Back in June 2019, I penned an article extolling the virtues of the superb One Mic Recordings released by Dutch audiophile label Sound Liaison. For those not familiar with that article, the link is here. The special nature of these recordings was made possible by the Josephson C700S microphone and the skillful use and placement of that mic by the recording engineer, Frans De Rond. In the piece, I discussed the four albums that were recorded using the one mic technique, noting that with each successive recording the sound improved as Frans continued to experiment with the placement of the mic in front of the musicians. All four of the recordings sounded superb with natural tone, spaciousness and pin point placement of the musicians in the sound field. All of the recordings featured a sensational sense of space from left to right as well as front to back depth. However, I did note an issue with using this technique with a vocalist and a drummer on the Carmen Gomes, Inc. recording Don’t You Cry. The issue was the fact that the drummer had to play a bit more reserved than with a multi miked recording so as to not drown out the vocalist. That was not an issue with the double bass or guitar as those musicians can just move up closer for their solos. That, however, is not possible with a drum kit. While the recording still sounded wonderful, it did lack a bit of dynamics. As the other three recordings did not involve a vocalist, this was not an issue. After my article appeared, Sound Liaison continued to release more one mic recordings which continued to improve with each release. Again, those recordings did not involve a vocalist. The question was how to improve the one mic recordings with a vocalist. This brings us to the latest one mic recording featuring Carmen Gomes, Up Jump the Devil, being released November 13th in high resolution, where this issue was resolved, completely.
You will no doubt infer from the title of this article that the solution was to add some mic reenforcement to the drums and even the bass. I will let Frans describe what has been done and why he calls this a one mic plus recording.
"There are several reasons at play why this is a One Mic plus recording.
Maybe the most important is that I realized that when we had Carmen so close to the one mic she was creating an acoustic baffle that covered up certain frequencies.
The same was true for Peter Bjørnild's double bass.
For this recording the role of drummer Bert Kampsteeg was very important. We wanted him to be able to play as freely and dynamic as possible. By moving Carmen and Peter further away the drum sound got much more present.
You could argue that this is a return to old fashioned multi mic recording but I don't think that is true, drums and guitar and a big part of the double bass sound is still coming from the Josephson 700s. The microphone is absolutely central to the sound stage we have created.
I recorded Carmen and supported Peter's bass with two Josephson C700A microphones. The C700A is identical to the C700S except that it has only one figure of 8 capsule.
But the beauty of these mic's are that spill colorization is much less of a problem. So they are perfect as spot mic's.
We wanted the small 'sound scape' compositions to have a very dark atmosphere, (Peter said he wanted them sounding as dark as the Mississippi night) so I decided to add a spaced pair of Josephson C617 microphones up very high in the studio and let them be our main source of ambience. I think that worked very well. And also the deep drop tuned low 'A' of 27.5 Hz from the double bass got picked up very well by that pair. Such a low note is almost impossible to hear close up, somehow you only hear the upper harmonics generated, so that was an extra benefit of the ambient pair. And it made me fall even more in love with the sound of studio 2.
Another funny thing....I keep learning things about the 700s. I have to keep forcing my self to keep experimenting with distance, closer or further away from the mic, it is absolutely crucial to get the best possible sound. I don't think I have ever captured Folker Tettero's guitar better than on this album and it was a question of moving the right leg of the table with the amp on, 2 cm. (0,787 inch) backwards and there the sound was! Unbelievable."
I have had the opportunity to discuss the recording process with several recording engineers like Frans and always learn something. My biggest takeaway is that the recording process is as much art as it is science. It is the types of microphones used, their placement, room acoustics and the like that are important rather than whether you record digitally or analog, PCM or DSD. Spectacular results can be had in many different ways. And yes, the sound of this latest recording from Sound Liaison is spectacular.
The album is a blues jazz tinged affair featuring some Robert Johnson songs. Rather than having clean breaks between tracks, the spaces normally between tracks are filled with what I can best describe as atmospherics, featuring drummer Bert Kampsteeg using his brushes on the snare and the bowing and plucking of the bass along with the clanging of the guitar. As a result the songs almost blend together all having a similar vibe and tempo, with the exception of the penultimate track, Stop Breaking Down, which is much more upbeat. The specialness of the sound of this recording is evident from the first few notes which feature the drums. The metallic sound of the cymbals and high hat is strikingly real as is the natural decaying of the notes. The kick drum is rock solid. This is some of the best sounding drum sound I have ever heard on a recording. Very dynamic and not reserved. The sound of the double bass is full, rich and powerful where needed but with no hint of bloat. And the guitar.....It is clear and reverberant. Naturally, not with added reverb. Of course, the vocals are captured beautifully. Carmen is right there in front of you. This recording doesn’t take you to the recording studio. Even better, it brings the recording studio to your listening room. Very few studio recordings do this. The drums to the left, Carmen in the middle in front of the instruments and the bass just to the right of her and the guitar to the right side of the soundstage. The sound is totally three dimensional. You almost feel like you can reach out and touch everyone. The sound is totally open with natural decay and depth. It is stunning. It really is. No hyperbole.
One more word about the drums. Far too many recording engineers pan the drums across the soundstage, giving an unnatural size to the drums. Not here. The drums are focused in the sound field and sound like a drum kit does live. I wish this was the case in more jazz recordings.
In addition to finding the sound of this recording to be superb, I also found the music to be really satisfying as well. That, of course, is always a matter of individual taste. I can state without question, that if you have enjoyed the other Carmen Gomes, Inc. releases by Sound Liaison, you will enjoy this release as well. Sonically, I believe this to be the best ever released by Sound Liaison. Well done, very well done.
Sound Laison Album Page - LINK
Total time: 45:19
Catalog Number: SL-1043A
Original recording format DXD 352,8 kHz - Premium
All other formats are converted versions of the original.
This is a One Mic + recording;
Main central microphone: Josephson C700S
Support microphone Carmen: Josephson C700A
Support microphone Peter's bass: Josephson C700A
Ambience microphones spaced pair of 2 Josephson C617
Recording, mixing and mastering by Frans de Rond.
Recorded at MCO, Studio 2, Hilversum, The Netherlands, on the 16th and the 17th of July 2020.
Produced by Peter Bjørnild.
Music arranged by Peter Bjørnild with lots of help from Carmen, Folker and Bert.
Micpre's: Merging Horus
Microphone cables by AudioQuest
Speakers: TAD Compact Evolution
Poweramp: Moon 760A
Mixing headphones: Sennheiser HD800S / AKG 702
All power cables and power conditioners by AudioQuest.
Cover photo and video by Milan Bjørnild
2 Meter Sessions photo's by Michael Boersma