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Advice wanted: Best place to upgrade a low-end recital setup, best mics for the money
Old 24th March 2010
  #1
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chibichazoo's Avatar
 

Red face Advice wanted: Best place to upgrade a low-end recital setup, best mics for the money

Hi everyone: first time, long time.

90% of my business is recording student recitals. The gear I bought to do so has long since paid off and I'm ready to drop some money on some serious equipment. I'll state up-front that I've only been in the business about 3 years, and am currently in a Masters program. I haven't heard a lot of gear, but I like to think I have sound technique.

I only own two mics worth mentioning at the moment (a pair of AT 4040), and my pres are an Allen & Heath ZED-14 mixer, or an Apogee Duet. I had been recording on a Sony PCM-D50 before, but am now recording direct into Logic through the Duet.

So, I need many things. Omnis, preamp, and a better ORTF pair are first on my list. Is it necessary to have an M-S setup in my arsenal? I was initially considering a pair of AKG C 414-XLS, but reading through the threads, there are so many mic options that I haven't heard personally that I can't help but ask: what's the most mic for my money? I tend to record vocal recitals, more women than men.

Besides the obvious, I'm trying to make my main pair small-diaphragm since some teachers complain that large-diaphragm mics are visually distracting. (I can hear the eye rolls from here, but keeping them happy gets me more gigs.)

Things on my radar so far:

Preamp: DAV BG-1 ($650). If I need 4 channels, I might also look at upgrading my mixer to a Mackie Onyx 1220i ($700).

ORTF pair: AKG C 414-XLS ($2200) or Neumann KM 184 ($1700) or Schoeps CMC6-MK4 ($3600) or Charter Oak M900 ($929)
Omni pair: Schoeps ($1550 for capsules) or AKG 414 or Charter Oak M900 or Earthworks QTC 40 ($2150)
M-S: Sennheiser MKH30 + MKH40 ($2450)

I have a Duet for conversion and am satisfied with that. Have ProCo cables right now. Would need new stands to do M-S or spaced omni. Don't currently have a gigging rack or power conditioning. Max budget is about $5k.

Thanks in advance!
Old 24th March 2010
  #2
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pkautzsch's Avatar
 

I'd say go for the 184s for ORTF. Due to their HF lift you can place them a little farther out than you'd normally place cardioids - that can help in glueing ensembles together. And they are quite forgiving as to placement.
They are NOT great if placed closer than about 4 ft. (preferring Schoeps in that kind of setup - but Schoeps are quite honest and will sound quite bad if placement is a little bit off).

For omnis, why not use the Neumann 183?

You could use both a 184 or a 183 for M in MS, and add just a single fig-8 or variable-pattern mic for S. Neumann KM120 would come to mind if you go the Neumann route.
Old 24th March 2010
  #3
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Plush's Avatar
I try to save recordists 5-10 years of flopping around looking for the perfect recording set-up for their work. You have received some good suggestions and I would only add some alternative commentary.

The source (microphone) is the most important part of your rig by far. The mic preamp is also important but let's concentrate on the mic first.

I am recommending the MBHO (Haun) range of microphones because of their very high quality, their choice of offering mics with transformers or without and their supreme quality mic capsules which are offered in an interchangeable system approach.

The USA distributor for MBHO is in Brooklyn which should be helpful to you.
I use the mic body with the transformer and the omni and cardioid capsules.
These mics are super high quality and are reasonably priced. Brauner, Soundfield and other custom shop microphone designers specify Haun capsules in their mics for a reason.

I have soured on the current range of AKG 414 family because the newer teflon capsule does not capture detail and offers a vague sound not connected to and not rendering the actual performed sound.

Mic amp suggestion is naturally the d.a.v. electronics Broadhurst Gardens No.1 which is the best mic amp available for your purpose.

Brooklyn contact is Mr. Marcus Demuth
[email protected]

and MBHO web site is:
MBHO GmbH Mikrofonbau Haun - handmade microphones
Old 24th March 2010
  #4
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Corran's Avatar
 

You are talking some serious cash, so personally I say go all the way - get two pairs of Schoeps CMC6 bodies, a pair of MK4 caps and MK2 omni caps (MK2S if you like the frequency rise), and one MK8. This gives you four top-tier mics and you can do pretty much any stereo miking technique, but most importantly ORTF, AB, and MS.

If you watch and wait for a good deal, you could get these for under $6000. I recently got a sick deal on a pair of MK2 caps for $800. You just need to be patient.

Now that might not leave you much room for preamps. If you need, I'd get just one pair of CMC6 bodies until you can afford another.
Old 24th March 2010
  #5
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If you're going to buy outboard mic amps, then why not use the ZED 14's line inputs and converters? If you're doing main pair only, spend your money on mics and mic amps and go. I'd look hard at Plush's recommendations... I was not hip to this board when I started my collection... although pairs of Gefell M296, Sennheiser MKH8040 and DPA 4061, and a DAV BG8, all bought on recommendations from folks who use them regularly, are proving very useable and are serving me well.

Immediately: I'd do a DAV BG2, with a pair of MKH8040 and a pair of MKH8020 (or a pair of DPA 4060/61, for half the money) through the line inputs of the ZED 14. If you want to track all four main channels, sell the ZED 14 and buy a Mackie 1220i... same setup, but you get up to 14 tracks out through FireWire. Should be right in the $5-$6K range.

My best advice: Listen to folks who record similar events; listen to the mics and mic amps they recommend, preferably "shoot out" style on applicable source material; and buy once.

YM, of course, MV.

HB
Old 24th March 2010
  #6
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avebr's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Plush View Post
I am recommending the MBHO (Haun) range of microphones because of their very high quality, their choice of offering mics with transformers or without and their supreme quality mic capsules which are offered in an interchangeable system approach.

The USA distributor for MBHO is in Brooklyn which should be helpful to you.
I use the mic body with the transformer and the omni and cardioid capsules.
These mics are super high quality and are reasonably priced. Brauner, Soundfield and other custom shop microphone designers specify Haun capsules in their mics for a reason.
MBHO is a great mic maker!

The interchangeable capsule system is very good with lots of options.

I really like the KA 100 LK (linear omni) and KA 200 N (cardioid). My latest addition was the KA 800 A (fig 8). Loved the 200+800 for MS! Very small and discreet! I have four mic bodies of MBP 604 N (the newer model, smaller). Curiously, this body is not listed on MBHO's site!

From Mix magazine: "The MBP 604 N features transformerless output, compact design (only three inches long) and operates on phantom power ranging from 24 to 48 volts DC."

The only "problem" I ever had (?) with these MBHOs was on a theater that had a bulky motor opening a wall - it generated a very strong electromagnetic field and a lot of interference that was caught by the MBHOs (but not by others like AKG or NEUMANN!?). My technician later explained that it was not MBHOs fault but a design option, to have the smallest/purest signal path without 'protection' (?). [this was an extreme situation, totally unusual!]

To Plush: You said you use the mic body with the transformer - is it the 603 or 648? Could you compare it to the transformerless (604)?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Plush View Post
Brooklyn contact is Mr. Marcus Demuth
[email protected]

and MBHO web site is:
MBHO GmbH Mikrofonbau Haun - handmade microphones
Mr. Demuth is very reliable, great guy!


all the best,
ave.
Old 25th March 2010
  #7
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Hornblower64's Avatar
 

I record mostly classical and jazz students, and have an Apogee duet. The best move I ever made was going to a real pro portable recorder; they are much more reliable, portable, and easier to use than a laptop. The duet is primarily for editing these days; no more fumbling with breakout cables, firewire (which is somewhat delicate,) or computer glitches. I bought a Nagra VI, but a Sound Devices 702 would be perfect for what you do. If you need four channels, then a 744T, though it would push your stated budget if you need microphones as well. The Nagra LB would be excellent, and my first choice if only two channels are needed, as I expect is the case. 95% of what I do is two channels only.

Regarding microphones, it would be hard to improve on the advice from Plush. At the low end a pair of Shure KSM141 would do nicely for $800 a pair, switchable between omni/card; the MBHO modular mentioned, not sure of the price, would be good; and even if price were no object, I think I would go for the Sennheiser MKH 8020/40, at about 2400pr. They are not really modular, so four would be needed for omni and cardioid options. I prefer them to the Schoeps and DPA offerings. Totally blows the $5k budget, though. I have Telefunken USA Ela M 260's, and they can sound great, but they are definitely more work to transport, set up, and get sounding as good as they can. For jazz I have other choices, as I do use spot mics sparingly with that genre.

I have never cared for M/S, but that might just be me. I like some L/R phase difference, gives more depth and space, so A/B and NOS are my preferred techniques. Gosh that's longer than I intended. Hope this helps.
Old 25th March 2010
  #8
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Hornblower64's Avatar
 

Some MBHO prices I've seen listed: MBP 604 N (including case and clamp), $699; and KA 200 N cardioid capsule, $369. (for one tranformerless preamp body, and one cardioid capsule, respectively)
Old 25th March 2010
  #9
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chibichazoo's Avatar
 

Thanks, everyone, for some great responses. I have to admit that I hadn't seen MBHO discussed much on here before, but I suppose it's not at the super high end of sluttiness? A modular system is quite appealing though, since I expect to be working off of 2 channels most of the time.

I want to clarify that I'm not necessarily looking for ultracompact-body mics, it's just that my current set are large-diaphragm side-address and this bugs some of my clients' voice teachers.

I've ordered a BG-1, and will try and demo some MBHO mics, it looks like the US distributor is right now the road from me (although Brooklyn, NA isn't any place I've heard of... )

Still thinking I might look and see about some Schoeps, though. It might be nice to have something I won't outgrow.
Old 30th March 2010
  #10
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+ 1 for the MBHO, the subcards are BEAUTIFUL!

I am ordering them hopefully in the coming days..
Old 30th March 2010
  #11
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chibichazoo's Avatar
 

For anyone in the US that has bought MBHO, did you work directly with the guy in Brooklyn that's listed on their webpage, or go through a distributor? I have the most recent price list which looks like it's MSRP. Will they offer you street price once you propose an order?

The prices I'm looking at are $599 for an MBP 604 N, $519 for a MBP 603, and $329 for most capsules.
Old 30th March 2010
  #12
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avebr's Avatar
 

I always deal with Mr. Demuth directly, in NY.

He ordered my matched pairs (bodies, capsules) directly from factory in Germany. When we did business (2006, 2008) his price was the lowest.

To JSheltonLogic: please give us feedback when you receive the subcards!

(with which bodies?)


all the best,
ave.
Old 10th April 2010
  #13
Gear Maniac
 

chibichazoo, I totally missed your post, but am going to chime in late anyway. For starters, I pretty much do the same thing you do - record student groups around town.

After years of experimenting I finally settled on the Benchmark Pre420, which is a 4 ch high end pre with built in pan on each channel, output to a stereo pair. It also has discrete outs, should you need them.

The Pre420 feeds an UA2192 AD/DA converter, which has been feeding a Masterlink, but now feeds a Fostex UR-2. When I get back to studio, I use a simple USB cable to dump the concert into my computer and go to work mastering and finalizing the CDs.

All this and a rackrider takes 4U, though I use a larger case to keep heat down.

The beauty of having 4 ch with pans is that you can do a basic L/R stereo miking in the hall, put a spot mic up for any soloist the group might have, and drop a 4th mic towards the read of the group, especially if it's large, and give the back section a little presence on your recording. Nice.

I actually did something really slutty and added a 2U Coleman meter unit, which makes the rack just ooze sluttiness. More importantly, it ups the CD sales, when people see it, just cause well, it looks so much more professional than someone with a little box feeding a computer. Perceptions and sex sells.

For mics, I use primarily AKG C480B's with both cardioid and omni capsules. Around here, hardly anyone knows them or uses them, so they don't have any press, but they are quite good. I got swivel mounts for them, too, before AKG's distributor jacked the price up out of sight.

The way I figure it, AKG makes a huge number of headphones and stage mics, with a decent profit margin, so over in the corner, they have a couple of gnomes who are audio purists, who make the few true high end specialty mics they offer. The 480's fall into that category.

For my spot mics, I generally use Neumann TLM193s, but I have a matched stereo pair of 414XLs which are also very good, especially in the wide cardioid setting. And just this month, I added the AT4050ST, which I will probably use as the hall mic when I have to use a high stand rather than dropping overheads.

So now you've heard from another corner. Have fun!
Old 10th April 2010
  #14
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hughesmr's Avatar
Great advice from John. The Benchmark is a top-drawer pre in every respect that unfortunately flies under most GS radars. The feature set and neurtal clean signal chain in this unit is tailor-made for location recordists who don't usually need to run lots of channels. Couple it with great mics and you can make fabulous recordings.

Having "flopped" around myself (to steal Plush's words), I'd suggest you spring for the best mics you can initially ... none of this incremental-upgrade crap that in the long run just ends up costing you time and money. Spend it NOW ... before the US slaps on a VAT!!

I haven't heard the MBHOs so can't comment there ... but I'd wholeheartedly recommend the MKH8020 and MKH8040.
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