Editor's Choice: Stereophile's Sampler & Test CD Track 3

[3] Mozart: Flute Quartet in D Major, K.285, Allegro (from Serenade, STPH009-2)

Performers: Carol Wincenc, flute; Yasushi Toyoshima, violin; Michelle Kim, viola; Peter Wyrick, cello
Recording Venue: St. Francis Auditorium, Museum of Fine Arts, Santa Fe, New Mexico
Recording Dates: July 27-28, 1996
Producer & Musical Director: Heiichiro Ohyama
Executive Producer: Gretchen Grogan
Assistant Engineer: Wes Phillips
Piano Technician: Michael Blackwell
Microphones: two DPA 4006 ½" omnis with (diffuse-field) nose-cone grids (spaced pair); two DPA 4011 ½" cardioids (ORTF pair)
Mike Preamps: Forssell M-2a (cardioids), Nagra-D (omnis)
A/D Converters: Manley (20-bit, cardioids), Nagra-D (20-bit, omnis) at 44.1kHz
Recorder: Nagra-D
Mixer: Sonic Solutions Sonic System Digital Audio Workstation (4 channels)
20-16-bit Noiseshaping: Meridian 518

My goal in making a recording is to preserve real music, happening in real space, as accurately as possible. I recorded this delicately scored work live in concert during the 1996 season of the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, so rather than use microphone stands, which would have interfered with the audience's view of the stage, I hung the mikes from the 35'-high ceiling of the small, live hall, using 70-80' of monofilament fishing line fastened to the balcony banisters at the back of the hall to adjust their positions. A spaced pair of omnis captured the full-range tonal characters of the instruments and provided sufficient antiphase information to give the listener a sense of envelopment; two cardioids arranged as an ORTF pair, their capsules 7" apart and angled at 115 degrees, captured the picture of the stage. (ORTF cardioids give a relatively limited amplitude-defined soundstage, with only about 10dB of channel separation, but the time delay between the two channels, due to the spacing, gives a time-defined stereo image that reinforces the amplitude-defined image.)

As with all my multitrack recordings, all the A/D converter word clocks were synchronized. For this recording, the Nagra ADC was slaved to the Manley using a Sonic Frontiers Ultrajitterbug to reclock the data.

What you should hear: The D-Major Flute Quartet opens with a typically Mozartean Allegro—charming and accessible music with cunningly concealed depth. The minor-key development, for example, provides a strong contrast with the skitteringly sunny opening and recapitulation.

My mix of the two pairs of mikes was an attempt to optimally balance all three aspects of the live sound: tonal balance, soundstage, envelopment. Carol Wincenc's flute is just to the left of center with the string trio in a shallow arc behind her, covering from the center of the stage to the right of center. The violin is leftmost, the cello in the center, the viola to the right. The rather bright-sounding hall acoustic should be detectable as a delicate dome of ambience. And the audience is extremely well-behaved, only one slight cough interfering.

For those listeners with sound-pressure-level meters, -20dBFS (track 20) corresponds to a peak SPL at the microphone position of 86dB. If you set your volume control so that the opening of the Mozart Flute Quartet generates a peak level of 91dB at your listening position, the playback level for the chamber music tracks on this CD will be within a couple of dB of the same as that heard live from the mike positions.

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