Complete Classical Music workflow

The harpsichords in Pianoteq are good to play (as responsive as the pianos) but even the paid-for Ruckers addition doesn’t quite have that extra bit of realism that I’m looking for. For want of a better word, Pianoteq harpsichords sound a little like “plastic”. In addition, the characteristic key-off sound generated by the dropping plectra is far too uniform across the keyboard (same sound) and there seems to be zero authentic soundboard resonance.

Harpsichords: I’ve searched high and low for realistic harpsichords across all platforms and the best I’ve found are the Orchestral Tools Berlin Series (an Italian and French) that have what sounds like authentic soundboard resonance even with zero reverb applied, and probably my new favorite, the Ruckers add-on for Hauptwerk software (the free version can run the Ruckers I think). Ignore the demos: they don’t do the instrument justice at all (much like all other harpsichord VSTi sites). This is better: (but there are some annoying demo bells). In the description there’s another link to his real instrument for comparison. Playing the instrument for the first time while monitoring over headphones was sheer delight.

Organs: For realism you can get absolutely stellar results with Grandorgue + the Piotr Grabowski free organs (the Giubiasco, Azzio and Strassburg instruments are my favorite ones). There are other expensive ones for Hautpwerk by Sonus Paradisi but I don’t think they add anything for Bach. Plus, the Grandorgue works so well on Linux connected via Jack. As you know, Organteq is young and I expect it to mature nicely. The one caution is that the pianos of Pianoteq (now at version 6) are still lacking the last step of realism to my ears at least. You can’t beat them for playability but I always find myself reaching for samples for the best sonic results.


Thanks as always for your informative and helpful reply. I totally agree about the pianos in Pianoteq; we use them in live performances since Pianoteq is so lightweight and doesn’t require me to bring along a separate hard disk or SSD with samples, but for recording I would use sampled instruments. I’m pretty disappointed in the Pianoteq harps as well; the sampled ones I have are so much more realistic. Thanks for the organ recommendations; I’ll check out Grandorgue! I’ve played flute and guitar for decades and am new to keyboard instruments but really love playing and composing with them.

Regarding Organs, have you tried Aeolus ?

It’s getting a bit dated, but on the upside it’s likely available out-of-the-box on your GNU/Linux distro as JACK app. Someone on #lad recently considered making a plugin version of it for convenience.

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Yes to Aeolus. While dated, I think it holds up really well. With enough quality church/cathedral reverb wash it is very pleasant to play and listen to. Same thoughts apply though: playability is top notch but doesn’t sound as good as a well-sampled instrument. is a brilliant demonstration. The fact that it includes the church acoustics is a major plus for me as my work never includes needing to play these samples in a different space.

Interesting, I have not yet heard any sample sets I like for any instrument. However, perhaps that is not preferences but what I consider important in a sound. I can agree that samples would have the most authentic sound but I find them lifeless. They seem static where as the modeled sounds while perhaps not authentic to the original instrument have a life of their own and allow the players dynamics to show through much better. Rather than thinking of it as an instrument replacement, I think of them as a new instrument. As a side note, I also have enjoyed good FM piano sounds over samples for the same reason, they seem to be able to show the player’s expression better. No right or wrong either way I think. perhaps different instruments for different uses.

Fair enough. I would agree that Pianoteq excels not only in playability but in the natural dynamic contours. In terms of dynamics, though, I’m less interested in those for organ and harpsichord though it should be said that for the best samples real round-robin is often used to remove any sense of lifelessness.

The “problem” for classical recordings is that sonic properties are extremely important. I will argue that the best Hauptwerk/Grandorgue samples are almost impossible to discern from real-life recordings. Indeed, there have been several recordings on audiophile labels using a Hauptwerk setup as part of a larger ensemble because it was cost-prohibitive to record overseas or ship in a real Italian organ.

Don’t give up, keep looking :wink:

Another plug for a dedicated crossfade editor (and source-destination editing) in Ardour! For anyone who hasn’t used the big three classical DAWs this might be useful as videos say it far better than descriptions.

Here’s a basic view of the Pyramix fade editor window:

Note the greyed-out waveforms either side of the fade. This is critical for precise classical editing. Note also the buttons along the top of the fade window for auditioning and access to more detailed crossfade values and settings. Note also the ability to slide audio or the crossfade maintaining sync with all other edits.

Here’s SADiE:

Here’s Pyramix again with some more involved classical editing (in French). It uses the quick drag and drop stuff as well as adjustments in the fade editor:

I don’t think I’ve posted these particular videos previously but if so, I apologize! It would be fantastic for Ardour to be able to offer this funtionality. Copying and pasting a new selection in the middle of a generally good take could be a rather vanilla affair of using the current Ardour copy/paste system if a crossfade editor allowed for precise tweaking afterwards. Perhaps there would need to be a way in a classical session to limit regions to a single layer for the purpose of a fade editor. i.e. if you drag and drop a selection on top of another it simply replaces what is underneath. For all I know, this might be configurable already.

For source-destination editing, it might be worth seeing if any of the developers of Kdenlive or another video NLE would be interested in writing code to implement it in Ardour. Three- and four-point editing are standard features in any NLE and I’ve used DaVinci Resolve for simple (one-track) source-destination editing for audio such as voiceovers. The Fairlight DAW built into Resolve has the potential to eventually serve as a 4-point editor for multitrack recordings, as noted by Reynaud Venter toward the bottom of this post:, which presumably would work even in the free version of Resolve. I doubt that adding this functionality is on Blackmagic Design’s priority list, however; there’s probably not much demand for it in their main market.

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An interesting point! I did think at one stage that a totally separate basic S-D cutting application would also be fine given I never engage in any other tasks while doing the detailed cutting. For classical I see it as a two or three-step process: Spectral editing/noise reduction (optional) --> S-D cutting --> “Pre-Mastering” (EQ, Comp, Limiter, Reverb, arranging final tracks for album layout etc.) Only the elements of the final task need to be executed in the same environment and at that point Ardour/Mixbus is as good as the regular DAWs come. This still leaves the question of a real crossfade editor for the cutting part.

Hello again, friends,

I have received several recording proposals and would like to expand my gear. Can you help me? Although I have a very limited budget, 1,000 euros, so I don’t know whether to buy one good thing and one mediocre thing, or two mediocre things and wait a little longer…

But I would like them to work well on Linux and Ardour.

Right now I only have an Audient i14 (with only two inputs) and a couple of sE8 mics (cardioids)

I see a lot of options and I’m a little confused, can you help me?

Some options:

1- Buy two mediocre products, the Behringer UMC1820 200 Euro and a pair of Behringer B5, 120 Euro

2- Arturia AudioFuse 8Pre (700 euro) (I heard very good comments from her) + a pair of OM1 audio lines (300 euro)

3- Having a portable recorder like the Zoom f6 (580 ?) seems interesting to me, it’s 6 inputs -although I don’t know if I’m throwing my money away, the MixPre 6 even though it only has 4 inputs seems to offer a better sound
And as for microphones, buy two Behringer B5s on a provisional basis, 120 euros until you can buy better microphones like the KSM141 or the OM1

4- To buy the MixPre6 and provisionally a pair of Behringer B5, 120

Any advice?

Hi again…

There’s a lot to unpack! Starting with your portable recorder question, I like both Zoom and SoundDevices stuff. Both the Zoom F6 and MixPre6-II offer 32-float recording if you want to just press record and not worry in the slightest about clipping. The preamps are excellent on both (I’ve used the Zoom F8 for classical many times and the F6 has the same, I believe). MixPre6 feels a little better built but unless you are treating them roughly, both would be excellent choices.

As for microphones, the sE8s are fab for classical on a “budget”. They hold up really well against more expensive options. If you need omni microphones, be aware that there is talk of sE releasing omni caps for the sE8s. If you can’t wait or those never materialize, the Behringer B5s are definitely an option but at this stage I’d argue that your money might be better spent saving up for a pair of AT4022s. These are exceptional for classical duties and, in combination with the sE8s as a central ORTF pair, you’d be able to dial in a good blend of the pairs. The other option if you like your sE8s is to save up for a pair of the sE4400. I’ve made several classical recordings with the 4400s in omni mode with the AT4022 or sE8s in the center as ORTF or DIN/NOS/EBS. It’s really useful to pick the best pair or, as I mentioned, dial in a blend in post when you have limited time to set up before a live concert. The KSM141 pair are probably my new favorite go-to microphones but I can’t stand the vertical stereo bar it comes with so I use the ones that come with the sE pairs.

For interfaces, I’m loving my UR44 as it works out-of-the-box in Linux. I still enjoy my Behringer UMC series options for MIDI recording/mastering. If I were you, I’d use a portable recorder for on-location to cut out the possibility of any laptop issues. Quick auditioning is quite easy once you know your way around the devices.

In conclusion provided you are doing session recording where you have the luxury of setup time, you can make professional stereo recordings with either a Zoom F6 or MixPre6 and have extra inputs left over for spot microphones etc. If you can afford one multi-use pair, go for the KSM141 or the sE4400. Your sE8s will play very nicely with both as a center pair. If you just want omnis as alternatives/complements to the sE8s, pick up a pair of AT4022.

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thank you once again @anon60445789

The purchase of the Zoom f6 (580 ?) seems clear, but the omni set is a bit over my budget.

  • Zoom f6 + AT4022 pair = 1320
    Plus the wires…

  • The Shure KSM141 are 955€

  • The SE Electronics SE 4400A are 850€

  • AT4022 760€

  • Line Audio Om1 250€

  • Behringer b5 120€

Do you think there’s much difference between OM1 and AT4022?

I have to think about it.

For your chosen application, I think the 4022s would be a better investment. For beautiful venues in quiet places omnis can be a real treat and I would save up for either a pair of the 4022s (omni), KSM141s (card/omni) or sE4400As (card, fig 8, omni, supercard). Any of those three would deliver stellar results. The OM1 works well close to instruments but further afield (i.e. typical classical stereo applications) the others win handily in my book.

You could buy the Zoom F6 and continue with your sE8 pair for now. You could create beautiful stereo recordings with good positioning and choosing something like ORTF, DIN, NOS or EBS. In most venues that I record these days, cardioid vs omni is a major plus as it means I’m picking up less traffic noise :wink:

+1 to this. I’ve been a bit disappointed in my OM1s when placed in AB at a distance. They sound pretty dead compared with my higher-end omnis (Earthworks QTC-40), although a bit of high-shelf EQ can restore some of the life. Still, I find them lacking in detail and definitely not ideal for flute. The CM-4 wide cardioid in NOS is much better in my experience (I still use the CM-3 but the CM-4 would be similar but slightly less wide).

As always, @anon60445789 is providing great advice. You could also see if you can find a used first-generation MixPre recorder (they’re more affordable now that version II is on the market) or a used Zoom F6 to save a bit of money.


I found a second-hand Mixpre-6 - I (715 €). The Mixpre 6 only has 4 microphone inputs, although I’ve seen reviews where it seems like it’s sound is a little warmer.
Do you think it’s worth a second hand Mixpre-6 over the Zoom 6?

On the mics, maybe I could wait a little bit and buy something that is really worthwhile.

I have the MixPre 6 myself. It’s great, but I can’t compare it with the Zoom F6 since I’ve never used that recorder. That price seems quite high for a used MixPre 6; it’s not too far from what I paid for mine when it was brand new.

On this review the sound of the Mixpre seems much better:

What do you think?

All I would say is that having owned the Zoom F8 and MixPre6-II, the preamps on both are super quiet and appropriate for classical recording so I wouldn’t be able to reliably A-B them on a typical full-scale classical production. More important by far are your choices of microphone and their placement. I’d be happy with either an F6 or MixPre, personally. FYI, I sold my F8 on eBay just so I could check out the 32-bit float recording on the MixPre as I often need to record live concerts without full rehearsals and in different venues where I haven’t had a chance to set by experience. The number of times the director has said they are giving me the loudest section and it being wildly out is no longer amusing :wink: For a planned session recording where setting levels and full rehearsal are part of the routine, I’d default to 24-bit to save disk space, for sure.

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I don’t think it was a perfectly controlled test, though; Curtis’s voice volume could have varied slightly between the takes, and even though he said in all cases he was the same distance from the microphone it’s hard to do that precisely across multiple takes. For perfect control you’d need to record a consistent sound source, such as a recording played back through speakers, with the microphone fixed at a constant distance from the speakers.

In general Sound Devices has a better reputation for build quality than Zoom does and the MixPre series recorders are regularly updated with firmware and have a range of plugins available. Although I initially scoffed at the Musician plugin for the MixPre series I actually find it simpler for doing music recordings and that’s generally what I use these days for recording music, especially if I want to do any overdubs or multi-tracking. It has some limitations in terms of sample rates and meter displays, but it records individual wav files for each channel instead of polywav files that you later have to split apart, and it feels more like recording into a DAW.

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And even though, why bother using a mic and a speaker when you could inject directly the signal into the device ? After all, the device is what you’re testing, not the speaker nor the mic. Most serious audio bench testers would use an Audio Precision device.