Røde NT55 (cardioid capsule) compared with Neumann TLM 103
For a photo of these microphones see the NT55 omni (NT55 O) page. They're average sized "pencil" condenser mics with interchangeable capsules. In the session featured on this page the cardioid capsules were used. The Neumann of course is a cardioid mic.
Microphone setup for these pieces was as in the photo except that the singer stands several feet further back to increase separation in the channels. The mics shown are the Neumanns; in the recording session from which the pieces are taken the Røde NT55s were positioned next to them on separate stands. The samples are simultaneous takes into an Edirol R-4 four channel recorder. No bass rolloff was used in this session and no filter was applied later. The samples have been normalised and then (interestingly) the NT55 piano (left) channel had to be lifted by 3 dB to make it sound similar to the TLM sample.
The first piece is Le bateau noir by Jean Richepin set to music by Louis Vierne. The excerpts are the last verse, or 30 seconds. It's the devil's own music -- fabulously diabolical piano writing that left Jonathan, the pianist, on quite a high!
1. TLM103, mp3 @ 192 kb/s, 750 kb
The singer is singing: Crevant de faim, de soif et de fièvres / J’irai je ne sais où, seul, farouche / Et peut-être qu’alors sur ma bouche / Je n’aurai plus le goût de tes lèvres.
In translation: Dying of hunger, thirst and fever / I shall go I know not where, alone and wild / And then perhaps on my mouth / I shall no longer have the taste of your lips.
2. NT55 cardioids, mp3 @ 192 kb/s, 730 kb
Two short AB samples next. In each the Neumann goes first, then the NT55. The first AB is the first 6.6 seconds of the main clips, including the fade in. It focuses on the piano. The second AB is the singer's high note towards the end, where she's singing "[peut-] être qu’alors sur ma bouche". It's Vierne who gave the "que" a miss, btw.
I don't know. Do I detect more beef in the TLM piano? The waveform looks a bit fatter than in the NT55 traces. Whatever, the Rødes don't do at all bad. I should add that Corinne wasn't feeling on top form that day, and we both noticed some brightness in the voice in all the recordings done in the session, cause unknown.
NEXT PIECE is more Vierne, though very different. It's Le rouet, The Spinning Wheel, a poem by Charles-Marie Leconte de Lisle. "Oh my dear spinning wheel, . . You give me everything - milk, butter and flour, . . a happy home, and clothing. . . . Oh my dear spinning wheel, . . You will spin my narrow shroud for me". Musically it's light years from Bateau noir -- more like something Dvorak might have found in central Europe maybe.
The excerpts are the second verse. The mp3s are just over a minute long, sampled at 192 kb/s and 1.5 Mb file size. Both performers were feeling a little tired as it was the end of the session and there'd been some tough pieces beforehand, like Bateau.
Ô mon cher rouet, ma blanche bobine / Vous chantez dès l'aube avec les oiseaux / Été comme hiver, chanvre ou laine fine / Par vous, jusqu'au soir, chargent les fuseaux / Ô mon cher rouet, ma blanche bobine / Vous chantez dès l'aube avec les oiseaux / Ô mon cher rouet, ma blanche bobine!
Oh my dear spinning wheel, my white reel / You start singing at dawn with the birds / Summer and winter alike, with hemp or fine wool / Til evening you drive the spindles / Oh my dear spinning wheel, my white reel / You start singing at dawn with the birds / Oh my dear spinning wheel, my white reel.
1. TLM 103s
2. NT55 cardioids
Here's an AB comparison where the difference between the mics is quite apparent. The singer's sustained note resonates in the Neumann recording in a way it doesn't in the Rødes -- and I prefer the Rødes. The resonance is very evident in the tracks as a fatter trace in the Neumann voice track -- see pic. (mp3 is 220 kb)
The AB clip is from 22.5 s into the main excerpts, on the words "soir, chargent les fuseaux".
Right: Sonograms (voice track only) of the sustained note in the AB clip showing the very different response of the mics in the 1 kHz band. The Neumann is making much more of this than the NT55, which may be why the voice sounds as though it's masked by resonance in the Neumann track. This is the "-seaux" of chargent les fuseaux.
Corinne says that the mic is probably (over)responding to "formants", or resonant frequencies in her soprano voice. If so, it would seem that she develops these frequencies not so much initially as over time, as she holds and builds the note. The Neumann shouldn't really be behaving like this, of course. Maybe it's all that fag tar on the diaphragm.
For those who really want to know about formants in speech and singing, try the formants page on Sidney Wood's' website from the Phonetics Lab at Lund University, Sweden.
A (semi) finished result
Finally, here are the first two verses of the version as worked up by Corinne. Basically she's picked the takes she feels are best and put a reverb filter over the result. Later she'll send her unreverbed files to a sound engineer who has more sophisticated software than we have. As well as reverb he does some equalising to make the recordings warmer. This file's 2.4 Mb. Corinne sent a 192 kb/s mp3, which I opened and selected from, and then recompressed as a 160 kb/s mp3 to keep the size down. This particular recording is from a later session and uses the Neumann TLM 103s.
You'd never guess that she's stuck in the word "chargent" from the session featured on this page. She heard it in the clips here and realised she'd sung it better in this take than in all the takes in the next session -- where she sang it slightly flat, she says. Oh, and she adds that the recording's a world first. Difficult to believe that such a pretty piece has never been recorded before.
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