Question: Which Audio-Technica microphones are recommended for live recording?
Answer: When a performer walks out onto the stage, capturing that moment and the ensuing performance with a quality audio recording is what it’s all about for the live recordist. But a recording is only as good as the tools you use, which is why Audio-Technica has a wide range of microphones that can give you great results in a live setting. In this post, we’ll discuss microphone selection, placement options, and other tips that may be helpful before you press record. Live recordings can range from multitracking all of the microphones to putting up a single stereo microphone, and while we could discuss both at length, we’ll focus on the latter here.
Common choices for live recording microphones are stereo microphones, line and gradient (aka shotgun) microphones, or studio-style condenser microphones such as the AT2021 small-diaphragm cardioid condenser microphone or the AT4050 large-diaphragm multipattern condenser microphone. A stereo microphone like the BP4025 offers a low-profile single microphone housing with two large-diaphragm capsules in an innovative X/Y stereo configuration. This allows you to put up one microphone and capture a true stereo signal for your recorder or camera. Shotgun microphones, such as the BP4073, may be used in loud applications such as concerts where it may be beneficial to “aim” the pickup towards the performing area. (In multitracking situations, these microphones may also be used to pick up audience ambience.). Remember, shotgun microphones do not pick up sound from far away, but rather narrow the microphone acceptance angle via the vents on the long tube of the microphone body – the longer the tube, the narrower the acceptance angle. Thus, the BP4073, for example, has a wider acceptance angle of pickup than the BP4071L. This is where personal preference and setup may play a role in the microphone selection process. What about a stereo shotgun? A-T has you covered with the BP4029 and BP4027 stereo shotgun microphones. We can even get really wild and use the AT4050ST, which is a large-diaphragm studio microphone that gives you the same popular elements found in the AT4050 preconfigured into stereo configurations, allowing for 90-degree X/Y stereo, 127-degree X/Y stereo, and mid-side Stereo configurations.
The placement of whichever microphone you choose will also be important to the outcome of your recording. In using any microphone, it is important to remember that all microphones are like ears. If the sound is bad in the back of the room, placing the microphone there will capture that bad sound. If a particular spot of the room is very reverberant, putting a microphone there will result in reverberation on your recording. Stereo microphones work nicely when you use your ears to find a sweet spot in the performing area and then place the microphone there. Placing a single or pair of stereo microphones up above the crowd aimed at the stage often results in a nice blend of direct sound from the stage and crowd ambience. This works well for concerts and, in particular, loud sound settings. Using microphones in close proximity to the performing area is also a good option, noting that the closer the microphone element is to the source (performing area), the better direct sound you will capture. If you go this route, be mindful of the acceptance angle of the microphone you’re using and make certain the microphone placement is not obstructing any major sight lines.
There are a variety of “tricks of the trade” that work for one setup that will not work for another. If you are recording the audio to accompany the video of a family member’s dance recital, the same setup you used for recording a rock band at the club the night before may not produce the same results. Another tip many of us have learned the hard way is to monitor your recording with headphones to assure the recording level is not too low, the recording isn’t over-driven and distorted, the mic isn’t set up next to a person who is talking the entire performance, or that you actually pressed the record button.
You only get one change to capture a particular performance, and having an Audio-Technica microphone in your arsenal will set you up for success. If you have other questions about recording live performances, feel free to contact the Audio Solutions Department.