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Old October 25th, 2008, 05:12 AM   #1
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Sony PCM-D50 Side by Side with ...

Well, it's been several months since I promised/threatened to post a couple of side by side recordings with the Sony and my Schoeps set up

I'm finally getting around to it. Our local amateur British-style brass band just had a concert in a nice auditorium this past Sunday, so I thought it would be a good chance to get a comparison of the two "contenders".

Everything was mounted on a single mic stand about 12 rows back in the audience, which was about the only practical spot to set up.

The Sony was in the X-Y (crossed) configuration.

The Schoeps set up was an M-S pair of cardioid and figure 8 into a Sound Devices 302 and then into a Sound Devices 702.

It was a "set it and forget it" session as I also play tuba in the band. My wife obligingly rode shotgun for me to keep curious fingers off the gear, but that was it.

No postprocessing except to approximately match the volume of both recordings.

http://www.j-e-andrada.com/HFSony.mp3

http://www.j-e-andrada.com/HFSchoeps.mp3

As you'd expect, it wasn't too much of a contest - the Schoeps was much more open, cleaner, and generally richer sounding all around.

On the other hand, I think the Sony did well. I really like it and considering the roughly 15X price difference I think you'd have to consider the Sony a tremendous price performer. And the convenience factor can't be underestimated either. I purposely selected one of the quieter pieces for this comparison. On some of the bigger and brassier pieces, you could hear the Sony struggling a bit more, while the Schoeps setup just took it all in stride, but the Sony never gave up.

I think I'd consider it a case of having two winners.

Now if we could just play better everyone would be a winner.
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Old October 26th, 2008, 03:46 AM   #2
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Jim that was great! very interesting thanks, I enjoyed both recordings and I agree, the D50 is quite an amazing recorder for the price. I'm finding its mics will take a lot of SPL.

What angles was its mics at, and what bit rate etc? And what were the 2 Schoeps mics?

You've got experience recording your band to wit the levels, not something you'd guess right from 12 rows back.

Must admit I'm not a fan of m/s indoors, too much possible out of phase for me but that worked nicely. I heard your section better.

Tuba eh? I was tenor/baritone sax for 10years, I like the bottom end, Gerry Mulligan was my mentor.

Great arrangement too. Nice Sunday concert in Az, sorry I missed it.

Cheers.
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Old October 26th, 2008, 04:50 AM   #3
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Allan

Nice to hear from you.

The mic stand was set up about 10 or 12 rows back. The Schoeps mics were in a shock mount on a boom that got them up about 7 feet and angled down ever so slightly so they pointed just above the head of our director. I was using the cardioid and figure 8 capsules, although I normally prefer to use a wide cardioid capsule because I usually mic from about 4 to 6 feet behind the director and slightly to her right - maybe just past the shoulder. I do this so she has an unobstructed view of the audience when she turns around. The M/S decode was done in the Sound Devices 302. Strictly speaking I don't need to use the 302, but the LED's are so much easier to see than those on the 702. The way I usually set up the gear is close enough that I can see the LED's from my seat in the back of the band so even while playing I get a little feedback that levels are close to right.

Reason for being up close is that I have less of a mad dash back to my chair after setting levels on the tuning note, which I always ask to be at an easy mf level. Second reason is that we usually perform in the most acoustically God-awful venues like shopping malls full of yelling kids and community centers etc. and closer to the band is better - much much better.

And last but certainy not least is that in most of our venues I have a bit of paranoia about security of the gear - if it's within arm's reach of the conductor it's much much much less likely to walk off or get damaged.

This time, though we were in what has to be one of if not the nicest small halls in Tucson. It was built in 1992 at the Arizona State School for the Deaf and Blind on Speedway just west of I-10 - I think you have an idea where that is. I think it's actually better acoustically than the hall at the University of Arizona music school where I've performed with other groups

Getting back to the setup - the Sony was clamped to the upright of the mic stand with a Manfrotto Super Clamp/ball head combo. I have a plug that I had made up for the recorder that lets it slip into one of my shock mounts, but that would have meant another stand, and I had my hands full as I had also set the JVC 110 up to get a bit of video I hoped to use on our website. The Sony mics were set in the 90 degree position and the unit was about two feet lower than the Schoeps pair. Limiting was on. In retrospect it may have been better to have set the mics in the 120 position - maybe next time.

The video was not so good - I hadn''t fully thought through the ramifications of the band dressed in black sitting on black chairs on a black painted stage with black side curtains and a black curtain behind the band. Awful! Next time we use the hall we'll wear our Summer garb of khaki pants and light blue t-shirts so you can see more than the players' heads and instruments. Rather surreal!

We have a few more concerts coming up throughout the year so if/when you get to town for the aircraft restoration project let me know.
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Old October 26th, 2008, 10:10 AM   #4
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Jim,

Would you please explain in more detail the plug you made for the PCM-D50 that allows it to fit into a shock mount?

Thanks
Norm
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Old October 26th, 2008, 01:23 PM   #5
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Sure Norm,

It's about as simple as it gets. I had someone with a lathe make a little aluminum cylinder the same diameter as my mic. Then on one end it has a little stub with a tripod thread on it just sticking out about 5/16". I thought he would just turn the end down and thread it, but he actually drilled a 1/4" hole into the end of the plug and put in a really small piece of threaded aluminum rod.


www.j-e-andrada.com/SM1.jpg

www.j-e-andrada.com/SM2.jpg

www.j-e-andrada.com/SM3.jpg

Last edited by Jim Andrada; October 27th, 2008 at 12:59 AM.
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Old October 26th, 2008, 01:47 PM   #6
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Jim

Thanks for the pictures, just what I was looking for.

Norm
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Old October 26th, 2008, 05:49 PM   #7
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This looks like a possible solution to recreate Jim's good idea. Lumedyne | Extension Post - 6" | ATP6 | B&H Photo Video Not sure of the diameter though. I'm expecting a PCM-D50 tomorrow, thanks for the sound samples.
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Old October 27th, 2008, 12:58 AM   #8
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One thought - I got mine without the remote and within 24 hours had ordered the remote for it. Otherwise, handling noise can be ferocious, particularly if there's a lot of start stop. If you're just going to let it run for 2 hours like I did at our recent concert, no big deal having noise at the ends.
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Old October 28th, 2008, 05:34 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Andrada View Post
This time, though we were in what has to be one of if not the nicest small halls in Tucson. It was built in 1992 at the Arizona State School for the Deaf and Blind on Speedway just west of I-10 - I think you have an idea where that is. I think it's actually better acoustically than the hall at the University of Arizona music school where I've performed with other groups..
Jim thanks for the rundown. Yep I do have an idea where the School is, nice area. I live by right the harbour here so your dry Az desert was a great change.

Comparing the Schoeps and your Sony D50 recordings and trying to evaluate the hall, I think 90 degrees was the correct Sony mic setting. IMO 120d would probably lose the centre of the soundstage there.

Interesting things I've found with the D50. The manual emphasises that you should record at -12dB, the meter has it bolded on its scale. The top mounted '-12' and 'Over' indicator Leds seem to only register at about 5kHz and above.

I'm recording low frequency engines for a submarine movie and those top Leds are not registering at all even though the meter can read way off the scale. Thought I'd blown them first time out. But the actual meter overload indicators are working as advertised.

I'm mainly leaving the low cut off and the bottom end is about 40Hz, for the DTS guys in post. For good sounding takes I do 2, one with the 75Hz cut on. Leave the limiter on at 150m/sec.

The headphone output is exceptional quality, you can locate the D50 so its mics are spot on for position. Same deciding what low cut to use, 75 or 150Hz.

For these sfx I've abandoned 24/96, too much mucking around later, just use 16/48.

I leave the windmuff on all the time to keep microgrit out of the mics.

The right meter channel reads about 3db above the left. Thought that was a problem but it's the same in the manual sketches, see P24. What's that about? Haven't worked out why they're not even.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Andrada View Post
We have a few more concerts coming up throughout the year so if/when you get to town for the aircraft restoration project let me know.
Will do.

Cheers.
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Old October 28th, 2008, 09:25 AM   #10
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Allan,

Thanks for the comments. There are a lot of times when I wish i weren't playing as well as recording. I usually only get a few seconds to set levels, check position etc. Re position - my wife and I made a trip to the hall to reconnoiter a few days ahead and walked around with the hall manager. One of us would clap or talk from various locations on stage while the other walked around in the hall listening. Not as good as having the band in place, but better than nothing.

Great thing about a brass band is that it's all about signal to noise and the band puts out so much signal that most normal noise doesn't stand a chance! Althogh we did have someone cough right in the middle of the only quiet solo of the afternoon. Gave me fits cutting the cough out without messing up the solo too badly.

What kind of engines are you recording to simulate the sub engines?
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Old November 10th, 2008, 01:37 AM   #11
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Sorry Jim I missed this. I've been out in the engine rooms of Sydney harbour ferries. You're not supposed to be in there under way without a mask and you can only stay for a few minutes, the fumes are terrific. Also hanging over the stern with the D50 covered up and on a string. I've found for these SFX you have to get close up as possible and let the mixer balance it.

Under the State theatre here they have an actual U-boat engine used as power backup from 1929 to 47. It hasn't run since, wrong config anyway, but very interesting.

Cheers.
Attached Thumbnails
Sony PCM-D50 Side by Side with ...-good-u-boat-engines.jpg   Sony PCM-D50 Side by Side with ...-ww1-uboat-engine-state-theatre.jpg  

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Old November 17th, 2008, 10:28 AM   #12
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I bought the VCT-PCM1 tripod to go with my D50 recorder.

What's meant by "angle-free setting" in the Sony packaging? Does it have to do with the fact that the thumbscrew won't hold the head tightly in place?

Thanks.
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Old November 17th, 2008, 11:33 AM   #13
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I think it just means that the head can be set at any angle. In other words, one can freely set the angle = angle free as in angle free to be set as desired by the customer.

Just my guess. If I still had the little instruction sheet and it was written in Japanese as well as English I could read it and be sure.
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Old November 17th, 2008, 12:18 PM   #14
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No instructions enclosed. I'm thinking that whatever the intent, that head should lock into place. Probably gotta return it.
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Old November 17th, 2008, 11:25 PM   #15
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Sorry to be late getting back to you - I had a client meeting this evening.

I just pulled my unit out of the audio case and checked it - it locks up reasonably tightly considering the weight of the recorder. I doubt it would hold a big camera, but it's certainly tight enough that it takes more than just casual finger pressure to move it around.
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