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cashandkerouac

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"Simple" Quad Mic Rig
« on: May 13, 2011, 07:56:43 PM »
the idea of running a quad mic set-up is very appealing to me.  i'm trying to think of a way to take my fairly simple stereo set-up (mics --> external pre-amp --> digital recorder) and expand it to a "simple" quad set-up. 

the main variable driving my current idea for a quad set-up is this: i really love my Aerco MP-2 pre-amp and i'd prefer to keep using it.  the only problem is that Aerco does not make a 4-mic version.  so to solve this issue i'd be willing to pick up a 2nd MP-2, and run two stereo pairs through two MP-2s. 

assuming i use the MP-2s, i really woudn't need a feature-rich high-end digital recorder like a SD744 or an Edirol R4 pro.  my needs for a recorder would primarily be 4 XLR jacks along with the ability to recording 4 separate WAV files (one for each mic) or a single stereo WAV file (two mics to each channel) in 24-bit.  as a personal preference i'd also like something that allows use of a micro SD card (units that use a built-in hard drive are not my first choice).

based on the aforementioned about the pre-amp and the recorder, this is where i land...  quad mics --> two MP-2s --> Tascam DR-680. 

i do not see folks running a set-up anything like this, so my idea is somewhere between slightly unconventional and stupid.  not being sure if i am closer to the former or the later, i'm throwing the idea out there for feedback and constructive criticism.

thanks in advance.     

Offline Gutbucket

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Re: "Simple" Quad Mic Rig
« Reply #1 on: May 13, 2011, 08:34:25 PM »
What do you mean by 'quad mic set-up'?  Surround record? Two different stereo setups to compare and maybe mix together?  Multi-channel array of 4 mics with the intent of mixing to stereo? (like adding out-rigger mics to a central pair) Something else?

No problem or anything particularly unusual about the setup you invision.  You might consider the Edirol R-44 instead of the R-4Pro which is less costly and has no harddrive.  Its simple to operate and reliable.  It takes standard SDHC cards (could probably use an adapter to use your mini-SD cards) and records your choice of four mono files, two stereo files or one 4-channel file.  It does not have the capability of mixing tracks in the machine as it records.  The Tascam DR-680 can do some internal mixing and panning and has additional channels.  It also takes SDHC.  Some are having problems with it recently so you may want to wait until those issues are addressed.  The R-44 is simpler and limited to four channels, but very reliable.
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Re: "Simple" Quad Mic Rig
« Reply #2 on: May 13, 2011, 09:20:50 PM »
I am also confused here. What are you trying to accomplish, surround?

  my needs for a recorder would primarily be 4 XLR jacks along with the ability to recording 4 separate WAV files (one for each mic) or a single stereo WAV file (two mics to each channel) in 24-bit.  as a personal preference i'd also like something that allows use of a micro SD card (units that use a built-in hard drive are not my first choice).
I also don't understand this.
Two mics in each channel?
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cashandkerouac

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Re: "Simple" Quad Mic Rig
« Reply #3 on: May 13, 2011, 10:12:52 PM »
I am also confused here. What are you trying to accomplish, surround?

  my needs for a recorder would primarily be 4 XLR jacks along with the ability to recording 4 separate WAV files (one for each mic) or a single stereo WAV file (two mics to each channel) in 24-bit.  as a personal preference i'd also like something that allows use of a micro SD card (units that use a built-in hard drive are not my first choice).
I also don't understand this.
Two mics in each channel?

sometimes it's hard to properly articulate what's seems to make sense in my own little brain, so thanks for the initial feedback.

yes, two mics into each channel is a possibility.  whether i record four mics directly to stereo or mix 4 separate tracks to stereo in post-production, i'm flexible.

as for what i'm trying to accomplish...  i'm trying to capture a coupe of additional tracks that could be mixed in with my primary stereo pair for added depth, better spatial representation, and/or a richer more nuanced recording.

i hope this helps clarify.  thanks!
« Last Edit: May 13, 2011, 10:16:16 PM by cashandkerouac »

cashandkerouac

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Re: "Simple" Quad Mic Rig
« Reply #4 on: May 13, 2011, 10:42:55 PM »
You might consider the Edirol R-44 instead of the R-4Pro which is less costly and has no harddrive.  Its simple to operate and reliable.  It takes standard SDHC cards (could probably use an adapter to use your mini-SD cards) and records your choice of four mono files, two stereo files or one 4-channel file. The R-44 is simpler and limited to four channels, but very reliable.

not quite sure how i missed the fact that the R44 records to SDHC cards, but many thanks for the reminder.  this little tidbit really swings the pendulum towards the R44. 

Offline Gutbucket

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Re: "Simple" Quad Mic Rig
« Reply #5 on: May 13, 2011, 11:24:31 PM »
yes, two mics into each channel is a possibility.  whether i record four mics directly to stereo or mix 4 separate tracks to stereo in post-production, i'm flexible.

as for what i'm trying to accomplish...  i'm trying to capture a coupe of additional tracks that could be mixed in with my primary stereo pair for added depth, better spatial representation, and/or a richer more nuanced recording.

Gotcha, that's pretty much what many others are doing as well.

R-44 will record the tracks seperately, then you mix them later, which most prefer so they can control things.  The DR-680 can do the same, but can also record a seperate stereo on-the-fly mix of the other 6 channels, panned and leveled however you like.
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Re: "Simple" Quad Mic Rig
« Reply #6 on: May 14, 2011, 07:21:42 AM »
I run four mics at every show, unless I have a soundboard patch, into my R-44 for exactly the reasons you listed. It's the perfect device in my opinion. It's of particular benefIt when a band swaps from plugged in to unplugged - leave on set of mics as is and adjust the second set to capture the new lower levels of the performance. Guster do this at every show and the flexibility afforded by this setup is awesome.
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Offline acidjack

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Re: "Simple" Quad Mic Rig
« Reply #7 on: May 14, 2011, 02:15:56 PM »
I run 4 mics from time to time and you can definitely add more options doing things that way, combining, for example, hypers and wide split cards or omnis to be able to choose how much direct vs. reverberant sound you want. 

See the "Recording Gear" thread I started re: the DR-680.  Unless you plan to run 4-6 mics + SBD (which unfortunately, was what led me to buy the unit in the first place) I think you'll be happier with the R-44.  It's slightly smaller, feels much more solidly built, is easier to use, and is a second generation product, making improvements on the original R-4s.  I have been extremely happy with mine and it gets very regular use.  I've seen few if any problems with it on this board compared with a host of problems with the 680s, which have only been out a few months or so. 

MP-2s are certainly nice pres.  It will be a bit of a PITA to run two battery powered pres plus the deck plus four mics, but I won't doubt you on sound.  I now typically run one external pre on the mics I consider the "main" pair and run the other mics direct into my Oade mod R-44.  Even the stock pres on the unit sound pretty good, but the Oade mod gives it more clarity I think.

Mics: Schoeps MK4V, MK41V, MK5, MK22> CMC6, KCY 250/5, KC5, NBob; MBHO MBP603/KA200N, AT 3031, DPA 4061 w/ d:vice, Naiant X-X, AT 853c, shotgun, Nak300
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Offline udovdh

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Re: "Simple" Quad Mic Rig
« Reply #8 on: May 15, 2011, 01:34:35 AM »
What about mic-modelling solutions when one uses a quad mic setup like the tetra-mic or similar?
They are not necessary here?

Offline acidjack

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Re: "Simple" Quad Mic Rig
« Reply #9 on: May 15, 2011, 11:42:05 AM »
^^ There's a nice long thread about that that I started in which Gutbucket's posts are a very interesting read.

The Tetramic and the more expensive Soundfield SPS200 can make amazing recordings.  They both allow you to do all of the necessary mixdown in post (rather than live on the fly, which for most of us is too big a hassle).  They are definitely an intriguing option.  I think the issue is whether the extra work in post, and the quality of the individual caps, is a worthwhile tradeoff.  The Tetramic is Audix capsules; the Soundfield are MBHOs.  I've heard incredible recordings with both, but they are, at least to some people, not quite where your Neumann/Schoeps/DPA type mics are.  It really depends.

Also, for what most people here do, it may really be the case that in the end, an ORTF or DIN pair of cards or hypers is about as complicated as it needs to get.  So while having all that extra functionality is nice, people won't really use it, and therefore, would rather spend equal money to get "better" stereo mics - for the price of the Tetramic you could have a nice used pair of AKGs, and for the price of the Soundfield, you could get a used set of Schoeps/Neumann/DPA.  For that matter, for not much more than the tetramic, you could get a pretty new pair of AKG 414s and have all of the same options (albeit, not after the fact).

I think the main reason they aren't discussed more here, though, is people are simply unfamiliar with them.  They offer some intriguing possibilities. 
Mics: Schoeps MK4V, MK41V, MK5, MK22> CMC6, KCY 250/5, KC5, NBob; MBHO MBP603/KA200N, AT 3031, DPA 4061 w/ d:vice, Naiant X-X, AT 853c, shotgun, Nak300
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cashandkerouac

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Re: "Simple" Quad Mic Rig
« Reply #10 on: May 15, 2011, 03:28:28 PM »
i read through most of the posts about the DR-680 and it's a mixed bag.  there are some real horror stories, but also plenty of great reviews.  at the end of the day the DR-680 seems to have more of the features and flexibility that i'm looking for, so it looks like the Tascam wins out.  who knows, i may end up picking up an R-44 at some point, but i'm going to take a chance on a DR-680 with the Busman mods.     

Offline DSatz

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Re: "Simple" Quad Mic Rig
« Reply #11 on: May 15, 2011, 05:05:33 PM »
To quote Clint Eastwood, "... you’ve got to ask yourself one question: 'Do I feel lucky?'" Given that you might really, really need factory service for your DR-680, I wouldn't suggest having it modified. A main board failure may be a low-probability event, but it's apparently not quite as low-probability as it ought to be with this model, and the cost of going without warranty protection could be quite substantial.

Just a thought ...

--best regards
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Offline acidjack

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Re: "Simple" Quad Mic Rig
« Reply #12 on: May 15, 2011, 06:05:13 PM »
To quote Clint Eastwood, "... you’ve got to ask yourself one question: 'Do I feel lucky?'" Given that you might really, really need factory service for your DR-680, I wouldn't suggest having it modified. A main board failure may be a low-probability event, but it's apparently not quite as low-probability as it ought to be with this model, and the cost of going without warranty protection could be quite substantial.

Just a thought ...

--best regards

Very good advice as usual.  The -680 is a first-gen device of this type for Tascam.  First gen devices always tend to have more problems.  At minimum, on any first gen device, you're rolling the dice somewhat, and some of us here have clearly had our luck turn up against us. 

If you don't like the sound of the pres in it (and I think they sound fine) you're better off going with a compact outboard pre like a littlebox or USBpre2 (of course, assuming the deck will accept its digital input, which mine would not).  At minimum, I'd use it hard for several months and see if it seems to be one of the "good apples" before I had it modded.
Mics: Schoeps MK4V, MK41V, MK5, MK22> CMC6, KCY 250/5, KC5, NBob; MBHO MBP603/KA200N, AT 3031, DPA 4061 w/ d:vice, Naiant X-X, AT 853c, shotgun, Nak300
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cashandkerouac

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Re: "Simple" Quad Mic Rig
« Reply #13 on: May 15, 2011, 07:18:24 PM »
To quote Clint Eastwood, "... you’ve got to ask yourself one question: 'Do I feel lucky?'" Given that you might really, really need factory service for your DR-680, I wouldn't suggest having it modified. A main board failure may be a low-probability event, but it's apparently not quite as low-probability as it ought to be with this model, and the cost of going without warranty protection could be quite substantial.

Just a thought ...

--best regards

Very good advice as usual.  The -680 is a first-gen device of this type for Tascam.  First gen devices always tend to have more problems.  At minimum, on any first gen device, you're rolling the dice somewhat, and some of us here have clearly had our luck turn up against us. 

If you don't like the sound of the pres in it (and I think they sound fine) you're better off going with a compact outboard pre like a littlebox or USBpre2 (of course, assuming the deck will accept its digital input, which mine would not).  At minimum, I'd use it hard for several months and see if it seems to be one of the "good apples" before I had it modded.

while i really like the features of the DR-680 i definitely want a reliable unit.  that being said, the last two responses have given me pause about the DR-680.  luckily i'm in no major rush, so i have time to chew on all this great feedback.  i wish there were more options at the price point of the DR-680 and the R-44, but these seem to be the only two contenders.     

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Re: "Simple" Quad Mic Rig
« Reply #14 on: May 18, 2011, 05:08:56 PM »
I've thought about this same kind of thing.  I happen to have the DTS surround sound software, and could assign 4 tracks to 4 channels and then listen to it in the living room on the movie-oriented surround sound system.  I even gathered 4 AT853's figuring I could make a more-or-less coincident quad setup on the cheap.

Then I asked myself "when would I actually use it?"  I had to face the fact the answer was, in my case at least, "not very often".    99% of the time I want "what's going on up front", and I really am trying to ignore "what's going on behind".  I can't envision many cases where it would be useful to mix in mics pointing backwards.

Surround would be wicked cool in 3 instances that I can think of.
a) the standard bluegrass thing of huddling around 1 mic.  I don't tend to hang with that crowd much, so it wouldn't happen often.
b) Halloween a few years ago, Gov't mule played Pink Floyd music and had rear surround speakers and sound was swirling around the room.  It would have been cool in that case, I could have captured that and played it back at home, but I'll probably never be at a show like that again.
c) nature recordings.  if you could go out in the bog with frogs peeping in every direction, it might be cool.  But I would need 4 really quiet, matched mics (better than AT853's).  not in my budget.

As far as 4 mic stereo mixes with mics pointing forward... I know a lot of people do it, but I'm not a big fan, and I definitely wouldn't do it on the fly.  Maybe people that do it see themselves as a great chef inventing a new recipe, I'm not sure.  Maybe they really are better at it naturally than I am.  I dunno.  I think it generally introduces lots of phasing issues.  Every time I've tried mixing 4 mics in post it, I came to the conclusion that one of the solo tracks sounded better than the mix.    Even stage lip mid/side with split omni flankers... I always pick one or the other.  Of course, there is always one exception... one time, I think Hunter Mountain 2008, I ran Senn ME66 guns plus small omnis (Church?) and the sum was better than the parts.  But that was just because I had 2 extremes which were poor choices on their own... a proper set of cards probably would have been best in the first place.

As far as running 4 mics, and not mixing them, just because you can't decide what to run that night, I'm a big fan of that.  I'll run ADK-TLs cards and AKG483 hypers, and when I get home I decide which I liked best.  If it's a good room, not too boomy, I'll probably like the TL's source.  If it's boomy, I'd probably like the 483 source.  That helps educate me on what do bring the next time, and so on.
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Offline Gutbucket

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Re: "Simple" Quad Mic Rig
« Reply #15 on: May 18, 2011, 06:24:00 PM »
..The Tetramic is Audix capsules; the Soundfield are MBHOs. 

Just to clarify, I don't think its been confirmed what make of capsules the Tetramic uses. I speculated in a thread here last summer that I thought they might be Audix, based on specs and outside appearance, but others who know more about this class of mic capsules seemed to think otherwise. I'll defer to them. In any case no matter what make they are, comparisons of the capsules as implemented in the Tetramic vs the same capsules in 'standard' mics is not straight forward or clear as it would seem, simply because of the unique calibration files applied to each mic based on measurement comparisons that correct the capsules.  That's not to say that better capsules doesn’t matter, they certainly do, only that what we've come to know from using various and comparing makes of mics doesn't clearly apply in this case.

..As far as running 4 mics, and not mixing them, just because you can't decide what to run that night, I'm a big fan of that.  I'll run ADK-TLs cards and AKG483 hypers, and when I get home I decide which I liked best.  If it's a good room, not too boomy, I'll probably like the TL's source.  If it's boomy, I'd probably like the 483 source.  That helps educate me on what do bring the next time, and so on.

I think this is the primary value for most people.  It can be a great way to better understand what setup and rig works best where, and to sometimes be surprised when the other one works better.  There is great value in comparison.

As far as I know, I'm sort of the odd man out around here for recording most everything in surround for the past 4 years or so.  But my target audience is myself, and I really enjoy the added value that recording that way gives me, primarily for listening enjoyment but also for optimizing stereo mix downs.

The musicians around the mic thing is cool and I've done that for some bluegrass campfire jams, but never really with the musicians wrapped all the way around back, which might be a bit gimmicky anyway.  It's really been more along the lines of the nature recording aspect that John mentions- up close with the musicians in a wider arc than what would be normal stereo across the front, but mostly lots of ambient cues around the room from the fire, people laughing, different conversations, sounds from off in the distance, the night bugs, etc.  Really, that environmental thing is one of the primary things I value in all of my surround recordings, even when all the conscious interest is from the front.  It’s the much more real sense I get of being in the actual place of the recording, the sound of the bass interacting 3-dimensionally in the room, the more open nature of the direct sounds from in front, the crowd reaction all around.  Oddly, I even find distracting audience sounds less bothersome because they are coming from a different direction than the music in front, and can be more easily ignored by my brain, than if they are folded into the stereo recording and coming along with the music from in front.  In that sense, all of my music recordings benefit from surround in the nature recording realism sense.  Plus it's just really cool to 'hear the room' in a great acoustic recording made in a really nice sounding space, and hear everyone erup in applause all around.

The other thing I really like about recording this way is using three front channels for L/C/R which is a big benefit even if I were to throw the surround channel information away.  It really solidifies everything across the front and lets me adjust the apparent depth and up front presence with level and EQ adjustments to the center channel.  That’s also the biggest advantage when mixing to stereo. I do add a bit of surround info for the stereo mix in as well, but that contribution is minor.

Note that none of the above surround talk applies to my use of the Tetramic up to this point as I’ve only used that for stereo so far.
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Offline rastasean

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Re: "Simple" Quad Mic Rig
« Reply #16 on: May 18, 2011, 07:33:31 PM »
I think a very useful outfit would be recording a band, as if it was for a record, but not so much for a concert because of the few reasons mentioned already. Carolina Chocolate Drops' Genuine Negro Jig album comes to mind for something this could be useful for. It sounds like they are outside and sitting around some microphones. I don't know how it was actually recorded but I like the way it sounds, kinda rough but flowing.

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Offline Walstib62

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Re: "Simple" Quad Mic Rig
« Reply #17 on: May 18, 2011, 09:28:16 PM »
Smokin' Joe nailed it pretty much on the head. FWIW, I have had great results recording 4 channels, 2 cards and 2 omni's. Then mix down to stereo in post. I'm surprised at how often some folks will run a nice 4 channel unit with only 2 mics. Seems like a wasted opportunity. The worst that could happen is you don't use 2 of the channels in post. Storage media is no longer an issue. Anyway, good luck and always try new approaches. If you keep doing what you've always done, you'll keep getting what you've always got!

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Re: "Simple" Quad Mic Rig
« Reply #18 on: May 18, 2011, 10:01:52 PM »
Smokin' Joe nailed it pretty much on the head. FWIW, I have had great results recording 4 channels, 2 cards and 2 omni's. Then mix down to stereo in post. I'm surprised at how often some folks will run a nice 4 channel unit with only 2 mics. Seems like a wasted opportunity. The worst that could happen is you don't use 2 of the channels in post. Storage media is no longer an issue. Anyway, good luck and always try new approaches. If you keep doing what you've always done, you'll keep getting what you've always got!

the two card/two omni approach is very appealing to me.  i would think that adding the omnis in a subtle way into the post-production mix while keeping the cards as the primary out-front mics in the mix would sound very good.  the idea of a primary stereo pair of cards matrixed with a mid-side set up is also appealing in theory.  of course theory and practice don't always line up; and that approach may be fraught with problems that i'm not aware of.  it may also be too complicated to make practical sense.     

Offline Gutbucket

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Re: "Simple" Quad Mic Rig
« Reply #19 on: May 19, 2011, 09:16:35 PM »
Unless the card array is your baseline for comparison, personally I'd lean towards first trying the M/S pair along with a spaced omni pair.  Doing that gives you two very different (hopefully if matrixing them, complementary) stereo setups- the M/S a coincident level based stereo array and the omnis a spaced phase/time stereo array.  That gives you the two opposing extremes of stereo recording to leverage against each other. Near-spaced cardioid arrays are closer cousins to M/S and may not be different enough to combine well, if matrixing rather than simple comparison is the goal. 

But then the beauty of four channels is that you can try a lot of interesting things with the second pair without changing up your primary pair configuration, so even if it doesn't work out as hoped, you still head home with at least one good stereo recording.
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