Neumann TLM170r Review

The TLM170r is a multi-pattern medium-diaphragm condenser microphone with a smooth and natural frequency response. TLM stands for TransformerLess Microphone (and the 170 was the first made, I believe, correct me if I’m wrong) and the “r” signifies the modern version which can be connected to a remote phantom power supply that can be used to switch pickup patterns remotely. This would be great for orchestral or drum overhead work where switching pickup pattern would be a pain.

I recently purchased a TLM170r as a flexible addition to my TLM193. The 170 is essentially a 193 with a variable pickup pattern (also a 10dB pad and a lowcut). This extra functionality adds a lot of extra cost to the microphone! I can now record in M/S with the two TLMs.

TLM170 in fig8, with a TLM193 beneath. Setting up for M/S recording of Classical Guitar.

The TLM170 contains a medium-sized capsule like the TLM193 (often assumed to be an LDC as it looks like familiar Neumann LDCs…). This means it’s off-axis pickup, sensitivity, transient response and proximity affect (in cardioid mode at least) are somewhere between an LDC and SDC – the effect of this that it has a pretty good sensitivity with low noise floor, reasonable off-axis sound coloration but can get a little boomy if miking too close. This makes it excellent at a bit of a distance. As the proximity effect extends higher in frequency than an LDC, on the right (higher tonality) voice it can be very warm, but on a deeper voice that extra warmth in the 150-250Hz range can be really boomy and unnatural. All of this is the same as the TLM193. Although I haven’t tried this much yet (just once), I would hope that switching the 170 into Omni would calm the proximity affect somewhat and would make it more suited to deeper voices.

I have used the 170 as a fig8 side mic in MS configuration on Classical guitar and also as drum overheads (in cardioid) along with the 193. Both have worked exactly as expected – thick, natural and detailed sound!

I bought the mic second hand but it is a shame it is so expensive. Not because it is not worth the money but I imagine most people looking for a professional workhorse multi-pattern microphone will be much more drawn to the AKG C414 due to it’s significantly lower price (1/3 price) – the 170 (in my experience, and according to published graphs) is so much flatter and more natural so really great for Classical recording…

RME Fireface UFX+ first impression review

Why I got one


The Digi003 console (above right) has been the heart of my studio for approximately a decade now. It has served me extremely well, being fairly reliable and having excellent functionality. The digital inputs and outputs meant I could bypass much of the outdated components and some of the crackly volume pots, and the 8 motorised faders were smooth and extremely useful. The Digi003 had very limited low-latency monitoring functionality, one side-affect being that monitor mixes needed to be the same for everyone in the room. I was still not intending to replace the Digi003… until…

A year or two ago I came across the Fireface UFX whilst recording an orchestra with Andy Fell (who worked for the BBC and did a lot of their orchestral recordings) – he showed me that the UFX was a usual recording interface in some respects (connects to laptop/computer for recording) except that it had an in-built backup system which records to USB flash drive – if the laptop fails, or a cable is pulled out accidentally, the USB backup could save the day. I had been running a Zoom H6n as a 6-channel backup connected to the analogue outputs of a Focusrite Liquid Saffire56. The UFX was so much slicker and I was already aware of the reliability of RME’s devices and drivers…

The discovery of the UFX led me to desire one for location recording. But during the process of saving and making a decision it struck me that all that extra functionality would be wasted a lot of the time if it wasn’t being used during non-location recordings. So I now have this one great-quality (spoiler) interface that has replaced both my studio and location rig!

How good it is

It’s very good. I had some teething problems at first that I don’t think I could attribute to the UFX – following the “optimising Windows for Pro Tools ” tips appear to have resolved the issues.

The headphone outputs have tonnes and tonnes of gain and in the software (TotalMix FX) any of the analogue and digital ouputs can be labelled as headphone outputs A or B, or Speaker A or B, so an external headphone amp or monitor D/A converter can be used if desired, but the physical knobs will control the volume of the output. This flexibility is awesome for me as one of my sets of speakers have an AES input, so I can connect digitally to them, bypassing a whole stage of conversion.

The TotalMix software runs off the UFX’s internal cpu, so doesn’t take any extra processing from the PC, and it enables me and the artist(s) to have our own monitor mixes, with reverb, EQ and compression if desired, and I can add in a talkback mic also, which should help communication when the artist is wearing sound-blocking headphones (Extreme Isolation EX-29). Although I haven’t connected it yet, an iPad can control this TotalMix software, so I am considering having that accessible to the performing artist so they can control their own click/backing/mic/reverb balance should they want to.

The 12 analogue inputs mean I’ll rarely need to hook up any additional digital inputs unless recording drums or an orchestra. The Digi003 had 8, so that was too few for many things, meaning I’d have to hook up a focusrite ADAT unit for the extra inputs.

No complaints about the audio quality – I haven’t put the preamps to test but I expect them to be good! They’ll be used after my DAV bg-1 and ISA one are all in use,.

My one gripe at the moment is that the interface creates a loud click when the sample rate is changed. The manual warns about this, but I am very confused as to why it is not possible to automatically briefly mute the outputs when changing sample rate. I will hopefully get in the habit of muting speakers when changing Pro Tools session in case the sample rate changes…

Copying small SSD hard drive to larger SSD (including Windows)

I’ve just had a very easy time upgrading my system drive to a much larger SSD using Paragon Migrate (click here)@ParagonSoftware

The software cost £14 but the migration process was so easy – literally plugged new SSD in, turned computer on, downloaded/installed software and ran the program and within a few minutes it was copying my whole system drive, including the Windows installation. I’ve unplugged my old drive now and it works EXACTLY as it did on the smaller drive, just with 352GB free, rather than 3…

I’d highly rate this software if you want to change your system drive (as you cannot simply copy-paste system files….)!

PMC twotwo.8 – first impressions

I’ve just been fortunate enough to get a killer deal on a pair of (ex-demo) PMC twotwo.8’s, which arrived a couple of days ago. They are truly huge, and weigh in at 12.5kg, which makes them tricky move around…

PMC twotwo8

I immediately noticed the clarity in the mid range and the extended highs are a delight. Very stable centre image. The wide dispersion is great for working alongside other musicians who want to hear the sound clearly outside of the sweet spot. I’ve been playing around with positioning them, and finding it a little difficult to settle on a spot – currently they are strong in 100-200Hz but lacking below that, even though they extend down to 25Hz. The EQ control for bass boosts everything below 500Hz, which will not solve the problem!

They have an AES input which I’m hoping will have a voltage tolerance that will accept S/PDIF output from my interface. As there is a digital crossover in the speaker, this would bypass a whole layer of D/A-A/D conversion.

Recording Johannes Möller (Classical Guitar)

I’ve had the delight to work alongside guitarist Johannes Möller and producer Gerald Garcia to record Johannes’ new album. The album is a collection of Johannes’ transcriptions and arrangements of traditional Chinese music alongside his own compositions. There is one track in particular that I have truly fallen in love with – it is the longest track on the album and when I heard the final edit I got goosebumps, which I always take as a sign that things are sounding good!

The recording was done in a lovely hall in Wantage at Challow Park Studios (Will, the resident engineer, was very helpful with the initial setup). The sound on the final recording is primarily from my trusty Neumann TLM193 as a mono centre mic, with a spaced pair of Neumann M50’s. There is a dash of a Gefell (UM70 I think) figure of 8 microphone as a side mic with the TLM193, and also a very low level from KM184’s in XY. The KM184’s were setup as an alternate pair of mics and I didn’t expect to use them in the final mix, but I felt blending them softly did add something good (other than just volume!). The resultant guitar sound is very focused, unlike many Classical Guitar recordings I have heard that have a somewhat blurry image (spaced omnis… still sound great though) or exaggerated stereo field.

Recording Beethoven: Symphony no. 9

I’ve just had the opportunity to record the “Oxford Studio Orchestra” and “Oxford and Bonn Anniversary Chorus”  performing Beethoven’s 9th at Oxford Town Hall. I enlisted Andy Fell (a very experienced orchestral sound engineer!) to help out with this large-scale recording.

Beethoven 1

We arrived expecting to be able to set up our control room in the green room behind the stage and run multicore cable through to the hall. However, the staging had been set up in such a way that this was no longer possible, so we had to set up to the side of the stage, right behind the horns! This made monitoring a little tricky… Closed-back headphones helped, but it wasn’t ideal. The advantage was that we could survey the orchestra and quickly make adjustments during rehearsal.


Beethoven 2

We setup ORTF pairs in front of the choir (Neumann KM184’s) and orchestra (AKG C414’s) and additional omni-directional outriggers. Spot mics were set up to capture the woodwind (Coles 4038’s), timpani, brass, basses and soloists resulting in 13 channels of recorded audio.

Upcycling a bed frame into a Bass Trap

Completed Bass Trap.JPG

We were getting rid of our old bed and I noticed the frame looked a lot like that of an acoustic panel… so I thought it was worth a go converting it into one! It took a lot longer than actually buying the wood from scratch, but it was satisfying and fun to do, and saves money and waste!


The covering materials removed… lots of staples to remove. So many staples. This is why it took so long to do…


Frame cut to size and re-assembled.


Covering the frame with acoustically transparent material (Cara fabric from EQ Acoustics)


Material stretched and stapled. Frame filled with mineral wool.


Completed! Now to hang it on the wall. It’s pretty heavy so…


… I better do it properly.


And complete! This panel has made a profound difference. A 200Hz area was giving me some trouble but this appears to have solved it, and probably helped lower frequencies too…



Neumann TLM193 Review

I’ve been using Neumann TLM193’s for about 6 years now, and have changed my mind several times about them!

TLM193 TLM 193

My first experience with them was while working at Electronic Arts recording speech and foley. The chief engineer there had a few of them and they got used on every speech session. They were so clear and quiet, so when I began my own studio I bought one second hand, as I wanted a great primary vocal microphone. It was initially bliss, although I soon started to feel that the recordings were coming out almost TOO clear, and quite characterless. The mic’s frequency response is incredibly flat for a large-diaphragm condenser (LDC) and the off-axis response is as impressive as it is on-axis, but this is not always what’s needed when recording vocals (except Classical perhaps).

At this realisation I started to look at the TLM through different eyes, and it got very little action for a few years. As I began getting more Classical recording work however, it began to come out of it’s wooden case and shine once more. As a spot mic within an orchestra or quartet, or as part of an M/S main pair the mic sounds so beautiful. Transients come through very nicely and instruments tend to just sound “as they should” – not usually what you’d want for a Rock/Pop recording, but for a Classical recording that’s usually just the ticket. The low self-noise makes it an excellent choice for recording very soft instruments, and the lovely off-axis response means it sounds very natural in a diffuse field.

I think this is a great mic for several applications but generally not one for Rock/Pop productions (unless it magically fits the voice, which it occasionally does. Possibly good as drum overheads, and I use it as a FOK mic). The high price is a bit of a downer (go for a second hand one if anything!) and there are small-diaphragm condensers that’ll do a similar job for less money. Nonetheless, I love it again and it’ll be my ‘cello mic of choice for a long time!

Avantone Mixcube (Active) Mini-Review

So I received a pair of Mixcubes the other day and have a little time to put them through their paces. I had problems getting them set up as I was experiencing a lot of mains buzz from a ground loop (which I don’t have on any other equipment) but, after a quick trip to maplins and buying and installing a ground-loop-isolator, they were rocking with no perceivable noise (PHEW!). Lots of other users seem to have had this problem so it’s clearly a massive design flaw…

My initial sonic impressions were just as I expected – they have a very prominent mid-range without much treble or bass, which really brings vocals, guitars and snare to the forefront of the listeners attention. They’re actually quite pleasant to listen to when a recording is well mixed, and it’s nice to listen to the focal points of a mix without being distracted by deep bass or extreme treble.

The “bass” is there, but slopes off (approximately) from around 200Hz, and recordings actually sound quite warm on them (not harsh or brittle, unless mixed that way). Compression on mid-range instruments is very easy to hear and mixing these elements seems a lot easier on the Mixcubes – levels become “obvious”!

Off-axis these speakers sound pretty nasty, so make sure you set them up properly. The cream colour is a bit odd, but quite retro… the heavy varnishing makes them seem pretty robust though.

All in all, possibly one of the best purchases I’ve made for the studio.