Being there

September 13, 2022
 by Paul McGowan

One of the big advantages of Octave Records for me and the other design engineers at PS Audio is being there—at the source of music.

You cannot get any closer to the music than being at the recording, and knowing exactly what it sounded like live.

This unique perspective helps us get closer to that truth through electronic and speaker designs that eventually wind up in your living room as PS Audio products.

One of our latest recordings happened to be Octave’s first location recording. The event took place at Temple Emanuel in Denver where we were treated to an amazing sonic event. A full blown pipe organ played by a master of the art.

(The recording will become part of our upcoming Art of HiFi series: Bass)

Because we had the entire facility to ourselves we were able to take our time and get it right.

First step: listen. Listen in every possible place. Listen where the audience sits. Listen high up on a ladder. Listen where the organist sits. Stand in front of the mighty pipes and listen.

What an amazing experience. This gorgeous instrument took over the room like nothing I have ever experienced. (I’ve heard pipe organs before but never from all these vantage points)

Capturing the power and thunder of this beast in its space was an absolute hoot.

We made two complete sets of recordings (all captured perfectly in DSD256 through Manley vacuum tube preamps). Both sets employed one of my favorite microphone setups: a modified Decca Tree, and a stereo pair of room microphones.

The first setup placed the Decca Tree at the keyboard where organist Ken Mervine (trumpeter Gabriel Mervine’s father) was playing. Like an orchestra conductor, Ken played to where it sounded right to him. He cannot know what it sounds like to the audience at the moment he plays (of course he’s heard others play the beast, but never how he sounds to the audience). The stereo DPA microphones were in the audience and we mixed the two together.

The second setup was the opposite. The Decca Tree was now down in the audience area and the DPA stereo pair upstairs with Ken.

Tomorrow I’ll describe the modified Decca Tree.

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22 comments on “Being there”

  1. I’m not sure about “perspective”. Live music is the real thing and everything else is imitation. The hardest, if not impossible, to imitate is a large organ. We were once driving through Haarlem and stopped to listen to the famous Muller organ at the Grote Kerk of Saint Bavo, because we could hear it playing from outside. When I got home I bought a CD of Piet Kee playing Bach on that organ and was totally underwhelmed. I suspect it is the classic example of listening to the space as much as the instrument, and the sacred nature of much organ music.

  2. Being a pipe organ freak, this is one Octave recording I will be buying. I have many outstanding Telarc pipe organ recordings that capture the pipework and acoustical space. And Hauptwerk provides a very realistic real time playing experience.

  3. **OFF TOPIC**
    From the comments section of the ‘Cheap Audio Man’ (Sep 13)

    “I’ve been an audiophile for three years & ever since declaring that, I have had nothing but abuse.
    The other day I was walking down the street & I got hit by a violin…then a clarinet & THEN a piano…it was an orchestrated attack.” – Tom O’Donnell

    1. Wow Joe! That is a impressive instrument!
      We build a pipe organ control system for a client. I don’t know really what it does… I can tell you love it when the “dust rattles off the pipes!”

      1. On the first link where it shows the Wurlitzer you can scroll through all of the photos. It shows the pipes. It’s really a beautiful place. Only seats a few thousand but the sound in there is great. Ted Nugent played there recently.

          1. A Japanese collector offered Ted 100K USD for that early 60’s ebony Byrdland… Which he turned down. Most owners of guitars like that don’t take them out on the road, they only use them for studio work. Drives his guitar tech nuts.

            1. Well at least he won’t be smashing it on stage like he did in the early days and like Pete Townsend did. He does play his Gibson Les Paul a lot live. Guess he got caught up in the nostalgia of that vintage arena. He seems to like playing there now at the Riviera in Tonawanda NY.

                1. I had Teds original drummer Cliff Davies drum stick that I caught at the old was memorial auditorium in Buffalo that has since been torn down. It was stolen from me when I lived in various homes after my divorce. A lot of my stuff was stolen over the years after my divorce and moving around. Missing a lot of my DVD’s LP’s and CD’s too. He had duck tape on it for grip, I never pealed it off to see if his name was carved on the drum stick.

  4. There are cool things that can be done in the studio that cannot be done live, like triple tracking a guitar solo.
    Left – Center – Right. One or all tracks can be play slightly different, the nuances only discovered with a hi-resolution playback system. Randy Rhodes guitarist for Ozzie Osbourne did this a lot.

  5. I sponsored a recording in DSD, on a SACD, here in the UK… its very good, but not as good as actually “being there” at the recording session. It was a Town Hall Organ in Rochdale. OK, so it was very good and utilized 5 Sennheiser (8020?) omni mics (front 3 on a Decca tree and 2 rear) The recording was edited and mastered on Giya “spirit speakers. I will look forward to its release, and will buy it to add to my 500 solo organ recordings (am an organ freak too)

  6. Recording a pipe organ is an example of taking your ‘recording studio’ to the venue of the instrument. When you record in the PSA audio studio, do you listen from inside the room with the musicians (which hardly represents a typical audiophile listening room…or a typical performance venue, for that matter) or do you listen from the control room through the speakers in the recording chain (which also hardly represents a typical audiophile listening room)? Each of these three situations offers a different interpretation of “Being There,” in a subjective way that is only somewhat different from the subjective way we create our listening systems in our subjective choice of room in our homes.

  7. Whilst there will be some performers here I imagine most of us are consumers of music and as such will have only ever experienced music as an audience member. Therefore in trying to recreate a ‘being there’ experience it must be perfectly logical to mic a performance purely from the audience perspective.
    However, by limiting the recording this way is to lose one of the great recording opportunities, that being the ability to mic on stage, high above the stage, very close to the instrument or even within the instrument. Using varied positioning and the tools available in the studio, something already alluded to by Tim S and Longplayer, might create a recording which provides a more enjoyable home entertainment experience.

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