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Figure of eight microphones, recording in a small room?

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Figure of eight microphones, recording in a small room?

Postby Arpangel » Fri Aug 09, 2019 8:30 am

OK, I'm still plodding on with our piano and Marimba sessions, using stereo pairs of cardioids, but it's not ideal,TBH.
The trouble comes when I'm balancing/mixing the sessions, I've never done something like this before, and it's unnerving trying to locate a sound I don't want only to realise that the piano track I just edited is still there in its original form on the Marimba tracks!
We've sort of come to terms with this now, as it's just a by product of this way of recording and playing in the same space, and we only edit when it's really necessary. But I'd like to try and get it a bit more isolated, so I'm thinking instead of using cardioids, figure of eights may be better, being careful to angle them so the nulls were in the right places.
Only problem is that it's a small room, and the reflections may sneak into the rear lobes, so we wouldn't be that much better off.
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Re: Figure of eight microphones, recording in a small room?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Fri Aug 09, 2019 8:59 am

Arpangel wrote:...it's unnerving trying to locate a sound I don't want only to realise that the piano track I just edited is still there in its original form on the Marimba tracks!

Welcome to the world of spill! :-)

I'd like to try and get it a bit more isolated, so I'm thinking instead of using cardioids, figure of eights may be better, being careful to angle them so the nulls were in the right places. Only problem is that it's a small room, and the reflections may sneak into the rear lobes, so we wouldn't be that much better off.

...And that's why commercial studios have large, acoustically treated spaces and gobo screens...

Certainly the nulls of fig-8s can give more rejection (of direct sound) than the back end of many cardioids, but you do have that other lobe's pickup to deal with.

Duvets can be your friend again here, though, soaking up reflected sound that would otherwise be bounced into the back of the fig-8, for example.

The other issue you have is that both the piano and marimba are quite big instruments, rather than pseudo point-sources like a guitar amp or trumpet, so maximise spill rejection in a small room where you have to close-mic is always going to be more of a compromise than it would be in a larger space!

Experimentation and liberal use of duvets is my prescription! :-D
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Re: Figure of eight microphones, recording in a small room?

Postby Arpangel » Fri Aug 09, 2019 9:42 am

Hugh Robjohns wrote:
Arpangel wrote:Experimentation and liberal use of duvets is my prescription! :-D

Thank you Doctor, I'll break out the duvets, but can I ask you to add some Valium to that prescription? :D
Another pain is...not enough microphones! (cue GAS) I don't actually have 4 identical figure of eights.

:cry:
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Re: Figure of eight microphones, recording in a small room?

Postby blinddrew » Fri Aug 09, 2019 1:12 pm

Arpangel wrote:
Hugh Robjohns wrote:
Arpangel wrote:Experimentation and liberal use of duvets is my prescription! :-D

Thank you Doctor, I'll break out the duvets, but can I ask you to add some Valium to that prescription? :D
Another pain is...not enough microphones! (cue GAS) I don't actually have 4 identical figure of eights.

:cry:
But do you have two pairs?
Edit, just to clarify, I'm not being facetious here. If you're close mic'ing then the difference in room sound (once suitably duvet'd) won't be significant, so one pair on each instrument may be an effective approach.
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Re: Figure of eight microphones, recording in a small room?

Postby Exalted Wombat » Fri Aug 09, 2019 1:57 pm

With screening and microphone choice/placement you might get enough separation to have effective balance options. But for musical manipulation you really need complete isolation. Probably easier to get the performance right in the first place!
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Re: Figure of eight microphones, recording in a small room?

Postby Arpangel » Sat Aug 10, 2019 11:16 am

Yes, I want to work at getting the balance right, I'm going to run a headphone line into an adjoining room, just so I can pop out and have a listen, but that requires another person to take my place at the piano, not always possible. We can't get the performance right, it's free improvisation, we don't know what's going to happen!
Editing involves adjusting the levels sometimes, this is where it gets tricky.
We need to spend a lot of time on mic positions, and listening back, I don't think we've allotted enough time to this TBQH
I have two figure of eight mic's, by "a pair" what do you mean by this? Two mic's, or one mic as a pair?
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Re: Figure of eight microphones, recording in a small room?

Postby blinddrew » Sat Aug 10, 2019 1:01 pm

I meant four mics, it wasn't immediately clear whether you had 4 unmatched ribbons or just didn't own 4 ribbons.
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Re: Figure of eight microphones, recording in a small room?

Postby Wonks » Sat Aug 10, 2019 1:07 pm

blinddrew wrote:I meant four mics, it wasn't immediately clear whether you had 4 unmatched ribbons or just didn't own 4 ribbons.
They don't have to be ribbons to have a fig-8 pattern!
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Re: Figure of eight microphones, recording in a small room?

Postby blinddrew » Sat Aug 10, 2019 1:12 pm

True! I was jumping on previous comments. :)
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Re: Figure of eight microphones, recording in a small room?

Postby Wonks » Sat Aug 10, 2019 1:17 pm

blinddrew wrote:True! I was jumping on previous comments. :)
In another thread?
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Re: Figure of eight microphones, recording in a small room?

Postby Sam Spoons » Sat Aug 10, 2019 3:32 pm

Wonks wrote:
blinddrew wrote:I meant four mics, it wasn't immediately clear whether you had 4 unmatched ribbons or just didn't own 4 ribbons.
They don't have to be ribbons to have a fig-8 pattern!

Not all are fig 8's Beyer M-160 for example is a Hypercardioid

https://europe.beyerdynamic.com/m-160.html
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Re: Figure of eight microphones, recording in a small room?

Postby Arpangel » Sun Aug 11, 2019 8:06 am

I have a two figure of eights, one is a condenser the other a ribbon, not enough.
And when I use my synth through a Cube, one figure of eight I like to use on the amp so that's out.
I obviously need to go out and buy more "stuff" I feel a couple of U87's coming on.... :D
Or more sensibly, something more sensible, like 4 cheaper figure of eights!
Plus, I'm really feeling the pinch with this Behringer mixer, it's really awful with microphones, there's no headroom! it thickens up at the drop of a hat, when you don't want it to.
I need at least two more mic's, and a good multi channel preamp, my Mike Skeet ITZA Preamp is beyond superb, but we have to use the Behringer mixer as the ITZA only has two stereo inputs. I really do need another good preamp, but what?
Listening back sometimes the sound is way too thick, even at lowish volumes, it has to be the mixer, mic's through the ITZA are fine.
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Re: Figure of eight microphones, recording in a small room?

Postby Bob Bickerton » Sun Aug 11, 2019 9:59 am

Just picking up on this. Before considering preamps, it would be good to know what your current signal path is. Given the issues you've described esoteric preamps would be of little help - do you not have preamps on your audio interface? Or are you using the Behringer as an audio interface?

Regardless of polar patterns used, well at least cardioid versus figure of eight, you're not going to eliminate spill with those large instruments in a small room. Yes, figure of eights have a particularly deep null, but you've got the other lobe to contend with and that is going to be picking up room reflections. I'd be thinking closer miking using cardioids - accepting the spill you're getting - but trying to achieve some direct instrument over spill gain (wriggle room) whilst trying to make the spill as pleasant as possible.

The approach I'd take would be to treat it as an ensemble recording under difficult circumstances!

Having achieved the best balance possible, the next step is to perform the pieces as though it's a live acoustic set where you have to balance yourselves - and this is probably a very key factor in the success of this project.

Anyway before going out and buying more gear I'd borrow or hire before buying as I suspect even another stereo esoteric preamp and a couple of U87s won't make much difference!

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Re: Figure of eight microphones, recording in a small room?

Postby Sam Spoons » Sun Aug 11, 2019 10:06 am

+1 ^ :clap:

As you need two more decent preamps I would, if you are, potentially, into U87 money, be looking at buying a high end recording device, either stand alone like the Zoom F series/Sound Devices MixPre or a 4+ input interface from RME or similar. The Sound Devices MixPre 6M is £900 and the preamps are reputed to be very transparent. That still leaves you £3k for some more mics :thumbup:
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Re: Figure of eight microphones, recording in a small room?

Postby Arpangel » Sun Aug 11, 2019 9:34 pm

Sam Spoons wrote:+1 ^ :clap:

As you need two more decent preamps I would, if you are, potentially, into U87 money, be looking at buying a high end recording device, either stand alone like the Zoom F series/Sound Devices MixPre or a 4+ input interface from RME or similar. The Sound Devices MixPre 6M is £900 and the preamps are reputed to be very transparent. That still leaves you £3k for some more mics :thumbup:

I've got a Mac with a Motu in the room, with a Mike Skeet preamp, but not enough inputs.
The amps in the Skeet way surpass anything at major budgets, I'd have bought another when he was alive if I had any sense back then. Minimal noise, bags of headroom, and loads of gain, built in MS.
I'm sticking to my instinct, a good stereo pair, but as I said, we need to spend time positioning, not always good time wise though, that means we can use the preamp, and not have to buy any new mic's.
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Re: Figure of eight microphones, recording in a small room?

Postby Bob Bickerton » Sun Aug 11, 2019 10:51 pm

Arpangel wrote:The amps in the Skeet way surpass anything at major budgets, I'd have bought another when he was alive if I had any sense back then. Minimal noise, bags of headroom, and loads of gain, built in MS.

Be that as it may, the quality of the preamps will have minimal impact on the problems you describe - but of course you'd want to use the Skeet ;)

Arpangel wrote:........ we need to spend time positioning, not always good time wise though.........

:thumbdown:

I would encourage you to consider the time spent on positioning to be far more important than the selection of preamp. Take an hour or two if necessary - then spike (mark) the positions, take photographs and measurements so you can replicate all of this for future sessions, then sit back and play music!

When starting a new (album) project, I'll often inform the client that the first session is unlikely to result in anything that we will use as it's a technical session - like a sound check if you will, where I want to explore optimum mic selection and placement - and accordingly, I do not charge for the first session. Sure, we will often reach a point quite soon where we start recording, but I never want to feel pressured to start recording takes until I've designed the technical parameters of the recording. There's other benefits to taking pressure off the first session too of course, including psychological ones, letting the artists get used to the space, allowing time to discuss production values, etc.

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Re: Figure of eight microphones, recording in a small room?

Postby Arpangel » Mon Aug 12, 2019 8:53 am

Bob Bickerton wrote:
Arpangel wrote:The amps in the Skeet way surpass anything at major budgets, I'd have bought another when he was alive if I had any sense back then. Minimal noise, bags of headroom, and loads of gain, built in MS.

Be that as it may, the quality of the preamps will have minimal impact on the problems you describe - but of course you'd want to use the Skeet ;)

Arpangel wrote:........ we need to spend time positioning, not always good time wise though.........

:thumbdown:

I would encourage you to consider the time spent on positioning to be far more important than the selection of preamp. Take an hour or two if necessary - then spike (mark) the positions, take photographs and measurements so you can replicate all of this for future sessions, then sit back and play music!

When starting a new (album) project, I'll often inform the client that the first session is unlikely to result in anything that we will use as it's a technical session - like a sound check if you will, where I want to explore optimum mic selection and placement - and accordingly, I do not charge for the first session. Sure, we will often reach a point quite soon where we start recording, but I never want to feel pressured to start recording takes until I've designed the technical parameters of the recording. There's other benefits to taking pressure off the first session too of course, including psychological ones, letting the artists get used to the space, allowing time to discuss production values, etc.

Bob

Thanks, I'm only considering a new preamp simply on the grounds of more inputs! On our last session we used five microphones, 2 on Marimba, 2 on piano, 1 on keyboard amp.
Trouble is, I'm having to engineer, and I don't want to, my friend and I just want to play, basically. Our recordings are "OK" but of course, I'm interested in getting them as good as they can be, in the circumstances.
The Behringer desk really is awful, yes, more than OK for my synth, that's what I bought it for, but for mic's, no. My little Mackiemis much better, so before buying a new preamp I'm going to try that at the next session. I know you say tyenpreamp isn't that important, but when it's as bad as the Behringer,well, you have to draw the line somewhere. The problem is lack of headroom, and our music is very dynamic, so it makes it more difficult to avoid distortion. One minute you've got FFF Marimba, the next you've got a PP piano.
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Re: Figure of eight microphones, recording in a small room?

Postby Exalted Wombat » Mon Aug 12, 2019 10:26 am

If the sound is 'thickening' don't blame the Behringer. You're just turning the gain up too high. Piano and marimba are two very dynamic instruments with strong transients. Your mixer's probably got plenty of dynamic range, you just need to place your signal in a lower part of it!
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Re: Figure of eight microphones, recording in a small room?

Postby CS70 » Mon Aug 12, 2019 11:16 am

Physics's what it is, so a small room is a small room and the reflected sound will have a quite high level and so.. spill. As others said, spill can be worked out and simply forces you to select the sound at the source rather than mixing, and to be well rehearsed.

That said, if you want to avoid it - since you use marimba and keyboard, do you *have* to use a loudspeaker for the keyboard? I'm thinking a preamp and a couple headphones (if you are in two, right?) could simply eliminate the sound of the keys from the equation, and leave just the marimba.

Or if you really like the mic-ed sound, you could have a similar two-headphone setup but move the keyboard amp someplace else, like another room?
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Re: Figure of eight microphones, recording in a small room?

Postby Arpangel » Mon Aug 12, 2019 11:37 am

Exalted Wombat wrote:If the sound is 'thickening' don't blame the Behringer. You're just turning the gain up too high. Piano and marimba are two very dynamic instruments with strong transients. Your mixer's probably got plenty of dynamic range, you just need to place your signal in a lower part of it!

You're right, I try to set the levels as low as possible, but I'm obviously not setting them low enough. I really need high headroom preamps with low self noise, not too fussy, as long as they're clean.
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