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Microphones for recording Pianos etc

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Microphones for recording Pianos etc

Postby dbfs » Fri May 24, 2019 2:03 pm

Hi Folks,

I am looking for some microphone recommendations for recording a selection of instruments such as Piano, Choirs, Solo voice and instruments etc.

The mics would be used in a Music college to teach students how to record these instruments and exploring techniques such as spaced pair, figure 8, xy etc. I would also hope to use an RME Fireface 802 or UFX to build a small portable rig.

To this end I was considering a matched pair of AKG C414 XLII and another matched pair of AKG C414 XLS.

In addition to these I thought maybe a mp of Rode NT55 (Omni Cardioid ) and a single NT1A would give me a decent starting point.

What are your thought son these choices. I know that the current AKGs are not the same as the old BULS versions and I had an XLS myself until recently and while I never loved it for rock and pop, I never found it terrible either.

In particular should I be considering matched pairs of Neumann 183 and 184s instead of the AKGs or would a combo of AKG and Neumann be a good idea.

Thanks in Advance.
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Re: Microphones for recording Pianos etc

Postby Sam Inglis » Fri May 24, 2019 11:00 pm

Do you have a budget in mind?

I think your basic idea of getting a pair of multi-pattern large-diaphragm capacitor mics along with a pair of small-diaphragm models is a good one. There is plenty of choice in both departments! I'm not sure there is much benefit in having two pairs of C414s, though. Since it sounds as though you are more focused on recording classical music and less on rock/pop I'd expect the most useful mics to be a good pair of small-diaphragm omnidirectional mics. If you are planning to get three pairs of mics then my suggestion would be either to get one pair of C414s or similar, one pair of omnis and one pair of cardioid small-diaphragm mics; or, alternatively, perhaps a pair of C414s, a pair of omnis and a good single-point stereo mic.
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Re: Microphones for recording Pianos etc

Postby Bob Bickerton » Sat May 25, 2019 7:01 am

For the scenarios you quote, a pair of LDC multi-pattern mics plus a pair of SDC omnis would get your there. This would deliver a range of miking configurations including ORTF with omni outriggers, A/B omnis (the configurations I prefer most for choirs, ensembles etc.), plus many more.

The C414 XLS would be preferable over the XLII as their more neutral response is better on acoustic instruments. The omni capsule on the NT55 is very good.

Another option for you - depending on budget - would be something like a pair of TLM193s plus a pair of Neumann KM183s - that would give you the configurations noted above. It would be my preference, but you would not have the flexibility of patterns you'd have with the C414/NT55 option.

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Re: Microphones for recording Pianos etc

Postby John Willett » Sat May 25, 2019 2:21 pm

For piano a pair of omnis would be the best choice as only an omni will capture the bottom end.

At the medium end there is the Neumann KM 183 (as you mentioned), though the KM 131-A may be a better choice as this is a nearfield omni. At a similar price to the 183 is the Gefell M 320 (for which I am the UK distributor).

At a lower price is the Røde NT 55 - or NT 5 with optional omni capsules.

At the bottom end is the Line Audio OM 1 (around £100) which is excellent value for money.

Top end is the Gefell M 221, Josephson C 617 set, Neumann KM 133-A/D, Schoeps, etc.

But for grand piano and pipe organ it's an omni all the way. :thumbup:
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Re: Microphones for recording Pianos etc

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Sat May 25, 2019 4:57 pm

John Willett wrote:For piano a pair of omnis would be the best choice as only an omni will capture the bottom end.

I fear that statement gives a misleading impression.

In situations that allow the use of spaced omnis, I'd agree that they would be my preference too. BUT perfectly acceptable recordings can be and have been made with cardioids, with a perfectly acceptable and adequate low end. Your statement makes it sound like the bottom octave will be missing if you should foolishly record with cardioid mics... which just ain't the case!

The lowest note (A0) on a standard 88-key piano* has a fundamental frequency of 27.5Hz and it's true that the sensitivity of most cardioid mics will probably be on the wane by that point -- but they will still capture a 27.5Hz fundamental albeit at a slightly lower level than, say, the level of middle-A.

And a cardioid will still pick up the harmonics from 55Hz and up without any problems (which is probably all most speakers will bother to reproduce with any oomph anyway...).

There's also a potential issue in that the phase-shifting system that provides the cardioid response in most cardioids does also have a subtle effect on the sound character of the low end which some people find more obvious and distracting than others.

So, if you happen to be recording something that uses the bottom octave a lot (and especially the bottom A or B), and you're recording in a situation that allows the use of omnis, then they might well be the better choice...

...but for most repertoire, most of the time, cardioids will still be absolutely fine and your record sales really aren't likely to take a big hit as a result! Trust me... 8-)

*There are bigger 108-key pianos where the bottom note fundamental is a meaty 16Hz, and a typical cardioid might have gone to sleep by then... but such beasts are pretty rare and the repertoire to make use of those notes is even rarer!

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Re: Microphones for recording Pianos etc

Postby Ariosto » Sat May 25, 2019 7:13 pm

I've used my AKG C414 XLS on piano as well as DPA 2006C omni's on piano and also Royer R101 ribbons - and I've never had a problem with the bass end of the piano. If you are really worried about the lowest notes then a tiny bit of EQ could help, but I've never felt the need for it, as yet at any rate. I think Hugh is right to say that it is very rare for the lowest note(s) on a grand to be used and a lot of piano music is not requiring the notes around 27 - 35 Hz. In any case, a lot of speakers will not reproduce so well at these frequencies and we also tend to make up for what is lacking by still hearing the bass, even when tiny TV or radio speakers are incapable of producing the lowest registers.
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Re: Microphones for recording Pianos etc

Postby dbfs » Sat May 25, 2019 10:32 pm

Thanks guys for all the input and discussion. I am not sure of the budget yet but will know for sure next week. In any event, I think the Rode NT55 seems to get good praise for the money so I would be pushing for those as a minimum and will keep the other options open depending on funds. I just read the SOS review of the Gefell 320 and if the budget was there (I doubt it in reality) I would like to test them.

Again many thanks guys.
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Re: Microphones for recording Pianos etc

Postby dbfs » Sat May 25, 2019 11:18 pm

One last question regarding mic stands.

What would you regard as good stands for miking choirs etc. Would something like this be overkill.

https://www.thomann.de/ie/km_21430.htm

Any suggestions welcome.
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Re: Microphones for recording Pianos etc

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Sat May 25, 2019 11:28 pm

It would be great in a spacious studio or for dedicated private recording sessions in a church or hall. But good luck getting that past the 'management' in a public performance! Most get quite picky about sight-lines and blocking passageways.

In my experience you generally need something with a very small footprint and no boom arm, or something that can be placed out of the way at the side or behind with a very long boom arm!
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Re: Microphones for recording Pianos etc

Postby dbfs » Sat May 25, 2019 11:39 pm

Fair point Hugh.

Would this be more like it then.
https://www.thomann.de/ie/km_26200_eleg ... =undefined

With maybe a few of these.
https://www.thomann.de/ie/km_26145.htm
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Re: Microphones for recording Pianos etc

Postby Bob Bickerton » Sun May 26, 2019 2:51 am

Most important with a stand is to something which is stable and safe. You don’t want something that’s going to struggle with the weight of the mics - both from a health and safety point of view and from a destroyed microphone point of view.

Depending on the investment you want to make I’d recommend Triad Orbit stands https://www.triad-orbit.com/. They offer a wonderfully flexible system which can accommodate many scenarios and be fairly discreet. Expensive - but they would last a lifetime.

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Re: Microphones for recording Pianos etc

Postby John Willett » Sun May 26, 2019 12:10 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:
John Willett wrote:For piano a pair of omnis would be the best choice as only an omni will capture the bottom end.

I fear that statement gives a misleading impression.

In situations that allow the use of spaced omnis, I'd agree that they would be my preference too. BUT perfectly acceptable recordings can be and have been made with cardioids, with a perfectly acceptable and adequate low end. Your statement makes it sound like the bottom octave will be missing if you should foolishly record with cardioid mics... which just ain't the case!

The lowest note (A0) on a standard 88-key piano* has a fundamental frequency of 27.5Hz and it's true that the sensitivity of most cardioid mics will probably be on the wane by that point -- but they will still capture a 27.5Hz fundamental albeit at a slightly lower level than, say, the level of middle-A.

And a cardioid will still pick up the harmonics from 55Hz and up without any problems (which is probably all most speakers will bother to reproduce with any oomph anyway...).

There's also a potential issue in that the phase-shifting system that provides the cardioid response in most cardioids does also have a subtle effect on the sound character of the low end which some people find more obvious and distracting than others.

So, if you happen to be recording something that uses the bottom octave a lot (and especially the bottom A or B), and you're recording in a situation that allows the use of omnis, then they might well be the better choice...

...but for most repertoire, most of the time, cardioids will still be absolutely fine and your record sales really aren't likely to take a big hit as a result! Trust me... 8-)

*There are bigger 108-key pianos where the bottom note fundamental is a meaty 16Hz, and a typical cardioid might have gone to sleep by then... but such beasts are pretty rare and the repertoire to make use of those notes is even rarer!

H

Although you say this, I have to disagree to a certain extent.

(NB: Please note it is extremey rare that I ever disagree with Hugh, but this is important to make clear)

A few years ago I had to record a 9' Steinway in other than an ideal acoustic.

So I did an experimental recording session a few days before the main session. I used spaced omnis (MKH 20 in this instance) and also an MS pair of MKH 40/30 (the MKH 30 and 40 have a better bottom end than most cardioid and fig-8 mics).

I recorded the same piece with both rigs in. various positions round the piano to get the optimum recording.

In every case the 30/40 sounded "thin" in comparison to the omnis.

So, although cardioids will sound "OK" when you don't hear the same thing recorded with omnis, the omnis do sound so much better with a grand piano, that I will not use another pattern for a solo recital.

When the piano is part of an ensemble, that may be different and I would choose the best mic that will enable the piano to sit in the mix better - though I will try to use omnis as a first choice if I can - often underneath on the floor, turning them into a boundary mic., works very well in this instance.
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Re: Microphones for recording Pianos etc

Postby John Willett » Sun May 26, 2019 12:30 pm

dbfs wrote:One last question regarding mic stands.

What would you regard as good stands for miking choirs etc. Would something like this be overkill.

https://www.thomann.de/ie/km_21430.htm

Any suggestions welcome.

Fot this use I use a solid and stable mic. stand that has a bit of extra height.

My choice in most circumstabces is the Latch Lake micKing 1100 - it may look a bit like a normal stand, but it is a step up in size, can go a lot higher and has a choice of counterweight to properly balance the mics. I have both the 2lb and 4 lb weights and, as one can screw to the other, I can have a 6lb weitht if I need it. :thumbup:

THIS is Hugh's review of the stand.

The stand goes up to 5' 3.5" and the boom goes up to 4' 10.5" - it will hold a heavy mic. safely even in the horizontal position (see picture in Hugh's review). :thumbup:

When I really need the extra height, I use the K&M 20811 Cathedral stand with matching 21231 boom.

The 20811 will go up over 4m and the 21231 boom can add another 2m if pointing straight up. :thumbup:
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Re: Microphones for recording Pianos etc

Postby Mike Stranks » Sun May 26, 2019 2:55 pm

Hugh is right to raise the issue of obtrusive mic stands in public concerts. I've had a lot of angst over the years on this issue.

If you're using small diaphragm mics I've found that a decent heavy-base round mic stand with one of these: https://www.thomann.de/gb/km_2000530055.htm on top will give you reasonable height.

Image

For really tall mic positions - 3.5-4m - I use a photographers lighting stand - gives me 4m and is stable with one or two SDCs 'up top'. That said, I'll usually put a sand-bag on the cross-struts just to aid stability. BUT even one of those may incur trouble from venue management as the stand, naturally, requires a decent tripod spread for the height.
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Re: Microphones for recording Pianos etc

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Sun May 26, 2019 3:18 pm

dbfs wrote:Would this be more like it then.

Doesn't go very high (1.7m?). You could extend it with one of those K&M poles Mike mentions, but I get nervous about the mechanical integrity of that kind of design. It should be fine with a well balanced mic on top, but the potential forces on the threaded joint are huge if the centre of gravity moves away from the direct overhead.

The best and most public-venue-friendly stand I've found so far (since the demise of the wonderful BBC Cathedral Stand) comes from Panamic who are better known for their carbon-fibre 'fishpoles' used in drama and TV shoots. They make a wonderful cathedral stand which is very elegant and extends up to 4m in height... but it is scarily expensive.

http://www.panamic.net/products/cathedralstand

Image

Personally, I tend to use Manfrotto Master stands -- which goes up to 3.6m -- if I can get away with a tripod base somewhere out of the way (such as between two taped-off pews of something like that to ensure no risk of being a trip-hazard. (And I usually put a sandbag on the legs as extra ballast). An extension tube can be fitted if more height is required.

Image

Multiple stands can be clipped together for storage/transport and they are very light and easy to rig, with a very small profile so don't obscure sightlines too badly.
https://www.manfrotto.co.uk/photo-master-stand-air-cushioned

Alternatively, I use an Ambient Jumbo pole on a big Manfrotto heavy duty stand which I can place behind or well off to the side of the performance area and flu the mic array in overhead.

Image

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Re: Microphones for recording Pianos etc

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Sun May 26, 2019 3:23 pm

John Willett wrote:In every case the 30/40 sounded "thin" in comparison to the omnis.

I wonder how much of the 'thin-ness' was related to the frequency response differences between the cardioid and omni mics, and how much to the different character of the stereo arrays. Spaced omnis always have a beguiling low-end spatiousness which makes them sound a lot fuller than they really are....

But yes, I take the point, and agree with your preference for omnis... I just don't want people to think they can't make acceptable and pleasing recordings with other types of microphone. And of course there are many, many situations where omnis are just completely impractical anyway.

But solo recitals on a big grand piano in a decent sounding room? Absolutely: spaced omnis all the way! :D
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Re: Microphones for recording Pianos etc

Postby Aural Reject » Sun May 26, 2019 3:55 pm

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Re: Microphones for recording Pianos etc

Postby Mike Stranks » Sun May 26, 2019 9:24 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:
dbfs wrote:Would this be more like it then.

Doesn't go very high (1.7m?). You could extend it with one of those K&M poles Mike mentions, but I get nervous about the mechanical integrity of that kind of design. It should be fine with a well balanced mic on top, but the potential forces on the threaded joint are huge if the centre of gravity moves away from the direct overhead.

H

Absolutely! I usually put one OM1 or CM3 up there - each thumb-sized - or occasionally two CM3s in NOS config.

Heavy mics need something more reassuringly sturdy!

I've wondered about the K&M units that Aural Reject recommends so good to see his referencing them...
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