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Mid-Side Technique with MK-012 and KM 88

Sunday, November 14th, 2010 | by


Introducing… The Microphone Show!


Mathew Trogner and I joined Paul Simmans and Stephen Hart at the fabulous Loudville Studios to talk about mid-side recording. Chi McClean played acoustic guitar and tolerated numerous invasive “B-roll” procedures.

The genesis for this show was Mathew’s acquisition of a pair of vintage Neumann mics, the Neumann KM 88iNeumann KM 88i. These things are miracles of design, packing a back-to-back pair of Neumann’s famous 0.7-micron nickel diaphragm capsules into a 21mm pencil mic. The KM 88 is essentially a FET version of the better-known KM56. Both are three-pattern mics (Cardioid, Omni, Figure-of-8).

Mathew didn’t seem inclined to give me those KM 88’s, so to hear what I would be missing, I wanted to compare them to my all-time favorite small-diaphragm condenser, the Oktava MK-012Oktava MK-012. The only problem: we’d cooked up the idea of a show about mid-side technique, which requires both a Cardioid and a Figure-of-8 microphone. I only had Cardioid capsules for my ‘012s.

Enter my friends at Oktava Online. They sent a genuine, made-in-Tula figure-8 capsule for evaluation. Thank you, Denis and Natalia!

With concept in mind and gear in hand, we leaned on Chi McClean to give us something awesome to point the mics at. You might remember Chi from the Lauten Listening Party last year, or his Loudville concert broadcast.

We were joined by audio engineers Paul Simmans of Loudville and Stephen Hart of The Site. Stephen’s experience deserves mention; his engineering and mix credits include David Bowie, Santana, White Stripes, and Stevie Ray Vaughn.

Check out the video to learn a bit about mid-side recording, and to hear the Oktavas and the Neumanns on Chi’s guitar. Or, hear the raw audio from this session using the links below.

(To reconstruct the M-S stereo track, clone the “side” channel and invert it, then pan the two side channels hard L and R, and group them so the gain of both channels is equal. The louder the “side” channel, the wider the apparent stereo field. The “mid” channel should have its output centered.)


Episode 1 Session Audio

Oktava MK-012 MK-012
Mid channel
Side channel

[24-bit, 48kHz WAVs: mid, side]

Neumann KM 88i KM 88i
Mid channel
Side channel

[24-bit WAVs: mid, side]

Update 2010-11-27 – with respect to the comments about time alignment of files, we are sorry to say we’ve found an export error in the original MK-012 WAVs. I’ve just replaced both files. If you align them at 0:00, there is no time discrepancy.

To those who have written to comment on the similarity between the “mid” channels, be aware that my MK-012s were modded by Michael Joly of OktavaMod.

Before you go, please leave some feedback about the show. Have an idea for a future episode? Want to join us for a session? Care to donate a pair of vintage Neumann microphones to me for no particular reason? :)

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Posted in Microphones, Reviews, Shootouts, Studios, Technique, Video | 23 Comments »




23 Responses to “Mid-Side Technique with MK-012 and KM 88”

  1. Igor Topilsky

    November 15th, 2010 at 4:07 am

    Amazing, thank you.

  2. Jacque Harper

    November 15th, 2010 at 12:50 pm

    Great show, I really enjoyed the straightforward presentation — especially that the two performances were labeled with onscreen captions indicating which microphones we were hearing. The post-audition conversation was nicely done (wow, how many cameras did you have for this?!). The disconnect between the availability of the Neumann mic and the intended topic of M-S technique–a “problem” you alluded to in the written portion of the posting–did mean that I heard less about M-S technique than I first expected. But that’s a quibble which could probably be mitigated just by changing the post’s title. For completeness’ sake, I would have enjoyed seeing a drawing demonstrating the mic positioning … although I do know the principles of the M-S technique.
    Thanks very much for putting this on! I look forward to the next one.

  3. Peterson Goodwyn

    November 16th, 2010 at 4:51 am

    Nice show. Are your MK-012’s modded at all?

  4. Steve Hickman

    November 16th, 2010 at 9:56 am

    I downloaded the 24-bit WAV’s and imported them into Digital Performer 7.21. While I agree that the Oktava figure-8 capsule didn’t measure up to the Neumann in figure-8, I didn’t feel that the Neumann necessarily blew away the MK-012 mid mic. In fact, it was close enough that I could have liked either mic. I wonder in a blind test if these guys might have, too. Also, at least in my set up, I had to move the file for the Oktava mid mic later by 30msec to align it with the side mic file. Once I did this, it got rid of the “slap” and the Oktava M/S pair sounded pretty good, even though the figure-8 capsule is clearly inferior. All of this makes me think that a Michael Joly modified MK-012 with a better figure-of-8 mic (Joly modified Apex 205?) would truly give the Neumann’s a contest – and save us all a lot of money.

  5. Mike Prewett

    November 19th, 2010 at 4:23 pm

    Were the capsules of each pair equidistant from the guitar? The Oktava pair is noticeably drier, less room sound, with the figure-8’s solo’ed.

    The mids of each pair are remarkably similar. I too wonder if they would be discernible in an ABX test. For next time…

    Why did the mids of each pair need to be aligned with their figure-8’s? What causes that? The capsules are so close to each compared to the guitar. And why was the Oktava mid so much further off than the Neumann?

    Thanks for the nice video!

  6. Ryan Johnson

    November 22nd, 2010 at 3:56 pm

    Awesome! I would watch this show even if it had 60 seconds of commercials proceeding it.

  7. René Thomsen

    November 23rd, 2010 at 8:08 am

    Wow, what a professional presentation! Good setting and wonderful guitar player…

    This kind of test is just what we need:-)

    I think, however, that the test had some flaws to it. Here are my 2 cents:

    1) As mentioned in an above comment, time alignment in the 012 file is off. Sounds fine when aligned in Cubase.

    2) The sound of the Neumann figure of 8 is undeniably much fuller in the bass. But to my knowledge, bass frequencies ought to cancel out completely when aimed at the null of the fig.8 mic. The Oktava fig.8 does just this, resulting in a thinner sound. The Neumann is either slightly uncalibrated, or perhaps more likely: It is not at the perfect right angle to the sound source. This could be the cause for it sounding so good at bass frequencies in this setting.

    Thanks again for your dedicated microphone work, I often use your website for finding info on microphones!

  8. Ian

    November 23rd, 2010 at 4:30 pm

    I kind of dug the Oktavas. In a way, I feel like they’d be easier to use in a mix.

    As for solo performance, its kind of a matter of preference. I do kind of feel like the “bigness” and width of the Neumanns feels kind of artificial. The Oktavas sound more like I’m sitting in a room with the guitar.

    I’ve used the mk-012s as drum overheads too, and they are very true – I almost feel like that authentic-ness translates to this situation too.

    Maybe that’s just my taste, though. :)

  9. Pedant

    November 26th, 2010 at 6:49 pm

    Steve Hickman: ” I had to move the file for the Oktava mid mic later by 30msec to align it with the side mic file. Once I did this, it got rid of the “slap” and the Oktava M/S pair sounded pretty good,”
    30 milliseconds?
    That equates to a distance difference of 27 foot.
    Even 30 samples would be a distance of 9 inches. (at 44.1k)
    M/S pairs are setup to have the diaphragms as horizontally-equal as possible to the source. It’s pretty much the whole point.

  10. matthew mcglynn

    November 28th, 2010 at 3:44 pm

    @Peterson – yes, my MK-012s are modded by OktavaMod. We didn’t cover this in the video due to time constraints, but I should have made it clear here.

    @Steve, @Mike, @Rene, @Pedant – the time alignment problem with the MK-012 files was the result of an exporting error. Apologies to all for the mistake. We have uploaded new versions of the MK-012 files.

  11. Daniel Worth

    November 30th, 2010 at 11:05 am

    Absolutely fantastic I hope it is the first of MANY more.

  12. Rowan Matthews

    December 1st, 2010 at 10:09 pm

    I think the test maybe slightly flawed.
    Looking at the specs for the Oktava figure-8 capsule it refers to it as using two cardioid capsules. I’m almost certain the KM88 uses omni capsules for its figure 8 configuration.

    At 18-24″ from the guitar there will not be a great amount of proximity effect in the case of the Oktava figure-8 capsule. As you are aware whilst cardioid’s gain bass response up close, at a distance from the source cardioid’s can suffer from subjectively less bass than an omni. This may be the reason for the rather thin sound of the Oktava’s side channel.

    I would review the test and use the Oktava Figure 8 adaptor fitted with a pair of omni capsules and see if the Oktava’s side channel low end response actually improves… I suspect it just might.

    Adaptor here…
    http://www.oktava-shop.com/view_prod.php?id=154

    The omni figure-8 configuration should also pick up more spatial room information which should theoretically make the Oktava MS set-up sound ‘bigger’.

    For the record I actually prefer the mid channel of the Oktava over the Neumann.. I didn’t expect to say that!

  13. Scott Jacobsen

    December 7th, 2010 at 3:03 am

    Great Show guys… Just stumbled on and LOVE the website. Keep up the great work!

  14. Johnny Perreault

    December 10th, 2010 at 2:34 am

    Great Show Guys :)
    I really like the way you’ve talked shop in this relax and well listened manner 😛
    Great perfomance, information and point of views.. Where do I sign up? 😉

    I have a Nady TCM 1050 with it’s inner tube that just died (noisy).. Looks like there are mods out there available to make it sound similar to a u47 (Peluso PK47 capsule, a 6072a tube and Cinemag CM-2461) provides 12dB more headroom and +3dB lift at 10kHz, similar to the original AKG/Telefunken microphones.

    Has anyone tried this or think it would be worth the investment ?

    Many Thanks..
    Johnny Perreault
    Quebec, Canada

  15. matthew mcglynn

    December 10th, 2010 at 7:41 am

    Johnny, the TCM 1050/1150 are the most-modded tube-mic platform on the market. You’ll find there are many capsule/tube/transformer combinations to check out. To be sure, none of them will turn the mic into a U47, but all of them will sound a whole lot better than stock. Check out Dave Thomas’ Advanced Audio Microphones and Brian Fox at Fox Audio Research; both are in Canada and both do some nice tricks to the 1050/1150.

  16. Johnny Perreault

    December 11th, 2010 at 9:50 pm

    Hi Matt, Thanks a lot for the links.. i’ll sure check them out :)

    Johnny

  17. MHSandifer

    December 27th, 2010 at 12:29 pm

    What’s funny is, after assembling the 24bit waves for both mics, I let my daughter and her boyfriend (both of whom know nothing about these mics) listen to the two samples. Both of them felt the Oktava clip sounded better (as did I). Now, maybe it was the difference in performances or the fact that the 012’s weren’t as mid-forward. But when the files are assembled, the 012’s sounded “mellower” to me. I’m absolutely sure that the km88’s were more of an accurate reproduction of the performance. But what amazes me is a mic that’s $300 can sound that good next to one that’s easily 4 to 5 times the cost. Obviously when you solo each one up, there’s no debate about which one is better, the one that costs more. Thanks to recordinghacks for another great demonstration.

  18. B Gilbert

    October 29th, 2011 at 2:41 pm

    Great show, folks… I’ve worked in television since the screens were round (well… not really, but it has been a long time) and I know how much work it was to produce the show. Nice job, but next time place everyone in a half circle so you can get a good shot of everyone who is talking.
    Best, BG

  19. Craig Shibley

    November 3rd, 2011 at 7:57 pm

    Thank you for this. You guys do a great job. Weekly program maybe…???

    I would love to hear this technique done again using two different mics together as was mentioned a couple of times. I would have liked to have heard the MK012 as mid and the KM88 as side, and vice versa, just to compare how the different mics worked specifically in their places.

  20. stuarticus

    August 2nd, 2012 at 3:41 am

    An interesting comparison, the channel level offset after the introduction of the side mic is slightly disconcerting on a solo instrument, but it is an interesting technique. I have to disagree and say the highs on the MK012 were a bit harsh to my ears, still a very nice microphone. Thanks for a great video!

  21. Mike Page

    September 2nd, 2013 at 4:28 am

    Comparison of the spectra of the two side signals reveals a massive difference below 200Hz (MK-012 down 25dB at 100Hz). Also, were the Figure-8 gains calibrated with respect to their Cardioid partners or were they assumed to match?

    I say this because the difference is not subtle; it was so different I could not get beyond wondering what was wrong.

  22. Finn Anklam

    February 9th, 2014 at 2:50 am

    Thanks. Great to have the same setup discussed from different viewpoints.

    I wonder if the greater distance between the capsules could be one of the influences of the stereo imaging and bass response of the oktava sample.

    I would describe the difference between the mics as classical sound vs. popular sound. A mic that offers some kind of popular sound enhancement offers something a classical mic does not. The classical mic sound may not be exciting but seems to be more stable and controlled and from that stability even at lowest levels (reverberation) comes precise spacial impression. Which then again is not most important in multitrack arrangements.

    I liked the sound of your recording room and found its interior to be interesting, too. Maybe that would be something for a following episode?

  23. Finn Anklam

    February 10th, 2014 at 2:17 pm

    Earlier than expected, an ordered MK012 arrived today. The surprise was the omni capsule of the MK012 which together with a stereo room mic (two AT4021) was able to project a close-up of the performance of an Ukulele, which I think is not easy but so vital to this instrument.

    I forgot to mention it before: besides the microphone discussion I also enjoyed the music of your video!

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