Opinion on Music Recording
recording is not easy and I am no expert on this, but I want to inform you about
some acoustical facts that concern microphone placement and the resulting sound.
I prefer 'real stereo' recordings made with only two microphones at some distance because of the alive sound this gives and there is an easy explanation to why it sounds more alive. With an omni-directional microphone the sound is reduced with 6dB per doubling of the distance, and when the microphone is placed near for instance a cello (let's say 5 cm) the sound level from the strings will be around 6dB higher than the reflected sound from the cello box. The box resonance will be even more reduced in level, not to mention the reflexes from the walls and floor. There is NO possibility that the resulting sound will be the same as that you experience when hearing a live cello. If the microphone is placed further away (let' say 1m) the reduction in levels from the resonance box and the room reverberance will be fairly small compared to the close miked case because a doubling of the distance (-6dB) is now 1m instead of 5cm.
Why is this close mike technique so common then?
The probable reason is that you get a more detailed sound with ordinary HiFi equipment. I can not do much about the fact that most recordings use this method, but I want to point out that when you compare HiFi equipment you shall never use close miked recordings to find out which is the most correct sounding. If we take the close mike cello example above it is possible that a box speaker with the correct box resonance spectra placed close to the walls will make the cello sound better than a free standing low coloration loudspeaker, but this does not implicate that the box speaker is the better loudspeaker over all. With other recordings this added sound will only be irritating, so in order to find out which equipment is the most accurate sounding there is no way around the 'real stereo' recordings.
Another problem with live multi-mike recordings (less so with close mikes) is that in the mixing process cancellation occur, this is the reason for the poor bass performance on many live recordings.
Yesterday I played a Decca CD with:
Concierto de Aranjuez, by Rodrigo
Rapsodia Española, by Albéniz and
Rapsodia Sinfónica, by Turina.
recording inspired me to write this page, the sound is very good and especially
the 'Rapsodia Española' sounded great. Decca has always been faithful
to old recording techniques and use tube microphones in some kind of tree configuration
that I am not familiar with, but the result is almost always very good. With
high quality equipment Decca recordings sounds just right, but on lower quality
equipment the sound can be a little dark and muddy, but that is only because
the coloration in the playback system is not low enough to let the details come
through. The sound on the mentioned record is very relaxed and free from the
normal 'high frequency fnizzle'. The crescendos sound incredibly powerful and
controlled with NO clipping tendencies thanks to the distant microphones and
tube input stages. The soundstage appears as if you were seated on about the
15th row looking down on the performers and the guitar on the Rodrigo piece
sounds just about right (I think that a support microphone has been used). The
grand piano on the other pieces sounds fantastic, with lots of detail, believable
scale, impressing dynamics and you can easily hear the difference in tone from
the different kind of strings used in a piano as well as the pedal action. With
distant microphones you also get some traffic noise from outside, but that only
enhances the listening experience.
There are a number of enthusiast recording companies that make 'real stereo' recordings. I will only mention two Swedish ones that I am familiar with and these are also quite famous all over the world:
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