NEW YORK, NEW YORK – AUGUST 2009: Now in its 14th year, the Vision Festival continues to draw avant-garde jazz enthusiasts to New York City for six days of inspired performances from the best of the best in the genre. This year, Vision Festival XIV was held at the Abrons Arts Center, a Lower Eastside landmark that boasts a rich legacy of arts programming and community involvement. More than that, the Abrons Arts Center features ideal stage and audience acoustics. Longtime recordist for the event Stefan Heger, of FisheyeMusic Studio in Cologne, Germany, was delighted with the stage’s sound and brought a raft of gear, including a SoundField MKV spatial microphone system, Mojave tube mics, and twenty channels of TRUE Systems and Daking preamps to capture its every nuance.
“The Abrons Arts Center brings live recording to the next level,” said Heger. “The space is very thoughtfully designed so that the stage sound is quite isolated from the house PA. That made it easy for me to capture the real sound of what was going on. I believe that equipment shows its true colors under such circumstances, with the bad stuff falling flat. The good equipment, which I was glad to have on hand, really shined.”
As in previous years, Heger relied on just one microphone for his overall stereo and surround sound pickup – a SoundField MKV. SoundField microphones capture spatial information with a proprietary, four-channel signal that records front-back location (X), side-side location (Y), vertical location (Z), and absolute reference pressure (W). Using software that easily interfaces with the leading recording workstations, Heger was able to alter every aspect of the stereo and surround imaging after the fact in mixdown. With so many acts of varied sizes at Vision Festival, the fact that he didn’t have to worry about the SoundField’s placement during the recording freed him up to focus on the numerous spot mics on stage.
Heger commented, “There’s a lot to think about with each varied ensemble taking the stage – so many different people, so many different instruments – and with very little time between sets to get spot mics up. A lot of unexpected things can happen, and I needed to give myself a lot of headroom on the mic pres to avoid any nasty surprises.”
Two TRUE Systems Precision 8 mic pres gave him sixteen channels in just two rack spaces. Moreover, the Precision 8 gave Heger the unique ability to pick his own peak reference, providing a consistent headroom structure. “Even with careful planning and a lot of headroom, some things still snuck by,” said Heger. “But a distorted Precision 8 is actually quite pleasant, so even in those few moments where something got away from me, it was no big deal.”
He continued, “It was easy to make mic selections with the Precision 8 as well because it’s so accurate and quickly reveals the true nature of a mic/instrument combination. The greatest magic happened with the Mojave MA-200 large diaphragm condenser. The combination of that beautiful tube sound with a neutral, yet musical preamp is something that I’ve never had the pleasure of experiencing before.”
For drums, Heger very consciously added a bit of color to the signal with a four-channel Daking Mic Pre IV. Kick, snare and overheads benefitted. “The Daking has a tone to it,” he said. “It emphasizes the top-end and makes everything come out with a bit more brilliance. The drums shine through. I had a pair of Mojave MA-100 small diaphragm condensers for overheads, and the cymbals came out wonderfully – even better than the real thing! In person, they came off as a bit harsh and overly metallic, but the recordings are much smoother and warmer – the sort of thing that a jazz drummer is really after.”
Heger used a bank of Apogee AD16x converters to interface with Logic, his choice of native software. Using the DB25 output on the TRUE Systems Precision 8s made for easy hookup to the Apogee converters. To monitor, Heger used a Dangerous D-Box.