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 Post subject: Making "Professional" Home Recordings
PostPosted: Sun Oct 12, 2008 4:32 pm 
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Joined: Sat Oct 11, 2008 4:17 pm
Posts: 418
Location: Boston
Professional Quality Home Recordings

There are a lot of pianists trying to make high quality recordings on their own. Surely, if you are satisfied with your current recordings, you may not feel the need to change or upgrade your recording gear. For those who desire that extra 5-10% increase in quality, you may find the following information useful. In the spirit of music, I thought I’d share some thoughts from an equipment perspective on producing high quality recordings whether at home or in a large hall. Bear in mind that the pianist, piano, and space makes 95% of the recording. This thread is for those striving for that extra 5%. In a short thread, I can’t delve into great detail about theory and various miking techniques - I've included useful links below for that purpose. However, I’ll share ideas that has given me professional sounding master recordings in my own home. It has become a great archival tool, a great convenience, and has produced stunning results.

Keep in mind that you can’t get something for nothing, even with best electronic effects. The quality of the pianist, piano, and space are the most important factors in any good recording. The equipment can't record what's not there. The room is an extension of the instrument in the far field. Basically, if you have a decent sounding piano, in a room that has a minimum of 2,500 cu. ft., you should be able to get a good recording. Low ceilings are deal breakers, so higher the ceiling, the better. The recording space should have enough “acoustic treatment” to minimize standing waves and flutter echo that’s typical in home settings. Most untreated music rooms are bright sounding, which yield harsh sounding recordings. To help counteract brightness, you can add rugs, furniture, curtains, and certain fabrics to absorb high frequency content and help neutralize the harshness. There are links to sound absorbing materials that I have provided below. In smaller spaces, such as a home environment, the single most important upgrade in acoustics you can make is treating the room with acoustic panels or bass traps. (See ethanwiner.com/acoustics). If you are interested in making your own panels for the fraction of the cost, PM me.

Before you buy any recording equipment, you must decide on what palate of “sound” appeals to you – Transparent, Colored, Bright, or Dark? It’s a matter of taste, so it’s a very subjective question with varying degrees of opinions. For example, a particular recording may sound “clear” to one person, but may sound “harsh” to another. Any equipment you add to the electronic chain, will affect the tonality, timbre, and response time of your sound to some degree. I am a purist when it comes to recording equipment – I use only the minimum number of equipment to yield the highest quality of sound obtainable. My taste leans toward an accurate, realistic, and neutral sound with the least amount of change in tonality. To predictably make an accurate classical piano recording, the chain of recording gear has to be transparent, have a fast transient response, and sound neutral relative to the source. In other words, the electronics shouldn’t add any coloration that would alter the timbral and tonal characteristics of the sound.

Depending on the musical content, interpretation, dynamics, room acoustics, piano, and recording gear, certain type of gear may “color” a sound that could be desirable or undesirable. For example, I once auditioned a pair of Rode K2 vacuum tube microphones, thinking that it may produce a lush, euphonic sound associated with tubes. The bass improved, and highs were smooth, but at the expense of an altered tonality from the instrument and a nasal sounding midrange. It sounded like the piano had the flu! I replaced the stock tubes with a NOS Siemens-Halske E88CC A-phi code (1964) tubes, it sounded a little better, but still had that nasal quality to the sound. So, in this case the result was undesirable. However, certain kinds of mics and preamps may retain the timbral and tonal characteristics, but provide a wider soundstage and a feeling of “larger than life” quality to a recording. The Brauner Valvet tube microphone is a good example of this characteristic sound. I find that to be safe, go with a microphone that has neutral and transparent characteristics. Ask reputable dealers, and most are studio engineers on the side.

Remember, nothing is for free. For example, a particular microphone or preamp may add spaciousness, but at the expense of focus. Keep in mind that even the best recording can only sound as good, but not better than the source. The room plays a dominant role in the overall sound, there are sites online which will help you get started and companies which specialize in custom designing a good recording space.

Individual tastes will vary. My personal taste in sound is to capture the Steinway B’s double-reed sweetness in the midrange. This piano has it all – well defined bass with a bronze timbre, euphonic mids, and bell like highs. The sound is refined, sophisticated, and lush with rich harmonic content. I built my system to capture the "sweeteness", "euphonics", "3D quality", and the bass definition of the instrument, WITHOUT CHANGING THE TONALITY of the instrument or adding any harshness.

You have to experiment with mic placement for a particular room. Record identical tracks by varying mic placement, polar patterns, phase, etc. Ideally, omnidirectional mic pattern gives the most natural sound in a decent sized hall, but in a smaller home environment with 8-10ft ceilings, the standing waves can lead to harsh and muddy sound due to the room’s standing waves, flutter echo, ringing, and comb filtering. In this case, choose a microphone pattern with a wide cardiod or cardiod pattern. There is a slight trade off in the bass response and a minor change in tonality, but helps to eliminate some of the harshness of a small or acoustically untreated room. There's probably at least 80 different stereo combinations by varying micing technique, polar pattern, distance, and position. Compound that with 5 test tracks... That's 400 tracks to analyze at some point not including varying phase or mixing polar patterns within the stereo pair. So, take your time to get it right, and it will reward you at the end. Take notes on everything so that you can make reference.

I've tried close and distant miking, and for classical recording, my philosophy is to capture more of the tone and air, rather than the strident percussiveness of close miking inside the piano. Obviously, if the mic is too far away, you’ll lose too much focus and timbral characteristics to the sound. Psychoacoustically, the sphere of sound from the piano doesn't coalesce until about 3-4ft from the instrument. To my ears, miking closer than that sounds unnatural for classical music.

Deciding how much and where to spend money on improving your sound, it helps to know how much your equipment will influence the sound. Here is a simple table to give you an idea how microphones, preamp, and A/D converter will influence the "sound."

Individual Contribution To The Overall Sound: (Excluding Acoustics and Source)
- 75% Microphone
- 20% Preamp
- 5% A/D Converter

By far, the microphones have the greatest effect on the overall quality of sound, excluding room acoustics and the piano source. So, you're better off in investing more money into your stereo microphones.


I am not advocating that one should duplicate my setup, but if one is interested to know what I am running, here is my current setup:

EQUIPMENT: (2) AKG C414B-XLS microphones
Avalon Design AD2022 Preamplifier
Yamaha CDR1000 CD Recorder with Apogee UV-22 dithering

POST-PRODUCTION: 8-core MacPro, LogicPro 8, Apogee Ensemble interface, Adam
S3A Monitor speakers, and Beyerdynamic DT880 (2005) headphones.

I am using the AKG C414B-XLS mics in “Wide Cardiod” mode through an Avalon Design AD2022 preamp which is fed directly into a Yamaha CDR1000 CD recorder. This combination yields a modern sound – transparent, clear, smooth, airy, and uncolored. The piano is a 7ft Steinway in a 35x14x8.5ft living room in an open floor plan connecting with the dining room, foyer, etc. So there is decent amount of natural reverberation of 6,000+ cu. ft. I have very little acoustic treatment - so it's bright. I can’t use the natural sounding omnidirectional mic pattern because of too much standing waves. The most balanced sound I heard with this instrument in my room was 3ft from the curve of the piano at a height of 5ft pointing down toward the strings in Wide Cardiod mode. The mics were spaced 10-15in apart at an angle of 75-degrees, with one mic pointing toward 1/3 the length of the copper wound bass strings and the other mic 2 octaves above middle C. The resulting sound was lush, harmonically rich, natural, and it captured that double-reed sweetness in the mids. The only thing it was missing was the deeper bass. A quick fix solution was EQ +3dB @ 55Hz, and -2dB @1.8KHz, and a 6% wet reverb in audio editing software.

It seems that getting the best of ALL worlds is an impossible from an electronic standpoint. To gain a specific quality of sound, you compromise something else. The "Color vs Accuracy" discussion will continue in audio electronics as well as in acoustical instruments. Subjectively, the choice of electronics is analogous to the Steinway vs Bosendorfer debate for some pianists, i.e. two different pianos emphasizing different harmonic and tonal characteristics. The hardest (and most expensive) part of accumulating equipment is to find that balance between the desired sound and what sounds natural and accurate. At the end, it’s all a matter of taste. Good Luck!... I've compiled a list of the equipment used by 95% of classical piano recording studios.


EQUIPMENT LIST FOR HIGH QUALITY PIANO RECORDINGS

MICROPHONES: Ask for transparent sound, flat frequency response.
-DPA 4006 or DPA 4011 – industry standard for classical
-Schoeps CMC6/Mk2 or MK21
-Sennheiser MKH8020 or MKH8040 - warmer than DPA, excellent for piano and pipe organ
-AKG C414B-XLS
-Neumann KM183 or KM184
-Neumann TLM 193 or TLM 170R
-Earthworks QTC 40, QTC 50, QTC1
-Neumann M149,
-Neumann M50 or M150
-Josephson C617 with Gefell MK221 capsule - open, accurate, excellent for piano
-Flea 49 - identical clone of vintage Neumann M49
-Brauner Valvet - bright timbre, better suited to darker sounding pianos
-Shure KSM 32, 141, SM81
-MBHO (Haun) 648 body + KA100LK omni capsule

PREAMPLIFIER: Ask for transparent sound, fast transient response.
-Millenia HV-3C – industry standard
-GML 8302
-Forssell SM-2
-Grace m201
-DAV BG No.1U - just the right amount of syrup without losing transparency
-Earthworks 1024
-Forssell FetCode
-Crookwood Paintpot
-Millenia M-2B
-Thermionic Earlybird 1.2
-Great River MP-2NV
-Avalon Design AD2022

A/D CONVERTER: Optional, for maximum fidelity. Can also use built in A/D in recorder
-DCS902D, DCS904D
-Lavry AD10 - superb for classical, flatter response.
-Mytek 192 - open, airy top end
-Benchmark DAC1
-Apogee Rosetta 200 or 800
-Apogee AD-16X

RECORDER: Any 24bit recorder - CDR, DVD-A, DSD, Hard Disk, Compact Flash, computer based, rack unit, portable, etc.
-Tascam DV-RA1000HD - DSD or 24bit PCM
-Korg MR-1000 or MR-2000S - DSD or 24bit PCM
-Sound Devices 702, 722 - best portable. Excellent preamp, A/D converters, 24bit PCM
-Alesis MasterLink
-HHB 882
-M-Audio Microtrack II - best micro portable. Decent A/D converters
-Tascam HD-P2

EDITING/MASTERING SOFTWARE:
-PC: WaveLab, Soundforge, Audition, Cubase, Sonar, etc.
-MAC: LogicPro, Digital Performer, etc.



NOTICE: The equipment I am describing is what the pros use. Like most serious hobbies of this nature, it can get very expensive to get that extra 5-10% in recording quality. For some it will be worth it, for others it will not. However, if the goal is to record the best sound possible for years to come, then it might be worth saving up as an investment. May it reward you well!


Acoustic Treatment Links:
http://arts.ucsc.edu/ems/music/tech_bac ... es_14.html
http://www.ethanwiner.com/acoustics.html
http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/jul98/a ... tics1.html

Equipment Review Links:
http://reviews.harmony-central.com/reviews/Microphone
http://www.thelisteningsessions.com/home.htm
http://www.thelisteningsessions.com/micpregraph.htm

Microphone Technique Links:
http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/jan08/a ... g_0108.htm
http://www.dpamicrophones.com/en/Microp ... Piano.aspx
http://www.sweetwater.com/feature/micro ... ing101.php
http://schoeps.de/showroom/showroom.htm
http://www.thelisteningsessions.com/micgraph.htm
http://www.stereophile.com/features/853/index7.html
http://www.wesdooley.com/aea/Microphone ... oners.html


Attachments:
micpregraph.jpg
micpregraph.jpg [ 143.03 KiB | Viewed 9739 times ]
mic-graph1.jpg
mic-graph1.jpg [ 145.38 KiB | Viewed 9739 times ]

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"Nobility of spirit has more to do with simplicity than ostentation, wisdom rather than wealth, commitment rather than ambition." ~Riccardo Muti


Last edited by 88man on Sun Jan 10, 2010 5:57 am, edited 14 times in total.
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 12, 2008 6:00 pm 
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Oh, I see you are over here, too. Ok. :)

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my videos: http://www.youtube.com/user/monicapiano
my personal website: http://www.monicaalianello.com


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Oct 12, 2008 8:02 pm 
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Posts: 467
Location: France
Quote:
in a room that has a minimum of 2,500 sq. ft.


Well, you have a nice room ! :P

The surface of my whole house is less than half of that. :cry:

Quote:
DPA 4006 or DPA 4006 – industry standard

To be or to be, that is the question...:P


I apologize for the jokes. We have always good wine on Sunday diner (Bourgogne, that is Burgundy, Hautes-Côtes de Nuits, 1995, from Naudin-Ferrand, on this evening), which explains my humor. :wink:
Let me now tell you what I think really. I was much interested, but also uncomfortable while reading your post. I cannot disclaimed the statement that an expensive piano, a good room and expensive audio gear would be required to produce professional quality recording. But shall this be our goal on Pianosociety ? Many people here know what is the order of magnitude of the cost of a Steinway B. (For those who would be on the point to buy one, I would suggest to consider the Steingraeber 205 as a valuable alternative. :wink: ) But not so many people may know the cost of what you are proposing : one AKG C414B-XLS costs about in Europe 800 €, about 2000 € for a matched stereo pair, an Avalon AD2022 2500 €, an Apogee Rosetta 2000 € ... So once one would have bought a Steinway for achieving the sound quality that you are promoting, one would have to spend about 10% more for the recording gear. I do not need this quality to appreciate piano music. I acknowledge that I am interested in the audio sound and use, at least partly, the kind of gear that you are proposing, which may explain why my sound is often well credited here. But this is only a way to combine two passions : piano music and sound. When I listened to piano recordings from other people, who mostly are better pianists than me, the sound is rather secondary. How proud I would be if I could propose here the Schubert Moments musicaux with the same stellar musical and indigent sound quality, with respect to current amateur home studio standard, than the ones recorded by Edwin Fischer for EMI on 18 May 1950 in Abbey Road studio!

Nevertheless, I was much interested by your post because of my personal interest for audio. I do not share your appreciation about the AKG C414B-XLS. I have one in my microphone collection and also an AKG C 414 Ltd, which is an anniversary edition having the same specifications like the C 414 B-XLS. I used both as a stereo pair. In the same price range, I much prefer the Audio Technica 4047 or the Avenson Sto-2 (only by pair). I never was impressed by the 414. This is just my opinion, which doest not mean that the 414 IS not good. Indeed they are considered as workhorses by many sound engineers.
I noted that all the preamps that you are mentioning are made in USA. Let me mention an European one (which I use :roll:): the DAV Electronics BG1. Just google it and you will see that some professionals, USA sound engineers are among them, consider it as a top choice for classical instrumental recording. By the way, it is two or three times less expensive than the ones that you are proposing: just my two cents. :)


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PostPosted: Sun Oct 12, 2008 10:30 pm 
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Salut, Didier. Bourgogne est tres jolie!
I've tried to be thorough in a "short" thread. I just wanted to share some thoughts on equipment that the pros use, comment on my setup, and provide useful links all in a single thread for the audiophile-musician who wants to be serious in improving their current recordings. This thread doesn't apply to everyone on this site, and many will be happy with gear costing only a few hundred dollars. I applaud them for that, because that's what I used for years. I am not advocating people buy an Avalon AD2022 or AKG C414s - that was just my setup in my room. That's why I included a list of equipment for people to chose from varying prices, and to ask dealers what would be right based on their circumstances and finances. The list does contain many of the industry standard gear used in actual recording studios. I also stated that it's everyone has a different perception on the sound, and it's a matter of taste, including on how much one is will willing to pay to get that sound they're after.

I have already apologized in advance for the cost of high quality equipment. Ask any recording engineer, you get what you pay for. I've come to realize this myself the hard way by purchasing low and mid-level gear and not being happy with the sonic signature of the gear. The best thing for anyone wanting to get onto the high end recording bandwagon is to rent these mics for a weekend and to try them out. Buy it once and never have to look back. This way people aren't spending serious money on an undesirable result.

Yes, DAV BG1 is a fantastic British preamp - large soundstage, and adds just the right "color" that could be flattering. Hey, I've even thought about buying one for myself instead of the Millenia HV-3C. I haven't used the AT4047, though I've heard it's a great mic too.

Sure, you can make decent recordings with a MicrotrackII and a pair of Shure SM81s all under $1000. Most people don't know what the pros use, so I thought I'd share a list among fellow musicians because much of this information is guarded by studios. I carefully stated in my title that the thread was for "Making Professional Quality Recordings." The point of the thread is to give a starting point toward achieving a higher quality recording, but more importantly to begin asking the right questions about sound, room, equipment, etc. Of course, it's not complete, and that's why I invite others to contribute and share their ideas on what works well in certain instances. The links I have provided will get people thinking in the right direction.


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 13, 2008 7:19 am 
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Perhaps you could post some samples here so that we could have an idea of what your setup sounds like.
Moreover, and provided you would be willing to, you could record samples of the same piece with different mic positions and/or preamps and/or settings, which would be indicative of what can be achieved.

I have read the Sound-On-Sound article and it is very informative. I have myself some serious equipment in my private studio but I would be more than interested in hearing other artists' setup. I think none of us here is a sound engineer so the experience with various types of equipment is limited. A direct comparison of samples from your carefully selected gear would be a nice reference.

By the way, you really find the Beyer DT-880 as the most suitable? I use the same and I must say that it came as a surprise to see someone else using them for piano recordings. Usually, the Sennheisers or AKGs are recommended but I have found that I get the best results with the Beyers even if mine are quite old.


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 13, 2008 6:32 pm 
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Hi,

Quote:
you get what you pay for


I am often reserved with respect to this kind of general statement, which seems inspired by wisdom, but is only a truism that does not answer the actual question. Which here could be What is the cost of the recording chain that will provide me with a sound quality above which any improvement will be undetectable to me or out of proportion, according to my evaluation, with the cost for achieving it ?
Saying you get for what you pay, is implicitly saying you have to spend a consequent amount of money for being satisfied. As you say, it is a question of personal taste. (It may also be a question of personal philosophy. :roll: )

Like in many domains, the cost looks like an exponential function of the quality: higher is the cost, higher is the cost increase to get a further significant improvement of the quality. A professional recording studio has to go very far along this exponential curve because among the people that will listen to their recordings, there is a small minority who have themselves very expensive listening gear and very educated ears with which they can appreciate the benefit provided by a top recording chain with respect to a near top one. Another strong reason for them to pay a lot for their audio gear is that their gear list is a commercial argument: just look at the web site of any recording studio and you will see what I mean. Impossible for them to make business if they don't have at least one Neumann microphone, because most artists will not trust a studio without a Neumann microphone.

Well, let us come to our main question about the relation between the cost and the perceived sound quality. The microphone preamp is a very instructive example. The cost ranges from a few tens of euros like my Behringer mixer (with four microphone inputs!) :D, that I bought to provide phantom voltage to my first condenser microphones, a pair of AKG C3000B, with which I was recording on an audio CD writer, to about 4000 $, the D.W. Fearn VT-2, the most expensive two channel preamp that I know, but do not own... yet . :P
Between these extremes, there are reasonable alternatives like this 100 €, two channels, valve tube preamp from Behringer, which I bought for improving my sound, or my first external PC audio interface with two microphones inputs for direct recording on PC (<300 $), a much more practical recording method than my previous one. Still in the amateur home studio range, there are acknowledged preamps like this one from Focusrite, a British company who proposes also top grade professional preamps. I already talk about the DAV BG1, the less sexy, but may be also less expensive (~800 €), preamp on the professional market, the sexiest one being in my opinion the Avalon AD 2022 with its so beautiful eyes.:wink:.

I let to 88man the charge to make us listen to the AD2022. (I would be much interested in a comparison with the Millenia. Both are great gear from what I read!) I propose you to listen to samples from the other preamps that I mentioned above, all tested with a pair of Avenson Sto-2 50 cm off the piano rig, except the Fearn that I do not own... yet. :twisted:

I am going to PM to Monica the who's who of this test. I already submitted this test here. I hou have kept the files, be honest: do not try to make us believe that your ears are more educated than our ones. Of course, I changed the labelling of the files.:wink:

All the files are 320 kbit/s mp3, a quality above what is usually allowed here. No processing (EQ, reverb, etc.) except minor level changes to get the same RMS level for all the files.

EDIT I removed the attached files for saving storage capaciy on Pianosociety. PM me if you are interested in so that I can make them available to you from internet.


Last edited by Didier on Fri Oct 24, 2008 10:26 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 14, 2008 1:47 am 
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[Wiser-guy] I was using a Beyerdynamic DT770Pro (250ohm) before, and just recently upgraded to the DT880. I should play the DT880 for 200 total hours until it's broken in. I agree, Beyers offer a great value for the dollar.

Didier, nice! The sound has focus and warm tone. Did you record close in omni? Is the piano a Steingraeber?... I haven't auditioned the Avenson STO-2 mic. How is the noise level with headphones? What is the sonic signature of the mic? It looks like an Earthworks for half the price?

I can't place a cost on "quality," because everybody's perception of quality is different. All I can say is "buy the quality that you can afford." Some will be happy with a $300 system, and a few will feel the need to spend $10000. The choice of equipment should be synergistic with one's perception of sound quality.

I've stated that people should first start by developing a perception of sound quality that appeals to them - transparent, dark, bright, colored; and should be based on the room, piano, and musical style. The second thing people should do is to go to a reputable studio, talk with engineers who record pianos, record some test tracks on such equipment, or rent the intended equipment to try in one's home. Honestly, people should audition the preamp + mic combination before final purchase. Then compare all these findings, and decide what at what price point the quality ceases to increase. Then decide how much one's willing to spend for a perceived level of quality. All I can say is 'buy the quality that you can afford.'

After room acoustics, the preamp imparts the greatest sonic signature to a recording. So if one is going to spend serious money, spend it on the preamp. For classical piano recording, the most realistic, and predictable sounding preamps don't impart any character of their own. They should sound "transparent" and have "fast transient response." These 2-channel preamps start at $1800 (Millenia HV-3C) and up. Next are the mics - they should sound neutral and have a flat frequency response. The mic pairs can range from $700 (Shure SM81) and up. The recorder can be an existing computer with an audio interface $0 to a rack mount CD Recorder with decent A/D converters (Tascam DV-RA1000), starting at $1200 and up.

Minimum Cost of Studio-Grade Recording = $1800 + $700 = $2,500 and up

BTW - I had my eye on getting an Avalon AD2022 for years because I liked the sonic signature it imparted - transparent, fast transients, slightly euphonic midrange, and well defined bass. At $3000 I didn't buy it, but when I saw it for $800 cheaper new I jumped on it for $2200. I saved the extra money for mics. The Avalon sounds full, euphonic, airy, lush, and has a larger soundstage than the Millenia HV-3C in my room. Even with transformer inputs, the Avalon is still transparent and fast. For me, the Millenia HV-3C has a slightly dryer and flatter presentation.

I'll try to post some test tracks of my setup soon...


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 14, 2008 7:47 am 
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I have to agree with 88man that the perception of quality is very different for every person. One can easily find these days clean, noise-free and transparent equipment with low cost. You don't have to bust your credit account to get a decent sound. But once you have sorted out the objective aspects of a preamp or microphone, then comes the subjective character of a device or its colour.
That's why it is very important to listen before you buy. That's why the tests in thelisteningsessions.com (88man posted the link above) are very interesting.

Sometime ago I would buy an expensive preamp that was praised and awarded believing that since major engineers used it, it may get things right for me too. But preamps over a certain price range have character, sonic signature, colour. You must decide whether you like this colour or prefer a different one and this is not cost related. For me, uncoloured, neutral preamps like the Millennia, even if they are considered high-end, do not yield the result I am after. I would prefer the more coloured sound of a Neve 1073 or Portico combined with large diaphragm condensers. But for someone else, the opposite might be true. You won't see it unless you get the chance to listen and compare.

And to be honest, we must first consider the room, the piano, and of course the pianist. Even the most expensive or high-end equipment cannot compensate for low-fi room acoustics. If the piano is out of tune or out of shape or worse, if you have a mediocre pianist, then the hunt for the perfect mic or preamp is a utopian feat. Highly detailed and analytical gear may amplify flaws or imperfections while less detailed or slightly coloured gear may obscure them and be more flattering. To put it bluntly, one would go faster and easier with a 4x4 on a rough and bumpy road than with a Maserati.

I for example, have a small piano room. I must therefore close mike the piano otherwise I would get a cheap, or boxy sound as a result of having a large sound source (piano) in a small space. So, I have to choose equipment that fits this particular need. Others may have bigger rooms or a hall, treated, with excellent acoustics, where the distant miking may yield fine results. The equipment would essentially be different.

My point is that today, you can get professional results (provided you have a nice piano and pianist) even if you don't have a great room or the most expensive equipment. You just need to know your limitations and choose equipment accordingly. So we are back to where we started. We need to listen before we rush out and buy whatever the experienced sound engineer suggests or applies in his own studio.


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 14, 2008 9:35 am 
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And then, when you have spent a 5-digit amount on arcane high-end recording gear, you'll find your mp3's on the web being sold as ringtones, and listened to on iPods and crummy PC speakers. Blimey, they don't even have the decency to invest in a 10000$ high-end audio kit with gold-contacted loudspeaker cables of 500$ per metre, which they would surely need to fully appreciate the carefully crafted euphonic ambiance and tone-colour of your recordings.

Seriously, unless one is a professional pianist, making CD's for the commercial market, who has access to the finest instrument in a professional recording venue with a tuner at hand, and one doesn't need such extravagant equipment any more than one needs a 24-cylinder Rolls-Royce or a fully computerized house with 6 bathrooms. I believe many people may be more fascinated with sound and technique than with the music itself - although they'd probably not admit it.

Anyway, many people here are already glad when they can afford a portable mp3 recorder.... And the results of these are quite good provided the playing, instrument, and postprocessing are up to standard. Apart from the professionals, it's only the happy few with time and money on their hands that can indulge in pursueing the finest of equipment. I could also imagine this is a race that can't be won as you will always crave the newest and yet more sophisticated stuff.

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 14, 2008 11:28 am 
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Location: France
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Did you record close in omni?

Yes the Sto-2s are omni microphones, placed here at 50 cm off the piano rig.

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Is the piano a Steingraeber?

Yes, a 205.
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How is the noise level with headphones?

You can make your own judgement by listening to my above mp3s. For me, it is not critical. This kind of electret microphone has a noise floor higher than a true condenser. Also true for the Earthworks mikes even if the QTC family, which you mentioned above, is quieter than the TC one. I can upload here a comparative test between the Sto-2s and a pair of Schoeps CMC6/MK21: 2 takes on my piano, each one with both pairs of mikes and two different stereo preamps, the pream-mike combinations being changed between both takes, that is 4 stereo files. It is interesting for judging both about the noise level and how the sound quality is improved between the less expensive set up (Sto-2 + integrated preamps of the external PC sound interface) and the most expensive one (Schoeps + DAV BG1 + PC sound interface). But I would like before that you told me what is you ranking for my five file preamp test. :wink:

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a 24-cylinder Rolls-Royce

:shock: :shock: :shock: Chris, does it exist really? What a beautiful sound it shall deliver. :P


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 14, 2008 11:54 am 
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Didier wrote:
:shock: :shock: :shock: Chris, does it exist really? What a beautiful sound it shall deliver. :P

Probably not... I was just being facetious :P

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 14, 2008 1:11 pm 
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wiser_guy wrote:

I for example, have a small piano room. I must therefore close mike the piano otherwise I would get a cheap, or boxy sound as a result of having a large sound source (piano) in a small space. So, I have to choose equipment that fits this particular need. Others may have bigger rooms or a hall, treated, with excellent acoustics, where the distant miking may yield fine results. The equipment would essentially be different.


Pantelis - can you please explain what you mean by ''close mike the piano'? Didier says he places his mikes 50 cm from the piano. That's pretty close, right? How far from the piano do you put your mikes? I have placed my Edirol too close and got a 'tinny' sound, so I can't do that anymore. But if I go too far away, then I get that airy, extra, background noise.

You guys are using much more elaborate equipment than I use, but I'm learning that even placing my Edirol in various locations greatly changes the sound. But also, and I've said this a lot, it matters what speakers I'm using when listening. This also greatly changes the sound. I can take one of my recordings, listen to it on my computer, put it on my Ipod, burn it onto a CD, put that CD in my home stereo, or listen to it in my car, and it sounds different in each place.

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 14, 2008 3:34 pm 
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can you please explain what you mean by ''close mike the piano'?

Close miking for me is with the mics inside the piano (lid open). This has been the only way I have found to give the best results. BUT, this is valid for me only, and my specific setup and room. It should be different for anyone else. And I have not stopped experimenting with different positions and/or equipment.
The sound you have captured out of your piano (it's a Yamaha, isn't it?) as far as I can tell (I have listened to this Granados stuff a lot), is very good. My grandmother used to say that "the enemy of the good is only the better". There is no best sound. Just better sound.

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But if I go too far away, then I get that airy, extra, background noise.

It's true that our ears filter out extraneous reverberation and focus on the sound source. But microphones apparently cannot do that so we have to put them closer than where we thing the right spot is.

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You guys are using much more elaborate equipment than I use

Well, that's exactly my point. There is no garrantie that expensive equipment will float the boat. On the other hand, if you experiment and use your ears, you can get impressive results with budget equipment. From my limited experience, the most important thing is mic placement. Different mic positions result in different sound and experimenting with this costs nothing.

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it sounds different in each place.

You need reference monitoring for consistency. Either nearfield monitors, or reference headphones.

@Didier
I envy you French guys, you always seem to know how to capture the right sound. Your samples are quite convincing.


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 15, 2008 11:28 am 
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wiser_guy wrote:
And I have not stopped experimenting with different positions and/or equipment.


I have not stopped, either. Although I think I will stick to my current placement for now.


wiser_guy wrote:
From my limited experience, the most important thing is mic placement. Different mic positions result in different sound and experimenting with this costs nothing.

When I went to that professional studio downtown last week, they used I think eight microphones. My friend said he spent many hours with the sound technician just moving the mics around to test the sound, because moving a mic just one foot changed the sound dramatically. Can you imagine that? I would most likely go crazy if I were to work with more than one microphone.

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 15, 2008 9:33 pm 
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I would most likely go crazy if I were to work with more than one microphone.



Monica,you need at least two ones for stereo recording, even if they are both integrated within your Edirol or Zoom or what else recorder! :wink:


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