Recording - May 2018 - 52

PIL

many musicians play louder during an
actual take than they do during mic
check. Now bring up the gain/level
control on the other channel until the
signal mostly disappears. What's
happening is that the normal channel is
being cancelled by the flipped channel;
when one mic's signal goes positive,
the other's goes negative-if you have
the two gain/level controls set exactly
right, the entire signal will cancel
except for a little bit up above 5 kHz.
Don't touch that dial! Unflip the flipped
channel (by using the switch or removing
the Flipper); set the mics up in the
desired XY or ORTF configuration, aim
them and record. The two mics' signal
gains will be nicely matched now, even
if their sensitivities are a little different.
In theory this method would also work
on a Blumlein pair (figure-8 mics angled
at 90°), but there are mechanical
problems. The flip-and-cancel method
depends on strapping the two mics
together with their capsules as close as
possible; that's easy to do with the "cigar"type mics shown in the figures. Figure-8
and multipattern mics, however, tend to
be bulky and bulgy, making it hard to
strap their capsules close to one another.
If you're using this technique, therefore,
you'll want to stick with pencil-type mics
and XY or ORTF. Come to think of it, you
could probably use flip-and-cancel to set
up small-diaphragm omni mics for A/B
miking (spaced-pair omnis). The omni
capsules on Oktava MC012s are nice
for recording pianos, placed at opposite
diagonals of the soundboard-but that's
another article, for another day.
Now for the wild stuff. The technique
I'm about to describe isn't new; I learned
about it from 1974's Microphones:
Design and Application by Lou Burroughs
52

RECORDING May 2018

(he co-founded Electro-Voice and developed
the renowned RE20, among other great
mics.) The Grateful Dead used the technique
too in their "Wall of Sound" live-performance
system, about which more later.
Figure 4 is the top view of a
noise-cancelling array made from a pair
of beyerdynamic M 88 microphones.
Why those? For reasons I'll talk about
later, I think hypercardioid mics are best
for noise cancelling, and M 88s keep
their basic frequency response when
addressed a little off-axis. I'm thinking this
technique can be particularly effective when
recording a rock vocal in a noisy environment
(in other words, while instruments are
being played). And the M 88 is one of the
great rock'n'roll vocal mics.
The mics are plugged into two channels
of a preamp/interface, and recorded on
separate tracks in your DAW. My prejudice
is to record the noise-cancelling mic with
its polarity flipped (either by switching
the preamp/interface or by inserting a
Flipper between the mic cable and the
preamp/interface). There's no reason
you can't record it with the polarity
normal, then flip it during mixdown or
by performing a destructive-edit "Invert"
on its track, but I like to do as many

OD

HT GN
E
I
F

FIGURE

4

operations as possible in advance, so I
won't have to think about them later.
The vocalist approaches the singing mic
from a slight angle (see the "sing here"
arrow in Figure 4); this is to place them a
little more off-axis to the noise-cancelling
mic, cutting down on vocal bleed. It also
keeps the singer's head from casting an
acoustic shadow on either mic, allowing
the noise unimpeded access to both.
Have the vocalist get into the spot
shown by the arrow, and set a good
record level as you usually would, being
conservative again. Then set the gain/
level control on the mixer/interface's
other channel to approximately the same
setting-you can use the method outlined
in the first half of this article if you want.
It's a good idea, once the channel levels
are set, to record about 30 seconds of
signal while the noise is present, without
the vocal-you'll see why in a minute.
The key to the technique is this: the noise
will be recorded to both channels with
opposite polarity, while the vocal gets recorded only (or mostly) on a single channel.
Once you get to mixdown, probably
the simplest strategy is to route the two
channels (vocal and noise-cancelling)
to a single mono bus of the DAW. Set a
good level for the vocal, then go back to
the noise-only segment you recorded and
loop the playback while listening to the
bus output. Adjust the noise-cancelling
channel so that you hear as little noise
as possible, as the two polarities cancel.
Now, to mix the track, use the bus's output
as your "vocal": control the bus output with
a single DAW fader, adding compression,
EQ or reverb downstream to taste.
Like I said at the beginning, this doesn't
always work-but when it does, the
disappearance of the noisy instrumental
background can be near-miraculous.
Another place noise-cancelling can be
useful is when you're recording a vocal in
the room with a noisy computer. (We've
all had to, at some point.) Yes, you can
go in and use noise-reduction software to
suppress the noise, but to my ears that
always mangles the vocal to some degree.
I mentioned the Grateful Dead a while
back; they used noise-cancelling microphones for vocals in their famous "Wall
of Sound". In that system, the vocalists
stood in front of a gargantuan backline
(which included the speakers that carried
the vocals). Without noise cancelling,



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Recording - May 2018

Contents
Recording - May 2018 - Intro
Recording - May 2018 - Cover1
Recording - May 2018 - Cover2
Recording - May 2018 - 1
Recording - May 2018 - 2
Recording - May 2018 - 3
Recording - May 2018 - 4
Recording - May 2018 - 5
Recording - May 2018 - Contents
Recording - May 2018 - 7
Recording - May 2018 - 8
Recording - May 2018 - 9
Recording - May 2018 - 10
Recording - May 2018 - 11
Recording - May 2018 - 12
Recording - May 2018 - 13
Recording - May 2018 - 14
Recording - May 2018 - 15
Recording - May 2018 - 16
Recording - May 2018 - 17
Recording - May 2018 - 18
Recording - May 2018 - 19
Recording - May 2018 - 20
Recording - May 2018 - 21
Recording - May 2018 - 22
Recording - May 2018 - 23
Recording - May 2018 - 24
Recording - May 2018 - 25
Recording - May 2018 - 26
Recording - May 2018 - 27
Recording - May 2018 - 28
Recording - May 2018 - 29
Recording - May 2018 - 30
Recording - May 2018 - 31
Recording - May 2018 - 32
Recording - May 2018 - 33
Recording - May 2018 - 34
Recording - May 2018 - 35
Recording - May 2018 - 36
Recording - May 2018 - 37
Recording - May 2018 - 38
Recording - May 2018 - 39
Recording - May 2018 - 40
Recording - May 2018 - 41
Recording - May 2018 - 42
Recording - May 2018 - 43
Recording - May 2018 - 44
Recording - May 2018 - 45
Recording - May 2018 - 46
Recording - May 2018 - 47
Recording - May 2018 - 48
Recording - May 2018 - 49
Recording - May 2018 - 50
Recording - May 2018 - 51
Recording - May 2018 - 52
Recording - May 2018 - 53
Recording - May 2018 - 54
Recording - May 2018 - 55
Recording - May 2018 - 56
Recording - May 2018 - 57
Recording - May 2018 - 58
Recording - May 2018 - 59
Recording - May 2018 - 60
Recording - May 2018 - 61
Recording - May 2018 - 62
Recording - May 2018 - 63
Recording - May 2018 - 64
Recording - May 2018 - 65
Recording - May 2018 - 66
Recording - May 2018 - 67
Recording - May 2018 - 68
Recording - May 2018 - 69
Recording - May 2018 - 70
Recording - May 2018 - 71
Recording - May 2018 - 72
Recording - May 2018 - Cover3
Recording - May 2018 - Cover4
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