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Comparative samples from the $30K mic test session
Old 21st March 2017
  #1
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Comparative samples from the $30K mic test session

As many of you know, member Boojum (Sandy Noyes) recently purchased one of the new Samar 373A active stereo ribbon mics. He contacted me to do some comparative testing of the Samar vs other mics in our collections. I agreed to find us a venue and some musicians and set up a time for the test session. Sandy also contacted Bwanajim (Jim Laurel) and Doug Tourtelot to see if they wanted to participate - Jim agreed to bring some mics and peripheral gear, and Doug kindly offered the use of one of his SD 788T's to sync with our units.

We completed the recording session on March 18, 2017 at my pianist's house. Debra Huddleston performed on her 7'4" Bosendorfer Imperial grand model 225, and Marah Christenson, Oregon State Solo competition winner from 2016, performed on flute. They performed two duos - Muczynski's Sonata for flute and piano, and Hypnosis by Ian Clarke - a flute solo by Ferroud, and a piano solo by Wyrten.

Mics tested included, in alphabetical order:
AEA R88 stereo ribbon (with AEA ribbon mic preamp)
AKG C426 stereo condenser mic
Royer SF12 (with AEA ribbon mic preamp)
Samar 373A active stereo ribbon mic
Schoeps CMC6 - MK2's
Schoeps CMC6 - MK4's in ORTF
Schoeps CMC6 - Mk21's in NOS
Sennheiser MKH30's in MS

All mics were routed to Jim Laurel's pair of Metric Halo ULN-8 units for preamplification and recording with a MacBook pro as control surface. The comparative samples were processed on my system, with a slight addition of room ambience, but with no further processing - no compression, no EQ. Gain matching that many mics was problematic, and if you wish to do more critical comparison of specific samples, you may want to tweak the gain matching of those samples.

I will be posting the samples for blind comparison, listed as mics 1-8. We would like to hear which mics you preferred, and which mics did not perform to your standards, as well as your guesses as to which mics are which. After processing the samples, I certainly had my own preferences, and may comment later on my listening experiences with the raw files.

You may PM me, Boojum, and/or Bwanajim if you have questions regarding the testing setup and protocols. I will post the comparative samples in the next few posts - hopefully I will not run into file size limitations...

Last edited by jnorman; 22nd March 2017 at 07:02 PM..
Old 21st March 2017
  #2
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Here are the sample clips from the Muczynski Sonata:

great - I immediately ran into file size limits... each of the clips for this song are 17.6mb, and the limit is 16mb.

perhaps Mr. Remoteness can give me an exception so I don't have to redo all these? otherwise, I can convert all the files to mp3's, which I wanted to avoid. suggestions?
Old 21st March 2017
  #3
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Here are the sample clips from Ian Clarke's Hypnosis:

oops again - all those files are 19mb.
Old 21st March 2017
  #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jnorman View Post
Here are the sample clips from the Muczynski Sonata:

great - I immediately ran into file size limits... each of the clips for this song are 17.6mb, and the limit is 16mb.

perhaps Mr. Remoteness can give me an exception so I don't have to redo all these? otherwise, I can convert all the files to mp3's, which I wanted to avoid. suggestions?
As far as I know you can upload stuff to Soundcloud and it will stream in compressed format, but you can still download the original uncompressed file.

Streaming quality definitely takes a hit, but with the option to listen to the originals this would seem to be the best of both worlds - casual listeners can listen directly to links on the Forum (Soundcloud links really nicely directly into your posts), while those in search of the WAVs can follow the link and go download them.

I started a Soundcloud account recently specifically for how well it integrates with Gearslutz posts - click and listen without even leaving the thread.

Otherwise someone with a website can easily host those files?

Or Dropbox?

Or Google Plus?

Last edited by James Lehmann; 22nd March 2017 at 04:23 PM..
Old 21st March 2017
  #5
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thanks jim - I would prefer to have the samples directly in this thread if possible. I may just post them all as mp3s and offer to let people DL the wav files from a separate location if they wish to.
Old 21st March 2017
  #6
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Great, looking forward to listen to the files.

I may be a bit slow here but what was the purpose of the 788?
Old 21st March 2017
  #7
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audiop - we were going to sync a group of 788's, until we decided to use jim's ULN-8s instead.
Old 21st March 2017
  #8
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Ok thanks!
Old 22nd March 2017
  #9
Gear Addict
 

Why not reduce the clip length to fit into the size limit?
Old 22nd March 2017
  #10
RPC
Gear Maniac
 

How about FLAC or ALC?
Old 22nd March 2017
  #11
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here are flac files:

super - flac is not an acceptable file type.
Old 22nd March 2017
  #12
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I am tired now - here are mp3 files:
Attached Files

muczynskiv2 - mic 1.mp3 (1.33 MB, 4173 views)

muczynskiv2 - mic 2.mp3 (1.33 MB, 4045 views)

muczynskiv2 - mic 3.mp3 (1.33 MB, 4008 views)

muczynskiv2 - mic 4.mp3 (1.33 MB, 4137 views)

muczynskiv2 - mic 5.mp3 (1.33 MB, 4126 views)

muczynskiv2 - mic 6.mp3 (1.33 MB, 4115 views)

muczynskiv2 - mic 7.mp3 (1.33 MB, 4077 views)

muczynskiv2 - mic 8.mp3 (1.33 MB, 4066 views)

Old 22nd March 2017
  #13
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song 2:
Attached Files

hypnosis - mic 1.mp3 (1.44 MB, 4060 views)

hypnosis - mic 2.mp3 (1.44 MB, 4013 views)

hypnosis - mic 3.mp3 (1.44 MB, 3969 views)

hypnosis - mic 4.mp3 (1.44 MB, 3954 views)

hypnosis - mic 5.mp3 (1.44 MB, 3930 views)

hypnosis - mic 6.mp3 (1.44 MB, 3925 views)

hypnosis - mic 7.mp3 (1.44 MB, 3916 views)

hypnosis - mic 8.mp3 (1.44 MB, 3863 views)

Old 22nd March 2017
  #14
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song 3
Attached Files

flute solo - ferroud - mic 1.mp3 (1.27 MB, 3821 views)

flute solo - ferroud - mic 2.mp3 (1.27 MB, 3752 views)

flute solo - ferroud - mic 3.mp3 (1.27 MB, 3726 views)

flute solo - ferroud - mic 4.mp3 (1.27 MB, 3712 views)

flute solo - ferroud - mic 5.mp3 (1.27 MB, 3693 views)

flute solo - ferroud - mic 6.mp3 (1.27 MB, 3695 views)

flute solo - ferroud - mic 7.mp3 (1.27 MB, 3657 views)

flute solo - ferroud - mic 8.mp3 (1.27 MB, 3632 views)

Old 22nd March 2017
  #15
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Thread Starter
song 4
Attached Files

piano solo - wyrten - mic 1.mp3 (705.3 KB, 3746 views)

piano solo - wyrten - mic 2.mp3 (705.3 KB, 3707 views)

piano solo - wyrten - mic 3.mp3 (705.3 KB, 3695 views)

piano solo - wyrten - mic 4.mp3 (705.3 KB, 3696 views)

piano solo - wyrten - mic 5.mp3 (705.3 KB, 3638 views)

piano solo - wyrten - mic 6.mp3 (705.3 KB, 3635 views)

piano solo - wyrten - mic 7.mp3 (705.3 KB, 3587 views)

piano solo - wyrten - mic 8.mp3 (705.3 KB, 3589 views)


Last edited by jnorman; 23rd March 2017 at 06:24 AM..
Old 22nd March 2017
  #16
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I think to zip all in one file (and all in wav) and to upload it to any common public server would be the best solution ? Listening mp3 on laptop without the option to place them elsewhere is maybe not the ideal way to compare high end mics ?
Old 22nd March 2017
  #17
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Old 22nd March 2017
  #18
Quote:
Originally Posted by jnorman View Post
https://drive.google.com/drive/mobil...13&direction=a

All the wav files should be available there. Let me know if that link works okay.
I was able to get to the google drive folder and am in the process of downloading the files.
Old 22nd March 2017
  #19
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Thanks for doing this!

Just curious - why did you add room ambience in post? I definitely get that room ambience would make these sound better if these were to be released as a record, but for the purpose of comparing microphones, listening to anything but the raw unprocessed files seems counterproductive to me.

-Mike

Last edited by celticrogues; 23rd March 2017 at 12:59 AM..
Old 23rd March 2017
  #20
Gear Addict
I'd like to add just a couple of extra notes.
  • The AEA R88 used the AEA RPQ preamp. All filters and curve shaping controls were bypassed.
  • The AKG C426 was set to Blumlein X-Y with both capsules set to figure 8
  • The Royer SF-12 used the AEA TRP preamp. High pass filter bypassed.
  • The Sennheiser MKH30 MS pair were set up using Roger's side-by-side array with the Sennheiser clip (that almost seems to have been designed for this array) in a Rycote USM shock mount
Old 23rd March 2017
  #21
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Great job putting this mic shootout together. All 8 samples sounded remarkably similar and the mics used all qualify for professional gigs.

For my ears, I picked #2 and #6 . #2 is more pleasurable to the ears but #6 is cleaner. I will buy either one. However, I did not care too much for the rest of 6 samples as they all exhibited sound quality of directional microphones which I personally don’t like very much on their own as a main pair.

Thanks for the useful work.

Da-Hong
Old 23rd March 2017
  #22
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Da-hong - thanks for your comment. Soon I will reveal which Mics are which.
Old 23rd March 2017
  #23
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Don't reveal them too quickly. With 32 total tracks it will take a bit for some people to get time to go through them.
Old 23rd March 2017
  #24
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Esl - indeed. I am hoping some people will actually try to identify the mics, and I hope to get several opinions on which mics people like or don't care for.
Old 23rd March 2017
  #25
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I think it is also interesting to be able to compare AB omnis to ORTF cards, to NOS wide cards to blumlein to MS - I had never tried MS before.
Old 23rd March 2017
  #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jnorman View Post
I think it is also interesting to be able to compare AB omnis to ORTF cards, to NOS wide cards to blumlein to MS - I had never tried MS before.
Guys... you are doing the work of the angels. I'm looking forward (greatly) to listening and comparing these samples whenever I have the (literal) bandwidth to download (in process of uploading last week's 35+GB of photos from a gig in Baltimore this week)... and the (temporal) bandwidth to actually critically listen (March/April/May are definitely hay-making time in my annual schedule. Lotsa road trips, lotsa local gigs.

I'll have to try mightily to not "look ahead" to the actual IDs when they're posted.

Again... thanks for your time, effort and wrangling of mics, mic-amps, and files. I'd buy you all favored sips if I wasn't in Tennessee (among other jurisdictions).

Jim... I've been pleased (after being surprised) with my nascent adventures with M/S over the past few months (DPA4061 or Gefell M296 over AT 4050 fig8). Looking forward to more (TLM193 mid next). Boojum and Rolo (among others) are onto a great thing...

Well done!

HB

Last edited by hbphotoav; 23rd March 2017 at 10:58 PM..
Old 23rd March 2017
  #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hbphotoav View Post
Guys... you are doing the work of the angels. I'm looking forward (greatly) to listening and comparing these samples whenever I have the (literal) bandwidth to download (in process of uploading last week's 35+GB of photos from a gig in Baltimore this week... and the (temporal) bandwidth to actually critically listen (March/April/May are definitely hay-making time in my annual schedule. Lotsa road trips, lotsa local gigs.

<snip>

Boojum and Rolo (among others) are onto a great thing...

<snip>

HB
I wish. You have that backwards. It is Rolo, others and I. Roger is the master. He is able to show what can be done with this array. He keeps raising the bar.
Old 23rd March 2017
  #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jnorman View Post
I think it is also interesting to be able to compare AB omnis to ORTF cards, to NOS wide cards to blumlein to MS - I had never tried MS before.
Yes it is. I generally prefer blumlein or MS, but will see which I prefer when I don't know which is which.

Oh, just a suggestion. You might PM the answers individually once people have posted their opinions. That way the identity could remain off the public record for quite some time. Unless that becomes too much of a time sink for you.
Old 24th March 2017
  #29
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Hi All,

Thanks to all those involved in putting this comparison together. This is why I still visit Gearslutz regularly even though I’m only remotely (pun intended) in the music field anymore.

Downloaded the .wav files and compared repeatedly back and forth. Here are my impressions and guesses.

#7 and #2 were my favorite, closely followed by #4 , #6 , and #3 in that order. #7 was the cleanest, clearest, and quietest to my ears with #2 sounding the most full and with the greatest sense of depth.

My guess:
#1 - SF12
#2 - Samar
#3 - Schoeps MK4
#4 - Schoeps MK21
#5 - AEA R88
#6 - AKG
#7 - Sennheiser
#8 - Schoeps MK2

Brian M.
Old 24th March 2017
  #30
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Let me preface my findings by saying I have no experience with gear of this quality. I am merely an inexperienced amateur recordist. So take it for what it is worth. Had I only heard one of the top five I would have no complaint. Only the bottom three have issues I would be bothered by. And perhaps not then had I not heard the others as provided here. So many thanks for providing this vicarious experience of these fine pieces of gear.

In order of preference:

Mic #3 Seemed to have the balance of distance, image size, cushion of air, and a richness that made it interesting to listen.

Mic #1 A good directness, closer sounding, but a clean sound with very nice dynamic contrast in the micro-dynamic sense.

Mic #6 Has a nice cushion of air, a touch of uptilt to me saved by the cushion of air and a slightly more distant perspective.

Mic #5 A little too distant sounding, less controlled a little too bloomy, but really not bad at all.

Mic #4 This one sounded smaller yet without spaciousness or a cushion of air. Not so much good versus the others above.

Mic #8 This was a bit sibilant, a touch bright, lacked some fine nuance in the sense of space or imaging though it still had a sound of a large space.

Mic #2 A flat one dimensional sound with a touch of hardness. The piano sounded lighter weight with an odd overly wide image.

Mic #7 Same complaints as the #8 above except it presented it all in a small sounding space, too small sounding.

I won't attempt to guess which microphone each is. I have no idea. I might have some guesses on which microphone technique is used by these, but will keep that to myself. It will be very interesting to learn which is which.

I also wonder about adding of room ambience. Seems doing it clean with no processing might have made the real differences more obvious. So maybe you could explain why you did that. Or do you think a little simple additive processing made them closer together. Also how did you add room ambience? With some other mics or how?
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