Anyone used a Shure VP88 stereo mic?

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We're updating some facilities at my radio station, and I've suggested
that we add an acoustic instruments mic to our air studio to support live
performers. We already have several mics planned for guest
speaking/singing (these will be SM7s), but we don't have anything planned
for instruments. Our goal is to keep things EXTREMELY simple, so we're
planning to use a single stereo mic for this purpose (mostly for acoustic
guitars, occasionally a mandolin or other string instrument).

Typically, the mic will likely be anywhere from 6" to 36" from one or
more instruments. This is a very small space for performers. We
probably can't fit more than a duo, or maybe a trio if they all like each
other.

We're trying to select an appropriate mic for this purpose. I've
considered the Rode NT4 and the AT 825, but the Shure VP88 looks like it
may be a better choice. Its M/S design is inherently mono compatible,
and the other mics in the room are Shures so it may be a good match from
a voicing standpoint. However, I've never actually heard one nor heard
from anyone who's used one, so this is nothing more than speculation.

So, can anyone here comment on the character and quality of the VP88? Is
it a suitable small diaphragm condenser stereo mic that is appropriate
for close to medium miking of acoustic instruments?
 
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The VP88 I had was very easy to use, but it was too noisy for acoustic
instrument miking. OK for stuff like drum overheads and live band
recording.

RP
 
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Jim Gilliland <usemylastname@cheerful.com> wrote:
>We're updating some facilities at my radio station, and I've suggested
>that we add an acoustic instruments mic to our air studio to support live
>performers. We already have several mics planned for guest
>speaking/singing (these will be SM7s), but we don't have anything planned
>for instruments. Our goal is to keep things EXTREMELY simple, so we're
>planning to use a single stereo mic for this purpose (mostly for acoustic
>guitars, occasionally a mandolin or other string instrument).
>
>Typically, the mic will likely be anywhere from 6" to 36" from one or
>more instruments. This is a very small space for performers. We
>probably can't fit more than a duo, or maybe a trio if they all like each
>other.
>
>We're trying to select an appropriate mic for this purpose. I've
>considered the Rode NT4 and the AT 825, but the Shure VP88 looks like it
>may be a better choice. Its M/S design is inherently mono compatible,
>and the other mics in the room are Shures so it may be a good match from
>a voicing standpoint. However, I've never actually heard one nor heard
>from anyone who's used one, so this is nothing more than speculation.

The VP88 is okay, but it's kind of noisy.

ANY single-point design will be inherently mono-compatible.

You might want to consider the SASS-P. It's not the best possible stereo
mike, but it is much more immune to placement errors than anything else
I have used. If you have a bunch of folks without much experience doing
the setups, they are apt to hurt themselves less with the Crown SASS-P
than anything else.
--scott
--
"C'est un Nagra. C'est suisse, et tres, tres precis."
 
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Jim Gilliland wrote:

> We're updating some facilities at my radio station, and
I've suggested
> that we add an acoustic instruments mic to our air studio
to support
> live performers. We already have several mics planned for
guest
> speaking/singing (these will be SM7s), but we don't have
anything
> planned for instruments. Our goal is to keep things
EXTREMELY
> simple, so we're planning to use a single stereo mic for
this purpose
> (mostly for acoustic guitars, occasionally a mandolin or
other string
> instrument).

> Typically, the mic will likely be anywhere from 6" to 36"
from one or
> more instruments. This is a very small space for
performers. We
> probably can't fit more than a duo, or maybe a trio if
they all like
> each other.

I routinely mic a violin trio at about 4' with an X-Y pair
composed of 2 Audix OM6s @90 degrees with their balls off
and the cartriges touching. This application includes SR so
the well-defined consistent pickup pattern is very
important. The 3 violins fit nicely in the wide active
pickup area, but nearby sources of interfering sounds
including stage monitors and reflective walls, as well as
the mains about 30' feet overhead, are nicely supressed.
Since I simply sum the 2 mics in adjacent channels in the
mixer, mono compatibility is key, and seems to be
well-addressed. I guess I could save an input and a lot of
cable and sum them with a Y cable.

> We're trying to select an appropriate mic for this
purpose. I've
> considered the Rode NT4 and the AT 825, but the Shure VP88
looks like
> it may be a better choice. Its M/S design is inherently
mono
> compatible, and the other mics in the room are Shures so
it may be a
> good match from a voicing standpoint. However, I've never
actually
> heard one nor heard from anyone who's used one, so this is
nothing
> more than speculation.

> So, can anyone here comment on the character and quality
of the VP88?

> Is it a suitable small diaphragm condenser stereo mic that
is
> appropriate for close to medium miking of acoustic
instruments?

My experience with the sound quality of Rode NT4 is such
that it seems like a viable alternative. No, I've not had a
chance to compare it to the other mics you mentioned, but I
have looked very carefully at the other issue you raised -
channel matching and phasing. Mono compatibility seems to
be very good - the elements are only about 1/2" and nearly
touch edges, so they are acoustically close. They seem
well-matched.

My only issue with the NT4 is that it is big and ugly. Most
of the ugly seems inherent and also not worth addressing,
but the size and weight of the mic's barrel is way out of
proportion to its probable contents. This mic probably ends
up on tall stands a lot, so it would be nicer to work with
if it were small and light or at least lighter.

Given that my experience with the NT4 is in applications
15-30' from the band or orchestra, noise in close-up
applications shouldn't be a problem at all.
 
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Scott Dorsey wrote:
>
> You might want to consider the SASS-P. It's not the best possible stereo
> mike, but it is much more immune to placement errors than anything else
> I have used. If you have a bunch of folks without much experience doing
> the setups, they are apt to hurt themselves less with the Crown SASS-P
> than anything else.

Thanks, Scott. I'll bring that up to our decision makers. The Crown is
a bit less expensive than the Shure, but it still may be more than they
want to spend.

You're right on the money about the need to make this idiot proof. I was
going to recommend running this mic through an RNP/RNC combination in
"SuperNice" mode. Again, the goal is reasonable dynamics control without
requiring the operator to know anything about how to set a compressor.
Any thoughts on that?

Arnie, thanks for your reply as well.
 
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On Tue, 31 May 2005 22:23:46 -0400, Jim Gilliland wrote
(in article <429d1c3e$0$17306$c3e8da3@news.astraweb.com>):

> We're updating some facilities at my radio station, and I've suggested
> that we add an acoustic instruments mic to our air studio to support live
> performers. We already have several mics planned for guest
> speaking/singing (these will be SM7s), but we don't have anything planned
> for instruments. Our goal is to keep things EXTREMELY simple, so we're
> planning to use a single stereo mic for this purpose (mostly for acoustic
> guitars, occasionally a mandolin or other string instrument).
>
> Typically, the mic will likely be anywhere from 6" to 36" from one or
> more instruments. This is a very small space for performers. We
> probably can't fit more than a duo, or maybe a trio if they all like each
> other.
>
> We're trying to select an appropriate mic for this purpose. I've
> considered the Rode NT4 and the AT 825, but the Shure VP88 looks like it
> may be a better choice. Its M/S design is inherently mono compatible,
> and the other mics in the room are Shures so it may be a good match from
> a voicing standpoint. However, I've never actually heard one nor heard
> from anyone who's used one, so this is nothing more than speculation.
>
> So, can anyone here comment on the character and quality of the VP88? Is
> it a suitable small diaphragm condenser stereo mic that is appropriate
> for close to medium miking of acoustic instruments?

Yes Jim. I reviewed it some time ago and the review is up with the others on
my site.

Ty Ford



-- Ty Ford's equipment reviews, audio samples, rates and other audiocentric
stuff are at www.tyford.com
 
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Jim Gilliland wrote:
> We're trying to select an appropriate mic for this purpose. I've
> considered the Rode NT4 and the AT 825, but the Shure VP88 looks like it
> may be a better choice. Its M/S design is inherently mono compatible,
> and the other mics in the room are Shures so it may be a good match from
> a voicing standpoint. However, I've never actually heard one nor heard
> from anyone who's used one, so this is nothing more than speculation.
>
> So, can anyone here comment on the character and quality of the VP88? Is
> it a suitable small diaphragm condenser stereo mic that is appropriate
> for close to medium miking of acoustic instruments?

The Sony ECM-MS5 is quieter, and also like the V88 is proabably
already known by your supervisors as useful for field recording/ENG
work. Of course, in the best radio tradition why not push for a really
nice ribbon mic, a Royer SF12 or maybe a Wes Dooley AEA R88 ribbon mic?
<g> Need good micpres though.

Will Miho
NY Music and TV Audio Guy
Staff Audio/Fox News/M-AES
"The large print giveth and the small print taketh away..." Tom Waits
 
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Ty Ford wrote:
>
> Yes Jim. I reviewed it some time ago and the review is up with the others on
> my site.

Thanks, Ty. I should have thought to look there before I even posted!

It sounds like you found the VP88's self-noise a bit less objectionable
than Scott or Rick Powell did, but all three of you commented on its
noise level. It also sounds like you found it to be quite sensitive to
positioning, which may again reinforce Scott's suggestion of the Crown mic.

The Crown SASS-P is basically two PZM's mounted back to back, providing a
very wide pattern at high frequencies, and approaching omni at low
frequencies. It's a bit cheaper than the Shure, but not a lot cheaper.

Our entire annual budget is under $100K, so spending 1% of that on a mic
that will only be used for occasional live studio performances may be
difficult to justify. Still, it's a capital purchase that will be in use
for many years, so I'd consider it worthwhile. We'll see if the station
management agrees.
 
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"Jim Gilliland" wrote ...
> Our entire annual budget is under $100K, so spending 1% of that on a mic
> that will only be used for occasional live studio performances may be
> difficult to justify. Still, it's a capital purchase that will be in use
> for many years, so I'd consider it worthwhile. We'll see if the station
> management agrees.

If you're really looking for a LOW-budget mic, you could consider one
of those consumer stereo mics (like the Sonys, etc) that are popular for
use with MD recorders, etc.
 
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> Scott Dorsey wrote:
>
>>
>> You might want to consider the SASS-P. It's not the best possible stereo
>> mike, but it is much more immune to placement errors than anything else
>> I have used. If you have a bunch of folks without much experience doing
>> the setups, they are apt to hurt themselves less with the Crown SASS-P
>> than anything else.

I see one facet of the SASS-P that might be an problem for us. Crown's
spec sheet says that this mic shouldn't be used any closer than 3 feet
from its target to avoid a "hole in the middle" effect. In this space, 3
feet is about the max that we'd ever be from an instrument, and often
much less. In most studio situations, you'd just narrow the panning to
compensate for this, but we won't have that option - whatever stereo mic
we choose will have its two sides permanently hard-panned to the right
and the left. So we may need to choose a mic that doesn't spread itself
quite as wide as this one does.
 
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Jim Gilliland wrote:
> We're updating some facilities at my radio station, and I've suggested
> that we add an acoustic instruments mic to our air studio to support live
> performers. We already have several mics planned for guest
> speaking/singing (these will be SM7s), but we don't have anything planned
> for instruments. Our goal is to keep things EXTREMELY simple, so we're
> planning to use a single stereo mic for this purpose (mostly for acoustic
> guitars, occasionally a mandolin or other string instrument).
>
> Typically, the mic will likely be anywhere from 6" to 36" from one or
> more instruments. This is a very small space for performers. We
> probably can't fit more than a duo, or maybe a trio if they all like each
> other.
>
> We're trying to select an appropriate mic for this purpose. I've
> considered the Rode NT4 and the AT 825, but the Shure VP88 looks like it
> may be a better choice. Its M/S design is inherently mono compatible,
> and the other mics in the room are Shures so it may be a good match from
> a voicing standpoint. However, I've never actually heard one nor heard
> from anyone who's used one, so this is nothing more than speculation.
>
> So, can anyone here comment on the character and quality of the VP88? Is
> it a suitable small diaphragm condenser stereo mic that is appropriate
> for close to medium miking of acoustic instruments?

I have a VP88 and the self noise isn't that much of a problem, but the
microphone is extremely bright with very little low end.

I use the mic for quick sample gathering and not much else.

I personally prefer a pair of SM 81's to the VP88 as they sound better.
At the distances you are miking, I would use an x-y setup on the 81's.

These aren't as easy to use as the VP88, but sound a lot better.

For single point stereo microphones that sound really good, I find that
you are going to be in the Royer, Neumann, Sanken range.

OTOH, I have gotten really good results from one microphone, properly
placed, to pick up both the singer and an instrument. I've also done
that with a stereo pair, but at greater distance, in a better room.
 
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In article <429dffb9$0$77407$c3e8da3@news.astraweb.com>,
Jim Gilliland <usemylastname@cheerful.com> wrote:
>> Scott Dorsey wrote:
>>
>>>
>>> You might want to consider the SASS-P. It's not the best possible stereo
>>> mike, but it is much more immune to placement errors than anything else
>>> I have used. If you have a bunch of folks without much experience doing
>>> the setups, they are apt to hurt themselves less with the Crown SASS-P
>>> than anything else.
>
>I see one facet of the SASS-P that might be an problem for us. Crown's
>spec sheet says that this mic shouldn't be used any closer than 3 feet
>from its target to avoid a "hole in the middle" effect. In this space, 3
>feet is about the max that we'd ever be from an instrument, and often
>much less. In most studio situations, you'd just narrow the panning to
>compensate for this, but we won't have that option - whatever stereo mic
>we choose will have its two sides permanently hard-panned to the right
>and the left. So we may need to choose a mic that doesn't spread itself
>quite as wide as this one does.


This is the case for ANY single point stereo mike. If you have to be in
that close, maybe you want a 635A and just ditch the idea of stereo.
--scott
--
"C'est un Nagra. C'est suisse, et tres, tres precis."
 
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Richard Crowley wrote:
> "Jim Gilliland" wrote ...
>
>>Our entire annual budget is under $100K, so spending 1% of that on a mic
>>that will only be used for occasional live studio performances may be
>>difficult to justify. Still, it's a capital purchase that will be in use
>>for many years, so I'd consider it worthwhile. We'll see if the station
>>management agrees.
>
> If you're really looking for a LOW-budget mic, you could consider one
> of those consumer stereo mics (like the Sonys, etc) that are popular for
> use with MD recorders, etc.

No, I hope we can do better than that. For one thing, this is a studio
that is manned by college students for many hours of the day. We need
equipment that can hold up to a reasonable level of abuse. I'm pretty
sure that we can find enough money to buy something suitable. I'm trying
to get a clearer picture of our budget for these items before I get too
far along with this. Worst case, I'll donate my own AT825 to the cause.
I hate to do that, though, because I've begun using it more as an
audience mic for my own recordings.
 
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Scott Dorsey wrote:
>>
>>I see one facet of the SASS-P that might be an problem for us. Crown's
>>spec sheet says that this mic shouldn't be used any closer than 3 feet
>>from its target to avoid a "hole in the middle" effect. In this space,
>>3 feet is about the max that we'd ever be from an instrument, and often
>>much less. In most studio situations, you'd just narrow the panning to
>>compensate for this, but we won't have that option - whatever stereo mic
>>we choose will have its two sides permanently hard-panned to the right
>>and the left. So we may need to choose a mic that doesn't spread itself
>>quite as wide as this one does.
>
> This is the case for ANY single point stereo mike. If you have to be in
> that close, maybe you want a 635A and just ditch the idea of stereo.

I really don't want to go to mono - that's what we've got in our current
studio, and I find it very limiting. Just from looking at the specs, the
Crown really does seem to be a wider pattern than most stereo mics. A
narrower capsule angle should work better for us, I think. And if we do
find a situation where mono is preferable, I can always press the mono
button on the console channel to sum the two sides.

Since we haven't actually built the new studio yet, it's not easy to
envision the exact positioning of the mic relative to some as yet
hypothetical instrument or instruments. But I have a mental picture that
positions it about 18" to 36" from a group of two or three instruments,
and closer (perhaps 12" or even a bit less) to a single instrument.
 
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Richard Crowley wrote:
> "Jim Gilliland" wrote ...
>
>> Our entire annual budget is under $100K, so spending 1% of that on a mic
>> that will only be used for occasional live studio performances may be
>> difficult to justify. Still, it's a capital purchase that will be in use
>> for many years, so I'd consider it worthwhile. We'll see if the station
>> management agrees.
>
>
> If you're really looking for a LOW-budget mic, you could consider one
> of those consumer stereo mics (like the Sonys, etc) that are popular for
> use with MD recorders, etc.


How about an Audio-Technica AT825?
 
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Scott Dorsey wrote:

> This is the case for ANY single point stereo mike. If you have to be in
> that close, maybe you want a 635A and just ditch the idea of stereo.

I thought the SASS-P was a baffle separated omni pair. Wrong?

I've always had a problem with a hole in the middle using
baffled omni's in a Jecklin configuration. Getting closer
is usually recommended to close it and it does seem to help
at the expense of ambience.


Bob
--

"Things should be described as simply as possible, but no
simpler."

A. Einstein
 
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Jim Gilliland wrote:

> The Crown SASS-P is basically two PZM's mounted back to back, providing
> a very wide pattern at high frequencies, and approaching omni at low
> frequencies. It's a bit cheaper than the Shure, but not a lot cheaper.

Ah, it _is_ a baffle separated omni pair. That won't reduce
well to mono.


Bob
--

"Things should be described as simply as possible, but no
simpler."

A. Einstein
 
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Bob Cain wrote:
>
> Scott Dorsey wrote:
>
>> This is the case for ANY single point stereo mike. If you have to be in
>> that close, maybe you want a 635A and just ditch the idea of stereo.
>
> I thought the SASS-P was a baffle separated omni pair. Wrong?

Not exactly. It is a separated pair of PZMs, but the separator is really
more a spacer than a baffle (though Crown calls it a baffle). And the
PZMs are mounted on angled backplates that gives them a directional
pattern. See the pdf for a picture:

http://www.crownaudio.com/pdf/mics/126982.pdf

I just spotted the dimensions of the mic at the bottom of the PDF - this
thing is huge, nearly a foot across. That wasn't obvious from the
picture (scale can be deceiving). I'm afraid this isn't going to be a
practical mic for the small space in which we will be working.
 
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Kurt Albershardt wrote:
>
> How about an Audio-Technica AT825?

Yes, I've mentioned that one a couple of times in this thread already.
It may well turn out to be a reasonable choice. Of all the stereo mics
on the market, that's the one that I'm most familiar with.
 
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Scott Dorsey wrote:
> Jim Gilliland <usemylastname@cheerful.com> wrote:
>
>>We're updating some facilities at my radio station, and I've suggested
>>that we add an acoustic instruments mic to our air studio to support live
>>performers. We already have several mics planned for guest
>>speaking/singing (these will be SM7s), but we don't have anything planned
>>for instruments. Our goal is to keep things EXTREMELY simple, so we're
>>planning to use a single stereo mic for this purpose (mostly for acoustic
>>guitars, occasionally a mandolin or other string instrument).
>>
>>Typically, the mic will likely be anywhere from 6" to 36" from one or
>>more instruments. This is a very small space for performers. We
>>probably can't fit more than a duo, or maybe a trio if they all like each
>>other.
>>
>>We're trying to select an appropriate mic for this purpose. I've
>>considered the Rode NT4 and the AT 825, but the Shure VP88 looks like it
>>may be a better choice. Its M/S design is inherently mono compatible,
>>and the other mics in the room are Shures so it may be a good match from
>>a voicing standpoint. However, I've never actually heard one nor heard
>>from anyone who's used one, so this is nothing more than speculation.
>
> The VP88 is okay, but it's kind of noisy.

I'm back to thinking about the VP88, even though everyone says it's
relatively noisy. Here's what I'm thinking.

The noise spec for the VP88 is about the same as the AT825. The Rode NT4
is considerably quieter (based on the manufacturer's data). However,
this mic is going to be used in an on-air studio that includes a couple
of racks of equipment - including fans and motors and other noisy stuff.
The self-noise of the mic is likely to be insignificant in this
environment. Furthermore, the signal is eventually going out over FM
broadcast, which is bound to be far noisier than anything coming from the
mic. So I just don't think the noise issue is going to be particularly
important in our usage.

On the other hand, we'll be feeding the left and right sides of this mic
directly into a stereo channel on our main broadcast board (well, through
a mic pre, obviously). There will be no control whatsoever over the
relative panning of the left and right - both will be hard panned 100% to
the left and right of our program bus. This situation, combined with our
small performance space, will make it tricky to position a stereo mic
properly (as Scott has already pointed out).

The VP88 uses a mid/side configuration with an internal m/s matrix that
allows it to output standard L/R signals. And that m/s matrix offers a
choice of settings for the level of the side mic, providing a choice of
stereo settings - narrow, medium (normal), or wide.

So the mid/side pattern controls on the mic itself will provide a LOT
more flexibility than any standard stereo mic can. I'll be able to set
the mic for narrow, medium, or wide stereo to best fit whatever mix of
musicians I happen to have in that space. Furthermore, I have the fourth
choice of setting the channel to mono on the broadcast board, effectively
turning off the side mic completely so that the mic becomes basically a
normal cardioid small diaphragn condenser.

I think that this flexibility will far outweigh any concern over
self-noise.

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