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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
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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 11411 times ]
mic-graph1.jpg
mic-graph1.jpg [ 145.38 KiB | Viewed 11411 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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PostPosted: Sun Oct 12, 2008 8:02 pm 
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Posts: 468
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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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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.
Quote:
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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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.

Quote:
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.

Quote:
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.

Quote:
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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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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Didier - are you trying to tell me something? :lol: :lol:

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 15, 2008 11:57 pm 
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Multiple mics?... Absolutely, it's difficult enough to record well with a stereo pair. Only skilled engineers tend to record with more than 4 microphones. Mastering all those channels on a mixing console, selecting multiple patterns, levels, phase, effects, etc. is all an art to get right. Recording with multiple mics, you're getting into ambient recording using spaced pair of omnidirectional mics 2, 4, 6, or in PianoLady's case 8 mics. If done right, capturing the natural reverberation in a large hall is the best case scenario. For home recording, this concept is useless because of the lack of natural reverberation due to the smaller size room and shorter ceilings. Besides, the cost becomes astronomical. I draw the line at a stereo pair of mics, and a good preamp.

As promised, here is a recent excerpt from Chopin's Nocturne, No. 21 without any effects. The file was converted from .wav to mp3.

Setup: (2) AKG C414B-XLS mics spaced 10in apart, 3ft from curve, 5ft high. Wide Cardiod
Avalon AD2022 Preamp
Yamaha CDR1000 CD recorder (built in 20bit A/D & Apogee UV-22 dithering)

Room: 35x14x8.5ft living room, with the dining room and foyer merging to form an "L." The piano is at vertex of the "L."

BTW - the annoying "clunk" in the beginning is the soft pedal bar. I'll have it adjusted as soon as the weather gets colder. As for the room, I am not going to buy acoustic panels until I get a larger rug first. After remodeling, I'll reevaluate the room response for any nodes. The above setup is working okay, but I'll continue experimenting with different mic placements in the meantime...


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 16, 2008 5:34 am 
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Nice! The Steinway sound signature is well there. Is it a New-York or a Hamburg one ? Are you preparing one recording more of this nocturne for us? It seems that it might the winner. :)


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Merci, Didier. My piano is a 1985 New York Steinway B. It was previously owned by a Steinway technician and it has been played very lightly. I really got lucky with this piano because not all Steinway Bs sound the same. Unfortunately, Hamburg Steinways don't weather the humidity well in the northeastern part of the U.S., so it's not a good investment for us. The difference lies in the wood stock used in the two different climates. Otherwise, I had my eyes on the Hamburg 7ft 5in piano, which they don't make here.

Several years back, I played on a Feurich piano and loved it's tone and timbre - it had just the right amount of harmonic balance and euphonics. They were importing only 75 pianos a year into the U.S. at the time, but I can no longer find any in Boston. Can they still be found in Europe?

BTW - I've been hearing some nice things about the Avenson STO-2 mics. I might try out a pair instead of getting the DPAs or the Earthworks right now. Great suggestion!

Here is the Chopin Nocturne, No. 21 again in it's entirety. The piano was tuned 4 months ago.


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I thought I'd copy my reply from the other thread to be on record here as well with my opinions.

David


Hi 88man,

Just a few comments in response. First, thanks for presenting your findings. They're quite informative.

I agree with your philosophy that recording classical piano music is more effective with mics placed away from the piano. Four feet is generally considered minimum, although in my living room, I find that a distance of eight feet better ensures a fully formed and blended sound. (Close-in recording is best left for pops and jazz where great value is placed on the percussive sound of hammer on string.)

Everything I've heard is that small diaphragm condenser mics are better suited to recording piano, while large diaphragm condenser mics are more effective recording voice. So I'm surprised you recommend large diaphragm mics.

Today preamps tend to be built right into some of the recorders. For example, that is the case with my fairly new Korg MR-1000 DSD. That eliminates that problem and additional expense. Similarly phantom power has replaced external power supplies, and mixing box functions are now built into recorders as well. With the recorders on the market today, all anyone should really need to record is a fine quality recorder, external stereo mics (usually superior to on-board mics), and higher end mic cables. Anything else should already be inside the recorder.

Alas, I don't have a 2,500 sq ft living room. Wish I did!!! The entire main floor footprint of my home is 2,100 sq ft! The living room is somewhat open (through two sets of French doors) to the family room, and directly open to the dining area and foyer. Ceilings are standard 8'. Homes in my region (eastern central Maine) are built smaller than the McMansions of the Southland for better heating efficiency during our brutal winters, especially where over 80% heat by oil. So I don't have the space for a Steinway B (or preferably a Baldwin SF10). My Baldwin Model L (6'3") does fit in nicely though.

I consider my living room to be "acoustically treated", i.e., wall-to-wall carpeting and stuffed furniture. I have not experienced the "harsh sound" you refer to, while using stereo small diaphragm condenser mics with omnidirectional capsules. Although I do have cardioid capsules too, I find the sound to be richer with the omnis. I use A-B configuration, 8' distant from the piano with 12" mic separation to good effect. (The 8' distance from the piano shows once again that all rooms are different, which requires much experimentation in mic placements.) I did experiment with XY configuration and found it lacking and obviously more suited to close-in recording, which I avoid now. I admit I have not tried wide-angle cardioids, but where I don't experience that harshness you mention, I probably don't need to.

Finally, you place great emphasis on the quality of the piano, room, and equipment. The one element you neglect is the most important one of all--the pianist!

David
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 17, 2008 3:28 pm 
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88man - Nice recording and a quiet one even though you have captured room ambience. Must have a very quiet environment when recording.
I miss some clarity in the notes, especially in piano or pianissimo. Maybe it needs some EQ to add a touch of sparkle and definition to the treble. But that's subjective.

By the way, the first note of the LH arpeggio in bar 8 (repeats twice) should be F#, not D#. Sorry for mentioning, but I thought you would like to know.


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[Rachfan] Indeed David, the pianist is important - dynamic shading, hard/soft playing, curved/straight finger technique, pedaling, piece, legato/staccato, etc. are all variables among different pianists and will alter the sound and the choice of equipment to some degree. I skimmed over it in my thread when talking about "musical style," and "taste"in the type of sound that one is after. That's why it's paramount to rent or borrow equipment before deciding to invest in studio-gear.

[Wiser_guy] Great observation! I've played it both ways with the F# and D#. This piece was published years after Chopin's death and there are at least two versions of this piece - one published with the F# and another with D#. I even have two recordings which play the two notes differently. This time around I played it with the D#. Intuitively, it sounds like it should be F#, however, I haven't had the opportunity to consult a musicologist since I am very curious myself. While we're on the subject, there are other pieces by Chopin where one has to decide the authenticity of notes due to either the publishers getting it wrong or whether the manuscript was not legible in the first place. In any case, it makes for an interesting conversation piece... No pun intended.

I haven't added any EQ to highlight the treble. It's not perfect - It may also be that I had the soft pedal down in the P and PP sections of the piece which robbed the notes of their lustre? I haven't done any EQing because the room is somewhat "bright.". Also, the mic spacing may be causing phase anomalies which can cancel certain notes. Anyway, I am planning to get a larger rug, that will definitely change the room response for the better, and I'll have more flexibility in miking the piano that will take this into account.

Thanks for the feedback!


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88man, You should put this recording in the audition room. Your interpretation is at least better than mine. 8)

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The difference lies in the wood stock used in the two different climates. Otherwise, I had my eyes on the Hamburg 7ft 5in piano, which they don't make here.

I think this is more a marketing argument for promoting in USA the Steinways made in New York. At this time, the humidity rate is 54% in my room. It is usually above 60% in summer and I have an humidifier to maintain it above 45% in winter when the weather is cold and dry. Are your conditions in Boston so different from our ones in Brittany at the west end of France ? Your winter is colder, your summer is hotter, but what...

Quote:
Otherwise, I had my eyes on the Hamburg 7ft 5in piano, which they don't make here.

I have also an eye on the Steinway C, which can be found in France : there was a wonderful second hand one at my last visit to Hanlet, the French importer for Steinway, but which is much more seldom than the B (your one) and the D (the concert one). Steingraeber just issued on this year their 232 model. 232 means length = 2.32 m, so it is a direct competitor to the Steinway C, whose length is 2.27 m. Anyway not so reasonable with respect to my tiny house (and bank account :wink: ).

Quote:
small diaphragm condenser mics are better suited to recording piano, while large diaphragm condenser mics are more effective recording voice.

David, it's may be more complicated than that. I suspect that small diaphragms condensers are better at some distance from the piano. So in a good acoustics venue, SDs are the usual choice. But for close miking (less than 1 meter), large diaphragm condensers may produce a richer sound. So, no general rule. Just for illustration of this, I attach two Beethoven piano sonata highlights, one with a small condenser pair, one with a large condenser pair, both at the same location, 50 cm from the piano. I think that they are representative for the best sound quality that I can achieve currently. You must equalize the listening levels for fair comparison.
EDIT I removed the attached files small.mp3 and large.mp3 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 10:32 am, edited 4 times in total.

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Hi Didier,

Thanks for posting that comparison of small diaphragm and large diaphragm condenser mics. In your room and fairly close-in distance from the piano, I agree that the large diaphragm condenser mics sound less constrained and richer there. My recording distance, however, in my room is 8 feet (244 cm) from the piano. So if you're correct, then in my environment my choice of small diaphragm condenser mics is entirely appropriate. One other variable that would be useful to know though in your samples here is whether they were done with omnidirectional or cartioid capsules. Could you please clarify that too? I now use omnidirectional capsules, finding a more lush sound resulting with the mics being in A-B configuration.

David

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PostPosted: Fri Oct 17, 2008 8:15 pm 
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Both are cardioid, David. I added a small bit (10%) of digital reverberation to both recordings, which I prefer to the natural reverberation from my room, more present when the mikes are further from the piano.


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 17, 2008 8:40 pm 
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Quote:
It may also be that I had the soft pedal down in the P and PP sections of the piece which robbed the notes of their lustre?

This explains it then. Obviously you know what you are doing and you already have a great setup. And by continouing the position/equipment experimentation you will get a lot better.

I hope you follow Didier's suggestion and put some of your work on the audition room. It would be nice to have quality recordings. It would be a great motivation for the all of us to try harder not only performance-wise but sound-wise also.


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 17, 2008 9:55 pm 
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Hi Didier,

That makes sense. Cartioids are more often than not preferred for close-in recording applications. In fact, some of the better portable recorders with on-board mics in XY configuration, which is best used in close-in recordings, also come with cardioid capsules. I have some old recordings I made with the mics about 6" (12 cm or so) away from the piano case rim. At that distance I used cartioid capsules with good success.

David

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PostPosted: Fri Oct 17, 2008 11:35 pm 
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Generally, large condensers capture more body and air of an instrument, which could give the appearance of sounding more "musical." They typically have more color and presence peaks around 2-8khz which adds airiness to a voice or an instrument track, this may flatter some sources or add the wrong character to others.

Small condensers have better focus, faster transient response than larger condensers, which could give the appearance of sounding more "accurate." They also tend to be neutral and have a flat frequency response. Caution: My experience has been that small condensers, especially cardiod patterns, may exhibit off-axis coloration, which at close miking distances can make the piano sound like it's out of tune on certain notes. The Neumann KM184 is notorious for this.

So the debate continues: Musicality vs Accuracy. The same debate appears in audio electronics - solid state (more accurate) vs tubes (more musical). It becomes a matter of what sounds more "realistic," based on the room, piano, and style of playing. In some cases you could implement a hybrid setup where you have a combination of small and large condensers for each channel - this way you could merge musicality with accuracy and have best of both worlds. Again, you would have to experiment to find the right balance.

Thank you for the compliments.

Didier, do you have any acoustic treatment in your music room? You seem to be having better luck than I am with omnis in your room, that's why I am resorting to 'wide cardiod' for now. The Beethoven sounds nicely balanced...
... Several years back I asked Richard Lieberman, the author of "Steinway & Sons," the same question regarding the import of German Steinways into the U.S. That's what he told me about the humidity. Here in Boston the humidity varies drastically from 10% in the winter to 90% in the summer. However, marketing may play a role as you say - The New York Steinway guards itself well here from it's brother in Hamburg. C'est La Vie!


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Hi 88man,

That's a very interesting observation about the issue of close-in mic-ing with cardioid capsules adding coloration such that the piano might not sound completely in tune. This is the first time I've heard of that. It intrigues me because years ago I made numerous analog recordings using close-in cardioid patterns. Often I'd get (and still get when some people hear those old recordings now) listener comments about the piano being "out of tune", which I did not always believe was the case, although occasionally it admittedly was a problem. Where it was unexpected, I attributed it more to very minute tape speed changes, although that would seem unlikely. Other comments complain of a "swimmy", 'wobbly" or reverberation quality to the sound, which might also be part of that cardioid coloration you speak of, although that possibly being the culprit never dawned on me.

Fortunately I don't get any of that these days using my digital system, A-B mic-ing at 8' out, and my shift to omnidirectional capsules.

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Didier, do you have any acoustic treatment in your music room?


Nothing specific but I use this mic thing for isolating acoustically the microphones from the closest wall. I don't think that it is determining. The most important thing is that I put the microphones at close distance well within the critical perimeter (the limit where the scattered sound becomes higher than the direct sound). In this case cardioid vs. omni is not a so important issue.


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Rachfan, in the days of analog recording, the "swimmy" or "wobbly" character to the sound was caused by Wow and Flutter - slight electromechanical variations in tape speed. Any figure above 0.1% wow and flutter was discernible. It was a bigger problem with cassettes than large format reel to reel machines because of the tape speed. As you noted, digital doesn't have this anomaly and it was a huge leap for me too when switching to digital.

Didier, I have loose acoustic foam similar to the pictured set up that might work. I have some left over from speaker building.

George


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Hi 88man,

The final impetus for me to shift from analog to digital was when Type IV Metal cassette tape was no longer manufactured and disappeared from the shelves, leaving only the inferior Type II Chrome, and the horrible quality Type I Normal. :lol: Thanks for that insight on tape speed. It's nice to be part of the digital recording world now.

I use the Korg MS-1000 DSD. The only problem is that I always use WAV format for recording rather than the direct stream digital (DSD) option. Problem is, the format conversion programs available on the Internet that enable one to convert to MP3 for posting purposes on sites like Piano Society, 1) don't seem to even know what DSD is, and 2) have no clue as to how to convert it to MP3! Maybe that will change in the future, but in the meantime it a shame not to be able to use DSD. The reason I went with DSD was to get ahead of the technology curve. It'll sure be nice when the conversion programs catch up!

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PostPosted: Fri Oct 31, 2008 12:28 pm 
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Hello,

I have been keen to play some of my piano pieces on to CD and have been experimenting for several months and feel that I am making some progress. I thought maybe I can get some help in this forum. Tonight I have made a very short .wav file of my playing and wonder if I can include a link here for you to have a listen to the sound file. Are links allowed?

My room is 16 ft x 14 ft with 9ft high ceiling.
Kawai KS3F Piano , sounding very good.
Pianist, try to sound good, up to others to judge.
Microphone: SP B1 Studio Projects Cardiod Condenser Microphone
Pressure gradient transducer
Dual Selectable High Pass Filter
Dual Selectable Pad
34mm diameter capsule 3um diaphragm
TASCAM US-122L Interface Audio/MIDI USB 2.0 connected to my computer.
Microphone is on a stand about five ft high pointing vertically up to ceiling and about five ft from the front of the piano on the treble side almost in line with the C one octave from the top.
There is carpet on the floor and two large windows which have curtains hanging from near the top of the wall to the floor. My house is brick veneer. I prefer to play with the lid of the top of the piano, down.

I would like to strive for the best sound with the resources I have. Any help you can give would be greatly appreciated. Thank you in anticipation.


Last edited by bring18 on Fri Oct 31, 2008 11:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Fri Oct 31, 2008 1:36 pm 
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Hi bring18. Welcome to the forum.

Yes, you may put up a link to your recording. Or you can put it up as an attachment. But just to warn you - the 'sound' guys are not always around the forum everyday, so it may take time to get any response. Or not....you never know around here.


p.s. Boo!

(happy Halloween :lol:)

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Hello pianolady,

Thanks for your reply. I will include the sound file as an attachment for the sound people to have a listen to.

I forgot to mention that the software I am using is Cubase LE. Also my piano is an upright Kawai KS-3F.


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 31, 2008 11:39 pm 
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Hi Bring18, I recently joined this site too. :)

In getting started, you should continuously experiment with mic placement - vary mic distance, spacing, height. That alone will yield dramatic results than any gear substitution. Record the same 5 tracks, and take reference notes on any changes. Monitor with good headphones. Rules to remember (1) the distance between the mics should be 3 times the distance of the mics from the piano; (2) mic the Right Channel for bass, and the Left Channel for treble - counter-intuitive for a pianist, but makes for a more natural psychoacoustic recording.

The SP B1 is a cardiod only mic, try to get closer than 5ft from the piano for that size room, otherwise the bass will suffer due to proximity effect. Don't mic inside the piano or else you'll get off-axis coloration, especially with cardiods (that "out of tune" sound on certain notes). If you're intent on keeping the lid down, try leaving the lid open at least on the short peg and place the mics 1-2ft from the curve to start. The sound should breathe.

The dimensions of your room are squarish so you might get standing waves at multiples of 70Hz, 80Hz, and 125Hz. The main point of acoustic treatment is to minimize nearby reflections from the source - ceiling and nearest adjacent walls. The curtains and carpeting will help, but try to place absorption on the ceiling and closest walls to tame nodes if spouse doesn't mind... I don't have to worry about that one! Try placing bass traps, e.g. LENRD, at the corners to help with room nodes. A short ceiling is a big culprit in "boxy sound" recordings. But, if you can absorb much of the sound going to the ceiling, then it's like having an infinite ceiling that's not there. Try using diffusers too - it'll make your room sound larger. Who knows, once you treat your room, you might find yourself recording at full lid, unless the piano is too bright for your taste. You may ultimately have to do some EQ at some point, but focus your resources on room treatment.

Try the free sound analysis through Auralex.com to get you started. That's what I am doing. You can also contact Ethan Winer of RealTraps.com as I indicated in my thread - he has some informative videos too. As for me, I am still in the process of acoustically treating my room in my new home - oriental rug, acoustic absorption, and diffusion panels. Once it's done, I'll be able to use omni mics without having to worry about bad room acoustics holding me back.

You can hear the sound I am getting, although with minimal treatment, just to get an idea of the sound with a different mic and preamp. I have a demo thread on [Auditions] "Chopin Nocturne, No. 20." It was never meant to a flawless performance, but rather a 'spur of the moment' demo of my mic-preamp... I'll post a better technical and musical recording once the room is acoustically treated. My goal is to host 'Schubertiades' and record music among fellow musicians and friends. :D


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PostPosted: Sat Nov 01, 2008 12:33 am 
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Ah, I see you posted an attachment while I was righting my first response... Besides I had to pass out candy at the door - unwillingly as I am a dentist by profession, and music is a hobby. :)

OK, I just listened to the piece. I am hearing the room nodes on the same frequencies that I had calculated in my first response. Based on your room dimensions they should occur at 70Hz, 80Hz, and 125Hz. I've never played this piece, but sounds like it's in E Major and the pedal notes, low E and B are 82Hz and 123Hz respectively - very close to the calculated nodes for that room! To improve the sound and treat the room, the recommendations I outlined before may be a good start.

I also realize in your follow up post that it's an upright. So, you can't mike it the same way you would a grand. Try placing the mics 3-5ft on back of the piano OR Open the lid and place 1-3ft from the top OR Open the bottom lid and mic 3-5ft away to start.

Yes! With the SP B1 mics, you can definitely improve upon the sound even though they may be on the bright side, but they're still transparent and that's a requirement for piano recording. There is a good deal of noise, most likely from the audio interface. Make sure you check input settings, mic cable, phantom power, impedence settings, gain, and power supply for any anomalies on the interface.

If you can't improve the sound from the current audio interface, try a Presonus or MOTU interface if you're intent on a computer based recording system. The threshold for good quality starts at $300. Most interfaces skimp on the analog inputs, and that's where the money is in the "sound" or "color."

BTW - If you're planning on a holiday gift, get the M-Audio Microtrack II recorder - has very good A/D converters, built in full 48V phantom power, and extreme portability - all in a self contained handheld unit for $300. You can use your current mics to it's full potential. I use one, and it's the best value IMHO.


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PostPosted: Sat Nov 01, 2008 9:26 am 
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Hi Bring18,

your recording has a .wav extension but it seems rather being a very compressed MP3. Such an extremely low rate, about 20 kbit/s, is irrelevant for evaluating your recording set up, which looks anyway rather good.

Quote:
try to get closer than 5ft from the piano for that size room, otherwise the bass will suffer due to proximity effect.

The proximity effect is the bass reinforcement occurring when a cardioid microphone gets very close to the source (on the order of 10"). Especially of concern (or of benefit) for vocal recording.


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PostPosted: Sat Nov 01, 2008 1:39 pm 
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Hello 88man,

Thanks. Enjoyed the candy bit and the spouse. I don't have to worry either. I like some humour but will have to try to behave myself (control myself) in these forums. Can't quite work out a dentist/pianist but I have only seen a minute part of the world and this is the Internet now. I will have a good read of what you have told me and work out what to try first. I find it difficult to understand some things but will try some basics. I only have one microphone. On reading your message, I realise I might need to have better settings on my Tascam US-122L Interface, the reason being that as much as I tried to understand it I never did. Am hoping you will be able to help there as maybe some of the settings could be improved.

There's only four settings i.e. (1) input L (for the Microphone), (2)Phantom off/on and naturally I have this on, (3) Mon mix and (4) Phones/Line Out.

Re (1) (3) and (4) I am uncertain whether I have ideal settings because I never understood them.

Input R is not used as I am only using one Microphone.

Also I do not have head phones for monitoring. Why would you have to monitor? I always listen to the track when I have recorded it. Do head phones cost much?

I did not understand you when you mentioned 5 tracks. I just do one track at a time for one piece of music.

E major was correct; Triste Coeur Composer Paul De Senneville. This was only the first almost two pages. There's another three and a bit pages to this piece.


Last edited by bring18 on Sat Nov 01, 2008 11:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Sat Nov 01, 2008 1:51 pm 
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Hello Didier,

Thanks for your help. You are correct in your assessment of the format of the file because that is what I did. I will keep the sound file in uncompressed .wav format in future. Is that the better way to have the sound file assessed?

On the point about the Microphone being 5 ft from the piano, do you mean that it is better to have the microphone around ten inches from the bass strings?


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PostPosted: Sat Nov 01, 2008 2:17 pm 
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No you shall not upload here wav files, because they are too big. 192 kbit/s stereo MP3, or 96 kbit/s mono MP3 for mono recording like in your case, would be nice.

No I did not mean that you shall get so close to the strings. I was just correcting a bit of confusion about what is the proximity effect, which you should not care about.


Yes I think that 1.5 m may be a little far in your case. But only testing is worth in this matter.

The most effective way to improve your recording quality, if needed, would be likely to get a second SP B1 for stereo recording. :wink:


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PostPosted: Wed Nov 12, 2008 11:32 pm 
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Hello Didier,

Have been experimenting and learning, and would like you to comment on this sound file in the attachment thanks.


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PostPosted: Thu Nov 13, 2008 10:54 pm 
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Hello bring18,

that's much nicer. But the piano seems a little far like I would listen to it in a large room and it would be at the opposite side. I would like a little bit more presence on this kind of intimate music. I try to get that with minor processing, which I'm not skill in. Buth this is just a matter of personal taste.


Last edited by Didier on Wed Nov 19, 2008 11:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Fri Nov 14, 2008 2:47 am 
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Hello Didier,

Thanks for your comments. I did notice that I should have had this sound file louder and I can do this on my audio/midi interface at the mic input volume control knob. Maybe you mean something else. I will try this piece again using a higher volume at the mic input control on the audio/midi interface. Am never sure how loud sound files should be.

Meanwhile:- 45 minutes later: - I have just done this sound file again, this time with the mic still approximately above middle C but not so high (around 2 ft above the top of the piano when before it was about 3 ft above the top of the piano). The top lid was open again and a rug folded a few times, was placed over the underside of the lid. I also had used the rug on the previous sound file. This time I turned the mic control knob up a little higher on the interface.

I played the first part of the piece, then I took the rug off and played the first part of the piece again. I think I preferred the sound with the rug on. I have included the new sound file in the attachment thanks.


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PostPosted: Fri Nov 14, 2008 12:56 pm 
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Hi bring18,

the presence is better here but there are parasitic noises which were not in the previous recording.
What I did in editing your previous recording: gain, noise gate, dynamic compression, attack sharpening. This is at best a possible improvement. But you should not care too much about that because your sound is already good enough for sharing here some music with us. Both microphone setting at 3' and 2' are possible options, among which you have to decide yourself what sounds better to you. But for comparing you have to ensure that the levels are the same. You can modify the level after recording in an audio editor like Audacity, which is a freeware.


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PostPosted: Fri Nov 14, 2008 11:50 pm 
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Hello Didier,

Thanks again for your help. I do have Audacity and could try those adjustment. I have taken note of what you have said i.e. re keeping the same level when comparing, and will do some more experimenting and send another attachment soon. Hope you don't mind listening to another sound file and commenting.

I don't know whether a rug on the wall behind the piano and something on the ceiling above the piano will help. I could try it, and also something in the nearest two corners of the room. The piano is about six inches away from the wall. The piano tuner said that the piano is in about the best place acoustically in the room.

Does the angle that the microphone is on even make a slight difference? I read the instruction manual yesterday about the microphone, and it said to address microphone from the side (not the top of the grill) above the SP logo badge, so I have been doing this.


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PostPosted: Sat Nov 15, 2008 11:51 am 
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Hello Didier,

I have just recorded another piece today as it was a cool afternoon. I have included just the first part of the piece for you to have a listen to. Am sorry it cuts off rather suddenly.


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PostPosted: Sat Nov 15, 2008 6:40 pm 
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Quote:
Does the angle that the microphone is on even make a slight difference? I read the instruction manual yesterday about the microphone, and it said to address microphone from the side (not the top of the grill) above the SP logo badge, so I have been doing this.


Yes, it should make more than a slight difference! I understand now why your recording sounds so far.

As soon as I heard the first notes of your last recording, I thought 'great!'. :)
That is a pity that there are stlll these disturbing noises (produced by the action or your nails ?).

Anyway, using only one microphone seems being less a limitation than what I was anticipating. You could still improve your sound using some kind of advanced audio editing (not at all needed for sharing music with us). For example:


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PostPosted: Sat Nov 15, 2008 9:07 pm 
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Didier wrote:
The proximity effect is the bass reinforcement occurring when a cardioid microphone gets very close to the source (on the order of 10"). Especially of concern (or of benefit) for vocal recording.


However for acoustic recording, especially with a "pressure gradient" mic like the SP1, the proximity effect continues noticeably because bass boost continues to decrease proportionately as the distance increases until about 6ft. Bring18, do a bassy test recording by placing your mic at 1.5ft and at 8ft. You will get different bass responses at each of those distances.

This proximity phenomena does not happen with "true pressure" omnidirectional mics and they are immune to proximity effects and that's why they are popular for classical piano recordings like the DPA 4006, Schoeps MK2, Sennheiser MKH8020, Earthworks QTC, Avenson STO-2, etc. You get a much more flatter frequency response. But, you can't use them to their potential in an untreated room.

bring18 wrote:
I don't know whether a rug on the wall behind the piano and something on the ceiling above the piano will help. I could try it, and also something in the nearest two corners of the room. The piano is about six inches away from the wall. The piano tuner said that the piano is in about the best place acoustically in the room.


To get a quality recording, you have to acoustically treat the room. A rug will help for midrange and high frequencies, but will do nothing for the bass frequencies. Eliminate any nearby reflections going to the mic by placing broadband absorption panels - DIY fiberglass panels made from 2ftx4ft 2inch OC-703 and OC-705 covered with burlap - color of your choice to match the walls. The walls, corners, and ceiling closest to the mic position is where you want to start first. That's where the first reflections occur and they're harsh. After doing a lot of research online, and discovering the staggering cost to treat my entire room, I am doing this on my own without costly commercial panels. The results so far have been amazing! Better Bass definition, midrange clarity, highs are not harsh. I am not forced to mic in cardiod mode, and for the first time I can place my new omni Sennheiser MKH 8020 mics at a distance of 3-5ft from the curve of the piano and get a full and rich sound. If you're interested let me know if you want to make your own acoustic panels for the fraction of the cost of commercial panels. They're simple to make too...


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PostPosted: Sat Nov 15, 2008 10:24 pm 
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Hi George,

I was not expecting that the proximity effect would be significant at so large distance. For its 40 series Audio Technica gives the frequency response of the directive microphone at 12" or more on axis, which seems indicate that the proximity effect is significant only below 12" (see for instance AT4050 Specification Sheet). I guess that this is not true for all mikes.

Quote:
my new omni Sennheiser MKH 8020 mics

:shock: Congratulations! I would be much interested in some samples for comparing them with your 414s. Thanks in advance if you can do that! :)


Last edited by Didier on Sun Nov 16, 2008 7:49 am, edited 4 times in total.

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