Complete Classical Music workflow

I prefer a standalone recorder, for a few reasons:

  1. No fan, so no worries that the fan will kick in while you are recording. This is mainly important if you are recording in the same room as the musician(s).
  2. A self-contained unit, no need for a separate interface, no need to worry about latency, etc.
  3. Stable over time. If you never connect your laptop to the internet and never update it, a laptop can be just as stable. But most of us do connect our laptops to the internet, and sometimes updates to software or the operating system can lead to instabilities.

The main advantages to a laptop for classical recording include:

  1. Much bigger screen and more ergonomic interface for settings, which in most standalone recorder require diving through tiny on-screen menus.
  2. All your recorded files are ready to edit, no need to import from a recorder.
  3. Much easier to type in names for markers, add notes, etc.
  4. No need to learn anything new. Some standalone recorders are simple, but the Sound Devices MixPre recorders are actually quite complex and have many settings.

I use the MixPre 6 and really like it, but to extend its capabilities I use an external control surface (a mixing board) plus I use the Wingman app to enter some metadata. With those things added, a laptop starts looking like a simpler alternative. But because my laptop has a fan, there’s always this lingering worry in the back of my mind that the fan might come on. It hasn’t yet, since recording audio is not a very arduous task for a computer, but I’d rather not test my luck. So I will likely stick with the MixPre.

My laptop’s fan is very quiet, you can hardly hear it, which is not a major problem for me, but stability is essential for recording a live concert.
In MXLinux 18.3 Ardour crashed twice, however in Antix 19 seems quite stable. I’m even thinking about not updating this partition…
The MixPre-6 seems a good option to invest in the future.

I’d say Samplitude/Sequoia spectral editing is superior in workflow at present. Also, you can now do spectral editing right on the track view. I do, however, have high hopes for Audacity’s spectral editing. It is clearly the beginning steps so I expect some major improvements over time.

Pretty much what @bradhurley said.

For now I favor the MixPre-6 but, as you know, I picked up the iD44 to use with my new S540 Ideapad. In a classical recording situation I will favor stability over having a big screen. @bradhurley’s laptop list 2,3 & 4 are not a problem for me given I see the SD card as a backup of the files while I work on them at home; I don’t ever type in markers etc., and, the MixPre was, admittedly, more complex than my Zoom and Marantz but I kinda like the process of figuring it out (plus the touch screen is cool and well thought out). One major benefit of the Zoom F8 is the dual SD card slots so you can record to both slots simultaneously for added peace of mind.

Yep. The perfect number of preamps for either an ORTF array with omni flankers or a pair of cards/omnis with spots. Don’t discount the Zoom F6 as an option (or Zoom F8n if you willing to pay a little more).

One thing to bear in mind for field recorders is the power options. I use a USB-C Anker 26800 mAh powerblock for my MixPre6 and use a smaller 10000 mAh USB-A version for my Marantz. When I owned the Zoom F8, I used a hirose cable to connect to my power source. You can, of course, plug into the wall but for me it defeats the small-form factor and ability to place anywhere given the silent operation. The key thing is having a secondary power source as all these devices are able to switch seamlessly. Rechargeable AA batteries work for me.

I’m still on antiX 17 for that reason as, again, I’m valuing stability a lot more these days (although I have some time to iron out any kinks if I did want to install 19).

Definitely play around with calibration of your monitors. You never know, it might revolutionize your mixing/mastering :wink:

The article is out of date at this point. Bob Katz has signalled the K-meter is essentially dead as he himself uses LUFS meters. However, as I indicated previously, there’s a somewhat successful push for some sort of k-meter/lufs combination: There’s also another calibrated to -23 LUFS to align with broadcast standards.

However, I’m quickly coming around to the idea that for classical an integrated value of between -18 and -20 LUFS over the whole album is all I really need (with monitors calibrated appropriately).

I just started a new thread about my solo flute recording project.

Thank you for all your advice. :slight_smile:

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Good point. I’ve just added a tool-tip “dBFS - Digital Peak Hold. Click to reset.” to the display.

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Thank you, Robin!!
Now this will be more clear :wink:

For output formats, what formats do people put out on a regular basis? Sample rate / bit depth? Physical CD? How about dither practices?

I always seem to do a test physical CD burned in cdrdao from a 44.1/16 wav+cue (which then becomes a DDP via cue2ddp). Then follows 44.1/16 FLAC and 320kbps MP3 (though I’m interested in moving to equivalent quality OGG or OPUS down the road – any thoughts on this?). All files are tagged in Kid3-qt with 300x300 JPEG album art added. If I’ve recorded at 96 kHz I will use internal Secret Rabbit Code SRC in Ardour to reach 44.1 kHz and standard triangular dither to get 16-bit… Does the “noise-shaping” option resemble one of the POW-r algorithms?

I’m also interested in exporting at capture sample rate and 32-bit float to process through SoX to get 44.1/16. I could then use Fre:ac or command line to get all the formats. The question is whether Secret Rabbit Code vs SoX SRC would make a tangible difference to sound. I was extremely happy with the SoX implementation in EZ Audio CD Converter in Windows.

EDIT: For what it’s worth, I note that my favorite classical site by default offers 320 kbps MP3, 44.1/16 FLAC plus hi-res 96/24 FLAC.

Sorry @anon60445789 but all those issues are for the second year of DAW and I’m still in the first course… :wink:

Anyway I think it will depend on what you want to do with your project, make a physical cd and also offer the possibility to download your music or use your recordings only on download platforms.

In that sense I still have a lot of doubts about what to do when I finish my project.

I think classical (and a few other genres, including traditional music) is one area where many people still buy CDs. I’ve read in other forums that there is also a growing audiophile market for DSD files and of course people do buy and download high-quality uncompressed audio in a variety of formats.

The CD is becoming a niche product, though, as most cars now don’t even have CD players; many hi-fi home stereo stores have gone out of business. But many people who like classical music have invested in high-quality listening equipment, including CD players, and a lot of people still like having physical media (and liner notes in booklet form). In my world, traditional Irish music, CDs are still more popular than downloads. I suspect it’s true with jazz as well, and of course there’s a growing niche market for vinyl LPs too.

I think offering both CDs and high-quality digital downloads is a good strategy for the next five years or so. The main drawback to CDs is that they are costly to produce; my partner and I have never made back the money we spent on ours and view our CD more as promotional material than a source of income. Our CD is also available on all the streaming platforms, but that’s a joke, we’ve made about $75 in streaming sales since 2015.


It is $75 more than I’ve made (though my family has generously bought multiple copies of discs to hand out to willing victims).

I was reading a few snippets from John Eargle books this evening. I highly recommend them for classical engineers even though they were written many moons ago:

There are updated editions but I don’t see a need, honestly. If you do want an up-to-date general audio engineering book which seems to cover a whole lot of stuff, go for this (I don’t think I mentioned it before with the classical-oriented ones):

In any case, a few ideas began to form tonight:

  1. Analog + DAW

I really want to explore a hybrid setup of analog mixer + Ardour. I was looking at one of the Soundcraft Signature series: and thinking it would be a great backup “interface” with multi-track USB out but also to take my four analog outs from the iD44 so that I can blend classical arrays and/or spots with real faders, apply some external effects, perhaps use the onboard Lexicon effects, go through real analog circuitry etc. and then get back into the iD44 via the returns on channels 1 and 2 to bypass the Audient preamps. It’s an expensive crazy idea but I like to dream at least. Perhaps it flies in the face of “pristine” classical? I also hear that the Ghost preamps on the Soundcraft are quite excellent for the price point. Plus, in the unlikely event I was using more tracks in the DAW, my UMC1820 would allow me to send out 8 separate channels to the Soundcraft…Or, I could just use Mixbus :wink:

  1. Move entirely to Linux

Having gotten into an analog frame of mind, the complementary part of my brain wants to make the switch to Linux-only sooner rather than later. Not sure why it is “complementary” but the connection is there in my mind, at least. As I said previously, I have some time to freshly install antiX 19 etc and decide exactly how to proceed with plugin choices and workflow. It’s not like I haven’t worked fully in this fashion a good number of times but there are several reasons I was holding onto my Win10 partition that I’d need to work through (like becoming a Jedi master at Audacity-based spectral editing).

In other news, I found this video series and thought it might be useful fodder for us classical folk: (video links are down the page). It is for “live” classical but I think many of the ideas are clearly transferable. It goes on for multiple hours so it achieves a satisfying level of detail.

I’m not really sure.
Offering both CDs and high quality digital downloads is still the norm, however it makes the release of the recording quite expensive, I think that nowadays almost nobody buys CDs, only family, friends and a few nostalgic audiophiles. The others are to give away, also to friends…

I myself haven’t bought CDs in a long time.

Bachstudies your project about Bach you only have it in BandCamp or can you also buy it?

Thank you for the info. :ok_hand:

I did around 10 years ago. Even for photography. I use Rawtherapee and Gimp.

Thank you one more time.
From that series I only knew the video where he talks about microphones. I will see the others when I have the time, although my English is at the limit to understand everything well … :slight_smile:

Not sure, really. Here’s a good read: Classical seems to be holding on better than most. Perhaps this should be expected given the desire/need for higher audio quality for playback and as @bradhurley mentioned, the enjoyment of reading a physical booklet? Also, while I’m a unique human being, my listening habits are far from that having been conditioned by my upbringing as a Xennial in the UK. There are more of me out there :wink: I assume CDs will go the way of Vinyl and not completely die. They may even make a comeback with the next generation.

There are plenty of options for making physical discs. I personally have used both on-demand like Amazon’s CreateSpace, local companies like, bigger companies like Discmakers and, my favorite way: created at home. I invested a small amount in some wood-free paper (corn-based), eco-bags etc and can make a reasonably professional origami disc packet (I can provide my template if you are interested). I used the usual Linux tools of Gimp and Scribus.

For my Bach Project, I’ll probably end up making a multi-disc set through Early days…

Yep, classical audio is the last stronghold in the Windows world. Everything else is Linux for me, too.

Well, I may end up admitting that I’ll need to make physical cd’s :slight_smile:
In that case, it wouldn’t be a good idea to make the recording with a “higher sound quality”? thinking of the audiophile market.
Perhaps better than just a resolution of 44.1-16?

There’s no need apparently: 32bit floating point recording question.

I tested myself with a recent project and found 44.1/16 not only adequate but “perfect” to my ears. Indeed, as others have pointed out, the 96/24 FLACs ended up sounding less good on my system (best I can describe is slightly “edgy”). And that 44.1/16 was after SoX SRC and regular triangular dither too! There will always be dissenting views but I’m now definitely convinced. Record to 44.1/24 and dither down to 16-bit for export. Here is the original article I read:’s videos on this are excellent too.

44.1/16 was an error, I meant 44.1/24.

Yes, I think so, I think it’s practically impossible for a human to detect the difference. I only thought on a commercial level… Lately there are many recordings that use the resolution as a claim…

It seems a great option, although in my case I would have to look at advantages and disadvantages from Spain.

This has definitely been troubling for me. As I have mentioned elsewhere, I have the greatest respect for Linn Records but this was dampened slightly by the reality that their studio master downloads at 192k are essentially a pure marketing scam (unless you claim bigger file sizes = more money :wink: ) I don’t own a Linn system myself but I assume that even if they are fully capable of 192k playback no human can hear the difference. Oh well. At this point, I’ve decided to only make available 44.1/16 digital files from here on out. Also note that over the internet many people say the standard CD layer on the hybrid SA-CD is often preferable to the hi-res layer for whatever reason.

Um, CDs are by definition 44k1/16 and even at that, 60 to 70 minutes is the maximum size. If you walk away from a format every CD player out there knows how to play into some a place where some other format is used, first a great part of the audience is lost due to lack of equipment. Second, either the CD will have less content, or the content will have to be compressed. If the compression is of a lossy type, it is no longer high def :slight_smile: if it is lossless compression then compression amount is less and content amount is less too (this may be ok). But really, if going to the trouble and expense of printing CDs, I would want my CDs to be playable anywhere (even in a noisy car). I had only heard of high res audio on DVD before, I did not realize there were non-standard CDs for this purpose too. DVDs already have a standard for high res audio. Also note that those who sell high res/low res audio generally do two masters/mixes one for low res and one for high res. The normal mix and a mix to “bring out the extra band width available in the high res”. This mix may have more dynamic range and perhaps EQ and/or an exciter to bring out the high end a bit more. People should be able to hear a difference. Of course both mixes should be good mixes. Believe it or not, this post is not meant to be sarcastic but rather to deal with the realities of the market.

As a side note, I have a DVD player that can play “blue ray” discs. I have found I get a better experience if I use DVDs instead, they load faster, their video resolution is still better than our screen and they are less likely to be damaged than blueray discs. On top of that they are cheaper. Even when they come with both discs in one package, I generally play the DVD.

I was just thinking about the possibility of downloads. For example like these CDs:

Or, to record at 44.1/24, dither to 16 for the CD and offer 44.1/24 for losless download, like this:

He means that in addition to standard 44.1/16 physical CDs he might add hi-res 44.1/24 lossless digital files for download.

EDIT: I wrote this before I saw that @Aleph had responded similarly.

I’d be surprised if classical engineers are further engineering their MP3 downloads. They offer them generally at 320kbps which for all intents and purposes is so close to CD-quality that you’d struggle to reliably tell the difference every time. The one major downside (and I mean major) is that MP3s don’t allow gapless playback which for many classical albums would be a disaster.

I think you might have it backwards. Blu-ray discs have superior error correction and therefore better scratch resistance.

Nobody does anything special for mp3s :slight_smile: The scenario I was thinking about is release CD first, then release on DVD (perhaps with video) at big sample rate/big bit depth. The high res is often remixed “to take advantage of the higher resolution”. In other words to make it sound better or at least different so the customer does not feel they wasted their money… sort of a value added thing. (“But wait, there’s more…”) The real reason of course is that there would be no audible difference if they didn’t remix and people would not buy them for long. Remember that one of the selling points of the blueray (and other) disc is “high res audio”. So all the cheap DVD/Blueray players have a high res audio label on them even though after the DAC the analog circuitry is the cheapest thing they can get by with and nobody has a listening space with even 50 or 60 DB dynamic range (assuming 85 dB SPL listening level which is on the high side). Add 20 dB for peaks (again over the top for most home listening systems) and 16 bits of depth is still almost 20dB overkill. All it takes is one kid who is a screamer and the listeners hearing bandwidth is cut off at 12k and even the young adult who doesn’t use headphones and likes quiet likely can’t hear anything beyond 18k either. Ya, making a hi-res audio product sound different is a must.

As data density goes up error correction must follow because a smaller scratch destroys more data. So a small scratch that on a DVD would not cause problems would on blueray without the extra error correction. A scratch that is big enough to be a problem on a DVD is likely more than enough to also cause problems on a blue ray disc as well. My experience with blue ray discs has not been stellar.

As a side note, I have a number of different mics (not a large number) of different types. They are not top of the market models and nothing was beyond $300. I have also listened to audio where I know which mic was used for other reference. It is interesting to me that the mic that has put me “in the room with the instrument” is the inexpensive ribbon mic that starts rolling off by 15k or so. True, the one condenser mic I do have has a small diaphragm and is not the best (AT2020). However, I do wonder if striving for even a 20k signal is worth while in the real world.

Edit: I think what I am trying to say about the mic is: when looking for a mic that faithfully captures the high end of the audio range (above 12k), it is very important that the lower range below about 14k right down to 100hz is still very accurate. The range below 14k is what will make the mic sound good or not.