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Thread: What would be the best microphone to record opera?

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    I've never done opera recording, I've done a couple choirs but, I just used two omni mics.

    Opera is a bit different. I just read up some on the recording of Pavoratti and others. The room is the big factor, you need to get a good large hall or theater, church, or something along those lines. 2 good omni mics about and the placement will vary depending on the room. Usually the mics are 15 to 20 feet away sometimes more, sometimes less. The reason is because you are singing so open and powerful, at takes that distance to really pick up the full development of the voice (according to what I read ). 3 omni mics are often used. a center main, left and right tilted in. sometimes spot mics are also added in but, more often that is for orchestra and choir. If I was you i'd check at my closest hall, conservatory, church, theaters, to see what it would cost to rent the hall for the day/ several hours. Some will even have recording equipment and an engineer who already knows what he is doing.. imho this would be the best way to really capture your voice in this style.

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    She's not been back since we started discussing this, so we are all guessing.

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    Hi guys, I've been away the last few days so I couldn't answer what kind of mics I have.

    I have a samsung meteor mic and a generic one which was very cheap and has a gold mesh top, and I'm plugging them directly into my computers USB

    Hopefully this is helpful

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    Quote Originally Posted by alyvia View Post
    Hi guys, I've been away the last few days so I couldn't answer what kind of mics I have.

    I have a samsung meteor mic and a generic one which was very cheap and has a gold mesh top, and I'm plugging them directly into my computers USB

    Hopefully this is helpful
    Very! And welcome back. The Samsung mic is not bad but I fear still not up to very loud, very close operatic voices! The specification gives the maximum sound level as 120dB (sorry about the technicals but, "that's the job!") and even if we accept that as true, you could still be exceeding that level. The loudest female voice on record is 129dB SPL but very close to the microphone you could be clipping the internal electronics.

    The solution is I am sorry to say not at all simple nor cheap. You must get an Audio Interface* and a standard "passive" microphone, let me deal with the mic choice first?

    Easy out is a dynamic mic such as the ubiquitous Shure SM58. You will NEVER overload that mic and are unlikely to overload anything you plug it into. The downside is that it is a dynamic mic and does not have the wide frequency range of the capacitor (aka condenser) mics that are used in the USB jobs. The 58 IS a good vocal mic but more suited to Kylie than Kiri? But! Try one if you can, you might like it. They are so common that you can probably sweetalk a shop or a band into loaning you one for a weekend?

    Capacitor microphones will give you all the quality you want but the overload issue could still be there for budget devices, say under $150. Many capacitor mics have built in attenuators and are thus just about un-overloadable but again can be pricey. Do look at second hand gear, AIs and mics tend to be pretty reliable.

    However, the mic will be of no use to you without an interface. These turn the analogue signals from the microphone to a digital signal that talks to the PC via USB yes, like the Samsung but in a vastly better and more versatile way.

    You mentioned Audacity, did you notice the meter scale at the top that moves as you sing? That scale need to sit at around half way for most of your performance, an indication of about -18dB and for the very loudest notes, no higher than -8dB or so. If you cannot keep the peaks below -8 drop the average level down, this will not impact the quality of the recording.

    *They start at about $50 for one mic input but such cheap interfaces are really not up to your special requirements. Brands such as M-Audio, Tascam and Native Instruments are worth a look. You will see and be recommended Focusrite products. Excellent but not known for high input clipping levels.

    Where in the world are you?

    Dave.

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    Thanks, you've been really helpful! I'll have a look at all the equipment. It's crazy to realise how much I didn't know about recording. I was always under the impression that if you plugged the mic in you were good to go. And I'm in the UK.

    Alyvia

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    UK good. Check out Cash Converter type stores and charity shops. We had a CG in Northampton that had AIs in one month in three and microphones all the time. I scored an excellent Focusrite 8i6 for 100.
    You get a 7 day no quibble return period so snaffle quickly and report here and we can tell you if it is prize or pup. Microphones are unlikely to come with a cable so you will need an "XLR3 male to female XLR3" cable. 3mtrs is plenty but much longer will not hurt at all.

    Dave.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Toastedgoat View Post
    when I went to uni, this is how it was done. I was in several vocal choirs and one opera. All the mics where hung down from the ceiling in a mid-size theatre. Depending on what they were recording would decide what mics. I was a sound geek at the time so I was always talking with the recording engineers. (UMKC white recital hall). None of the mics where within 15 feet of anyone and where overhead and slightly in front of us.

    Edit: I believe they used DPA mics.
    Right, that's how it's done in a venue. We don't yet know for sure what the acoustic environment is like for the OP, but it looks like it's in a home, which is different from a theatre.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ecc83 View Post
    Capacitor microphones will give you all the quality you want but the overload issue could still be there for budget devices, say under $150. Many capacitor mics have built in attenuators and are thus just about un-overloadable but again can be pricey.
    I note that the new Rode NT1's maximum SPL is 132 dBSPL, so it is a condenser that ought to be up to the job.

    ROEDE Microphones - NT1

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    I have been looking at some AIs and the Tascam US-2X2 looks very promising. At the 100 mark it has all the basics I would expect of a decent interface. The mic pre amps especially have a good level of gain at 57dB (60dB would be nice for dynamic mics and speech but 57 can be lived with and in any case not a factor here) More importantly the max input level is +8dBu or nearly 2 volts rms and that is excellent for a budget AI and would be good on a much more expensive pre amp.
    The 2x2 is "bus powered" which means it draws all the juice it needs from the USB port but can also be powered from a separate 5V supply (not included) which means it can likely be used with a smart phone? Also comes with Cubase LE software which is more suited to home recording than Audacity but will take SOME study to learn to use.

    The Rode NT1 gets good reports. I have a Sontronics STC-2 that is pretty neutral for a LDC mic and it has 20dB pad and bass cut switches. Around 150 when I bought it some years ago, probably quite a few about second hand now.

    However, Alyvia, how at present do you make your recordings, or indeed envisage doing so once kitted out? I presume you have some sort of backing track?

    Dave.

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    So many unanswered questions here. Some of the opera people I work with, and I do quite a lot of these things - 3 in the last month, are VERY difficult to keep happy. Lovely people, but so variable in their acceptance of new techniques - as in new to them!

    I've had opera singers on theatre stages with thinned out orchestra and tracks, and they were close miked, but they arrived with rather nice Neumann hand held, which we used on stands. They used in-ears. I chatted with the younger of the two and she said the learning curve going from unamplified to this setup had been steep and the original male, and older singer had been replaced because he could not convert - but they needed tracks to be heard, and wedges were very poor for this. Spill and stage volume reasons. They'd spent a long time tweaking reverb in the IEMs because they needed to hear as close to what they would have heard sung live and unamplified. Once they got this right, they simply toured identical kit to every venue. The only variable was the sound the audience ambience mic picked up. The poorer venues vs the excellent sounding ones. Some of these shows use headsets like Countrymans, DPAs etc but some singers embrace them and others hate them. The sound teams like them because the distance to the capsule remains constant - until they poke them. This makes an on-stage A2 critical, so 2 sound people minimum.

    For TV, then small condensers on long tubes extensions - 1m away seemed popular.

    For recordings, then in a nice environment, 2-4m distance is nice. Less if the venue acoustics are dryer, or have strange reflections.

    In the studio where you are re-creating the acoustics electronically, then you need probably just enough distance to stop the proximity effect changing the response, or of course use an omni closer in. You then need to re-create in their headphones as realistic ambiance as you can.

    Our poster here wants to record at home with tracks providing the music. Clearly some kind of headphones are essential to stop the tracks getting into the mic. She may or may not have realised this. To me, this also could be a problem. My Tascam interface has nowhere near the volume on the headphone output to make this work, so I'd use a headphone amp (I have a Behringer rack mount). This lets me route and output to it at realistic level. You then need in the DAW to create some reverb to make it easier to sing, and trick your brain it's real. I just cannot imagine a beginner getting to grips with this quickly, or maybe from the technical point of view. I really don't think the mic is the critical element for success. It's a working system that works for somebody trained to sing loudly in real spaces. Headphones that seal. A good understanding of your DAW etc etc.

    I note that she has a USB mic - this doesn't bode well for this recording as the cheap ones don't have any gain adjustment which is virtually certain to be the cause of the distortion.

    All the usual concerns of USB mics are detailed in the review by Sound on Sound, who I trust as always good solid advice.

    Samson Meteor |

    I don't think this is good for opera - and the monitoring issues they detail about having to use asioforall drivers to get return audio to the microphone's headphone connector make me think it was a poor choice. They actually liked the sound though!

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