The new Classic range from Danish company Remic aims to offer high‑end performance at an attractive price.
The need to record or amplify acoustic instruments without either incurring feedback or picking up too much ambient sound has led several manufacturers to develop a huge variety of microphones and mounting systems, for both stage and studio use. One such company are Remic, whose range of instrument‑specific mics are all hand‑built in Denmark. Their new Classic Series models are aimed at the home studio and small live gig market, and are designed to offer the performance of their established Studio/Live and Live LB violin, viola, cello and double bass microphones, but at a significantly lower price.
Although still relatively unknown, Remic can trace their roots back to 1996 when the company’s founder — artist, musician and audio electronics engineer Thorkild Larsen — began to research and develop the technologies that now underpin the company’s microphone product line. Although no longer actively involved in Remic, Larsen’s philosophy of giving musicians the best possible means of communicating the nuances of both their artistry, and the skill of the luthiers who built their instruments to an audience, remains at the core of that company’s mission.
Larsen’s original research ran from 1996 to 2012 (the point at which Remic itself were founded) under the aegis of his original company, 2R Danish AV Research. His initial aim of creating a general‑purpose microphone that would not change the sound of an instrument has evolved into a range of instrument‑specific models designed for grand piano, bowed instruments, brass and woodwind, in both studio and live versions.
Remic’s development of studio microphones began in 1997‑1998 and, as part of his research, Larsen began collaborating with instrument makers to learn precisely how each family of instruments generates their sound. In the case of the violin family, his newfound knowledge not only enabled Larsen to map out the elements that added nuance to the sound of that instrument, but also set him off in a new development direction.
An early milestone in Larsen’s research was the development of the concept of a Direct Balanced Cartridge (DBC) that would be both completely transparent and immune to radio frequency interference. Larsen achieved this by designing a fully balanced, phantom‑powered preamplifier circuit with one active and five passive components, within which the signal from a balanced mic capsule passes through only four components from input to output.
A second concept that, to me, typifies Larsen’s microphone designs, is that of the Soundboard Area Microphone (SAM). The development of these microphones required a great deal of investigation and experimentation in order to understand precisely how the sound of a bowed instrument is generated by its soundboard, and also how the sound waves that make up that sound could be distorted by inter‑wave interference, the effects of the ambient soundfield, and by the reflections and other distortions that can arise within a microphone capsule.
Although perhaps intuitive, Larsen’s experiments showed that the sound level from the soundboard of a bowed instrument was 75‑percent louder than the level of the surrounding ambient noise, and also that a microphone must be in close proximity to that soundboard in order to capture its full, natural response and balance, and to suppress the ambient sound. Larsen also discovered that both the physical design of a microphone, and the material used in its construction, played significant roles in determining its audio performance when positioned on an instrument. These discoveries led to the unique design of the microphone that is common across all Remic bowed instrument ranges.
The most visually striking feature of a Remic bowed instrument mic is the crest‑like foam rubber mount that holds the mic body securely in its recommended position, either under the fingerboard (violin and cello) or under the tailpiece (double bass). This mount positions the mic at the optimum distance above the soundboard of the instrument in question, placing the violin mic virtually in contact with the soundboard, and the cello and double bass mics further away. This mounting system means that a Remic bowed instrument mic can be fitted to, or removed from, a violin, cello or double bass in seconds and, more importantly, will not interfere with the musician’s sightline or playing style.
Remic’s bowed instrument mics share a common body: a 22 x 8 x 30 mm firm rubber rectangle with rounded corners and three distinctive vertical channels on either side. A circular recess on the front of the body houses the microphone’s direct‑balanced, electret capacitor capsule. On the bottom surface of the cello and double bass foam mounts, you’ll find a small sound channel that runs up towards the capsule. Although this channel has no function on the Classic Series microphones, it does form part of the Larsen‑developed Acoustic Channel Bridging technology used in their premium LB series, which uses the same foam mount design as the Classic mics.
As part of their effort to differentiate the Classic mics from the existing Studio/Live series, and to make the Classics more affordable for home‑studio owners, Remic opted not to incorporate a windshield and to accept a less tightly specified frequency response than that of their more expensive ranges. As a result, Remic advise that the Classic mics should only be used either in the studio or at small indoor gigs that have low SPL (circa 90dBA) requirements, and that they are not intended for use by large ensembles, eg. amplified symphony orchestras, where the wider ±3dB frequency response tolerance between individual Classic microphones might cause issues.
The Classic mics require a full 48V of phantom power to drive the Larsen‑designed preamps, which are housed in sealed XLR shells with balanced output connectors, precluding their use with radio transmitters.
On paper, Remic’s Classic mics are impressive performers, delivering a specified frequency response of 20Hz‑20kHz (±3dB). Being Soundboard Area Microphones, their construction and recommended positions are claimed to enable the microphones to capture predominantly sound waves being generated by the vibrations of the instrument’s soundboard and to greatly reduce the amount of ambient sound in the microphone’s output, thereby providing a higher level of isolation than would be obtained, for example, from a conventional, instrument‑mounted cardioid or hypercardioid mic angled towards the soundboard from above.
To explain how this increased isolation is being achieved, given the Classic mics’ omnidirectional nature, Remic points to the fact that, because the microphones are physically close to a soundboard, the omnidirectional pickup pattern is constrained into a hemispherical, rather than a spherical, shape. In addition, the body and capsule are designed to be most sensitive to sound waves arriving from the central area of the instrument’s soundboard.
According to a paper on the Remic website blog at https://bit.ly/38AuTW4, this combination of an effectively hemispherical pickup pattern and the focus on the soundboard enables the Classic series to deliver up to 15dB of ambient noise suppression (relative to the surrounding ambient sound level), and to operate at on‑stage levels of up to 90dB SPL without feedback (assuming acoustic instruments only and with musicians wearing in‑ear monitors). In louder stage environments with floor monitors, drums and electric instruments, Remic’s more expensive Live LB series can offer greater levels of noise suppression and volume before feedback.
I’ve been putting high‑quality mics of one kind or another on to various instruments on stage and in the studio for more years than I care to remember, and I know of none that are easier or quicker to fit than Remic’s. Fitting any Remic bowed instrument mic onto a violin or cello is simply a matter of sliding it under the end of the fingerboard and deciding where the cable should run. On a double bass, Remic recommend placing the mic underneath the tailpiece or, alternatively, underneath the bridge or the end of the fingerboard, with each position giving slightly different results and requiring slightly different cable routings. Unfortunately for violinists, the Remic violin mic has a limited adjustment window so, if it doesn’t immediately fit under your violin’s fingerboard, it never will.
Incidentally, the mic cable’s woven cotton outer layer, and the integrated circular foam ‘wedge’ that allows you to secure the cable to your instrument without damaging it, are wonderful touches that completely eliminate cable‑induced rattles or buzzes.
My overall impression when first listening to the Classic microphones was that of an extremely ‘present’ sound — detailed and dynamic across the frequency spectrum, with a fast response to transients that delivered an almost hyper‑real sense of definition.
For my taste, the raw output of a Remic Classic microphone does need some tonal taming to persuade it to reflect accurately the sound that I hear when I’m listening within a couple of feet of the instrument that it is mounted on. Unlike my experience with both instrument‑mounted and stand‑mounted condenser microphones, very little EQ was required to get the sound that I wanted. With my wife’s 18th‑century violin, combining low‑pass and high‑pass filters with a gentle, wide‑Q boost around 300Hz and a shallow, narrow‑Q cut at 2kHz delivered a recorded result much closer to the actual instrument than I normally manage to achieve at home with my usual on‑instrument mics.
This minimalist LF boost/high‑mid cut approach held true for both a double bass and my old‑school cello (which I’ve never had sounding better when recorded), as it did for the Hardanger fiddle, nyckelharpa and octave fiddle that I spent several happy hours playing with. Although it isn’t a bowed instrument, I managed to get a decent sound with the Classic violin mic jammed under the strings behind the bridge of my Mike Vanden mandolin. However, that result wasn’t a patch on the sound that I got from placing the mic close to where it would have been if there had been enough space for it under the fingerboard without major mandolin surgery (which might well take place...).
Remic’s Classic Series of bowed string instrument microphones are, in my view, the best on‑instrument solutions currently available.
The amount of ambient sound suppression relative to the level of the instrument delivered by the Remic mics was most impressive, and this translated to a high level of feedback resistance when I added a floor monitor to the equation. In some situations, the reduced level of ambient sound in the signal from a Remic Classic mic could possibly be a double‑edged sword. On the one hand, the increased isolation gives you the ability to sculpt EQ curves to suit individual instruments, to adjust relative volumes, and to time‑align recordings without creating audible phase anomalies. However, on the other hand, you then have to create an artificial ambience around the instrument that matches that of the space. For me personally, that’s a nice problem to have, given the significant benefits of the Remic mics’ ability to suppress the ambient soundfield.
As happened to my esteemed editor Chris Korff with the Studio/Live and Live LB double bass mics when he reviewed them in SOS August 2015, I’ve become totally enamoured of Remic’s Classic microphones. At their price, the Classics face stiff competition from established manufacturers in this market sector. However, no competitor offers the combination of ease of use, resistance to feedback, ambient sound suppression and instrument‑specific design that Remic bring to the table.
For recording in home studios where acoustics and isolation aren’t perfect and for playing live at small gigs, Remic’s Classic series of bowed string instrument microphones are, in my view, the best on‑instrument solutions currently available. If you’re a string player looking for a microphone for your home studio that combines ease of use with a professional level of performance, the Remic Classics should be high on your list of microphones to audition.
The most obvious competition comes from fellow Danish company DPA, though Audio‑Technica also make a number of compact instrument‑mounting microphones.
- Present, dynamic sound.
- Incredibly easy to fit.
- Excellent rejection of ambience and feedback.
- High level of isolation means you may have to add artificial reverb.
With a quarter of a century’s research behind them, Remic’s latest microphones do an outstanding job of capturing the sound of an instrument. They also offer impressive rejection of ambient noise and feedback, and are remarkably quick and easy to fit.