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VDS
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I’ve searched the forum and didn’t find a specific thread on this topic so I decided to start one.

I’m wondering if people have found good, dynamic, orchestral recordings.  I’m listening to more classical music and finding a lot of good recordings of solo piano, string quartets, small ensembles, but when I try to find large orchestral works the sound changes drastically.

I feel like the close mic positioning when recording 1-4 musicians brings the sound closer to you, duh, but so many orchestra’s sound like 1 mic in the middle of the venue, distant and less dynamic, as if the mic was under a blanket.


The “dynamic range” Is the quality I love, the immediacy, the physicality.  I’m looking to find some recordings that capture that “close mic” feel. Some opera achieves this, probably by recording the vocalist with her own mic and leaving it loud in the mix.


Anybody have similar experiences and found recordings that really sound alive and dynamic?

thanks, Ted

 

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Look for the recordings of Leonard Bernstein conducting. This is from the days before audio compression, and some volume peaks blow me out of my seat, even with 12 watt Amp... 

I like Mahler's 5th in particular!

 

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2 hours ago, VDS said:

...I’m wondering if people have found good, dynamic, orchestral recordings.

Yes.  If you've been to orchestral concerts, you'll know that the sound becomes more diffuse--not like "audiophile" recordings that put one instrument/voice in one channel with the microphone positioned within a metre of the performer.

 

Having said that, I do recognize that there is a lot more "dimensionality" of orchestral music in terms of the directions from which the sound arrives at the listener.  For instance, when I listen to one of my favorite Blu-Ray performances...

 

41QbUq96EYL.jpg

 

...when the disc loads, it defaults to stereo.  When played in stereo, the sound is a bit distant and diffuse sounding, although it is excellent in all other ways.  However, when switched to 5.1 mode, it literally comes alive.  It's not close...and the dimensionality of the recording space emerges as if you're sitting in the audience (about half way back from the stage).  I think you should recognize that the stereo format itself will tend to do this, not the recording engineers' placement of microphones. 

 

Yuja Wang is also very easy on the eyes, and is spectacular on the Prokofiev #1 concerto--and the Lucerne Festival Orchestra is composed of section-leading musicians from across the EU, led by Claudio Abbado--who is a superb interpreter of Mahler and late Romantic era symphonies and concertos.  At times, you're "in the orchestra" with the presence that I remember when I played in such ensembles.

 

I do recommend EuroArts and ArtHaus Blu-Ray recordings made within the last 12 years or so.  I developed the 5.1 experience in my main rig specifically so I could listen to these types of recordings.  Daniel Barenboim and the Staatskapelle Berlin Blu-Ray recordings of the Beethoven five piano concertos is simply captivating--in a way I've never experienced from home hi-fi before.

 

91UwPPFOU6L._SL1500_.jpg

 

EDIT: By the way, if you're ever through the D/FW area, feel free to drop in for a listen.  I can't describe what I hear--in words.  I live about 25 minutes away from D/FW International in far west Arlington (near the Lake).  PM me if you're planning a stopover.  In the almost 15 years of starting work on the setup, it sounds pretty good nowadays, especially if you like classical.

 

Chris

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2 hours ago, VDS said:

but when I try to find large orchestral works the sound changes drastically.

The venue in which it was recorded has much to do with the sound. Not all concert halls are created equal, some are terrible (Sydney Opera House) and some are superb (Boston Symphony Hall) In order to preserve the natural dynamics and reverb of the room, recording engineers typically use only two or three carefully positioned microphones.

 

Look for stuff recorded in great halls.  Musikverein, Concertgebouw, Boston Symphony Hall and Tokyo Opera City are all considered great.

 

If on the other hand you prefer close mic'd and mixed recordings (nothing wrong with that) my advice would be irrelevant. Concert halls or airplane hangars would all sound the same.

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There are lots of good live performances available these days and many are very well done. The live video Berlin Philharmonic performances are esp. well done. https://www.digitalconcerthall.com/en/home

Orchestras are very hard to record well and too many sound people do not understand what playing in an orchestra is like.

Recording with multiple mics in the orchestra is dumb because we don't play in a manner that is suitable for that. The sound is supposed to project out into the hall, and esp. for those farther back in the orchestra we play a bit ahead of the beat so that our sound arrives on time to the front. I find most orchestral recordings to lack real dynamics as well.  Dynamic ballance is the job of the orchestra, not some idiot with a sound board.

I have access to my orchestra's live recordings which are done using 4 mics that are hung out in the hall 30 ft. or so above the floor. Sound is quite good that way though some instruments like percussion come across a bit hotter than sitting in the seats. 

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1 hour ago, tromprof said:

Recording with multiple mics in the orchestra is dumb because we don't play in a manner that is suitable for that.

John Eargle (former PWK employee and long-time JBL/Harman engineer) is really the only recording engineer that I can think of that actually did use lots of microphones--and assembling the final mixdown stereo tracks:

 

image.thumb.png.6ffbf53860b70a7d4a5df6d5f0ee4be7.png

 

Another diagram from The Microphone Book by Eargle showing the placement of microphones that he used for orchestral recordings with soloists identified:

 

image.png.172ec5e52adf52944e7c541163efc41b.png

 

I note with some dismay that the record company that he worked for (Delos) apparently hired some real yo-yo's for mastering guys (that, or the senior management were of very questionable decision making expertise).  Once I demaster one of his albums, I can't believe how good the finished tracks really are.  I'm talking about perhaps a dozen albums of his that I've demastered and found some real gold.

 

Chris

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5 hours ago, wetowne said:

The venue in which it was recorded has much to do with the sound. Not all concert halls are created equal, some are terrible (Sydney Opera House) and some are superb (Boston Symphony Hall) In order to preserve the natural dynamics and reverb of the room, recording engineers typically use only two or three carefully positioned microphones.

 

Look for stuff recorded in great halls.  Musikverein, Concertgebouw, Boston Symphony Hall and Tokyo Opera City are all considered great.

 

If on the other hand you prefer close mic'd and mixed recordings (nothing wrong with that) my advice would be irrelevant. Concert halls or airplane hangars would all sound the same.

Good point, I should start paying attention to the venue.  Makes sense with somewhat distant mics the venue will be more present on the recording. 

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2 hours ago, billybob said:

What is the primary source you are listening to?

Thanks!

so far only Tidal and Idagio.  coming from Bluesound Node 2i

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7 hours ago, Chris A said:

the sound becomes more diffuse--not like "audiophile" recordings that put one instrument/voice in one channel with the microphone positioned within a metre of the performer.

Yes, diffuse, maybe due to where I’m at in my short audiophile life I still like that up close sound. 

 

7 hours ago, Chris A said:

When played in stereo, the sound is a bit distant and diffuse sounding, although it is excellent in all other ways.  However, when switched to 5.1 mode, it literally comes alive


Ive heard about a lot of people listening to blue Ray discs, even audio only.  Can you listen to 5.1 mode with 2 channel set up, or only a surround system?

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1 hour ago, VDS said:

Can you listen to 5.1 mode with 2 channel set up, or only a surround system?

Virtually all multichannel discs have stereo layers on them, requiring only the ability of your player to read the disc (i.e., DVD, DTS, multichannel SACD, or Blu-Ray, etc.).

 

Chris

 

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20 hours ago, VDS said:

many orchestra’s sound like 1 mic in the middle of the venue, distant and less dynamic,

 

Actually, there are audiophile recordings done like this that sound fabulous. Simon Rattle did this, available on vinyl only, with his Beethoven symphonies:

https://www.berliner-philharmoniker-recordings.com/beethoven-symphonies-24-bit-download-lp.html

 

https://www.analogplanet.com/content/berlin-philharmonic-records-releases-one-point-microphone-simon-rattle-vinyl-beethoven-cycle

image.png.30c1dd51f31fa82b9702ce4ccbdd702c.png

 

and then there is Chasing The Dragon's direct to disc recordings 

https://elusivedisc.com/chasing-the-dragon-audiophile-recordings-180g-import-test-lp/

 

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Orchestras & Symphonies & Operatic singing were a solution to a problem

 

No electricity, no electronics and no amplifiers

 

Well designed theaters and amphitheaters help, but still limited

 

My observation is individually micd instruments produce the best recordings

 

Would be interesting to either have live with no electronics or

 

Reduce the Performance to one amplified instrument of each kind producing a much clearer sound, also eliminating all of the group synchronization problems.

 

A real feat of composing, conducting and performance would be to divide the orchestra evenly, and have them play inverse to each other, exactly.

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1 hour ago, Bubo said:

My observation is individually micd instruments produce the best recordings

 

Yes in some cases, not all.  Some of the minimally-miked three-channel recordings using 35 mm film recorders as was done in the late fifties and early sixties by labels like Everest and Mercury sound fantastic. 

 

Here's a video with some background on that process.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZDzLQmUeky8&ab_channel=ANA[DIA]LOG

 

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17 minutes ago, Shiva said:

I would like to hear how things sound in this concert hall. 

 

 

Aaah, Hamburgs new opera house. Supposed to have very good acoustics, so i´ve read as well. Haven´t been there yet. Only know the "Deutsche Oper" in Berlin, which is also good.

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On 7/16/2021 at 2:04 PM, Chris A said:

John Eargle (former PWK employee and long-time JBL/Harman engineer) is really the only recording engineer that I can think of that actually did use lots of microphones--and assembling the final mixdown stereo tracks:

 Once I demaster one of his albums, I can't believe how good the finished tracks really are.  I'm talking about perhaps a dozen albums of his that I've demastered and found some real gold.

 

Chris

 

Sorry.

 

No such thing as "Demastering" - at least not the way you are doing it.

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10 hours ago, Bubo said:

Orchestras & Symphonies & Operatic singing were a solution to a problem

 

No electricity, no electronics and no amplifiers

 

Well designed theaters and amphitheaters help, but still limited

 

My observation is individually micd instruments produce the best recordings

 

Would be interesting to either have live with no electronics or

 

Reduce the Performance to one amplified instrument of each kind producing a much clearer sound, also eliminating all of the group synchronization problems.

 

A real feat of composing, conducting and performance would be to divide the orchestra evenly, and have them play inverse to each other, exactly.

 

Surely you jest 😄😅😂🙃

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