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Early Music Chamber concert recording report w/ clips Condenser Microphones
Old 31st August 2008
  #1
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Talking Early Music Chamber concert recording report w/ clips

In the course of my field testing program I rarely come across ideal circumstances of good musicians, good instruments & good accoustics.

In some of my recent posts around here & elsewhere I have been talking a lot about auditory masking & spectral balance and how this applies to 'depth'.

In reality, although most acoustic sources produce sound that well fulfils the spectral requirements for depth, it is less common to come across an acoustic which does the same thing to any commendable degree.

Last week I was recording an Early Music chamber concert as part of my field testing program in a gothic church in Eastern Poland.

On arrival at the venue it was immediately apparent that the acoustic was almost ideal in terms of spectral balance/decay.

In fact, on talking to the Monks who maintain the church, it turned out that the church was originally designed & built for music performance (though it is very unlikely that the architects had any academic notion of auditory masking).

The music itself was of the late 1600's and was performed by candle light to great effect. Also, I found it very interesting to see the players standing, which I thought gave a certain energy to the performance.

Clips from the concert here:

Ensemble
Ensemble with operatic vocal

Unfortunately I was too busy to take photos but the organiser & press were busy with their cameras so I will post photos when they arrive.

Andy
Old 31st August 2008
  #2
Gear Nut
 

Very nice indeed! heh
Please do tell your mic setup?
How was the soloist placed, center in front of the ensemble?

I would like a little more presence from the continuo-section, but maybe thats just me...

best regards - Jon
Old 31st August 2008
  #3
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Martin Kantola's Avatar
 

Good work Andy!!!

Martin
Old 31st August 2008
  #4
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Corran's Avatar
 

Andy, clips like these make me want to believe in your mics. It sounds beyond wonderful.

However at the same time I would still like to compare it to a well-placed ORTF and/or A-B pair in the same space! heh

Anyway, I am jealous of you Europeans and your cathedrals that you get to record in. I love gothic cathedrals and such and would love to record something in one one day.
Old 1st September 2008
  #5
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Sounds nice! I enjoyed listening to those singers. Thanks for posting.
Old 2nd September 2008
  #6
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Roland's Avatar
Interestingly I like the "live" nature of the sound, however it sounds quite coloured in the midrange and (considering statements that Andy has made about his recording aims/philosophy) lacking in front to back depth.

Regards


Roland
Old 2nd September 2008
  #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by summer_room View Post
Very nice indeed! heh
Please do tell your mic setup?
How was the soloist placed, center in front of the ensemble?

I would like a little more presence from the continuo-section, but maybe thats just me...

best regards - Jon
Hi Jon,

The mics were parallel pair around 4-5m high above the audience (2nd row) about 10m behind the ensemble, looking downwards at an angle of around 40degrees from horizontal.

I'm expecting pictures any day, which will say more than any description I can give.

Were this other than a concert recording I might have done things differently with regards to the stage format, but this was out of my control.

Andy
Old 2nd September 2008
  #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Martin Kantola View Post
Good work Andy!!!

Martin
Thanks Martin, did you try it on your big ribbons?

Andy
Old 2nd September 2008
  #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Corran View Post
Andy, clips like these make me want to believe in your mics. It sounds beyond wonderful.
Then it was worth an 8 hour drive across Poland each way!

Quote:
However at the same time I would still like to compare it to a well-placed ORTF and/or A-B pair in the same space! heh

Anyway, I am jealous of you Europeans and your cathedrals that you get to record in. I love gothic cathedrals and such and would love to record something in one one day.
Next time I'm there I plan to take an impulse response for convolution reverbs - I'll send you a copy.

Andy
Old 2nd September 2008
  #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Roland View Post
Interestingly I like the "live" nature of the sound, however it sounds quite coloured in the midrange and (considering statements that Andy has made about his recording aims/philosophy) lacking in front to back depth.

Regards

Roland
What you describe as the 'live nature of the sound' is the product of the unique mechanical advantage of the Model A.

I'm not sure what you perceive as 'colouration' - perhaps you describe the acoustic/reverb of the venue?

Perhaps you are just used to the distortion of the conventional direct-radiator microphone in this range, which is missing in the Model A recording?

The recording matched the source well enough that I'd be willing to bet my car on it in a blind-test with the source.

Lacking in depth?! Perhaps you would have found the reality equally lacking?

In any case, both comments make me ask what you are monitoring on?

This should sound quite believable on your large PA rig (give or take a little adjustment to suit the rig/room). If you get the chance to try it I'd be very interested to hear your impressions.

Andy
Old 2nd September 2008
  #11
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d_fu's Avatar
 

Andy,

Quote:
Originally Posted by andy_simpson View Post
Then it was worth an 8 hour drive across Poland each way!
Is Poland really that big or were the streets that bad...? heh

My first impression (on speakers and at a fairly low volume) was quite positive, except for the fact that I thought some of the voices lacked a touch of presence.

Now on headphones (Beyer) and at higher volume, I'd tend to agree with Roland, I find the sound a bit coloured. There's a certain hig-mid range that sounds muffled, but higher up, I find the sound scratchy and not too pleasant. I also don't find the room to well captured, to be honest.

I can well imagine how the recording would have sounded with different microphone setups, and what I imagine does sound beter than this, I'm afraid..

The music is luverly, though.


Daniel
Old 2nd September 2008
  #12
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Corran's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by andy_simpson View Post
Next time I'm there I plan to take an impulse response for convolution reverbs - I'll send you a copy.
Yeah I'm holding you to this. heh
Old 3rd September 2008
  #13
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mljung's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by andy_simpson View Post
Hi Jon,

The mics were parallel pair around 4-5m high above the audience (2nd row) about 10m behind the ensemble, looking downwards at an angle of around 40degrees from horizontal.
Andy
Andy just curious about the setup: how far was the parallel pair apart?

***

I have only listened on headphones [hd580], so take this into account.
The sound reminds me a little bit of an old recording. The frequency balance seems a little uneven. Lo-mids are a little dominant without giving body to the sound, and it sounds as if there's some peak in the hi-freq region. It's apparent in the string sound and it's making sibilant parts of vocal parts in clip B jump out. Is this the room?
The louder passage at the end of clip B seems a little hazy or foggy, maybe a little compressed, as if the sound is not opening up with the higher level, somehow.
This could be both the performance [no drama here] the room, and the recording system.

I will look forward to hear some music with full frequency range and big dynamic changes like Mahler's 2nd or Stavinsky's "Sacre.." recorded by your system. Can it handle this force of sound with deep lows, twinkling highs, the physical impact of large scale brass and percussion!

Mads

PS: Just found the Tchaikovsky sound-clip, but since this seem to have been recorded in less that ideal acoustics, screwing the balance of the orchestra, this cannot convince me.
It's not a good demonstration recording.

Last edited by mljung; 3rd September 2008 at 09:30 AM.. Reason: found the Tchaikovsky sound-clip
Old 3rd September 2008
  #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by d_fu View Post
Is Poland really that big or were the streets that bad...? heh
Actually both!

Quote:
My first impression (on speakers and at a fairly low volume) was quite positive, except for the fact that I thought some of the voices lacked a touch of presence.

Now on headphones (Beyer) and at higher volume, I'd tend to agree with Roland, I find the sound a bit coloured. There's a certain hig-mid range that sounds muffled, but higher up, I find the sound scratchy and not too pleasant. I also don't find the room to well captured, to be honest.
Considering the extent to which I have asserted my conviction that this would PASS A BLIND TEST WITH THE SOURCE I am somewhat at a loss as to what to make of these comments.

Were I to calibrate the microphones specifically for your speakers of choice and to suit your tastes & listening levels, no doubt the sound would be significantly different.

However, I can only really answer for these recordings according to direct comparison with the source, using properly spec'd speakers at equal listening levels.

Andy
Old 3rd September 2008
  #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mljung View Post
Andy just curious about the setup: how far was the parallel pair apart?

***

I have only listened on headphones [hd580], so take this into account.
A significant caveat.

Quote:
The sound reminds me a little bit of an old recording. The frequency balance seems a little uneven. Lo-mids are a little dominant without giving body to the sound, and it sounds as if there's some peak in the hi-freq region. It's apparent in the string sound and it's making sibilant parts of vocal parts in clip B jump out. Is this the room?
The louder passage at the end of clip B seems a little hazy or foggy, maybe a little compressed, as if the sound is not opening up with the higher level, somehow.
This could be both the performance [no drama here] the room, and the recording system.

I will look forward to hear some music with full frequency range and big dynamic changes like Mahler's 2nd or Stavinsky's "Sacre.." recorded by your system. Can it handle this force of sound with deep lows, twinkling highs, the physical impact of large scale brass and percussion!

Mads

PS: Just found the Tchaikovsky sound-clip, but since this seem to have been recorded in less that ideal acoustics, screwing the balance of the orchestra, this cannot convince me.
It's not a good demonstration recording.
It sounds like you are describing the response issues of the headphones you are using?

Again, were I to calibrate the recordings to suit your headphones it would be a futile exercise at best.

I recommend the use of these speakers:

K&H 0500
Strauss SE MF1
Meyer X10

& other speakers of this class.

Andy
Old 3rd September 2008
  #16
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Corran's Avatar
 

Just a thought, Andy...

If you sent your recordings to a serious classical mastering house, would they be able to make your mix "translate" on any speakers?

I think that suggesting speakers specifically for your recordings is a little overboard. I personally find that these old Roland monitors I have access to at my place of work translate enough of this recording to be "awed" by the performance/room/recording. I don't know if they are driving it like you "want" but I'm happy with it. I think the criticisms are valid regardless of the speakers/headphones, insomuch as they can be coming from people here.

Anyway, my point is, until you can translate your recordings on any decent speaker around, I don't think it matters how good the recording is on your speakers. I don't even think it matters what the source actually sounded like, since I've been to plenty of "bad" performances and "bad" halls.
Old 3rd September 2008
  #17
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matyas's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Corran View Post
Anyway, my point is, until you can translate your recordings on any decent speaker around, I don't think it matters how good the recording is on your speakers. I don't even think it matters what the source actually sounded like, since I've been to plenty of "bad" performances and "bad" halls.
Agreed.
Old 3rd September 2008
  #18
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d_fu's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by andy_simpson View Post
Considering the extent to which I have asserted my conviction that this would PASS A BLIND TEST WITH THE SOURCE I am somewhat at a loss as to what to make of these comments.
Since it's your thread, I hope you won't mind a hijack... How would you actually conduct such a blind test comparison with the source? IMHO this is technically impossible.

Quote:
Were I to calibrate the microphones specifically for your speakers of choice and to suit your tastes & listening levels, no doubt the sound would be significantly different.
In fact, I very much doubt that, as you know... My speakers don't require music to be specifically calibrated to sound good..
And good recordings should not require specific speakers or levels to sound good IMHO. And while I haven't got K&H or Strauss speakers, I believe that what I've got is "properly spec'd" (whatever that means) and good/linear enough to determine a recording's basic charactersistics.

The sound is more pleasant on speakers, but last night's impression on headphones remains up to a point. Unfortunately, my Beyer DT880 Pro headphones are being serviced at the moment, I don't have them here.


Daniel
Old 3rd September 2008
  #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by matyas View Post
Agreed.
The idea of 'translation' is a nonsense, especially in this context.

At this level we are looking for 'perfect' sound but we are basing our subjective judgements on the speakers we use, via the equal loudness of our assessment.

Between the many speakers used for monitoring by the people who have viewed this thread there is likely a 30dB disparity in listening levels, a 30dB disparity in frequency response and a good portion of subjective taste.

These forums are full of wildly varying subjective assessments of recordings - this thread alone is evidence enough.

We can pick holes in any mastering job in the exact same way.

If I wished to create a recording to sound IDENTICAL on ALL playback systems I would reduce the bandwidth & dynamic range to that of a telephone.

The microphone is a tool - this is how I use it.

I make my comparison with the source.

Andy

PS - if anybody is interested enough you can find the .WAV files from the recording on my server here: clip A clip B, adjust the equalisation to your ideal and post the results with details of your monitoring setup.

These microphones are remarkable flexible due to the reduced mechanical distortion and you should find it easy to adjust without any artifacts.
Old 3rd September 2008
  #20
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d_fu's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by andy_simpson View Post
We can pick holes in any mastering job in the exact same way.
Sure we can, no doubt you find things in other people's recordings that don't please your ears. But you knew that you were subjecting yourself to the risk of potentially variant opinions when you posted these clips...

Quote:
PS - if anybody is interested enough you can find the .WAV files from the recording on my server here: clip A clip B, adjust the equalisation to your ideal and post the results with details of your monitoring setup.
I could do that, but it would be beside the point. This recording's spectral characteristics is only part of why I feel a setup with different mics might have sounded better to my ears. I would have used my tools differently.

It's not at all a bad recording (which is also due to the quality of music to no small amount), I'm just not as enthusiastic about it as some others here.


Daniel
Old 3rd September 2008
  #21
Quote:
I could do that, but it would be beside the point. This recording's spectral characteristics is only part of why I feel a setup with different mics might have sounded better to my ears. I would have used my tools differently.

It's not at all a bad recording (which is also due to the quality of music to no small amount), I'm just not as enthusiastic about it as some others here.
I am somewhat on the same page. The clips sound very good. There is a startling level of detail. Though the sound is lacking in a certain presence. I don't know if this has to do with the microphones or the position of the mics (which i suspect it was in the case of the rather muted orchestral Tchaikovsky) or even the source.

An audio comparison with other common classical recording mics (Schoeps/DPA/Josephson) on the same source would be very helpful.
Old 3rd September 2008
  #22
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mljung's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by andy_simpson View Post
A significant caveat.



It sounds like you are describing the response issues of the headphones you are using?

Again, were I to calibrate the recordings to suit your headphones it would be a futile exercise at best.

I recommend the use of these speakers:

K&H 0500
Strauss SE MF1
Meyer X10

& other speakers of this class.

Andy
I will check it on speakers soon and report back.
Old 3rd September 2008
  #23
What's that sound at :48 on the sample without vocals?

Not that it ruins everything... I just can't figure out what it is.
Old 4th September 2008
  #24
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mljung's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by mljung View Post
I will check it on speakers soon and report back.
After listening on my speakers [Genelec 8050A trough Benchmark DAC-1] at a somewhat natural level, I have to say that it sounds much better than it did on my Sennheiser headphones [most of all because I used the build in computer soundcard]. After downloading the original wav-files, it's easier to get a real impression of what it sounds like.

The early music recording is in many ways a fine recording. But having said that, some of my impression remains about the sound.
The spectral balance is still a little strange, but it's of course difficult to say why. Is it the room or the recording.
There's still some lo-mid haze that clouds some of the sound, which I don't like. But this could - I guess - also be a question of microphone placement.

I don't know the pattern of your mics, but what I can say is that the stereo perspective is not as solid as I would like in a recording. Different elements floats a bit around and some jumps out at you.

So if I should be convinced that your microphone system has something special to offer, that other systems do not, I need solid perspective and depth, which is such an important part of a stereo-recording.To me it sounds like A-B stereo with directional mics [and maybe this is exactly what it is] placed less than ideal [there's quite a huge amount of some parts that's out of phase, also].
Some of the Mercury Living Pressence recordings has a bit of the same issues.

Anyhow this may just be a question of finding the right array for your microphones.

To be able to make comparisons between your system and other microphones I agree with Daniel [and others] that we need to have an alternative set of microphones recording the same music in the same venue to be able to judge that. Preferably made by someone who has full experience using these alternate mikes.
Still your microphones seems so far to have something special to offer and it's always a good thing when people takes new directions and try to redefine well-known technology - thumbs up for this.

This ends my thoughts about this - at this moment.

Mads


Old 4th September 2008
  #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rumleymusic View Post
I am somewhat on the same page. The clips sound very good. There is a startling level of detail. Though the sound is lacking in a certain presence. I don't know if this has to do with the microphones or the position of the mics (which i suspect it was in the case of the rather muted orchestral Tchaikovsky) or even the source.
If we consider the mechanical system from microphone to speaker we can see that the mechanical performance at either end is critical to performance.

From what you describe I would assume that you are listening on a direct-radiator system, which is critically over-damped.
Mechanical damping such as ferro-fluid is often used to 'flatten' frequency response issues but comes at the cost of dynamics.

On the other hand, from what Daniel describes, I would assume that he is listening on a direct-radiator system which is critically under-damped.
Mechanical instability is often 'applied' in order to achieve greater perception of dynamics/detail or even frequency response.

In the case of those who found these recordings to be 'good', I would assume that the listeners are using systems of 'ideal' mechanical damping, whether direct-radiator or not.

Those listening on non direct-radiator systems usually find the sound to be uniquely life-like - which is the ideal mechanical system (including the ear).

Quote:
An audio comparison with other common classical recording mics (Schoeps/DPA/Josephson) on the same source would be very helpful.
If you send me a pair of whichever mics are of interest I will be very happy to make such a comparison to your specifications & return the mics.

Andy
Old 4th September 2008
  #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NorseHorse View Post
What's that sound at :48 on the sample without vocals?

Not that it ruins everything... I just can't figure out what it is.
Given that this was a concert recording with an audience of over 250 people we can expect a few interesting noises!

I'm not sure what you refer to at :48 but I would imagine that it is something supplied either by the audience or the enthusiasm of the players. You may notice an enthusiastic foot-tapper (1st violin I think), among other things.

Andy
Old 4th September 2008
  #27
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d_fu's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by andy_simpson View Post
From what you describe I would assume that you are listening on a direct-radiator system, which is critically over-damped.
(...)
On the other hand, from what Daniel describes, I would assume that he is listening on a direct-radiator system which is critically under-damped.
(...)
In the case of those who found these recordings to be 'good', I would assume that the listeners are using systems of 'ideal' mechanical damping, whether direct-radiator or not.
Andy, this is absurd, and rather annoying in fact... Blaming the fact that people dare to consider your recordings less-than-perfect on the simple presumption that their speakers are not up to par is quite silly... tutt
But I guess you'll tell me I just haven't realised the truth yet...

What I personally consider worthy of improvement in this particular recording has very little, if anything, to do with "dynamics", and not much with the frequency response, either. Apart from that, the impression also exists (even more so) on my Beyer headphones.

I'm ye to hear a recording made with your mics that I really find convincing (some of which is related to certain sub-standard musical examples, but that's not all it is). It's quite easy for you to blame it on my speakers, but why do these sound so good with plenty of other material? You won't have heard of them, they are from a small german manufacturer called AOS.

But never mind my speakers, I'm convinced I would notice and mention the same points with any speakers, even K&H and Strauss.

As for the mics, if it were an established fact that recordings made with these mics only sound good on vertain (types of) speakers and at certain volumes, then I'd never ever want to use them... I would definitely not consider such a microphone to be a good microphone.

BTW, how would you conduct such a blind-test comparison with source? Do you really think that's possible?

Daniel
Old 4th September 2008
  #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by d_fu View Post
But never mind my speakers, I'm convinced I would notice and mention the same points with any speakers, even K&H and Strauss.
I'm surprised that you would say this with such conviction.

Quote:
BTW, how would you conduct such a blind-test comparison with source? Do you really think that's possible?
The easiest method is to arrange a pair of speakers either side of the source, calibrate recording/playback equipment for closest resemblence, make a number of brief recordings, bring in the subjects, arrange for a randomly selected 'play list' and alternate between reproduction & real performance according to the list, asking the blindfolded listener(s) to judge each brief performance as real/false.

This way we are not testing for identical reproduction - this is not a possible test - but we are testing for whether the reproduction is distinguishable from the real source.

Generally this kind of test is very instructive and the result can usually be predicted long before the actual blind test - the setup phase itself is highly educational.

Of course the many variables involved can be manipulated to bias the test to some extent.

For example, if we place the listening subject at a distance of 1 mile, it's likely that we bias the test in favour of success, or in the opposite direction, the longer the test goes on, the more practiced the subjects become and the more valuable the results.

Andy
Old 4th September 2008
  #29
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loranoyd's Avatar
 

Having already established in a previous thread that my reproducing equipment is faulty and that my own recordings lack dynamics, I'll go ahead and jump into this pool anyway. There is much to like about these excerpts: instrumental (and vocal) timbres, overall balance and blend, nice sense of the performance space, spirited performance, etc. Andy's description of the recording position immediately came to mind while listening to the files, that is, since he said he recorded the group from behind and up, the resulting sound is "backwards" compared to conventional performances. Basso continuo is on the left channel (well, the cellos and bass are. The organ is "everywhere."), as are the bass and tenor soloists in Clip B. The violins and the soprano and alto soloists are on the right channel. I would bet money that, from the audience perspective, high voices and violins were on the left; cellos/bass and low voices were on the right. Flipping the channels in software seemed to resolve a lot of the "floating" issues for me that others were complaining about. However, swapping left and right seemed to make the recording a tad dull overall. I don't know why that would be.

As to the artifacts that some people were mentioning, I wonder if they were instrument noises. I'm a semi-professional violist, and the non-music sounds seemed to me more akin to those noises that all too frequently come off string instruments. Was this a period performance, and did the ensemble use period instruments (or reproductions) and performance practices? "Historically informed" performances, as many of us know, often result in more "noise" coming off the instruments. If so, I would be the first to say that I am not bothered by such extraneous sounds, but I could see employing microphones or a recording technique that would, perhaps, minimize these sounds. For whatever that's worth...

Regards,

Lloyd
Old 4th September 2008
  #30
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Oops.

Andy, I believe this can turn nasty for all the wrong reasons.

I understand that you really believe in your microphones. The rest of us has never used them. And we all tend to take marketing with quite a bit of salt, and, well, you do the selling so how can we tell really.

There is in my mind actually a real risk that what you write will turn potential customers away. Just think a second, assuming that your microphones will only make recordings that sound good on very good speakers. But the rest of the world uses headphones (as witnessed by one of the reviewers) so clearly these microphones are totally worthless except for a very small group of people. Let us not end up there.

Please go on and convince us with fantastic recordings, but accept that not everyone will love them. This goes for any product, after all this is gearslutz and for every product one person loves over everything there is at least ten persons hating it.

Gunnar
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