Pianoteq Microphones – The AEA R84 Ribbon Microphone

Here’s one of a number of brief guides and details about the microphones available in Pianoteq.

Last updated: 9-January-2019

Microphones in Pianoteq

Here is a picture showing the microphone types available in Pianoteq.

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The R84

This is an AEA Ribbon Mic model R84. It has a figure-8 pattern of recording (as all ribbon microphones do).

r84

Manufacturer’s description: R84 series ribbon microphones deliver the classic tonality of the legendary R44, with extended top-end and reduced proximity effect for mid-range and close-range recording. The R84A is an active version of the passive R84 that allows compatibility with a wider range of preamplifiers.

How to record piano according to the manufacturer: The classic ribbon character of the R84 comprises detailed mid-range, extended lows and a figure-of-8 polar pattern, making it a terrific tool to record a piano.

The R84A is an active version of the R84 that retains the same sonic character of the R84, with an additional 12dB of output and a stable impedance. This gives a consistent frequency response and greater flexibility with different preamps. These techniques and audio samples apply to both the R84 and R84A.

R84 pattern.

The pattern is a figure 8. The microphone receives sound pressure from the front and back with no inputs from sides.

At close range, the bass is amplified. This is called a proximity effect. Try to be 3 feet or greater away from the sound source to minimize it. If it is sounding too boomy or with too much bass, move the microphone away from the source or enclosure.

The proximity effect of the R84.

Note that in Pianoteq you can remove this effect by making sure that “proximity effect compensation” is checked.

Proximity effect compensation in Pianoteq.

1. SPACED CONFIGURATION

A popular method for recording piano with two R84s is in a spaced configuration. In this perspective, a good starting point is to position a pair of R84s about 8 – 24 inches above the strings of the piano with about 24 inches of space between each mic. This technique allows greater flexibility in placement to achieve a different balance of direct sound and indirect sound.

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On an upright piano, a recommended position is to place the microphones behind the piano from at least 1 foot away and 6 inches above the ground. The spacing and distance of the two mics are dependent on the stereo image you are trying to capture. This general position will give you less hammer sound and beautiful tonality.

2. BLUMLEIN TECHNIQUE

Try positioning two R84s in Blumlein configuration roughly 1 to 3 feet from a grand piano’s right side. If recording an upright piano, position it above and behind the player’s head. Point the center of the array towards middle c. This method yields a vast stereo spread with a smart blend of direct sound from the instrument and indirect room tone. The array can be positioned closer to the piano frame to increase low-end response or pulled away to gain more room sound.

In 1931, Alan Blumlein, an engineer for EMI, invented stereo recording by demonstrating the natural reproduction of the soundstage in one of the Abbey Road studios in London.

To this day, Blumlein’s coincident recording technique using two figure-of-eight pattern ribbon mics is the benchmark for producing an authentic representation of a performance in a room. The Blumlein method uses the two mic elements angled at 90 degrees and mounted in close proximity to each other along the vertical axis.

R84s in a Blumlein Configuration
Cascade Fat Head ribbon microphones in a Blumlein configuration.
R88 with polar overlay.

With the Blumlein technique, a sense of realism is created. It’s as if the listener is there in the acoustic sound field. This technique is extremely accurate and gives a direct center image with a very wide sense of space.

The precision of Blumlein recording more closely resembles what human ears hear than other stereo techniques. For solo piano or general room miking, it captures a highly realistic image of the original sound.

Today, Blumlein’s coincident recording technique lives on in the AEA R88, which uses two figure-of-8 ribbons for producing an authentic representation of a performance.

BLUMLEIN TECHNIQUE ON A GRAND PIANO

On grand piano, try positioning a Blumlein Array roughly 1 to 3 feet from the piano’s right side, overlooking the frame, with the center of the two mics pointing towards the piano’s middle c. This method yields a wide stereo spread with terrific natural tonality. To lessen the considerable bass response of the array and to gain more room tonality, pull it away from the frame.

This photo shows the R88 that is a single unit with two microphones in it of Blumlein array configuration (see previous picture with microphones vertically oriented (above).
Video showing eh Blumlein array (R88 single unit shown). Imagine the R88 shown as two R84s.

More here: http://www.aeasessions.com/the-architect.

Another method used could be to have the Blumlein pair in the middle of the soundboard above the hammers for a tight percussive sound.

Royer microphones in a Blumlein configuration above the soundboard.

BLUMLEIN TECHNIQUE ON AN UPRIGHT PIANO

On upright, there are two common positions to place a Blumlein array. One is to position it behind and above the played pointing towards the hammers. This will give you an eerily similar sound to what the performer is hearing.

The Blumlein (R88 single unit, 2 microphones inside) set-up in “performer” position.

MIKING THE BACK OF AN UPRIGHT

Recording an upright piano from its rear side provides a distinct tonality with less attack from the hammers. Try positioning it roughly 12 inches from the ground, 20 inches from the piano frame. For greater stereo spread and added room tone, pull the R88 further away.

3. DISTANT MIKING

Much of a piano’s sound comes from the room it inhabits, so accurately capturing that room sound is vital in achieving a comprehensive piano tonality. Keep this in mind as you experiment with the vast spatial range of the R88 and its great capacity for far-field applications. The R88 delivers an astonishingly balanced treble/bass ratio from as far as 20 feet away.

Pianos, like most acoustic instruments, draw substantial benefit from room tone, so capturing that aspect of a piano’s sound is vital. The versatile R84 excels at recording instruments and ensembles from a distance. From as far as 15 feet away, the R84 captures detailed, balanced sound of an instrument section and supplements it with massive room tone.

A not-to-distant mic position, but far enough to capture the room acoustics as well as the piano.

4. MONO PIANO

Using a single mic to capture the sound of a piano is a common technique for recording a detailed piano sound that easily fits into a dense mix. A common starting point is to position an R84 towards the center of the piano about 1 – 2 feet away from the hammers. If you find that the middle of the piano is too prominent in the mix, try pulling it back further.

R84 used as a single microphone on an upright piano.
Single microphone on a grand piano.

One thought on “Pianoteq Microphones – The AEA R84 Ribbon Microphone

  1. Pingback: Pianoteq Microphones – The Royer Labs SF-12 and SF-24 Ribbon Microphones | The Audio Blog of Lars Lentz

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