Low end vs. high end audio gear for home piano recording

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Low end vs. high end audio gear for home piano recording

Postby Didier » Sun Jun 07, 2009 11:48 pm


I just have got a Samson CO2, a microphone pair costing about 130 € in Europe and 140 $ in USA, which I found sounding good in a comparison on a steel string guitar involving many other microphones costing up 5000 $ as a unit, within a test proposed on internet.

I tested a 'low end ' recording chain consisting of the Samson CO2, a pair of low cost cables (a few €/$ per cable, Pure Sound Cable brand), and Edirol FA-66, a PC audio interface including two microphone inputs, costing less than 300 € in Europe and less than 300 $ in USA, in comparison with a 'high end' chain. I will not tell what are the elements of this chain because I do not want to make bad advertisement for these brands that I am respecting a lot. Such a test is only representative for my recording application, similar to the one of most people who submit recordings here. The microphones in this 'high end' chain are considered by many recording engineers as the best ones for classical piano; their cost is more than 20 times the cost of the CO2, the cables costs about the same like the CO2, the microphone preamp is hand-made in USA and acknowledged as one of the few best ones worldwide, the PC audio interface that performs the A/N conversion is 3 time more expensive than the Edirol FA-66. This 'high end' recording chain costs about the same like a German upright piano...

I thought that this test could be of interest to some members of this forum. It is not intended at all for convincing them that they should spend such a crazy amount of money like the cost of the high end chain for recording their pianos. As an opposite it intends to show that the sound quality from what can be be got for a price that is not negligible but affordable for most of us, is not that far from what top audio gear would provide on the same piano in the same room with the same microphone placement.

EDIT: attachments removed for saving storage capacity on the site.
Last edited by Didier on Fri Jun 12, 2009 1:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby wiser_guy » Mon Jun 08, 2009 1:28 pm

I just listened to your example files. There is a saying here in Greece which goes: "the enemy of something good is something better" if I paraphrase correctly.

I found huge differences in these files. The one labeled "low" is fine on its own but it cannot compare to the other one labeled "high". The 'low" is shallow and lacks harmonic content with somewhat overly present treble. The "high" is warm, full of harmonics and has captured the piano unbelievably better.

Just listen (with both files open) to the melody notes at 00:37 from both files. Also, at 1:03 listen to the high register notes doing a run. You should be amazed by the difference in body of sound and harmonic content and balance.

I listened with a pair of Sennheiser HD-650, not monitor speakers. But I am pretty sure that listening with monitors would give the same results.

We usually think that we'll hear huge differences between systems, especially ones with huge price gaps. The differences are very small and not at all proportional to the price tag. For example, a system costing 2000 is not twice as good as a system costing 1000. It is a little better though at certain points. These points, cumulatively, draw the overall listening experience we get from the system. Details maybe, but the total feel one gets, can be night and day.

I would suggest to listen a few times to one of these files. This way you'll get a solid sound picture of one of them. Then, switch to the other file and you should immediately tell the difference.

This is a very interesting topic and test, Didier. Thanks for posting.

Posts: 494
Joined: Sun Jul 01, 2007 4:53 pm
Location: France

Postby Didier » Mon Jun 08, 2009 8:46 pm

Thank you for your listening and your report.

Both samples does not sound the same at all. Especially there is a timbral difference coming first from stronger lows from the high end microphones. Should I have compensated this by means of EQ ? Actually, I don't like so much this excess of lows...

One has to distinguish between what is a character difference from what is a quality difference. Yes, there is a quality difference. For instance, the sweetness of the highs from the high end chain as revealed by your second example, which sounds more sterile with the low end one. Is it huge ? That's a matter of personal appreciation. It may be so for audio professionals. I guess that it is benign for most of us.

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