Old Production Takes From an Old Guy

Month: June 2010 (Page 2 of 2)

Love Languages for Techies

The other day I wrote a post over at Church Production Magazine about the Five Love Languages for Techies. You may have heard about the regular Five Love Languages, but we techies are wired a bit different, and thus have our own. You may be surprised when you learn your love language. Chances are, it involves bacon.

Read the article full article.

SoCal Area CTDRT Meet Up June 28

Back in March, nearly 20 TDs from all over SoCal gathered at Coast Hills to meet, laugh and hang out. We had a great time. In fact, it was such a good time that we’ve decided to do it again. On June 28, we will once again come together, this time at Rancho Community Church in Temecula.

We’ll be making a few changes to the program this time around, most notably, we’re working on getting some new gear in to play with. Details are being worked out, but I think it’s going to be fun. I’m also working on getting sponsorship to fund lunch; so if you’re a manufacturer or distributor and would like to get face time with 20 or so TDs from the largest and most influential churches in SoCal, get in touch with me. Soon.

Here’s a link for registration; if you’re a TD in the SoCal area, you are welcome. You don’t have to be a member of CTDRT to come (though if you’re not a member,why not?). In fact, you don’t have to be from SoCal to come–we will be joined this time by special guest, and good friend of mine, Colin Burch all the way from Virginia. If Colin can come from VA, then you can make it to Temecula!

See you then!

UPDATE:

It has just been confirmed that Heil Sound will be providing lunch for the event. So in addition to getting hang with some other great TDs, and playing with some new gear, we also have free lunch. What’s better than that! Thanks to Bob & Sarah Heil, and to Greg McVeigh for making the call.

DPA 4099G Guitar Mic

And we’re back at it with some more DPA mics; this time the 4099G guitar mic. The 4099 is based on the same basic capsule as the 4098H choir mics and the SMK4081. The 4099, however, comes in a shock mounted, flexible boom that attaches to a very clever guitar body mount. One end of the mount hooks over the front of the body of the guitar, and the other end clips on the back. The rear of the mount slides back and forth on a plastic i-beam. You slide it to a size slightly smaller than the depth of the guitar body, then press the tabs together. This opens it up just enough to fit over the body. Let go and it snugs right up. It’s simple, clever and secure.

This is the clever mount that secures the mic to the guitar body.
The mic boom slides into a rubber socket, and a collar slides down over it to lock the two pieces together. It sounds a lot more complicated than it actually is, now that I’m writing it. It takes just a minute or so to get the mic positioned. Once it’s locked in, you are able to flex the mic to just the right position. You can swing it out more over the sound hole, or higher up on the neck. It’s easy to find a spot where it both sounds good and is out of the way of the player.

The collar slips over the mount to secure it in place.
Mounted, you now have lots of options.
Another view.
So the design is clever, how does it sound? In a word, great. Like every other DPA mic I’ve had the pleasure of using, this one sounds less like a mic and more like the instrument you are mic’ing. As with my piano mic test, I recruited our student ministries worship leader Luke Peach to play for me. He has a great-sounding Taylor with a built-in pickup. I used a Klark Technik DI for the pickup and recorded both the pickup and mic simultaneously through my M-Audio Fast Track Ultra. In the samples below, you’ll get a sense of the differences between the two sounds.

First up, here’s a 60 second clip. I switched from the DPA to the pickup roughly at the 10 second marks. Some cuts are obvious, others are not. The DPA gets the odd 10s, the pickup the evens. So, it goes, DPA -> Pickup -> DPA -> Pickup ->DPA -> Pickup. The EQ on both is totally flat, it’s exactly the way it came in to Reaper.

Now, I would almost never run an acoustic guitar totally flat. You can hear in both samples (and it’s a bit more pronounced with the DPA) the lower octave harmonics that color the sound somewhat unfavorably. So for the next few samples, I slid a high-pass filter with a hinge frequency of about 140 Hz in the chain. There are 4 samples, DPA, Pickup, DPA Pickup. It’s the exact same piece of music in 1 & 2, and another one in 3 & 4. These clips are a little longer so you can hear them a little better.

DPA Clip #1

Pickup Clip #1

DPA Clip #2

Pickup Clip #2

The Verdict

I really like the sound of this mic. With the high-pass in, it sounds clean and warm. More importantly, it sounds like Luke’s guitar. The pickup, while good, seems to add a bit of unnecessary sparkle that makes the upper strings sound a touch harsh. The downside of this mic (and any other mic on an acoustic guitar) is that it would pick up a lot of other stuff were it used in a live, full band setting. I don’t think I would use it on a normal weekend when we have electric guitars, drums, bass, keys, B3 and sax on stage. The pickup would give much better isolation in that case. However, on an acoustic weekend, it would be real tempting to throw this mic on a guitar. In the time I’ve had with it, I prefer the sound of the 4099G to that of  the pickup, the only real concern is isolation. In a studio, this would be a non-issue and I would use it in a heartbeat.

The 4099G retails for about $599 and is available now.

Sound Samples

Intercut Samples

DPA #1

DPA #2

Pickup #1

Pickup #2

UPDATE: So it seems that for some reason, Firefox does not support the player that I’m using for the embedded audio samples. I’m not yet sure of the cause; however, using Safari or Chrome would be a good way to listen to the clips. I’ll see what I can figure out with the player. Sorry for the inconvenience.

DPA SMK 4081 Stereo Mic Kit

Full disclosure: I’ve yet to hear a DPA mic that doesn’t sound great. OK, there. I’ve said it. Now we can get on with the review. A few weeks ago, DPA sent me a box full of mics. And there are few things that make me as happy as getting a box of mics. The box contained four 4088H Hanging Choir Mics (initially reviewed here), two 4099G Guitar Mics and a SMK 4081 Stereo Mic Kit. The 4081 contains two mics, two clip mounts, two magnet mounts and two XLR adapters. Between the clips and the magnet mounts, there are a wide variety of options for positioning the mics. The mics attach to the clips or magnets by way of a ball and socket joint, so it’s easy to position them just the way you want. About the only criticism I have of the mounting system is that the ball is right on the mic, so you can’t tip it too far in any direction. Not a deal breaker, but putting a slight stand-off on them would aid in positioning.

My purpose for testing these mics was for use in a closed-lid piano. I’ve tried to mic pianos will all sorts of mics over the years, and in a live setting, it’s near impossible to get the right balance of good sound and isolation from everything else on stage. We’re currently using a pair of Beta 91s inside the piano, and while they sound OK, they pick up everything else on stage. On my first day of testing with the 4081s, I found the same to be true, they picked up a lot of drums and bass (the piano sits next to the drum set). Isolation was still a problem, and I didn’t feel I could make a reasonable judgement of the sound quality under those conditions.

Both mics in the piano.
A clearer picture of the clever, magnetic mounting system. Very low profile.To try to establish a more reasonable test, I asked Luke Peach, our resident Student Ministries Worship Leader, to play our Yamaha C7 Midi Piano for me, while I recorded. Since I just picked up an 8-channel M-Audio Fast Track Ultra, I was able to multi-track the Beta 91s, the 4081s and the new Muse Receptor running Ivory all at the same time. The results were somewhat surprising, which is to say, they all sounded acceptable. I really expected the 91s to sound lousy, and they didn’t. I also wondered if Ivory would sound as good as the mics; and it’s quite close. So here’s what I did. I recorded all the tracks in Reaper and mixed them up a little. This first audio file contains three roughly 30 second clips. It’s the same piece played back three times by the three sources: First DPA, next Beta 91, finally Receptor. The song clearly ends, so you’ll know exactly when the next mic starts. For this sample, all mics are totally flat with no EQ or processing of any kind. I matched the levels when I recorded and played it straight back. This is a 192 Kbps, 48KHz Stereo MP3 (I rendered wav files, but they’re 30 Megs and didn’t sound better enough to justify the 28 meg download hit. You’ll need decent headphones or speakers to really judge the quality.

This second sample is a bit different. To give you a chance to really hear the differences between the mics, I intercut them on the same piece of music. I jumped around a bit so you can hear what each mic sounds like next to the other. To make it more interesting, I applied some EQ to the Receptor the second time it comes up. It’s not a huge bit of EQ, but it makes it sound a little more natural. The EQ looks like this:

It’s a 5 dB grid, so the max boost or cut is about 5 dB
Now, you should be able to hear the audio file switching sources (it’s pretty clear). Here is the order in which they go:

DPA -> Beta 91 -> Receptor -> DPA -> Beta 91 -> Receptor -> Beta 91 -> DPA -> Receptor -> Beta 91 -> DPA

The bold Receptor has the above-shown EQ applied to it, the other two are flat. Take a listen.

Since it might be hard to keep track of which is which, I did a screen capture of the playback so you can watch it change sources. If you watch the FX enable on the Receptor tracks, you can see when the EQ is applied (FX is green) and when it’s not (FX is red).

DPA Mics Screencast

Conclusions:

The DPA mics sound really, really good. Compared to the 91s, I think they sound a bit more natural and open, with less low end resonance. That could be partially due to the positioning of 91s, but I think a big part is the sound of the DPAs. I didn’t have a ton of time to play with positioning of the DPAs, I put them where Bruce Myers of DPA suggested. With more experimentation, they could potentially sound even better. On the other hand, they sound pretty good just being dropped on the soundboard, so I think we have a winner here. Pricing for the set will be $1,128 retail for the set and should be available by the end of June.

Also, I heard from Bruce that the 4088HB Choir Mic will retail for $499 for the mic and XLR adapter. Three lengths of cables to go in between will be available for a nominal additional cost. Those are also expected by the end of June.

Audio Files

In case you are having trouble getting the audio files to play in the above players, you can download them here:

Sample 1: Sequential

Sample 2; Intercut

UPDATE: So it seems that for some reason, Firefox does not support the player that I’m using for the embedded audio samples. I’m not yet sure of the cause; however, using Safari or Chrome would be a good way to listen to the clips. I’ll see what I can figure out with the player. Sorry for the inconvenience.

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