Complete Classical Music workflow

How about just keep going here? In this thread the ship has already sailed. – It was mostly the off-topic terminal debugging that triggered me.

If you wish we can delete the last couple of posts pertaining to the “moderation” discussion. There’s no need to bug posteriority with it.
@seablade any opinion?

Here we go:

Let’s take care of any issues/feedback over there and continue general classical workflow here. Thanks @x42!

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I think that fits very well thank you.

In as far as the discussion about the recording in particular, here is how I would think about it. If the discussion is about the recording technique (Or workflow) for classical flute, I would think here would be fine, though you could start a new thread if desired. If the discussion is about that particular recording and/or song, then lets start a new thread about it in the ‘Made with Ardour’ category.

In as far as the moderation discussion, lets keep it present long enough to at least confirm all parties have read and understood it. If there are any other questions, email me (gmail: seablaede note the extra ‘e’) and I will be happy to take it up there, but I don’t feel like there is a need to continue it here and so long as no one objects I may hide those posts here before long.

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So I think I can keep asking general questions about the classical music workflow here and I will start a new thread when I want to ask specific questions about my project.

Thank you friends.

I thought that we could go through each of the sections I outlined in the OP and open up for further discussion. Perhaps we could first discuss capture of audio via audio interface and microphones?

I would be interested to know about what levels people set when recording in 24-bit, whether people are now using the new 32-bit float field recorders (MixPre ii and Zoom F6) and what people might recommend for a linux-friendly audio interfaces and good stereo pairs specifically for classical capture where preamp quality is paramount. For what it’s worth, I just picked up an Audient iD44 (tested in Windows but not in Linux as yet) to add to my MixPre6 ii field recorder (audio from SD card into Ardour). For microphones I just purchased a pair of Shure KSM141 to supplement the AT4022/4021, sE4400/sE8 and Behringer B5/B2 Pro pairs I own. I generally use a stereo array such as ORTF or spaced pair if using omni (occasionally blending two arrays when there is limited sound check). I’m experimenting with NOS, DIN and EBS based on the “sweet” spot in the room, distance from ensemble and spread of musicians. Much of this you already knew. What about you?

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Great topic, and I appreciate the continuing conversation on these points. When I was using Linux, my trusty Sound Devices USBPre 2 interface did a great job: its preamps are similar to those of the legendary 788t and it’s a very versatile little device. It can be USB-powered or plugged into a power source; it can also be used as a standalone preamp not connected to a computer. But I did find myself yearning for more inputs and ultimately went for the Mixpre 6, first generation. For a very high-quality two-input preamp today I would probably get this: It’s class-2 compliant and runs on Linux.

As discussed previously I like using a field recorder, in part because there’s no fan and it’s a simple self-contained unit. A couple of weekends ago I ran into a problem with my MixPre (my fault, not the recorder’s) so I switched to recording through my USBPre 2 into Mixbus on a Thinkpad (running Windows 10) and recorded for several hours without a problem and without the fan ever kicking in. It was nice to have all that screen real estate compared with the MixPre’s tiny interface, so I’m tempted now to start using the laptop. But if I start doing this more regularly I’d switch it over to Linux, which I trust more than Windows for critical applications.

My recording gear is ancient, and whenever I think about upgrade, SD USBPre2 first comes to mind :smiley:. But, it is very expensive in Europe… In that class (1k-1.5k€) there are other good options: Digigram Cancun, Merging Anubis, Sonosax (thanks, @bradhurley) … Then there is option to buy preamps and converters separately - Mytek ADDA 8x192 with optional usb card is class compliant, D.A.V. and Line Audio both make fine inexpensive preamps. These are all costly options. The question is how bad are inexpensive audio interfaces these days. Audient, Presonus, Focusrite, even Behringer (via Midas) all have know-how to produce top class preamps. The question is only how much compromises they made to lower the price, and how much do those compromises affect sound quality. Do you remember that Gearsluts thread about people having to decide which is which between a Grace preamp and ART Tube MP?

It’s a good question. I use a consumer-level mixer for live sound (QSC Touchmix) and it can also record direct (stereo mix plus ISOs) to an external hard disk or SSD. It has “Class A” preamps but I’ve done comparisons with my MixPre 6 and there’s a noticeable difference in sound quality between recordings made on the Touchmix and those made on the MixPre: the MixPre recordings sound better. But is that due to the preamps or A/D converters or something else? There are too many variables. Plus it’s hard to do an accurate comparison because you need to set up everything exactly the same, with instruments exactly the same distance from the mics, same levels, etc.

I don’t question that, and I am all for buying the best gear one can afford. But, at least where I come from, if one intends to spend cca 1000€ - the price of MixPre6 on - he/she is expected to generate some income using it.
I have got this ancient M-Audio Fast Track Ultra 8R, with its hard/2D-ish/in-your-face sound (works with Linux, BTW). But when I listen to some ten years old recordings made with it, all of those sound quite decent, I can certainly enjoy listening to that music without distractions.
My point is : If one can afford it I see no reason not to buy the best gear available, and if one can’t afford it (teenagers, students, us, living in Eastern Europe where a person earning $20k/yr is considered well off…), well, decent quality recordings can be made with any 200€ interface out there today. Those of little means and with a flare to produce some music are better off today than ever before.

I totally agree. Another point is that old used equipment is a good option. I still use a circa 1996 Sharp minidisc recorder for some stereo field recordings and those recordings actually sound just as good as anything I’ve gotten from the MixPre using the same mic. And my old Korg MR-1000, which was expensive new but nowadays available used at around $500 USD or less online, has been used by professional recording engineers for audiophile CDs.

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This does look like an excellent device (and cute to boot). I feel like I’ve made some bad purchase choices over the years. Not that any of it has made bad recordings but I probably should have saved up for longer and gotten a couple of top tier items versus the collection of middle-of-the-range products. No real regrets though and I do like having more options/backups.

I started with laptop but when I found myself only doing live concert recordings, the field recorder options took away a lot of anxiety about device noise, driver/software issues, distance from ensemble etc. I still have my Oade Brothers concert-modded Marantz PMD 661 around for backup if the MixPre fails (hope that never happens!) Perhaps the Zoom F-series and SD MixPres are at just the right price point that the older Marantz/Korg type options are no longer worth getting used on eBay? I did actually try to sell my Marantz but zero interest despite it looking like new. I consider the modded preamps quite excellent.

It is a matter of vanity but if I could somehow cover up the Behringer label, I’d happily use the UMC1820 for a classical album requiring lots of channels. I worry more about the judgements from clients far more than the results. I always have to answer questions from performers about what gear I’m using. I once used a pair of the B5 microphones in ORTF into my Marantz and the result was excellent (despite being too far from the ensemble due to camera constraints). I, too, used to use a minidisc recorder (and one of those Sony plugin-power stereo microphones) but back then I knew absolutely nothing about audio engineering so any serviceable results were pure luck, honestly.

Agreed. Some of my own recordings that are closest to my heart are the ones that I made with my first equipment purchases in my student days: a single AKG Perception 200 mic to record my wife’s and my vocals into a Behringer MIC100 for some VSTi carol arrangements I had made with the original IK Multimedia Miroslav samples. I probably made all sorts of hideous errors with gain-staging etc but somehow they turned out well enough to send to the relatives :wink:

I do love reading through those type of shootouts. When the rational side of my brain kicks in, I realize that such direct comparisons are extremely rare in the real recording world. I don’t think I’ve ever brought multiple pairs of microphones to a gig in order that I might switch them out to hear the difference. I trust the microphones I picked and focus more on their placement given time is often limited. However, based on the shootouts, it’s clear that a B5 can hold its own against higher-priced options (as can the C2 pair when positioned well). Likewise, a UMC204HD interface can record a great classical performance.

But, yes, I concur: buy the best you can afford and start recording! Purchase choices likely go hand-in-hand with job opportunities. If you find yourself recording the Chicago Symphony perhaps you will be in the market for DPA/Schoeps/Gefell/Sennheiser and separate preamps etc. Or, if like me you live in an area with generally bad spaces and mostly do live concert recordings, there’s probably not the income or need to go any further than a solid mid-range option. I’m slightly contradicting my opening statement here but as you can infer, I still wrestle with what the best purchase route for gear should be.

That’s a key point. I work for clients in my day job, so for music (and video: I’m working on a documentary) my rule is “no paid jobs.” I might be willing to do audio recordings for paying clients someday but I like having the freedom to follow my own vision and tastes, to experiment, fail, and learn without the stress of financial responsibility. That’s expensive, though. I buy refurbished and used when I can.

That’s great and it is pretty much where I am. My wife works full-time in academia and we made the decision that I could follow my passions and, like you say, experiment and fail without the stress. I do, however, take paid gigs for the live concert recording of local ensembles so that I can stay on top of software updates in the Windows world and those mid-range gear purchases :wink:

On the subject of capturing audio, one of the reasons I’ve enjoyed the field recorders is for the stereo gain-linking. i.e. moving the gain knob on channel 1 moves channel 2’s gain in identical fashion. My Marantz is also great for that given the two gain controls for L and R are concentric and under normal operation are designed to move together. With regular audio interfaces I find this more of a challenge but it helps having marks around the circle. I noted that the newer Presonus interfaces have digital read-out of the gain which, again, is very useful. It’s one of those things I probably worry too much about!

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That’s a nice feature on the MixPre. I also like the Mid-Side recording preset; I’ve rigged up a very compact and portable MS rig that I use for field recording when I’m shooting video; the sound quality’s fantastic and I love the flexibility of MS for video work - I can use just the “mid” channel for interviews and then bring in the figure-8 for stereo when I’m capturing soundscapes. I might try using that rig for music as well; I did use it to capture a group of singers in a church in Brittany earlier this year and it worked beautifully for that.

Ah yes…I always dismiss M/S recording as a possibility but I probably shouldn’t. I mostly relate it to mono-compatibility for, say, BBC radio broadcasts of yesteryear but it can be incredibly useful as a method of changing the recording width in post. Actually a recording engineer who I hired to record a Vivaldi choral album when I lived in Scotland used a M/S pair to great effect. He asked for very little money and I suspect he was using our recording session as a way of experimenting with different microphone techniques. I think he went on to win a Dolby/NFTS award for best sound so clearly he knew what he was doing back then :wink:

Any differing views on the -12dB peak or -18 dB “nominal” for capture? Before using the 32-bit float option in the MixPre for live concerts, during rehearsal I would ask the conductor to perform their loudest section of the concert (sometimes they are mistaken!). For albums and controlled situations I would prefer to record in 24-bit and set levels the old-fashioned way.

The -18dB nominal I associate with reference levels for the entire audio system. Does anyone calibrate their home recording/listen environment in this way? I’m talking about sending a 1kHz sine wave signal as input to appear as -18dB (or whatever your device’s published nominal level is) and then using pink noise to calibrate speaker output dependent on room size. I have set up this way and still do for certain projects but sometimes for archival recordings that I know hit fortissimo, I simply normalize the region to -1dBTP, adjust listening volume to comfortable level and see where the chips fall in terms of integrated and LRA. Only then will I make a decision on whether I need any dynamic manipulation. In any case, is the whole -18dBFS = +4dBu = 0 VU = 85dB SPL (or much lower for my modest listening space!) something that folks do with their classical music / Ardour workflow?

The default depth in Ardour is 32-bit. Do you think it’s better to change it to 24-bit?

Unless I’m missing something, there’s no point in recording at 32-bit in Ardour given that all the behind-the-scenes stuff is all taking place in 32-bit float in any case. I could record at 32-bit float when I’m playing internally on a VSTi into, say, Audacity, but for external, if you clip your flute recording that will still sound clipped even if you dial it back. Stick to 24-bit would be my suggestion and enjoy the smaller file sizes!

When you use 32bit float, the file can be directly mapped into memory. While 24 bit read/write requires conversion (to/from 32bit float). Then again it’s not really significant unless you get into a few hundred tracks territory or have an older slow machine (or a RPi perhaps).

Fair enough, that’s not something that I had thought about. But, in terms of fidelity we would agree that there would be zero sonic difference? With the suggested -12dB peak levels at capture, 24-bit has an extremely healthy amount of signal that is way above the noise floor of our eventual 16-bit output format.

For all real-world pro-audio use-cases, definitely yes.