best microphones for recording piano?

Posted by: Phillip S.

best microphones for recording piano? - 03/22/09 12:50 PM

I wondered what experiences forum members might have had with different microphones for recording grand pianos, and which ones they found were best.

I have been looking at a pair of AKG 414's, and also an Oktava MK-012-01 stereo-pair.

I'd rather not use a stereo single body microphone because I want more flexibility in mic placement.

Thanks in advance for any input.

Phillip
Posted by: pno

Re: best microphones for recording piano? - 03/22/09 02:34 PM

I have been looking for a pair of mics too. I wonder if anyone has any comment on the models mentioned by the original poster and this one: Rode NT5 Small Diaphragm Condenser Microphones (Matched Pair). They are about $400 a pair.
Posted by: thebrahmsian

Re: best microphones for recording piano? - 03/23/09 10:52 AM

I just saw/heard a demo of some kind of Zoom microphone, but I haven't been able to follow up on details as yet. It seemed pretty good from the youtube video. Has anyone searched the forums to see if there are previous threads on this?
Posted by: Larry B

Re: best microphones for recording piano? - 03/23/09 11:51 AM

One of the nicest recordings I've heard on the forums here is by a user using M-Audio Pulsar II mics. They run about $275/pr. I believe they were used in this YouTube recording http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q0f0wR0qx6w and in this post. These sound quite exceptional, to me, especially for the price.

I don't own any of these yet, but I've made it clear to my family that they would make a great Father's Day gift. smile
Posted by: thebrahmsian

Re: best microphones for recording piano? - 03/23/09 02:47 PM

Larry -

I think I agree with you. The sound is quite nice. Shame he doesn't have a better webcam to complete the package.

Joe
Posted by: Dave Ferris

Re: best microphones for recording piano? - 08/14/09 02:20 AM

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Posted by: actorsdad

Re: best microphones for recording piano? - 08/18/09 09:30 PM

Shure has put together a few lengthy "tutorials" on mikes/placement for various instruments. They can be found on the Shure website. I recently purchased 2 Shure SM81s for recording recitals and so far I have been very happy with them.
Posted by: SeilerFan

Re: best microphones for recording piano? - 08/18/09 09:38 PM

AKG C-414 is an awesome microphone. I've used them before and the quality is professional. There are two versions, the B-ULS (silver color) and a gold-colored version that highlights certain frequencies (designed for singers, I believe). Altogether, the C-414 delivers a warm yet puristic sound.

Make sure you have an outstanding microphone preamp, otherwise your great microphones won't help you a bit. I used a Focusrite green line preamp and loved it. But there are so many out there.
Posted by: FogAudio

! - 08/18/09 10:29 PM

I've heard DPA's are excellent as well for capturing realism though I have no first hand experience with them. There are many brands that project home studios use that are more affordable and get good reviews. I have numerous microphones from Octava (Russian), Studio Projects (http://www.studioprojects.com), and Rode (already mentioned) that do a pretty good job. A decent preamp is a must too! Besides picking quiet and detailed mics, mic placement, gain staging and clean power sources are probably more important than the actual mics used.

jm2c,
Ryan
Posted by: beethoven986

Re: best microphones for recording piano? - 08/18/09 11:45 PM

It all depends on what you want and what the application is and your budget because every microphone is different. I have a friend who swears by Earthworks' microphones, but I don't like them... never mind that these are $1000 mics.

As for the mics you've asked about, I'd choose the 414s because the Oktava mic you listed is a small-diaphragm condenser, which I don't like for recording piano (purely a matter of taste). However, the 414 is total overkill if you plan on doing recording at home unless you happen to have a concert grand and a nice recording space. The 414 is also a waste if you plan on listening to your recordings through iPod earbuds or average computer speakers.

I have used M-Audio Nova mics for the past four years in a variety of applications from a capella choir to full-blown orchestra with piano in a 1250 seat recital hall. They are only $100 each, but sound on par with more expensive mics. Personally, I preferred the recordings that I made with these mics over recordings that my school's recording department made. I'd also try any microphone by Rode, especially the NT1-A. Other good options are the Shure KSM 44 or anything by Neumann. Blue is another interesting company, but most of its mics look rather fragile.

Anyway, I recommend getting the Rode NT1-A ($229 each) and pocket the money you didn't spend on the 414.
Posted by: MooseVegas

Re: best microphones for recording piano? - 08/19/09 06:14 PM

This may sound strange, but I always use Shure SM55's... the Elvis Microphone. I've tried plenty of others, but nothing compares to the clarity of the 55.
Posted by: Paul in FWB

Re: best microphones for recording piano? - 08/19/09 07:00 PM

I've been lurking hoping someone would describe their experience with the Kawai PR-1 Acoustic Piano recording system.

http://kawaius.com/main_links/grands_09/PR-1/pr-1.html
Posted by: rodmichael

Re: best microphones for recording piano? - 08/19/09 08:22 PM

Originally Posted By: Paul in FWB
I've been lurking hoping someone would describe their experience with the Kawai PR-1 Acoustic Piano recording system.

http://kawaius.com/main_links/grands_09/PR-1/pr-1.html


I could only find it available on UK sites, 500 to 600 British pounds (probably about $1000 US).
Posted by: Seeker

Re: best microphones for recording piano? - 08/19/09 11:34 PM

Originally Posted By: Dave Ferris


After many months on Gearslutz reading every possible opinion on piano mics, preamps, converters and speaking with several in demand engineer people here in town that specialize in recording Acoustic Jazz, I bought a pair of the DPA 4011s for my D. Not cheap but they made a HUGE difference in the sound quality from the lesser mics I was trying out.

I also spent a ton of dough on a used Crane Song Spider. It's a high end mixer, preamp, A/D converter all in one. Very happy with the sound for what I do...Jazz.
http://www.divshare.com/download/7956341-467

Hey Dave,

Nice playing, nice piano, nice recording!

To my ears, the DPA microphones are really transparent sounding. (I wonder how they stack up against Earthworks?) It sounded to me as if you had them placed behind where the music rack would have been if you had it on the piano, one pointing a bit left and place left of c4, the other right,placed right of c5, maybe 6 to 12 inches above the strings. Am I close on your placement?

Thanks for your post and your recording.
Posted by: Grandpianoman

Re: best microphones for recording piano? - 08/20/09 01:53 AM

I have been using a pair of Rode NT5's and the Zoom H4 with excellent results. Mics placed under the lid of the piano, here are a few recent examples:


Dick Hyman plays Fats Waller on the LX:
http://www.box.net/shared/3ql8orkf2m
http://www.box.net/shared/hutjvzm757

Steve Allen "The Shadow Of Your Smile" on the LX http://www.box.net/shared/a7kkghvxti

From the movie "Sleepless in Seattle" http://www.box.net/shared/gdl2r08xy2

Steve Allen on the LX: http://www.box.net/shared/gmr3y5scmj
Posted by: Kurtmen

Re: best microphones for recording piano? - 08/20/09 11:25 AM

I have been getting very positive feedback from customers who purchased Kawai's PR-1.
They were sold to a few Universities and professional pianist.
It is user friendly and the recording quality is excellent. The best part is that has been designed for acoustic piano recording.
Posted by: Ed A. Hall

Re: best microphones for recording piano? - 08/20/09 02:17 PM

"To my ears, the DPA microphones are really transparent sounding. (I wonder how they stack up against Earthworks?)"

Seeker,
If you're interested, I'll dig up some of my recordings using a pair of Earthworks Mics.
Posted by: Dave Ferris

Re: best microphones for recording piano? - 09/02/09 02:56 AM

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Posted by: charleslang

Re: best microphones for recording piano? - 09/02/09 03:27 AM

I just ordered a pair of Rode NT1-A mics because they had a crazy promotion going just in August where if you buy one you get an M1, M2 or M3 for $1. So I'm going to get an M2 and an M3 as well as the NT1-A's. I'll post what I get out of them once they're here.

Right now I have one mic that I like, a Sterling Audio tube mic, ST66. I've been using it in stereo with a CAD GXL-2400, sometimes with a GXL-1200 under the piano also. The CADs are just not very good though so I'm planning on using the NT1-A's with the ST66.
Posted by: beethoven986

Re: best microphones for recording piano? - 09/02/09 04:06 AM

I'll be interested to know what you think of the NT1A.
Posted by: Hop

Re: best microphones for recording piano? - 09/02/09 09:35 AM

Originally Posted By: grandpianoman
I have been using a pair of Rode NT5's and the Zoom H4 with excellent results. Mics placed under the lid of the piano, (stuff deleted)


Grandpianoman:

I have been considering the Zoom products, either H4 or Q3. How do the self-contained mikes on the H4 compare with the Rode NT5s? I was hoping that I could place the entire device over the piano, at the open lid.

Hop
Posted by: Paul in FWB

Re: best microphones for recording piano? - 09/02/09 11:48 AM

Has anyone tried the Ridgeview Piano Transducer?

It's certainly inexpensive enough to purchase just to experiment with!

Paul
Posted by: Hop

Re: best microphones for recording piano? - 09/02/09 01:06 PM

Looks interesting. I wonder if the overtones are captured well? As you say, experimenting might be worth it.

Hop
Posted by: jazzpianist

Re: best microphones for recording piano? - 09/02/09 01:46 PM

Originally Posted By: SeilerFan
AKG C-414 is an awesome microphone. I've used them before and the quality is professional. There are two versions, the B-ULS (silver color) and a gold-colored version that highlights certain frequencies (designed for singers, I believe). Altogether, the C-414 delivers a warm yet puristic sound.


I agree. I have had some absolutely superb results, both in making private recordings at home and also with an engineer operating his own.
Posted by: DavidKitazono

Re: best microphones for recording piano? - 09/03/09 12:27 AM





































AKG C-414 are excellent mics. I've also had excellent results with Schoeps and, probably my favorite, vintage tube Neumann mics. The tubes add a warmth to digital recordings, and to my ears, sound even better than a good tube pre-amp.
If you have a chance, try to find a studio and engineer that still has a Studer 1/2 track analog tape recorder running at 30 inches per second. This, combined with some nice Neumann tube mics, a transparent, clean mixer, and a great sounding room/hall, is my idea of aural ecstacy! Being a bit of a retro-grouch, even though digital specs look better on paper, a great analog set-up is hard to beat!
Posted by: Dave Ferris

Re: best microphones for recording piano? - 09/03/09 03:09 AM

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Posted by: charleslang

Re: best microphones for recording piano? - 09/07/09 06:41 PM

Originally Posted By: beethoven986
I'll be interested to know what you think of the NT1A.


OK I got them and have made a recording. They sound good alone in stereo, but for this recording I added a Sterling Audio ST66 tube mic (about a 400 dollar mic I got used for 200). The right channel is pure Rode NT1A, and the left channel is the other NT1A together with the ST66.

It's an unusual setup that took me all day to find -- the right NT1A and the ST66 are in X-Y configuration above the pin block, pointing toward the logo on the soundboard roughly. The other NT1A is only about an inch above the treble bridge, pointing directly at the bridge, just below the bar that separates the highest treble section from the next section.

I did some EQ processing, but there is no added reverb. There is a tiny bit of echo that I accidentally left on but I don't think you can even hear it. I know youtube isn't the most hi-fi for audio but there is still an audible improvement over my other mics. I can still imagine a better sound but for the price the NT1As were well worth buying for me. (These are actually re-boxed mics that were 170 dollars each, about 60 dollars less than the usual new price). It's hard to ask for more than this for that price.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D8uGhvDuF4I&fmt=18
Posted by: Fun

Re: best microphones for recording piano? - 09/15/09 02:13 AM

Originally Posted By: grandpianoman
I have been using a pair of Rode NT5's and the Zoom H4 with excellent results. Mics placed under the lid of the piano, here are a few recent examples:


Dick Hyman plays Fats Waller on the LX:
http://www.box.net/shared/3ql8orkf2m
http://www.box.net/shared/hutjvzm757

Steve Allen "The Shadow Of Your Smile" on the LX http://www.box.net/shared/a7kkghvxti

From the movie "Sleepless in Seattle" http://www.box.net/shared/gdl2r08xy2

Steve Allen on the LX: http://www.box.net/shared/gmr3y5scmj

Grandpianoman, I think the sound quality of your recordings are very good. Do you use the XY configuration? You mentioned the mics are under the lid. Is it placed above the middle-C and what's the distance from the string?

I am currently using a Studio Project B1 mic and Presonus Firebox. I'm not sure whether I should pickup another B1 (and a microphone stand), or go with a different pairs of microphone. The mono recordings using the B1 is ok, but not as good as many examples I've seen. I don't know whether it's a mic placement issue, characteristics of the mic issue (it appears the B1 is more for vocal recording), or single-mic issue. Any advice?
Posted by: Grandpianoman

Re: best microphones for recording piano? - 09/15/09 02:41 AM

Hi Fun,

Thanks for the positives!

I don't think I use an X-Y config...the way mine are set up is that the treble mic is set fairly high above the 5th-6th octave, perhaps 15-20 inches or so, facing straight down, and the bass mic is set lower towards the strings, face down, in the middle of the 1-2 octaves. The mic positions of both these pieces are the same. There is a LOT of sound energy going on with the mics in such close proximity to the stings...the Rode NT5's seem to handle this with no distortion etc. For all of you who have a Zoom H4, I set both mic switch positions to LOW with no limiting etc. In this position, one is going to pic up a bit of action noise etc.

Here are a few more recordings of the LX with this same configuration.

"Fascination" on the LX http://www.box.net/shared/3ivfosjnz6

This is an LX scan of the Ampico roll "Am Sergestade" played by Margarite Volavy on the LX. This is a quite a piece, thunderous lows and beautiful glissandi etc. http://www.box.net/shared/pmie73stex

The bass energy of this roll is so extreme, that it starts a buzzing somewhere in the bass area of the piano...something I am going to have to try and eliminate.

Try listening to these with a pair of headphones, such as for an IPod or portable CD player...much better sound.

Hope this helps.....:)
Posted by: Fun

Re: best microphones for recording piano? - 09/15/09 12:05 PM

Grandpianoman, very nice indeed. So, based on the description of your mics configuration, I assume you have two mic stands? I'm considering the Rode NT5 and the M-audio Pulsar II mentioned in this thread. I'll see whether I can find a local store that have them.
Posted by: Grandpianoman

Re: best microphones for recording piano? - 09/15/09 01:44 PM

Hi Fun,

Yes,that is correct, 2 boom mic stands. I don't think you can go wrong with the NT5's Of course there are better mics out there for the piano, but they cost a lot more.

Here is another LX recording, using the same mic configuration as above.

"Dancing in the Dark" on the LX. http://www.box.net/shared/eb4bmh0uoa
Posted by: Ed A. Hall

Re: best microphones for recording piano? - 09/15/09 04:53 PM

Originally Posted By: Seeker

To my ears, the DPA microphones are really transparent sounding. (I wonder how they stack up against Earthworks?)


Here's some samples from my Earthworks mics on a rebuilt Baldwin baby grand.

Recording 1

Recording 2
Posted by: charleslang

Re: best microphones for recording piano? - 09/25/09 12:35 AM

In the relatively low budget range, I recorded a very short passage mono with an NT1A ($229) and then with a Sterling Audio ST-66 tube microphone ($399). Though the tone of my piano is not great at this point, I think the ST-66 is better. I might buy a second one so that I can record in stereo. Here is the clip; the NT1A is the first mic and the ST-66 the second one (same location same shock mount):

NT1A and ST-66

(I had the level slightly too high so there is a bit of cutting out but I think you can still notice a difference).
Posted by: charleslang

Re: best microphones for recording piano? - 09/25/09 11:06 PM

Yet another try -- I did some tuning (though I'm still not quite done, it sounds much better), and this is with two NT1A mics. The positioning was not ideal (both at the treble end of the piano), but it is much better than previous recordings I made. The trouble with the ST-66 is that it picks up so much of the high frequencies that there is noise (like my computer running). The NT1A's might end up being enough for me once I get the tuning and positioning right:

NT1A's in stereo
Posted by: Fun

Re: best microphones for recording piano? - 09/27/09 02:52 AM

Based on the earlier comments and examples mentioned in this thread, I decided to purchase a pair of M-audio Pulsar II. Just received them and did a quick recording of my Estonia. I'm rather pleased with the result. Here's the clip:
Chopin Waltz in A Minor
Posted by: Nikolas

Re: best microphones for recording piano? - 09/27/09 03:10 AM

Originally Posted By: beethoven986
It all depends on what you want and what the application is and your budget because every microphone is different. I have a friend who swears by Earthworks' microphones, but I don't like them... never mind that these are $1000 mics.
I have the QTC40 (Earthworks, around $2,500 a pair) and I totally ADORE them! They are crispy clear and very well made for the occasion of recording a piano. Problem is that it just reveals all problems a piano might have and while on a Steinway and a concert hall you would get a superb sound, on another place and another piano, things might not be ideal, sadly!

But I still adore my QTC40! smile
Posted by: Hop

Re: best microphones for recording piano? - 09/27/09 03:10 PM

Originally Posted By: Fun
Based on the earlier comments and examples mentioned in this thread, I decided to purchase a pair of M-audio Pulsar II. Just received them and did a quick recording of my Estonia. I'm rather pleased with the result. Here's the clip:
Chopin Waltz in A Minor


Nice recording; liked the Waltz. I've never played or heard live an Estonia, so this was quite interesting to me. On the recording it sounds somewhat bright to me, but pleasingly so. Is that the way you hear it live?

Hop
Posted by: Grandpianoman

Re: best microphones for recording piano? - 09/27/09 06:57 PM

Hi Fun,

Very nice, I enjoyed your playing and the recording. It sounds like those mics are very good, and your Estonia piano has a very nice sound to it.
Posted by: Fun

Re: best microphones for recording piano? - 09/27/09 11:56 PM

Hop, the recorded sound is slightly brighter than the live sound. The piano sounds a bit "thicker" live. I'll experiment with different mic position, and maybe some EQ. But I kind of like the sparkle in the recording.

Grandpianoman, thanks for your compliments and your helps in this thread. Since the M-audio are the cheapest mics I found that seems to capture nice sound for others, I decided to give it a shot before trying other more expensive alternatives. I think it's good enough for me. The Rode, Earthworks and others mentioned in this thread sound really amazing though!