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Thread: The Mic CD

  1. #1
    Kevin Perry is offline Gold Club Member (1000+ posts)
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    The Mic CD

    Hey Lynn, (and everyone) just wanted to say how great the mic CD is. Just a classy package and an amazing product.

    On the drive back home from picking it up at Lynn's house I nearly ran off the road listening and looking. Even in my explorer going down the road at 7omph the differences were easily discernable.

    But then I got home and fired it up with my Sony MDR-7506 headphones and my mid-to-late 80's JVC CD player. Plugging right into the headphone out of the JVC the differences were so subtle I wanted to chuck that CD player with it's cruddy D/A across the room.

    Reminding me boys and girls, that its all about how you listen.
    Kevin Perry
    Chameleon Music
    Nashville, TN

  2. #2
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    There are so many variables when listening to any prerecorded source. Last fall when I participated in the Verance SDMI Watermarking tests, the second round of tests were held at a multi-million dollar studio here in Nashville.

    When I went in and listened on the main speakers (soffit mounted Hidley design), there was something wrong. There were first reflections coming at me from somewhere and the result was so disconcerting that I could barely hear anything because of it.

    Later I found out that the reflections were caused by 2" gaps in the meter bridge of the SSL 9000J where the console wrapped around. They had made plugs for them, but for some reason they had been taken out.

    All that money invested in a room and a monitoring system, only to be defeated by two 2" by 4" chunks of foam.

    When dealing with hearing and perception, the number of variables are nearly infinite.

    There are still people that claim to hear the directionality of wire and can routinely tell if anything in the signal path was digital. I know there are people that audition capacitors. And I've heard there are even some crazy people that audition dithers and word clocks.

    };-)
    Lynn Fuston
    3D Audio

    Making beautiful music SEEM easy since 1979.

  3. #3
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    A timely thread fo me as I just listened to the Mic CD again after a few months. I've changed my CD player and also added sub-bass to my monitoring. Ther whole thing was pretty confusing as this time I chose some mics that I didn't like before - for example the Manleys sound very much better than they did and I liked the sm57 for example, which I really hated the first time...

    funnily the M147 - which I use all the time -still just doesn't sound anything like the one I have whatever I listen to it through

    So I'm toying with the ideas:

    1. I have cloth-ears and don't know what I'm hearing or talking about

    2. my taste is changing somewhat

    3. my playback system has changed for more substantially than I realised

    4. My monitoring system is, or was, just hopeless

    Obviously 2 and 3 are preferable. The next thing I have to do is get a lightpipe output from my CD player going direct into my digital desk and listen again. This is the most "objective" signal path I can achieve here.

    I take this as further evidence of the great usefulness/danger of these CDs.

    (I'd probably buy a DA/dither CD even though it would doubtless drive me insane. I'd much prefer another mic CD - I know you've covered most of the classics but there's so much out there (vintage geffels, studio projects, DPA, Rode, octava, AKG451, hebden audio (calrec) and PZMs spring immediately to mind)


    Richard

  4. #4
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    I think we've all experienced this. I know that if I listen to something through my 888/24 compared to my Mytek 8x96, the differences are so drastic that it even makes something I mixed sounds like something someone else mixed.

    In terms of music and acoustics, there are few absolutes. Except that sound travels in air at 1120 ft/sec at 70 F.

    I'm not surprised that you came up with different results. I've heard from people that preferred one mic in their car, a different mic in their house and a third mic in their studio.What you look for is patterns of what is best and which mic/gear sounds best on most voices or instruments most of the time.

    Chalk it up to experience.

    Honestly, there were mics that I liked on the Mic CD that have lost in every single shootout I've ever done. Boy, was I surprised!
    Lynn Fuston
    3D Audio

    Making beautiful music SEEM easy since 1979.

  5. #5
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    Stating the MAJORLY obvious...

    I have read the conversation amongst most of you regarding this group of recordings; Mic-CD, the Pre CD, etc... and I am humbled and impressed with the ability of some of you to discern the subtle variances from one mic to another or one pre to another. Personally, I am not even CLOSE to knowing if I'm hearing 1st, 2nd, 3rd or 15th reflections in a room.

    One thing that just came to mind for me though was something that always rings true to me. We - as professionals at what we do - can get caught up in the meticulous details of our craft(s) and it IS important.. but what it really boils down to is GOOD music, GOOD musicians & GOOD performances.

    If I had to make a choice between hearing a mediocre band that was engineered masterfuly, all the right mic's, pre's, placement, etc. and just recorded wonderfully... OR An INCREDIBLE band with GREAT music, recorded using Radio Shack microphones and built-in board pre's... I have a feeling that there would be longevity in the better music, not the better recording.

    As a drummer, I have MY preferrences from years of experience... I like Birch shells, single ply Evans G1 heads, Die Cast rims and a "melodic" or "Open" tuning.

    Would anyone ever notice the difference...? maybe... but I know that I know the difference.

    I guess all this babbling boils down to the obvious point of: It's more about the performance & the performer, than HOW it is captured... I TRULY TRULY TRULY do understand the MAJOR importance of everything from engineering to mastering, but if the source is crap... the end result is crap.

    Once you have experienced and talented performers... how important is the difference between pre#1 & pre#2 (In the GRAND scheme of things)...?

    (It's actually a rhetorical question... I DO know it's important) I am just a novice that can't hear the difference (yet) between one pre and another.

    Anyhow, we now return you to your regularly scheduled message board... already in progress...

    - beeep -
    Scott Finlayson
    RockkStar Productions

  6. #6
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    Scott,

    Have recently experienced this on a project were the drums, bass, keys and guitar have been recorded (badly) on an old Fostex R8 8 track (Dolby C - ouch) in a basement and transferred to the studio 24 track. The songs are quite good, some of the lyrics are brilliant. I had to record lead vocals filling in for another engineer. I had my Buzz MA2.2 preamp and SOC1.1 compressor hooked up to a TLM170 and the singers sounded fantastic - but - I could not enjoy the music because of the bad sounds of everything else.

    I suppose if I was just hearing the completed project for the first time it may not bug me, but sloppy recording and bad production I cannot handle if I am involved, no matter how good the tune/song may be. In this case it is a pity because I know most of the guys in the band fairly well, but they are on a budget and I do not want to "blow their bubble", as it were.

    In many cases I feel, good tunes have been lost forever due to poor production standards and therefore little or no promotion activity.

    Tim.
    Buzz Audio THE FUTURE OF GREAT RECORDINGS
    http://www.buzzaudio.com

  7. #7
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    In reply to Scott. I'm nuts about microphones and spend far more money than I have on them. In approx 2 minutes I'm going to buy a bargain Rode Classic with my visa which I CANNOT afford... stupid eh? especially when I consider than one of my favorite recordings ever was made (not by me, but I was there) with a single Radio Shack PZM going into an ageing Tascam portastudio (tracks 18-30 Kenny Process team 94-97, Bingo Records BIN006 NYC)

    They are an extraordinary band, they played great, it was a great room and great night. They also mastered through a $4000 Chiswick Reach Valve Compressor but it sounded good anyway because the music was full of sweat energy, life and beauty and somehow they accidentally got the PZM in a perfect place.

    I'm also in love with Sidney bechet 78s (which just do not sound as good on CD) and Leadbelly recordings which you can hardly hear for the crackles, oh and Steely Dan's 2 Against Nature which is quite the opposite.

    Where am I going with this? Well basically I think you're right and I do think there's a danger in getting wrapped to much up with gear - but I also know that when I have a great singer in the booth and I try a couple of mikes and with one mic I just get the shivvers and play it back and she goes "oh god its THIS one, that's just how I imagine I sound" then all this mike stuff makes sense again.

    Its all still about music and making something human and immanent I believe. I think one reason mikes obsess me rather than say EQ or compressors (hey, I like those too...) is that each mike has the potential to be a kind of gateway to the soul. I truly believe that and I think we have a kind of reposnisility to make what we record reflect it.

    Of course I might just be convincing myself that yet another mic and more debt is the right thing to do today!

    Amen

    Richard

  8. #8
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    Originally posted by Richard:
    <STRONG>Where am I going with this? Well basically I think you're right and I do think there's a danger in getting wrapped to much up with gear - but I also know that when I have a great singer in the booth and I try a couple of mikes and with one mic I just get the shivvers and play it back and she goes "oh god its THIS one, that's just how I imagine I sound" then all this mike stuff makes sense again.
    </STRONG>
    I've thought many times about how to respond when someone says "It's just the music. The technical stuff is insignificant."

    Comparatively, I must agree. I would rather hear a "technically challenged" recording of a great performance than a technically great recording of a "musically challenged" performance.

    But when the musical parts and the technical parts are both done well, then the result can be transcendent. We all have recordings that meet those criteria. One of them for me is George Massenburg's production/engineering of Flim and the BeBe's "New Pants." Absolutely amazing performances of great music, superbly engineered.

    Those are the times that you live for as an engineer, when it all comes together. You'll know it when it happens, and breathe deep and soak up every second of it, because they don't come along that often. I've had more than my fair share of them.

    But even then, you never know what the outcome will be. I will NEVER forget working with one artist, who was singing a song that we had all heard before. Then in one pass, everything changed. Everyone in the control room was silent (and there were about a dozen). It was magic. Everyone had goosebumps. It was a transcendent moment. The producer and I both knew that it was magic.

    BUT.....the executive producer whose ham-fisted techniques and tin ears had frustrated many attempts at music happened to be there and he said "one more time." This was the last track on the 2" and as much as I fought, the tape rolled again and the lead vocal track went into record again and no one but the handful of us who were there will ever know that transcendent moment. No one. Ever.

    And just recently I recorded a 40 piece string session for an artist whose name many of you would recognize. The arranger did an astounding job. And the strings sounded, if I may say so myself, absolutely georgeous. Lush, warm, "wrap around you like you are swimming in a cloud" sounding. It was a huge room. I was using M49s overhead and everything came together. It sounded astounding.

    BUT.....I just heard the mix (which I did not get to do) and was surprised to find out that you can actually hear the strings in only two places in the song. One for about two bars and one for about twelve bars. The rest of it sounds like a decent synth patch, which they were embarassed about but left in just enough so that you could tell it was there. The arrangement, which had such a keen spirit and wonderful line to it, with dyanmics and shape unlike any other arrangement I've recorded in the past 10 years, was decimated. It was completely obliterated. Even the executive producer, when hearing the mix, said "I wonder why they didn't just use 6 string players, for all the difference it made?"

    fortunately I had the foresight and experience to know to make a rough mix of the string session that I can keep and listen to just to remind myself of its glory. That's the best thing.

    So enjoy those times when they come along. They are what remind us of why we got in this business in the first place.
    Lynn Fuston
    3D Audio

    Making beautiful music SEEM easy since 1979.

  9. #9
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    CLARIFICATION:

    I may have stated my case ambiguously... but to clarify, I DO understand that from engineering to mastering is VERY important. What I failed to convey is that human experience and intelligence is more important than the gear.

    I'm sure if Lynn was using OUR project studio with it's Mackie, XT-20's, Presonus compression, 4050 mic's, etc... and I was using Lynn's studio (of which I have NO experience) I'm sure Lynn would be able to do a FANTASTIC job with the entry-mid level gear, whilst I would fail miserably with all the "high-end" gear.

    The gear is the gear... it's what you DO with it that matters. So, to tie this back to my original response, once you "know what you're doing"... do you think that you get diminishing returns on such elaborate investments...? If I'm using a $2k mic pre... will a $6k mic pre sound 3X as good...? I tend to think not.

    (Again, remember, I am a novice, so there's a tendancy for me to speak from my rectal cavity at times)

    Before I put BOTH feet in my mouth, I'll leave this topic as is. I guess I'm just jealous that I do not have the "ear" that most of you have.
    Scott Finlayson
    RockkStar Productions

  10. #10
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    FWIW, let me give you my perspective. I'm mostly a lurker on this (and the old) board, sitting back and listening. I don't do this for a living, although I played music professionally for many years (don't any more, though). So I'm pretty much a novice, too.

    Having said that (and I agree with the "it's the players and music that matter most), I was absolutely stunned by the change I could hear when I replaced the stock converters on my Mackie d8b with a set of Myteks. It's not so much each individual track, but everything just blossoms when you have a number of tracks--the effect is cumulative.

    Even more amazing was the difference just using the Mytek's wordclock as the master instead of the Apogee card in the Mackie. Very noticeable difference in soundstage and clarity. And it's not just me--there were two other engineers (both experienced professionals, unlike me) who also were astounded at how noticeable it was. We also A/B'ed to a MOTU 1296--it sounded a bit better than the Mackie, although it was close, but the Mytek was leagues better.

    Anyway, I figure if I can hear this stuff, you can too.

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