Denver, CO, and Minneapolis, MN - Jul 24, 2012 - Recording a large orchestral performance can involve extreme dynamic level changes, highly reverberant environments and dozens of channels of microphones, cables and associated electronic circuitry. Using traditional analog equipment, controlling these factors can be cumbersome, and maintaining a simple, agile workflow is often difficult. Using several dozen analog microphones onstage significantly raises the noise floor, and may introduce distortion during loud passages.
Resident Conductor Scott O'Neil conducts the Colorado Symphony Orchestra. Photo: Darius Panahpour
Since returning to the Colorado Symphony Orchestra (CSO) to take up the position of president/CEO, Gene Sobczak has begun to modernize the organization with a program of performances featuring pop and rock artists, recordings, webcasts and educational outreach. Sobczak has also forged relationships between Mike Pappas, a Denver-based recording engineer, and Sennheiser Electronic to capture the nuance of the orchestra with digital microphone technology from Neumann.
The CSO has already shared the stage in 2012 with Trey Anastasio of the band Phish, Denver-based multi-instrumentalists DeVotchKa, and Boston-based alt-rockers Guster. In his role as volunteer engineer for the CSO, Pappas captured all three of these shows with an arsenal of Neumann digital microphones.
Pappas used 56 KM D series Neumann digital mics in a variety of omni-directional, cardioid and hypercardioid polar patterns. The mic list also included a Neumann KU 100 dummy head binaural stereo microphone for hall ambience, and a KMR 82 D shotgun for spot miking.
When using analog microphones and mixers, self-noise causes the noise floor to become more audible as channel counts increase. This is not the case with digital microphones however, which maintain a consistent noise floor whether using one or three dozen units.
Pappas' workflow is typically very simple: Neumann mics plugged into Neumann Digital Microphone Interface (DMIs), with the signals converted into MADI for transport to a DiGiCo mixing console for monitoring while recording into a computer running Apple Logic software.
Minnesota Public Radio (MPR), which established itself in 1967 as a classical music station, has grown to become one of the premier public radio entities and currently operates a 43-station radio network. American Public Media (APM), MPR's parent organization, is the nation's largest distributor of classical music programming. MPR frequently records and broadcasts the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra (SPCO) for "Performance Today," a program that reaches 1.3 million listeners on 256 stations each week.
The SPCO is a 34-piece ensemble and the only full-time chamber orchestra in the U.S. Now in its 53rd season, the ensemble enjoys a reputation as one of the finest chamber orchestras in the world.
In early April, Cameron Wiley, MPR technical director for SPCO programming, implemented an eight-channel system at a performance by the ensemble at Wooddale Church in Eden Prairie, MN. He recorded the concert to a Nuendo system using Neumann KM 183 D, KM 184 D and KM 185 D digital microphones, with the main mic array arranged in a modified Decca Tree configuration.