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In this world of streamed performances and increasing reliance on recordings, getting a recording right is pretty important. I've relied for a long time on digital recorders but separate mics can give better results.

is a comparison of five mics - 

Takstar TS5 dynamic

Takstar CM60 capacitor

Frankenmic home-made/modified

UHER M537

AKG D202

AKG D224

It would be really helpful to know which anyone considers to sound best. The recording is irrelevant to organ specifically but violin and piano gives a lot of range to give a good idea.

Best wishes

David P

 

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Most of the small digital recorders - especially Edirol and Zoom - have pretty decent microphones and while it's true that a quality external mic can be better, it won't be cheap.
(You can certainly forget the ones in the attached video which are all cheap 'n nasty and also years out of date!)

I have a Zoom 2 and a Zoom 4 both of which produce entirely acceptable(*) organ recordings - assuming your talking streaming/podcasts and not professional CD quality recordings.

You'd probably want mid range mics in the £200 - £400 range to get significantly better than built in ones.
Don't forget that positioning is vital - try lots of places and see what sounds best.

S

(*) - acceptable to me - and I'm an electronic engineer not a musician!!

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Like any other component in the recording and reproduction chains, one's choice of mics is as much subjective as anything else.  I'm wary of posting on this topic because one can so easily sound preachy on audio matters, which isn't my intention at all.  And David has probably at least as much if not more experience as anyone else.  However, here goes.

Steve makes some valid points with which I agree.  One is that the inbuilt mics which come with the little Zoom, Tascam, etc recorder products are really quite good both for the modest financial outlay and for many recording situations.  But positioning is indeed vital as he says, and to optimise this you desirably need separate mics.  If, for example, you want to record the sounds of an organ at short-ish range, they become almost essential in some situations.  Doing this is sometimes necessary to cut down on the excessively wet ambience of some auditoria, and if the organ case is elevated then proper mic stands are also necessary so the heights of the mics can be adjusted to taste.

I've been recording for decades, and started my 'career' with some Calrec studio capacitor mics back in the 1970s which I thought were rather splendid at the time, though a bit expensive.  Unfortunately my son cast envious eyes on them and eventually I gave in and thus they went in his direction.  He was running a recording studio at the time and made some professional recordings with them for well known artists, including of the Gosport Compton theatre organ.  His client was so impressed that he wanted some additional recordings of surfy sea sounds from the nearby seashore which were duly faded in and out on various tracks.  However these mics became obsolete long ago, and they were also inconvenient to use in that they used non-standard (non-phantom) power arrangements and unbalanced audio outputs, together with unusual (Tuchel not XLR) connectors.  Nevertheless they can still be obtained on the retro/pre-owned market should David's interest have been aroused.

Cutting this exceedingly boring story short and coming back to the present, the latest semi-decent mics I've tried are Behringer C-2s.  I think they might have been superseded since, but for the money I have to say that I find them pretty amazing value, and I've tried a few in my time.  They are still available.  Amazon's current price is £65 for an allegedly matched pair, and they come in a robust foam-filled carrying case with various accessories including a stereo bar.  Without wanting to indulge in hyperbole, I would say that they complement the quality of the Zoom/Tascam type recorders quite nicely, though I usually record into a wave editor (WaveLab) running on a laptop when using separate mics. I also record in parallel onto a completely separate backup medium in case of computer disasters so that all would not be lost, such as a Zoom/Tascam or even a Minidisc recorder.  I've been very happy with the quality of the organ pipe sound samples made using these mics.

The downside of separate mics like this is, of course, having to drag around all the collateral bits and pieces including mic stands, cables and something to provide the phantom power such as a small mixing desk or at least a preamp.  However if you are doing a job for somebody else they will certainly be impressed when you arrive with all this gear!

Happy recording.

 

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I was really asking for people's opinions on listening to the recordings made with the particular microphones used.

Cheap - yes the Takstar CM60s are extraordinarily cheap - and punch above their weight. Cheap but certainly not nasty.

But the AKG D224s are and certainly never were cheap and are appropriately sought-after. They were studio-standard in their day and the D202s were so loved by the BBC that upon the 50th birthday of the BBC a commemorative stamp was issued which featured them with other iconic units. The D224s fell out of favour not because of being years out of date but because of fragility of the front capsule in particular, which still plagues extant examples. The technology of these units has not been surpassed by any subsequent dynamic mic. The UHER M537 is not a million miles away from the Sennheiser MD421 which remains a current microphone, not cheap, and still in production.

The BM800s are really interesting as donor bodies for upgrade. Their electronics can be upgraded with a handful of components and the availability of 1 inch elektret capsules transforms them. Likewise the same capsules can transform the ugly Behringer C1and C3, transforming the C3 into better than the B2 Pro and the C1 better than the B1. There is quite a fanclub of BM800 upgraders. 

The comment that these microphones are either (a) cheap and nasty or (b) out of date recalls to mind the story of the composer Scharwenka who upon crossing the Atlantic on a steamer was seen writing out scores of one of his compositions. A fellow passenger asked him why he was bothering to do that as music then was so cheap to buy in the shops.

The reason for my asking opinions about these mics is that it's easy to go for capacitor mics nowadays which are top rate but . . . And the Tascam DR40 I've been using for years to great success. But I'm piano tuning now, in a special way, and have had to start producing top rate recordings demonstrating the new methodology, based on organ tuning, to be valid and useful. Tuning last year for the Nice International competition, I needed to record the whole proceedings for a week, with minimum fuss on battery charging, and achieving quality through mic placement disconnected to the operation of the recorder. So phantom powered mics drain the batteries of recorders more. "Use an external battery" the clever people say. Been there, done that, and it's dependant upon the less than robust nature of micro USB leads.

According focus on Dynamic mics came to the fore which is why I started exploration of the AKG D200 D202 D224 and UHER M538 family. One of my favourite mics is the UHER M538, similar to the D202, but my second for the pair requires a treble unit upgrade which is why I didn't include them in the test of the recording in this thread.

Many recording festival events requiring many hours of recording might find themselves with dilemmas of power. And plugging in the recorders into a mains adapter leads to risk of hum in my experience.

The D202s gave best results for 

where capacitor mics were much more catastrophically prone to wind noise and the D202s recorded with Tascam DR70 gave better noise than the DR40 internal mics.

The success of the UHER family is demonstrated by 

which was hideously difficult to record on account of  - well, you'll hear, and doubt if anyone's heard a better recording of such an instrument.

A very different recording of a concert for which I'd tuned the piano 

was made with my UHER M538 and a D200 with new units, both matching to above 10khz and the UHER flat up to considerably further towards 20k. That evening, I'd taken a mic requiring phantom power . . . and had problems with the power supply.

Meanwhile 

was recorded with a pair of D202 mixing in 10% of my Frankenmic to escape the ORTF claustrophobia focus on the orchestra and piano. In fact there is an unintentional comparison to a Decca Tree here and at points one does have the sense of the piano being in the foreground. This recording could not have been achieved with the bare DR40 on internal mics.

So some might not agree on my particular rationale for choice of mics, but it's not random nor based on price.

The piano on 

was amplified with a AKG C214, no doubt pleasing brand worshippers, whilst

 was amplified with a humbler Takstar PCM6100 also used for the soprano.

Meanwhile there are some mics which provide better resistance to handling noise than others and the UHER M537 and M538 are exemplary, together with picking out the sound one wants - 

So this is nothing to do with price but a combination both of horses for courses together with the sort of sound that people like - and specifically the recording at the top of this thread being a good test over the whole frequency range from deepest bass of piano to violin.

For me, a violin should sound sweet rather than abrasive. It may be that with equipment that people are using nowadays which is not as fullrange as hifi was in the past, the top frequencies need emphasis and that as a result people like a mic that puts monosodium glutamate into the sound but that others using better equipment or good headphones like a mic known to be flatter. It might also be that people unfamiliar with real sound like the excitement of top treble buzz because they think that that represents quality.

I met this issue last year with another test 

where the D202 gave a more real sound both of the flute, as heard at the recital, and of the cello, and the cellist liked them better. But many liked the brighter sound of the Frankenmic saying it was more alive. The sound for me, however is reproduction on steroids and through my laptop speakers the cello sounds like a bee buzzing in the ears.

I also did a test before getting a pair to the D202 using good quality, flat, M-Audio Nova capacitor mics - 

1 is the M-Audio condenser, 2 is the AKG D202 on guitar with the SM57 clone on the singer, and 3 is the cheap upgraded BM800 which the singer liked best.

Another test looked at L-R placement vs Mid-Side using good capacitor mics - here in a standard setting

and here trying to bring out the concept of the Victorian concert hall with an 1859 instrument

In my view it's always important to do the experiment, and make no assumptions.

I'm infinitely grateful to the wonderful musicians who've been willing to help in experiment 

On the last recording I later discovered that my D202 in use then wasn't flat, since replaced. 

There are many areas where the 21st century departs from what I call "white haired knowledge", those with long experience having passed away, that in my view life is all about going back to test assumptions, do the experiments, and find the context - here bringing the sound people want to that audience. People's equipment has changed. One's mics might have to accordingly.

Likewise in that vein I heard a nice explanation about the rationale of the Shure SM57 with rising frequency response. Apparently people used to like them on account of their raised treble so that then they could turn down the treble on playback and reduce tape hiss . . . We don't understand that context any more today.

Best wishes

David P

 

 

 

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David, your question is interesting though as I said in my post above, everyone's preferences for audio equipment are heavily subjective, so I would not wish to impose mine on you or anyone else who reads this.  But as you are seeking opinions ...

Having listened to the multi-mic clip in your initial post, it did sort of confirm what I would have expected from dynamic and capacitor mics, and it was an interesting listening opportunity - thank you.  Dynamic mics seem to me to have noticeably lower bass compared with their mid-range, but this makes them good for vocals which they are often used for.  But for organs and pianos I personally would go for the flatter and more predictable response of a capacitor mic, especially in the critical area of specialist piano tuning you mentioned.  Nevertheless  I share your irritation about the problems of powering them, and indeed have come across the noise and hum problems you mentioned.  In one case this turned out to be generated by the mains power supply used by the phantom power unit.  It was a switched-mode PSU which I would not have bought had I known this beforehand, as I always use linear PSUs for audio work especially in the low-signal-level front ends where mics are involved.  When I replaced the SMPSU by a linear one everything was as quiet as batteries were.

At the end of your post above you also said:

"Likewise in that vein I heard a nice explanation about the rationale of the Shure SM57 with rising frequency response. Apparently people used to like them on account of their raised treble so that then they could turn down the treble on playback and reduce tape hiss . . . We don't understand that context any more today."

Well, I would say that we do still understand that process - (adaptive) pre-emphasis prior to recording followed by (synchronous) de-emphasis on playback - because that's how Dolby noise reduction works!!

But I do take your wider point about some of the 'white haired knowledge' having been lost.  Another example is the universal habit of today's design engineers of doing everything possible in analogue signal conditioning by using integrated circuits, which often contain far too many transistors for the job you want them to do.  One of the 'white haired brigade' who has indeed, and sadly, passed away was John Linsley Hood who designed a discrete op amp circuit in the 1970s using just three transistors.  He called it the Liniac and I've used it widely in my own designs.

But if I go on like this I fear my posts will, probably rightly, get deleted so I'd better stop now.  However the topic itself is of considerable relevance to making decent recordings of the organ and other musical instruments, so it was reasonable of you to raise it I would suggest.

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Colin - always the voice of reason.

Capacitor mics are often flat, as you say, although there's a fashion for a bit of high top treble boost and it's normally true that dynamics aren't flat. However my interest in the particular dynamics exemplified here is that . . . 

UHER M537 red

856374d1593383153-expert-ears-microphone

and AKG D200 (blue line)

856375d1593383153-expert-ears-microphone

and the D202 and D224 are equally flat extending to 12k and the D224 significantly towards 20k.

The CM60 - red line

  attachment.php?attachmentid=209694&d=159

has that 8k bump which gives the abrasive quality to the violin - and would do likewise for organ mixtures. Ignore the green line - this is the raw response measuring the D202 without division by the reference measurement mic which I resample on each set of measurements. But the D202 green line shows how remarkably flat the Tannoy 611 speaker is and how the D202 is flat. The green and red lines in the D202 graph represent the measurement of the Tannoy 611 in a different position affected by different standing waves.

So these particular dynamic mics really can record organs and the UHER and AKG mics do bring out the bottom octave in the piano recorded in the test samples in the video. Perhaps that may not be apparent on everyone's speakers but that's the importance of taking a poll on what sort of recorded sound people like to be listening to.

Best wishes

David P

 

 

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Hi

I've not listened to David's clips - I don't see the point when the audio will have been mangled by You Tube.  However, I am a little surprised at Colin's comments on dynamic mics having poor bass response - it's certainly not true of D202's.  I've used a pair of (borrowed) D202's many times for organ recording with no issues regarding bass response.  Yes, decent capacitor mics might have been slightly better for the top end, but I didn't have ready access to any at the time.

Every Blessing

Tony

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1 hour ago, Tony Newnham said:

I've not listened to David's clips - I don't see the point when the audio will have been mangled by You Tube. 

When I upload to YouTube it's often not what YouTube does but what the encoding software does when compiling the video so it's worth a five minute listen to the samples. The software I use gives options and I use the maximum audio bitrate and minimum acceptable pixel and frame rate so the uploaded YouTube recording is as accurate as can be through conventional reproduction equipment.

Really interestingly a good musician friend likes the £10 TS5 dynamic capsule https://de.aliexpress.com/item/32846074174.html in a cheap body, as does the violinist, who also likes the cheap Frankenmic. But the TS5 would require post processing bass equalisation for organ. Our next performers to record, also a violin piano duo, like the D202 whilst others gravitate to the D224.

So what we're seeing is that the conventional bounds of accepted wisdom in the recording industry can be broken and are ripe for re-investigation, and in the 21st Century defined by uncertainties of unstoppable biospheric forces rather than the anthropocene illusion of dominance of the 20th century, all areas of accepted wisdom are ripe for re-evaluation.

Best wishes

David P

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‘So what we're seeing is that the conventional bounds of accepted wisdom in the recording industry can be broken and are ripe for re-investigation, and in the 21st Century defined by uncertainties of unstoppable biospheric forces rather than the anthropocene illusion of dominance of the 20th century, all areas of accepted wisdom are ripe for re-evaluation.’

Good grief - care to offer a translation in layman’s terms!?


From many years of recording a variety of performances, including the organ, it became clear that a lot of the built-in mics on portable digital recorders were excellent (admittedly I did have a pretty expensive Sony, PCMD50). However, I always felt that those old school Tandy PZM mics were fantastic. Durable, easy placement and uncoloured. I invested in a Rode stereo mic which was expensive (and still is) - the old Tandy’s still did better. There’s so much choice now that I’d be hard pressed to recommend anything - they all claim to do everything.

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There are two ways to evaluate mics - subjective and objective.

Objectively, it is possible to measure mics and get a good idea of how they will sound and how accurate they are.  However, this is not trivial, because for any directional mic the bass response changes with distance, and with any mic at all it changes with direction. (Thus the effect of reverberation might be to make a mic with perfect on-axis response sound bad, because it (the reverb) is coloured by the off-axis response.)  It requires a lot of knowledge and experience to assess a microphone usefully that way.

If insufficient data is available to perform a suitably wide-ranging analysis, then only subjective assessment is possible.  And experience has taught me that the touchstone of "quality" for nearly everyone is not the actual sound heard in a room or hall, but an idealised distortion of this designed as an improvement over nature by recording companies.  And, of course, subjective assessments are not properly transferable.  A corollary of my statement above is seen when one overhears less experienced concert-goers complaining that the sound in the hall isn't like a record, and they can't hear the same detail.

For my part, I use a $999 microphone whose designer (with forty years experience) claims has the flattest overall (i.e. averaged over all directions) response of any mic made.  If you saw graphs of it, you would not be impressed, because they are not smoothed and sanitised like manufacturers' graphs.  I place the microphone where I would like to listen, or as close as practicable.  This approach is panned by some as "idealistic", as if ideals are a bad thing; but there are a number of well-reviewed commercial recordings which I've made that way.

As for the D202, I remember using that at the BBC in the late 1960s - only for speech, though.

Paul

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Paul - your expertise speaks volumes.

With regard to directional responses and the colouration from off axis sounds this has been apparent from the UHER M537 experiment - it is a directional mic but off axis it's the treble in particular that's diminished. Whether there are situations where that can be useful remain to be seen and it may be a better solo mic than in a stereo pair. The M538 is similar to the D200 - D224 family in having a parallel graph off axis to the on-axis response. There may be a reason why the D202 might be a little less tight in the bass than the D200 or the D224 - it uses a larger diameter capsule. I've done frequency measurements on all the mics auditioned, and all the graphs above in this thread are mine rather than manufacturer-doctored idealisms.

Nevertheless, with people listening through such diversity of reproducers which are far from what used to be anything like our idea of ideal in the hi-fi decades potentially it's the listener who's setting the standards required nowadays rather than the originator. That's the reason why I'm asking not "which microphone is best" but "which microphone do people like to hear through best".

In this century we face the potential collapse of anything that formerly held certainties for any of us and we can only do our best to rescue what we can of what is most of worth and put it on life-support. To convey the message of music best now, its reception is more profoundly important than its transmission. 

Best wishes

David P

 

 

 

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