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May 03, 2005

Soundwave Research Mics

This past weekend, I got to do something that I’ve never done before: I recorded an organ recital performed by Dr. Leon Tilson Burrows and Karen Whitney at Springfield’s Old First Church. My recording setup consisted of my Marantz PMD670 solid state recorder and two ribbon microphones in a stereo Blumlein configuration (the microphones are not generally available yet, but if you’re interested in them, I would suggest that you watch this space over the next couple of days). While I have probably made dozens (if not hundreds) of audio recordings for noise control and diagnostic purposes, but this is the first time I’ve attempted to make a music recording. I discussed this effort with several friends and colleagues, many of whom shared stories of ‘professionally-made’ recordings that did not come out well. No pressure.

All-in-all, the recording came out fairly well. The biggest problem came about because of my choice of microphone placement. If you click on the picture above, you’ll see that the microphones are only located a few feet above the proscenium floor. I didn’t want the microphone stands to block the line-of-sight between the audience and the performers, so that limited my choice of mic placement. As a result, footfalls on the stage and on the organ pedals were audible throughout the recording.

I spent yesterday preparing a CD of the recording - the basic steps included down-sampling from 48kHz to 44.1kHz, applying compression, applying gain to some of the annotations, and editing ‘dead air.’ Some lessons I learned:

These are certainly not earth-shattering insights for experienced recording engineers, but it is interesting to walk in their shoes for a bit.

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ExtremeTech has published an outstanding article on THX’s approach to providing a great sounding audio system. I’m particularly happy that both THX and the article stress the important of room acoustics to the overall sound. My only complaints with the article are that the author confuses resonance with modal behavior, and that he confuses the effects of absorption and diffusion.

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