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microphones choice for a string quartet
Old 4 days ago
  #1
microphones choice for a string quartet

Hello everybody,

I will record a string quartet this Wednesday and Friday.
It's for a pop-classical project with a singer, piano, double-bass, string quartet, bass clarinet and flugelhorn, all recorded separately. Very quiet, dark and intimate music on wonderful English poetry.

So, the string quartet will be recorded in a room of 3,5meters X 9meters and 4 meters high.

Here are the microphones that I can use :

2 Coles 4038
1 AEA R84
1 Neumann M149
2 Neumann km A + KK 184
2 dpa 4061
2 dpa core 4099
1 Neumann TLM149

I will make some overdub of the string quartet, 3 or 4 layers, to get more orchestral feeling.
I thought it would be useful to get different options in the mix.

Here is what I planned to do:

spot microphones on the 2 violins : km A kk184
spot on viola : M149
spot on cello : R84

2 Coles 4038 on my Coles stereo bar (could be in Blumlein or something else)
a couple of 4099 on stands (I just bought the holders) as omni couple to get more air.


I like the idea of using a couple of Coles on the quartet because the whole recording will have a "ribbon" flavour. Piano was taken with the Coles, the doublebass and the singer with the R84, the winds, a mix of both.

But I have no idea how it will work, or not...

I won't have a lot of time to experiment at the beginning of the session. We have two small days to record 12 pieces.

I would feel grateful to get your ideas or advices for this configuration, and also to get some feedback of experience using the Coles in couple on a string quartet.

Another solution would have been to use the 4 dpa's as spot microphones and keep the 184 as orate couple, but I think that I will have some difficulties with the proximity sensation that they will give in the mix if I want a more spacious sensation.

Many thanks in advance for your help.

Jean-Philippe
Old 4 days ago
  #2
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Sounds like a super fun project! Looking forward to peoples's thoughts.

Ray H.
Old 4 days ago
  #3
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i prefer using identical mics on each instrument of a string quartett so in your position, i'd rent some mics - with given room dimensions, there's no point in setting up a stereo (or surround) 'main' mic system; i'd add an ambient pair nevertheless - this should leave plenty of options for mixing.
Old 4 days ago
  #4
I understand your point of view.
In my case, using just my microphones (what I would prefer), I should put 4 dpa’s on the string quartet + a couple of 184 and a couple of Coles.
Old 4 days ago
  #5
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I would feel challenged by the room dimensions.
Old 4 days ago
  #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Adagietto View Post
I understand your point of view.
In my case, using just my microphones (what I would prefer), I should put 4 dpa’s on the string quartet + a couple of 184 and a couple of Coles.
njet: i'd use the 184's and 149's then; coles maybe for the room but i'm no fan of ribbons with severly limited fr and low output.

and ray is right: if you can, get into a larger room! has mostly a much more profound effect on both musicians and the results you're getting than what gear you're using...



p.s. i'm regularly in brussels - unfortunately not this month or else i could have provided a bunch of schoeps.

Last edited by deedeeyeah; 4 days ago at 06:27 PM.. Reason: edited
Old 4 days ago
  #7
I couldn’t and wouldn’t change the room...because it’s mine.
I know it is not ideal as a recording place but, as a pianist, I often rehearse and play there and it sounds really good. My 1925 Steinway feels great too in this place.
It’s a real «*chamber music acoustic*».
That’s clear that for recording I try to «*erase*» a little bit the acoustic of the room and I work more in post-production to te-create the space I want.
Again, I know that it is not the ideal way of doing it.
I have the chance to record often in wonderful concert hall. I don’t try to replace that.
It’s just that there are also some advantages to record in a own home studio.

That’s very kind about the microphones.
Do you think that some kk183 would be more interesting that the kk184?
I could get some from a friend of mine.
About the couple of Coles on the string quartet, I have a Metric Halo uln8 with enough dB and no noise.
I would have loved to try them in couple for this session.
But you seems pessimistic about this idea?
Old 4 days ago
  #8
Gear Addict
 

If the string writing is rhythmic or percussive, your instinct to use spot mics is probably good. However, if the writing is more lyrical or atmospheric...it would be a mistake to get the mics too close. Yes of course it's possible to add reverb later, but there is nothing like the sound of an ensemble in a good-sounding room, with the individual players' sounds combining organically.
Old 4 days ago
  #9
The writing is more atmospheric or melodic.
I thought using a mix of close microphones to give some presence, and a couple of microphone to give more space.
But I could achieve this with different combinations.
Putting 4 dpa’s as spot microphones would give me the security of having the 4 instruments well separated and free of too much room acoustic.
With the couple I could add some air in the mix.
Old 4 days ago
  #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Adagietto View Post
(...)Do you think that some kk183 would be more interesting that the kk184?
I could get some from a friend of mine.
not a good idea imo: the 183's have an even more severe hf bump than the 184's so they could become problematic on string instruments and they would pick up even more room sound which i'd try to avoid (in a room with dimensions as you mentioned)

btw: i'd set up the quartet in a semi-circle closer to one of the short walls (so they're looking down the length of the room) IF using a main pair; i'd go for m/s (with a cardioid or even hypercardiod center) at ca 3m from the quartet and a spaced pair of omnis at the far end.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Adagietto View Post
About the couple of Coles on the string quartet, I have a Metric Halo uln8 with enough dB and no noise. I would have loved to try them in couple for this session.
But you seems pessimistic about this idea?
i'm pessimistic due to their severely limited hf representation and their use at some distance which would lead to even lower levels - combined with the unl8 (which imo isn't very good at higher gain settings) this would indeed make for a combination which i'd want to avoid.

better to get your friend's km183's for ambis then!

Last edited by deedeeyeah; 4 days ago at 10:26 PM.. Reason: typo
Old 4 days ago
  #11
I must confess that I never recorded using the M/S technique.
(I précise that I am mainly pianist and composer).
Could I use the M149 + R84 to record in M/S?
Is there not the risk that I take too much room acoustic with this technique?
Old 4 days ago
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Adagietto View Post
I must confess that I never recorded using the M/S technique.
(I précise that I am mainly pianist and composer).
Could I use the M149 + R84 to record in M/S?
Is there not the risk that I take room much room acoustic with this technique?
of course you could use these mics

...but i wouldn't recommend any of these mics individually and even less in combination as a m/s pair for too many reasons to mention but also as i was suggesting to use both your (different models of) 149's on strings; try (a narrow) x/y more maybe ortf - but again: i doubt the room is worth setting up a pair of mains...
Old 4 days ago
  #13
Ok, thank you for the time you gave to me.
Old 4 days ago
  #14
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bicarbone's Avatar
If I may add a different voice than deedeeyeah's (despite him being a fellow Swiss engineer), I am not fond of M/S (I do own a Neumann KMA M/S system) but am absolutely in love with Blumlein and ribbons for strings instruments. I've used Coles recently with my ULN8 and I think they work beautifully together. If your room is treated and have non parallel walls, or well, just sounds good for acoustic music, I'd say go for it! DPA as spots for safety is fine to bring up some detail, but they always sound too pinched when they are just on their own.
Old 4 days ago
  #15
Quote:
Originally Posted by bicarbone View Post
If I may add a different voice than deedeeyeah's (despite him being a fellow Swiss engineer), I am not fond of M/S (I do own a Neumann KMA M/S system) but am absolutely in love with Blumlein and ribbons for strings instruments. I've used Coles recently with my ULN8 and I think they work beautifully together. If your room is treated and have non parallel walls, or well, just sounds good for acoustic music, I'd say go for it! DPA as spots for safety is fine to bring up some detail, but they always sound too pinched when they are just on their own.
Thank you Bicarbone!

I never had the opportunity to try some ribbon on strings (excerpt on a double bass), but I heard some recordings that I loved.
I just hesitated between using my ribbon microphones as a blumlein couple as second spot microphone.
I could put a Cole 4038 on each violin and 2 R84s on viola and cello.
Or in a Blumlein couple.
In this last case, I thought putting the quartet in a half circle with one Cole facing 2nd violin and viola, and the second one facing 1st violin and cello.
If understood well, I even could put these two tracks in a MS plug in post prod if I wanted to try.
What seems sure for me is that 4 dpa’s as main spot microphones would be the most secure base.
Old 4 days ago
  #16
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In addition, if your recording room is on the small side (no matter how good it sounds for acoustic music), the Coles 4038 as ribbon mics will also have very strong null rejection (or non-pickup) for the side walls, ceiling and floor....in other words it won't pickup up direct reflections from these boundary surfaces, and it's these reflections which combine and largely contribute to the 'small room sound'...which you want to avoid.

The only thing to contend with is the strong rear pickup of the Coles, but some treatment of the space behind the mics will address that. I recommend using them....certainly for the string quartet, maybe for voice and piano too, as this is a separately miked pop/studio type of recording, so it's very easy for multiple 'small room sound signature' to become multiple-imprinted on all the individual mics...which can lead to a boxy, non-spacious final mix recording.
Old 4 days ago
  #17
Quote:
Originally Posted by studer58 View Post
In addition, if your recording room is on the small side (no matter how good it sounds for acoustic music), the Coles 4038 as ribbon mics will also have very strong null rejection (or non-pickup) for the side walls, ceiling and floor....in other words it won't pickup up direct reflections from these boundary surfaces, and it's these reflections which combine and largely contribute to the 'small room sound'...which you want to avoid.

The only thing to contend with is the strong rear pickup of the Coles, but some treatment of the space behind the mics will address that. I recommend using them....certainly for the string quartet, maybe for voice and piano too, as this is a separately miked pop/studio type of recording, so it's very easy for multiple 'small room sound signature' to become multiple-imprinted on all the individual mics...which can lead to a boxy, non-spacious final mix recording.
Thank you,

That’s exactly what I try to do.
I recently found some Auralex Maxwall panels on second hand and simply put them around the piano completely change the acoustic sensation.
I know it doesn’t mean that it works like would do a complete acoustic treatment (with bass traps etc) but I can hear immediately that a lot of unwanted reflections disappear clearly.
Putting them on the - side of the ribbon microphones seems also to be quite effective.
Sometimes, I even play by moving a little bit the panels as to get a bit more resonance back when I feel that the sound has become really too dry.
Old 4 days ago
  #18
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dpa clips + ribbon blumlein + multiple layers = sheer horror (and imo by far the worst option one can chose under these circumstances)

dpa's for being harsh and noisy, blumlein and ribbons for their known issues, record multiple layers and troubles pile up - add a room with questionable acoustics/unknown treatment plus given preamps and you got all ingredients which would make the tracks a challenge to mix (to say the least) in the context for which they will be getting used...

nevermind and good luck!



p.s. i forgot to mention in my previous posts that i'd rather use the 'mains' (if any) and the ambis to blur the image (by feeding signals into efx devices) than to record multiple layers.
Old 4 days ago
  #19
Mmm... there is a kind of Swiss divergence on this publication. I hope that it will not cause any community worries!

Thanks for your message.
I think I agree with you about the layers. It’s a demand from the composer of the project for whom I make this recording.
I come from classical and even if we are recording separately, I prefer to stay as natural as possible.
I think that I will try to convince him to use only one layer of string quartet. It will sound more chamber music style. Personally I prefer.
Old 4 days ago
  #20
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no worries: i like reading other contributor's view on things a lot even if i don't necessarily agree...

whatever setup you'll be using, i'm glad you're pushing for a single, solid performance rather than layering several takes! - this most likely will have a more profound effect on both the musicians performance and the results than what mics you're using...



[regardless of the amount of layers, i almost always suggest using the best mics one has on each instrument - which in your case means: use anything but the dpa's!

it's not that they are bad per se: i got plenty of experience with them as i own a dozen and occasionally rent another four dozens; i do however use them but on very loud stages/in highly amplified situations - of course one can get them to sound right but imo it takes a lot of tweaking, regardless of situation.]
Old 4 days ago
  #21
Yes, I have the same feeling about the dpa’s, but I found them often useful in a mix, even used at a low percentage in the mix, but they really can bring something that other - even good - microphones will miss.
Old 4 days ago
  #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Adagietto View Post
Yes, I have the same feeling about the dpa’s, but I found them often useful in a mix, even used at a low percentage in the mix, but they really can bring something that other - even good - microphones will miss.
maybe - pretty sure though that if this is the case, it's due to their proximity to the instruments, not thx to their behaviour/specs/idiosyncrasies.

(again, a matter of taste: i prefer the sanken cos-11 or sennheiser mke-2 lavaliers (!) or audio technica clips over the dpa's in most any situation, except for piano and trumpet where the dpa's outperform the other mics, mainly due to their high spl capacity though. and the dpa's clearly have an edge in terms of mounting options - which may be the killer argument in many situations!)
Old 4 days ago
  #23
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jimjazzdad's Avatar
With four different languages/regions/cultures and the insularity due to geography (and perhaps Covid 19...) the diversity of Swiss soundmen (sound people?) is fascinating!

Seriously, I love ideas synthesized from a range of opinion!

P.S. I have always equated Belgium with my own home country - a bit of duality...stereo if you will. Clearly Switzerland is more like a Soundfield array I guess!

Last edited by jimjazzdad; 3 days ago at 11:41 AM..
Old 3 days ago
  #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jimjazzdad View Post
With four different languages/regions/cultures and the insularity due to geography (and perhaps Covid 19...) the diversity of Swiss soundmen (sound people?) is fascinating!

Seriously, I love ideas synthesized from a range of opinion!
off-topic but maybe helpful to know: it's true that zwitscherland still behaves in many ways as if it were an island, far out on an ocean... - at the same time we are closely interwoven in our five neighbours, so that the borders (in some places) are literally invisible:

i live in basel, a relatively small city (by comparison) that borders on germany and france - every day tens of thousands of border crossers from the more rural area come here to work; trams lead to the nearest villages in france and germany and in some quarters it is enough to cross the street and you are suddenly 'abroad' :-)


___


and regarding corona: currently there's one active case but no new confirmed cases in 10 days here in basel so you gotta be very unlucky if you get the bug! - the plague hit the city much harder in the middle ages, as evidenced by one of the most famous depictions of a danse macabre:

https://de.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basler_Totentanz

___


p.s. love the soundfield (mics and) analogy!
Old 3 days ago
  #25
It's hard for me to imagine recording a string quartet without using a stereo pair, and you don't have many choices in that regard. Of what you have available, I would certainly use the '184 pair if you were recording in a proper hall. Using them in so small a room is a harder call; I would put the quartet against the long wall to lengthen the gap before the sidewall reflections. These mics will seem bright when used so close, however, and you seem to be inclined to push the sound in a darker direction. Ribbons might be a better fit in light of that. I don't personally own any Coles but I have the impression their sonic signature is more colored than the AEA's in my locker. If you like that sound, my suggestion is to employ them as a parallel spaced pair on a stereo bar, and aim them down the long axis of the room. This will give more rejection of sidewall bounce than a Blumlein arrangement, and you can easily move them closer to or farther from the ensemble without a huge shift in stereo picture. You might want to do this when layering. The third option would be to construct a M/S pair with TLM 49 as mid and M 149 as side. I don't see any great benefit to this. Spot the players if you must, but I predict this will wreak havoc on the blend.

David L. Rick
Seventh String Recording
Old 3 days ago
  #26
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jnorman's Avatar
I would use an ORTF pair of the km184s about 6 ft out, and spot the cello with the tlm149. FWIW, I have never had to use the cello spot in a mix, but it doesn’t hurt to have it if you need it...
Old 3 days ago
  #27
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It is pretty clear from everybody who posted that the issue is not what mics to use for OP, rather it is the room you need to avoid. If you were sincerely looking for suggestion, I would take that. All your mics are fine. Your room will not help you getting your dream sound.
Old 2 days ago
  #28
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fred2bern's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by deedeeyeah View Post
i live in basel, a relatively small city (by comparison) that borders on germany and france - every day tens of thousands of border crossers from the more rural area come here to work; trams lead to the nearest villages in france and germany and in some quarters it is enough to cross the street and you are suddenly 'abroad' :-)
I live close to Bern, which is the Switzerland capital village of my country... And even when I go to Basel I feel "abroad"...


More on the subject:

If t's a "real" string quartet you should not need to spot individual. The sound of a string quartet is already the mix of the individual sounds. If your main pair is at the right place, you should not touch the board.

If you imagine you'll have to, maybe the best way is to find a real string quartet (I had been the first violin of a string quartet for 10 years, it was my main job during my first life).

Fred
Old 2 days ago
  #29
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basel vs bern? usually it's zürich vs basel... :-)

more on topic: we all know that one can get stellar results of most any 'klangkörper' by using just a pair (or an array) of mics! - however, the attribution that a recording should only be valuable or real or better if we use traditional methods is simply wrong!

over the decades i have experienced hundreds of situations in which i have been able to compare the traditional approach with others and my balance is overwhelming: the worse the room acoustics, the more likely it is that a multitude of directional microphones close to the instruments on which the mix then relies can save a recording (or make it possible in the first place)...

of course this requires an entirely different mixing technique which some people associate more with pop music (another misconception) - i don't bother as i can get results with are indistinguishable or very close to using just a stereo pair, which isn't necessarily the purpose though; more often it's about getting the option to steer the mix in an entirely different direction!

anyway, the op mentioned that a) the room may not be ideal (or at least that's my interpretation from reading the dimensions) and b) it's for some kind of classic-pop - in my book, these are strong indicators for NOT using just a stereo mic! in fact, i think it be silly to engrave the (presumed poor) room acoustics and the balance between the instruments into the recording by using but a stereo pair! adding a single spot most likely won't do the trick either...

also, different instruments will get tracked on several sessions so there's no way a conductor could balance things in meaningful ways - but by recording 'clean' tracks, one reclaims authority over the balance: it's a very powerful tool - give it a try!

...and don't come back until you have achieved very pleasing results - if you can't, i can assure you that the issue is not to be found in the recording technique.


[i'd be using four tlm170's or tlm107's if not four mk4's or ck61's on instruments, mk4/mk8 (ortf or double m/s or a soundfield or two oc818's) for 'mains' and a pair of 4006's in wide a/b for distant ambis (or several pair of ambis if for some reason i would want to avoid my quantec, tc, lexicon devices; if so, ambis then get further spaced the more distant they get positioned)]
Old 2 days ago
  #30
Hello,

Thank you for all these contributions in this post.

Perhaps should I have precised a bit more some details about the context but I didn't want to be too long in my original question.

First, I know quite well what is a good room to record in. I was lucky enough to record as a pianist in some wonderful studios and concert halls in the best conditions.
The quartet that I have to record for this session is a professional one, and indeed has a group sound.
I played myself with different "old" string quartet who play together since nearly 30 years and I know well how important is the group sound that you can get when you play 150 concerts a year together during a so long time.

But I should have precised that in this case, I know that I am doing something in really not ideal conditions.
It is a typical "home studio" project.
If I had wanted the ideal conditions, I would simply have gone in a big studio.
My personal projects are mainly produced by big structure who can afford beautiful studios etc, but in some case, some projects are only possible in "home studio" configuration, and I must say that it has some advantages too.

First I love it.
Even if it's great to have a wonderful and experiences sound engineer with you in a good studio, it's also a pleasure to do it yourself. I have my own studio since nearly 25 years. I used it mainly to record my self some music for theatre, dance, documentaries etc...

And in a home studio you can work in an other way than in a big studio. You can manage the time differently.

So, about the room. I know this is not an ideal room, but I won't change it simply because it's mine and the only I have to put my home studio in.
It is a beautiful living room in an old house in Brussels.
It sounds really good to play some chamber music.
It's good to say that the music in the 19th century and all the beginning of the 20th century was played as often in private houses than in concert hall.
Beautiful concert halls or studios are perhaps become a kind of standard speaking of "ideal conditions of recording", but to record some music in small (not so small in fact) living-room is not a nonsense in my point of view.

By the way, my question was not : is it a good place to record in? But : How to record in the best way possible in this given place?

On the other hand, I really want to thank everybody to spend some time and energy to have thought about it.
I found it really great that there are some (virtual) places like Gearslutz were talented and experiences people can share their experience. I found it really helpful and generous.

Jean-Philippe
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