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After reading on the forum here, I have narrowed down some options to record classical solo flute (recital style in concert hall or similar) via the following setup. This is where I will start looking - I simply would like to confirm that I am thinking correctly.

  1. Cascade Fat Head short ribbon microphone. Possibly a matched pair?
  2. Cloudlifter CL2 Microphone activator
  3. Apogeee Duet One firewire or the new Duet2 USB2
  4. Macbook Air (already owned)
  5. Adobe Audition CS6 (already owned)

Am I missing something in the path here, or should consider something completely different? Budget and quality are obviously of importance. I realise that the choice of preamp will affect the overall sound of the recording, hence I would appreciate some other smart options for me to listen to before committing.

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Can you tell us which of these pieces of equipment you already own? This setup will work and is a pretty good choice. There may or may not be better options, but if you already have some part of it, like say the computer, alternative suggestions are kind of silly? Also have you considered the room you are going to record in? That is a much more important factor than the gear you are using. –  JPollock Dec 10 '12 at 23:09
    
What DAW/recording software are you using? That's something you left of the list that you'll probably need. –  WLPhoenix Dec 11 '12 at 12:46
    
We have access to a symphony orchestra concert hall :-) It sounds great, it's a quite smallish hall with not too long "reverb". I already own the MacBookAir. –  Henrik Söderlund Dec 12 '12 at 16:54
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2 Answers

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Mic

A ribbon mic for flute is quite an interesting choice. Might sound great, however you should be careful not to get too close to the mic: ribbons tend to be very sensitive to air flow. Now, it depends what you mean by "solo" flute;

  • if you mean classical solo pieces than a larger distance is not a problem, however using just one mic will never give a very full room sound – typically not satisfying in such recordings, this can of course be made good for with digital reverb but I prefer a real room, provided its acoustics are ok.
  • if you mean, flute solos for rock music then you need a reasonably close microphone. As I said, that's a problem with a ribbon, but you could try to use a pop killer like singers often do in the studio. I've never seen this for flute, but it might work.

If you're just starting with recording, I'd recommend something more conventional. Get two small-diaphragm condenser mics, these allow for all kinds of recording setups, close miking, stereo room miking, whatever you want.

Preamp

I've never used the cloudlifter. This is certainly not a bad idea for ribbon mics, but it can't really be better than a good general-purpose microphone preamp.

With condenser mics, even lower-quality mic preamps should give you as good SNR as a ribbon mic with any preamp.

Interface

The Apogee Duet is certainly a good device, but I know it as pretty much a specialist for low-latency audio output only (like keyboarders need live when running VST synths), so I wouldn't recommend it if you only want to record acoustic instruments. Get something with good preamps and ADs; RME is great in that regard but even the cheaper models by M-Audio or Tascam are pretty ok (not for ribbon mics without external preamp, but for condensers all right). Of course there's nothing wrong with the Apogee, either.

PC

The Macbook Air is hardly the ideal recording laptop, but if you only need to record one instrument this pretty much doesn't matter at all, a 1998 Pentium II would be just as fine. Perhaps most important is a quiet fan and clean power supply, any Mac is usually ok in that regard.

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Why are you recommending a M-Audio interface over the Apogee? The Apogee isn't the greatest in the world but it's worlds ahead of the M-Audio stuff. Also for an inexperienced engineer, don't you think trying to do it in stereo opens up a world of potential phase problems? Why not keep it simple with a nice ribbon mic, which the Cascade is, 3-6 feet away? –  JPollock Dec 10 '12 at 23:06
    
I'm not recommending M-Audio over Apogee, that's not what I wrote there. – As for stereo, nope, it's not difficult to get the standard arrangements right (in doubt, XY is never too bad), much easier than setting up a reverb in such a way that the basic sound is comparably nice and full. (One may add more of a bigger room anyway for an instrument like flute, but that alone will typically sound hollow and lost if there isn't some natural room sound already). –  leftaroundabout Dec 11 '12 at 6:30
    
Thanks for your great input here. I have now clarified my question - I am intending to record classical recital style flute in a concert hall. Hence the ribbon choice. I have done recordings like this before with condenser mikes and feel ready to try upgrading to ribbons and go for the joy of acoustic clarity and natural sound recording! Ribbon sound amazing on winds and brass. Agreed, the MacBookAir is not ideal - interesting though above to use a handheld recorder instead - thoughts on this? –  Henrik Söderlund Dec 11 '12 at 12:14
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Right. Well yeah, ribbons really have a special charm about them, though I would always compare with a condenser: it really depends on a lot of factors which one will sound better. At any rate I would record in stereo to properly capture the concert hall sound. The figure-8 characteristic of ribbons is actually quite helpful here, you can combine them to Blumlein pairs or M/S pais, both are free of phase problems. The latter works also with a condenser as the mid-mike and ribbon only for side, a combination that I quite like (though it's even more special than ribbons themselves). –  leftaroundabout Dec 11 '12 at 12:45
    
Handheld recorders can be really ok, though you will probably really need a preamp such as the cloudlifter to use them with ribbon mics. –  leftaroundabout Dec 11 '12 at 12:47
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Both the Apogee Duet and Apogee One are USB interfaces, which is a good thing since your MacBook Air doesn't have Firewire.

I don't have much experience with microphones, but it looks like you have picked reasonable gear at a reasonable price point. One of the reasons I haven't worked much with mics is that that particular rabbit hole runs deep, and I'm busy enough with synths. So, start with what you have listed above, but don't be surprised at all if you upgrade every piece of your chain over time. That's a feature - you can't start with perfect gear because you don't yet know what is perfect for your application and to your ears. Experiment a lot and try out various things to get a sound you really like.

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Thanks for your input! Yes, I have had a run down that rabbit hole some ten years ago and left the scene for that reason actually, funny you mentioned it. I seemed to have pinned down the correct types of microphones this time though. Regarding the Apogee Duet, there is one with firewire that actually will work with my MacBookAir through the thunderbolt port via an adapter. I thought Apogee would be nice due to quality mic pres? –  Henrik Söderlund Dec 10 '12 at 8:59
    
If you plan on using your Apogee as a mic pre, then you may not need the Cloudlifter. But it might be nice to have it, just to compare with the Apogee's pre. I think that attempting to save money by buying an older Firewire Apogee and a FW to Thunderbolt adapter will be an exercise in frustration. Use the native IO ports on your Macbook Air. Avoid converters where ever possible. –  ObscureRobot Dec 10 '12 at 16:19
    
You might also consider a standalone recorder like the Olympus LS-100 instead of the Apogee. This will allow you to work untethered from your mac. –  ObscureRobot Dec 10 '12 at 16:21
    
Interesting ideas. The Olympys LS-100 looks interesting, but I do not need the built-in microphones. I also doubt that the quality of those preamps merely compares to those of the Apogee etc. –  Henrik Söderlund Dec 11 '12 at 12:06
    
Also, I got an answer from on of the employees at Cascade (I sent them an email asking about their recommendations). They said I could go directly from the Cascade ribbons through the cloudlifter and into the Apogee (they have seen good results with this), but he said down the line you might wanna look into a preamp as well. –  Henrik Söderlund Dec 11 '12 at 12:09
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