Classic Sound provides a range of audio engineering services and caters for a variety of professional and amateur situations – including orchestral, choral, chamber, ensemble, solo vocal and instrumental. Location recordings can be done in both live (concert) and session formats, and more informal recording situations can also be handled.
Classic Sound is able to cover all aspects of recording and post-production engagements. Larger scale productions are often done in collaboration with well-known mastering and CD production company Atoll. For these engagements Classic Sound handles the recording engineering side and Atoll the producer and post-production aspects.
Typically we categorise the live recording of your concert or show as either Standard or Advanced. Which option you chose comes down to budget, time and desired end result.
A Standard Recording is designed to be simple and low cost, capturing your performance directly to a stereo digital recorder using a high quality audio pre-amplifier and a pair of microphones.
During a later mastering session a small amount of editing is done and if necessary high quality reverberation is added to give the performance that extra sheen.
The end result is a pre-master CD-R that can be used as the basis for informal distribution or possibly commercial release.
An Advanced Recording uses multiple high quality microphones to accurately capture every nuance of a performance. Such recordings require more effort and setup time than Standard Recordings. The use of this approach depends very much on the venue, the repertoire being performed and the type of end-product required.
For orchestral concerts a main microphone array is used to capture the overall sound of the orchestra and then carefully positioned spot microphones are used to reinforce soloists, specific instruments or sections as required. Each microphone is recorded through a high quality audio chain to a multi-track digital recorder.
Rather than mixing the concert to stereo in real time this is done at a later mixing session where the sound of all channels is carefully blended in a controlled listening environment. The resulting stereo mix is subsequently edited and mastered. The end result is a pre-master CD-R which can then be used as the basis for informal distribution or possibly commercial release.
Session-based recordings cater for private recordings in your chosen venue or studio setting.
The obvious difference between Live and Session approaches is that for a live recording there is usually only one opportunity to capture the performance, whereas in a session you have the luxury of recording multiple “takes” and combining the best of these to produce the final recording.
Depending on the scale, a session recording is typically of similar technical complexity to an advanced live recording. There is equipment set-up and tear-down time required for each session, followed by sound checks, positioning of microphones etc (during rehearsal) to get the best balance of sound.
Session recordings range from simple two-microphone (stereo) recordings through to more complex multi-microphone approaches (as per advanced live recordings). Multi-track recordings will typically be mixed later in a the controlled listening environment of Classic Sound’s studio. Editing and mastering will then be performed and a pre-master CD-R produced.
For musicians entering a competition or auditioning for a musical position we can record the required repertoire in an appropriate venue. If you have your own instrument(s) the venue could potentially be your home. However if the home is not suitable or additional instruments and resources are needed a hall, concert chamber or studio can be found and booked.
Once recorded a fairly simple post-production process is applied to produce the required output – typically either a CD-R or a stereo audio file suitable for uploading over the internet.
Post production occurs after recording has been done and typically refers to the three processes of editing, mixing and mastering of the audio to produce a final result.
Digital editing is performed using a digital audio workstation (we use Sequoia). Generally for live concert recordings we try to keep the amount of editing to a minimum in order to preserve the integrity of the original performance. A live recording will usually need very little editing – perhaps the removal of environmental noise (e.g. air-conditioning rumble), and if requested removal of audience applause (although this is a traditional feature of live recordings).
Editing of Session recordings however is usually more complicated since it entails splicing together each piece from a number of takes. The complexity can range from 10’s to 100’s of precision edits.
We can also handle editing of existing recorded material. A range of recording formats can be handled including Protools sessions as well as discrete audio files encoded as WAV, BCW, AIFF, and MP3 on either PC or Macintosh CD or hard-disk media.
For multi-channel recordings mixing down to stereo occurs before the mastering process. Again a Sequoia-based digital audio workstation is used to playback the recording and the levels of each channel are adjusted to obtain the optimal balance of sound. Often a single static setting for the mixer is not sufficient and so volume automation is used to make precise level adjustments to each recorded channel so that the instrumental or vocal dynamics are rendered appropriately. Depending on the musical style and genre other audio processing may be performed at this stage e.g. EQ, compression etc.
Mastering follows on from the editing process. Again a sophisticated Sequoia-based digital audio workstation is used. Two main activities are done at this stage – final audio processing and preparation of a Pre Master CD.
Final audio processing typically includes trimming the beginning and end of each piece, inserting fade-ins/outs, adjusting the overall level of the pieces, and potentially addition of artificial reverberation using high quality in-the-box reverb plugins such as Altiverb or an external reverb unit like a Bricasti M7. Sometimes other dynamics processing (multi-band compression and equalisation) may be needed to fix problems or to adjust the tonality and balance of sound – although for classical recordings such processing is used sparingly if at all.
Once final audio processing is complete the pieces are sequenced into an agreed order and an appropriate amount of silence inserted between each. The final step is to produce a pre-master CD where ISRC, UPC and PQ code editing is performed and all tracks rendered to CD-R in accordance with the Red Book CD standard. High quality sample rate reduction and dithering algorithms (e.g. POW-R) ensure that reduction from the high sample rate and bit depth used during recording down to the 44.1KHz and 16 bits required by the Red Book standard is performed as transparently as possible.
The end result is a professional pre-master CD-R that can be sent to a CD pressing plant if necessary for production of a glass master from which CD’s can be made. Small CD-R based duplication runs of up to 10 copies can be handled in-house however larger runs and any associated artwork, including CD and case insert printing are contracted out.
Mastering of your existing stereo mixes is also available. A range of stereo audio file formats can be handled including WAV, BCW and AIFF on Masterlink CD-24, or PC and Mac formatted CD and firewire hard-disk.