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solo lute miking recommendations
Old 25th August 2019
  #31
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This thread is reminding me of a question I remember posing a while back. Apologies in advance that it is not a mic'ing recommendation, but perhaps someone with more information (or an informed guess) will make it useful for everyone, including the OP.

One of my very favorite solo lute recordings is this one by Michael Schäffer:


It has been re-released several times, but I believe it dates from the mid-1970's shortly before his untimely death. I know the producer was Wolf Erichson, who will be familiar to many here, but I have not been able to find any information about how the recording was made in terms of microphone choice, placement, etc.

In fact, quite some time ago, Paul O'Dette was kind enough to respond with some helpful suggestions to an email I sent him directly about this recording, but sadly these did not pan out.

Again, not meaning to derail the thread, but I wonder if any folks here might be in a position to make an educated guess? Many thanks!
Old 25th August 2019
  #32
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lukedamrosch View Post
One of my very favorite solo lute recordings is this one by Michael Schäffer
Genuine and non-judgemental question: what is it that you like about this recording? I’m always interested in aesthetic things like this...
Old 25th August 2019
  #33
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Simmosonic View Post
Genuine and non-judgemental question: what is it that you like about this recording? I’m always interested in aesthetic things like this...
Sure! I am also always curious about this as well.

The first time I heard it, I remember thinking it was on the dry and close side (i.e. perhaps too much so), and especially given the time it was recorded, compared to other recordings by Bream, O'Dette, etc.

However, something about its directness has grown on me and I now treasure it and return to it often.

I should mention that fretting/fingering noises on guitar and lute recordings do not bother me very much unless truly excessive, and, for me, there is both a solid and "tactile" quality captured in this recording, combined with a lovely and harmonically rich resonance, which I admire very much. No doubt a great deal of credit is due to Mr. Schaffer's musicianship and instrument, but I believe the recording approach itself is also contributing to, or perhaps exaggerating some of these qualities.

I find it particularly satisfying that a large component of this resonance appears to come from the instrument itself... to be sure there are some fingerprints of the space as the notes decay, but the way the "voice" of the lute itself is captured here is very pleasing to my ears -- i.e. its own internal "sound-world" as a resonating body. To phrase this another way, I really appreciate the way the note decays (to my ears) are primarily heard as the strings/instrument gradually ceasing to vibrate, more so than an attack being augmented by a reverberant tail. To my ears the space exists more as a sort of "halo" around the performance, rather than a clearly discernable acoustic environment in which the performance is immersed.

Hope that is more or less intelligible?
Old 25th August 2019
  #34
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lukedamrosch View Post
However, something about its directness has grown on me and I now treasure it and return to it often.
Yes, I can understand that. Every decent sound recording has numerous things to appreciate it for, and I’m very interested in those things: what does this person like about this recording that I don’t, and why? Sometimes it provides me with a different way of appreciating it.

With recordings like this one, that are obviously very successful, I often ask myself “What would I change if I was recording this?”, then I put on my headphones and pretend I’m the engineer at the session, making engineering decisions before we start recording. This lute recording is a bit too dry and too close for my own liking and I just want to pull the microphones back a bit, but I don’t know enough about lutes or the generally accepted sound aesthetic for lute recordings. Maybe it’s taken a long time to get the set up going and we need to start rolling, maybe there’s external noises that become a problem at a further distance, maybe the artist and the producer have both given the sound they’re hearing their approval, maybe I’ve got two hours left before the end of the session or the temperature is going to change significantly and mess with the tuning, whatever. Or maybe it is precisely what I was aiming for? I really enjoy that kind of listening/thought experiment.

Quote:
Originally Posted by lukedamrosch View Post
I should mention that fretting/fingering noises on guitar and lute recordings do not bother me very much unless truly excessive, and, for me, there is both a solid and "tactile" quality captured in this recording, combined with a lovely and harmonically rich resonance, which I admire very much.
I think as engineers we tend to focus on minimising performance noises too much when most listeners don’t even notice them. As long as they are not obtrusive to the average listener, I’m not so worried about them. I’ll do what I can to avoid them, but not at the expense of an acceptable sound from the instrument itself. I don’t find them to be obtrusive in this recording. Maybe a bit stronger than I’d like, but it fits in with the general sense of distance from the instrument and makes sense. Helps to define our location with it and keeps it ‘real’.

Quote:
Originally Posted by lukedamrosch View Post
I find it particularly satisfying that a large component of this resonance appears to come from the instrument itself... to be sure there are some fingerprints of the space as the notes decay, but the way the "voice" of the lute itself is captured here is very pleasing to my ears -- i.e. its own internal "sound-world" as a resonating body.
Yes, I get the same feeling. The opposite is when you hear something that has a lovely balance of a lush room sound with the instrument, but in the process the instrument has lost any sense of its ‘body’.
Old 25th August 2019
  #35
Quote:
Originally Posted by Simmosonic View Post
As has already been mentioned, looks like a pair of MKH800s in there as well.

Also pointing out the obvious that he’s in some kind of concert hall or similar which is presumably very quiet to begin with, which is one of the factors behind getting something useful at that distance from such a quiet instrument.

But don’t get me wrong, there have been some great and informative pics on this thread, and these are some of them!
Here’s the thing. There was no secret formula to all of this. The pictures I posted were for a session with Harmonia Mundi. We put up the MKH800s along side the Schoeps. The chief engineer (I was assisting) preferred the Schoeps in this instance. As did the artist. That’s what we used. It’s always a collaboration. Lovely hall, beautiful instrument, brilliant musician; an embarrassment of riches, really.
Old 25th August 2019
  #36
Quote:
Originally Posted by Simmosonic View Post
Great pic, makes me want to listen to it!
https://francisshepherd.co.uk/wp-con...-Bernadina.mp3

Here's one of the tracks.
Old 25th August 2019
  #37
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kinda nice - but i don't like the room sound much: seems to have a unbalanced/significantly longer decay in the mids and hence pronounces some notes in a way i'm pretty sure they do not originate from the instrument itself this way.
i hence would not have chosen spaced omnis or if so, would have gone closer and certainly lower - a friend of mine (alto) was more radical in her verdict and said 'this sounds like a good room with a lute inside'...

btw: what's at center downstage, even further away and higher up? and a millennia hv3d?

although a bit metallic in the high mids, i prefer the recording as referenced in post #31 regarding its room sound.
Old 25th August 2019
  #38
Quote:
Originally Posted by deedeeyeah View Post
kinda nice - but i don't like the room sound much: seems to have a unbalanced/significantly longer decay in the mids and hence pronounces some notes in a way i'm pretty sure they do not originate from the instrument itself this way.
i hence would not have chosen spaced omnis or if so, would have gone closer and certainly lower - a friend of mine (alto) was more radical in her verdict and said 'this sounds like a good room with a lute inside'...

btw: what's at center downstage, even further away and higher up? and a millennia hv3d?

although a bit metallic in the high mids, i prefer the recording as referenced in post #31 regarding its room sound.
I'm trying to unpick your post carefully because it's not entirely clear what you're referring to in each bit - as for the Millennia - that's from Paul O'Dette's Harmonia Mundi session, not the example image or track I posted.

That said, assuming your comments about the sound refer to the example I posted, the room was a very interesting one. Very reflective, and utterly unsuitable for vocal recording (very peaky around 4.5-7KHz, just throwing the sibilance around!) and I regret not putting down a rug so I could get the mics lower to the floor without the early reflections causing even more problems.

We did experiment with placement, and this was the best we could get it. Like I said before, it's not perfect by any means. The choice of recording venue was down to availability and cost (it was local and free). There's so much I would go back and do differently, especially now I've got much upgraded equipment, and if I do any more lute recording, I'll be sure to post examples so you can hear the difference!

Last edited by tenorfran; 27th August 2019 at 09:49 PM.. Reason: grammar
Old 25th August 2019
  #39
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tenorfran View Post
I'm trying to unpick your post carefully because it's not entirely clear what you're referring to in each bit - as for the Millennia - that's from Paul O'Dette's Harmonia Mundi session, not the example image or track I posted.

That said, assuming your comments about the sound refer to the example I posted, the room was a very interesting one. Very reflective, and utterly unsuitable for vocal recording (very peaky around 4.5-7KHz, just throwing the sibilance around!) and I regret not putting down a rug so I could get the mics lower to the floor without the early reflections causing even more problems).

We did experiment with placement, and this was the best we could get it. Like I said before, it's not perfect by any means. The choice of recording venue was down to availability and cost (it was local and free). There's so much I would go back and do differently, especially now I've got much upgraded equipment, and if I do any more lute recording, I'll be sure to post examples so you can hear the difference!
thx - that helps to put things into perspective.

please note that that in no way i was trying to belittle the work you and others have achieved: these are lovely recordings! but since this is gearslutz, i think we can critique and hopefully learn a bit from each other - i'm very much with you regarding the choice/availability of a places to record in: this is a huge issue - i guess for most of us, not always, but reoccuring...

now i'm still wondering about that mic stand center downstage: yet another (unused) pair?
Old 25th August 2019
  #40
Quote:
Originally Posted by rmaier View Post
Cool. What does the little riser do?
The lute sounded a little better up there. It's been so long, I honestly can't remember how it affected the sound. We experimented with a myriad of positions on stage.
Old 25th August 2019
  #41
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lukedamrosch View Post
I find it particularly satisfying that a large component of this resonance appears to come from the instrument itself... to be sure there are some fingerprints of the space as the notes decay, but the way the "voice" of the lute itself is captured here is very pleasing to my ears -- i.e. its own internal "sound-world" as a resonating body. To phrase this another way, I really appreciate the way the note decays (to my ears) are primarily heard as the strings/instrument gradually ceasing to vibrate, more so than an attack being augmented by a reverberant tail. To my ears the space exists more as a sort of "halo" around the performance, rather than a clearly discernable acoustic environment in which the performance is immersed.
I have some conjecture to offer here - a major focus of lute performance aesthetic and technique, at least for renaissance repertoire, is to allow plucked strings to ring out naturally without muting, and you hear it employed very effectively in this recording. Perhaps a decision was made to illuminate this aspect of the performance rather than bathing the instrument in reverb.

I might be duplicating observations made in the previous thread, but this sounds to me like a relatively close spot mic scenario with spaced outriggers. This theory is bourne out by splitting the recording into MS and listening to the decay qualities of the side signal only. In general, the presence in the upper mids, particularly on string attacks, suggests the signature of a large diaphragm mic as the spot.. could even be a U87 (or an antecedent, given our likely mid-70s recording date), there's something about the dynamics and "focus" that remind me of an 87.

If you turn up the level there's quite a lot of traffic rumble to be heard in the background - so this more focused setup could have been in response to that.

Either way, I like it. Given we're nominating favorite lute recordings, I submit Christopher Wilson and Shirley Rumsey on "Early Venetian Lute Music", beautifully recorded (IMO) by John Taylor:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mb6BCkjV-fw
Old 25th August 2019
  #42
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Quote:
Originally Posted by studer58 View Post
What makes them so susceptible....and is there any mic cabling pin connection or shielding strategy (or cable type, eg Gotham ?) to fix this
I believe I read somewhere the susceptibility was related to the preamp design of the time. The ones I used were late 80's early 90's vintage. They sounded really good, but I always picked a modern U87 instead so as to not risk it during a session! Or preferably a Sennheiser
Old 26th August 2019
  #43
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Quote:
Originally Posted by metalsquirrel View Post
could even be a U87 (or an antecedent, given our likely mid-70s recording date), there's something about the dynamics and "focus" that remind me of an 87.
Yes, I get the same impression. My ears said “U87” within the first few notes. I was assuming a stereo pair of U87s but I think the room sounded different/better than that combo; your suggestion makes more sense from a conjecture/speculation point of view. Possibly a stereo-pair-with-spotter recording made to two tracks through a portable mixer. I don’t know if that was how it was recorded, but if a lute player approached me with that recording and said, “Can you make me a recording that sounds like this?” that’s probably the approach I’d be taking. A spot mic approach would certainly allow the ‘halo’ effect that Luka mentions with the reverberation.
Old 26th August 2019
  #44
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I'll have some samples from the weekend's recording to post here very soon...spot pair plus ambience pair... not to mention diverse room distractions: aircraft overhead, children playing next door, audience shuffles, player breathing...the whole gamut !
Old 26th August 2019
  #45
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tenorfran View Post
Here's one of the tracks.
Oh, thank you. I like this very much!

I prefer the slightly further sense of distance in this recording to the Shaffer recording, and in this recording the lute and the reverberation seem to integrate together better. It’s very easy to listen to, while I find the Schaffer is a bit more ‘confronting’.

However, the two recordings reflect different aesthetics, and I can enjoy both of them for those reasons.
Old 26th August 2019
  #46
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Quote:
Originally Posted by studer58 View Post
I'll have some samples from the weekend's recording to post here very soon...spot pair plus ambience pair... not to mention diverse room distractions: aircraft overhead, children playing next door, audience shuffles, player breathing...the whole gamut !
I see I'm late to the party, but for the next time, here's my advice: this would typically be a job for a pair of boundary layer pressure omni mics. You will get rid of the early reflections that often do a lot of bad to lute notes. The details will be preserved while at the same time the sphere of the room (late reflections) will lift up the player into a sonic heaven. Annoying direct reflections (string sounds, clothing rustles) coming from the sound board will be less frontal and thus blend in more with the notes. I've made some lute and theorbe players very happy with this approach.
Old 26th August 2019
  #47
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Earcatcher View Post
I see I'm late to the party, but for the next time, here's my advice: this would typically be a job for a pair of boundary layer pressure omni mics. You will get rid of the early reflections that often do a lot of bad to lute notes. The details will be preserved while at the same time the sphere of the room (late reflections) will lift up the player into a sonic heaven. Annoying direct reflections (string sounds, clothing rustles) coming from the sound board will be less frontal and thus blend in more with the notes. I've made some lute and theorbe players very happy with this approach.
hm... - don't you feel that early reflections are an integral part of almost ANY recording? - if i'm not getting any/enough, i add them them (or precisely: emulations of early reflections) via efx; in fact, one of my efx devices does nothing but this...
Old 26th August 2019
  #48
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Quote:
Originally Posted by deedeeyeah View Post
hm... - don't you feel that early reflections are an integral part of almost ANY recording? - if i'm not getting any/enough, i add them them (or precisely: emulations of early reflections) via efx; in fact, one of my efx devices does nothing but this...
They are, and mostly we have to go through a lot of difficulties to limit them: using risers, carpets underneath the musicians, using spot mics, moving the main pair up way too high, and so on. Early reflections can be a real pain in an otherwise lovely acoustic. Since the situation in this thread is about a good sounding room with a stone floor it is to be expected that the floor may ruin it all, as is normally the case with any instrument playing forwards. When I am recording such instruments solo I try to kill the floor reflection as much as possible and add controlled early reflections that come a little later by placing diffusers around/behind the player. This helps achieving a better core definition with a more musical sounding early reflection and the player will hear much better how he/she sounds, as floor reflections would jump away from the instrument, while diffusers send them back to it. The use of diffusers gives you a lot of control over the presentation of the size of the "body of sound" of the instrument.

I have some great reverb options myself, but it is my goal to use them only as a last resort and not as a standard part of my recording methods. In the case of strictly acoustic music it feels like cheating to me.
Old 26th August 2019
  #49
My own experience recording lute yields the following observations:

Lute is a SUPER-QUIET instrument. I record in NYC, where noise is always a concern. You may find that omni's sound lush, but every little background noise will be amplified beyond comprehension. If this is a live recital, that would include whatever ambient noise is in and around the church, but also the slightest rustle in the audience of programs or garments. A cough would be something else beyond that.

Ribbons may be nice, but your mic amps will need to work hard to get good signal - make sure you have good, quite ones if you intend to go that route.

Given the context of live recording, I'd go for something directional. If you want to use AB, and want that "warmth", go with wide cardioids if the ambience will permit it.

As for myself, even though my general preference in recording leans toward near-coincident and spaced arrays, I've generally gone with Mid/Side setups recording live solo lute (and other such instruments) - whether with fig-8 (when quietness and acoustics permit) or cardioid in the Mid (when they don't). When I recorded a Paul O'Dette recital here in NYC at a venue on one of the busiest streets in NYC, I used an MK4/8 setup. I was not sorry.

My $.02, worth everything you paid for it; and YMMV
Old 26th August 2019
  #50
Quote:
Originally Posted by RobAnderson View Post
My own experience recording lute yields the following observations:

Lute is a SUPER-QUIET instrument. I record in NYC, where noise is always a concern. You may find that omni's sound lush, but every little background noise will be amplified beyond comprehension. If this is a live recital, that would include whatever ambient noise is in and around the church, but also the slightest rustle in the audience of programs or garments. A cough would be something else beyond that.
Too right. We had problems with birdsong, tractors and cars over 1/4 mile away, people shutting their front doors, you name it, it was a problem! Immensely frustrating. And this was in a sleepy village in the middle of the French countryside!
Old 26th August 2019
  #51
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Earcatcher View Post
I see I'm late to the party, but for the next time, here's my advice: this would typically be a job for a pair of boundary layer pressure omni mics. You will get rid of the early reflections that often do a lot of bad to lute notes. The details will be preserved while at the same time the sphere of the room (late reflections) will lift up the player into a sonic heaven. Annoying direct reflections (string sounds, clothing rustles) coming from the sound board will be less frontal and thus blend in more with the notes. I've made some lute and theorbe players very happy with this approach.
The use of PZMs in this scenario is an elegant solution from a engineering perspective but what are your recommendations on mics? Any time I've used PZMs they've sounded like crap - flat, metallic, and unflattering - but doubtless that's because I was using bargain basement options.
Old 26th August 2019
  #52
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I will let Earcatcher speak for himself, but one fine option:
Attached Thumbnails
solo lute miking recommendations-schoeps-cmc-microphone-blm-boundary_1_e23f7c0229120ba287025ed47e65caca.jpg  
Old 26th August 2019
  #53
Old 26th August 2019
  #54
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Quote:
Originally Posted by metalsquirrel View Post
The use of PZMs in this scenario is an elegant solution from a engineering perspective but what are your recommendations on mics? Any time I've used PZMs they've sounded like crap - flat, metallic, and unflattering - but doubtless that's because I was using bargain basement options.
I was not recommending PZMs, but true boundary layer mics. In my case this means Schoeps BLM3, but there are others from Haun and Nevaton. It is essential that the capsule is pressure omni and lays flat, aimed upwards, with the tile surface. The stone floor of the example from the OP will greatly improve the clarity of the sound and give extra low noise due to the boundary pressure effect, which helps the soft sound of the lute to come through better, without the need to mic up close.
Old 26th August 2019
  #55
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That's great info, thanks. Yes I believe I am conflating PZMs and boundary layer mics as being the same - thank you for correcting me (I'm showing off my lack of experience with these devices )

The Neumann is new to me, and the MBHO boundary layer options look particuarly interesting (the MBNM 622 E PZ in particular).
Old 26th August 2019
  #56
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Earcatcher View Post
They are, and mostly we have to go through a lot of difficulties to limit them: using risers, carpets underneath the musicians, using spot mics, moving the main pair up way too high, and so on. Early reflections can be a real pain in an otherwise lovely acoustic. Since the situation in this thread is about a good sounding room with a stone floor it is to be expected that the floor may ruin it all, as is normally the case with any instrument playing forwards. When I am recording such instruments solo I try to kill the floor reflection as much as possible and add controlled early reflections that come a little later by placing diffusers around/behind the player. This helps achieving a better core definition with a more musical sounding early reflection and the player will hear much better how he/she sounds, as floor reflections would jump away from the instrument, while diffusers send them back to it. The use of diffusers gives you a lot of control over the presentation of the size of the "body of sound" of the instrument.

I have some great reverb options myself, but it is my goal to use them only as a last resort and not as a standard part of my recording methods. In the case of strictly acoustic music it feels like cheating to me.
interesting... - we seem to have much different taste when it comes to the relationship between direct, reflected and diffuse sound: i don't like this 'airy' shimmer of spaced omnis much, even less if the are positioned high up.

the only reason i lift main mics above ear height is that they otherwise cannot pick up larger ensembles and too many instruments would get shielded off by musicians sitting in front of them - for solo instrument, i'd never lift mains very high.

also: i very often use (close to) coincident mics for mains - depending on technique, it's sometimes desirable to enlarge the width and hence to get as much early reflections as possible from spots! - if there's something which i'm trying to avoid, it's to get too much ambient sound from mains snd spots and i therefore mostly use but directional mics for spots too.

and regarding 'cheating': imo any gear is artificial, there's no 'pure' way of recording - plus many folks seem to like artificial rooms better (love my quantec, tc, lex, eventide, sony etc.)...


Quote:
Originally Posted by Earcatcheisr View Post
I was not recommending PZMs, but true boundary layer mics. In my case this means Schoeps BLM3, but there are others from Haun and Nevaton. It is essential that the capsule is pressure omni and lays flat, aimed upwards, with the tile surface. The stone floor of the example from the OP will greatly improve the clarity of the sound and give extra low noise due to the boundary pressure effect, which helps the soft sound of the lute to come through better, without the need to mic up close.
there's no difference between any omni sdc put on the floor and a blm (or a cardioid and a pzm): i have been using several sdc's in situations when i was either running out of blm' (or pzm's) or forgot to bring mine...
Old 27th August 2019
  #57
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Quote:
Originally Posted by deedeeyeah View Post
interesting... - we seem to have much different taste when it comes to the relationship between direct, reflected and diffuse sound: i don't like this 'airy' shimmer of spaced omnis much, even less if the are positioned high up.
Who said I would ever place a pair of pressure omnis high up? Anyone reading here for some time would know that I do not use AB mains on a regular basis, to put it mildly. And definitely not above heads.

Quote:
Originally Posted by deedeeyeah View Post
the only reason i lift main mics above ear height is that they otherwise cannot pick up larger ensembles and too many instruments would get shielded off by musicians sitting in front of them - for solo instrument, i'd never lift mains very high.
So, we don't differ so much after all. We just have found different ways to deal with the issue.

Quote:
Originally Posted by deedeeyeah View Post
and regarding 'cheating': imo any gear is artificial, there's no 'pure' way of recording - plus many folks seem to like artificial rooms better (love my quantec, tc, lex, eventide, sony etc.)...
I was explaining my work ethic, not questioning yours. I will cheat if that is better for the end result, but when I added something that was not there in the first place, that recording will never make it to my own list of recordings that I am proud of. I prefer to do work that leaves a trace of satisfaction in my mind. Capturing real sound waves the way they exist in a room in the most pleasing depiction is what satisfies me. I hate "photoshopped together" sound images of an orchestral situation.

Quote:
Originally Posted by deedeeyeah View Post
there's no difference between any omni sdc put on the floor and a blm (or a cardioid and a pzm): i have been using several sdc's in situations when i was either running out of blm' (or pzm's) or forgot to bring mine...
I have researched this extensively. They all sound different and nothing sounds like a real BLM.
Old 27th August 2019
  #58
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What? Is Earcatcher revealing is oh so top secret technique?

I guess deedeeyeah didn't get the message.

Opps, I see. This isn't the patented three letter technique that Earcatcher, so insecure, afraid someone (perhaps living thousands of miles away) will steal his clients, keeps to himself.
Old 27th August 2019
  #59
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Earcatcher View Post
Who said I would ever place a pair of pressure omnis high up? Anyone reading here for some time would know that I do not use AB mains on a regular basis, to put it mildly. And definitely not above heads.



So, we don't differ so much after all. We just have found different ways to deal with the issue.



I was explaining my work ethic, not questioning yours. I will cheat if that is better for the end result, but when I added something that was not there in the first place, that recording will never make it to my own list of recordings that I am proud of. I prefer to do work that leaves a trace of satisfaction in my mind. Capturing real sound waves the way they exist in a room in the most pleasing depiction is what satisfies me. I hate "photoshopped together" sound images of an orchestral situation.



I have researched this extensively. They all sound different and nothing sounds like a real BLM.
i was referring to your quote how to avoid early reflections... - and of course (and hopefully) you explained (some of) your approach: i'm here to read about you folks, not about random/generic setup!

regarding the difference between 'true' blm and omni mics on the floor, i simply don't like the blm better in any case so imo it's always worth comparing. cannot relate to 'photoshoping' either (and like the belitteling tone much) - but hey, whatever makes you and the musicians you're working with happy! mine don't care about technique unless i'd be in nuclear technology i guess...
Old 28th August 2019
  #60
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Not sure if this has already been shared on this thread, but it popped up on my Youtube feed a moment ago.

https://youtu.be/fZYzuIGDYGs
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