Stereo VS Mono Recording of the Double Bass

Discussion in 'Amps, Mics & Pickups [DB]' started by rickwolff, Sep 2, 2020.

  1. rickwolff

    rickwolff The Accidental Impresario Supporting Member

    I long wondered why the X/Y mics on my Zoom Recorders seem to get such a Great sound when recording my double bass. The mics themselves can't be that 'high-end' since the whole recorder only costs about $400.

    It finally dawned on me that (DUH) I was comparing a STEREO recording (from the X/Y onboard mics) to a MONO recording of all the other mics I have used or tried.

    The Stereo recording feels more 'live', like your actually standing there listening to the bass. The Mono recording, even if the 'sound' or tone is very good, just feels kind of flat by comparison.

    I did some recordings in my studio today comparing several examples of Stereo VS Mono recording. It will take me a little while to get the recordings 'mixed' but as soon as I do I will post them here for y'all to compare.
  2. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011
    IMHO something you will probably want to consider is whether that stereo information will be useful in the context of a mix. I think the correct answer is, it depends ;).
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  3. rickwolff

    rickwolff The Accidental Impresario Supporting Member

    Good point. Next time I record with my trio (piano, bass, and vocal) I think I'll try using 2 mics on the bass and compare how that sounds with just using one or the other alone.
  4. rickwolff

    rickwolff The Accidental Impresario Supporting Member

    Well......I'm not sure I proved anything or not.

    I'll just put the clips here and see what anyone thinks.

    Perhaps the main takeaway is this: Leave a 'Gear-Junkie' alone with too much time on his hands and he'll find a way to self-destruct.

    I also think the 'sound-stage' is bigger sounding in the stereo recordings, but it may be subtle, and more importantly I'm straying into the rabbit hole that belongs to recording engineers. Perhaps I should stay on my own side of the fence.

    One other observation: The Xlson Chuck Israels Mic does seem to add some richness (or phatness) to the lower register that the other mics don't capture. Perhaps that at least partly due to the fact that the 'Chuck is sitting a 1/2 inch above the table and the other mics are 18 inches to 2 feet away.

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Sep 2, 2020
  5. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011

    I like the Xlson best.

    To me the XY seems to be picking up too much of the room in the low mids. I suspect this would add a bit of mid to a mix.

    The AT2020 sounds pretty good by itself (#2 IMHO). When used in stereo with the Xlson, the image is uneven and I get the impression there is sort of a fast ping pong thing going on. Different frequency ranges dominate in left and right. It does not sound natural to me, at least through headphones. This might work better if the two mics were in mono and time aligned to minimize phasing, or perhaps if the stereo spread was less extreme.
    rickwolff likes this.
  6. shwashwa


    Aug 30, 2003
    I'd like to point out a major difference of the zoom is that it's an omni Mic , which is probably responsible for most of the differences in sound you're hearing. get your hands on a mono Omni mic, place them the same distance from the bass, then you'll have a good comparison. Also, mic placement probably makes more difference in the sound than the actual Mic
  7. AGCurry

    AGCurry Supporting Member

    Jun 29, 2005
    St. Louis
    ^^^ the best answer ^^^

    If you are making a recording of a duet or trio, stereo recording may help with that spatial-context thing. A big band, or any context where the bass is in a strictly supporting role? Forget it.
  8. rickwolff

    rickwolff The Accidental Impresario Supporting Member

    I don't yet have a stereo bass recording 'in the mix', but here is a mono recording of the Xlson Chuck Israels Mic from the Pre-EQ DI on my Genzler amp straight into the Zoom Q8. No EQ or adjustments anywhere. This is just the 'raw' mic sound. I know I've posted this clip elsewhere before, but I include it here to show what I think a 'good' mono bass recording sounds like. It really does sound 'just like my bass' and I think it sits nicely in the mix. (You can always tell when the bassist does the mixing - the bass is always easy to hear).

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    Wasnex likes this.
  9. notabene


    Sep 20, 2010
    SF Bay area
  10. Very interesting. While the one "X" mike sounds ok, it is sort of onedimensional compared to the X/Y recording. Which makes sense, it is like watching with one eye or two eyes. Theres an dimension more.
    The Xlson has a very lush sound, beautifull depth. For stereo recording, ofcourse the ideal is to have similar, or even matched mics. Otherwise, you mess with the spatial information and balance etc. But still, I believe the Xlson/At recording gives some of that added dimensionality. A stereo recording puts the capabillities of our hearing into use.
    rickwolff likes this.
  11. ProDigit


    Apr 12, 2005
    Miami USA
    For most people, the bass needs to be mono centered.
    For the simple reason that if they are listening through headphones, or good monitors in a well balanced living room, phasing of low frequencies can make people dizzy.
    There are entire cultures and religions devoted to this low frequency phasing, which seem to induce trances.

    Like someone said, it's up to you if that's the effect you want your music to have on people. In most cases, this is a no.

    What a lot of musicians do, to still get that spacial effect on the bass, is record via line, and have one of the channels also room mic'd, so you'll still get that room effect.
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  12. rickwolff

    rickwolff The Accidental Impresario Supporting Member

    Well, I must say that inducing a trance sounds a little tempting. On the other hand, probably not what most music listeners (other than those listening to 60's psychedelic music) are looking for.

    Thanks for the idea of making 1 channel a 'room mic' Next time my trio gets together I'll try that using my AT 2020 for that.

    I'm curious though, might that not introduce phasing issues again??
    Wasnex likes this.
  13. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Supporting Member


    also: what Wasnex said. is it useful in a mix? what are the goals for the recording?
  14. rickwolff

    rickwolff The Accidental Impresario Supporting Member

    My 'ultimate goal' in a recording is to make it sound so realistic, and present that when you listen on good speakers or headphones you feel like you are right in the room with the musicians.

    I play pretty exclusively with very small groups. My 'main' group is the trio whose clip I posted above in post #8. It consists of piano, double bass, and vocalist.

    The pianist has a very nice home studio (professionally designed and built) and a beautiful Yamaha grand. He uses two AKG C414's to get a stereo recording of the piano. I have usually just used my Xlson Chuck Israels mic but I wonder if using two mics to create a stereo bass track would result in more presence and realism in the mix. I honestly don't know but I think I'd like to experiment with this.

    Here is a clip where I apparently DID use two mics, although I can't remember what the second one was. Might have been one of my cheap SDC mics. This was done a while ago and probably when I was still putting the 'Chuck' right over the soundhole. Since then I have moved it about an inch away from the soundhole which seems to give me a bit more clarity but still retains the richness. I'll post the stereo piano and bass clip and I'll also post the two mono bass tracks.

    Attached Files:

  15. shwashwa


    Aug 30, 2003
    are we talking about a true stereo track where one mic is totally left and one is right and the position of them is attempting to be pretty much matched? or are we talking about a 2 mic setup, where each mic records a different part of the bass or room, and are not necessarily intended to be matched, and could conceivably recorded in mono on 2 separate tracks and blended later? the second scenario, i personally would not consider stereo... and i think its pretty common to have one mic down by the bridge and one by the fingerboard, for example, or even a close mic and a far mic. these unmatched mics would most likely have to be phase aligned later or you could get some canceling of the low frequencies. i personally like one mic out in front, but that's just me. i usually have 2 going at once and choose which i like better later, but rarely blend them, although it is possible i rarely find it to be better than one
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  16. rickwolff

    rickwolff The Accidental Impresario Supporting Member

    I take your point. I think what I've been doing so far is more 'dual mono' than actually 'stereo'.

    I only have 2 SDC mics that are the same. I think I'll try an experiment with setting those up in true stereo - LR configuration and also record the Xlson CI at the same time. Then I can compare a mono recording with a very good mic to a stereo recording with not so good mics.
  17. rickwolff

    rickwolff The Accidental Impresario Supporting Member


    SDC means Small Diaphram Condenser Mics, a matched pair about 4 feet apart about 3 feet in front of bass.

    Attached Files:

  18. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011
    IMHO this is sort of a false premise. The way I would describe recordings is more like hyper-realism than real life. I don't ever remember experiencing a live performance that presented strong stereo separation and precise placement of different instruments across the sound stage. IMHO it doesn't really even work like this if you are sitting in the middle of a band. I actually prefer the sound of a good recording over live because I love what can be done with stereo, although there are other charms to a live performance.

    As an example, I used to record some of the live shows I did. The recordings captured a totally different sense of space and stereo separation than you ever will experience in a live performance.

    For context these were concert band recordings were I used a Decca Tree arrangement in the middle with outriggers to capture the extreme left and right sides of the band. The outriggers were necessary because the mics needed to be run at a fairly low height to increase gain before feedback, as their primary purpose was sound reinforcement. Also I had spot mics in key locations. I think I put spots on the mallet instruments, French horns, euphonium, and tuba. I also ran a mid/side or omni mic at the front lip of the conductors podium to sweeten the front row of the wood winds.

    Believe it or not, it was not my idea, and I was a bit suprised that I could improve upon the sound of an acoustic ensemble indoors :confused:, without adding a huge amount of SPL.

    I do think you can capture individual instruments in a way that sounds more authentic. The Excelson definitely does a good job in the ensembles you have demoed. But IMHO near mic'ing does not capture the instrument in the room because you loose the context between the direct sound, early reflections, and reverberation. Of course distant mic'ing presents a different series of challenges with ensemble work, especially with string bass. You want to acoustic sound of the bass, meanwhile you need a bit of amp to play with the ensemble so compromises are made.

    The primary problem is mics don't translate sound the same way your ears do. If they did the obvious solution would be to use binaural mics.

    You can special order this for $8,400 :eek:. Neumann KU 100 Dummy Head Binaural Stereo Microphone

    From what I understand, binaural recordings work great over headphones, but don't translate well over speakers. So perhaps you just need to narrow down how you will listen.

    A few examples of binaural recordings from need to use headphones.

    I would expect all of the recording to have more separation and more precise imaging with more traditional mic'ing techniques. But I have to admit these sound nice.

    Here's another recording of the first song (same leads but different arrangement).

    I like the first recording better by a long shot. But I also really like the type of stereo piano you hear in the second recording, which would not typically occur in a binaural recording. Also not something you would hear live with an acoustic piano unless you were actually sitting at the keyboard.
  19. A stereo (2 track spatial) recording could be used with a small width (small distance in the panorama) for the bass.
    In case of singer, piano and bass I would place the singer in the middle (with some small reverb), the piano stereo left and middle and the bass middle and right. The piano and bass middle might need to get moved, maybe also the left and right extremes a bit towards the middle. So the instruments have a space as wide as the pan distance of their stereo channels.
    For me stereo means two tracks whereas instruments are placed somewhere in the panorama and stereo instruments also with some difference in pan to the two stereo channels. For a single piano that can be extreme left and right, but even there a smaller pan difference would be better and the reverb can fill the extreme pan regions.
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  20. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011
    I did not like the SDCs soloed for arco. They were fine for pizz. The Xlson with or without the SDCs would be my preference, depending upon how much space you want to fill in the mix. Xlson with a bit less stereo SDC would probably work pretty well. The idea is to create a more realistic sense of space without hogging all of it. Also you might try using the SDC more as pure room mics, so they just adding space rather than direct sound from the instrument. Of course the quality of the room would be a significant factor.
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