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

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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!

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

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Frame cut to size and re-assembled.

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

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Material stretched and stapled. Frame filled with mineral wool.

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

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… I better do it properly.

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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…

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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.