While his own backyard is New York City, NYCTaper decided to capture the best of what Austin had to offer during its famous music week last month — listen to some of the results here. Armed with a pair of Sennheiser MKH 8040 cardioid microphones, his HD 280 closed back headphones and a trusty Edirol digital four-track portable recorder, he became “AustinTaper” for a week and recorded some of the best live set lists south of the Mason Dixon line.
I have a pretty good relationship with Brooklyn Vegan over the years and the list of bands they were hosting was impressive. So I set up at Hotel Vegan in the afternoons and at the Impose Magazine parties during the evenings and recorded everything I could. In terms of genre, I am particularly drawn to indie rock but I also like any artist that has talent, imagination and something a little different than all the other music out there. For me, it can't be a formula or promoted by any particular product — I want to see original talent.
What are some of the challenges you encountered in Austin versus what you're used to in New York City?
Well, there is obviously a lot of extraneous noise when you are recording outdoors. The Sennheiser MKH 8040s are cardioid microphones and this makes them perfectly suited for this kind of thing. Normally, you'd have wind noise to deal with, but this was not an issue since the 8040s have a cardioid pattern and also come with these gigantic windscreens, which are very useful. Wind noise aside, there is not much you can do about the typical chatter you hear during these outdoor type shows, as well as some of the extraneous noise coming through from neighboring stages, but the pattern on the 8040 helped minimize these issues as much as possible.
Yes. Just before I left, I did back-to-back shows in New York City: I recorded Sharon Van Etten at the Bowery Ballroom and Craig Finn from The Hold Steady at Mercury Lounge. I used only the two channels of 8040s in both of these rooms, which I happen know very well, and they worked great. A typical problem I get in some rooms are reflections you get from the ceiling — which sound very â€˜claustrophobic.' With the 8040s, it was the first time I heard my recordings without these annoying reflections. So I knew they would work perfectly well in Austin well before I left.
What was your specific set up during each performance?
I had two Sennheiser MKH 8040s mics set up about eight inches apart in a 110 degree pattern on a stand, which was approximately 8 feet high. In addition to the two live mics, I sourced the left and right main mix feeds via direct outputs from the board. My recorder is an Edirol R44 4-track recorder with modded preamps, and I was capturing 24-bit audio. I was monitoring the recordings through my Sennheiser HD 280s, which are closed back, over the ear headphones.
First off, there was absolutely no issue capturing the high sound pressure levels on these mics — they can handle anything you throw at them and I have experienced virtually zero distortion. I am getting an extremely clean signal, and in terms of frequency response, the MKH 8040 delivers a sweet and crisp lower end and the highs are very tight. In general, the frequency response was so good that I didn't have to EQ at all. The mic had basically a zero signal to noise ratio and there was no handling noise or self noise. Ultimately, the combination of the 8040's cardioid pattern and its ability to perform without any audible distortion makes it the right mic for this kind of festival recording.
Tell me about your monitoring setup while you're in the field.
For what I'm doing, maintaining isolation is very important because there is just so much noise happening all over, and to that end, I just can't say enough good things about the Sennheiser HD 280s. Using these headphones, it was the first time I've ever recorded a show where I could only hear what was coming through the mics and the board — you are literally inside the cans and I love that. This means I can focus much more, because now I can hear what I'm doing and adjust things like mic positions or levels. They are also fit just right over my ears — I recorded over 35 shows while in Austin and experienced no discomfort whatsoever.
Do you also use the HD 280s while editing and mixing?
Yes. When I am using the HD 280s in hotel room for editing and mixing after a show, I can hear everything. Maybe there is a kick or a snare drum that was a little hot — now I can pinpoint that and make adjustments if necessary. I also enjoy the experience of just listening to music I've recorded on the HD 280s while I'm relaxing. One of the nice things about being NYC Taper or AustinTaper is that eventually I get to go home and actually listen to all these recordings, just like the fans of my site.
Listen to some of NYCTaper's Austin tracks here: http://www.sennheiserusa.com/nyctaper