THE ART OF RECORDING
Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4
Part 2. UPGRADING THE STELLAVOX SM8 & AMI48
48. Handel's Messiah - Melbourne Town Hall - Sunday 19th December - Royal Melbourne Philharmonic + Australian Classical Players
47. Johanna Selleck - Syzygy - Melba Hall - Friday 10th December 2004
46. Takacs Quartet - Hamer Hall - 6th December 2004 The Arts CentreThe latest and hopefully final changes to the SM8 [and AMI48] modules which improves the inner detailing another level again, and takes the level of sonics to an incredible transparency. This, I'm hoping is the final change. Now feel that it's time to offer these upgrades and new modules to other STELLAVOX users.
45. Adam Simmons Quartet - BMW EDGE - Sunday 21st November 2004ADAM SIMMONS video
44. Andrea Keller - BMW EDGE - Sunday 21st November 2004
43. Phil Gelbach - FILTER KINGZ - BMW EDGE - Sunday 21st November 2004PHIL GELBACH video
42. Aaron Choulai Trio - BMW EDGE - Sunday 21st November 2004AARON CHOULAI video
41. Anita Hustas Trio - BMW EDGE - Sunday 21st November 2004ANITA HUSTAS video
40. Australian String Quartet - Baptist Church - Tuesday 16th November 2004
39. Diane Peters - Downstairs 45 Flinders Lane - Wed 3rd November 2004OCTOBER
38. Il Giardino Armonico - Hamer Hall - Tuesday 19th October 2004 MUSICA VIVA
37. MYM - Debussy - Iwaki Auditorium - Saturday 9th October 2004
36. St John Chrysostom - St Patrick's Cathedral - Friday 8th October 2004 Featuring "THE FEDERATION BELLS"
35. St John Chrysostom - St Patrick's Cathedral - Friday 8th October 2004 Royal Melbourne Philharmonic Choir
34. Fritz Hauser - BMW EDGE - Tuesday 5th OctoberFritz Hauser Video
33. Speak Percussion - BMW EDGE - Tues. 5th OctoberSEPTEMBER
32. Fritz Hauser & VCA Percussion - Assembly Hall - Sat 2nd October
31. e21 - Stephen Grant - Iwaki Auditorium - Wed 15th September 2004
30. Australian Classical Players - Vivaldi Friday 10th September 2004 ASSEMBLY HALL
29. Adam Simmons Quartet - The Incinerator - Thursday 2nd September 2004AUGUST
28. Aaron Choulai Trio - Bennett's Lane - Sunday 29th August 2004
27. Andrew Lloyd-Weber's Requiem - St Patrick's Cathedral - Fri 27th August 2004 Melbourne
26. Past Echoes- Transcendant Beauty -St Marks - Sunday 22nd August 2004
25. Lyric Opera - National Theatre St Kilda - Saturday 14th August 2004
24. MYM - Holst's PLANET Mars - Iwaki Auditorium - Sat 7th August 2004
23. Appollonian Visions - Black Box Theatre - Arts Centre - August 6th 2004JULY
22. ACP - Mozart - Saturday 17th July - Louisa Hunter Bradley & Andrew Wailes - Assembly Hall.Read some copy[www] about Tim de Paravicini's work on Tape Recorders, and how the "record" electronics were usually much better than the playback electronics, and so I looked into this with my SM8 and realized that the "passive" equalization on both sides, was limited by the quality of the "monolithic ceramic capacitors" used. So I replaced these with a "blend" of polystyrenes and the sound quality improved dramatically - images in space, which were previously a little "hazy" now became absolutely holographic and 3D. Much more inner detailing, and harmonic texture. All these improvements were easily discernible with the 4135 mikes. The difference bwteeen the 4135 and 4133 now became even more significant. I was able to go back and redub earlier concerts with the new playback capacitors to obtain an improvement - MUCH sweeter sound.
21. Gary Stavrou - Balmain Sinfonia - Newman College Sydney Sunday 27th June 2004
20. Night at the Proms - Royal Melbourne Philharmonic - Melbourne Town Hall - Sunday 13th June
19. Bhan Tre - Assembly Hall - Friday 11th June 2004.Replaced the BEYER input transformer with a LUNDAHL - now I could hear that the "tonal" issue, was more related to the BEYER, and the soundstage became deeper, wider, with more detailing in space.
18. Wendy Morrisson - Footscray Basement - Sunday 23 May 2004
17. Adam Simmons Toy Band - Trades Hall - Sunday 16th May 2004
16. Interprotato - Trades Hall - Sunday 16th May 2004
15. Tim Ries & Aaron Choulai - Malvern Town Hall - Saturday 15th May 2004
14. Aron Ottignon - Malvern Town Hall Fri 14th May 2004
13. Paul Grabowsky - Malvern Town Hall Fri 14th May 2004
12. James Morrison & Joe Chindamo - Malvern Town Hall - Thursday 13th May 2004
11. Pascal Schumacher Quartet - Ormond Hall - Tuesday 11th May 2004
10. Erik Griswold - Chapel Off Chapel - Sunday 9th May 2004
9. Andrea Keller Trio - Czech House - Fri 7th May 2004Started to use 4135 in preference to more sensitive 4133. I found that the 4135 had much better width & depth of soundstage dynamic headroom [because of it's lower output] so it didn't overload the SM8 mic preamps, particularly with loud transients which are notorious in Jazz [trumpets in particular]. The trade-off was the higher noise-floor. I wasn't entirely happy with the "tonal" trade-off, so I reserved judgement.
8. Royal Melbourne Philharmonic - ANZACS - Melbourne Town Hall Sunday 25th April 2004
7. Past Echoes - Food of Love - St Mark's, North Fitzroy Sat 18th April 2004
6. Autumn Fantasy - Andrew McGregor - BMW EDGE - Saturday 3rd April 2004Replace all the cables with my ENOSIS wires - more 3D imaging, bigger soundstage
Concerts which I started using standard SM8 [Basf 468 tape] and also SP8 modified to SM8 [Quantegy GP9 tape] by JP Gurtner of Stellavox Switzerland, and started to alternate between B&K 4133 & 4135 capsules.
5. Australian Classical Players - Assembly Hall - Fri 19th March 2004
4. Macquarie Trio - Melba Hall - Wed 17th March 2004
Recorded with stock Stellavox SM8, pair of B&K 4133s
3. Adam Simmons Quartet - Dec 2003
2. Adam Simmons & Ursel Schlicht - Footscray Basement- Dec 2003
1. Xenia Hanusiak - voice + harp
How it began...
I'm sure that every Audiophile has at least thought about recording a bit of live music, and even some have dreamt about becoming a recording engineer - and I'm certainly one of those.
Unless you want to record a neighbour's 10 year old practicing "badly", actually having a musician allow you to record their music is quite daunting. Mostly, because musicians are quite suspicious, so my first attempts were met with a mixture of reactions.
My early years were filled with "these" sorts of experiences. Rehearsals in poky rooms, gigs in smoke-filled hotels with PA's blaring. Lugging expensive equipment up flights of stairs to "demolition-ready" venues which had seen better days.
Once you've passed these off-putting experiences and manage to actually record a worthwhile concert, you encounter a different set of obstacles. From the politics of a gig and dealing with performers, production managers, agents, lighting and sound reinforcement chappees, to the simple task of where you can set up . Then you need to get past equipment issues and problems, rain or strange noises coming from the air-conditioning ,planes flying over and car alarms sounding.
Then if you are really, really lucky, you get a glimpse of the "magic" .
When a concert is magic, there is no other way to describe the feeling other than heaven on earth. And sadly, it doesn't happen often enough.
You're only as good as your equipment…
I'm going to be a little controversial at this point. If your equipment is "exceptional", you are at least 90% towards creating a great recording.
It's actually the same with Hi-End Audio. An exceptional system somehow actually makes MORE recordings sound interesting and involving.
Because there is no equivalent to a Hi-End press in the professional recording world, you are really on your own when it comes to assembling a "reference quality" recording system. And there are only a few individuals who "we [Hi-End Audiophiles] " know who actually have some knowledge in this field.
The professional world doesn't share the same vocabulary of "soundstage width and depth", "tonal neutrality" and "transparency". In fact, most recording engineers [and there are very few exceptions ] pick their microphones and equipment for their "known" colorations. And the "sound" they tend to go for in general, is "dry" [they want to be able to ADD effects] and has no depth of field - because it is generally recorded in a poky studio.
My first recording in 1987 with my Stellavox SM8 and a pair of B&K 4133 mics proved to me that it could be the basis of a "reference" recording system. I made up my mind very early on to ignore the pro-industry approach to recording and instead focus on an almost Hi-End playback approach using the best recordings from the 60's as examples of what was possible - recordings from Bob Fine [Mercury], Ken Wilkinson [DECCA] and Lewis Layton [RCA], and of course a lot of experimenting during real recording sessions [mostly at the rehearsals].
The first experimentation was with microphones. Although I liked some of the colourations I could hear with AKGs, NEUMANNS, SCHOEPS etc, they were all adversely affecting the soundstage width and depth of a performance. I found that faster and smaller diaphragm microphones soundstaged better than the traditional 1" capsules of the more famous types. So I settled on a B&K 4133 which is predominantly used for lab testing. It was transparent enough that I could start to hear some of the limitations of the Stellavox SM8.
I have to congratulate Stellavox's Georges Quellet. He has picked his "compromises" well. But I don't think he ever knew how good his very simple two-stage single-ended, battery operated [13V] modules are. When I first heard them, I could tell from my first recordings that he had gotten their soundstaging properties right. All that was missing was issues with forming 3D images on that soundstage.
So the first thing I did was replace the ceramic caps he uses in the feedback loops, record and playback equalization with "blended" polystyrenes and solved that problem [adding quite a few extra "bits" to it].
I also bypassed/replaced the electrolytics in the signal path, rewired the signal path and the final huge improvement came with the substitution of a Lundahl [1538xl] mic transformer for the existing BEYER.
At this point, I could start to hear the improvement that the B&K 4135 made over the 4133 - a positively huge and real soundstage.All at the expense of a wee bit more noise with early baroque music.
Stellavox SPA SOC or SPA SOA modules - Metaxas modified.
My first ever recording made on a Stellavox was compared to the legendary Bob Fine work for Mercury Records in the 50's and 60's [Ken Kessler Hi Fi News & Record Review March 2004]. This inspired me to continue my research into this little machine to understand more about it and to try to improve it to record concerts today with the same purist 2 microphone approach of the 50's and 60's.
I've had a few questions regarding the mods needed to make an SP8 or SM8 into a Metaxas-Modified version.
1. Replace the 4 modules -the 2 "mike preamps/record amplifiers" and the 2 "playback amplifiers] [these are SPC-SOC].
2. Replace the BEYER input transformer with a LUNDAHL transformer
3. Rewire inputs to transformer.
4. Remove feedback bypass caps beside the plug-in terminal strips.
5. Replace the REC and PLAYBACK capacitors with polystyrenes.
1. Replace the 5 X signal path SPA SOA modules.
2. Replace the SOA-SOA modules.
3. Remove the feedback bypass caps.
If you are dextrous enough [and if you've worked in the confines of a Stellavox, you'll know what I mean], these tasks can be performed by someone with basic electronic tech experience.