One thing I really love about this job is that there is always something new to learn! Having worked as a Sound Engineer for more than 30 years, until last week I had never recorded a Marimba.
What an amazing instrument! With a very wide frequency response and huge dynamic range the marimba produces a stunning variety of colour quite unlike any other percussion instrument I can think of. Such tonal subtlety coupled with a battery of rapid transients requires a careful choice of microphone/s.
I did consider using a pair of Sennheiser MD441 dynamics as they have the required frequency response and have an excellent track record on other varieties of percussion, producing a big ‘punchy’ sound with plenty of attack. I also considered going down the condenser route with a pair of AKG C414s. Great frequency response and bags of detail. But………… In the end I realised that what was really needed to capture those rapid transients and subtle detail was a high quality stereo ribbon! In many respects a ribbon microphone has the best of both worlds. Being a variety of dynamic it can pack a great deal of attack and ‘punch’ and on the other hand has an incredibly light diaphragm (ribbon) which can react to transients and fine detail with incredible precision. There is also an intangible ‘smoothness’ to ribbons that even the best condensers just don’t seem to have.
Usually at this time of the year I post a slightly crazy photo, but this year I thought you might like an audio Christmas card! This video is a piece of Christmassy joy captured by the Extinct Audio BM9x2 ‘Valkyr’ Stereo Ribbon Microphone. Apart from the fabulous audio quality and detailed stereo image this microphone is also extremely unobtrusive (see pics), making it perfect for this type of live performance.
Following the success and critical acclaim of the ‘Viking’ BM9, Extinct Audio have continued the Nordic theme with their latest creation the ‘Valkyr’ BMx2 Blumlien Stereo Ribbon Microphone. If you are looking for a stereo ribbon mic which sounds fantastic and looks stunning this is it! The immediate reaction of performers and audio colleagues is ‘Wow, what is that’? Even the ‘Fenrir’ anti-vibration mount is a beautiful and effective piece of engineering, gripping the mic firmly and making it easy to position.
These microphones are hand built by Extinct Audio at their workshop just outside York here in the UK. The ribbons are painstakingly tuned and perfectly matched.
I have always been a fan of minimal mic’ing. The more open microphones on any recording the more distortion and low-level noise. On multi-mic’d orchestral and choral recordings almost inevitably there are also an abundance of out-of-phase signals to deal with, (caused by sound arriving at different mics at different times). In reverberant acoustics this problem is compounded by large amounts of reflected sound.
The last 3 recordings above demonstrate all the advantages of using a single, high-quality pair of coincidentally mounted microphones. In these examples the two microphones are encased in one body, the Extinct Audio ‘Valkyr’ BM9x2 . For all three concerts the mic was set on a tall stand positioned dead centre, (angled slightly down towards the back of the performers), a couple of metres behind the conductor.
The acceptance angle of the microphones either in M-S or X-Y configuration easily takes in the whole orchestra/choir.
The audio arriving at the front of the mics is phase coherent.
The stereo image produced has excellent depth and positional accuracy, such that the listener can easily identify where individual players/singers were sitting/standing!
The balance obtained completely reflects the conductor’s direction.
The rich acoustics are also accurately reproduced, capturing a clear impression of the building.