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Thread: mics for classical piano sound

  1. #1
    johnlewisgrant is offline Registered User
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    mics for classical piano sound

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    It's been a journey....

    Here's the set up: Piano: Hailun 218 (7ft 2)
    Room: small and not particularly nice ambiance (mainly because it's small!!! 12X15X10.
    Computer: Macbook with GarageBand, Audacity, (and all the other usual suspects)
    Interface: Scarlett 2
    Music: Dense classical (Rach). Light (Scarlatti) which is easier to mic for "classical piano" sound.

    So, primary weak links are the small room and the poor interface.

    Journey for me, so far? Rented pairs of the following: akg 414 xls; Beyer M160 (Card Ribbons); Coles 4041s; Rode NT5s; AKG b451c; Nuemann 184s ....

    Main problem for the above was TO MUCH COLOR in the sound, with the exception of the Beyer M160s, which were clean but bass missing in action. I didn't want to have EQ that in..... a little sure... a lot, no!

    So now I'm considering the following:

    AT4051 (hope these aren't like the AKG b 451c--too bright--too colored)
    MKH 4080 (will these cards be any better than the AKG? I wonder?)
    Avenston sto-2 (omnis, I know, and so will pick up the poor room acoustic; but still, look incredibly interesting from the narrow standpoint of classical piano recording--because they're FLAT)
    DPA 4011, 4006, 4060 (may be a total waste of money given the room and the equipment, but I've heard one good piano recording from the cheapest of this set, the minis)
    Beyer MC930 (folks "say" it's different from the other card pencils)
    Studio Projects C4 MKii

    Kind of sound I'm looking for ? That's easy.... listen to ANY of the classical piano recordings put up here by "Marik," whom I don't know... these seem very CLEAN to me.... not a lot of color or harmonic distortion....(OK he's got good acoustics going for him, and for the pianist who is playing TO those acoustics; so maybe Marik's high benchmark is totally unobtainable.)

    Any opinions, suggestions from folks who have spent time doing classical piano recording a pro or semi-pro context?

    John

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    CrowsofFritz's Avatar
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    Bad room huh? Uh oh...

    I would go with 3 mics. Two Beyers and one LDC for the lower frequencies.
    "Nahhhhhhhhhhhh mannnnnnnnnnn. I ain't touching that mic. That thing's expensive."

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    moresound's Avatar
    moresound is offline Loud Sun Studios
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    Well first off -- Is the lid to be closed, half stick or full stick?
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    Quote Originally Posted by moresound View Post
    Well first off -- Is the lid to be closed, half stick or full stick?
    Should be open for classical. Although it's a little weird with a small room.
    "Nahhhhhhhhhhhh mannnnnnnnnnn. I ain't touching that mic. That thing's expensive."

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    John Willett's Avatar
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    Thumbs up

    I have recorded a grand piano in a small room.

    I still found omni mics. the best, but the position ended up being very different from what I would normally use.

    My piano mids are:- Sennheiser MKH 20, Sennheiser MKH 8020, Neumann KM 183-D (mount vertical if close to the piano) and Neumann KM 143-D. I am also considering getting a pair of the new Gefell M221.

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    oretez is offline Hwy 50
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    As always not sure what you mean 'color' in the sound. With a sound as 'large' (or dominating) as the one you are recording and size of the room you are in there is going to be a mismatch between what you hear when standing in most spots in the room and what the mics pick up.

    That said the mics you list should still be capable of adequate recording. (Not sure about the Coles 4041?, more experience with 4038 then 4040 and 4104 would not be mic of choice in any case . . . But if 4041 is similar to 4040 it can be used effectively even in a small room) . Beyer M160 was one of my first ribbons (and one that disappeared, went walk-about @ a live show 20 years ago) but it would not, typically, be a 1st or 2nd choice for the type of program you describe.

    The C451b's, assuming that's what you have, would also not be a 1st choice, but, generally, speaking not only can they deliver adequate results if you find them 'too bright, too colored' (not merely mismatch with what you heard in room but more objectively in mix environment) then something is wrong with mic, with placement or with mix environment. Using a combination of a Coles 4040 & C451 (even 'b') can be produce functional results (for described program material). Not sure if I've ever used a 'XLS' variant on the C414 but have used combinations of C414s and C451 (& C460) successfully.

    As is not unusual (for people of my generation) I tend to prefer the KM 84 to 184s but again there is no reason by a pair of 184s positioned effectively should not be expected to deliver acceptable results in described situation. The C451 has a tighter cardioid pattern (@ 8k, via published specs and nothing I've experienced really seems to contest this) but the 184 as a smoother, gentler 'mid-hi' boost (then either c451 or at4051). But again each of the mics you list will produce slightly different results in similar locations . . . I.e. They will sound different.

    While the AT4051 is roughly patterned on the C451 they are different mics

    My limited experience with DPA mics suggests they could be an excellent choice (the main limiting factor is not going to be your A/D conversion (assuming that it's accurate in any usable way)

    On reading your description of program (instrument, room, compositions) my first thought was for a pair of omni's coupled with a Ribbon .. . And a willingness to spend time trying to find some combination of instrument location, mic position that worked. My gut first choice (for me) would be a pair of Schoeps MK2 capsules (and there are a couple of variants on those) and a completely rebuilt RCA 44. I do not actually own any of these three but have worked frequently with a variety of Schoeps and know owner of the specific RCA 44. Of the mics I own I'd probably either use a rebuilt ribbon or a Coles 4040 and pair of SDCs with KK83 (omni) capsules.

    But can't stress enough that no matter what the mic position, after a minimally acceptable one, is far more important then specific mic (I think it would be hard to achieve as satisfactory results with Beyer M160 then with a Coles 4040 for example . . . 'Mileage will vary').

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    Him
    Him is offline Newbie
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    Quote Originally Posted by CrowsofFritz View Post
    Bad room huh? Uh oh...

    I would go with 3 mics. Two Beyers and one LDC for the lower frequencies.
    I have just done a Yamaha grand with two Beyer MC930 in ORTF and have been very pleased. I will try to post a link to a clip shortly,

    I AB'd an MC930 (cardiod) with my 414 B-ULS in Omni, just to see what I may be missing in the lower end. I checked through headphones and it really wasn't much, if anything - at least in my limited test!

    I can see why so many people say the MC930 captures more of the lower end than many cardiods. Clip to follow...

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    Him
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    Quote Originally Posted by CrowsofFritz View Post
    Bad room huh? Uh oh...

    I would go with 3 mics. Two Beyers and one LDC for the lower frequencies.
    I have just done a Yamaha grand with two Beyer MC930 in ORTF and have been very pleased. I will try to post a link to a clip shortly,

    I AB'd an MC930 (cardiod) with my 414 B-ULS in Omni, just to see what I may be missing in the lower end. I checked through headphones and it really wasn't much, if anything - at least in my limited test!

    I can see why so many people say the MC930 captures more of the lower end than many cardiods. Clip to follow...

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    John Willett's Avatar
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    Talking

    For a classical piano recital I find that directional microphones sound rather thin as a concert grand has an excellent bottom end.

    My starting position is a pair of omni microphones at a spacing of about 20cm at about ear height and about 2m from the piano.

    For a classical recital you normally do not want to close-mic. but to capture the instrument in the room.

    You can do this even in a "bad" room - just be prepared to put the mics in an unusual position. I actually recorded a double CD of Chopin Nocturnes in a small room and it worked very well. You can still buy the CD from THIS LINK.

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    johngrant is offline Newbie
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    Thank you very much for all the suggestions.

    I find myself in agreement with everyone---unfortunately...

    Re the Beyer 160s plus a long ribbon to capture the bass.... exactly this thought occurred to me. I may yet attempt it.
    The Sennheisers (8020 or perhaps the 8040) I am inclined to purchase, sight unseen, only because I have heard only good things about them. Ditto with Beyer 930.

    The key question, really, is what I mean by "colored" sound. Well... all things being relative... I suppose I mean something like a recording that is profoundly unlike the average classical piano recording.

    What immediately identifies a "home recording" of the classical piano is what I would call the "honky" tone, a recorded piano that (mostly in the mid range) sounds as if the piano was, so to speak, holding its nose. Very unpianistic.

    You can very easily get this sound by putting a pair of AKG 414 XLSs near or in the instrument, preferably in card mode, but even omni: that is guaranteed to produce the dreaded "honk" or "nasal" sound.

    Happily, very few classical piano recordings manage to sound honky, even Russian Soviet era recordings, as poor as many of them were!

    A lesson I learned very early is that SDCs, even in card mode, don't have that problem. But the AGK 451s quickly revealed (to me at least) that these mics are made and marketed for the NON-classical, rock sector. The classical piano recording market is a relatively TINY one, and there isn't much profit to be made designing mics for it. The AKG 451s, a perfectly good mic, just isn't right for classical piano. There is, to my untutored ears, just too much messy, even hyped high end, and not quite enough bass (cards).

    I can't rent the Schoeps, or the Senns, or even the Beyer 930s in TO; so I actually have to purchase them to test them out.

    I will admit to buying an astonishingly cheap pair of Apex 210s and AT2021s; so cheap that I could afford for them not to work at all. So far I have not really tested them.

    I have also thrown caution to the proverbial wind and purchased a cheap used set of AT 4041a(s), which I dearly hope are not a clone of the AKG 451s. But these are expendable, as well, I guess.

    I will post some of the results (actual test recordings) that I have made so far with this low brow equipment.

    Apparently I need to put up 5 or so more posts before I am allowed to do that!!!

    Again, these are excellent suggestions above. Obviously you folks understand what I'm up against!

    JG

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