The most important equipment on any recording session is undoubtedly the microphones.
For this session choosing the right microphones was essential. In 1947 when the original session was recorded the microphone did all of the work. Mixing consoles of the era did not come with equalizers and compressors and the signal path would have been fairly simple; microphone, mixer, acetate lathe
. The choice of available microphones would also have been quite limited. The most common microphones of the era were American made ribbon and dynamic microphones. In 1947 very few condenser microphones were available. The most common condenser microphones at this time were Altec
. Ribbon microphones would be RCA
or Altec. Due to Detroit's geographical proximity to Electro-Voice
then EV dynamics were most likely in heavy use at United Sound Systems.
After Much research the following microphones were chosen:AKG D-12 VR Dynamic
- Bass DrumAKG C-12 VR Tube Condenser Omni
- Drum Over HeadRCA 44-BX Ribbon
- BassRoyer 121 Ribbon
- PianoMesanovic Model 2 Ribbon
- SaxophoneMesanovic Model 2 Ribbon
Two Neumann U-87
Condenser Omni - Room
A total of 10 microphones were used on the session. This is as many as four more than the original session. The reason for the extra microphones is simple. It is because we could. While we wanted to recreate the session as close as possible we also wanted the recording to be modern. We were after a sound and not necessarily a perfect recreation. Using fewer microphones would be like asking the musicians to solo exactly as the original players did on the original recordings which would not be in keeping with Jazz being an improvised art form.
The horn microphones were graciously provided by Deni Mesanovic of Mesanovic Microphones
. These microphones are hand built in Detroit and having a Detroit microphone manufacturer involved in the session was a cool bit of luck. The RCA 44-BX was provided by Ed Wolfrum
. Wolfrum's interest in our session was amazing and his help was invaluable. When we suggested we were going to use a Tube Condenser microphone on the bass he quickly pointed out the error of our ways. "I would question the condenser on the bass as the bi-directional, high frequency nulls on a condenser microphone with 2 capsules is not as good, off axis, as a single ribbon is. This may present a problem with the cymbals bleeding into the bass."
There are also a couple of other places where we deviated from the 1947 microphone set up. The addition of a bass drum microphone was, again, to keep the sound of our session modern. The more controversial decision was to add the two room microphones. According to Ed Wolfrum room microphones were never used at United Sound; "We NEVER used room mikes...NEVER. I can't understand where that concept ever came from?". This is a sentiment we at TQM Recording Co agree with but in this case we felt that room microphones were essential. Not knowing the exact location of the musicians in the room and not knowing the exact microphone techniques lead us to feel that having some spaced room microphones set to an Omni directional pattern would help if extra acoustic room ambience was needed to match the tone of the original session. As it turned out we were right and a small amount of the room microphones were used to increase the "sound" of the room in the final mix.
As for other equipment used on the recording session. We kept it simple and used the available gear found today in United Sound Studio B. Focusrite Saphire
microphone pre-amplifiers were used for all microphone channels and Avid ProTools 10
was used as the recorder with Avid 192 I/O as the audio interface. The session was recorded at a sample rate of 96kHz at 24 bits.