?
Old 18th April 2017
  #10
Gear Head
 

Here are some mics for you to consider this theory upon: condenser, dynamic, and ribbon. Consider not only the 'speed' of each mic but how it portrays room information in general.

https://youtu.be/BY0s6XJ9DnY

Perhaps also see how Tony Faulkner has discussed mics as 'lenses'
Old 18th April 2017
  #11
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Plush's Avatar
Analogy is the weakest form of argument and I feel that the OP's analogy is inapt.

Usually depth is talked about in a stereo image or a multi-miked mono recording.
It is not talked about in one mono microphone.

Instead, what I think I hear in some single mics is "reach" which refers to how the mic can reach out to some distance and offer detail.

Often this is happening because the mic has a pattern that narrows as frequency increases thus becoming more hyper-cardioid. Naturally this pattern excludes the room more and puts emphasis on detail at a distance in the sound stage.

How can one compare a Senn. 421 made to be used close in to a high quality condenser mic? The dynamic mic will sound dull and the condenser will then be offering more detail.

I cannot endorse the OP's concept of "micro detail" in a mono mic, nor his analogy to a camera lense.

I think we have to talk about mic patterns, microphone type and also about sensitivity.
Old 18th April 2017
  #12
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Dr. Jule's Avatar
 

I know what you mean. There ist also a sense of "width" in mono recordings. You can hear the difference of width in different mics and pres. Usually I percieve ldcs wider than sdcs, tubes and transformers wider than cleaner electronics.
Old 18th April 2017
  #13
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IanBSC's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by The Recordingist View Post
This is interesting! Do you have any experience with microphones that do and don't have this? Or certain elements?
China vs Europe/VS or tube vs solid state?
I'd say that condensers tend to have more perspective than dynamics, and either tube or solid state can be really good. Tube mics tend to lend themselves to the latter augmented sense of space and presence, they seem more three dimensional, but a lot of this is harmonic distortion bringing out details.
Old 18th April 2017
  #14
Gear Guru
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by The Recordingist View Post
something about depth and 3d sound in microphones (mono). ..
The output of a mono microphone is by definition two-dimensional. There is amplitude and there is time. That is all there is. If you hear a "3D sound" that is absolutely and unequivocally in your mind. More two-dimensional detail may strike you as being closer to "three dimensions". It could also strike you as being "chocolate flavored".

Quote:
The thing with micro-contrast is that it is usually dismissed as fairytales since it is not something measurable...
how convenient!
I for one will remain highly suspicious of qualities that can be so easily perceived, yet somehow forever elude measurement. A more logical explanation is that some observers are interpreting something that is measurable and making up their own vocabulary for it.

Quote:
manufacturers to aim for a perfectly balanced and modern sounding mic with a flat and lifeless sound.
and by "flat and lifeless" you mean accurate and detailed? Besides, isn't that what an EQ is for?

Quote:
Are vintage microphones sounding better than modern ones because of this, just like with vintage lenses vs modern lenses?
IMO, you are making a gigantic assumption. I for one, am not willing to stipulate that vintage microphones sound "better" than modern ones. Some of them sound 'different'. Do I (and my clients) prefer a vintage microphone in many cases? Yes. Do I (and my clients) prefer a modern microphone in other cases? Yes. . Does it have anything to do with some unmeasurable "3-dimensionality" of a mono microphone? Not from here it doesn't.

IMO it is long past time that people STOP trying to use "science" to justify their preferences. There will always be other people who like different things - so what happens to the "science" part of it then?
Old 18th April 2017
  #15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Plush View Post
Analogy is the weakest form of argument and I feel that the OP's analogy is inapt.

Usually depth is talked about in a stereo image or a multi-miked mono recording.
It is not talked about in one mono microphone.

Instead, what I think I hear in some single mics is "reach" which refers to how the mic can reach out to some distance and offer detail.

Often this is happening because the mic has a pattern that narrows as frequency increases thus becoming more hyper-cardioid. Naturally this pattern excludes the room more and puts emphasis on detail at a distance in the sound stage.

How can one compare a Senn. 421 made to be used close in to a high quality condenser mic? The dynamic mic will sound dull and the condenser will then be offering more detail.

I cannot endorse the OP's concept of "micro detail" in a mono mic, nor his analogy to a camera lense.

I think we have to talk about mic patterns, microphone type and also about sensitivity.
I hear you.

I mentioned the 421 to provide the OP with a reference. I also mentioned that in this case a comparison is really not necessary to hear what's going on though.

It might not be totally appropriate to compare such a different set of microphones, I can agree. It is worth noting though that we as engineers constantly A/B stuff while working on a piece of music.

Comparison is what gives us a frame of reference to work within and it informs our decisions among other things so we cannot dismiss it.

Also, isn't it true that we learn by comparing in the first place?


That said, I like the concept of reach. It's probably the best description of the phenomenon in question.


Chips
Andy

Last edited by andyisdead; 18th April 2017 at 07:25 PM.. Reason: Typo
Old 18th April 2017
  #16
It's also totally inappropriate to use science to justify subjective experience. This is known as the "hard problem" in neuroscience.
Although many of us maybe artists here and some of us are engineers we are talking about a subjective experience of listening.
Measurable details of objective measurement of sounds are one aspect they do not correlate exactly to the experience of hearing itself ;they are not phenomenologically identical.
this is a mistake of applying third person objective measurement to first person subjective discernment and qualitative assessment.
I just kind of laugh I watch these things roll along as they happen again and again on Gearslutz.

How about this :
there are correlations cross- personal experiences of subject of qualities, these things don't have to be subjected to another form of measurement to have their existence in our experience. If you can live with this level of ambiguity welcome to being a human being.

I for one certainly enjoy the depth I hear in a say Neumann capsule. I recently replaced I'm out at Mic capsule from a Peluso to a Neumann.
My friend who had done the work blind tested me on which was which and I correctly selected Neumann.

That said blind tests or not on the average over time; we intuitively know what gear to use that's how we make selections it makes me think of Malcolm Gladwell's book blink.
intuitive intelligence of perception understands quite a bit more than we might give it credit for.
Sometimes we don't trust our perception due to the obscuring or distort of the fact of buying into our thoughts about a phenomena or perception.
So it's not really black or white and I totally know what I mean when I say mono source can I have a feeling of depth compared to another mono source – and I'm not only perfectly comfortable saying this, but rather I think we all rely on this level of intuitive discernment in Mic selection and mixing all together tracking etc.

And I want to comes to a scientific explanation I'm at a loss at doesn't mean it couldn't be one – scientists who are truly open in the sort of Carl Sagan way never dismiss any phenomenological statement immeadeatly;
rather they think about in what ways it might be possible to measure it

When I hear about scientists immediately dismissing something :
they're the kind of scientist that I don't really need to hear from

YMMV enjoy your path
Old 18th April 2017
  #17
Gear Nut
 

Thanks everyone for the responses. However I feel like some people did not understand what my original message was.
I'm not saying that one thing is better, as I know how usefull a MD421 for instance can be.
I'm asking a question about it. I'd like to know how you feel about comparing lenses with microphones and the difference in realism that lenses can bring with microphones.
I'm not saying it is true (I will now), I'm saying I was wondering about it and thought I'd ask how the community here feels about it.

So please don't act like I'm saying it is the truth, just be polite and tell me you dont think it is true. Have a conversation with me instead of stating that I'm wrong in every aspect. You may of course do whatever you like but I think it would be better to discuss the matter that way.

I do really believe that the same way a movie or a piece of recorded music can be one or two dimensional or be three dimensional, a piece of food, a glass of wine, a microphone or camera lens can be the same, even preamps as some have said here. Because there are so many variables into making something I feel like there is a way of doing it with inspiration and life and there is a way of doing it which is focused more on money and maximizing market impact. That is just my opinion though.

Another question, how do we, and even those who do not agree with the whole 3d in mono mics thing, feel about the microphone making industry? Are still a lot of good microphones being made? Also in china? Is it heading in a certain direction? Like for instance modern and hi-fi sounding with bright top ends etc. Or is it there a lot of variations and not really a trend to a certain direction?
I don't have a opinion on this, I was wondering about it when thinking about this subject and with the whole camera lens analogy.

Cheers!
Old 18th April 2017
  #18
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Plush View Post
Analogy is the weakest form of argument and I feel that the OP's analogy is inapt.

Usually depth is talked about in a stereo image or a multi-miked mono recording.
It is not talked about in one mono microphone.

Instead, what I think I hear in some single mics is "reach" which refers to how the mic can reach out to some distance and offer detail.

Often this is happening because the mic has a pattern that narrows as frequency increases thus becoming more hyper-cardioid. Naturally this pattern excludes the room more and puts emphasis on detail at a distance in the sound stage.

How can one compare a Senn. 421 made to be used close in to a high quality condenser mic? The dynamic mic will sound dull and the condenser will then be offering more detail.

I cannot endorse the OP's concept of "micro detail" in a mono mic, nor his analogy to a camera lense.

I think we have to talk about mic patterns, microphone type and also about sensitivity.
Allright I understand what you're saying. Could you give some examples of microphones that you know have this 'reach'? And also some that don't? Thanks!
Old 19th April 2017
  #19
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DougS's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by joeq View Post
The output of a mono microphone is by definition two-dimensional. There is amplitude and there is time. That is all there is. If you hear a "3D sound" that is absolutely and unequivocally in your mind. More two-dimensional detail may strike you as being closer to "three dimensions". It could also strike you as being "chocolate flavored".
These two images are both 2D (totally flat). Yet one employs a technique that tricks the mind into perceiving depth. The other was painted before the technique was invented and therefore lacks this "depth". Can you tell which is which?

image 1) Art Before Perspective


image 2) Modern Perspective Drawing


Try looking in mono - with one eye covered.

WARNING - Analogy Below - WARNING

Some mics are like image 1 and some are like image 2.
Old 19th April 2017
  #20
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Plush's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by The Recordingist View Post
Allright I understand what you're saying. Could you give some examples of microphones that you know have this 'reach'? And also some that don't? Thanks!

No, I will not do the work for you.

I refer you to a great microphone book available for download below:

https://www.neumann.com/?lang=en&id=...tions_mic_book

Just like a microphone is not like our ears, a microphone has nothing to do with a lens.

Neither is a mono microphone presenting any kind of 3D sound.
Old 19th April 2017
  #21
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The way I think about my mic's is in the following ways.

First off you have the basics: Pattern, EQ and Volume curves.

And then you get into the next layer of details: Off axis color and transient response and thickening. The thickening is typically taking the energy from the transient it can't handle fast enough and places in the EQ spectrum making that frequency range thicker.

And lastly, and think what you are getting at is the focus, throw, and closeness.
Some mics tend to bring things in for an intimate feel. Some mic's are good at rejecting all the sounds further than a few feet away (small throw like a 57). Some mic's are good as room mic's (long throw).

What I am always on the lookout for is mic's and preamps that can make sounds big and close. My fave is the Coles 4038, the louder things are, the closer they sound with that mic. Really good tube preamps also tend to have this effect.

Supercart and fig 8 patterns are the best at this. Picking up stuff 3' behind the mic really helps the big factor out and is nice for the side rejection.

Lot's of resolution and depth are created with robust transformers and Tube designs that give the mid's a buttery feel.

Good tube mic's can help dial the desired result if they have lots of pattern choices. Good FET mic's can give you very fast transients better than a tube mic. Ribbon mic's can get the most out of the mid low by preventing the high frequencies getting in to begin with. Circuits (amps) at any stage have to be dialed in at specific frequencies and input levels. outside some given range, they start to not work so well. There are many different designs. At this point I bow out and just test the mic's and preamps and know what they can do. Dave T. of Advanced Audio is the one to ask about this.
Old 19th April 2017
  #22
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bcgood's Avatar
 

Grab an AEA R88 and a pair of Grace pres and call it a day. Depth and lushness achieved. Now focus on the room and placement..
Old 19th April 2017
  #23
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Brent Hahn's Avatar
 

There have been a couple other threads lately about 3-D-ness and reach. The threads may not have started out being about those things, actually, but they wound up there. I was actually surprised that certain people would get so het up and Spock/Data literal about it, but maybe I shouldn't have been. At any rate, I know them when I hear them.
Old 19th April 2017
  #24
Gear Guru
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by DougS View Post
These two images are both 2D (totally flat). Yet one employs a technique that tricks the mind into perceiving depth. The other was painted before the technique was invented and therefore lacks this "depth".
tricking the mind into perceiving depth is not the same thing as perceiving depth. Everything is on the same plane and everything is in focus. So yeah image #2 comes closer to the illusion of 3-D. But it's not really 3-D. You can't walk over to the side and see 'behind' an object.

Quote:
Try looking in mono - with one eye covered.
I know several people who are monocular, they still utilize focus cues. They certainly don't see everything as being all in focus all at once like a painting.

Quote:
Some mics are like image 1 and some are like image 2.
I will disagree - unlike these paintings, no single mono microphone is designed to create the illusion of a 3rd dimension. They all operate on the same basic principles and moreover no two listeners will even agree that any given mic gives an illusion of 3-D. This mic is 3-D. No it isn't, that mic is 3-D.

By contrast, all viewers will agree that your image #2 is trying to present the illusion of a third dimension.


In the end, sound is not very much like vision at all and most sound/sight analogies are fanciful at best, some are just silly, and many are downright misleading. Your eardrum can either go in or it can go out. Once I grasped that all sounds combine to merely deform the outline of a waveform, it made me a better mixer.
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