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Royer SF-12 and Concert Piano Recording Condenser Microphones
Old 21st November 2007
Gear interested

Thread Starter
Talking Royer SF-12 and Concert Piano Recording

I will be recording a Steinway "D" concert grand the first weekend in December. In the past I have used a Royer SF-12 placed about 1 meter above the sound board with the piano lid off. (I be using a AEA TRP preamp.) The pianist does not like the way the piano sounds with the lid off and wants it on at full stick.

I'd appreciate any suggestions as to the best placement for the SF-12 with the lid at full stick. I've got a pair of Rode NT2-A and a matched pair of Rode NT5 mics available as a distance second option....but maybe they are a better bet given the situation with the lid.

Thanks for your thoughts.
Old 21st November 2007
Lives for gear

Try it 3m out from the bay, elevated and aimed so that the mic bisects the horizontal plane of the soundboard and the lid. You can get a great sound of a grand with the SF12, provided you have it in the right spot. Like so:
Old 21st November 2007
Died for gear
Goliath|Audio's Avatar

You may want to look into the Earthworks Piano mic. Its is expensive, but HOLY BA**S! I heard the demo a few weeks ago and I really want one. I don't even record piano.
Old 21st November 2007
Lives for gear

For classical music, mics that close to a piano will never sound good, they can't, due to being too in the near field of the soundboard.
Old 21st November 2007
Lives for gear

Yes, for classical music, a good instrument in a good sounding room, time to move away from the intstrument at least two meters, probably more. The time honored solution is a pair of omni microphones -- a pair of Neumann KM183-s pointed straight up is rather affordable and quite good. Other omnis of course, but the goto solution is probably small diameter true pressure omnis (not the lower priced switchable mics anyway). Earthworks perhaps, but as taste differs, many has other mics as first choices. Personally I like the DPA4003-s, not everyone does.

You could try the SF12 in the same position, but I would expect a bit too accurate stereo positioning and a bit lack of bass register. Omnis are much better in that respect. If you use the SF12 in MS you could slightly narrow the stereo field if that suits your taste better.

For pop and rock, of course the sound ideal is totally different. Then you would want to get much closer, perhaps totally inside the piano with the lid off. A pair of good quality large diameter mics might be a choice then, I have heard good results from Microtech Gefell 930 in that position.

So in the end it all depends what you want to achieve and what equipment you have. The rest is only placing/listening/moving until you get exactly what you want.

Old 22nd November 2007
Gear addict
mrsteaks's Avatar

I have used my SF-12 with my TRP to record concert grand pianos. It doesn't work well by itself for that instrument. You do need a pair of SDC's (your choice according to taste, yours and the performers) to use with it. I've used it with SDC's in nice rooms usually placed fairly close (5 to 6 feet), angled almost parallel to the plane of the lid, placed somewhere (it depends on the room and instrument) in the bend of the piano. Exact height and placement depends, once again, on the room, piano and performer. I use a pair of omni SDC's, A B spacing (your spacing may vary) placed eight to twelve feet from the instrument and anywhere from eye level to fifteen feet up. As everyone else has suggested, move them around to taste!

I say the SF-12 doesn't work well by itself because it can be too point source and it is a pressure gradient mic, and the bottom octave will be lacking. This from experience! "Trust your ears, Luke"
Old 22nd November 2007
Lives for gear
hughesmr's Avatar
Yup, good sound can be had from a myriad of different types of mics and patterns. The one thing you don't want to sacrifice on a grand is low end, though. For me in a good room, it's a well-placed 60-90cm spaced pair of MK2S and I'm done with it thumbsup.
Old 22nd November 2007
Lives for gear

I have an SF-24 here that I use on piano on a regular basis.... I don't often do solo piano with it as I'm more of a spaced omnis kind of guy when it comes to solo piano. However, for piano concerto performances I use it all the time- especially in Mid-Side.

The mic can tame even the worst pianos and a M-S spot on a soloist allows for a great control of width of a soloist.

If I were to use it for a solo piano recording, I'd probably use it in Blumlein as opposed to M-S and I'd probably start with it about 4-6 feet out and at about 8 feet high. Then I'd move to taste depending on the instrument, room and repertoire.

Old 22nd November 2007
Lives for gear
sonare's Avatar
Ben was spot on with the repertoire comment. I have used the SF12 as the main mic on early classical stuff (Scarlatti, Bach, Mozart etc), but from mid-Beethoven on I prefer 1m spaced omnis (usually 4003) for the very reason that the imaging is not so precise.

I will put the "mains" 2 or 3m out (bisecting the lid/body angle as David suggested) and another pair out (usually Schoeps MK2S) about 6m and 3-4m high. In a really great room you can add another pair further out. Plush did this with a superb recording done in Carnegie Hall.

You cannot be in a great hurry with piano, but if you don't have time to tweak it is hard to go wrong with 1m spaced omnis 2-3m out.

Old 22nd November 2007
Gear addict
mrsteaks's Avatar

Right on the Money

Ben and Rich - right on the money! I've gotten good results using my MK2S with the SF-12, too. Pretty similar distances and heights all around, too.

Now, I do use the SF-12, alone, on student auditions. It does a remarkable job. I also used it alone on a piano/vocal duet in a small room. Quite a nice recording!

I have yet to use it M/S, as Ben suggests. Moving that to the top of the list, though!

Last edited by mrsteaks; 22nd November 2007 at 06:49 AM.. Reason: More...
Old 23rd November 2007
Gear interested

Thread Starter
Thanks for the advice

I really appreciate your advice and having the benefit of your experience. For the sound I'm looking for, it seems that leaving the piano lid at full stick and backing off with the mike is the technique to use. Thanks again!
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