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Author Topic: Digital media for classical recording  (Read 2898 times)

-David-

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Digital media for classical recording
« on: August 14, 2004, 12:36:09 pm »

Hi -

Great forum guys - just stumbled across it!

I record small-scale classical music and I've been using a pair of Schoeps mics and an Allen & Heath Mixer going into a Powerbook running Logic Pro via a MOTU 828 MKII. I have been pleased with the results.

When the time comes to upgrade, is there any benefit in using a dedicated hard disk recorder in place of the Powerbook and 828? The Powerbook has been completely reliable, but I don't know of another classical recording engineer who uses my kind of set-up.

Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

David. Smile
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TotalSonic

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Re: Digital media for classical recording
« Reply #1 on: August 14, 2004, 01:18:54 pm »

I think the biggest upgrade in sound quality would happen by using better mic pres or converters and not from changing to a dedicated HD recorder.

Millenia Media HV-3, Grace Design 201, have worked well for me for clear and transparent vibe that I think you'll want for this situation.

Mytek, Lavry, etc. would all be upgrades over what the 828's converters get you.

Best regards,
Steve Berson

Rich Mays

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Re: Digital media for classical recording
« Reply #2 on: August 14, 2004, 09:55:29 pm »

It's probably time to be asking yourself what you are willing to trade in portabliity (and no need for on-call chiropractor) for inhanced sonics. Having said that, the Sound Devices unit is first-class, and allows you to retire the Allen & Heath.  Millenia is above reproach, and there are a few other 2-ch units  that are on the top shelf.  

Getting the micpres near the mics is a big step in the right direction. Improved ADC is important, but a very noticeable improvement will come with recording at 24-bit and dithering (noise-shaping, really) with Powr-3 when you burn the final CD, if you aren't already.

The Metric Halo is first class, but the micpres and DACs are in one box. Probably workable if you can spring for a DAC-1 for monitoring.

Also, what Schoeps capsules are you using? What is it about the results you currently obtain that disappoints you?

Rich
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-David-

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Re: Digital media for classical recording
« Reply #3 on: August 15, 2004, 02:40:11 am »

Thanks for the responses, guys.

Totalsonic - I should have said in my original post, I already use good pres - DAV Electronics Broadhust Gardens, as used at Decca. One issue with these is that they have a massive output, which clips the mixer if I don't use the mixer's pads. However, the pres do have a really big, open sound, which I like.

Rich - I'm using MK5 capsules and have been mostly recording a pair of acoustic classical guitars in ORTF. I'm not disappointed with the results I'm getting as such, but I want to take my work to the 'next level' (or the one after that!) and i'm just looking for the best tools for the job. I don't really care about portability (within reason).

When you talk about getting the pres near the mics, do you literally mean a short length of cable between mic and pre? I do record at 24 bit, but what does it mean to dither with Powr-3? (I currently use Logic's dither function).

Also, Rich, which Sound Devices unit are you referring to?

Thanks again.
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TotalSonic

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Re: Digital media for classical recording
« Reply #4 on: August 15, 2004, 12:41:54 pm »

Dave -
Since you have pres that you like - I think you would see a sonic improvement if you left the mixer at home and padded at the mic and sent the pre's outputs directly to your converters.  I think doing this and investing in better ADC would be your best bet.

POW-R is a popular dithering algorithm that many ME's believe is very well suited to most acoustic/classical music.  It's available in Weiss's hardware box or on PC in Samplitude & Sequoia.  Personally - I've been very impressed with the Megabitmax algortithm - which is available in the Izotope Ozone plugin or in the discontinued Spark XL.  I've never used Logics native dithering so I can't comment on its quality.  

Best regards,
Steve Berson

TotalSonic

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Re: Digital media for classical recording
« Reply #5 on: August 15, 2004, 12:45:33 pm »

As far as other mic options - the Earthwork omni's are really nice - and using a couple LDC's in M/S can get great results for some things also.

Best regards,
Steve Berson

-David-

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Re: Digital media for classical recording
« Reply #6 on: August 15, 2004, 01:44:11 pm »

Thanks for taking the time to help, Steve. Just one query, though. With the lack of mixer, how would I define a good stereo image with no pan controls (I usually record direct to stereo, even when using more than 2 mics - that's why I was using the mixer)? Can you find pan controls on some AD converters?

I presume that if I wanted to use more than 2 mics but still go direct to stereo then I'd need a mixer of some description?

Thanks for the info on dithering algorithms.

Sorry if this seems unduly 'green' - I just want to get it right when the time comes for an upgrade!
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TotalSonic

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Re: Digital media for classical recording
« Reply #7 on: August 15, 2004, 02:09:29 pm »

-David- wrote on Sun, 15 August 2004 18:44

With the lack of mixer, how would I define a good stereo image with no pan controls (I usually record direct to stereo, even when using more than 2 mics - that's why I was using the mixer)? Can you find pan controls on some AD converters?


Since you are recording direct to DAW you are seriously limiting yourself by recording to a single stereo track.  If you record each of your mics to a seperate track in your DAW app you allow yourself the luxury of being able to mix it to taste afterwards.  If you are not doing any processing or eq'ing but simply setting levels and pans the time required to do this is just a matter of minutes.  Bounce to disc and burn the results to CD-R and your done.  I think the improvement in sound quality and flexibility this gives you more than offsets the minimal amount of time required to mix after the recording instead of commiting to a stereo track at the time of recording.

ADC's that I know of don't have pan controls - instead use a multichannel adc and assign each seperate output to a seperate input track in your DAW app.

Best regards,
Steve Berson

Rich Mays

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Re: Digital media for classical recording
« Reply #8 on: August 15, 2004, 06:34:33 pm »

-David- wrote on Sun, 15 August 2004 02:40



When you talk about getting the pres near the mics, do you literally mean a short length of cable between mic and pre? I do record at 24 bit, but what does it mean to dither with Powr-3? (I currently use Logic's dither function).

Also, Rich, which Sound Devices unit are you referring to?



yes-- get the micpres as close as you can. Then you can use a high quality snake from there to your recording setup. Telarc has done this for years. If you can take AES directly into your recording device, even better, but you should then use 110-ohm AES cable (which also works REALLY well for analog, thanks to the very low capacitance (Mogami is 14pf/ft as I recall).

I think  Logic was a Emagic app (as was Waveburner)so the later versions likely have Powr dither-- at least WB did-- all three flavors.

The Sound Devices unit is here:

http://www.sounddevices.com/products/index.html#computer

The only drawback is that it is 2ch only.

-David- wrote on Sun, 15 August 2004 02:40


I'm not disappointed with the results I'm getting as such, but I want to take my work to the 'next level' (or the one after that!) and i'm just looking for the best tools for the job.



Don't mean to beat a dead horse but if you can't quantify what it is you want, how do you know when you're there? If it sounds as good as you and your clients can imagine, then why go farther? More flexibility is certainly a worthy goal, but you already have the most important stuff-- great mics and pres. If what you really want to do is upgrade your clients, it is much less expensive to employ better sales techniques rather than gear. If the client trusts you they won't care whether it is a Schoeps or a Shwepps-- they only know it sounds good.

Because you already have such good mics and pres, if you move the mics six inches you've made a bigger audible difference than almost any gear upgrade (except maybe for cable if you are analog and going 75ft or more). Just trying to understand where you want to go, sonically speaking.

Rich
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TotalSonic

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Re: Digital media for classical recording
« Reply #9 on: August 15, 2004, 07:25:51 pm »

If the connection from mic to pre and pre to converter is all balanced then I feel that cable length is really much more of non-issue than is being made here.  Cable lengths really only make a difference for things like unbalanced analog or coax or optical spdif than if you are using balanced mic and AES connections.  Get some -10db pads for the mics, bypass the board, and upgrade the converters and I think you'd accomplish your stated goals.

Best regards,
Steve Berson

Erik

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Re: Digital media for classical recording
« Reply #10 on: August 15, 2004, 09:26:46 pm »

Good advice here.  Lose the mixer, get a nice matched pair of mic preamps, and upgrade to a higher quality A/D.  

There's nothing horribly wrong with the MOTU but you can do much better.  You'll need to use your own ears to decide, but you should be able to put together a light, transportable, extremely high-quality rig with a moderate amount of auditioning.  I suggest renting or borrowing an additional Powerbook and tracking in duplicate, that's a good safe way to experiment with this stuff.

One aside, I have no idea where Metric Halo gets this 'audiophile' rep, because I personally think it sounds horrible... especially the mic preamps.  But give it a listen for comparison purposes.  

More importantly, don't get suckered by 'portability' because, as you may have noticed, by the time you get everything you really need to record in a live setting loaded into the car, the 'all-in-one-doodad-into-the-computer' really isn't a factor.

--Erik
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Nathan Eldred

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Re: Digital media for classical recording
« Reply #11 on: August 15, 2004, 11:12:08 pm »

-David- wrote on Sat, 14 August 2004 12:36

Hi -


When the time comes to upgrade, is there any benefit in using a dedicated hard disk recorder in place of the Powerbook and 828? The Powerbook has been completely reliable, but I don't know of another classical recording engineer who uses my kind of set-up.



I can't think of any specific reason if you've found reliability and stability to not be an issue with the computer.  Even with the most stable OS in the world, the thought of not having a simultaneous backup that will continue to record in the event of a crash scares me.  I agree with the posts above about upgrading preamps and converters.  No offense, but if you are getting paid I would upgrade the preamps and converters immediately, for 'classical' music of any merit there are much better choices than the A&H and MOTU hardware.  Keep the hardware for the actual digital interface, but go into it from another converter via AES or SPDIF.
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-David-

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Re: Digital media for classical recording
« Reply #12 on: August 16, 2004, 01:42:03 am »

Guys - your replies and advice are much appreciated. Thanks so much.

By the way, it's interesting that you guys in the States multitrack classical stuff. Here in the UK it's very common to go direct to stereo with classical, regardless of the number of mics used - you live and learn!

David.
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Alécio Costa - Brazil

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Re: Digital media for classical recording
« Reply #13 on: August 16, 2004, 10:51:49 pm »

I have done some nice/budget classical/Horn Band recording with up to 45 musicians. Main DAw: PT TDM , backing up every song during the pauses to a second hard drive and had a set of ADAT XTS (blergh) just in case of some buggy performance with the main rig.
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Rich Mays

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Re: Digital media for classical recording
« Reply #14 on: August 17, 2004, 12:01:39 am »

-David- wrote on Mon, 16 August 2004 01:42

Guys - your replies and advice are much appreciated. Thanks so much.

By the way, it's interesting that you guys in the States multitrack classical stuff. Here in the UK it's very common to go direct to stereo with classical, regardless of the number of mics used - you live and learn!

David.


In a session that has a large number of players, the clock is ticking at about $40 a minute (and MUCH worse for overtime), so the motto is "safety first". There just isn't adequate time (which translates to money) for much adjustment and NO experimentation! With multitrack you can use multiple mics for each function and decide later which is preferred.

Also, unless you are on a digital desk you likely have a problem when wishing to add delay to wind mics, chorus mics, etc.

Rich
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Bob Olhsson

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Re: Digital media for classical recording
« Reply #15 on: August 17, 2004, 11:37:46 am »

-David- wrote on Mon, 16 August 2004 00:42

  it's interesting that you guys in the States multitrack classical stuff. Here in the UK it's very common to go direct to stereo with classical, regardless of the number of mics used - you live and learn!


My understanding is that most high profile classical recordings are still done direct to stereo in the US however a multi-track back-up that records each mike has become common as a means of creating transitions for edits that wouldn't work otherwise.

The reason for a live mix is that the conductor needs to be able to sign off on it or else rerecord right on the spot before any mikes have been changed. There simply isn't enough money available to cover the cost of failed experiments after the fact.
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