Ideal microphones and mic placement for classical?

Creating a home studio for recording the classical guitar. Equipment, software and recording techniques. Amplification for live performance.
Per Lindhof
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Re: Ideal microphones and mic placement for classical?

Post by Per Lindhof » Sat Aug 03, 2013 6:41 am

Hi Sxedio
I think you have a point here. Recording acoustic guitar is a "business" being a lot bigger than recording CG. For this reason the generally accepted set up for recording is dominated by our steel stringed friends and their way of doing it. Typically SDC's in XY or 12. fret/body very close to the guitar. There is a HUGE difference in placing an acoustic guitar in a mix with drums, bass, vocal and piano compared to a solo classical guitar in a nice (or not so nice) room. In this context you do not want a lot of bottom end or "full body" but rather often a percussive edge as you mention.
I have never had success with LDC's though, but I have heard some very nice recordings like this one with Ana vidovic - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d2a_yfT84KQ
But the Neumann she uses is seriousely expensive.

Regards
Per Lindhof

charles.patrick

Re: Ideal microphones and mic placement for classical?

Post by charles.patrick » Tue Aug 06, 2013 8:27 am

I asked a similar question a while back and somebody explained that the placement of the microphone has the opposite effect to that of our right hand.

What I mean is that when we play towards the bridge the sound is thinner and more percussive, towards the 12th fret the sound is warmer and more round.

However, with the microphone pointing at the bridge apparently the recording will have more bass and with the microphone towards the 12th fret the sound is thinner.

Is that correct or have I confused myself again? I record myself with my zoom h2n for practice only so I'm not usually overly concerned with quality of sound.

franks59
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Re: Ideal microphones and mic placement for classical?

Post by franks59 » Tue Aug 06, 2013 10:33 am

charles.patrick wrote:I asked a similar question a while back and somebody explained that the placement of the microphone has the opposite effect to that of our right hand.

What I mean is that when we play towards the bridge the sound is thinner and more percussive, towards the 12th fret the sound is warmer and more round.

However, with the microphone pointing at the bridge apparently the recording will have more bass and with the microphone towards the 12th fret the sound is thinner.

Is that correct or have I confused myself again? I record myself with my zoom h2n for practice only so I'm not usually overly concerned with quality of sound.
That's been my experience. I believe it's because the lower end (bridge end) of the guitar has a larger surface are to vibrate, so the lower tones must be coming from there. A vibrating larger surface also allows for more overtones, thus a richer sound.

Frank

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attila57
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Re: Ideal microphones and mic placement for classical?

Post by attila57 » Tue Dec 24, 2013 10:48 pm

Help please!

I'm considering the purchase of a pair of RODE K2 tube microphones. Are they any better for recording the classical guitar than a pair of FETs, like the NT 2000? There's a lot of gossip around about tube warmness and the like. Is there anything behind the hype?

Attila
Music to hear, why hear'st thou music sadly?
Sweets with sweets war not, joy delights in joy...

William Shakespeare, Sonnet 8

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rojarosguitar
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Re: Ideal microphones and mic placement for classical?

Post by rojarosguitar » Wed Dec 25, 2013 2:15 pm

All tube microphones are not created equal, so certainly there are (usually quite expensive ones) that could add some warmth to the recording without loosing other aspects of quality. I haven't worked with tube mics as such but have some experience with tube preamps and solid state preamps, and I wouldn't agree that the tube gear generally sounds warmer, better or more charismatic as compared to solid state.

One thing that is speaking against tube mics is that in general they need they separate power supply and that makes the whole thing a bit unwieldy.
And most of them are LDC, so they are bigger and heavier anyway and usually add some colour of their own to the signal. Personally I rather prefer SDC (which also exist in tube version, but only few, and mostly expensive). And of course tubes are an element that is less reliable than solid state elements, and also varies in quality and perfection of the technical date much more ...

More flexible seems to me to be the choice of a good tube preamp which also can add that sought after something of tubes without making the mics themslef so impractically bulky.
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attila57
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Re: Ideal microphones and mic placement for classical?

Post by attila57 » Thu Dec 26, 2013 9:20 pm

Thanks Rob, again, it's really great that you share your thoughts with me. Bulkiness is something I'm worried about, too.

On the other hand, I'm planning to use the mic setup mainly at the home studio, not on location. Even the FET studio mic would be quite unwieldy for location, being 800 grams for one mic plus elastic support (1 kg), mic stand (3.5 kg), the whole multiplied by 2, so that would be ca. 10 kgs of stuff.
The tube mic itself is only 200 grams heavier than the FET version, the extra weight (and unwieldiness) arises from the power units - about 2 kgs each.

So the tube recording mic set would be a minimum of 15 kgs - clearly too much to carry around.

If we don't look at the weight, which doesn't count in the studio, it's nice to have a precise, high voltage power supply, and the the mic controls away from the microphone body, on the dedicated power supply.

Without the need for phantom power you can use a wide range of acoustic amplifiers, not just ones with built-in phantom power.
OK, there are external phantom power units, but the good ones are very expensive (from USD 150 onwards), and you need one for each mic, too.

Separate controls are nice, because movable parts on the mic body are prone to buzzing or becoming loose, when there's continuous vibration from sound sources, especially high-powered ones.

The main reason for my tube preference is the supposedly outstanding sound quality. I know each mic gives colour to the sound and all that, so I'll see and hear at the test.
On the other hand each setup is different and what works well at the test might fail in another setup, with another recorder, preamp etc.

FET mics - especially the one I'm referring to, the NT2000 - are said to impart the least colour to the original sound.

One aspect I was wondering about is the width of the covered area in the cardioid mode. I'd think it's nice to have a quite narrow characteristics setting, to be able to isolate the source. The K2 tube has it. The NT2000's cardioid area is admittedly much wider, even at its extreme.

So bulk versus specifications and sound, that is the question now.

Bye,

Attila
Music to hear, why hear'st thou music sadly?
Sweets with sweets war not, joy delights in joy...

William Shakespeare, Sonnet 8

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rojarosguitar
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Re: Ideal microphones and mic placement for classical?

Post by rojarosguitar » Fri Dec 27, 2013 11:19 am

To share some more thoughts:

I don't know the Rode K2, but generally speaking I would expect a good but not an outstanding performance from any microphone in this price segment - it might be better than prejudices would allow for, but there is a reason why outstanding mics cost big bucks.

Also generally speaking it is easier to make really good solid state circuitry than a really good tube cirquitry. To my knowledge most of the so called tube preamps (and built-in microphone tube pre-preamps) are rather a kind of a hybrid betwen tube and solid state. I might be wrong, but I would suspect that that real tube sound only comes from real tube-only cirquitry. So basically what most cheaper hybrid cirquits do is to introduce some more distortion into the signal. And to have the sex appeal of tube equipment :wink:.

Now, as to your stationary set up: Even if you plan to use the two mics (I suppose you are going to record your classical guitar in stereo) stationary in your home studio - unless you have a dedicated room for this use only, you'll have to move your equipment from shelves and back. But that might be a lesser argument.

More important: A more transparent sound comes from SDCs and not from LDCs, and even to find out the best positioning for a fixed pattern stereo pair for your recording setting is a lot of fine tuning and tweaking; the more if you start to play with directional patterns and stuff. I'd rather prefer to keep the number of variables as small as possible and not make them basically infinite.

As to separate power supplies and the advantage of having more room for choosing your preamps: I know exactly one excellent preamp that is not having phantom power and that is AEA TRP Ribbon Pre. There might be some more I don't know off, but rare, and most of mic pramps do have phantom power. The other side of it is that you cant run your mics without their dedicated power supply.

But in the end I can't argue whith what ever pleases you - if you like it, go for it. Let us know your decision and how you like the outcome ...
Music is a big continent with different landscapes and corners. Some of them I do visit frequently, some from time to time and some I know from hearsay only ...
My Youtube Channel is: TheMusicalEvents

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Denian Arcoleo
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Re: Ideal microphones and mic placement for classical?

Post by Denian Arcoleo » Fri Dec 27, 2013 1:17 pm

I'm going to go slightly off topic here...
I recently was asked to record an acoustic grand piano that was going to accompany one song in a modern dance production (Dracula by the Mark Bruce dance company). My equipment is rudimentary, two Audio Technica 4033's and a laptop. I placed one mic next to the open lid and the other at the treble and of the keyboard. When I later compared my recording with commercial offerings played by Pollini, Argerich etc, I was very pleasantly surprised indeed. My attempt was, to my ears, quite satisfactory in relation to these stellar recordings.
I am no recording engineer because I know next to nothing about the topic. My point is that I fall rather heavily into the skeptics camp on the subject of the 'arcane' art and science of recording. I think that this field (like many other subjects crowded with experts) has a large element of 'quackery' to it. In my opinion, given decent mics and a pair of ears that work correctly, the art of recording isn't, as the saying goes, rocket science.

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attila57
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Re: Ideal microphones and mic placement for classical?

Post by attila57 » Wed Jan 01, 2014 12:07 am

rojarosguitar wrote:if you like it, go for it. Let us know your decision and how you like the outcome ...
Thanks Rob, it's really nice there's someone around who's giving his precious time to my problem.
Denian Arcoleo wrote:the art of recording isn't, as the saying goes, rocket science.
Thanks Denian, for this, it confirms what I suspect, too.
I greatly admire you for your very beautiful interpretation of Granados' Oriental, by the way...

Happy, Guitar-full New Year!

Attila :bye:
Music to hear, why hear'st thou music sadly?
Sweets with sweets war not, joy delights in joy...

William Shakespeare, Sonnet 8

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attila57
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Re: Ideal microphones and mic placement for classical?

Post by attila57 » Thu Jan 02, 2014 9:35 pm

Hello Robert,

I have news to tell:

I was allowed to test the K2 tube mics at home for three days.

For a start, one of them was faulty! The dealer might have wanted to cheat me or something, because one of the shipped mics was visibly second class and when you set the polar pattern with the knob on the power supply, I could hear scratching noises.

The other mic was OK, and it had a very impressive sound. Its sound is very rich and detailed, but to me it's a bit short on trebles. On the other hand the sound has a strong 'vintage' character, one that's really different from the guitar's sound. I didn't like it first, but eventually I got to like it, because it's a nice, round, smooth, quality sound. The pattern knob on the power supply is very practical and professionally done. You can fine-tune the sound any time easily while you're playing.

I discovered that with the Tascam I can use the remaining one K2's sound spread out on two channels (stereo) for direct sound in cardioid setting, and the two inner ones' sound for background. The Tascam's MS (mid-side) decoder helped, and in the end I mixed down the whole on two channels and got a wonderfully rich sound with a lot of trebles.

After the test I told the dealer that I wanted to try the NT2000, too.

So now they are with me, they are real beauties, and definitely more practical than the tube ones. The mics themselves are much bigger than the K2s, almost a kilo each! They have a very nicely done surface-mount inside (made in Australia), a whole lot of condensers and a processor. The K2s fussy power supply is missing, so the carrying case is much more practically sized.

The test starts tonight and I hope there won't be a problem. I expect them to have a more open sound with more trebles.

As you suggested I've been looking for a tube preamp to improve the sound. I haven't bought anything yet, but I spotted a reasonably priced little Alesis tube preamp with 48V phantom, which could be used before an amplifier input. It looks good, but I've no real idea about its quality. I need two for the two channels and I'm afraid I can't afford anything more expensive than that.

The Tascam DR-40 is really great! It records with 24 bit/96 kbps, and if you use all of its possibilities, especially the 4-channel recording and the MS decoder options, you can be creative, and greatly improve the already excellent sound quality. Using the room's acoustic environment, mic positioning, the number of used mics, and maybe the type of mics, plus different stereo arrangements, the possibilities are endless indeed.

I'm considering keeping one K2 tube for main mic and having a NT2000 FET for supplement and using a tube preamp on each.

They would make a very nice pair, complement each other's character and weaknesses.

Any ideas?

Attila
Music to hear, why hear'st thou music sadly?
Sweets with sweets war not, joy delights in joy...

William Shakespeare, Sonnet 8

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rojarosguitar
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Re: Ideal microphones and mic placement for classical?

Post by rojarosguitar » Sat Jan 04, 2014 1:33 pm

Atilla,

you can do whatever suites your taste, but if you want to do stereo recording proper, you'll need two microphones that are as identical as possible, the best choice would be a so called 'matched pair'. This is especially important with so called 'coincident pairs' where the diaphragms are brought together as closed as the housing allows.

But there is no end to beeing creative, so if you think a combination of two quite different mics suites your taste, than that's it. After all you're not bound by the limitiations of a professional recording environment.

I'd like to repeat what I already said for microphones, as this is especially true for mic preamps as well: What nowadays is called a tube preamp, generally isn't really a tube preamp but rather a 'hybrid' preamp where most of the work is done by solid state (mostly highly integrated and miniaturized, rarely discrete) and than for the fun of it there sits also a tube. Usually it doesn't do much apart from introducing some nonlinearities and distortions that are supposed to represent 'warmth').

I'm not saying they are no good, but true tube preamps are build only with tubes and passive parts and ar an entirely different ballpark, also pricewise (minimum 1000 US $ per channel usually). Whether they really offer something worth the money one can only decide by comparing and listening.

I think perfecting one's recording technique in terms of proper mic placing and using a decent equipment that stands in proportion to what you actually do with it is the best way to go, without worrying too much about equipment. Most of the stuff that is being sold these days is fairly good for hobby recording.

If you want to record something that is supposed to be published commercially, I would employ a studio man, because you don't want to be in artist and techie state of mind at the same time... For everything else the equipment should be as simple and as good as possible, IMHO.

best
Robert
I'm perfectly happy with my discrete solid state preamps.
Music is a big continent with different landscapes and corners. Some of them I do visit frequently, some from time to time and some I know from hearsay only ...
My Youtube Channel is: TheMusicalEvents

Hybrid

Re: Ideal microphones and mic placement for classical?

Post by Hybrid » Sat Jan 04, 2014 3:36 pm

Any decent pair of small condensor's will do the job. Rode nt 5, Shure Sm81, etc..

The guitar, the player, and the room will have infinitely more effect on the sound.

The best player in a great room will sound amazing even through a cheap dynamic mic like an SM57.

An average player, in a crumby room will sound like an average player in a crumby room
even through a pair of Neumann's.

So save your money, and practice alot more.

Do some reading on sound treatment, and dont get it confused with sound "proofing".
Two completely different subjects.

And btw, dont spend 2 grand on a pair of mics, and then plug them into a cheapo preamp/interface.

Also, regarding the "stereo mic'ing" discussion. The guitar has no stereo spread to it, like a piano.
So there's no sense in trying to create one with mic spread.
The best way to utilize 2 mics might be to put one mic up higher to capture the basses, and one down lower to capture the trebles.
I use a simple coincidental pair, but i've noticed it doesnt sound much different from a single mic.

The mics i currently use and prefer are Schoeps. I prefer Neve preamps.

Hybrid

Re: Ideal microphones and mic placement for classical?

Post by Hybrid » Sat Jan 04, 2014 3:48 pm

Per Lindhof wrote:Hi Sxedio
I have heard some very nice recordings like this one with Ana vidovic - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d2a_yfT84KQ
But the Neumann she uses is seriousely expensive.

Regards
Per Lindhof
Dont know if its her, the guitar, or the mic, but that's a nasty sounding recording. :desole:

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Denian Arcoleo
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Re: Ideal microphones and mic placement for classical?

Post by Denian Arcoleo » Sat Jan 04, 2014 4:52 pm

This whole business of what sounds good and bad is very strange. I also had a good listen to the Vidovic Bensusan recording and I have to say that to my ear it sounds hard, harsh and very dry, with lots of pops and squeaks too. I just don't understand. :(

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rojarosguitar
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Re: Ideal microphones and mic placement for classical?

Post by rojarosguitar » Sat Jan 04, 2014 11:05 pm

I agree with Denian that this recording sounds harsh and dry in my ears - but that could be the guitar as well. It seems to me that no proper use of the space has been made. The mic is too close to the guitar picking up a lot of noise. (The mic is great and expensive, to be sure). I could even imagine that some sound processing is involved in that recording, something like an exciter (?...). The trebles sound almost like on a steel string guitar ... (maybe fluorocarbon).
Music is a big continent with different landscapes and corners. Some of them I do visit frequently, some from time to time and some I know from hearsay only ...
My Youtube Channel is: TheMusicalEvents

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