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Thread: Thoughts on the Mic CD

  1. #1
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    Default Thoughts on the Mic CD

    Lynn,

    Given the natural variation in human performance, I was wondering whether the following technique would yield a more accurate comparison of mics:

    Record the vocal excerpt with the highest quality, most neutral chain possible. Then play that back through an extremely flat moniter. Then mic the monitor as if it were the vocal source. That way the subtle vocal variations would not alter the impression of a given mic.

    Of course one could argue that the original chain is adding "something," but at least it would be the same "something," thereby cancelling itself out in the assessment. It seems like there is much more variation in human performance to skew perception than would be the original vocal chain.

    Any thoughts?

    Thanks,
    Mike

  2. #2
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    I tried this once and always felt like mic'ing up a speaker sounded like a mic'ed up speaker and not the original voice.

    Not to mention all that's lost by the reproduction chain vs. the original source.

    --Jim
    Jim Dugger
    Poorhouse Productions

    At 20 bits, you are on the verge of dynamic range covering fly-farts-at-20-feet to untolerable pain. Really, what more could we need?

  3. #3
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    I've been back and forth on this issue so many times in the past three years. It boils down to this:

    Repeatability vs. Authenticity.

    How many here audition mics or preamps by running a signal through a speaker in front of fhe mic?

    Now, how many here have someone actually sing into a mic (or several) to decide how it sounds? If we judge mics that way in the real world in the studio on a daily basis, why is it not good enough for comparing them that way on a CD?

    I had this discussion just a few days ago, again. If the goal is to reduce variables, then having a perfectly reproducible source seems ideal. Until you consider the playback source.
    Let's trace it back from the air in front of the mic and see how many new variables are introduced.

    Speaker placement
    Speaker
    Speaker cables
    Amplifier
    Cabling
    Playback DAC
    Recording medium
    Recording ADC
    Cabling
    Preamp
    Cabling
    Mic
    Vocalist positioning

    So in order to reduce one variable, we are introducing 13 more. I just don't understand how that makes sense.

    Until I meet someone who auditions microphones without having a singer sing into them and has perfected that technique (which I honestly was considering just 9 hours ago-trying to come up with a more precise model), then I'll keep doing it the way I've always done. Line up all the mics and have one singer sing into each one. Then decide which one I like best.
    Lynn Fuston
    3D Audio

    Making beautiful music SEEM easy since 1979.

  4. #4
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    Originally posted by mchimes:
    <STRONG>Record the vocal excerpt with the highest quality, most neutral chain possible. Then play that back through an extremely flat moniter.</STRONG>
    Therein lies the rub. Or two or three. What constitutes the "most neutral" chain? Which is the most "extremely flat monitor"? And at what position do you put the mic?

    I honestly can't think of a single mic manufacturer that would relish the thought of having their work evaluated on the basis of a recording chain that started with someone else's mic. Judging a Manley Gold by playing back a recording made with a U67? You think that would go over big?

    Some of it is politics. Some is science. Some is technology. But mostly it's about translating the human voice in the most flattering way possible. I can't figure out how to do that any other way.

    Have you listened to the Mic CD? Were the performances so different that you couldn't judge which mic you preferred? To my ear, they are the most consistent performances I've ever heard, considering they spanned a six hour recording session. I think the singers did an admirable job.
    Lynn Fuston
    3D Audio

    Making beautiful music SEEM easy since 1979.

  5. #5
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    Yamaha and others make MIDI acoustic pianos with solenoids that are supposedly capable of reproducing subtle and sensitive playing.

    There is a thing called a
    guitarbot
    which will take MIDI and play it on guitar.

    And a thing called a Rotomoton that does the same thing for drums with 16 bit dynamics.

    Of course that still leaves vocals. I shudder to imagine the science fiction scenario that gives us MIDI vocals!
    Until then we will have to rely on pro singers with great chops doing the best they can to be consistent. Having heard some of these comparison CDs I would have to say its good enough for me.

  6. #6
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    Originally posted by joeq:
    <STRONG>Yamaha and others make MIDI acoustic pianos with solenoids that are supposedly capable of reproducing subtle and sensitive playing.

    There is a thing called a
    guitarbot
    which will take MIDI and play it on guitar.

    And a thing called a Rotomoton that does the same thing for drums with 16 bit dynamics.

    Of course that still leaves vocals. I shudder to imagine the science fiction scenario that gives us MIDI vocals!
    Until then we will have to rely on pro singers with great chops doing the best they can to be consistent. Having heard some of these comparison CDs I would have to say its good enough for me.</STRONG>
    I'll have to check into the automated drummer and guitar player. The Yamaha Disklavier system was also considered but ruled out for the first CD because fewer people were interested in hearing acoustic piano, although I thought it would be an excellent choice.

    On the Mic CD, I was originally going to do female voice and cello. The male vocal was an 11th hour substitution.
    Lynn Fuston
    3D Audio

    Making beautiful music SEEM easy since 1979.

  7. #7
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    "Have you listened to the Mic CD? Were the performances so different that you couldn't judge which mic you preferred? To my ear, they are the most consistent performances I've ever heard, considering they spanned a six hour recording session. I think the singers did an admirable job."

    Yes I have the CD and it has been very enlightening. It continues to be a valuable resource for me . . . and yes the performances are remarkably consistent.

    But what got me thinking more about this was when I was editing my vocals the other day and I knew everything I did and how everything felt and how they ended up sounding. I was struck by the sublties of performance that were guiding my "keeper" selections and many of these involved small tonal shifts, nuance, singing level, accuracy, intensity, etc.

    I know there are trade-offs in the process . . . I was just thinking that perhaps the "repeatability model" might also yield enlightening results. Maybe you could offer both models (repeatability vs. authenticity)on the next disc. Again . . . I'm not complaining (I really value the mic CD) just commenting on possible variations that might also be useful.

    As far as the initial recording and playback chain and all the techincal stuff . . . Could an authoritative consensus be drawn (by poll of experts)that presented the most neutral chain currently thought available?

    Of course people will disagree, but there is a chain out there that comes (arguably) the closest to natural production of sound.

    Given the possibilties of tonal variation in the human voice from even one phrase to the next, couldn't whatever "coloration" or "character" or "something" added by the playback chain just be "zeroed" out as a new tone (but one that will not change throughout the process).

    Anyway . . . just thinking about it all,

    Thanks,
    Mike

  8. #8
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    Originally posted by mchimes:
    <STRONG>. . Could an authoritative consensus be drawn (by poll of experts)that presented the most neutral chain currently thought available?
    </STRONG>
    Yes, and there can be peace in the Middle East.

    George Massenburg thinks there is one best chain. John LaGrou of Millennia thinks there is one best chain. John Hardy thinks there is one best chain. Do you see what I mean?

    Sorry if I sounded annoyed. It's just that I hear the "speaker in front of a mic" suggestion about once a week. Do that for three years and it starts seeming like Chinese water torture.

    I've tried the speaker in front of a mic technique. It was indeed repeatable. But not nearly as enlightening. Who can say why for sure?
    Lynn Fuston
    3D Audio

    Making beautiful music SEEM easy since 1979.

  9. #9
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    Guess I'll do a search next time . . . sorry.

    Thanks,
    Mike

  10. #10
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    Originally posted by mchimes:
    <STRONG>Guess I'll do a search next time . . . sorry.
    </STRONG>
    Mike,

    No offence taken. Sorry if it felt like I was railing on you. Rest assured that you will not be the last to suggest it. It is indeed a valid idea, but just not as enlightening in my opinion.
    Lynn Fuston
    3D Audio

    Making beautiful music SEEM easy since 1979.

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