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#485813 - 07/13/01 07:26 AM Going MiniDisc (long)
Chris W. Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 06/29/01
Posts: 6
Loc: Boston
Looking for the best way to record so that I could listen to and get another angle at correcting my mistakes, I took the advice of this board and bought a MD player. I haven't got a mic yet and am currently fooling around with an old cruddy Shure dynamic just to make sure the new unit works OK. That is part of the reason for this message, which I hope may benifit anyone else considering doing this, as well as help me with my mic quandry.

The player I bought after much consideration between Sony and Sharp, was the Sharp MD-MT90. I won't go into boring detail, but will provide some links that really helped with the decision:

Minidiscusion
Minidisco
At the bottom of the post is a clip from an article surveying professionals about mic'ing piano. It was found at:
Curt Taipale mic survey

A couple key points in Sharp's favor were its better mic preamp, recording level display and all-around reputation as a live recorder. These web sites are kind of funny in making one realise just how much "stealth" recording technology has taken off among bootlegers. Its also interesting how much the MD format has a small cult group of global supporters.

For reference, the last equipment this guy had was an old Fostex 4-track cassette machine, no DAT recorder, or anything near the level of, say Matt D's set-up. The digital fidelity jump is still huge and I don't expect the budget will much exceed $300 for both recorder and microphone(s). Ultimately, the goal is to achieve CD-R keepsake quality, not just hear all the wrong notes.

Microphones have me stumped. There are vey many out there and I will try to sumarize some specific considerations for MD players from what I have read. Most say it is important to invest in the microphone and not leave it as an afterthought to player selection. Pairings of microphones specific to MD players are common because of their often powered jacks. What has also become more popular through the 90's and MD's development is the quality found in small Binaurals, or the lapel type mics seen in TV interviews. Sony, Shure (MX100)and Audio Technica (AT831/933) all make these small electret condenser microphones. One benifit of them over those in the professional survey is that they are stereo by nature and mate well with MD mic inputs, which are also stereo. Two professional mics, a pre-amp and Y-connector begin to get cumbersome and expensive. A warning about Sony mics. They typically have a rated frequency response of 100Hz-15Khz, which means piano bass may begin to suffer about two octaves below middle C. I'd be interested to hear if anyone using Sony notices this, Diarmuid? I believe both the Shure and the AT mics start between 20 and 50HZ (full octave lower) and go up to between 17 and 20Khz. The point is pianos, particularly big ones, have a broad frequency range that doesn't suit all mics. The last confusing bit is whether to go with Omnidirectional (the way the ones I mentioned start out), Uni, or Cardioid. Omni means catching sound from all directions and usually means getting more ambient/room sounds in a given recording. Uni and Cardioid focus on a specific frontal area away from the mic, the latter being heart shaped with the two bulges of the heart going slightly behind the mic's tip.

If anyone has more feedback about experimenting, is going through what I am, or wants to point out how much miss-information I probably just spewed, please do.

Chris W

Curt T. ....What is your favorite acoustic piano
mic? Here again, every engineer has
their own favorite approach to miking
a piano. I've played keyboards since
my early teens, so I know well the
sound of a grand piano played with
the lid raised. For live contemporary
worship music, it's that kind of
closeup sound that I'll try to capture.
Whenever I have the option I'll use a
pair of condenser mics with a large
diaphragm, try to get the lid up on
the short stick, and mic the piano
just inches above the strings. By
comparison, I would approach
miking a solo piano concert totally
different at a distance, using a
stereo pair or a Middle-Side
technique. I've seen a number of
churches just lay a microphone
inside the piano on a towel or piece
of foam. Well, sound will come out,
but it's sure not going to be of any
great quality. Even a poor quality
mic will sound better if correctly
placed. To get that clean, clear, full
sound of a piano, you really need to
get a condenser mic out over the
strings. Unless you're taping it to the
underside of the piano lid - that
probably means using a boom
stand. If you start attaching things to
the piano harp or the lip of the piano,
you'd better be certain that your mic
has great handling noise because
the vibration of the piano being
played is simply going to travel
through your attachment points and
vibrate the mic, introducing a
mechanical noise that will seriously
damage the sound you're trying to
capture. "Hands down the AKG 451.
Haven't tried anything that I like
better, even some new Shure stuff
from our local dealer that he was
trying to sell us." Dan Bureman
(Ames, IA) "This one may garner
hoots and howls, but I like it - Milab
DC96B. Large plate condenser
basically hung out in space in the
very open mic head. When mounted
on a boom over the strings about 10
- 12 inches behind the hammers, it
sounds very natural and catches the
natural reverb of the piano. Very little
low end rumble caught. Normally
have the lid on the short stick with
the mic located vertically just under
the top edge of the box. The
disadvantage, is having to give up
gain before feedback as compared
to a C-ducer but I've found grand
pianos with good players tend not to
need a lot of reinforcement." John
Russell (Cape Girardeau, MO)
"Schoeps Collette series with the
cardioid or hyper-cardioid capsule. If
this were recording I would use the
omni capsule. Runner-up, the AKG
C451/CK1 combo." Ray Rayburn
(Boulder, CO) "Sorry guys... all
MIDI, we used to mike the piano, but
that was so long ago, I don't even
remember what we used." Kevin
Dougherty (Saranac Lake, NY)
"From low cost to expensive -
SM-81, C-451, C414 (any version),
Schoepps, AKG C-24." Jim Brown
(Chicago, IL) "Favorite acoustic
piano mic: SM81, C451, Neumann
KM184, or Gefell M300." Mike
Anderson (Wichita, KS) "SM-81,
C-451. Currently using an AT853 (!)
taped by the cable strain relief (not
the mike body) to the closed lid of
the grand near high hammers. I do
this because the piano is always
played with the lid closed and
frequently moved during the week. It
prevents mike damage when I'm not
around and provides consistent
sound from week to week. Also it
doesn't get stolen because it's hard
to see." David Couch - FBC
(Euless, TX)

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#485814 - 07/13/01 12:37 PM Re: Going MiniDisc (long)
magnezium Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 722
Loc: Singapore
sorry i didn't read the whole post... but just my 2 cents... you don't really have to buy a mic to record... you could plug your earphones into the mic socket and voila! your earphones work as a mic... of course the sound quality isn't excellent etc etc... but i find it satisfactory...

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#485815 - 07/13/01 01:01 PM Re: Going MiniDisc (long)
Diarmuid Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/27/01
Posts: 219
Great post Chris \:\) A lot of it went way over my head though as I really know very little about audio recording. All the piano recording I've done so far was from a digital piano directly to the sound card (no mikes at all!).

I wish I could give you some feedback on the Sony front but I haven't got any mikes yet. I'm kind of soaking up all the info I can at the moment. I've saved your post for future reference \:\)

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#485816 - 07/15/01 11:53 PM Re: Going MiniDisc (long)
Mat D. Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 512
Loc: Sterling Heights, Michigan
One comment I have for the original poster--try not to let microphone specs sway you one way or the other; they are almost never an indication of how good a microphone is. Also, I would stick with cardiod mics if you are going to use them as stereo pairs--better seperation of L-R. I own a Sony stereo electret condenser stereo mic (about $90) and the results for recording piano are quite good---placement is everything, especially distance from the piano. If you are in a typical living room situation staying closer to the piano is usually better---the farther from the piano, the more room tone is introduced into the recording--usually not good--try 1-2 feet from the open lid of the piano.

Of the microphones listed, the Neumann KM 184 is a great choice, pricey, but you get what you pay for. If you use this or any other 'condenser' microphone you will need a mic pre-amp--there are many to choose from, but obviously you'll need a 2 channel model-they start at around $210, and go up, up, up... You can get very good results with a $300 mic-pre, but remember that with this great technology is a learning curve, and you can screw it up very easily if you don't know the principles of 'signal flow' and 'gain' (input/output levels).

Unless you're going to be making a serious recording for a CD project (you can make a serious recording with the MD/electret, but you know what I mean), I'd stick with the stereo electret condenser mics from sony or audiotechnica---it's hard to go wrong with these---just be sure you have the proper inputs on your minidisc recorder. Also, be sure to take any "auto-level" or "compressor" out of the signal path if you can--it's usually switchable on the MD recorder----manually set the levels for best results.

hope that helps a little.

Mat D.

[ July 15, 2001: Message edited by: Mat D. ]

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