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Budget travel setup for recording own classical chamber music concerts

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Budget travel setup for recording own classical chamber music concerts

Postby foscolo84 » Wed Sep 12, 2018 12:22 pm

Hi everyone!

Newbie here and I would really appreciate your knowledge and experience with the following.

I am a classical clarinetist often traveling to perform. I am looking for a recording set up for recording my own classical chamber music concerts (normally between 2 and 8 acoustic instruments in medium-sized venues with widely different acoustics).

The equipment should be:

- light, small and as portable as possible
- easy to set up and operate (I will be playing in the concerts, so I don't have lots of time to set up and cannot rely on another person to operate the recording machine, check levels etc).
- as high quality as possible for my 300-500 euro budget (natural sound but rather on the warm side).

The final purpose of these recordings is to have archival audio which can be shared on social media, soundcloud etc. and sometimes sync'ed to concert footage.

I have done some research online and right now I am thinking of a Zoom h4n pro or a Zoom H5.

I am wondering if it would be worth investing in external microphones?
I read great things about Aston Origin cardioid microphones, but I would only be able to afford one, resulting in a mono recording, so I don't know if it is worth it?

Also, would I get the best results by setting the mics on or close to the stage, or rather by setting them up in the back of the venue?

Thank you in advance for your inputs!
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Re: Budget travel setup for recording own classical chamber music concerts

Postby Ramirez » Wed Sep 12, 2018 4:38 pm

I'd probably go for a pair of small-diaphragm microphones - the Rode NT55 (I've not used them but they have a good reputation for the money) would perhaps be a good option for you as they have both omni and cardioid caps, giving you option to use different stereo arrays depending on the concert.

Add a small handheld recorder (Zoom F4?) and a pair of decent closed-back headphones (Sennheiser HD-25?) and you'd be good to go.

However, even that is not far off double your budget, so perhaps one of the all-in one recorders as you mention is the best option. They usually have built-in cardioid mics in an XY stereo configuration. If you have some money left over (and tif the recorder has extra mic inputs) a pair of Line Audio OM1 omni mics (quite cheap, and very good sounding) would give you some more options.

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Re: Budget travel setup for recording own classical chamber music concerts

Postby Sam Inglis » Wed Sep 12, 2018 4:55 pm

I think you would do better to identify a particular concert that you expect to be a high point, and use your budget to pay an experienced engineer to record it properly. That way, you are guaranteed to have one high-quality concert recording. Buying a portable recorder and placing it at some random position in the venue will give you an entire tour's worth of poor quality recordings that will only really be useful for analysing your own performances -- if that.
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Re: Budget travel setup for recording own classical chamber music concerts

Postby Ariosto » Wed Sep 12, 2018 6:43 pm

This is totally correct. Classical music is quite hard to record well, and the cheap equipment that your small budget allows is not going to give you quality results, especially with your little practical experience of how to set the mics and levels etc., as well as knowledge of acoustics and how the room can make or break the recording.

Two good mics on their own would be about double you budget - and you need mic stands and a recorder, and leads, and good headphones and many other things to enable a good recording.
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Re: Budget travel setup for recording own classical chamber music concerts

Postby ConcertinaChap » Wed Sep 12, 2018 8:06 pm

Speaking from experience it's quite hard, even if you've got good kit, to record an ensemble in which you're taking part when you don't have much experience. This is because you can't monitor what your kit is doing and you don't have the experience to set it going and walk away.

Sam's right. Get an engineer in, but get them to show you what they're doing along the way. It'll give you some clue of what's involved for the future.

CC

PS If you're in the UK our own John Willett might be your man.
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Re: Budget travel setup for recording own classical chamber music concerts

Postby Bob Bickerton » Wed Sep 12, 2018 8:12 pm

This has been largely covered.

You could certainly use something like the Zoom recorders in order to make an archive recording suitable for performance self assessment purposes, and I’ve seen this done often. Generally musicians will place the device on a short tripod downstage centre.

But the quality of the recording is not going to be something you’d probably want to use for any other purpose.

Once you move into the realm of making useable recordings, you’re looking at a stereo pair of quality microphones, with the associated challenge of where to place them, using microphone stand/s which themselves wouldn’t be at all portable! You will have issues of negotiating stand placement with venue managers and concert producers always being careful not to compromise audience sight-lines.

Audiences are often quite tolerant if they think the recording is being made for broadcast, but less so if it’s just for the performer’s archives.

Bob
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Re: Budget travel setup for recording own classical chamber music concerts

Postby foscolo84 » Thu Sep 13, 2018 7:14 pm

Thank you all for your input!

It was very informative. I will probably just go for a Zoom H5 just as an archival recording device and hire a sound engineer where/when possible to make a high-quality recording of a few projects per year.

Greetings from Denmark and thanks again!
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Re: Budget travel setup for recording own classical chamber music concerts

Postby Sam Spoons » Fri Sep 14, 2018 9:33 am

Archive recordings done with a (spare?) mobile phone and can give surprisingly good results but only mono of course. There are good quality microphones for iPhone or 'droid phones which an raise the quality to match a dedicated recorder (but again only in mono). However given the price of the cheaper Zoom recorders I might be happier leaving one of those front of stage, vulnerable to theft or damage, than a new iPhone X.
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Re: Budget travel setup for recording own classical chamber music concerts

Postby Trevor Johnson » Fri Sep 14, 2018 11:37 am

There are good quality microphones for iPhone or 'droid phones which an raise the quality to match a dedicated recorder (but again only in mono)

I have a Zoom IQ7 that fits into my iPhone or Ipad and is definitely stereo. It also lets you make Mid-Side recordings.
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Re: Budget travel setup for recording own classical chamber music concerts

Postby Trevor Johnson » Fri Sep 14, 2018 11:37 am

There are good quality microphones for iPhone or 'droid phones which an raise the quality to match a dedicated recorder (but again only in mono)

I have a Zoom IQ7 that fits into my iPhone or Ipad and is definitely stereo. It also lets you make Mid-Side recordings.
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Re: Budget travel setup for recording own classical chamber music concerts

Postby Sam Spoons » Fri Sep 14, 2018 1:10 pm

I assume that makes use of the lightning connector digital audio input which is better still, quality will be as good as the mics, preamps & converters in the iQ7.
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Re: Budget travel setup for recording own classical chamber music concerts

Postby foscolo84 » Sat Sep 15, 2018 6:53 am

Thank you for mentioning a smartphone external mic... it is an enticing option for the shear portability of it.
The iQ7 looks very promising and recordings I listened to on Youtube are impressive for a smart-phone. It is too bad that I am an Android guy. It looks like high quality external mics for android phone are sorely missing on the market. Or do any of you have experience with good android alternatives to the iQ7?
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Re: Budget travel setup for recording own classical chamber music concerts

Postby James Perrett » Sat Sep 15, 2018 9:08 pm

foscolo84 wrote:Or do any of you have experience with good android alternatives to the iQ7?

Does your phone support USB on the go (OTG) for audio? If so, you can connect various USB audio interfaces to it with the right adaptor cable.
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Re: Budget travel setup for recording own classical chamber music concerts

Postby Jorge » Sat Sep 15, 2018 11:03 pm

In principle I agree with Sam (who has much more experience and higher standards than I), however I have been able to get many decent quality recordings of my own gigs that are suitable for musicians listening back to performances and in some cases for live demos to post on YouTube or sync with live demo videos for posting. Only you can determine your standards of sound quality and if you want more than one live recording (which would likely blow your entire budget), or want to record all your gigs on a tour, I would not completely dismiss the possibility of doing your own recordings.
Placement of the mics (recorder) is a critically important variable in doing field recordings like you want to do. Depending on the venue it can be a real challenge to find a spot where the sound is balanced and clear, background noise level is low, placement of a recorder is unobtrusive, socially acceptable and allowed by the venue, chance of theft is low, and the recorder is accessible to turn on and off. I am a musician and play percussion with a Cuban jazz/timba group and an Afrocuban folkloric ensemble in clubs and theaters, quite different in some ways from classical chamber music. Over the past 12 years I have used a variety of small recorders including Fostex FR2LE/Rode NT4, Zoom H2, Olympus LS11, Sony M10, Sony D50, Sony D100 and most recently Sony ICD-SX2000. The FR2LE/NT4 and D100 sounded the best, however the ICD-SX2000 comes surprisingly close except for some roll off in the low bass.
The ICD-SX2000 is, however, matte black and tiny enough to enable me to place it unobtrusively in better locations than any of the other recorders except maybe the discontinued M10. This is actually an important advantage and has led me to prefer the ICD-SX2000 over the D100 and Fostex for most gigs. It also can be controlled by bluetooth from your smartphone, enabling you to turn it on/off and set the gain from your stage position, no cables involved. The GUI logic is well designed, build quality is excellent, and the hassle factor is low. I recommend a clamp-on base to give you more flexibility in placing the recorder in a spot that sounds good. I use a Rycote suspension mount and windscreen for outdoor recordings, and I sometimes use those indoors as well. Over the years, this has been the setup I have found to be least distracting, and lets me focus on the music with minimal time and energy spent on the recording.
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