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Upgrade from AT 4051s for choir/orchestra main pair
Old 3 weeks ago
  #1
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nightchef's Avatar
 

Upgrade from AT 4051s for choir/orchestra main pair

Hey all,

I do a limited but steady amount of remote work, most of it for a local high school. For years I've been using a pair of AT 4051s as my main mics, usually in ORTF, about 10 feet up and the same distance out from the front row.

The 4051s are fine mics--I particularly like them on acoustic guitar in the studio--and they've done a good job for me over the years. But they have one flaw for the remote gigs: a 6-to-10K presence lift that tends to underline choral crunchies and instrument attacks just a bit. It's a fairly smooth, musical lift, and on acoustic instruments it's more feature than bug. But for chorus and orchestra, I'd like something a shade more neutral.

I don't have a hard budget limit, but I'd love to keep it under $1K for the pair if I could, and certainly under $1.5K. This rules out some of the big boys (e.g. Schoeps and DPA).

What I'm looking at, from high to low price:

Miktek C5 ($1399)
Telefunken M60 ($1150)
Beyer MC930 ($999)
AKG C451B ($989)
Shure KSM137 ($665)
Line Audio CM4 (under $500)

Would you recommend one of these over the others? Should I be looking at something else?

Thanks!
Old 3 weeks ago
  #2
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tourtelot's Avatar
This is a clear case of asking a "what mic would be best for . . ." question. Mics are really subjective tools; that's why we have so many of them

If you like the results of your ORTF setup, you will only look at cardioids. If you want to try A-B, you'll need to find omnis. If you aren't happy with you results, is it the mics, the position, the array, the height?

So I guess what I am saying is, you haven't really tried enough experimentation to even give us an idea in which direction you want to go.

I always advise trying some stuff first to see if you get closer (or farther away) from you desired results.

Okay, all that being said, it is rare that I use ORTF on choral music. Sometimes as a function of a four-mic array; ORTF in the middle and omni flakers on a 1m bar, otherwise known as the Norman/Boojum Array. I am a pretty much always spaced omni guy. There are folks here who wouldn't consider omnis for choral music and insist on coincident pairs. So how about seeing if you can rent/borrow some mics and try some different things. Like an A-B par on a longish bar and an ORTF pair in the middle and compare. Start to hear the difference. Once you know more what result you want, THEN buy some mics.

Not what you wanted eh? Okay, buy the Beyers. They are great mics for the money.

D.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #3
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nightchef's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by tourtelot View Post
Not what you wanted eh? Okay, buy the Beyers. They are great mics for the money.

D.
Thanks.

Just to clarify--I'm generally not in a position to do much in the way of experimenting in the location gigs I'm doing most often. These are live shows with no sound check, lots of set changes, and hundreds of kids running in and out every 15 minutes, and I'm running SR as well as recording, so simplicity, reliability and efficiency are the key words. Also, because these concerts tend to feature a full and not very quiet house, I'd be concerned about omnis picking up audience noise.

All of which is to say, there are some practical reasons why using cardioids in ORTF made sense to me. I'm not necessarily closed to trying other things, but I'd probably need to be more unhappy than I am with the results I'm getting to want to go there. In the meantime, I'm just trying to fine-tune here, not reboot.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #4
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jnorman's Avatar
Doug makes a good point above - it helps to first clearly define what is not happening to your satisfaction and perhaps work with technique and placement before buying more gear. You might consider using an AB spaced pair setup with your 4051s - that can work well for choral work when you need to reject audience noises.

That said, having used at4051s for many recordings, I can tell you that you will be very hard pressed to find better mics for $1000 budget. Those are perhaps my favorite reasonably affordable microphones, and I would not hesitate to use them as ortf mains for almost anything. I did a solo piano CD where the pianist selected the 4051s over my DPA 4011s on her Bosendorfer grand.
The only other mics in that price range that I can recommend would be a clean used pair of AKG c480/ck61 - wonderful, extremely under appreciated mics that I use regularly as spots, but also make a great main pair.
the line audio mics are clearly the best budget mics I have found and an NOS pair of the cm3/4s and an AB pair of OM1s in a boojum/jnorman array is extremely versatile in almost any setting.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #5
I’m not sure you’d see a significant enough improvement in sound by jumping to another pair of sub-$1000 cardioid mics to warrant the purchase. The Beyers will be the best of that lot you’ve listed, maybe a used pair of KM184 would give a slight bump in quality, but those AT mics are near the top of their price range imo.

I’d recommend saving a bit more and checking out a pair of MKH8040 or MKH40. These are very good cardioid mics, and not as expensive as the Schoeps and DPA mics in their weight class.

Quote:
Originally Posted by nightchef View Post
Thanks.

Just to clarify--I'm generally not in a position to do much in the way of experimenting in the location gigs I'm doing most often. These are live shows with no sound check, lots of set changes, and hundreds of kids running in and out every 15 minutes, and I'm running SR as well as recording, so simplicity, reliability and efficiency are the key words. Also, because these concerts tend to feature a full and not very quiet house, I'd be concerned about omnis picking up audience noise.

All of which is to say, there are some practical reasons why using cardioids in ORTF made sense to me. I'm not necessarily closed to trying other things, but I'd probably need to be more unhappy than I am with the results I'm getting to want to go there. In the meantime, I'm just trying to fine-tune here, not reboot.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nightchef View Post
Hey all,

I do a limited but steady amount of remote work, most of it for a local high school. For years I've been using a pair of AT 4051s as my main mics, usually in ORTF, about 10 feet up and the same distance out from the front row.

The 4051s are fine mics--I particularly like them on acoustic guitar in the studio--and they've done a good job for me over the years. But they have one flaw for the remote gigs: a 6-to-10K presence lift that tends to underline choral crunchies and instrument attacks just a bit. It's a fairly smooth, musical lift, and on acoustic instruments it's more feature than bug. But for chorus and orchestra, I'd like something a shade more neutral.

I don't have a hard budget limit, but I'd love to keep it under $1K for the pair if I could, and certainly under $1.5K. This rules out some of the big boys (e.g. Schoeps and DPA).

What I'm looking at, from high to low price:

Miktek C5 ($1399)
Telefunken M60 ($1150)
Beyer MC930 ($999)
AKG C451B ($989)
Shure KSM137 ($665)
Line Audio CM4 (under $500)

Would you recommend one of these over the others? Should I be looking at something else?

Thanks!
are you sure you 'need' different mics? - i'd invest some more time in mixing before buying new gear...
Old 3 weeks ago
  #7
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I like MC930s enough to have seven of them. IMO, they're very good mics and I'd be happy to put them in pretty much any situation and expect decent results. They're not MKH/DPA/Schoeps-League, but they still do an excellent job.

Attached is an MP3 from a recording gig I did recently. What you're hearing is an MC930 and an SE VR1 in M/S. There's a bit of dynamic processing happening to reign in volume swings, but I don't think I used much EQ at all. Choir of 14 in a cathedral with a live audience most of whom, apparently, had sudden-onset pneumonia, judging from how many coughs I recorded!

I did put up other mics (MC930s) around to capture things from a different perspective, but I like the mix-down flexibility that M/S arrays give me.

Chris
Attached Files

7 - Ave Maris Stella.mp3 (4.48 MB, 568 views)

Old 3 weeks ago
  #8
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I often must mix (live) and record (archive) in the dreaded acoustic nightmare of "cafetoriums"... I work 10-15 dates a year with two different private schools. Live reinforcement is the primary consideration... any recording beyond an archive of the performance is a bonus. My go-to for the past three years is DPA4099s used as choir mics (predating the "new" DPA4097 choral mics, just released). Keeping loudspeaker wash (the smaller room has a pair of QSC K12 flown where they are about 6' from the center mic on the choir... short, wide stage, 12' trim to the lighting instruments) under control is primo, and the supercardioid pattern works better for vocal sounds than my AT4041, Sony C55FET or MKH8040 pairs. I fabricated some thin boom extensions (sightline are also a consideration) from 25mm dowel (fits a Shure SM58 mic clip) and 1m long 3/16" "threaded" rod covered with black shrink tubing. Mics are gaffed to the end of the rod, and the MicroDot XLR connector is gaffed to the mic stand, standard XLR from there to the snake. (The photo shows the 4099 gaffed to a standard boom... the "new" threaded rod solution is even tidier.)

I'm not a fan of Audix's "thin-boom" choral mics (rear rejection is lacking, and I just don't like how they sound) and the 4099s are certainly useful on other gigs for acoustic instrument capture. They'll break your budget by about $200, but are really useful little buggers.

Win-win, in my book.

Good luck, wherever you end up!

HB

The clip is a straight L/R buss mix (Midas M32 USB) from a recent "show tunes" concert. Band was a 7' Kawai (DPA4061 omni gaffed to the frame, lid at low stick) stage left (SL), onstage; E Gtr was a Kemper DI; Bass was into an amp, DI out; Drums were a MKH8060 in front, between the toms, 18" above, aimed down into the center... all three were behind the piano, back in the SL wing. The E Gtr was hot in the record mix as it was only live onstage through the band wedge and choir wedges. Soundcheck was about 5 minutes with the choir 15 minutes before doors. Three DPA4099 L/C/R on the choir, panned as such.
Attached Thumbnails
Upgrade from AT 4051s for choir/orchestra main pair-img_2977.jpg  
Attached Files

4099 Choir Sample.mp3 (2.29 MB, 527 views)


Last edited by hbphotoav; 3 weeks ago at 06:22 PM..
Old 3 weeks ago
  #9
I always assumed that, being designed for clip on use, the proximity effect would be overly rolled off for use at a distance. Very Interesting post, thank you!

Quote:
Originally Posted by hbphotoav View Post
I often must mix (live) and record (archive) in the dreaded acoustic nightmare of "cafetoriums"... I work 10-15 dates a year with two different private schools. Live reinforcement is the primary consideration... any recording beyond an archive of the performance is a bonus. My go-to for the past three years is DPA4099s used as choir mics (predating the "new" DPA4097 choral mics, just released). Keeping loudspeaker wash (the smaller room has a pair of QSC K12 flown where they are about 6' from the center mic on the choir... short, wide stage, 12' trim to the lighting instruments) under control is primo, and the supercardioid pattern works better for vocal sounds than my AT4041, Sony C55FET or MKH8040 pairs. I fabricated some thin boom extensions (sightline are also a consideration) from 25mm dowel (fits a Shure SM58 mic clip) and 1m long 3/16" "threaded" rod covered with black shrink tubing. Mics are gaffed to the end of the rod, and the MicroDot XLR connector is gaffed to the mic stand, standard XLR from there to the snake. (The photo shows the 4099 gaffed to a standard boom... the "new" threaded rod solution is even tidier.)

I'm not a fan of Audix's "thin-boom" choral mics (rear rejection is lacking, and I just don't like how they sound) and the 4099s are certainly useful on other gigs for acoustic instrument capture. They'll break your budget by about $200, but are really useful little buggers.

Win-win, in my book.

Good luck, wherever you end up!

HB

The clip is a straight L/R buss mix (Midas M32 USB) from a recent "show tunes" concert. Band was a 7' Kawai (DPA4061 omni gaffed to the frame, lid at low stick) stage left (SL), onstage; E Gtr was a Kemper DI; Bass was into an amp, DI out; Drums were a MKH8060 in front, between the toms, 18" above, aimed down into the center... all three were behind the piano, back in the SL wing. The E Gtr was hot in the record mix as it was only live onstage through the band wedge and choir wedges. Soundcheck was about 5 minutes with the choir 15 minutes before doors. Three DPA4099 L/C/R on the choir, panned as such.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #10
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hbphotoav's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by king2070lplaya View Post
I always assumed that, being designed for clip on use, the proximity effect would be overly rolled off for use at a distance. Very Interesting post, thank you!
Thanks.

I certainly wouldn't use these for a straight-up un-amplified choral concert... but where there is nasty off-axis pollution (i.e., the live band, the flown mains beaming 400Hz out the back, or a brass-based "orchestra" with full perc wrapped around 270 degrees by 100 choristers, with a 44-rank organ 20' overhead) they do work a treat... as proven by the announcement of the 4097...

It's easier to add a bit of low/mid "warmth" back in after reducing the spill, and capturing the articulation, IMO.

Cheers.

HB
Old 3 weeks ago
  #11
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nightchef's Avatar
 

Hey, thanks everybody. It's kind of comforting (though not very slutty!) to see an emerging consensus that maybe a real upgrade is beyond my budget, and therefore I can just relax and continue making the best of what I've got.

Responses to a couple of points:

Quote:
Originally Posted by hbphotoav View Post
Thanks.

I certainly wouldn't use these for a straight-up un-amplified choral concert...
That's mostly what these are, though. The concerts include a lot of different kinds of groups, ranging from large orchestras & choruses that use no amplification at all to a cappella groups that rely heavily on it. But the high-mid emphasis I'm hearing is an issue mostly with the "straight-up" groups, particularly the choruses and to a lesser extent the strings (the wind groups actually sound fine on the 4051s to me, in fact quite lovely).

Quote:
Originally Posted by jnorman View Post
Doug makes a good point above - it helps to first clearly define what is not happening to your satisfaction and perhaps work with technique and placement before buying more gear.
Hmmmm. I thought I had clearly defined it. I'm a little puzzled because you're not the first person to reply as if I had expressed a vague overall dissatisfaction. The issue is subtle, perhaps too subtle to bother spending money on--but it's also quite specific.

As far as placement, I don't have a ton of options, although I could try experimenting more with angle than I've done already.

Quote:
You might consider using an AB spaced pair setup with your 4051s - that can work well for choral work when you need to reject audience noises.
Don't you run into mono compatibility issues with this?

Quote:
Originally Posted by deedeeyeah
i'd invest some more time in mixing before buying new gear...
How do you know how much time I'm currently investing in mixing?
Old 3 weeks ago
  #12
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All those mic possibilities are good, solid choices. For what the OP is doing I don't think that any of them will really bring a lot more to the party than what they are using already. Save $ for the sort of mics the people who make big-league classical albums use, which are quite expensive. As you know I'm sure, above $1k per unit, immediately audible audio improvements in the sound of mics come with a serious price tag. My take on the reason for this is that anymore it's not that hard to make a pretty-good sounding mic, but just as hard as ever to make a transcendent-quality one.....
Old 2 weeks ago
  #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nightchef View Post
How do you know how much time I'm currently investing in mixing?
...from the question you asked (as cutting some hf boost is possibly the easiest task in mixing and therefore a non-issue imo) - i assume you spend most time for setup/positioning/correction/adjustments and then later do some 'balancing'?

anyway: i think your mics are fine! maybe some mics with different patterns might be useful in specific situations or - again: dunno about the preamps converters you're using - checking into other gear to further increase options and/or quality.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by deedeeyeah View Post
...from the question you asked (as cutting some hf boost is possibly the easiest task in mixing and therefore a non-issue imo) - i assume you spend most time for setup/positioning/correction/adjustments and then later do some 'balancing'?
Wow, I wish I could say EQ always worked that seamlessly for me. In my experience, if I just, say, set up a bell centered around 7K and dipped it 1 or 2 dB, I might solve the problem I'm trying to solve, but only at the cost of introducing new problems. (Although one thing I've never tried before, that I might try next time, is a dynamic EQ like TDR Nova.)

There's no time for "positioning/correction/adjustments" at these gigs. There's nothing like a sound check. The first sounds that hit the mics are the sounds of the actual performance. I do make adjustments from one show to the next, based on memory of what's worked best, but they're not the kind of real-time, iterative adjustments you get to make on a dedicated recording date.

As for what I do in the mix: I usually add a small low shelving boost to compensate for the cardioids' inherent rolloff, and I do sometimes try a slight HMF dip to tame that presence lift, but again, I find that kind of EQ a two-edged sword and I use it very, very sparingly. I also add a touch of Altiverb to restore some of the ambience the audience hears, which is lost with cardioid mics so close to the performers. And I use a limiter (TDR Limiter 6) to bring up the overall level just a few dB.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nightchef View Post
Wow, I wish I could say EQ always worked that seamlessly for me. In my experience, if I just, say, set up a bell centered around 7K and dipped it 1 or 2 dB, I might solve the problem I'm trying to solve, but only at the cost of introducing new problems. (Although one thing I've never tried before, that I might try next time, is a dynamic EQ like TDR Nova.)

There's no time for "positioning/correction/adjustments" at these gigs. There's nothing like a sound check. The first sounds that hit the mics are the sounds of the actual performance. I do make adjustments from one show to the next, based on memory of what's worked best, but they're not the kind of real-time, iterative adjustments you get to make on a dedicated recording date.

As for what I do in the mix: I usually add a small low shelving boost to compensate for the cardioids' inherent rolloff, and I do sometimes try a slight HMF dip to tame that presence lift, but again, I find that kind of EQ a two-edged sword and I use it very, very sparingly. I also add a touch of Altiverb to restore some of the ambience the audience hears, which is lost with cardioid mics so close to the performers. And I use a limiter (TDR Limiter 6) to bring up the overall level just a few dB.
limited time for setup is an issue i assume most of us have to deal with and therefore need to get a good starting point - which you have with your mics imo!

can't see the issues you're getting by using eq: whether you adjust eq by mic choice, mic positioning or during mixing doesn't matter much - if you don't want to affect the phase relationship between signals coming from identical mics, route them to a subgroup and apply eq as needed...

with spaced mics, i doubt one will hear much of a difference when cutting/boosting just 1 or 2 db's. and yes, dynamic eq's can be practical - if so, i mostly use them on spot mics and efx sends though.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #16
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Here you will find a long discussion on MC930 with a lot of samples
Beyer MC930 for classical distant miking
Old 2 weeks ago
  #17
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Sounds Great's Avatar
 

4051's are a favorite of mine. Have you thought about trying the omni capsules for them? I had both at one point and stuck with the cardioids, but it might be worth a shot.
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