The No.1 Website for Pro Audio
 Search This Thread  Search This Forum  Search Reviews  Search Gear Database  Search Gear for sale  Search Gearslutz Go Advanced
Dynamic mics for recording violin? Condenser Microphones
Old 18th July 2014
Here for the gear

Dynamic mics for recording violin?

Hello all:

A recording engineer just recently told me that certain dynamic microphones can "really make a violin sing." He mentioned the Sennheiser MD441 and MD421-- I have never heard anyone say something like this, condensers and ribbons always get the recommendations.

Are there dynamic mics out there that would be good alternatives for recording classical solo violin, string quartets, or piano chamber music? What would be some sound characteristics of the better moving coil mics, perhaps a darker, more round sound? Any specific recommendations? I'm curious, were dynamic mics ever used to produce recent classical chamber music recordings?

Old 18th July 2014
Lives for gear
spambot_2's Avatar
Originally Posted by Porkroast View Post
Are there dynamic mics out there that would be good alternatives for recording classical solo violin, string quartets, or piano chamber music?
Any good dynamic mic will produce a good recording.
Said that, in my opinion and for that application, a good ribbon mic will produce a better recording.
Originally Posted by Porkroast View Post
What would be some sound characteristics of the better moving coil mics, perhaps a darker, more round sound?
Yep, darker.
Also less sensible and with a lower slew rate.
The lower slew rate thing will likely reduce definition a bit.
Originally Posted by Porkroast View Post
Any specific recommendations?
A cole 4038, a schoeps MK2H/MK4 from a longer distance, or a Joly modded Apex 205 if you're on the cheap.

That's just me though.
Originally Posted by Porkroast View Post
I'm curious, were dynamic mics ever used to produce recent classical chamber music recordings?
I heard some 421s were used on Mark Records' albums on horns.

Not anymore than that.
Old 20th July 2014
Lives for gear

421s are insanely excellent mics.

Dont get hung up on dynamic and condenser and ribbon...

They all do the same thing, just in different ways at that gives them a different characteristic but who can say which characteristic is better.

It's a wide spread misconception of the last 10-15 years, especially more recent years since home recording has become so easily attained that condenser = better. Better = better.

There are some vocalists that sound great through a condenser mic and others who you throw a 58 in front of them and it's amazing.

Try a bet is you get a ton more body out of the violin and plenty of definition. Condensers can often be overly sensitive to stringed instruments with all the finger or fret noise and/or the bowing...often over loading those highs for a bit of a brisk bitty sound.

Condensers are also great, but I bet you will be pleasantly surprised at how organic a violin would sound through a 421.
Old 20th July 2014
I love and prefer dynamic (and ribbon) mics over condensers. The 441 is killer on most things. A Blue Woodpecker would be my recommendation for solo violin. It has an extended top end that is flattering.
Old 20th July 2014
A lot depends on what you're trying to achieve. If you're attempting to capture the sound of a fine classical violinist playing a fine instrument in a good hall accurately, a high-end condenser mic like a Schoeps CMC 62 or 64 or a Sennheiser MKH 8020 or 8040 will capture that with the most accuracy.

If you're trying to "shape" the sound and produce something which changes the recorded track sound to something that you or the performer perceive to sound better or different from what the original performance sounded like, then anything goes. By all means try a dynamic like a MD441.

Generally, most classically trained string players have a very well defined sound, and without exception, all the classical string players I've ever recorded want "their" sound to be captured without any "shaping" or "coloring" applied by a lowly engineer.

A string player performing bluegrass or pop music or an inexperienced player performing on a less than great instrument, may be open to having a mic change, and possibly "improve" their sound. IMHO, good players on good instruments don't want anything in the recording chain that will affect the color that they work so hard to produce. Any mic affects the captured harmonic structure of a string instrument. A fine SDC that's extremely flat, extremely fast and has the lowest possible harmonic and IM distortion affects it the least, and is by definition, the most accurate.

A dynamic with it's typical resonances, peaks and slow transient response will certainly affect the sound more, as will a typical "classic" ribbon with its gradually rolled-off high-end. If that's what you're after, fine. However it's never going to be as accurate as a fine condenser.

I've certainly been in situations where a good ribbon might be a possible choice to help remove some stridency in some player's sound, but that can often be achieved by altering mic placement (moving farther away). I know a few cellists who prefer ribbons for their recordings, but also many who want every bow sound and finger slide on the strings to be audible, and don't like the "syrupy" sound a ribbon imparts on their performance.
Old 21st July 2014
Gear Guru

I have a friend who is an amazing violinist, plays with a major New York City orchestra, a top-notch jazz player, top Nashville fiddler, first-call session player for studio work, commercials, soundtracks... credits up the wazoo in every style imaginable.

When he walks into a studio, they will break out the Neumanns or whatever but he will always ask for a 441. It's his favorite violin mic. I was a little surprised, as my first choice would usually be a condenser.

to my ear, the 441 is a very different beast from a 421. I don't see them as interchangeable at all, but I admit I've only tried the 421 on horns, toms, electric guitar - the usual 421 suspects.

I recently recorded some Irish fiddle with an AEA R84 ribbon mic. I had to add quite a bit of top end, but it sounded lovely.
Old 21st July 2014
Well, I feel like the 421 would only work out if the source that I was tracking was WAY too bright. 441 maybe. Nothing has beat a SDC hanging over the player though
Old 21st July 2014
Lives for gear

I get a kick when the 'newbie or 'lowend threads are actually higher.. then the 'high end' ones!
Great stuff!
Old 11th December 2014
Gear Maniac
valeot's Avatar
i tried today an 441 through a studer 961 preamp on violine, it was ok, but wasnt right for the track, a bit too lo-fi (in comparison to condenser) and dark sounding.
had more luck with my blue mouse through a demeter hxm-1 preamp
Old 11th December 2014
To rebut your engineer friend, the mic will never make a Violin "sing." That is, of course, up to the player, though more specifically, the player AND the room. The engineer's job is to record their sound as blissfully, if not as honestly, as possible. I just don't see that with a standard dynamic mic. An excellent ribbon, maybe. But a condenser is the right tool for the job. A stereo pair of condensers actually. I have had more than one professional string player specifically ask for Neumann mics, and that is actually for good reason. They pioneered the high end recorded string sound.
Old 11th December 2014
Gear Maniac
standup's Avatar
Seems like a 441 would be a good bet for violin.

I don't have a 441 anymore, but if I had to record a violin with a dynamic mic (non-classical music, anyway), I'd start with a Beyer m160. If I had to use something else I'd try an m201 next, though that might be too edgy. Maybe an omni dynamic (I've got Shure sm76's). Then maybe EV 468, which I've used before on violin (it's kind of a truthful mic). The 421 would be the last one in the group, but who knows, maybe it would sound great.
Post Reply

Welcome to the Gearslutz Pro Audio Community!

Registration benefits include:
  • The ability to reply to and create new discussions
  • Access to members-only giveaways & competitions
  • Interact with VIP industry experts in our guest Q&As
  • Access to members-only sub forum discussions
  • Access to members-only Chat Room
  • Get INSTANT ACCESS to the world's best private pro audio Classifieds for only USD $20/year
  • Promote your eBay auctions and listings for free
  • Remove this message!
You need an account to post a reply. Create a username and password below and an account will be created and your post entered.

Slide to join now Processing…
Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Forum Jump
Forum Jump