San Francisco, CA … Completed in 1824, Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125 (also known as "the Choral"), is the final complete symphony of Ludwig van Beethoven. A timeless work that is one of the best-known among the classical music repertoire, it is almost universally regarded to be one of Beethoven's greatest compositions and is considered by some to be the greatest piece of music ever written. For a new recording featuring the San Francisco Symphony & Chorus—conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas—on the SFS Media label, Beethoven’s 9th is once again in the classical music connoisseur’s spotlight and, to ensure the most pristine vocal performances, ribbon microphones from Burbank, CA-based Royer Labs featured prominently in the recording process.
San Francisco-based Jack Vad serves as the producer / engineer for the San Francisco Symphony. With a pedigree that includes over 200 commercial classical releases for prominent labels including BMG Classics, Nonesuch Records, New Albion Records, and Koch International—not to mention the SFS Media recording of “John Adams: Harmonielehre & Short Ride In A Fast Machine” that won a Grammy® Award in 2012—Vad certainly understands what it takes to best capture a musical performance. That’s why he used seven Royer Labs SF-2 Mono Ribbon microphones with Royer’s critically acclaimed Slingshock microphone mounts during the recording of Beethoven’s 9th. He discussed his use of the Royer ribbons and the characteristics that made them so valuable to the recording.
“Obtaining the best possible vocal tracks starts with quality microphones and good positioning,” Vad reports. “For comparison purposes, each of the four soloists had a dual, semi-coincident microphone setup that included one Royer SF-2 and one conventional small diaphragm condenser microphone. The height of each microphone array was adjusted so that the capsules could ‘see’ the soloists above their handheld music scores.”
The process of comparing a small diaphragm microphone and a ribbon microphone yielded some very interesting results, as Vad pointed out. “I was eager to use both types of microphones,” he said, “as I wanted the ability to choose the best vocal quality—regardless of which microphone type it happened to be captured with. The results proved most interesting. There were two main differences between these microphones; the Royer SF-2 had the most natural mids and highs without any exaggeration of sibilance or attacks. Additionally, the warm quality of the SF-2 presentation enabled the voices to better integrate into the musical texture, which really helped create a superior mix.”
When queried about the SF-2’s sonic attributes that he finds most appealing, Vad offered the following, “I find the most notable characteristics of the Royer SF-2 to be its warmth and its ability to blend into the greater whole of a musical performance. Equally important, the microphone’s lack of high frequency resonances allows for a very natural pickup—with a uniform, uncolored off-axis response. The end result is, musically, very pleasing. Given these qualities, I also consider the SF-2 a solid choice for use on orchestral piano, solo piano, concerto piano, section strings, solo bass, vocals, and harp.”
Before redirecting his attention back to his responsibilities with the San Francisco Symphony, Vad offered these final impressions of Royer Labs’ SF-2 microphone, “The Royer SF-2 is one of the most significant acquisitions that the San Francisco Symphony has recently made for its microphone inventory. Over the last two years, we’ve been extremely happy with both the microphone’s versatility and sound quality. The Royer SF-2 is an essential part of the San Francisco Symphony’s recorded sound.”
For additional information about the San Francisco Symphony, visit them online at www.sfsymphony.org.
About Royer Labs
Located in Burbank, California, Royer Labs’ microphones are a staple of leading touring acts as well as recording and broadcast facilities. Additional information on the entire line of Royer Labs microphones can be found at www.royerlabs.com.
Photo Information: San Francisco Symphony & Chorus. Photo credit: Kristen Loken