Jump to content
IGNORED

Recording Methods and Fidelity


semente
 Share

Recommended Posts

I had never heard of Blue Coast Records until Jud mentioned them in the PlayClassics test files to compare file formats[/thread]

 

My curiosity was piqued, I visited their website in search for information on their recording techniques and made a few comments based on the images available at the website...

 

 

Allan, while I don't disagree with your last sentence "The proof is in the pudding", I (and many other audiophiles, music lovers, engineers/producers) am convinced that close mic'ing produces an artificial "presence", "brightness" and "detail" which distorts the sound of instruments and vocals.

Some people might "like" (taste/subjectiveness) the resulting "airiness" and of hearing the mechanical noises that result from handling the instruments and of breathing or lip and tongue movements but it just doesn’t sound "natural”.

One of the reasons is obvious: in real life with most live performances there are hardly ever occasions when a listener would sit closer than 1.5m from the musicians.

 

It’s the correct positioning of the microphones and the acoustics of the studio that are responsible for the "naturalness" or "realism" of Mario’s recordings, which in turn makes them so adequate do subjectively evaluate equipment and system performance.

 

 

I think you will agree that microphones are the first link in the chain and that from then onwards the signal can only deteriorate in different levels of magnitude.

But the pick-up stage does not depend solely on the technical performance of the microphones but also on the way they are positioned in relation to the sound sources and to the venue surfaces.

If my understanding is correct, the acoustic qualities of the recording venue play a major role in the final result if or when the microphones are adequately distanced from the sources.

 

Jud seems to be implying that Cookie’s decision to record to DSD has the potential to produce better results (from a technical standpoint) to Mario’s and Barry’s choice of PCM.

If I am not mistaken, DSD doesn’t allow any mixing and this is why Cookie is forced to do this prior to the A/D conversion.

But unlike Mario or Barry who use only a couple of microphones and could make the most out of DSD, Cookie is multi-mic’ing which requires mixing/editing before A/DC to DSD.

 

I think it is fair to conclude that whilst DSD can be a better option, Cookie’s use of close- and multi-mic’ing in a less than adequate room is compromising those results, further “crippling” the signal that is reaching the A/D converter by mixing in analogue.

As for Barry's recordings, I am not certain if the "liveliness" or "sparkling" quality of the top end I am listening (and can see in spectrograms) is a characteristic of his mics, the result of excessive proximity or a mixture of both; and yet most people "like" (taste/subjectiveness) the way they sound.

 

Hi Jud,

 

Wouldn't you agree that if or because different microphone techniques produce different results we can more or less anticipate the result prior to listening?

Couldn't the same be said of the acoustics of a recording venue? We all know that a church will produce a different and recognizable sonic signature from a listening hall, a basement or a large studio like the one in Abbey Road.

Or that anyone who's familiar with the performance potential of different loudspeaker topologies can anticipate the qualities and limitations of a small two-way stand mount from a photo or even the specs sheet, even if we can't describe how it sounds unless one listens to it?

 

I used the word "crippling" between quotation marks for a reason, explained earlier in the same post: from the mic onwards the signal can only deteriorate in different levels of magnitude..."crippling" refers to this deterioration.

At this point I can only comment on some of the technical decisions.

Hopefully I will receive the email that will allow me to download the samples and then I will "report" on the result of my listening as well as my "tasting" impressions. :)

 

I have also mentioned in a previous post that such recording setup might sound "nice" for rock/pop standards and at present I am keeping my mind open.

After all, BCR recordings are of "audiophile grade" quality.

 

In the meantime I registered at the website and after waiting 24 hours for the confirmation link email I requested a new one only to find that the original message had ended up in the Spam folder...

 

I have just downloaded two files from a flamenco session, a very fortunate coincidence for this will allow me to compare BCR Cookie Marenco's recording techniques with those of Mario's from PlayClassics, and the Jane Selkye (vocals & accordion) with Chris Kee (cello) recording.

 

http://bluecoastrecords.com/free-downloads

 

I'm planning to listen to all files tonight.

 

R

"Science draws the wave, poetry fills it with water" Teixeira de Pascoaes

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Mark Waldrep provides some information on Cookie Marenco's workflow at Real HD-Audio:

 

Cookie responded to my email and confirmed the following information about the equipment and approach that she has developed through many years of experimentation. She also mentioned that she uses this method for her Blue Coast Records projects but will revert to the more traditional multitrack, iso booth, headphones production techniques when a client prefers a more commercial sound. As an engineer for hire, I do the same.

 

blue_coast_session_image.jpg

Figure 1 – A typical recording session at Blue Coast Records Studio…this is not Keith Greeninger but it is representative of the type of layout that Cookie uses.

 

 

Cookie records the entire ensemble in the same space. She arranges them so that musicians can see AND hear each other acoustically. There was a stereo pair of B&K 4012 place above the drums (really only snare and high hat) and run through a Millennia mic pre. She used two AKG 414 (old ones with the good capsules) spaced one behind the other to deal with unexpected amplitude bursts (to avoid distortion). These were also sent through Millennia preamps. She uses a large diaphragm Neumann U-67 on the voice, which also picks up the acoustic guitar…also through Millennia.

 

The microphone cables are Cookie’s own custom design, which are a blend of silver and gold. She records through a Sound Workshop console to an analog multitrack tape machine running at 15 ips. Cookie uses some mild side-chain compression on the vocals post tape during the mixdown. The entire ensemble is recorded at the same time (I prefer this approach as well); Cookie doesn’t overdub additional parts later or “repair” any of the performances after the live session. In reality, its impossible to overdub when the entire group is in the same room…the leakage of each part is found in every channel.

 

The sound is enhanced with the use of multiple reverberation units (Lexicon 224XL, Lexicon PCM 60…both of which use 16-bit ADC/DACs)). The “environment” or reverb amounts are usually left in tact for the entire record with occasional modifications from tune to tune.

 

The analog stereo mixdown from the Sound Workshop console is then captured to a Korg Recorder at 5.6 MHz DSD and a Sonoma System through Meitner converters. A mix is also done to 44.1 kHz/24-bits for the CD release.

 

This article is from September 2013.

"Science draws the wave, poetry fills it with water" Teixeira de Pascoaes

Link to comment
Share on other sites

There are more than one way to skin a cat. I find that the close mic approach that Cookie and Mark Waldrep use to produce stunning results. The same can be said for the approaches used by Mario and Todd Garfinkle at MA Recordings and Jared Sacks at Channel Classics. I enjoy listening to all of their recordings. DSD, tape and PCM all have their own sound. Personally, I thinks PCM sounds more like the real thing but YMMV. I have great sounding recording that are all PCM, DSD or tape. For me, the skill of the recording engineer is way more important than anything else. I have sat in the front pew at many, many classical concerts at venues such as St. Martins In The Field in London and in the front table in jazz clubs in NY and elsewhere. The closed mic technique captures just what I hear at those events. If I sit further back, I get a different perspective. They are all valid. Instead of arguing over recording techniques used in fine sounding recordings, just enjoy the music!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

There are more than one way to skin a cat.

 

I agree with this, though different "ways" produce distinct results, even if they both sound "pleasing".

And I am also aware that many genres do not require a documental approach to recording; many rock and pop song benefit immensely from the creative use of microphone techniques and sounds effects.

 

But unlike you I find that close-mic'ing pro dues a distorted soundscape of reality, which is another way of saying that it sounds "unnatural".

And in my experience the distortion doesn't only affect the level of detail but also tonal/timbral accuracy and ambience/reverberation.

 

 

I have never heard of MA Recordings but I own a few of Channel Classics' recordings (Wispelwey and Fischer) and even though they sound quite "pleasant" I still find the exaggerated detail somewhat obtrusive.

That is also my opinion of Reference Recordings' orchestral editions.

I find that those made by BIS and Dorian sound far more natural.

 

In my opinion, acoustic music was composed to be listened to unamplified in spaces with natural acoustics and should be recorded in such a way as to recreate the experience of the listener.

I have attended quite a few recitals and music festivals of small ensemble "classical" music and I don't remember seeing anyone sitting closer than 2 or 3 meters from the instruments.

A late arrival to a cello and piano recital in one such festival forced me to seat on the floor 2 meters from Wispelwey's cello and neither the tonal balance nor the mechanical noises resembled what one gets with close-mic'ed recordings...

 

 

This thread started because Jud mentioned that Cookie Marenco/BCR records to DSD instead of PCM and that this produces "better" or more accurate results.

He also mentioned that BCR performs analogue mixing and editing prior to A/D conversion.

 

On the other hand, Mario/PlayClassics records straight to PCM without any mixing, EQ'ing or dynamic compression using only a pair of microphones adequately positioned in a very good room.

 

This leads me to conclude that despite the advantages (in Jud's opinion) of recording to DSD, Cookie's workflow before the A/D conversion is less "transparent" due to it's increased complexity.

 

 

I intend to comment on the sound after I listen to the samples and analyse the files.

 

R

"Science draws the wave, poetry fills it with water" Teixeira de Pascoaes

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This thread started because Jud mentioned that Cookie Marenco/BCR records to DSD instead of PCM and that this produces "better" or more accurate results.

 

R

 

I would be quite surprised to see a quote of me saying such a thing. Can you provide one?

One never knows, do one? - Fats Waller

The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. - Einstein

Computer, Audirvana -> optical to EtherREGEN -> microRendu -> ISO Regen -> Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 DAC -> Spectral DMC-12 & DMA-150 -> Vandersteen 3A Signature.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Jud,

 

Here is the post where, in my understanding, you implied that it would be (technically?) advantageous to use DSD over PCM:

 

Hi Mario, I want to very gently disagree with you here and say that I believe the 24/96 version would have no additional format conversion once it is output from the ADC. But ADCs are like DACs - they nearly always do format conversion internally. Unless you were using one of the (rare to begin with and increasingly so these days) Pacific Microsonics ADCs or something like that, the ADC you recorded with would first take the analog and run it through delta-sigma modulation, producing a DSD-like bitstream; from there this bitstream would be decimated internally to the desired output rate, often 24/96 as you have done.

 

Recordings intended for CD will be further decimated to 16/44.1. A very few studios will take the bitstream from the delta-sigma modulator without internal conversion to PCM, then convert a portion or the entire file externally to PCM as needed for editing; and a very few others will decimate only to 352.8KHz PCM ("DXD") or 192KHz.

 

 

 

From SRC Comparisons, it looks like Protools "Tweak Head" filtering (at least with the settings tested) is linear phase, doesn't introduce much ringing, but has some mild aliasing.

 

Edit: Sorry, I forgot above to include the very few studios like Blue Coast, which edit in analog rather than converting to PCM.

 

Please correct me if I am mistaken.

 

 

I would also like to stress that I am commenting exclusively on the results produced by different microphone techniques; the mention of different studios and labels is for illustration purposes only.

And that, as mentioned previously, while I am comparing the results in absolute terms I believe that some techniques are more adequate for certain genres than others.

 

R

"Science draws the wave, poetry fills it with water" Teixeira de Pascoaes

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Jud,

 

Here is the post where, in my understanding, you implied that it would be (technically?) advantageous to use DSD over PCM:

 

[snipped post]

 

Please correct me if I am mistaken.

 

 

R

 

Hi Ricardo. In the comment prior to that, Mario had mentioned his 24/96 files had not undergone any conversions. I was pointing out in the post you quoted that Mario wasn't converting anything he got from the ADC, but that the ADC did its own internal conversions. To be thorough, I then pointed out that there were various resolutions a studio could choose to have the ADC output, anything from the SDM bitstream to DXD to 24/192 or 24/96 to CD resolution (16/44.1). 24/96 could be the most common resolution out of the ADC these days, but leaving it alone as Mario does is unusual; it is of course far more common to decimate this to RedBook for CDs and to mp3 for downloads. It is perhaps even more unusual to take the SDM bitstream or DXD from the converter.

 

All this was simply intended to give people a picture of what goes on at the studio/ADC end of the chain, and was not meant as any comment on final recording quality. I personally feel specifics count for a lot, so I would not take any general characteristic (resolution, miking and studio setup, mastering) as an overriding factor in how much I will like a recording; nor would I presume to translate my own likes and dislikes to some measure of what is "better" that should apply to everyone.

 

Hope that clarifies what I meant.

One never knows, do one? - Fats Waller

The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. - Einstein

Computer, Audirvana -> optical to EtherREGEN -> microRendu -> ISO Regen -> Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 DAC -> Spectral DMC-12 & DMA-150 -> Vandersteen 3A Signature.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Jud,

 

Thanks for the clarification.

I got the impression from the quoted message that because there were no internal conversions after A/DC to DSD the signal would be "purer".

 

The "specifics" you mention are what I was trying to describe with this thread; a recording starts with and depends on the choice of mics, the mic set-up and the recording location.

 

R

"Science draws the wave, poetry fills it with water" Teixeira de Pascoaes

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Semente, I can't say that I have heard the distortions you mention with closed mic recordings. BTW, Jared Sacks does not use closed mic techniques. All the detail and hall ambiance he gets is from using techniques like Todd Garfinkle.

 

Channel Classics uses spot mic'ing in orchestral music recordings which for this kind of performance works like a form of close-mic'ing and gives an artificial "tension" to the sound.

This videos illustrates that very well:

 

 

Their small group recordings sound more "natural".

 

R

"Science draws the wave, poetry fills it with water" Teixeira de Pascoaes

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Jud,

 

Thanks for the clarification.

I got the impression from the quoted message that because there were no internal conversions after A/DC to DSD the signal would be "purer".

 

Well, there would be fewer conversions, for whatever that may mean to the sound. :)

 

The "specifics" you mention are what I was trying to describe with this thread; a recording starts with and depends on the choice of mics, the mic set-up and the recording location.

 

R

 

For me there are many things a recording "depends on," but I like a very wide range of music. I like Mario's recordings very much, but can say the same about Cookie's, or for that matter recordings by the British band Oasis that are loud as hell, multitracked, etc.

One never knows, do one? - Fats Waller

The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. - Einstein

Computer, Audirvana -> optical to EtherREGEN -> microRendu -> ISO Regen -> Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 DAC -> Spectral DMC-12 & DMA-150 -> Vandersteen 3A Signature.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

semente,

 

I am not sure what your objective in this thread really is.

 

I have done a little recording. My preference is to use two mikes only. Mario's recordings are well done, with good musicians in a good space. In this they are good for determining how good an audio system you have in ways the majority of recordings are not.

 

I also have recorded in spaces like the pictures you posted. I have done that with only a pair of mics and careful positioning of the musicians. That too is a good recording in my opinion. It sounds like a group in a small space which it was. I do in fact do some EQ and some compression because in a space like that quieter events are not going to be heard if you don't. It is practically a necessity if you have any percussion going on. That makes it less pure though it actually sounds more pure as a musical event because otherwise things are too bright, some instruments get lost etc.

 

I have recorded using a mic on every musician and vocalist in moderately large space and more often in small places like in the photos posted. You need EQ, compression and level adjustments on each track maybe reverb too. It can be made to sound relatively good as music despite the impurities. You actually can get a purer sound by recording each member individually. I prefer like apparently Ms. Marenco does to record the group all at once. It generally has a more musically real sound as there is real time interaction between the group. It has a higher noise floor and bleed-over between tracks however.

 

Its all music, and all can be emotionally effective. I much prefer the two mike recording method regardless of the space. I have played these to quite a number of people with them hearing both. So it isn't like they never heard it done the other, simpler, purer way. Other than some audiophiles, no one in my experience prefers the two mike documentary approach. Purest recordings I am happy with and would find very entertaining.

 

So if your point is that Ms. Marenco's method is less pure and therefore of lesser fidelity in the truest sense you would be correct. That doesn't mean they aren't unusually well done recordings able to provide musical enjoyment. Nor that other steps taken to increase fidelity are a waste or of no effect. In this sense also, there is no real musical physical event that one can have as a reference toward fidelity. That actual physical sound has been altered for a purpose, and recorded in manner consistent with the intended goal of the final result. The only event to reference upon playback is to whatever result was recorded and the intentions of those who made the recording.

And always keep in mind: Cognitive biases, like seeing optical illusions are a sign of a normally functioning brain. We all have them, it’s nothing to be ashamed about, but it is something that affects our objective evaluation of reality. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I am not sure what your objective in this thread really is.

 

(...)

 

So if your point is that Ms. Marenco's method is less pure and therefore of lesser fidelity in the truest sense you would be correct.

 

Hello Dennis,

 

This last sentence is quite accurate.

I did not mean imply that Cookie Marenco is not doing a good job with her technical options, only that using two mics direct to A/DC with no further post-processising will produce a higher degree of accuracy.

 

It also looks obvious, to me at least, that the studio does not offer the best conditions (i.e. low ceiling with no acoustic treatment, lot's of bare wall, cabinets with glass doors).

Cookie might be addressing this problem by multi-mic'ing close to every source (eliminating or at least toning-down reflections) and then adding artificial reverb in post-processing to create a sense of space.

 

These comments on recording methods are meant to be read in absolute terms because as both you, Jud and myself have mentioned that different genres have distinct requirements.

 

 

Pop and rock is often recorded in small booths and studios, each instrument being played separately, often in mono, with musicians monitoring each other in headphones and sometimes not recording their individual part in the same day or even in the same city.

Cookie's method at least has the virtue of recording all the musicians together, and their interaction produces better results from an artistic and emotional perspective.

 

Though it seems to me that Barry and Cookie are recording the same type of music and a comparison between their chosen methods makes more sense, I am convinced that Barry's choice of using a simpler two-mic setup in an adequate space (with natural reverberance) produces a higher degree of accuracy; I also have the impression that he doesn't do any kind of post-processing.

 

 

In my (listening) experience, close-mic'ing affects "spaciality", tonality and detail and it's use in "classical" music recordings should be forbidden.

I can understand that for rock and some pop, genres which I also enjoy, close-mic'ing is an almost unavoidable necessity but in these cases tonality should be corrected whilst real "spaciality" is of little importance and the excessive detail might even be beneficial, at least as another creative element to add to the palette of effects available to the producer.

And while ethnic/traditional music and also jazz, particularly when no amplified instruments are used, would benefit from the "documental" or "realistic" approach, I can live happily with recordings that present a "correct" tonality, although I do find excessive detail somewhat annoying, i.e. ECM's recordings (

)

 

To be fair, in jazz clubs the listener is often sitting or standing very close to the instruments but I think that most people who care about the sound would not position themselves closer than 2 metres unless they had no alternative.

 

 

As for spot-mic'ing in large groups and orchestras, I can live with recordings where an odd one is place close to a soloist instrument or even the timpani as long as it's contribution to the final mix is very mild and hardly noticeable.

But, as mentioned previously, I find that simpler microphone set-ups like the ones used by BIS or Dorian produce more "natural" or "realistic" results.

 

 

One other thing that makes me uncomfortable is the idea that some "classical" recordings are made up by the cutting and pasting of tiny snippets taken from different takes, with no respect whatsoever for the musical event.

Gould's obsessive-eccentric approach to recordings is probably the best example:

 

 

Cheers,

Ricardo

"Science draws the wave, poetry fills it with water" Teixeira de Pascoaes

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Recording pop and rock music with a single pair of microphones is made difficult by the differences in sound level between instruments and vocals.

 

 

This description of the recoding Cowboy Junkies' "The Trinity Sessions" is very interesting in this respect:

 

 

November 27, 1987

 

The pews and all seating had previously been removed so we had a choice of where to set up our equipment and recording gear, but since Peter had done some recording in the church he had a general idea of where he felt was the most acoustically sound spot. This was at the far end of the church hall away from the altar which would act as an enormous bass trap if we got too close to it.

 

The first order of the day was to set up all the gear and try and get a balance between the four of us, that would be the ultimate key to the recording. Once we were balanced properly the other instruments could be layered on top with a lot more ease. Peter set up the mic and we set up as we had for the Whites session in our garage with drums on one side facing the bass and guitar off to the side. As fate would have it we had a great stroke of luck that day. Whoever had been using the church before us had had the need of a PA system which they had left behind. It was head and shoulders above the one that we had brought from our rehearsal space and meant a huge difference in the final recording. Margo's vocals, like during the Whites session, had to be run through a PA speaker and some guardian angel had seen fit to leave us a high quality system. The "vocal" or speaker was placed on top of the bass cabinet, Margo then stood about six feet outside the circle and sang through a separate mic.

 

It took us about six hours of fussing to finally capture a sound that we were all happy with. This time was spent readjusting the microphone, moving an instrument five inches closer and then another instrument five inches further, turning one thing up and another down etc.. The process was far from simple and for a while it looked like we weren't going to be able to reign in the acoustics of the church. The natural reverb of the hall was overpowering our instruments. Finally after a few more adjustments we ran through a version of a song and adjourned to the small office (maybe it was one of the confessionals) where Peter had his playback equipment set up. The playback revealed Petes drums simmering softly in the background, Alan's bass rumbling underneath, my guitar airily chiming and Margo's voice floating easily above it all. We had found our sound.

 

Until I found this, I believed that the "The Trinity Sessions" were a purist direct-to-tape recording with all musicians playing and singing live into the Calrec Ambisonic.

The fact that this recording was made in the highly reverberating acoustics of a church probably explains why the amplification of the vocals slips unnoticed to most if not all audiophiles.

 

 

This same reason has also been used to justify the "realism" of Acoustic Research's Live vs. Recorded demonstrations:

 

During the 1960’s, Acoustic Research (AR), an American loudspeaker company, performed over 75 live-versus-recorded concerts in cities around the USA featuring The Fine Arts String Quartet, and the AR-3 loudspeaker. To solve the double reverberation problem, the recordings of the quartet were made in an anechoic chamber, or outdoors. Outdoor live-versus-recorded demonstrations had the added benefit that there were no room reflections in either the recording or the live performance. This made the demonstrations less sensitive to off-axis problems in the microphones and loudspeakers. It also relaxed the demands on the recording-reproduction to accurately capture and reproduce the complex spatial properties of a reverberant performing space.

 

The AR demonstrations apparently generated an enormous amount of free publicity in newspapers and audio magazines where it was reported that the reproduction of the recordings was virtually indistinguishable from the live performance. AR sales increased dramatically, to the point where in 1966 AR apparently owned 32% market share of loudspeakers sold in the United States.

 

source: Audio Musings by Sean Olive

 

 

Another reason that "live vs. reproduced" comparisons are difficult is that live sound is more convincing spatially than even the best two-speaker stereo. As an undergraduate, I heard a demonstration by Acoustic Research of a pair of AR-3a speakers on stage with the Fine Arts Quartet. At some point in the concert, the quartet switched from playing to miming, and the speakers took over. Placed among the quartet members and fed from an anechoic tape, they excited the acoustics of the hall very much as did the live instruments. With my eyes closed, I did not hear the changeover.

I don't think that AR-3a's were perfect speakers. I think that the ambience accuracy dominated the situation, leaving me, like Edison's audience, without convenient categories for telling live sound from reproduced. I think that on further listening, I could have learned to tell the AR speakers from the quartet.

 

source: Rules of the Game, by James Boyk

 

 

R

"Science draws the wave, poetry fills it with water" Teixeira de Pascoaes

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Interesting stories Semente.

I would feel very ashamed if I were to sit at the front row centre listening to a quartet playing a piece that I know of and failed to distinguish every time live being switched over to recorded, blah, blah, blah.

You have not updated your OS X 10.9? I am using 10.11.2 and there are small improvements in between.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Francis,

 

I try as much as possible be a late upgrader...it's very easy for things to go wrong.

I didn't like the look of 10.10 and I also prefer iTunes 11 to iTunes 12 (even though I am using the latter).

 

Ricardo

"Science draws the wave, poetry fills it with water" Teixeira de Pascoaes

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Ricardo. While you may wind up not liking the results of what Cookie does (at this point it could hardly be otherwise, as you've already convinced yourself what you will hear, and indeed she does do close miking), using words like "crippling" without ever having heard a note damage your credibility as a fair and reliable reporter more than they do Cookie's as a producer.

 

Hi Jud,

 

I have been listening to a few BCR samples: one by Jane Selkye (vocals & accordion) with Chris Kee (cello) recording, another Gregory James (guitar), one Valerie Joyce with Marco de Carvalho, and two flamenco tracks.

The sound quality is very good.

 

I found that the exaggerated detail, present in their studio recordings, is not obvious in the tracks recorded at the California Audio Show 2014; I wonder if this was intentional.

The sound of these tracks is "drier" (less reverb) than their studio counterparts.

 

The "artificiality" and "hyper-realism" of close-mic'ing was particularly obvious when I compared the sound of the two flamenco tracks with those recorded by Mario, but despite the exaggerated detail and slightly unnatural ambience I found that the tonal balance was quite convincing, without the "sparkly brightness" that I hear in Barry's "Wind of Change" samples.

 

R

"Science draws the wave, poetry fills it with water" Teixeira de Pascoaes

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Interesting stories Semente.

I would feel very ashamed if I were to sit at the front row centre listening to a quartet playing a piece that I know of and failed to distinguish every time live being switched over to recorded, blah, blah, blah.

You have not updated your OS X 10.9? I am using 10.11.2 and there are small improvements in between.

 

I am not directing this personally to you. It is that you brought up the point. Lots of things audiophiles think they could easily hear only to find they don't notice more than regular people.

 

The key points about the AR demo should highlight the importance of a room or space and its effect upon sound. Notice the instruments were recorded in an anechoic space. So you would have heard the direct sound of the instrument with no room coloration. Then play that back over even a modestly accurate speaker and all the effects of the venue are added to both the instrument and the recording. Making them more similar than you might imagine. That plus you are sitting and seeing the performance. Our vision is our primary sense and typically other senses are bent to confirm what we see.

 

You too might have been fooled. Maybe not, but I bet the difference is less than you are imagining.

And always keep in mind: Cognitive biases, like seeing optical illusions are a sign of a normally functioning brain. We all have them, it’s nothing to be ashamed about, but it is something that affects our objective evaluation of reality. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hello Dennis,

 

This last sentence is quite accurate.

I did not mean imply that Cookie Marenco is not doing a good job with her technical options, only that using two mics direct to A/DC with no further post-processising will produce a higher degree of accuracy.

 

snippage................for brevity.

 

Cheers,

Ricardo

 

I think we largely agree.

 

Purity and accuracy aren't always so clear cut in practice which is not a surprise.

 

I would point out Mario is using ORTF miking. This spaces the mikes a few inches apart. Anytime you space mics you enhance (or artificially induce) increased hall sound. To be clear I am not criticizing Mario's methods as I have already spoken highly of his recordings. Using a coincident stereo mic method you don't get as much sense of space or sound of the hall. So is ORTF impure, or less accurate? Technically maybe, and it is audibly different. Yet ORTF was chosen at one time because groups of test listeners indicated it sounds more like the real thing than other spacing and methods.

 

A common compromise method is to use a coincident stereo pair and flank it with omnis closely spaced. One reason is the spaced mics pick up plenty of hall sound, and you can mix in controlled amounts after the fact to get just the amount of hall sound you want your recording to have.

 

In my experience musicians and non-audiophiles view spacious recordings or those with sound of the hall the same way they view tape hiss or LP surface noise. A detraction because it gets in the way of hearing the instruments and the music. I like many audiophiles love starting a recording and hearing the end of my room seem to open up into a larger space. Then having music start to be heard within that space. Non-audiophiles greet that sort of beginning the way I do a recording that has obvious hum before the music starts.

 

Another comment on miking technique. Barry D. uses a version of a jecklin disk. You have a solid disc of maybe 10 inch or so diameter (Barry uses larger sizes I believe) with an omni mike a few inches either side of the disc. This spacing will enhance the sound of space a bit. Omni's sound so much cleaner than other mic patterns, and have very good low end response. However you don't get easy stereo imagining. The disc perhaps functions like our head shadowing and giving a directional quality to omnis. So you get the clean omni sound with stereo imaging. Yet in my use I find the center 3rd of the image to be a bit more amorphous than real. Not a hole in the middle, just a softness in the middle. With some instruments that is a plus. It is also quite possible I just don't have the expertise to make best use of this technique. I think the brightness you perceive is the sound of omni mics. To me they sound like crystalline purity, but I can see how they might strike another person differently. They might have sparkly brightness as you put it.

 

So even using two pairs of mics there are differences from true complete accuracy even when no other processing is done. Each has some artifacts upon playback from reality. Choosing which suits your purposes is a long way from in room multi-miking like Ms Marenco does with additional processing in between. It is however on a continuum that runs from simple accuracy to what serves the music and creates a pleasing result.

And always keep in mind: Cognitive biases, like seeing optical illusions are a sign of a normally functioning brain. We all have them, it’s nothing to be ashamed about, but it is something that affects our objective evaluation of reality. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The musicians were recorded outdoors and it's possible that the call of a bird might have given it away. :)

 

ilhnwo.jpg

 

Outdoors is an anechoic space. My guess would be birds were edited out.

 

You can see positioning in this picture during the concert. Obviously there were only 2 positions with 4 musicians. If they had access to a Regen and sub-picosecond timing Audiophiles would hear the lack of front to back depth in the soundstage so clearly.

 

ar.jpg

 

"During one of the earliest AR live-vs.-recorded concerts at Carnegie Recital Hall, Leonard Sorkin, first-violin, took a show of hands midway through the concert, asking the audience if they could detect the switchovers between live and recorded music through the AR-3 speakers. A show of hands indicated that several listeners in the audience thought they could detect the differences. "I'm sorry to tell you this, but except for the first two bars of music, the entire piece was played back through the AR-3 loudspeakers." This put an end to conjecture and guessing. "

 

And always keep in mind: Cognitive biases, like seeing optical illusions are a sign of a normally functioning brain. We all have them, it’s nothing to be ashamed about, but it is something that affects our objective evaluation of reality. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Dear Semente, I'd like to respond directly to you.

The photos that you posted earlier on this thread were photos from my home studio. I have 2200 square feet of space (the lower two levels of my house) allocated for studio use. The picture you've shown are from one room (the Piano Room) which is about 400 sq feet and also holds my 1885 Steinway B. It's a 'cozy' room that people fly from around the world to record in. Also, it's affordable because I'm the landlord. After 2008, we became the oldest owner operated commercial studio within 100 miles of San Francisco. The recession caused many studios to fail or be bought out and in danger of becoming condos. The music industry can really suck at times.

 

The rest of the studio has 2 additional rooms (isolated) for placing musicians in separate areas for performance (a technique commonly used in most studios and one that I still use when hired as an independent engineer (not for Blue Coast Records). We also have a very large control room (about 500 sq ft and very high ceilings) and a separate tape/computer room which houses the 2" tape machine, 1/2" tape machine and all the computers drives. My studio is not the place to record a symphony, though, we have had up to 15 musicians performing at once.

 

There are plenty of recording techniques engineers employ. I prefer a mic technique that is not too close (as is done in most commercial studios and especially in the Nashville studios I've been too) and not too distant. There is a depth of bass frequency that I enjoy when the mic is placed closer. In the E.S.E. technique for Blue Coast Records, there are no overdubs or headphones used. That said, all the mics are picking up sound from everything.

 

I don't do this for the sound, but rather for the performance of the musicians. They play better dynamics, hear better and performances are enhanced when musicians hear real sound rather than through headphones. (I use headphone in other sessions, just not Blue Coast Records... correct headphone balance is essential for a great mix).

 

The free downloads are out takes and music. It's not a great place to judge our music. I'd prefer that you ask me for a song or two that in exchange you'll write a review on.... something from our catalog.. and post a link. I'll sign you up for our newsletter anyway and you can unsubscribe as you like.

 

I lean towards a great performance taking place over optimizing for sound. Musicians enjoy coming to my home studio because they feel comfortable. I live on a hill, it's relaxing and I don't have to worry about large trucks driving by and ruining the sound (which happened to me at Chick Corea's studio in Los Angeles many years ago -- I was hired to record a solo piano record and he had the best pianos, sadly not the quietest spot).

 

I would agree with you that the room, the path from mic to recording format (which includes cables -- ours we build ourselves), preamps, etc.. all make a difference. It also makes a difference having more people in a room, weather and what food is at the session. I optimize for musical performance, though my recording chain can be as much as $30,000 per channel (mic, cable, preamp). Whether I mix to DSD or Tape, I prefer to mix through an analog console and do not use plug ins. I'm sometimes hired to mix from PCM and choose to run through the same analog console to get a bigger sound.

 

Something to note... not all my recordings are from my home studio. As a hired gun engineer, I've recorded in Grace Cathedral, Capitol Studios, a cabin at 9000 feet in the Rockies, the Monterey Jazz Festival (and several others), several studios in NYC and an estate near London in a library room (which was up for a Grammy long ago). One of my most recent successes was recording at the Newport Beach Audio Show in the hotel room with guests present and a cell phone going off. These have been some of the most popular of our recordings. Quiles & Cloud - Special Event 39 Newport | Blue Coast Records

 

The first Blue Coast Records album cost over $150,000 to have the top studio on the west coast "room". A place called The Site (which sadly no longer exists). I mixed it there and at Skywalker so that no one could say it wasn't a great room. I believe several of the songs available for free download are from that session. At the time the idea wasn't to start a label, but to create a new stereo and surround sound recording technique. Those sessions are a series of experiments placing the musicians in the large room and also in the echo chamber (to mimic a cave for the Flamenco guitar recordings).

Blue Coast Records | Exceptional Acoustic Recordings

 

After that, and to make financial sense, we chose to record most of the sessions at my studio. This allows for musicians come through town to jump in the studio quickly and affordably.

 

My recording chains are as clean as they come. The venues I choose to record in are where the musicians play their best. I love remote recording and capturing sound live. If I could travel the world and record in caves, homes, boats, where ever, I would do it. :)

 

If you have any additional questions, please feel free to ask. Email is best.

 

Happy Holidays,

Cookie Marenco

Blue Coast Records

 

Dear Cookie,

 

Thank you for providing such a detailed description of your studios, equipment and recording technique.

 

It was suggested, and quite rightly, that the discussion about recordings methods be moved to it's own thread.

 

I wish to praise your efforts to record all the musicians playing together in a single musical event, as I feel that their interaction is bound to produce better results from an artistic and emotional perspective.

Also note that my comments regarding both techniques, both here and in the aforementioned thread, are to be read in absolute terms and that I am aware that some techniques are more adequate for certain genres than others.

 

Warm Season Greetings,

Ricardo

"Science draws the wave, poetry fills it with water" Teixeira de Pascoaes

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Semente, have you looked in your spam filter for the confirmation? Send your email address and we will make sure you can get in. By the way, not all of those free samples were recorded in my studio. In fact, many were recorded in live rooms at Audio Conventions. Some were recorded at other studios.

 

BTW, I prefer the sound of tape and the analog console, as well as analog EQ and other effects. I feel that all sound, whether PCM or DSD, is compromised when mixed 'in the box' or in the computer. It's my preference for sound, I'm not forced to work that way. :)

 

The room has a lot less to do with the sound in the way I prefer to hear it than does the mic position. I would mic the same way at Grace Cathedral as I would in my own room. As you pull a microphone farther away, you'll get less bass response and more room noise (and extraneous noise). Also, I do like the sound of breathing.

 

I suspect we won't agree on musical choices as well as how I choose to record, but I do find it odd that you can judge a sound by looking at a room. Perhaps you'd like me to point out some distortion on a recording made in an orchestra hall? I'm sure the photos looked great at the time :)

 

Wishing you a happy holiday filled with sound.

 

Cookie Marenco

Blue Coast Records

 

Dear Cookie,

 

I don't know how or why Blue Coast Records was brought into the other thread.

I had never heard of BCR but after looking at the photos in your website (and before listening to the samples) I compared the recording methods depicted in the photos with those used by PlayClassics which have been described as follows:

 

we use the same setup for every recording. It does not matter if it is just piano, or any other chamber music arrangement. We only use two mics and they are always placed on the same exact spot of our auditorium outside of the stage area. There is no mixing involved, left mic is left speaker and right mic is right speaker. We have obtained this sound by working the acoustics of the auditorium itself.

 

This is an accurate picture of our setup. It might not be pretty, but the measurements are correct. The person at the bottom of the picture represents the actual position of the mics. They really are outside of the stage area, and they are sitting at that same spot for all five albums.

 

[ATTACH=CONFIG]22208[/ATTACH]

 

We are dedicated to chamber music. We are purposely recording this music in a way that resembles its original setup.

 

Our auditorium is a small hall, much the size of the palace chambers used to perform chamber music back in the XIX century. This type of space (when treated correctly) provides a much warmer more intimate sound experience. The instruments are in the middle of the room and people are seating all around them. The sound is direct (you are very close to the instruments), yet there is a bit of reverb from the room (but never quite as much as you would have in a large hall)

 

We need a piano to play chamber music without overriding the other instruments. We tried several pianos on our hall to try to find one with just the right amount of power. A full size grand and two 7 foot pianos. Full size grands are way to powerful for this kind of setup. Of the two 7 foot pianos, we chose the more powerful one plus we liked the tone better

 

So this is it:

 

The piano is a 7 foot Yamaha (25 years old)

The mics are 11'6" away from the piano (ORTF setup)

 

As I have mentioned previously, I did not meant to imply that you were not doing a good job with your technical options, only that by using single pair of mics, reasonably distanced, direct to A/DC with no further post-processing PlayClassics are able produce a more "natural" or "realistic" perspective (which is something that you are probably not even aiming at).

 

As a listener I defend that un-amplified music, particularly "classical", should be recorded from a "documental" perspective in such manner as to recreate as much as possible what one would listen from the audience (less leave the front/back seat discussion aside for the time being).

Your methods were compared to those of PlayClassics in this particular context.

I listened to your samples and think that they sound very good (even if a bit too close for my taste).

 

Since I don't have any experience with either digital or analogue EQ'ing and mixing, it would be interesting if you could provide a sample (if you have one around, I'm sure you're a busy person) to illustrate your opinion.

 

Kind regards,

Ricardo

"Science draws the wave, poetry fills it with water" Teixeira de Pascoaes

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Channel Classics uses spot mic'ing in orchestral music recordings which for this kind of performance works like a form of close-mic'ing and gives an artificial "tension" to the sound.

This videos illustrates that very well:

 

 

Their small group recordings sound more "natural".

 

R

 

Hi Ricardo

 

You are correct about multi micing used in the BFO recordings, but at the low levels employed, there's nothing "artificial" in the resulting sound. It's used to more accurately replicate what the ear/brain perceives from an ideal audience position, which if mic'ed from that position, would be awash in reverberation.

 

The majority of Channel Classics recordings are medium to small ensembles, all recorded in DSD, with a minimum number of microphones necessary for surround sound mixed and balanced to stereo. The stereo balance and mix are performed in an analog mixing desk prior to recording. Spot microphones are occasionally used as required at low levels to add the feeling of presence and "feel" to featured instruments, and/or to soloists.

 

The BFO recordings are a completely different breed. The microphone array selection and positions are largely from the Philips recording experience, from which Producer Hein Dekker draws. Again, as in small ensemble, the microphone mix and balance are preformed in analog prior to recording. But as in any large orchestra recording, particularly in an empty concert hall, the space is so large and masses so great, it's not possible to use simple puristic mic techniques for a commercially acceptable recording.

 

To demonstrate this point, nativedsd.com will soon offer free clips from the recent Mahler 7 BFO recording project performed with two different microphone sets, but same placement (the three very tall stands at the stage edge, being the primary front three of the ITU surround array. One clip will be the raw session analog mix and balance of the array you see in the mentioned video. The other will be a 5 mic array, using DPA 4041's as opposed to the much flatter response co mounted DPA 4006's, used for the commercial release. The difference is very obvious, and most appreciated in surround sound, for which the 5.0 array was intended.

 

The point of this demonstration is to show the pluses and minuses of puristic verses multiple microphone techniques in large orchestra recording.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share



×
×
  • Create New...