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mics for classical and jazz recording

Postby forumuser653351 » Sun Feb 18, 2018 5:54 pm

Hello all.

I’m slowly building up a mic collection with the aim of recording classical music - from solos to small ensembles, choirs and eventually full orchestras and acoustic jazz (think Miles Davis Kind of Blue sound). So far I’ve got a matched pair of Sontronics STC-1S for stereo (I’m using a spaced a/b configuration) and a Thomann t.bone SCT 700 large diaphragm tube mic (surprisingly good for the money) and a Xaudia XM10 ribbon. I’m happy with my mic choice so far but I’m aware that I need a few more to record the music stated above. So where do I go from here? Some AKG 414 style mics for spot mics? (in the past I have seen these used for spot mics at the Royal Albert Hall). Some more ribbon mics for horns or tube mics to get an old school jazz sound? Another pair of stereo mics? Any thoughts on how to proceed would be most useful and appreciated (of course it’s how I use them which is the main thing!).
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Re: mics for classical and jazz recording

Postby Sam Inglis » Sun Feb 18, 2018 6:03 pm

I would imagine that 90 percent or more of professionally made classical recordings are done using small-diaphragm omni mics as the main pair, so my first thought is that you might want to invest in a good pair of omnis.

Traditionally that might include things like the Neumann M50 and KM83, DPA 4006, Sennheiser MKH20, or various Schoeps capsule/preamp combinations. Those are all going to set you back several thousand (except the M50s which will set you back several tens of thousands!) but there are a lot of more affordable omnis on the market that do a good job. The Rode NT55 is often mentioned on this forum for example.

Professional modular systems such as the DPA and Schoeps ranges offer different capsules or grids to suit different miking scenarios, in particular, omnis that are equalised for free-field and diffuse-field pickup.
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Re: mics for classical and jazz recording

Postby Ariosto » Sun Feb 18, 2018 6:58 pm

forumuser653351 wrote:Hello all.

I’m slowly building up a mic collection with the aim of recording classical music - from solos to small ensembles, choirs and eventually full orchestras and acoustic jazz (think Miles Davis Kind of Blue sound). So far I’ve got a matched pair of Sontronics STC-1S for stereo (I’m using a spaced a/b configuration) and a Thomann t.bone SCT 700 large diaphragm tube mic (surprisingly good for the money) and a Xaudia XM10 ribbon. I’m happy with my mic choice so far but I’m aware that I need a few more to record the music stated above. So where do I go from here? Some AKG 414 style mics for spot mics? (in the past I have seen these used for spot mics at the Royal Albert Hall). Some more ribbon mics for horns or tube mics to get an old school jazz sound? Another pair of stereo mics? Any thoughts on how to proceed would be most useful and appreciated (of course it’s how I use them which is the main thing!).
The DPA 2006 omni's aren't bad, especially for piano, sitting with capsule to ceiling.

For strings - ribbon mic's. I especially like Sontronics Sigma and also Royer 101's and even better the more expensive Royer ones. (Not that I own any of the expensive range but have used them once on a CD).

With the Sigma the high end is tamed a little so it's excellent on violins and strings generally. (It's an active ribbon).
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Re: mics for classical and jazz recording

Postby Aural Reject » Sun Feb 18, 2018 7:09 pm

There are probably a million and one different answers to this, most of which will have at least some validity ;)

Sam's suggestion for SDC omnis is a good one, provided that you're working in decent sounding spaces. Your own suggestion of 414 type mics is also good - switchable pattern mics are particularly useful when you need a solution when you need to swap a polar pattern and you don't have enough discrete mics to do it.

We all have our own favourites, of course, for various tasks but in some ways it's probably more important to think about the scenarios you'll end up in and how you might navigate your way through them. What this means is that specific mic recommendations might be less useful to you than 'have a mic box that contains x SDC cardioids, y SDC omnis, z LDC switchable patterns' or similar. The main reason for this is that - especially as you go up the food chain - the manufacturer of the mic becomes more of a personal taste thing (and certainly they can be priced at diminishing returns...).

The other thing that you've not defined - if indeed you are looking for specific recommendations - is any kind of budget...
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Re: mics for classical and jazz recording

Postby forumuser653351 » Sun Feb 18, 2018 7:17 pm

Many thanks for the suggestions, I should have mentioned that my pair of Sontronics small diaphragm mics have cardioid and omni capsules.

It certainly would be nice to aim for DPA or Schoeps but a little out of my price range for the time being!

The Sontronics Sigma is on my radar, so good to hear an endorsement for it :)

I think that having a mic box with suitable mics for the recording scenarios I mentioned was along the lines of my enquiry (with specific models that are known to be widely used in classical and jazz). So how many SDC cardioids, SDC omnis, LDC switchable patterns? I guess that depends on the size of the ensemble. I see myself starting small and building up. All good stuff to get me thinking, it’s nice to bounce stuff of others - greatly appreciated.
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Re: mics for classical and jazz recording

Postby Bob Bickerton » Sun Feb 18, 2018 7:31 pm

This is all related to budget! My advice is to start buying Lotto tickets now :thumbup:

I invested in the Sennheiser MKH range some years ago, pair of each 8020 Omni, 8090 wide cardioid, 8040 cardioid, 8050 hypercardioid. Along with those I have Neumann KM183 Omni pair and TLM193 cardioid pair. But as Sam says there are cheaper alternatives.

The critical mics are your main array, the configuration of which can vary depending on the size of the ensemble/orchestra being recorded, nature of the music and acoustic space in which you’re recording.

These days I tend to use (what I believe to be) one of the Faulkner arrays consisting of an ORTF pair of TLM193s with MKH8020 outriggers. Whilst I also use spot mics, my main aim is to try and capture as much as I can from the main array, thus these mics are critical.

TLM193s come up second hand at reasonable prices. They are the cardioid version of the much loved TLM170. There are many cheaper alternatives, but I’d be hard pressed to think of something with a similar sonic character. The Rode NT5, whilst a good microphone has an edge to its sound which I do not enjoy.

Fortunately the Rode NT55 Omni capsule is very good and I rate it as sounding similar to the Neumann KM183, so very workable.

Having said all of that, my pick for main array on a budget would the the Swedish manufacturer Line audio. A pair each of their wide cardioid CM3 and Omni OM1 microphones would deliver a very workable solution.

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Re: mics for classical and jazz recording

Postby Aural Reject » Sun Feb 18, 2018 7:40 pm

The numbers of what thing can also depends on what it is you're trying to do.

You can record orchestras purely with a main array...but it sounds a particular way...if you've been asked to provide a filmic balance you'll find you can run into many tens of microphones...for concerts or recordings that contain mixes of 'classical' and 'crossover' music you may find you need different numbers of mics in different places to achieve the desired balance.

One piece of general advice that's stuck with me from when I started was focus on quality rather than quantity...and think about where you're putting them rather than throwing something at everything.

A friend of mine who used to come along to my sessions occasionally has now started recording in his own right. He makes "I've got 40 mics so I can point one at everything" a selling point...but they're all early-ish model imported mics, many of which have pronounced presence peaks which makes it tedious when you have to EQ absolutely everything to get something that isn't so bright you need to wear three pairs of sunglasses to listen to it.
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Re: mics for classical and jazz recording

Postby ConcertinaChap » Sun Feb 18, 2018 10:13 pm

forumuser653351 wrote:So far I’ve got a matched pair of Sontronics STC-1S for stereo

Just want to say I think these are decent mics, I used to have a pair myself (and when I sold them they were bought by someone at Abbey Road). By all means get more SDCs but I shouldn't get rid or replace these. They run the NT5/NT55s very close, I reckon.

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Re: mics for classical and jazz recording

Postby forumuser653351 » Mon Feb 19, 2018 7:39 am

ConcertinaChap wrote:
forumuser653351 wrote:So far I’ve got a matched pair of Sontronics STC-1S for stereo

Just want to say I think these are decent mics, I used to have a pair myself (and when I sold them they were bought by someone at Abbey Road). By all means get more SDCs but I shouldn't get rid or replace these. They run the NT5/NT55s very close, I reckon.

CC

That’s reassuring to know, I was hoping to use these as my main array for the time being.
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Re: mics for classical and jazz recording

Postby forumuser653351 » Mon Feb 19, 2018 7:57 am

Aural Reject wrote:The numbers of what thing can also depends on what it is you're trying to do.

You can record orchestras purely with a main array...but it sounds a particular way...if you've been asked to provide a filmic balance you'll find you can run into many tens of microphones...for concerts or recordings that contain mixes of 'classical' and 'crossover' music you may find you need different numbers of mics in different places to achieve the desired balance.

One piece of general advice that's stuck with me from when I started was focus on quality rather than quantity...and think about where you're putting them rather than throwing something at everything.

A friend of mine who used to come along to my sessions occasionally has now started recording in his own right. He makes "I've got 40 mics so I can point one at everything" a selling point...but they're all early-ish model imported mics, many of which have pronounced presence peaks which makes it tedious when you have to EQ absolutely everything to get something that isn't so bright you need to wear three pairs of sunglasses to listen to it.

Good advice, thanks. I do lean towards the less is more strategy - making great recordings that represent the sound of the instruments and music. I also want to start with small things and work up.
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Re: mics for classical and jazz recording

Postby John Willett » Mon Feb 19, 2018 12:23 pm

Always buy the very best you can afford - or you will end up selling and buying better, which ends up costing a lot more in the long run.

I record classical, and have been doing it for years.

My mics are mainly Sennheiser MKH series, some Neumann and some Gefells.

I bought the Sennheisers about 30 years ago - they are still current mics (though cost a *lot* more now).

I have used mainly SDCs over the years but am about to get (I hope) a matched cardioid LDC pair.

So - choose carefully - personally I would look at the affordable SDC series - eg: Gefell M300 series, Neumann KM184 series, or MBHO SDCs as these will last you forever.

On a tight budget, I would certainly look at the Line Audio OM1 (omni) and CM3 (cardioid/wide-cardioid) as these two punch well above their weight (and are long-term keepers).
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Re: mics for classical and jazz recording

Postby ConcertinaChap » Mon Feb 19, 2018 3:52 pm

John Willett wrote:Always buy the very best you can afford - or you will end up selling and buying better, which ends up costing a lot more in the long run.

Not necessarily. I've bought and sold my way through quite a few mics over the years, and learned a lot by doing so, but because I bought mostly second hand I rarely lost much on the resale.

You have a lot more experience than I and where I have been able to lay hands on mics at the more expensive end which you advocate it's always been worth it. I wouldn't be without my KM184's (B stock) or my U87 and Earthworks QTC-1's (all second hand :) ), but there are cheaper mics which are pretty good and well worth having until you can afford to work up the scale. I'd include the NT5/55's and the Sontronics STC-1 in that group.

The thing with buying mics second hand is that much more often than not they're in pretty good condition. People on the whole don't mishandle studio mics. It does happen and you do need to do a bit of due diligence (e.g. what's the vendor's reviews like, etc) but you can save a pack of money or get better mics for the same money by taking the second hand route.

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Re: mics for classical and jazz recording

Postby Aural Reject » Mon Feb 19, 2018 4:14 pm

The other thing to bear in mind is just how frequently one is going to use them....especially the extended locker...

If you're only going to be using lots of mics a handful of times a year, it's worth looking at the hire market....although that can often depend where you are in the world as to what you can get your hands on easily.
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Re: mics for classical and jazz recording

Postby John Willett » Mon Feb 19, 2018 4:28 pm

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Re: mics for classical and jazz recording

Postby forumuser653351 » Mon Feb 19, 2018 7:06 pm

Lots of great suggestions and advice, many thanks all. Looks like the Line Audio mics are good affordable choices or I’ll have to save a bit more for the top professional mics.
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Re: mics for classical and jazz recording

Postby Aural Reject » Mon Feb 19, 2018 7:52 pm

forumuser653351 wrote:Lots of great suggestions and advice, many thanks all. Looks like the Line Audio mics are good affordable choices or I’ll have to save a bit more for the top professional mics.

They're definitely worth it...I've got a few CM3s in the box next to the 'usual' Schoeps / Neumann / AKG etc and I'll pick them in preference sometimes depending on what I want. Not had chance to use the Omni flavour yet.
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Re: mics for classical and jazz recording

Postby mjfe2 » Fri Feb 23, 2018 2:04 pm

Must try the Line Audio mics everyone's talking about. How do they compare to say NT55s? And any audible deficiencies compared to beyer MC and Neumann KM mics?
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Re: mics for classical and jazz recording

Postby John Willett » Sat Feb 24, 2018 1:18 pm

mjfe2 wrote:Must try the Line Audio mics everyone's talking about. How do they compare to say NT55s? And any audible deficiencies compared to beyer MC and Neumann KM mics?

Every microphone sounds different - it's just that the Line Audio punch well above thir weight for the price.

If I have the money then I go for the tip end like Gefell, Sennheiser MKH series, Neumann KM-A/D, DPA or Schoeps. All these are pretty equal in build quality and you choose by which sounds best for you. My own kit includes Sennheiser, Neumann, Gefell and Calrec.

If less money, but still good quality, then I would look at the Gefell M300 series, Neumann KM183/4/5 series or MBHO

If less is available - then Line Audo, Røde NT5 or 55 would tend to be top of my list in the best "bang for buck" at the "inexpensive" end. Sontronics is also good at this price range - but the Line Audio is cheaper than the others, but the "cardioid" pattern is really wide-cardioid.
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Re: mics for classical and jazz recording

Postby mjfe2 » Sat Feb 24, 2018 1:33 pm

Oh yes, tell me about MBHO. Aren’t their capsules made by a reputable European manufacturer?
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Re: mics for classical and jazz recording

Postby John Willett » Sat Feb 24, 2018 6:04 pm

mjfe2 wrote:Oh yes, tell me about MBHO. Aren’t their capsules made by a reputable European manufacturer?

MBHO make MBHO capsules (I have been to the factory). The mic. designer used to work for Schoeps at one time and people think they have a quality close to Schoeps at a much lower price.

But the company is very small and tend to sell direct, which keeps prices down as there is no distribution chain. But, of course, no one doing publicity for them.
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