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Blumlein recording, French Horn and Piano with piano spot mic
Old 1 week ago
  #1
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Thread Starter
Blumlein recording, French Horn and Piano with piano spot mic

Hi Friends,

As always I would love to hear your thoughts, comments, and especially
your constructive criticisms. I learn so much from your comments and this
forum. Thank you.


Antonio Rosetti: Concerto for Horn in E-Flat Major, 3rd mvt. excerpt

Ex. 1: B&O (Steven Sank mod) Stereo ribbon mic, Blumlein.
5 feet from edge of stage, about 6 1/2 feet above stage level.

Ex. 2: B&O with piano spot mic about 3 feet from the tail of the piano using a
Sennheiser MKH-800 twin in figure 8 mode with the horn in the null.

Spot mic is -8.5 db from mains, center pan.
No EQ or other processing, in either example.
Zen Studio preamp, 192,000 sample rate, to NUC 7i7 computer, Sequioa 13.
Conversion to mp3 in Sequoia at 44.1, 320 kBits

I recorded portions of the rehearsal for this recital in order to establish
mic placement, etc. The piano lid was on half-stick (also not a very good
instrument, in my opinion) and I felt the piano was weak in the balance
between the two instruments. I suggested they play with the piano lid up
but the performers refused. Besides, I can't stand pianos played with the
lid down. I decided to add a spot mic on the piano as it can always be used,
or not used.

Thanks,
Michael
Attached Thumbnails
Blumlein recording, French Horn and Piano with piano spot mic-1.jpg   Blumlein recording, French Horn and Piano with piano spot mic-2.jpg   Blumlein recording, French Horn and Piano with piano spot mic-3.jpg  
Attached Files

Rosetti 3, Blumlein.mp3 (2.18 MB, 698 views)

Rosetti 3, Blumlein with piano spot.mp3 (2.18 MB, 695 views)


Last edited by mken; 1 week ago at 08:59 AM.. Reason: Typo in Title
Old 1 week ago
  #2
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Doesn't need a spot imho, sounds real enough
Nothing wrong with half stick, they are self balancing remember, not you
Roger
Old 1 week ago
  #3
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I love the B&O mics but they are not very sensitive, so although the tone is nice and there's a very immersive sense of 'being there', you can hear a slightly uncomfortable level of hiss on these recordings. Oddly the hiss seems stronger in the right channel, while both instruments seem slightly weighted to the left channel.

I agree that the piano is a bit low in the first example but I do prefer it to the second -- adding the spot mic loses the pinpoint sense of position that the Blumlein array gives you.

The sound overall seems a bit distant and the stereo image is quite narrow. I'd be tempted to try to move the mic closer to the performers, especially the piano.
Old 1 week ago
  #4
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Without the spot the recording seems more focused and balanced. I prefer it and that B&O mic sounds very good, not really familiar with it.
Old 1 week ago
  #5
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Bruce Watson's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by mken View Post
As always I would love to hear your thoughts, comments, and especially your constructive criticisms.
I'm with you. I think the piano needs the spot. IOW, I think the recording with the spot has better balance between piano and horn, and definition about equal between piano and horn. Without the spot, the piano seems weak and poorly defined to my ears.

For context, I'm listening through a Grace Design headphone amp and a pair of Sennheiser HD650s.

I'm curious, what reason did the performers give for wanting half-stick?
Old 1 week ago
  #6
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Thread Starter
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rolo 46 View Post
Doesn't need a spot imho, sounds real enough
Nothing wrong with half stick, they are self balancing remember, not you
Roger
Rolo, thank you. I agree the musicians should be self balancing and it is not the engineers place. In this instance I, as a professional musician, was giving the horn player ( my brother) musical advice. I am not arguing with you, I take your comment to heart.
Old 1 week ago
  #7
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Thread Starter
Quote:
Originally Posted by Peller View Post
I love the B&O mics but they are not very sensitive, so although the tone is nice and there's a very immersive sense of 'being there', you can hear a slightly uncomfortable level of hiss on these recordings. Oddly the hiss seems stronger in the right channel, while both instruments seem slightly weighted to the left channel.

I agree that the piano is a bit low in the first example but I do prefer it to the second -- adding the spot mic loses the pinpoint sense of position that the Blumlein array gives you.

The sound overall seems a bit distant and the stereo image is quite narrow. I'd be tempted to try to move the mic closer to the performers, especially the piano.
Thanks for your comment. This was my brother's student recital and I was just trying the B&Os to see what they were like. After reading your comment about hiss I turned up the volume (my ears are old) and I do hear it. It is in the B&O mics - not present in the Sennheiser spot. I was aware that adding the spot mic changed the sense of position, making it narrower. This is the kind of feedback I was hoping for. Appreciate your thoughts.
Old 1 week ago
  #8
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Thread Starter
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bruce Watson View Post
I'm with you. I think the piano needs the spot. IOW, I think the recording with the spot has better balance between piano and horn, and definition about equal between piano and horn. Without the spot, the piano seems weak and poorly defined to my ears.

For context, I'm listening through a Grace Design headphone amp and a pair of Sennheiser HD650s.

I'm curious, what reason did the performers give for wanting half-stick?
Thanks, Bruce. As a musician, I feel the spot brings the right balance between the two instruments but it would have been better not to need it, it is my opinion the performers should have been better balanced. As I mentioned in an earlier reply I was free to bring up the question of balance because I often coach my brother, the horn player. I heard this in the reh. the night before the recital. Their reasoning to stay with half-stick was that they didn't want to change anything that late in the game. Too bad. I certainly do not claim to be an audio engineer. That is why I read this forum and value the replies. I record for the pleasure, I was a musician in the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra for 26 yrs.

I listen on Sennheiser HD-800 with Zen Studio preamp.



Michael
Old 1 week ago
  #9
The room itself doesn't have a pleasant sound, "boxy," which is likely the biggest culprit. The piano is very distant, but so is the horn and the spot mic on the piano sounds a bit out of place. More balanced in term of volume, but less in terms of presence and tonality. I prefer without. Horn is a difficult instrument to capture, a lot depends on room reflections, and with solo work, a spot mic is often necessary.

I'm a big advocate of full stick as well. It is hard to convince musicians that it doesn't really make the piano louder, just clearer and more diffuse. It also blends much better in recordings with most instruments.

Ribbon mics are nice on brass, though for a main pair, a closer placement is a good idea. Noise on interface preamps can also be trouble. A great stand-alone preamp can get you 60-70dB of clean gain, but ones built into computer interfaces tend to get noisy after 40-50dB. The problem is shared power resources.
Old 1 week ago
  #10
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Simmosonic's Avatar
 

Interesting dilemma...

To my ears the horn is too ‘big’ for the piano; not only is too loud, it is exciting more of the room’s reverberation than the piano due to the piano lid being on half-stick. So the overall effect is that they are out of perspective with each other. The horn dominates the room sound, leaving the piano sounding small and weak.

I also think the main pair are too far away, but moving closer probably won’t solve the balance issue in this case because I suspect they were out of balance in the room to begin with. Usually with chamber music and small ensembles as you move further away the balance sorts itself out but at the expense of more room sound. In this case it is already too far away and the balance is out, which suggests the internal balance is not good and, given that, Blumlein was probably not the best choice - unless you had spotters on both the piano and the horn. (I normally would put a spotter on the horn purely because it never plays out into the room, unlike the piano, and I’m going to need a bit of direct sound to work with for articulation. Alternatively, if I want to get away with no spotters I’d have a reflecting board angled to reflect the horn sound out to the audience...)

I prefer the balance with the spot, but the closeness of the spot mic to the piano means that when you bring in the spot it brings the piano closer to the listener than the horn, which is not the intention.

I think you should try time-aligning the piano spot with the main pair, and also winding back some of the top end on the spot so that it sounds more like the tonality of the piano in the main pair and is tonally in perspective with the horn. Hopefully then it won’t sound closer to the listener than the horn, and it should do the job of upping the piano level a bit. I also think the spot might’ve been a bit too loud in the mix; but that might be the ‘closeness’ fooling me.

You might also try to narrow the image a bit to bring down some of the reverberation. The image is already quite narrow due to the distance, so you don’t have much to lose...

Last edited by Simmosonic; 1 week ago at 06:47 AM..
Old 1 week ago
  #11
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Thread Starter
Quote:
Originally Posted by rumleymusic View Post
The room itself doesn't have a pleasant sound, "boxy," which is likely the biggest culprit. The piano is very distant, but so is the horn and the spot mic on the piano sounds a bit out of place. More balanced in term of volume, but less in terms of presence and tonality. I prefer without. Horn is a difficult instrument to capture, a lot depends on room reflections, and with solo work, a spot mic is often necessary.

I'm a big advocate of full stick as well. It is hard to convince musicians that it doesn't really make the piano louder, just clearer and more diffuse. It also blends much better in recordings with most instruments.

Ribbon mics are nice on brass, though for a main pair, a closer placement is a good idea. Noise on interface preamps can also be trouble. A great stand-alone preamp can get you 60-70dB of clean gain, but ones built into computer interfaces tend to get noisy after 40-50dB. The problem is shared power resources.
Daniel, thank you for your comments. You are right, the room is boxy, not one of my favorites. The Zen Studio (by Antelope) preamp is clean, my gain was at 37db out of 60db and I recorded with peaks at -10 on the vu meter. The B&O BM5 mic has a Steven Sank mod which included 2 ch. custom CloudLifter phantom power. I'm not sure what you mean by "built in computer interface". The preamp is standalone with it's own AD/DA and it's own power source. However, there is noise in the mic. My brother (the horn player) allowed me to use his recital for experimentation with mics, placement, etc. I took the opportunity to try the B&O instead of my Royers. If I were to record a "real client" I would not use it. And of course I agree with you about half-stick vs. open piano lid.
Attached Thumbnails
Blumlein recording, French Horn and Piano with piano spot mic-20171130_203726.jpg  
Old 1 week ago
  #12
Gear Head
 

Thread Starter
Quote:
Originally Posted by Simmosonic View Post
Interesting dilemma...

To my ears the horn is too ‘big’ for the piano; not only is too loud, it is exciting more of the room’s reverberation than the piano due to the piano lid being on half-stick. So the overall effect is that they are out of perspective with each other. The horn dominates the room sound, leaving the piano sounding small and weak.

I also think the main pair are too far away, but moving closer probably won’t solve the balance issue in this case because I suspect they were out of balance in the room to begin with. Usually with chamber music and small ensembles as you move further away the balance sorts itself out but at the expense of more room sound. In this case it is already too far away and the balance is out, which suggests the internal balance is not good and, given that, Blumlein was probably not the best choice - unless you had spotters on both the piano and the horn. (I normally would put a spotter on the horn purely because it never plays out into the room, unlike the piano, and I’m going to need a bit of direct sound to work with for articulation. Alternatively, if I want to get away with no spotters I’d have a reflecting board angled to reflect the horn sound out to the audience...)

I prefer the balance with the spot, but the closeness of the spot mic to the piano means that when you bring in the spot it brings the piano closer to the listener than the horn, which is not the intention.

I think you should try time-aligning the piano spot with the main pair, and also winding back some of the top end on the spot so that it sounds more like the tonality of the piano in the main pair and is tonally in perspective with the horn. Hopefully then it won’t sound closer to the listener than the horn, and it should do the job of upping the piano level a bit. I also think the spot might’ve been a bit too loud in the mix; but that might be the ‘closeness’ fooling me.

You might also try to narrow the image a bit to bring down some of the reverberation. The image is already quite narrow due to the distance, so you don’t have much to lose...
I agree with your comments about ensemble balance and to my mind you are right on.

I will try the suggestion of time aligning. I had not thought of dropping the high end on the spot. I will try that also. I also agree with the idea of bringing in the sides. I personally like things more narrow than most. When I post my examples I post them without EQ, processing, or narrowed pans because I want to receive comments about the raw recording. Thank you so much for your helpful comments.

Michael
Old 1 week ago
  #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mken View Post
The Zen Studio (by Antelope) preamp is clean, my gain was at 37db out of 60db and I recorded with peaks at -10 on the vu meter. The B&O BM5 mic has a Steven Sank mod which included 2 ch. custom CloudLifter phantom power.
Adding the CloudLifter doesn't solve the basic issue with the B&O mics, which is that the magnets are very weak (especially 50 years after they were made) and so the vibration of the ribbons within the magnetic field simply doesn't generate very much signal. Whether it's coming from the CloudLifter or an external preamp, you require so much preamp gain to amplify this signal that noise is inevitable.

I have three of these mics, two with the original ribbons and magnets, and one which has the magnets replaced with modern rare earth magnets. The modified one is vastly more sensitive and is the only one I'd think usable on a quiet source really, though it doesn't quite have the same warmth as the two originals.
Old 1 week ago
  #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Simmosonic View Post
Interesting dilemma...

To my ears the horn is too ‘big’ for the piano; not only is too loud, it is exciting more of the room’s reverberation than the piano due to the piano lid being on half-stick. So the overall effect is that they are out of perspective with each other. The horn dominates the room sound, leaving the piano sounding small and weak.

I also think the main pair are too far away, but moving closer probably won’t solve the balance issue in this case because I suspect they were out of balance in the room to begin with. Usually with chamber music and small ensembles as you move further away the balance sorts itself out but at the expense of more room sound. In this case it is already too far away and the balance is out, which suggests the internal balance is not good and, given that, Blumlein was probably not the best choice - unless you had spotters on both the piano and the horn. (I normally would put a spotter on the horn purely because it never plays out into the room, unlike the piano, and I’m going to need a bit of direct sound to work with for articulation. Alternatively, if I want to get away with no spotters I’d have a reflecting board angled to reflect the horn sound out to the audience...)

I prefer the balance with the spot, but the closeness of the spot mic to the piano means that when you bring in the spot it brings the piano closer to the listener than the horn, which is not the intention.

I think you should try time-aligning the piano spot with the main pair, and also winding back some of the top end on the spot so that it sounds more like the tonality of the piano in the main pair and is tonally in perspective with the horn. Hopefully then it won’t sound closer to the listener than the horn, and it should do the job of upping the piano level a bit. I also think the spot might’ve been a bit too loud in the mix; but that might be the ‘closeness’ fooling me.

You might also try to narrow the image a bit to bring down some of the reverberation. The image is already quite narrow due to the distance, so you don’t have much to lose...
Horns are big, that is their nature, they require space as does a piano
They do not require elaborate fixes in post ,just an honest audition and simple application
Its not pop music.
Roger
Old 1 week ago
  #15
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Simmosonic's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rolo 46 View Post
Horns are big, that is their nature, they require space as does a piano
They do not require elaborate fixes in post ,just an honest audition and simple application
Its not pop music.
Roger
Seeing as you’ve quoted my entire comment, Roger, I’m assuming your comments are directed at it.

“...elaborate fixes in post”? The OP was asking the group for opinions about a recording that has already been made so all that is left is post, and in my opinion that recording needs some fixes. They are not “elaborate fixes” by any stretch of the imagination: time-alignment and filtering/EQing of spot mics is standard procedure for many engineers. It’s not for me, I’m a mnmlst (wanna buy a vowel?) and try to get by with just two mics and tweaking the acoustic environment around the instruments, but anyway...

“It’s not pop music”? I’m not sure where you got the notion that I was approaching it as pop music - although the pedants among us would argue that it was popular music at the time it was written. (Bloody pedants!) Nothing I’ve suggested comes from a popular music aesthetic apart from fundamental notions of clarity and balance. The rest of it comes from an understanding of the dynamics of the music and the notion of ensemble.

In my opinion the stereo-only version has reasonable ensemble but lacks the balance required for the dynamics between the two instruments to sit correctly**, while the spot mic version restores the balance but loses the ensemble. So my suggestions were aimed at working with what was captured to come up with a commercially acceptable result.

(** In my experience with this type of music, the piano spends much of the time in the background as accompaniment, but there are times when it is required to come to the fore with similar ‘authority’ as the horn has in its bigger moments. That’s not happening in the stereo-only version, and I feel it’s a bit overdone in the version with the spot mic blended in. I’d have to look at the score to know for sure, but it sounds to me as if the piano in the stereo-only version should have more authority in its most powerful parts...)

Last edited by Simmosonic; 1 week ago at 12:39 PM..
Old 1 week ago
  #16
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You are over thinking the situation, time alignment and eq are sign of desperation not creativity
Perhaps moving the main array in a little might be a easier option next time
Old 1 week ago
  #17
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jimjazzdad's Avatar
I'm not in the same league as of some of you here, but I think a full-stick piano, a slightly closer blumlein pair and possibly something a tad reflective 'en arrière' of the horn would solve most of the issues rather than resorting to spots, delays, EQ and a variety of other stuff applied in post. For the next time, that is. When you have damaged goods, change the recipe to tweak in post. Which is the other side of this post. All good stuff and very educational for us remotsters. (I know, not a word, but as close as I'll ever be to 'hipster' )
Old 1 week ago
  #18
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Simmosonic's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rolo 46 View Post
You are over thinking the situation, time alignment and eq are sign of desperation not creativity
Perhaps moving the main array in a little might be a easier option next time
I’m not over-thinking the situation, but you are consistently misunderstanding it. Yes, moving the microphones might be an easier option next time, but it doesn’t help the OP with the current recording - which is the focus of the post. He can’t go back and do it again; he has to work with what was captured on the day.

You’ve ridiculed my suggestions for improving an existing recording based on what was captured on the day, but, when called out on it, you don’t have anything to offer beyond telling the OP how to do it better next time. Not helpful, Roger...
Old 1 week ago
  #19
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Thread Starter
To all who replied to my post: Thank you, very much, for your comments and suggestions. I value your replies.

My goal in this recording was to try out a microphone and to use the Blumlein configuration, which I had never done before.

What I knew: The musicians were not balanced.
What I was curious about: Would a spot mic help?

What I learned:
1) B&O mic - not very good.
2) Mic placement - not the best, need improvement.
3) Spot mic not a good idea in this case.

I am a musician, not an engineer, but I want to make great recordings.
I don't want to record with the mindset of "Okay, I'll fix it in post." I want to get right in the beginning. Now, like in music, it's time to take what I've learned and go practice!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rolo 46 View Post
Doesn't need a spot imho, sounds real enough
Nothing wrong with half stick, they are self balancing remember, not you
Roger
That was a real punch to the gut! A good thing. With great respect, Roger, thank you.
Old 1 week ago
  #20
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It's not that the B&O mic isn't good, it is, just a bit problematic for quiet sources.
Old 1 week ago
  #21
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Thread Starter
Yes, Peller. I should have been more clear. It was not good for that situation.

Michael
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