The space: Church sanctuary, roughly ballpark-shaped, about 40 to 50 feet on a side. Stone walls and floor with cloth hangings and carpeted aisle runners, wood pews with cushions, high vaulted plank and beam roof. Chancel area has two deep steps that form the "stage" for the performance.
The ensemble: A choir of about 25 members center-stage, plus piano (Yamaha C3 6' grand, high dynamic range, mellow tone, typically placed front and center), cello (typically house-right of the choir toward the front), violin (ditto), and misc percussion (handbells, snare, usually far house right).
The problem: The installed hanging omnis that normally capture events like this performance are being removed to "clean up" the look for the front of the church, as part of a general audio overhaul. There are good reasons for this decision (they're only needed for these special performances, not for weekly services, they're not positioned well, and half of them are dead anyway); however, nobody in charge of the audio overhaul has thought of how sound will get to the mixing board once they're gone.
The goal: to buy a microphone setup to be used to record (not reinforce) these special performances, that will capture a full, balanced sound of the ensemble as heard by the live audience. Stereo recording is preferable, but the primary goal is to buy the best stuff we can afford to do the job we need.
The budget: US$500. That has to include mounts and cabling. Stands I think we can scrounge.
The contenders: I've done a little homework and found a few mikes that are generally well-reviewed by audio pros and home amateurs alike:
- AKG C2000b - S-A LDC; generally well liked as a "bang-for-your-buck" mike with good sound at a very reasonable price ($200 retail, so a pair would be $400).
- AT 4040 - S-A LDC; industry workhorse, every pro has used one at least once. Getting a pair for the stated budget will depend on what my wholesaler can do for me ($300 retail).
- Rode NT5 - F-A SDC; well-reviewed as drum overheads, also gets good reviews for guitar and ensemble vocals. $425 a pair.
- Oktava MK012 - F-A SDC; I have yet to find a reviewer (pro, amateur, home or studio) that didn't like these on anything you'd point an SDC at in the first place. Right at $500 for a matched pair with cardioid capsules only.
- Other suggestions welcome. As stated, the key is quality and value; I don't mind spending money on good equipment, but if there's a mic I don't know about that really sounds as good as more expensive competitors for hundreds less, let's hear it.
The question: If you were in my position, with my budget and no microphones on-hand that you'd use, what would you go out and buy, and how would you set it up? I have a basic primer of the common stereo miking techniques, and pretty much any of these can be set up in any configuration so I can play around with what I get, but I just don't have a lot of experience to tell me what the best equipment to start with would be, and I don't have money to experiment.
The EDIT: I missed a key piece of information which I had thought would be inferred; there is a mixer (and not a bad one either) for the existing sound system which is not going anywhere, no matter what happens to the overheads or any other mike in the space. Also available is a recording unit; a Zoom H4 that normally records weekly services by being plugged into the mixing board's matrix. It has a built-in coincident pair and so is capable of being a free-standing recorder, but as I told AJ, having done it both ways with the same system, I have a clear preference for mikes through the mixer to the recorder if it can be done. So basically I really do need just the microphones if we can swing it; everything from there in the signal chain already exists.