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.
Extinct Audio’s ‘Valkyr’ BM9x2 Stereo Ribbon Microphone was placed on a tall stand, stage centre, about 2m away from the instrument. The mic set in M-S configuration.
CLICK HERE to hear an excerpt from virtuoso percussionist 18 year old Darcy Beck (winner of Gloucestershire Young Musician of The Year 2020) performing ‘Prism’ by Japanese composer Keiko Abe.
Apart from capturing the fine detail of even the most rapid passages the ‘Valkyr’ also delivers a very pleasing impression of the reverberant acoustics of the hall.
Posted in Extinct Audio, Extinct Audio 'Valkyr', Extinct Audio BM9, Microphone techniques Ancient & Modern, New Microphones, Recording in stereo, Ribbon Microphones, Stereo Microphone, Stereo Microphone Techniques, Stereo Pair, Uncategorized
Tagged Extinct Audio 'Valkyr', EXTINCT AUDIO’S BM9 RIBBON MICROPHONE, Recording marimba, Recording percussion, Ribbon microphone, Stereo classical recording
The danger in buying an Extinct Audio BM9 ribbon microphone is that very soon you will want a stereo pair! When Stewart Tavener at Extinct offered to lend me a second one to ‘try’ he knew exactly what would happen! ( Yorkshire cunning!) It didn’t take long before I hit the PayPal button. So I now have a beautiful matched pair!
The mics are coincidentally mounted, vertically one above the other and set at 90 degrees. (Classic Blumlein) I have used Rycote InVision 044901 Universal Shock Mounts as these make it really fast and easy to position the mics. They also provide the best possible isolation, and there is no chance of the mics falling out! The magnets in these microphones are seriously heavy and would make a considerable impression landing on the performer’s head!
The recording clip below of saxophone virtuoso Lydia Kenny would present a considerable challenge for any pair of microphones. The dynamic range is huge. It is packed with fine detail of tone and texture, from the delicate phrasing of the piano accompaniment to the rapid articulation of the blistering runs on the saxophone at full volume. The way that the acoustics of the hall support the music is also very subtle.
Having worked a great deal with jazz and rock ‘n’ roll over the years I had never previously been a fan of classical saxophone, but this excerpt from Lydia’s performance of ‘Fantasie’ by Jules Demersseman is quite simply an irresistible tour de force of 19th century technique and musicality. Demersseman was a friend of the inventor Adolphe Sax and the piece was published by Sax.
Pittville Pump Room in Cheltenham (UK) had its heyday in the mid-19th century and its spacious acoustic and glorious Regency architecture is the perfect setting for this recording. The Extinct Audio BM9 crossed stereo pair flown below the chandelier also look very cool!!
CLICK ON PICS to listen
Lydia Kenny Alto Saxophone accompanied by Damian Kenny Piano.
Lydia Kenny is the winner of Gloucestershire Young Musician of the Year 2018
UPDATE. Nov 18th 2018.
Clip from winner’s concert.
Posted in Extinct Audio, Extinct Audio BM9, Microphone techniques Ancient & Modern, New Microphones, Recording in stereo, Ribbon Microphones, Stereo Microphone Techniques, Stereo Pair, Uncategorized
Tagged Extinct Audio, EXTINCT AUDIO’S BM9 RIBBON MICROPHONE, Ribbon microphone, Stereo classical recording
In the late 1950’s Electro-Voice ceased production of both ribbon and condenser microphones. In an article in his series ‘MICROPHONE FACTS for the operating engineer’ Electro-Voice founder Lou Burroughs explained the decision and presented reasons why dynamic microphones were, in every way, superior. The feeling at Electro-Voice was that ribbons and condensers were too fragile and prone to failure and that dynamics were solid and reliable and sounded better. Towards the end of the article (referring to dynamics) Burroughs declares that ‘These are the microphones of the future’.
Today, although dynamic mics are still revered for their robustness and ability to handle high SPLs they are not generally considered to be sonically superior to all other microphones! Indeed, I can’t imagine many engineers taking a pair of dynamics out to record an orchestral concert of classical music instead of their usual selection of condensers and ribbons.
Compared to condensers Burroughs claimed that dynamics have a ‘smoother high frequency response’ and so, here (by way of an experiment) are a couple of clips from an orchestral concert I recorded recently using a pair of Soviet Era, Russian, Oktava MD186 dynamics! I was simply curious to see if Lou Burroughs maybe had a point?
CLICK HERE for End of Beethoven’s Fifth
CLICK HERE for Mozart Piano Concerto
Back in the 1970s when I first started recording I was an avid reader of the trade magazine Studio Sound, which published a regular series of articles on different aspects of recording technique by well-known engineers. In particular I can remember reading a piece by an eminent classical engineer, (name escapes me) on co-incident microphone technique, in which he expressed a preference for crossed hypercardioids. The reason he gave was that over many years of recording he had come to the conclusion that, with its large, well-defined front lobe and small out-of-phase rear lobe, the hypercardioid polar pattern most closely resembles the manner in which the human ear picks up sound, ie. mostly from the front but with less well-defined pick-up to the rear. He therefore suggested that the choice of hypercardioid microphones produces a more ‘natural’ sound and thereby a better illusion of reality.
Whatever the truth of this, more than thirty years later this technique, using a pair of hypercardioids, is still one of my favourites for recording chamber music. At any session I usually experiment with polar patterns and microphone position but very often find myself back with hypercardioid!
The diagram above is taken from David Tombs excellent book
‘Sound Recording From Microphone To Mastertape.’ 1980.
This except from my recent recording of Andrew Glover’s Flute Sonata ‘Remember’, uses a pair of AKG C414 BTLs mounted one above the other and set as described above and pictured below.
Charles Matthews & Katherine Birtles in rehearsal at Birmingham Conservatoire.