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Author Topic: Putting a Mic very close to the speakers?  (Read 1434 times)

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Offline robwas

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Putting a Mic very close to the speakers?
« on: September 08, 2022, 04:49:18 PM »
I didn't see this discussed reading the article and it's probably an unusual situation but at our outdoor concert series I saw someone setup his mics very close to the speakers, maybe 2 or 3' away at best.  it was an outdoor show and the mains were right atop the subs, none of the speakers were flown.  He had his setup pointed to where it would likely pick up both the bass and mains, he said it worked but last time I was going to try this the sound guy strongly suggested I put my mic back farther.  I wonder if anyone has tried this, when I setup my mic in the audience I get people taking and sometimes my stand gets moved so if putting it right up by the speakers is doable it'd be far easier and safer for my gear since I have access to the stage area where others do not.

tia for any thoughts

Offline jefflester

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Re: Putting a Mic very close to the speakers?
« Reply #1 on: September 08, 2022, 05:14:55 PM »
There's a technique known as "stack taping" where yeah, you basically try to get your mics (whether on a stand or on your body) as close to the PA mains as feasible, but not so close as to close mic one speaker alone and its likely limited frequency range (a sub/woofer, mid-range, horn/tweeter). I've done this a lot as a stealth taper using head mounted omni microphones (Sonic Studios or DPA4061) in club type shows mostly with good success. It is generally a pretty reasonable method to get more direct sound and less audience noise. It certainly has its limitations though; the overall mix might be missing something that there is much higher stage sound for (loud guitar amps on stage, less in the PA), limited stereo imaging (one guitar might be coming more out of one side of the PA and the other guitar coming more out of the side of the stage/PA you are not on), and just more mono in general since the mics are close to one set of speakers so both mics are getting a very similar signal. Note: "stack taping" can mean two different things. One is as just described - get mics as close as reasonable to one of the main PA stacks. The second is also called "Point at Stacks" - which means back in the crowd somewhere, but rather than using one of the stereo mic configurations (DIN, NOS, ORTF, X/Y, etc) each mic is just pointed at each of the stacks. Also known as PAS, for "Point At Stacks."

Some past discussions:
https://taperssection.com/index.php?topic=171271.0
https://taperssection.com/index.php?topic=155218.0
https://taperssection.com/index.php?topic=106986.0
https://taperssection.com/index.php?topic=2079.0

« Last Edit: September 11, 2022, 05:28:35 AM by jefflester »
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Offline Gutbucket

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Re: Putting a Mic very close to the speakers?
« Reply #2 on: September 08, 2022, 05:37:51 PM »
Need to be very careful to avoid hearing damage due to unsafe SPL levels when operating that close!

Quote
"..but not so close as to [be overly] close mic one speaker alone and its likely limited frequency range (a sub/woofer, mid-range, horn/tweeter)."

^This, and sufficiently high SPL handling ability without excess distortion, are the primary concerns balance-wise when very close to a PA speaker.  If a 2-way PA speaker, its usually best to position the mics between the woofer and tweeter horn, staying within the "radiation pattern" of the high-frequency horn. Easy was to estimate that is to look into the horn from the mic position and make sure the horn's thoroat is visible and not obscured by its outside lip. Beyond that the concerns are stage verses PA content (and left verses right PA content) as Jeff also mentions.

When you get it right it can work pretty well, especially for dealing with chatty rooms that are otherwise difficult to make a good recording in. Takes practice like anything else.

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Online Dan33185

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Re: Putting a Mic very close to the speakers?
« Reply #3 on: September 08, 2022, 06:53:50 PM »
I've done this a few times with great results, just check levels as you'll probably need to lower them from your normal settings.

Offline robwas

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Re: Putting a Mic very close to the speakers?
« Reply #4 on: September 09, 2022, 01:44:28 AM »
Thanks to everyone for the answers, I'm going to definitely try it and also read the links provided.  As for hearing damage I always wear earplugs, actually invested in some "musicians" ones that attenuate more evenly.  Even if the show is just a little loud they go in, I don't want to lose my hearing and cant' believe I still have decent ears after my youth and many way too loud concerts without them.

Offline rocksuitcase

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Re: Putting a Mic very close to the speakers?
« Reply #5 on: September 09, 2022, 10:01:54 AM »
1] I highly recommend wearing hearing protectors at all times. Lately, at over 60yo I have forgotten a few times. But I had an audiology exam in 2019 which came up almost perfect. The tech said I had almost 20-20 hearing as compared to vision terms. I told her i was an audio guy and she showed me the curve. A bit of loss at about 400-4k in the right ear, but otherwise it was pretty even.

2] You didn't say which microphones you use for this. Either way, I go with what the others have posted and will add:
One reason most "official Radio" live recordings place microphones between 40 and 60 feet from stage (hanging from ceiling or catwalk etc) is because 40 feet is about the length of a 1/4 wave at 40hz. This is the typical acoustic distance at which a bass wave will start to roll out and get captured by microphones. At closer distances, those frequencies will not get captured "linearly" and even though low frequencies distortion from the mics or pre-amps might occur, they are not picking up those low frequencies coherently vs the high frequencies.
translation from geek: being that close to a PA, with MOST microphones, will cause the mics to take in low frequencies (below100 hz or so) in a way that might result in either distortion or "missing low end". 

OTH, many fine tapes have been recorded with stack taping mentality. My mentor for GD taping used to put Beyer m201's in a cowboy hat and sit in the 100 sections of arenas trying to sit at least 25-40 feet from the stacks.   
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Offline datbrad

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Re: Putting a Mic very close to the speakers?
« Reply #6 on: September 09, 2022, 03:32:12 PM »
I have done this several times @ DMB shows with mixed results, but like Kyle said, if you are too close to the stacks the bass you get isn't fully realized tonally, and if the kick drum is heavy in the mix it will just leave you with a recording with too much thump that you can't do much in post to cut out. On the other hand, I've had great success using this technique taping Bluegrass shows. Back in the '90s we used to tape shows at the Acoustic Stage in Hickory, NC placing the stand right against the stage on one side with mics 6 feet or less from one of the main cabinets. Two that stand out in my memory were duet shows with Tony Rice & David Grisman and Bela Fleck & Jerry Douglas. Tapes sound like sbd heavy matrix recordings. Shows where the music consists of acoustic instruments coming out of a full range PA cabinet on the stage lip, not a flown line array or stacked sub/satellite system this method works great.
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Offline unidentified

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Re: Putting a Mic very close to the speakers?
« Reply #7 on: September 09, 2022, 04:21:43 PM »
Good way to avoid wind noise or chatty neighbors' blather at small outdoor shows

Offline Gutbucket

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Re: Putting a Mic very close to the speakers?
« Reply #8 on: September 09, 2022, 05:12:02 PM »
I understand the thinking behind needing enough room for the waveform to fully develop, but I don't buy into it.  I suspect it's mostly just being so close that the signal from the separate frequency drivers isn't fully blended together correctly causing an odd balance.  When I've done this using omnis the recordings featured fully extended low bass.. too much of it if anything. 

Consider that close-mic'd bass into the PA (either a mic'd electric cabinet or acoustic upright with mic wedged in the tail-stock) is full spectrum with solid bottom.  Sure sometimes (often these days) the bass uses a direct box as well, but not always.   Better still, consider the kick-drum with a mic placed right up against the head and often inside the drum itself!  No low end response-development problem there.
musical volition > vibrations > voltages > numeric values > voltages > vibrations> virtual teleportation time-machine experience
Better recording made easy - >>Improved PAS table<< | Made excellent- >>click here to download the Oddball Microphone Technique illustrated PDF booklet<< (note: This is a 1st draft, now several years old and in need of revision!  Stay tuned)

Offline rocksuitcase

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Re: Putting a Mic very close to the speakers?
« Reply #9 on: September 09, 2022, 11:12:32 PM »
I understand the thinking behind needing enough room for the waveform to fully develop, but I don't buy into it.  I suspect it's mostly just being so close that the signal from the separate frequency drivers isn't fully blended together correctly causing an odd balance.  When I've done this using omnis the recordings featured fully extended low bass.. too much of it if anything. 
great topic as it has a practice vs theory element. The theory I refer to is well known in the art, so I will let that stand.

To your point though, combined with what others have said about actual recordings with known microphones (specs and other defining characteristics) I have to agree with you. One of the finest tapes we ever made was with our Beyer M201 dynamic hypercardioid mics 1 foot from a satellite speaker in the balcony of a large night club. Others here are attesting to their own fine recordings. In most cases these are headworn recordings so I wonder about body absorption, but seems it could only be slightly improving on the natural sonic qualities of microphones. Omnis often pick up uneven low frequency aspects of stage or cabinet sounds, often over emphasizing the lowest frequencies, so that goes against the theory I proponed.

My personal observation here might be to say it is quite possible the "quality" of sound coming from most modern PA systems is often less than the quality of sound coming off of most stage instrument amplifiers. OR might it be the presence of the stage monitors so close to the recordist's location in combination with the PA mix and kick drum overemphasis in smaller venues which causes this type of "un focused" sound? (possibly a real world outcome of Constructive and Destructive interference- https://www.sciencelearn.org.nz/resources/2816-sound-wave-interference )

Fun stuff fellas. great topic robwas       
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Offline tim in jersey

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Re: Putting a Mic very close to the speakers?
« Reply #10 on: September 09, 2022, 11:45:24 PM »
Thanks to everyone for the answers, I'm going to definitely try it and also read the links provided.  As for hearing damage I always wear earplugs, actually invested in some "musicians" ones that attenuate more evenly.  Even if the show is just a little loud they go in, I don't want to lose my hearing and cant' believe I still have decent ears after my youth and many way too loud concerts without them.

Ditto. I saw an audiologist a few years ago, and despite the abuse I've put my ears through when younger, I was surprised to learn that my hearing is slightly *better* than the average male my age.  :o

Offline Scooter123

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Re: Putting a Mic very close to the speakers?
« Reply #11 on: September 11, 2022, 01:28:46 AM »
Stack Tapes are made for omni type mikes in large arenas with lots of crowd noise, but results in a mono tape with no ambiance.  There also may be loss of highs and lows, due to the proximity of the microphones to the source.  DPAs are especially easy to stealth. 

Nothing necessarily bad or good about stack tapes, just another tool in the toolbox ideally suited for certain microphones, arenas and crowds. 
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Offline Gutbucket

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Re: Putting a Mic very close to the speakers?
« Reply #12 on: September 12, 2022, 10:39:54 AM »
I agree with your conclusion, Scooter.

However, there can certainly be ambiance.  Just like any recording incorporating microphones rather or in-addition to direct-in, the amount of ambiance in a stack-tape is going to vary depending on how loud the PA is at that position in comparison to the loudness of the room ambiance and audience reaction, primarily.  Yes the PA is going to be significantly louder at a close position in comparison to a farther one, which if significant enough can mask audibility of the ambiance/audience content when the band is playing, or it may just make that content less audible.  Even if no ambiance/audience is audible at all while the band is playing, it will be audible when the band is not playing, although at a lower level than as would be heard from farther away (by whatever amount you need to set recording gain lower to keep the PA content from clipping).  It's essentially the same as the experience of standing there listening from that position.

The two keys to making a good stack tape are the same as making a good AUD: position and position.  In this case position in terms of getting a good frequency balance from the PA (as discussed above) and position in terms of getting the desired ratio of PA sound verses room/audience sound.


Also, the recording will not have the same stereo qualities as an AUD, stage-tape or non-mono SBD, but will not be mono.  The ambient/audience portion will be stereo, and depending on how audible that portion is, will render the close-PA sound in stereo.  That gets to the root of the similar question that sometimes pops up around TS- "why use two mics to record any acoustic solo performer?"  Even though the direct sound arriving from the performer may not have stereo qualities, performances are never held in anechoic rooms.

I also find stereo-mic stack-taped PA sound not to be truly mono on its own even when it is effectively acoustically masking all ambiant/audience sound.  There is always some response variation between the microphone pair due to configuration, pattern, slight movement if worn by a human mic-stand, etc.   This is the case even very close to the PA, in which the difference can be related to the frequency-blending issue discussed earlier in the thread. Take any stereo recorded stack-tape and listen to the difference when switching between stereo and mono playback.  There is always a difference in my esperience.


Finally, this method works in small clubs as well as large arenas.  In smaller clubs not everything may be represented in the PA, so take care to get the balance of PA sound, stage sound, and room sound right at the stack-recording position.  I tend to think of stack-taping not so much as an isolated specific method in itself, rather than one extreme of a continuum of recording positions with a few different dimensions to it: Centered in the traditional sweet-spot over to close-stack being this particular dimension.  Distant room recording location up to on-stage being another.  Choosing to setup off-center to get on-axis and perhaps closer to PA so as to achieve sufficient clarity while potentially sacrificing some direct PA stereo image quality is an example of moving along this continuum and a bit part of the art of taping.
musical volition > vibrations > voltages > numeric values > voltages > vibrations> virtual teleportation time-machine experience
Better recording made easy - >>Improved PAS table<< | Made excellent- >>click here to download the Oddball Microphone Technique illustrated PDF booklet<< (note: This is a 1st draft, now several years old and in need of revision!  Stay tuned)

Offline DSatz

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Re: Putting a Mic very close to the speakers?
« Reply #13 on: September 12, 2022, 12:59:41 PM »
Miking the speaker cabinet is a long-established way of recording electric guitars and basses in studios. In that situation the pickup becomes one element in the mix, along with direct feeds from vocal and drum mikes as well as room mikes. The miking tends to be pretty close, and typically some experimentation needs to be done to find the best mike choice/position/aiming, or engineers who have experience with this can shorten the experimentation period and start from what worked OK the last time.

The thing is, this gives a dry sound that's meant to be processed and go into a carefully monitored mix along with panning, compression, EQ, reverb and other effects. It gives you an ingredient, in other words, that isn't generally satisfying (in the usual music consumer sense) to listen to by itself. I think that's why the board operator suggested backing off some, to get some "air" and perhaps to help deal with multi-driver issues, though that's a large gamble if you don't have a chance to listen and tweak the setup. You could maybe record a stereo pair simultaneously from some moderate distance away onto separate tracks and then back home, use time delay, panning, EQ and reverb to simulate a room; it would be fictional, but you can't have everything (quote from "The Purple Rose of Cairo").

--best regards
« Last Edit: September 12, 2022, 06:32:57 PM by DSatz »
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Offline Gutbucket

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Re: Putting a Mic very close to the speakers?
« Reply #14 on: September 12, 2022, 01:26:56 PM »
I've done that at times - and I'm sure other TS members have as well - as a way of getting something similar to a direct soundboard feed for bolstering vocal clarity as necessary when an actual soundboard feed patch was unavailable.  Its less reliably good than a direct SBD patch but can certainly be useful and is nice to have available just in case.
« Last Edit: September 12, 2022, 01:28:34 PM by Gutbucket »
musical volition > vibrations > voltages > numeric values > voltages > vibrations> virtual teleportation time-machine experience
Better recording made easy - >>Improved PAS table<< | Made excellent- >>click here to download the Oddball Microphone Technique illustrated PDF booklet<< (note: This is a 1st draft, now several years old and in need of revision!  Stay tuned)

 

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