amplification

Creating a home studio for recording the classical guitar. Equipment, software and recording techniques. Amplification for live performance.
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Denian Arcoleo
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amplification

Post by Denian Arcoleo » Tue Mar 24, 2015 5:11 pm

I was wondering, is there an amplification system for classical guitar these days that is generally accepted as the most natural-sounding one? In other words, a system that preserves the character of the instrument but that also gives it a real volume boost? Any front-runners?

Dirck Nagy
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Re: amplification

Post by Dirck Nagy » Tue Mar 24, 2015 5:26 pm

Hi Denian

I don't know how to include a link to a different thread here, so forgive the copy and paste…

Granted, I'm not exactly a world-class performer(!)…but this has worked well for me for a few years:

cheers!
dirck
I think Rory Falls made some very good points, to which i would like to add:

I have done a bit of sound engineering too, and while i am guilty of marveling at every electronic device that crosses my path, I force myself to remember 2 things i learned from the engineers who taught me:
1. Mic placement is MUCH more important that type, brand, or quality of microphone., and
2. If its garbage going in, it will be garbage coming out! (this means, I'd better practice more, eh?!?)

If using a mic through an amplifier, be aware of the "Haas effect": a psychoacoustic principle which states in part that the FIRST sound impulse that reaches the ear is perceived by the listener as being the ORIGIN of the sound.

What this means is: if you are sitting closer to the speaker than to the acoustic instrument, the sound will seem to be originating from the speaker, no matter how loud/quiet it is.

One setup that i have tried is to place the speaker FARTHER AWAY from the audience than I am sitting. If possible, I will point the speaker to the back of the stage. This is contrary to common practice, which places speakers on stage right and stage left, facing the audience. But this way, the first sound the audience hears is the soundboard of my guitar. The sound from the speaker is reflected off the walls of the stage, and arrives a few milliseconds later, functioning as reinforcement, as intended. I have been accompanying choirs a bit these past few years; also been part of the basso-continuo group, and it sounds OK, from what i am told.

I think some of the "big time" pro audio guys will even add a few milliseconds of delay to the amplified signal for this very reason, especially if they can't control speaker placement, but I play through a very simple setup.

But nothing is perfect! This is only adequate, but not anywhere near ideal…

what do others do? any thoughts?

dirck

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Denian Arcoleo
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Re: amplification

Post by Denian Arcoleo » Tue Mar 24, 2015 6:04 pm

Thanks for that Dirck, very interesting. I'll try to get to grips with what you said there.

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Erik Zurcher
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Re: amplification

Post by Erik Zurcher » Tue Mar 24, 2015 8:15 pm

Dutch luthier John van Gool developed this wireless ampification system with and for Paco Peña.

http://www.lutherie-van-gool.nl/wireless.html
Reedition Domingo Esteso by Conde Hermanos 2004; Kenny Hill, model Barcelona 2001
"While you try to master classical guitar, prepare for a slave's life: the guitar will forever be your master and you its slave".

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Blondie
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Re: amplification

Post by Blondie » Tue Mar 24, 2015 9:16 pm

Hi Denian

There are various options, and many discussions on this, but without knowing your:

-budget
-what kind of environment this is for (no of people, background noise levels, indoors/outdoors)
-whether you are prepared to modify your guitar (eg have internal system fitted with jack output)

..its difficult to advise fully.

Basically you obtain the signal to amplify in one of two main ways:

-microphone (internally mounted, external & mounted or external and not mounted on the guitar)
-transducer (soundboard or undersaddle)

Systems come in a variety of flavours which can mix the different methods above (often a good solution if you play a variety of environments)

You then need to run it through a PA for the best quality sound, again what you choose depends on venues and your budget.

I have used just about every type of system available, by far the best choice for natural uncoloured sound for small - medium solo guitar concerts would be miking up with an external condenser mic. if you don't mind mounting one (temporarily) to the guitar, the industry standard is really the DPA4099 (I have one).

If you don't want to do that for aesthetic reasons, then there are a range of options - I have just emailed my duo partner to find out what we use, audio technica I think.... Edit - We use ATM450s

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Denian Arcoleo
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Re: amplification

Post by Denian Arcoleo » Wed Mar 25, 2015 8:14 am

Many thanks everyone. So, Blondie, an external condensor mic is best for natural sound? I have always suffered feedback problems when using this solution :(
Is there a particular way of positioning mic amp and guitar to avoid this? Also, which amp is best in this scenario? Thank you :D

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Blondie
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Re: amplification

Post by Blondie » Wed Mar 25, 2015 9:58 am

Denian Arcoleo wrote:Many thanks everyone. So, Blondie, an external condensor mic is best for natural sound?


Absolutely, no question.

..but us mentioned, it does depend on environment. If you are looking to do weddings for example, in very noisy environments, you have to compromise on sound to achieve volume without feedback. I have played at some deafening wedding breakfasts, and that's the guests, not me!
Denian Arcoleo wrote:I have always suffered feedback problems when using this solution :(
Is there a particular way of positioning mic amp and guitar to avoid this? Also, which amp is best in this scenario? Thank you :D
Yes, positioning of mic and speakers is key. Mic should be directional, and placed close (around 6 inches away give or take) from the guitar round about 12th/13th fret area, much closer than you would record.

For best sound with a good spread you need two speakers, and you need to get them off the ground. We use a Fender Passport 300 Pro PA system, the speakers are placed up on stands behind us and flanking us, just above head height. The speakers are therefore used to monitor too. We play concerts in small venues (say 80-120 people) with these and get plenty of volume with no feedback problems. Not classical, but flamenco/latin so same amplification issue. I am trying to think of venues we have played you might know - Ilminster Arts? Calstock Arts? Plus some big churches. We'll be at Taunton's Creative Innovation Centre in July... I'll try and dig out a concert pic to show you (EDIT: just sent you PM!]

EVH make great small PA speakers, JBL and Mackie are a little cheaper, you could get active ones (amp built in) and combine it with a little Mackie mixer just to control your levels. That would give you great sound but it is more to carry. I have used the Passports for years for convenience (mixer/amp and two speakers folds away into a 'suitcase').

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Denian Arcoleo
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Re: amplification

Post by Denian Arcoleo » Wed Mar 25, 2015 4:52 pm

Many thanks for that informative reply blondie. Looks like I have some of the elements of the ideal setup already; I have condensor mics (Rode and audio technica) and I also own the small Mackie mixer. The only thing I lack is the decent amp, so I'll check out the fender passport you mentioned. Thanks.

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Blondie
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Re: amplification

Post by Blondie » Wed Mar 25, 2015 5:07 pm

Denian Arcoleo wrote:Many thanks for that informative reply blondie. Looks like I have some of the elements of the ideal setup already; I have condensor mics (Rode and audio technica) and I also own the small Mackie mixer. The only thing I lack is the decent amp, so I'll check out the fender passport you mentioned. Thanks.
Ok, bear in mind that with the Passport what you are getting is a mixer/amp combined, (plus two speakers), so you wouldn't need your Mackie. I would only use one of those mics live if I were you, rather than the pair.

As you already have a mixer though , you might want to look at the other option i mentioned, which is a pair of active speakers (amp built in to them) of the makes I mentioned, you could then use your mixer to control levels Its just more hassle carrying separate bits to and from your car.

PS the Passport delivers phantom power too, which is essential for your mic.

Hope that all makes sense :) Let me know if you need clarification.

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Denian Arcoleo
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Re: amplification

Post by Denian Arcoleo » Wed Mar 25, 2015 5:45 pm

I'm just about to buy a pair of powered speakers (Fluid Audio F5's) so that should do it! Do you happen to know what JW uses in concert (just out of curiosity).
Thanks again.

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Blondie
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Re: amplification

Post by Blondie » Wed Mar 25, 2015 7:05 pm

I don't I'm afraid.

Gary Macleod

Re: amplification

Post by Gary Macleod » Wed Mar 25, 2015 7:06 pm

He uses an akg 414 mic and also a b band pick up.

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Denian Arcoleo
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Re: amplification

Post by Denian Arcoleo » Wed Mar 25, 2015 7:51 pm

Ah, thanks Gary.

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Re: amplification

Post by Gruupi » Fri Mar 27, 2015 3:30 am

I have heard an AER amplifier that is very transparent. They are expensive, the nicer one is close to two grand, but so far that is the best I have heard.
Even with a pickup, it sounded really nice, with a microphone and used judiciously, you can hardly notice that there is amplification.

fvb

Re: amplification

Post by fvb » Sun Apr 05, 2015 4:44 pm

+1 for the AER AMP (I have been using a Compact 60 for both steelstring and classical).
The best, most natural amplified sound I have heard so far came from a setup with a KM184 mic into small PA + a tiny bit of reverb (can also be used with AER or other small amp, needs phatom power). This works well if you are sitting in a rather fixed position (classical) and keep a constant distance to the mic. Next best might be clip on mic (DPA or similar, already mentioned above). Please note, that you would only be able to use this at very limited volume (also DPA, I tried it in my local music store, did not seem to be more feedback resistent than e.g. a KM184).

The next best compromise is (from my point of view) a combined system of piezo + internal mic. I am using an AER AK15+ (not exactly cheap, but less expensive than a Neumann mic or the DPA). Here you can adapt the mix between piezo and mic and after some playing around I have been able to get a quite decent amplified sound. However, it is still a compromise, and I have used a student guitar for the AK15+. I would not recommend an expensive handmade guitar here, as the sound is really a compromise and instruments that have a high volume without amplification are usually very resonant and you will have the whole top vibrating in a feedback loop earlier.

Cheers,
Frank

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