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early music polyphony with vocal quintet Condenser Microphones
Old 20th November 2014
  #1
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early music polyphony with vocal quintet

I am to record a demo for a classical vocal quintet next week, in a beautiful chapel (over-acoustics) with professional early music singers.
Normally they will be singing in an arc, something semi-circular but not exactly :-)

I was thinking about a close pair of AT4050's in either something ORTF/NOS-ish and a stereo pair of OM1's further back to capture the room.
I suppose that would be a safe option.
Would M/S with the AT4050's be another option? With or without the room pair?

My initial idea would be a single pair of OM1's, but I guess there will be too much reverb in the mics, or I would have to put them too close to have sufficient text emission, but I fear mostly about localisation in this big acoustic with omnis only.

Any thoughts? Never done vocals only so far.
Other mics I have at my disposal:
2 SM81's
3 Oktava MK012's (or 2 and 1 MK102)
2 CM3's
Old 20th November 2014
  #2
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Oh, how I wish I could be there! It's heartbreaking to realize that I have all the stuff to record that very well and you are stuck with equipment mediocre for this task. I love early music singing quintets. Please ask me to come over to help you, next time you have something like this!
Old 20th November 2014
  #3
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They are good friends of mine, and as they are into music business for some time already, I informed them about the mics I have at home. I would normally hire better equipment, but at the same time it is a challenge and opportunity to get the most out of the mics I have. And they agree with this, as their budget is tight and it does not concern a commercial release. Quite fun actually :-)
Old 20th November 2014
  #4
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I've had good results in similar circumstances using a near-coincident stereo pair (Beyer MC 930s in ORTF, NOS or DIN - don't remember) with omni flanks (Shure KSM 141s). 16th century Spanish repertory. Turned out nicely. Your CM3s and OM1s would seem like a pretty fine choice to me?
Old 20th November 2014
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Early Polyphony is intended to sound very reverberant. Think Italian cathedrals. It was usually sung from some balcony at the back, so what the audience heard was very indirect.

You could set up a spaced pair of Straus packets (OM-1 + CM-3 each), have them on separate inputs of course, mix as needed.
A room pair could be the AudioTechnicas in figure-8, pointing sideways, spaced rather wide.

Actually, I think it should be done with just a pair of pressure omnis (OM-1 in your case), placed carefully.
Old 20th November 2014
  #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pkautzsch View Post
... You could set up a spaced pair of Straus packets (OM-1 + CM-3 each), have them on separate inputs of course, mix as needed...
I've never tried this array before but it sounds interesting. Would you mind elaborating a bit on your preferred uses, spacing, etc.? Thanks!
Old 20th November 2014
  #7
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Spacing and distance strongly depend on source and room, as with any main pair setup. Can't really say much without being there.
A very (!!!) rough estimate could be something like 1 ft of spacing (you don't want them to spread fully across the speakers) and maybe 6 ft distance. Might as well be 2 ft and 4ft, though.

With just an omni pair you start with getting the right distance for desired direct/reverb ratio and then adjust spacing for the desired width. With a packet, you have another ratio to balance (cardioid/omni). Makes things more controllable by mixing, but way more complicated. The better bet with that kind of ensemble usually is to adjust one main pair until it sounds good.
Old 27th January 2016
  #8
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Hi all,

My demo recording got me the CD job in two weeks :-)
I bought a matched pair of DPA 4006TLs recently, which will serve as main pair of course.
What do you suggest: closer with normal grids, or further with APEs? As spacing: dividing the ensemble (5 singers in a semi-arc) in thirds and positioning each mic on a third would be a safe starting position, no?

Should I include a pair of fig8 AT4050 room mics to be safe? And add extra cards for more clarity if desired in post? Better be safe than sorry?
Old 27th January 2016
  #9
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Congrats!
How did you finally do the demo recording?
Might be a good place to start with if they liked that.
You're asking quite a few of those "It Depends" type questions that usually can just have the answer to "Use Your Ears", or in "A or B" questions "Yes To Both", however a few thoughts may be helpful.

With a pro ensemble I'd start with a bit more distance as they tend to project well and have the right amount of consonants.
One might as well say, go closer than with amateurs because pros don't need to hide anything in a big reverb mess. See what I mean about Yes To Both?

Same goes for spacing. The "equal thirds" approach IME works with spot mics, not so much with a main omni pair which usually is spaced 50 to 100 cm. Wider spacing can work if you're after a very overwhelming spaciousness, but soon the image may fall apart and the voices appear glued to the speakers with a big reverb mess in the middle. I like that "flanking" sound for room mics, but would not rely on it as the main ingredient.
But - what most consumers listen for is not image, but music. Might well be that a very reverberant recording represents certain kinds of vocal music best.

The "better safe than sorry" thought is a good one, I think. However it might be better to be safe by having enough time to set up a great sounding main pair than to be sorry to have spent the same time setting up three ok sounding pairs to be blended into an ok sounding mix.

Does this make any sense?
Old 27th January 2016
  #10
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First: take your time to get them to a spot where they sound perfectly balanced with the harmonic content of the reverb of the space. This sort of music is all about the interaction with reverb.

Then put up your main array and pull it back until you feel there is just enough direct content.

Place a second widely spaced array (five to ten meters) on that same line or even further back. (Actually I personally would use pressure omnis for this task as you want to pick up the reverb "cloud" of the room as uncoloured as possible.) You can use this in post to go overboard with decorrelated reverb in case this may be wished for after all. You'll probably like a touch of it for extra spaciousness. Another very good method to get nicely decorrelated reverb is by placing those extra mics behind the singers, so they won't have any direct projection towards the microphones.

I would certainly avoid spots, as perfect ensemble blend is key in early polyphony.
Old 27th January 2016
  #11
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I would use the infamous boojum/jnorman array :-)
Old 27th January 2016
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jnorman View Post
I would use the infamous boojum/jnorman array :-)
Ask Boojum what he would do.
Old 27th January 2016
  #13
I would use a blumlein (or MS) main pair.
+ wide AB pair further back and I second Earcathcher's
technique of putting a wide AB behind the singers.
Old 1st February 2016
  #14
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I'm just a beginner, but with your equipment, I'd go for M/S and set one of those 4050s to fig8 and use it as a side mic. Then, I'd play around with fig8, cardioid and omni patterns for the mid and see what sounds best. That might very well give you what you need without any further trouble. I'd try the 4050s in fig8 set up as standard XY Blumlein as well. Add the spaced omnis as you see fit.

Man, the Josephson C700S would be a dream come true for that situation.

Lately, I start off with the idea that less is more.
Old 1st February 2016
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As for piggybacking a CM3 onto an OM1 for a Straus Pakt, I would say no. The Straus Pakt was a cardioid and an omni. It was originally conceived to yield what is now a wide cardioid, which is what the CM3 is already. I will go along with that wily Dutchman, so that when the group is well placed and the CM3's well placed you can set up the OM1's for the ambient sound/spaciousness of the venue. Whether you put them at the 38 - 40 cm Williams recommends or the 5 - 10 meters that Earcatcher recommends can be best determined by trying both and listening to the results. It may even be something in between. One test is worth a thousand opinions.

The beauty is that you are working with friends on a tight budget. They are going to be more inclined to work with you and allow some testing for their placement and the mic placement. Do they want a fine meal or hash? You can do it. I bet you do do it.
Old 1st February 2016
  #16
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The demo was recorded as such: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1To5bhwvqQI
They wanted a lot of clarity (more than on most recordings), not too blurry, but it had to give enough options.
One of the singers is a sound engineer in Spain, so he had his ideas next to mine.

We started with a single OM1 pair, but that was too blurry. Coming closer was not blurry enough, so I put them at c.6m, one mic at each side of the centre path and pointing sideways (so spaced around 5 à 6m). These served as ambience mics, mixed in at around -8dB if I recall correctly. Not delayed.
The main pair was a pair of NOS AT4050's. The singers were positioned in a semi-arc, the stand was placed about 1m in front and put quite high (at the place where we thought the internal balance of the ensemble was right, and the sound was not too direct).
Combining the close pair with the ambience, removing noise (they were building an extra block to the cloister. . .) and adding some treble lift for a more airy sound.
They were very happy, so am I.

The actual CD recording now will be in a space with even larger acoustics, and they still want clarity, but perhaps slightly less than they asked for in the previous sessions. So I will most certainly go for a main pair of DPA4006's, and even try only to use those. If need be, I can still set up the same NOS pair of AT4050's (or a the M/S AT4050st in this case) and add a room pair for options afterwards.
Old 1st February 2016
  #17
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Very nice! Excellent musicians, and I love Morales!

It is a bit drier than I am used to for this type of music, but I enjoyed the detail. The HF lift seemed appropriate.

The one observation I have that I hesitate to call a criticism is that the image of the semi-circle of singers doesn't seem to me to be evenly distributed, with more of the voices seeming to be clustered towards the L and R as opposed to evenly filling out the arc; the center imaging seems less defined. That's how I hear it, anyway. Of course, with rather close NOS, the L and R singers are probably singing straight into the strongest part of their respective cardioid pattern, while the singers in the middle are counting on accurate off-axis pickup for their imaging.

I will strongly consider buying the disc when this project is completed. Thanks for posting.
Old 2nd February 2016
  #18
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Lovely! Thanks for posting the result.
Old 9th April 2016
  #19
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Dear all,
the CD will be released soon, here is a little trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w45-...ature=youtu.be
After aligning all heads more or less in the same horizontal plane (see the little boxes the singers are standing on), I set up a pair of 4006's (with APE because HF dropped quite a lot in this acoustics), an AT4050st in the middle and two 4050's further back for ambience. AT's in order to have options later on for mixing, and the stereo mic proved very useful for a more clear waveform during the editing process!
In the end I only used the 4006's for the final CD sound, which is what you hear in the video, but the others still are in the image of course.
Hope you like it!
Old 9th April 2016
  #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by apotheosis View Post
In the end I only used the 4006's for the final CD sound, which is what you hear in the video...
And a fine sound it is. Nicely done.
Old 9th April 2016
  #21
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Great job! Sounds really nice!
-Mike
Old 9th April 2016
  #22
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Excellent recording, Beautiful singing. Top job.
Old 10th April 2016
  #23
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Present, clear, yet distant, reverberant.
Old 10th April 2016
  #24
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A very nice ensemble in an excellent venue with great music. Good balance between direct and reverberent sound. A simple and effective recording. I like it and would definitely put this CD in my CD-player. My only nitpick is the slightly grainy sound, which could be from anywhere in the chain: mics, preamps, conversion.
Old 22nd May 2016
  #25
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Old 27th September 2017
  #26
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Dear all,
after the succes of the ensemble's first CD, a second CD will appear in a few weeks. The quintet has worked together with a historic brass ensemble to join forces.
We recorded in a very large cathedral, and the sound had to be large as well (long reverb tail, 'deep' sound but with lots of details) as requested by the musicians.
I used a pair of M150s (and compensated slightly for the freq response in EQ) and put up four spots of M149 but did not use them after all.
What do you think?
https://www.dropbox.com/s/s3b7cgcluu...05%29.wav?dl=0
Old 27th September 2017
  #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by apotheosis View Post
What do you think?
You've got better ears than most of us and a refined sense of aesthetics. You know darned well how good that sounds. You don't need us to tell you.

How did you get the players to balance like that? I don't think I've ever heard brass and voice so well balanced. The two groups really are synergistic together. And the space is excellent and very supportive.

Bravo!
Old 27th September 2017
  #28
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Bravo Korneel! You had better be careful - your success as an engineer-producer may keep you away from the harpsichord for longer periods

The image with those M150s is lovely. Great performance + great space + great recording = great art.

Merci,
Jim
Old 28th September 2017
  #29
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Sounds very nice, reminds me of Cantus Köln somehow.
Old 28th September 2017
  #30
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Sounds awesome.

-Mike
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