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Direct comparison of AB overhead and tail end miking of piano
Old 23rd October 2019
  #1
Lives for gear
Direct comparison of AB overhead and tail end miking of piano

These samples might illuminate the differences obtainable when miking a piano in a large concert hall.... using both overhead (ie above typical conductor location) and Decca style "well back from tail end of piano" miking placements.

This piece was recorded with both mic pairs simultaneously, so you can directly compare the results.

Of course that's not the only variable at play, and I'll provide a few more specs below...it's not strictly apples vs apples, as the AB spacing, distances and mic types vary too ! It's done more to give a subjective comparison between the 2 mic placements.

I'd argue that the overhead pair are probably located too high/far away from the piano....you get a very light, airy and wide image...with some bass solidity missing.

Alternatively, the tail placement gives more coherence between the mics, but with less width and air....floor reflections (amongst other factors) would account for some of the difference.

Overhead pair: KM183 on 50cm AB bar about 4 m high and 3.5 m in front of piano.
Tail pair : Line Audio OM-1 on 35 cm AB bar about 1.6m high and about 2.2 m away from tail-end leg of piano

Audio is roughly matched for equal loudness, and no processing apart from conversion from wav to mp3.

Each pair to its own file, plus an additional one where both pairs are combined at equal levels (no delay adjustment or alignment...just simple addition)....purely out of of interest to see if there was comb filtering or other negative interaction...or indeed, whether there was any benefit in doing so !

I probably should have just added this post to a related thread of a few years ago: Offset spaced tail pair on grand piano?
...but a bit late now....

Any comments, suggestions, preferences ?
Old 23rd October 2019
  #2
Gear Nut
 

Is it possible the OM1 pair is reversed L and R? Treble seems to be on the R.
Old 23rd October 2019
  #3
Nice sounds for both, at least on my Sennheiser HD1 on-ears.

I think both pairs could be closer to the instrument for a bit more detail. They err on the side of roominess, and as a result the tail pair sounds small (though quite pleasant) and the AB pair sounds almost like a pair of room mics in the big moments. They are both very pleasant to listen to, though!

Not that we should stick to dogma in our setups, but it’s worth pointing out that Decca spec has the mics a couple feet closer and a wee bit higher that your setup here, and typically using omnis with a boosted top end like MK2H or 2S, or before the ‘80s the km83.

When I’ve seen the tail pair as part of a larger setup at Teldex or EBS, they are usually quite close and also often lower, though I’m not really up to speed on how those setups work, balance-wise.

I don’t care for the blend because I think the pairs occupy too similar a perspective, and end up fighting over stereo image instead of being additive to each other. Would recommend using distinctly closer- and father- sounding pairs for more useful blending, instead of 2 medium-far-range mains, as we’ve heard here.
Old 23rd October 2019
  #4
Lives for gear
Good summary Kevin...yes I've typically used the tail pair around 8-9" spacing, and often a bit closer.

The overhead pair are fixed in location, so it's well worth going for closer (with the tail pair) to provide the blend contrast (with the OH pair) that you mention.

That would likely give a dryer, darker and less spread closer pair image, and by the time it's 'fanned out' and hit the OH pair there's a widening, air and more enveloping texture...which could blend better with the closer pair.

Alternatively...I should try to simply nail the sound with just a single pair...optimally placed !
Old 23rd October 2019 | Show parent
  #5
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by ithinknot View Post
Is it possible the OM1 pair is reversed L and R? Treble seems to be on the R.
What's more likely is simply that the tail pair is parallel to the keyboard (and thus 90* rotated with respect to the more typical overhead AB bar, which is parallel to the long dimension of the piano, and the front of the stage)

If the latter OH type of orientation is able to give treble left/bass right, then the 90* rotation is probably messing with that L/R balance significantly....although that should be so for all Decca tail recordings....and I'm not sure if that's the case typically ?

Kevin, is this your experience with Decca tail-type recording....does it retain the stereo bass/treble spread that more conventional (front-facing) miking typically has ?

I often find that, especially with an AB omni pair, that there's a bit more 'crossing over' of bass vs mid and treble information ...that it's not strictly all HF left and all LF right, like you get in a string orchestra for example.

This tends to be more noticeable with good headphones....I suspect speaker reproduction adds its own layer of surface reflections and cross-feed into the bargain.

Just for the record, I like that crossing over phenomenon ...it adds complexity and intrigue to the listening experience !! You'll find it in the 1st sample ("OH only") in the first post, which has the AB bar oriented parallel with the front face of the piano.

Last edited by studer58; 24th October 2019 at 05:54 AM..
Old 25th October 2019
  #6
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Tommy-boy's Avatar
 

both are nice. I like the overhead pair a little bit more than the tail pair. Seems fuller and more spacious.

Blend is OK too. Is odd to be mixing two totally different stereo perspectives.

Tom
Old 25th October 2019
  #7
Gear Maniac
 
Stradivariusz's Avatar
No comment, just that I could happily listen to a hole CD with either which sound.
Probably the combination of engineer's skills, hall sound and not to forget, the pianist who has something in his/her touch what I personally like.
Old 27th October 2019
  #8
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didier.brest's Avatar
Thank you for these very nice samples !

Quote:
Originally Posted by studer58 View Post
I'd argue that the overhead pair are probably located too high/far away from the piano....you get a very light, airy and wide image...with some bass solidity missing.
I don't hear any bass missing from KM 183. Actually spectral analysis shows higher level below 100 Hz in KM 183 sample than in OM1 one. Bass missing feeling may come from KM 183 sample being brighter, likely because of KM 183 HF bump.

Quote:
Originally Posted by studer58 View Post
Alternatively, the tail placement gives more coherence between the mics, but with less width and air....floor reflections (amongst other factors) would account for some of the difference.
Does floor reflection cause OM1 transients sounding less steep ?

Last edited by didier.brest; 27th October 2019 at 12:25 PM..
Old 31st October 2019
  #9
Gear Maniac
 
brhoward's Avatar
 

I prefer the smoothness of the OM1 in tail position.
Old 30th September 2020 | Show parent
  #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by king2070lplaya View Post
Not that we should stick to dogma in our setups, but it’s worth pointing out that Decca spec has the mics a couple feet closer and a wee bit higher that your setup here, and typically using omnis with a boosted top end like MK2H or 2S, or before the ‘80s the km83.
Sorry to re-animate this old thread, but do you have the specifics for the Decca spec? I have to provide sound for a live-streamed concert this week with a small audience, and that setup would be perfect as it will keep the mics well out of the way.

I've actually recorded this piano in this hall several times before, but using ORTF from the tail (!). It sounded wonderful, but I didn't have any great omnis then, and want to use my new Schoeps this time. When close miking, such as for concertos, I've always used Richard King's 50cm spacing recommendation, but with omnis at the tail, I'm wondering if they shouldn't be a little narrower, like Studer used in his OM1 sample. If you happen to know what Decca's norm was/is, I'll go with that.
Old 30th September 2020
  #11
Decca spec would be about a 1' spacing, between 4 and 5 feet back from the tail and 5.5' to 6' high, looking down that 15 degree spine in the Steinway D frame.

I would recommend, if you want to record that way, that you put your head in that area and find the sweet spot. Much better to place mics that way than dogmatically by measurements.

Also, listen to some old Ashkenazy, Bolet, Roge, Lupu, De Larrocha, etc recordings and make sure that's a sound you like. Also worth noting is that it can be unforgiving of a poorly-maintained/tuned instrument or unpolished pianist.
Old 30th September 2020
  #12
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To quote from the marvellously detailed booklet accompanying the 55 CD box set: "Decca Sound...The Piano Edition":
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zyTtt9d1oOs


'By the time a young engineer named Simon Eadon arrived at the Studios in May 1970, the Decca way of recording the piano was firmly established wherever the recording took place.

As Eadon recounted recently, his piano recording technique used two small Neumann condensor microphones, either KM53's or later KM83's, with the one microphone running down the bass strings and the other at the top of the instrument, with their capsules about 9 inches apart, six feet from the tail of the piano, and mounted on a stereo bar angled about 10 to 15 degrees towards the instrument.

All that remained was using his ears to find the magic "sweet spot" that would produce the most faithful sound, whether in the Studios, Kingsway or one of several quiet London churches that Decca had begun using as alternatives to Kingsway Hall'

If you'd like a visual representation, it's contained in this chapter (page 219...fig 14.6) by another veteran Decca engineer, Trygg Tryggvason:
http://www.sengpielaudio.com/DeccaTr...Tryggvason.pdf

One of the biggest determinants of how detailed or 'big' the piano will sound is the distance of the pair from the instrument...and how much of the room you want to bring in to the picture.

Last edited by studer58; 30th September 2020 at 07:47 AM..
Old 1st October 2020
  #13
Lives for gear
 

That height and distance is very close to where I've found this piano (a wonderful Steinway D "Concert Grand") records best in this hall, at least with ORTF. The Decca omni spacing is a little narrower than I've been using, as I suspected. I'll definitely wander around and adjust, but this should sound great with that setup. The pianist is supposed to be very fine.

Thanks for the tips, guys, and for the Trygg Tryggvason stuff. So, have you listened to all 55 CD's?
Old 1st October 2020 | Show parent
  #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by seanmccoy View Post
Thanks for the tips, guys, and for the Trygg Tryggvason stuff. So, have you listened to all 55 CD's?
I'm working my way through , I must admit to going back to favourites amongst them. There's an uncanny image consistency between discs across an enormous time span (Brittten, early 40's to Thibaudet 2009).

Considerable variation in the acoustic surrounding the performances, as you'd expect...but even the mono issues are very satisfying. It's hard to say whether the 2 mastering houses** involved in preparing them for release might not have imposed some 'homogenizing' effect upon the collection....you'd have to go back to the original LP's to verify that ?

At the current pricing it's good value, probably available as a download too...great research material (66 hours) !
https://store.deccaclassics.com/*/Bo...on/5NN30FG8000

** The mastering was clearly in good hands: http://www.audioarchiving.co.uk/index.html

Last edited by studer58; 1st October 2020 at 01:59 AM..
Old 1st October 2020 | Show parent
  #15
Hey Studer,

Do you know what book that chapter is taken from? Would be curious to hunt down a copy of it, to see what else is covered. Looks pretty old by the style of text and graphics.

Quote:
Originally Posted by studer58 View Post
To quote from the marvellously detailed booklet accompanying the 55 CD box set: "Decca Sound...The Piano Edition":
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zyTtt9d1oOs


'By the time a young engineer named Simon Eadon arrived at the Studios in May 1970, the Decca way of recording the piano was firmly established wherever the recording took place.

As Eadon recounted recently, his piano recording technique used two small Neumann condensor microphones, either KM53's or later KM83's, with the one microphone running down the bass strings and the other at the top of the instrument, with their capsules about 9 inches apart, six feet from the tail of the piano, and mounted on a stereo bar angled about 10 to 15 degrees towards the instrument.

All that remained was using his ears to find the magic "sweet spot" that would produce the most faithful sound, whether in the Studios, Kingsway or one of several quiet London churches that Decca had begun using as alternatives to Kingsway Hall'

If you'd like a visual representation, it's contained in this chapter (page 219...fig 14.6) by another veteran Decca engineer, Trygg Tryggvason:
http://www.sengpielaudio.com/DeccaTr...Tryggvason.pdf

One of the biggest determinants of how detailed or 'big' the piano will sound is the distance of the pair from the instrument...and how much of the room you want to bring in to the picture.
Old 1st October 2020 | Show parent
  #16
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by king2070lplaya View Post
Hey Studer,

Do you know what book that chapter is taken from? Would be curious to hunt down a copy of it, to see what else is covered. Looks pretty old by the style of text and graphics.
There ya go...I'd guess it's a UK publication (OUP), the chapter name and page numbers tally ...

Bibliography:
TRYGGVASSON, Trygg. (1996). "Classical Music" in BORWICK, John: 'Sound Recording Practice'
Oxford: Oxford University Press. 210-228.
Old 2nd October 2020 | Show parent
  #17
Interesting! I have the 2001 publication, but the chapter was rewritten by Adrian Revill of the BBC. So bizarre.

Quote:
Originally Posted by studer58 View Post
There ya go...I'd guess it's a UK publication (OUP), the chapter name and page numbers tally ...

Bibliography:
TRYGGVASSON, Trygg. (1996). "Classical Music" in BORWICK, John: 'Sound Recording Practice'
Oxford: Oxford University Press. 210-228.
Old 2nd October 2020 | Show parent
  #18
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by king2070lplaya View Post
Interesting! I have the 2001 publication, but the chapter was rewritten by Adrian Revill of the BBC. So bizarre.
Yes that's curious...do you mean slightly edited, rewritten or a complete substitution by Revill ? Maybe TT is saving his recollections for the upcoming Decca book, due late October....or was Trygg's contribution to the Borwick book an uncomfortable fit with its neighbouring chapters ?

Eberhard Sengpiel was given permission to republish the entire chapter, so maybe some personality politics were involved along the journey....but I'm just pleased it's still accessible, as a succinct summary of that Decca-man's approach !
Old 2nd October 2020 | Show parent
  #19
I’m very glad it’s survived as well! It’s a good little chapter with a lot of info on the label’s approach.

The edition I have, the chapter is completely different. Lots of coincident pairs and spotting.

Quote:
Originally Posted by studer58 View Post
Yes that's curious...do you mean slightly edited, rewritten or a complete substitution by Revill ? Maybe TT is saving his recollections for the upcoming Decca book, due late October....or was Trygg's contribution to the Borwick book an uncomfortable fit with its neighbouring chapters ?

Eberhard Sengpiel was given permission to republish the entire chapter, so maybe some personality politics were involved along the journey....but I'm just pleased it's still accessible, as a succinct summary of that Decca-man's approach !
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