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I will purchase microphones for recording pianos, and I need advice on how I reason about it.

My criteria for the microphones are (therefore):

  • For piano exclusively, upright and grand. I have long K&M stands.
  • For studio/home recording, not live
  • Handling noise is irrelevant (but shock mounts appreciated nevertheless)
  • Stereo recording (so a pair)
  • (Low) noise level preferred
  • I don’t have to worry about leakage (because it’s solo piano in home studio), so large diaphragm far away is possible. Hence doesn’t need to be small diaphragm/close.
  • I preferably do any alterations in the DAW afterwards, so no need for switches for bass cut etc. This has the advantage of simpler electronics.

My conclusion therefore is to go for large diaphragms. The reason is to get a more rich, ambient sound from the whole piano. Then the question is what model, and then it boils down to what characteristics of the various models I prefer. My access to different models is limited, so I don’t know how to evaluate. I’m currently considering Neumann TLM 103. I’m not looking for advice of a particular product, but wonder, how shall I proceed and think about this? Am I right regarding small vs. large diaphragms, for instance?

Also, how does one figure out what characteristic one likes? People on forums saying “I like the sound of microphone X” is not of much help.

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  • You've hit the wall we all hit. You're down to what your ears can hear in recordings from the instrument & space in which you're recording it. There are no absolutes at this point. It is entirely personal preference. Large/small diaphragm is really not in the equation. Whether you want a tight pair of 414s or an ambient pair of 4006s is entirely up to you. [I've never used 103s so I have no opinion on those. I have a single 87 I use a lot, but not on piano.] You just have to rent stuff & see which you like.
    – Tetsujin
    Nov 28 '21 at 18:52
  • Are you referring to AKG C414 and DPA 4006 Omnidirectional Microphones?
    – Frans
    Nov 28 '21 at 19:58
  • Yes, but my point is that beyond a certain price-point you cannot choose by spec alone. You have to listen.
    – Tetsujin
    Nov 29 '21 at 12:59
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I do not recommend large diaphragm mics for piano as they do not have the required characteristics. Mics similar to Schoeps Collette will do nicely. The resonance you are seeking won't come from the mics, they will come from the room and the piano. Room and floor are just as important in achieving the result as the piano itself. A good pair for start would be MK2S Schoeps. Also, the genre of the music you are recording will have influence over whether the 'piano sound' is right, for instance, Jazz will be recorded closer than classical will.

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  • Yeahh… but… ;) enough people have used 414s over the years, many have used 87s, M149, AKG C12… the list goes on. For small diaphragms, on a budget, you could look at DPA's 4099s [but that's kind of why I didn't want to start a recommendation list… because a) you'll only know what you want when you hear it & b) there are too many ;)
    – Tetsujin
    Nov 30 '21 at 19:04

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