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Considering Mic Upgrades For Orchestral
Old 14th May 2018
  #1
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Considering Mic Upgrades For Orchestral

Hey, all. I've been doing a fair amount of orchestral and choir recording the past couple years. I've been getting decent results using combinations of my KM140's or CM-3's as mains, UMT70s's as wide outriggers and 460B's for soloist or small group spots. Clients are all happy and they keep hiring me back—but I wouldn't be on Gearslutz if I didn't have at least a touch of GAS, right?

So I'm looking for a way to possibly blow a whole season's worth of gigs on a couple of new mains. For about $2400 I could get a pair of MKH8040's, and for another grand could go with a pair of Schoeps Mk4's (much more if Collette extensions are added in).

My question is for those who have experience with both my current mics and the contenders. Considering these are medium-level performers and the gigs don't pay that well, will I hear enough improvement from either of the new options compared with my old standbys to feel it was worth the dough?

A very subjective question, I know, but opinions are what I seek.
Old 14th May 2018
  #2
It appears to me you have plenty of directional mics. If it were me, I'd think about a pair of omnis...MK2 with CMC6 Linear preamps or 4006TLII.
You could do worse than a pair of KM183. They sell for $600 as factory seconds or $800 new.
As always, YMMV.
-mark

Last edited by mpdonahue; 14th May 2018 at 11:02 PM..
Old 14th May 2018
  #3
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lukedamrosch's Avatar
 

My opinion should probably be counted somewhere on the order of 0.0001% as authoritative as Mark's but I agree that it seems like you are missing omnis in your palette.
Old 14th May 2018
  #4
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whether it's akg, cm, shure or dpa, neumann, schoeps or pearl, sanken, sennheiser - i'd recommend to go for a variety of mics/manufacturers and get whatever you like and can afford.
i've been using less expensive mics along with very expensive mics for years both live and in the studio and i always find places/situations where the less expensive ones give me something i cannot get from the more expensive ones and vice versa (while i got some frustrating results by using large setups of mics from just one manufacturer).
not much love for omnis here but for some ldc's (with switchable patterns) to go along with mostly directional (to various extent) sdc's...

Last edited by deedeeyeah; 15th May 2018 at 01:49 AM.. Reason: typo
Old 14th May 2018
  #5
What Mark said. Get some real omnis.
Old 15th May 2018
  #6
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Hey, thanks for the recommendations, guys. But...the Gefells are already very good omnis. I also have omni capsules for the 460B's (great as piano spots) as well as an OM-1 to which I'll add a second in the near future. So while none of these are 'specialty classical recording' omnis, I feel pretty well covered.

In my work it's the main pair of cardioids that always carry the vast majority of the load in the ensemble mix, hence my focus on upgrading there.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #7
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Okay, so it's back to this again...

This summer I will (almost) certainly add a pair of mics, and it's come down to either the MKH 8040's or a CMC 64's. So the question of the moment is, in the experience of those who have used both, is there enough of a quality difference between the Sennheisers and the Schoeps to justify the extra cost? From what I've gathered here and elsewhere, the 8040's will give me more balance, greater reach and a better bottom end than I've been getting from either my KM140's or the CM-3's. But the silky quality often ascribed to the Schoeps sounds very attractive, not to mention their modularity.

Just to reiterate about the omnis, I actually have been pleased with my current options, and am hesitant to spend big bucks on pure omnis given their limited usefulness in more mainstream recording projects. And if I got the Schoeps and at some point got really desperate for some killer omnis, MK2 capsules would only be one expensive click away.

Any advice or opinions appreciated.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #8
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Sean - I have owned and used mkh40s and mkh20s, DPA 4006s and 4011s, Neumann km140s, 184s, 183s, 130s, Schoeps cmc62s, mk4s, mk21s, plus varieties of gefells, akg, AT, line audio, royers, AEAs, etc etc. for me, personally, I prefer the Schoeps cmc64s as mains. However, the best engineer that I personally know, Ben Maas, likes the mkh8040s as mains. I am a bit surprised you are not getting good results from your km140s - if I did not have the Schoeps, I would be using 140s or km-a with kk84. IMHO, with any of the senns, Schoeps, DPA’s or neumanns in this range, it is really the room and the performance that matter way more than mics...
Maybe after the COVID thing eases a bit, you and I could meet for a beer and talk some shop...
I am going stir crazy around here with no projects.
Take care.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #9
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Sean, what are your thoughts on why you are not getting what you want out of your KM140s? As Mr. Norman says, they are top-tier cardioids. Why do you think some other cardioid would suit you better? Not that each of those mics mentioned doesn't add some something to the sound; no two brands sound alike. And lord knows, we can all use more mics in out locker.

But do you tend to do your recordings in the same venue? Could there be a problem in the room not being friendly to cardioids? Pair position, height, distance from the ensemble, etc? I would suggest trying some new mics out to see if you can narrow down your area of dis-satisfaction before you drop big dollars. And perhaps, consider your mains setup. XY or ORTF, or some other? And maybe trying a main pair of good omnis (pretty much all I use for mains these days. Well, BC, before COVID). I am very partial to DPA 4006s of some sort, and have a new pair of Josephson C617, yet un-used, darn it!

Anyway, just thoughts on your OP.

D.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #10
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Doug - new c617s and no projects! Like being all dressed up and nowhere to go - we feel your pain, brother...

OT comment - I know we are all seeing the many artists recording themselves at home, and the collaborations of several people playing at home and being remotely mixed. I, for one, regularly cringe at such pedestrian production values, and cannot wait to get back into some real acoustically appropriate spaces...
Old 2 weeks ago
  #11
Quote:
Originally Posted by seanmccoy View Post
Okay, so it's back to this again...

This summer I will (almost) certainly add a pair of mics, and it's come down to either the MKH 8040's or a CMC 64's. So the question of the moment is, in the experience of those who have used both, is there enough of a quality difference between the Sennheisers and the Schoeps to justify the extra cost? From what I've gathered here and elsewhere, the 8040's will give me more balance, greater reach and a better bottom end than I've been getting from either my KM140's or the CM-3's. But the silky quality often ascribed to the Schoeps sounds very attractive, not to mention their modularity.
I own both MKH 8040's and CMC 64's (both A-list mics IMO), but I think you just summarized most of what I would have told you about them! It's primarily an aesthetic question whether you want the sound to be "vivid" or "beautiful". But, having said that, it also depends a lot on the acoustics of the hall. Mark can probably be more precise because he works in a wider variety of halls than I do, but my impression is that the Sennheisers can cut through a bit of sonic "clutter" if aimed well, but don't tolerate a boomy hall; the Schoeps will sound vague before they sound bad; and my DPA 4011's require that the hall be nearly perfect, in which case they're amazing.

The other consideration is what you plan to add in the future. The premium paid for Schoeps is the cost of buying into a system that you can expand simply by buying more capsules. Although the MKH 80xx are technically interchangeable capsules, they are active capsules and they cost nearly as much as buying the complete mic.

David L. Rick
Seventh String Recording
Old 2 weeks ago
  #12
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Thanks for all the info, everybody! I've used every configuration from KM140's ORTF to CM-3's NOS, with the Gefells as omni outriggers, to Boojum/JNorman and "Faulkner II" with the OM1's, and honestly have not been unhappy with any of them (except the time I put the KM140's directly over an open harpsichord to record a chamber orchestra ). I record in a variety of halls and rooms, none perfect, none horrible, everything from full symphony orchestras to large choirs to classical duos. At best most of these groups can be considered semi-professional.

But because I have no "high-end" experience working with great ensembles in great halls with unlimited mic selections and time to experiment, and, much as I try, I can't stop wanting to up my game, I can only rely on industry norms and preferences when considering new options. The KM140's are great mics, and I'm blown away at the quality of the Line Audio mics for their price. I'll never let any of those go. But over about 10 years of surveying and conversing with pro engineers, Schoeps and Sennheiser (and DPA) are mentioned far more often as go-to main mics. And when I watch videos of high-dollar concert recordings, I see Schoeps up front more often than not. Hence the reason I've narrowed it down to those as the likely best additions to improve my sound.

Sorry for the long-windedness. (Is that a word?)
Old 2 weeks ago
  #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jnorman View Post
Maybe after the COVID thing eases a bit, you and I could meet for a beer and talk some shop...
I am going stir crazy around here with no projects.
Take care.
For sure. I was bummed that I couldn't meet with you when I was in Salem last November. Life will resume, at some point, and I'll get back up north.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #14
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Bruce Watson's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by jnorman View Post
IMHO, with any of the senns, Schoeps, DPA’s or neumanns in this range, it is really the room and the performance that matter way more than mics...
What JNorman said.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bruce Watson View Post
What JNorman said.
True, but even a bad performance in a bad room sounds better with the right mics.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #16
One or two quick comments from the cheap seats.
You can take this for what it's worth, but we have 8 x MK4s, 14 x MK5s and 2 x MKH8040s. The 8040 leaves the mic cabinet about once a year.

I again will make the suggestion that you try a real omni. The UMT70 is a multi pattern ( 2 cards back to back) and the OM1 is an off the shelf fet cartridge capsule. A KM183, MK5,MK2 or 2S, 4006 or Josepheson 617set will make a marked difference in the sound (Much greater than a different cardoid mic.)
I will say that I've used a cardioid as a main mic maybe 3 times in the last 20 years. I have used a pair of MK21s on occasion, but for specific circumstances.
As always, YMMV.
-mark
Old 2 weeks ago
  #17
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All good info, thanks. And with that mic locker, I'd hardly call it coming from the cheap seats.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #18
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Bruce Watson's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by seanmccoy View Post
True, but even a bad performance in a bad room sounds better with the right mics.
Depends on your definition of "right mics" I guess. Because sometimes the right mics might be "worse" mics. Ask yourself this: do you really want a more accurate and revealing recording of something that sounds bad? There's a reason why there aren't many high end recordings of the recitals of the local second grade class made at the local school gym.

The number one priority is the acoustic space. In general the improvements going from a mediocre room to a good room dwarf the improvements in going from mediocre mics to good mics. Indeed, you can generally make more improvements in the sound quality of the recording by better mic *placement* than you can by having better mics.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #19
The MK5 Schoeps is probably the best investment, considering the needs specified by the OP. Great cardioid or omni, a true Swiss Army knife of a mic. A bit more than a pair of MK4 but well worth the investment.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bruce Watson View Post
Depends on your definition of "right mics" I guess. Because sometimes the right mics might be "worse" mics. Ask yourself this: do you really want a more accurate and revealing recording of something that sounds bad? There's a reason why there aren't many high end recordings of the recitals of the local second grade class made at the local school gym.

The number one priority is the acoustic space. In general the improvements going from a mediocre room to a good room dwarf the improvements in going from mediocre mics to good mics. Indeed, you can generally make more improvements in the sound quality of the recording by better mic *placement* than you can by having better mics.
No doubt. But of course I have zero control over the venues, and limited options when it comes to placement. And my placement choices have been guided by sound principals and advice so I'm reasonably confident there. The only area where I have lots of say is in the mics and preamps.

Interesting idea about the advantages of accuracy. I've seen at least one comment elsewhere that the MKH 8040's might be too pristine for less-than-great musicians, and that the Schoeps are a little more on the flattering side. Just one more reason to lean that way...
Old 2 weeks ago
  #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by king2070lplaya View Post
The MK5 Schoeps is probably the best investment, considering the needs specified by the OP. Great cardioid or omni, a true Swiss Army knife of a mic. A bit more than a pair of MK4 but well worth the investment.
Yeah, definitely food for thought. Correct me if I'm wrong, but these don't suffer from any of the normal combo-pattern mic deficiencies due to their single-membrane design, correct?
Old 2 weeks ago
  #22
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Great advice so far. Watch out for omnis though, in bad rooms. If you are not in stellar large concert halls, omni mains deliver all the bad stuff from the room in spades.

What sort and size of venues are you able to work in? Are they good acoustically?
Old 2 weeks ago
  #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David Spearritt View Post
Great advice so far. Watch out for omnis though, in bad rooms. If you are not in stellar large concert halls, omni mains deliver all the bad stuff from the room in spades.

What sort and size of venues are you able to work in? Are they good acoustically?
The halls range in seating capacity from 450 to 800, and are of varying quality—none of which approach 'stellar' (I add reverb to all mixes). I also sometimes work in rehearsal spaces, band rooms, etc. While I usually do add a pair of omnis as flanks or outriggers to my main front cardioid pair, those tracks get mixed in lower in the more problematic rooms, or when ensembles are too loud for a given space and actually blow it out. Hence my hesitation to spend big bucks on a dedicated omni pair. The CMC5's do look enticing, though they'll stretch my budget even further than it's already stretched.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #24
Quote:
Originally Posted by seanmccoy View Post
Yeah, definitely food for thought. Correct me if I'm wrong, but these don't suffer from any of the normal combo-pattern mic deficiencies due to their single-membrane design, correct?
The beauty of the MK5 is that, unlike most multipattern, dual-diaphragm microphones, it generates two polar patterns with use of a physical baffle, rather than electronic matrixing, opening and closing off the rear of the microphone capsule, turning the cardioid into a true single-diaphragm omni and back again. This is what makes it such a brilliant combo!
Old 2 weeks ago
  #25
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Schoeps CMC5 is a great choice for adding two great sounding patterns in one head. If you want to try the Schoeps stuff, it's a good way do it.

D.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by king2070lplaya View Post
The beauty of the MK5 is that, unlike most multipattern, dual-diaphragm microphones, it generates two polar patterns with use of a physical baffle, rather than electronic matrixing, opening and closing off the rear of the microphone capsule, turning the cardioid into a true single-diaphragm omni and back again. This is what makes it such a brilliant combo!
Just curious, on a theoretical level...how complete a blockage to airflow or pressure differential would that baffle need to be for maximum effectiveness ? Are we talking merely a substantial resistance supplied, or a pretty airtight blockage ?

Clearly...it works, so is that via a silicone or rubber gasket, or just sliding plates overlapping ?
Old 2 weeks ago
  #27
Quote:
Originally Posted by David Spearritt View Post
Great advice so far. Watch out for omnis though, in bad rooms. If you are not in stellar large concert halls, omni mains deliver all the bad stuff from the room in spades.
I can't disagree with this more. The idea that the 4-6 dB of attenuation you get from the rear (2-3 dB from the sides) will suddenly make a bad room sound better is laughable.
"All the bad stuff" mostly comes in the early reflections from the stage and near front walls, which cardioids pick up just the same. With Omnis, you can move in a little closer, and get more of the ensemble with a more spacious sound. Also, you get a much clearer picture and better impulse response with Omnis because there is less time smear due to the closed back of the capsule. The delay of the sound through the rear ports of directional microphones causes this time smear that a real omni does not have.
There has never been a situation in the last 30 years where I've felt that an ORTF was the desired sound. Normally, I'm trying to wring out some more space from overly dead modern halls and using a cardioid only makes things worse.
I'll now don my big boy asbestos pants and take the comments off line. Flame away.
All the best,
-mark
Old 2 weeks ago
  #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by seanmccoy View Post
The halls range in seating capacity from 450 to 800, and are of varying quality—none of which approach 'stellar' (I add reverb to all mixes). I also sometimes work in rehearsal spaces, band rooms, etc. While I usually do add a pair of omnis as flanks or outriggers to my main front cardioid pair, those tracks get mixed in lower in the more problematic rooms, or when ensembles are too loud for a given space and actually blow it out. Hence my hesitation to spend big bucks on a dedicated omni pair. The CMC5's do look enticing, though they'll stretch my budget even further than it's already stretched.
If your gefell’s are your flankers-then you need a real set of omni’s for your main pair.
mk2 or 4006

Anything else is a mistake
Old 2 weeks ago
  #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mpdonahue View Post
I can't disagree with this more. The idea that the 4-6 dB of attenuation you get from the rear (2-3 dB from the sides) will suddenly make a bad room sound better is laughable.
"All the bad stuff" mostly comes in the early reflections from the stage and near front walls, which cardioids pick up just the same. With Omnis, you can move in a little closer, and get more of the ensemble with a more spacious sound. Also, you get a much clearer picture and better impulse response with Omnis because there is less time smear due to the closed back of the capsule. The delay of the sound through the rear ports of directional microphones causes this time smear that a real omni does not have.
There has never been a situation in the last 30 years where I've felt that an ORTF was the desired sound. Normally, I'm trying to wring out some more space from overly dead modern halls and using a cardioid only makes things worse.
I'll now don my big boy asbestos pants and take the comments off line. Flame away.
All the best,
-mark
Not at all, Mark. It's good to get a different perspective from someone who's been there. I'd guess that in all the reading and conversing I've done about this type of live recording, there's a slight leaning toward directional mics as main pairs, maybe 60-40 or less. So your preference isn't particularly rebellious.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by emenelton View Post
If your gefell’s are your flankers-then you need a real set of omni’s for your main pair.
mk2 or 4006

Anything else is a mistake
I've used the Gefells (UMT70s's) as wide and semi-wide flanks (in omni), as well as the OM-1's as part of a Boojum/JNorman or Faulkner II array. So it sounds like you're suggesting what King refers to as 'small ab/big ab." Is that right?
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