Technical backstage: live recordings gears

It’s not a didactic section (when needed I’ll link related pages on manufacturer site) but so as to explain my approach to recording.


Hi,

since 1997 I recorded live shows like orchestra concerts, jazz ensemble and others with several audio recording systems.

I started with a dat-recorder Tascam DA-30 MKII, very reliable system, but with a no longer span memory (digital tape is a data frame with linear access) and 16 bit word-lenght. It worked from 48kHz to 32kHz (long duration). Tape lenght at 44.1/48kHz was from 5′ to 120′.

Today, it’s still available on my studio to transfer dat tape on audio files.

At the same time I bought two Alesis Adat blackface to make available multitracks recording with JLCooper Datamaster syncronizer.

This system worked with VHS tape at 48kHz@16bit to 42′ maximum recording lenght, as a consequence it was difficult to use it in live recording.

Adat blackface (image from net)

Adat blackface (image from net)

First recorder system on HD which I bought was two Roland VSR-880 coupled with digital consolle Roland VM7200.

At that time I was a Roland audio pro exhibitor.

Roland VSR880

Roland VSR-880

After I made a mobile workstation with an Apple iBook with RME Fireface800 and OctaMic. Actually I choose to substitute iBook with a MacBook.

Apple iBook with RME Fireface800 + OctaMic

Apple iBook with RME Fireface800 + OctaMic

Later I built a DAW Windows based with RME HDSP 9652+9632 (total 34 tracks). I used it to record Ottavo Ritcher “Molly’s Malone” live album (here Watermelon man from album). Today this mobile station is discontinued.

PC Windows mobile recorder with HDSP 9652 + 9632

PC Windows mobile recorder with HDSP 9652 + 9632

Today I have three workstations avalaible:

– Apogee Rosetta800 with firewire card coupled with Apple MacBook.

My best workstation: eight Shoeps microphones, eight Millenia preamps and eight Apogee Rosetta800 AD/DA channels.

I used it to record several live session of orchestra and choir ensemble (see antique music demo here)

MacBook with Apogee Rosetta800 with firewire card

MacBook with Apogee Rosetta800 with firewire card

– RME Fireface800 coupled with Apple MacBook

26 tracks with twelve microphones preamp on-board

I used it to record many concert of orchestra ensemble (see orchestral demo here).

MacBook + Fireface800

MacBook + Fireface800

– Joeco BlackBox BBR1U system

It’s a stand-alone system, 24 tracks, it write an audio streaming directly to external HD up to 96kHz@24bit, very reliable and with a very fine AD/DA converter. It’s perfect to record 24 tracks at 96kHz@24bit

I bought it in september 2012 to record 24 tracks 10hour/day for three months (over 900 hours total) during Alberto Garutti exposition at the PAC – Padiglione d’Arte Contemporanea in Milan.

Furthermore I used it to record new live album of Stormy Six “Benvenuti nel ghetto”, live album of Andrea Fedeli jazz trio, presentation of Born4Music jazz department and the last live session of Aspis choir.

Joeco BlackBox BBR1U

Joeco BlackBox BBR1U

Here to visit my website.

Cheers,

Lorenzo

related contents


Copyright © 2013-2014 by iuatwest. All rights Reserved.
This material has been copyrighted, feel free to share it with others; it can be distributed via social media or pingbacks or added to websites; please do not change the original content and, provide appropriate credit by including the author’s name @ http://iuatwest.com and your readers shall not be charged by you under any circumstance.

Technical backstage: microphones preamplifiers

It’s not a didactic section (when needed I’ll link related pages on manufacturer site) but so as to explain my approach to recording.


Today I’ll speak about the second ring of the audio chain that is a microphone preamplifier.

I tried several of them while I was thinking about the adage “the worse ring define entire chain quality”.

At the end I chose Focusrite and Millenia.

Focusrite ISA series

This serie is originate from an original Rupert Neve’s project, realized to George Martin’s Air studio which sidecar of Studio One’s Neve consolle and later developed into well-knowed Forte consolle (late eighties).

Here you find Air studio historical page about Neve consolle and Focusrite sidechain.

Sir George Martin with original sidechain and ISA110

Sir George Martin with original sidechain and ISA110

Neve consolle A4792 with FSA110 modules sidecar (far left)

Neve consolle A4792 with FSA110 modules sidecar (far left)

Earlies modules made from FSA110 were ISA110 (premic/eq section) and ISA130 (dynamic section) where ISA standing for Input Signal Amplifier.

Further developments were ISA430 (producer pack) and ISA220 (session pack) strip channels with premic, eq section, dynamic section (ISA220 only compressor), de-essing and output stage.

Today it’s possible to find some racked channel strip.

Latest models are microphones preamplifiers rack modules ISA428, ISA828, ISA One (desk version) and Isa Two.


I bought two ISA428 with AD converter card and two ISA220.

They work very fine on vocals, percussions and instrumental direct inject like electric bass, guitar and piezo transducer with a nice and solid presence. I like ISA220 coupled with NeumannU87ai to record voice.

ISA eq is very sharp gear and all the small changes are immediatly audible and it’s perfect to add warmth, presence and intelligibility to every tracks. Dynamic section is beautiful with capaticy to forceful gain reduction (10dB) without artefacts.

I use both ISA220 like a sidecar of my analog consolle D&R Dayner.

Focusrite ISA 8-channel ADC cards on board on my ISA428 sound like my Apogee Rosetta800 (that is very good) and they convert eight channel each, summing ISA428 four channels with four external channels. Then two ISA428, eight microphone amplifier and sixteens AD channels conversion.

In this record I used FF ISA428 on drums and direct input of ISA220 for bass (mix is only level and panpot, no eq, comp or fx)

Millenia Media

Millenia Media is a very fine manufacturing gear founded by John and Cynthia LaGrou, his microphone preamplifier (here a chart on the design of microphone preamps by John LaGrou) are used everywhere it’s needed dynamic, wide and flat response, sensibility and depth of sound image.

Their gear is precious on acoustic instruments, classic and jazz ensemble and everywhere it’s fundamental absolute sonic and musical purity.


I bought a Millenia HV-3R, remote controlled version, eight channels microphones preamplifier to work at the best with my Shoeps microphones (see here my post on my microphones)

His sound is very clearly with excellent focus on mid and low frequency and very open high end.

This year I recorded a jazz ensemble (electric guitar, double bass, violin, sax and accordion) in a my studio but in a live like situation. Without worries about ambient noise, I used Shoeps and Millenia to best separation and quality of the sounds. The musicians have been very impressed, me too 😉

Listen them here (studio session)

or watch them here

Here on baroque music (live session)

Cheers,

Lorenzo


Copyright © 2013-2014 by iuatwest. All rights Reserved.
This material has been copyrighted, feel free to share it with others; it can be distributed via social media or pingbacks or added to websites; please do not change the original content and, provide appropriate credit by including the author’s name @ http://iuatwest.com and your readers shall not be charged by you under any circumstance.

Technical backstage: microphones that I chose

It’s not a didactic section (when needed I’ll link related pages on manufacturer site) but so as to explain my approach to recording.


Microphones is a delicate questions, they are a pressure transducer and realize the passage of the sounds from air pressure to electric signal. Ok, this is a early assumption of the tecnologies about microphones(*) but what we want from them?

Several stuff like:

– wide frequency response

– wide dynamic range

– perception

– off-axys rejection (directional mic)

– no coloration (are you sure?)

– robust construction (when possible)

…and with a beautiful design (why not?).

I didn’t include cheapness because the quality is not cheap (in any field).

(*) to take a deeper look into microphone theory – Brüel & Kjær Microphone handbook vol.1


Searching for the best audio recording I work with a different brands of microphones, models and tipologies in relation to the kind of instruments and sound I’m looking for.

Condenser

Schoeps

I bought eight amplifier Colette series (CMC5 and CMC6) with different microphones capsules, in detail:

MK4 – cardioid

MK8 – bidirectional or eight figure

MK21 – wide cardioid

MK5 – mechanically switchable cardioid to omnidirectional figure

I use Schoeps to record many situations like choral ensemble, symphony orchestra, any acoustic instruments (guitar, strings, harp, double bass), several parts of drumset (toms, cymbals, hi-hat).

Here an example of studio recording what I made with close-miking techniques.

Schoeps MK4 + MK8 are perfect to made Mid-Side techniques, sometimes I use MK21 in lieu of MK4 to take a central’s large-scale section.

Here an example of live recording what I made with Mid-Side techniques with Schoeps.

Also MK21 is a very interesting solution to capture mainly low frequency in close miking.

I bought two MK5 (matched pair) to obtain major flexibility and to try spaced techniques. I use them omnidirectional in close-miking to record percussions like djembe or bongo.

I worked many times with Schoeps on stage to amplifier acoustic ensemble (classic and jazz) without problems.

I like Schoeps, they are a finest microphones with amazing and useful sound reliable for any situation. They are my high quality set.

Neumann

I bought two used U87ai, they work very well.

I use them to record vocal (typical) and sometimes with Shoeps to make mono coloured low-end.

Here two examples of acoustic guitar recordings what I made Secondamarea and Manuel Consigli.

AKG

I own only old microphones models: C414 B-ULS, C414 TL-II, C451E and C391 (C300 + CK91) . I bought two C414 XLS (first series) but I don’t liked them because their sound were knock-off and lifeless.

C414 B-ULS is very flexible microphone, it works fine with acoustic instrument (acoustic guitar) and percussions.

I used for many time C414 B-ULS for snare bottom and lately I use it very close to kick drumhead.

C414 TL-II is a transformer-less version of C414 B-ULS, with a slightly mid-high frequency presence. I own a stereo matched set and I use often them to record choral ensemble, symphony orchestra (here an example of record what I made with C414 TL-II Mid-Side array), acoustic piano and acoustic guitar.

I have been lucky to find a C451E, original version, because it sounds amazing, Shoeps like, with an amazing off-axys rejection. In studio I use it to capture hi-hat and in live recording it’s a nine microphone of my high quality set.

C391 is a good microphone with a good price. It’s not a cheapness choice. It’s useful on-stage and good alternative in live recording.

Crown

I bought two PCC-160, a boundary microphone, to capture speech on theatre.

Three years ago I tried to use them for drums overhead (what? But they are a floor microphones!). Wait, I fixed them tip over on ceiling in front of drumset in stereo spaced array. I was very impressed for very wide and smooth sound without wall reflections problems.

Dynamic

Electrovoice

RE-20 is a cardioid fine broadcast microphone, very good for voice. It’s construction minimize proximity effect and place in-face vocal record. You can see and listen his neodynium-equipped brother RE27N/D in “A Prairie Home Companion” movie.

I used it on voice for special effect, like speech into songs, to make a superior warmth and presence.

I used it sometimes to record bass drum and I tried it to record guitar amplifier.

Sennheiser

I own three old MD 421, two black and one white (with tuckel).

I use them to percussion and brass. Very good and warmth sound. I like it.

I found three years ago one MD409 (dates back to the 1975). Actually I use it on snare bottom and to record guitar amplifier.

AKG

D112 is a successor of D12 (very acclaimed microphone for vocal in the seventies). D112 is manufactured to use with instruments with a depth low end like bass amplifier or bass drums. I use it to record bass drum in out position with AKG C414 B-ULS  positioned very close to the kick drumhead.

Pearl

DX98, I bought this microphone many years ago and it’s perfect to amplifier tenor and baritone saxophone.

Astatic

A77, it dates back to the fifties and it’s a broadcast microphone. I used it on stage with a singer to enhance his nasal voice, very cool.

Ribbon

DoReMi

A ribbon oldest microphone (dates back to the thirties) which I bought in 1998. I fixed it and occasionally I use it to record voice with oldest flavour.

Cloud microphones

I tried JRS-34 model for a newspaper and I like it, but I haven’t unfortunatly. I guess probably I’ll be buying it pretty soon because I’ve been very impressed by its vocal presence and smoothed sound.

Cheers,

Lorenzo

Here a gallery of my microphones:


Copyright © 2013-2014 by iuatwest. All rights Reserved.
This material has been copyrighted, feel free to share it with others; it can be distributed via social media or pingbacks or added to websites; please do not change the original content and, provide appropriate credit by including the author’s name @ http://iuatwest.com and your readers shall not be charged by you under any circumstance.

Technical backstage: Harrison Mixbus – an interesting alternative DAW

It’s not a didactic section (when needed I’ll link related pages on manufacturer site) but so as to explain my approach to recording.


“Other DAW mixers are designed by companies with experience in computer sound, but no pedigree in world-class recording facilities.  The Mixbus mixer is designed by Harrison: the maker of consoles used in the world’s most demanding music, film, and live performance facilities.” (from harrisonconcoles.com site)

When I read this statement (early 2010) I was very impressed and I thought “it’s true, I want try this software”. It was very low price (approximately $75 as I remember) and I bought Mixbus immediatly.

The first time I listened my records by Mixbus I perceived a better sound of mid and high frequency. Less harsh, more body and a superior depth. Wow, it’s ITB Valhalla? (ITB = In The Box otherwise audio mixed on computer)

Harrison implemented his digital summing algorithm (the same of their digital consolle) into a very cheap but powerful DAW Ardour, an open source project by Paul Davis.

He worked on another application too, available for Linux and OS X, named Jack (Jack Audio Connection Kit). It’s a virtual router and it can manage soundcard inputs and outputs and all virtual connections into computer. Also it can re-direct audio flush from an application to another without leave it from computer.

Features of Harrison Mixbus mixer are three band EQ and dynamics on every channels and busses, eight busses (from the version 2.x) with tape saturation and tone control, auxs and inserts freely assignable to pre or post fader, all parameters automation, freely assignable routing and master equipped with K-14 Meter(*), tape saturation, control tone and dynamic processor.

Unfortunately at that time Ardour and Mixbus too (obviously) wouldn’t managed MIDI narrow down their application.

(*) K-14 meter is a method to monitor audio level into digital system, Bob Katz made it and here he explained about it: part 1part 2


The first time I used Mixbus 1.x to summing tracks from Logic Pro. It was a live recording of acoustic ensemble composed by drums, double bass, strings quartet, piano, key synth, acoustic guitar and voice. I created a several group (drums, strings and keys) and I routed them with single tracks (double bass, acoustic guitar and voice) to Mixbus by Jack OSX to summing them without add other processes.

After I compared the same mix from Logic bounce and Mixbus record and the last sounded better.

I noticed better mid vocal frequency, a snare superior body and less harshed hi-hat and cymbals. Otherwise a natural, better acoustic sound.

About editing I like Ardour/Mixbus for his tools, clear graphics design and easy automation.

One year ago I mixed my band RSVP album (you can listen it on Youtube) with Mixbus 2.x, the project’s tracks included two acoustics drums, electric guitar, electric bass, keyboards, saxophone, trumpet, voiceover, movie audio sample, a pico-paso (analog oscillator) and other tools (like a drill).

I worked like an analog consolle (with automation) with few plug-ins unlike other DAWs. It sounded GREAT!

At the same time I suggested (and I taught) Ardour to my friends for record, edit and mix their latest news podcasts (www.radiocane.info) or Mixbus with Jack OSX to my customer Andrea Fedeli to make virtual summing from his DAW (with no added costs buiyng expensive brand analog gear).

Mixbus and Jack are availables for Linux, Mac OSX (PPC and Intel) and Windows.

Today Mixbus 2 still don’t manage MIDI but next major update surely will do it because Ardour 3 has already been implemented.

Cheers,

Lorenzo

Below: Mixbus mixer


Copyright © 2013-2014 by iuatwest. All rights Reserved.
This material has been copyrighted, feel free to share it with others; it can be distributed via social media or pingbacks or added to websites; please do not change the original content and, provide appropriate credit by including the author’s name @ http://iuatwest.com and your readers shall not be charged by you under any circumstance.

Technical backstage: which audio monitor I use

It’s not a didactic section (when needed I’ll link related pages on manufacturer site) but so as to explain my approach to recording.


Hi,

this is a very hard question, which monitor choose and why?

When I go tracking I try different microphones to find the best matching with audio source. This is a obvious practice because each microphone has typical electronic and acoustic features.

Good, but you can take the same approach for monitoring? No, because their arrangement is a very delicate matter, a couple of professional monitor is expensive (but if possible it’s better to have two pairs) and unlike microphone above our reference listening should not be linked with any musical instrument or musical genre.

Essentially we need a pair (and matched) of monitors with frequency and phase flat response, correctly matched with control room. Wow…

All brands claim to fulfill these features. Ouch…

Ok, I tried several brand and model and I choosed Emes, a little german company.

In particulary I bought a pair of Violet HR (nearfield) and a pair of Blue HR coupled with sub Amber HR (main).

Violet Hr is a tipical two-way loudspeaker with the same amplifier (100W RMS) on drivers with a small woofer (18 cm – 7 inch.) and a silk dome tweeter.

Blue HR is designed as a D’Appolito configuration with the same kind of drivers of Violet HR. Three amplifier (two woofer and one tweeter) handling 100W RMS.

I like them because the portability to real world is almost perfect. Low end is good balanced and correct, high end very extended and the mids are really clear with speech frequency focused. Thanks to woofer small size they had a very fast response to transient and directivity.

All loudspeakers are sold with a frequency response matched with less than ±0,5 dB difference.

Violet HR are like a magnifying lens and allow you to listen with great precision individual parts.

I arranged the Blue HR in a large box suspended like a flush mount to eliminate audio emission back, minimize frame diffraction and relating them to the control room acoustics. The stereo image is very wide, clear and deep.

I used Amber HR into main system as a third way and furthermore to extend low end, also I can bypass it and listen to the Blue HR full-range.

During main system set-up I had checked phase alignment with audio measurement software SpectraFoo.

In addition I arranged a pair of classic Yamaha NS-10 studio and a pair of Avant electronics Avantone Mixcube (they are like Auratone) to achieve a listening poor.

Here my left monitors array

monitors arrangement

I sold to my customer several Emes loudspeaker system consists of a pair of Violet HR or a big system like Blue HR coupled to two sub Amber HR as a main monitor or a Hi-End system.

Well, now I wait for you in my studio to listen them  😉

Cheers,

Lorenzo


Copyright © 2013-2014 by iuatwest. All rights Reserved.
This material has been copyrighted, feel free to share it with others; it can be distributed via social media or pingbacks or added to websites; please do not change the original content and, provide appropriate credit by including the author’s name @ http://iuatwest.com and your readers shall not be charged by you under any circumstance.