Tag Archives: Stereo classical recording

Dynamic Microphones for Classical Recording?!

Oktava MD-186 ORTF pair

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

Oktava MD-186 ORTF pair 2


In Favour of Hypercardioid

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!

Hypercardioid Microphones at 65 degrees

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.

Charles Matthews & Katherine Birtles in rehearsal at Birmingham Conservatoire.