A truly important aspect of a project (be it stereo or immersive) is the overall room ambiance within a mix. In short, it could be the difference between a standard mix and one that puts you “there”, within the overall experience.

The first tool that an engineer can have is the use of miking distance. This hip-pocket tool is often overloked in the modern studio. In short, it is the understanding of how distance can effect the ration between the source and the room sound (be it actual or manufactured in nature). It was said best in a magazine article … “if you want to get a Motown sound, just back the mic off of the source by a foot”.

Capturing the Actual Room Sound

When getting a sound, particularly if it’s during an overdub or a re-amp session, I’ll actually place multiple mics within the studio:

- One (or a stereo pair) for the direct pickup
- A stereo pair (often XY) at a semi-distant position (say 1-2 meters)
- A stereo room pair (often Blumlein) at 4 or more meters

These tracks are then individually recorded to the DAW for later use in the mix. The advantages to having the option to mix various distances together during mixdown is HUGE … and if the mix ends up being in surround or immersive audio, you’ll have the option of placing the room mics within the immersive soundfield. It’s that simple and effective!

Convolution Room Sound

None of this is sacred. Within the mix, if the room doesn’t match your needs, you can opt to add a simulated room sound into the mix. May favorite being the Ocean Way plug-in from Universal Audio.

With this plug-in (or another convolution room/verb plugin), you can change the room sound or merge it with the originally-recorded room tracks to make your drums, guitars or overall mix sound much larger.

I thought that I would start a series of blogs that relate to what I do, how I do it and what is going on in my professional life. For me, there there probably is no better place to start than with a better understanding of stereo miking techniques …

One of my most important tools for getting “my sound” is through the use of stereo imagery and the capture of the instrument’s and overall room presence. Almost without exception, the tracks on my DAW are stereo (sometimes up to 80 tracks). When dealing with the concept of an immersive mix, this helps to fill the sound out in a spacious manner.

notice that all of the tracks are stereo

I can only imagine that my love for stereo miking started during my college days at the University of Surrey in England. There, we were taught in the general techniques of room miking from a classical point-of-view. However, this idea of capturing the recorded space within a traditional modern recording studio began to make more and more sense to me. One would not generally record a piano pickup with a single mic for several reasons. One, the instrument is too big to close mic using a single pickup source … and two, the benefits of a stereo spread within a mix is obvious. However, the general benefits of capturing the overall sonic spread can apply to all instruments on so many levels.

In modern recording, when an instrument is being picked up from a single mic source, the overall sonic imagery is limited to the sounds of the room that leak into the pickup. However, the mic will usually be placed so close to the instrument, that the room is no longer a factor. This leaves us with the sole option of adding artificial reverb and delay to fill out and to create a living, breathing space.

This is all well and good, but what about the options of using the natural acoustic spread of an instrument, no matter how large or small that instrument is? For example, an acoustic guitar has a natural spread to its voice. With sounds coming from the hole, the strings, the body … even when close or semi-close miked. The use of stereo mic techniques can bring a breadth and sense of spread to the instrument that can give it a life, beyond (or in addition to) what artificial ambiance can give. Here are a few audio examples of stereo miking techniques for the guitar.

Moving beyond the guitar, the piano and drum overheads, almost all instruments can benefit from the life and spread that stereo miking can give … including vocals. When recording vocals in stereo, the natural nuances of movement, room reflections and small acoustic variations will spread the vocal out in ways that move beyond the pin-point location that a single vocal mic will give.

In addition to using stereo for close and semi-close pickup, stereo miking at a distance can add life and a dramatic sense of realism to a pickup.

The next part of the puzzle can be really fun … this happens when you combine stereo distant miking with a close stereo or mono pickup. This can be done live during the session or overdub (as with close miking a guitar cabinet, with a semi-distant pair as well as a distant room stereo mic pair) or, it can be done after the fact by playing a track back through speakers in the studio and then re-recording the room at various distances, using various mics in a re-amp setting.

Special thanks to Abbey Road Institute – Amsterdam for the above video.

How can I best convey my love for Berlin … Is it the life in almost everyone you see on the streets, is it the fashion lady that sits across from you on the u-bahn with the small grey pug that says “I’m a fashion dog, too, and I don’t care”, is it the older guy totally dressed in white (complete with matching white gloves), is it the sax player that’s wailing on a 1/2 scale sax, is it the guy playing awesome Arabic music on the bagpipes down the street … and so much more that I won’t even go into? It’s not easy being away from Dan, but he knows what this place means to me … and I’m grateful to him for that. Liebe gruss aus Berlin!

The following 22 minute video is an excellent intro into one of my favorite worlds … the world of TOUCH. First off, it’s amazing that his favorite multi screen setup (see pic) is exactly what I’m looking at right now (touch on the slant and standard monitor facing). Also … thanks to Slate, it’s been 3 friggin’ years in the making, but they finally released the Raven software that will work with Nuendo PC. I’ll finally be able to check it out.

Here’s the video on the latest update to the raven touch software …

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So, I was talking with Dan this morning at breakfast about surround sound delivery. There are three consumer categories:

1. hi-end audio
2. home theater
3. gamers

There are basically three ways to deliver media:

1. Bluray
3. MP4 video

My real hope over the last 5 years, would be for the 5.1 (non-classical) music community to stop goofing off and court the gamer community. They are the ones that probably have the largest installation (actually, I’m banking on better cooperation with the VR community).

Regarding the delivery media, even though it has no copy protection, I find FLAC to be the most logical delivery media. Most hi-end systems can play 24/96 5.1 FLAC from a dongle without any difficulty. My Android phone can easily play 24/96 2.0 files.

Any thoughts or comments? FYI, when you buy any of my project mixes, you’ll get an additional full set of 24/96 mixes that can be played on your system in 5.1.

DMH Bandcamp Music Store

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