Microphones vs. Pickups

  • Participant
    billooms on #239524

    How closely does a pickup sound compared to using a microphone? I’ve done an experiment and will let you all decide.
    The harp is a L&H 85CG with a factory installed K&K Big Twin dual pickup. For a microphone and recording I’m using a Zoom H5 with their XYH-5 XY stereo mic. The mic is placed almost touching the soundboard when the harp is not tilted back and positioned at about the mid-point of the sound board. When the harp is tilted back for playing, one of the XY mics points toward the upper sound board and one is pointing toward the lower sound board.
    Attached are short sound clips of the microphones (stereo) and the pickup (mono) with no equalization, reverb, or other effects. Then I added some equalization to make the pickup sound very close to that of the microphones.
    In my opinion, the after-EQ pickup is very close to that of the microphones. For recording, I’ll still use a microphone. But when you need some amplification the pickups seem to work well. Your thoughts?

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    Participant
    billooms on #239528

    Here’s a screen shot of the EQ I used.

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    Participant
    balfour-knight on #239673

    Bill, that all looks very impressive! That is way beyond my limited “tech ability,” ha, ha! I cannot discern too much difference in listening to these here on-line, but I bet you can tell more “in person.”

    I have the Dusty built-in pickup on my FH36S, and it works great for amplification and recording–very clear and “true to harp” sound. I use an instrumental microphone for my Camac Atlantide Prestige pedal harp, and it also sounds very nice amplified and recorded. I really cannot tell much difference in sound quality between the pick-up and the microphone. I hang the microphone inside the harp body suspended by the cord, wrapped in a sock so it does not bang against anything when I lean back and put down the harp. I can select where to hang it, higher or lower, depending on which section of the harp needs more prominence. Usually, the closer to the middle works best. There are five holes in the back of this harp, so I put the microphone through the second one down, and it hangs near the middle.

    Thanks for posting this–it is very interesting!

    Harp Hugs and Happy 12th Night,
    Balfour (and Carol Lynn)

    Participant
    evolene_t on #239842

    Hello Bill,

    Thank you for this comparison! However, like Balfour, I can hardly hear the differences between the 3 takes.

    I think such a comparison would make more sense in a noisy environnement. My understating is that a microphone will simply pick up all of the surrounding sounds and amplify them, whereas the pickup will amplify only the vibrations, which makes for a cleaner sound. Testing in a quiet or soundproof studio doesn’t account for the parasite noises one might get playing outside or on a stage.

    In my opinion, the after-EQ pickup is very close to that of the microphones. For recording, I’ll still use a microphone. But when you need some amplification the pickups seem to work well. Your thoughts?

    Just curious, why would you use a microphone for a recording rather than a pickup?

    Participant
    billooms on #239843

    You are right about a microphone picking up all the surrounding sounds. In a noisy environment (such as playing with other loud instruments) the surrounding sound will reflect off the sound board and into the microphone. This causes a lot of challenge for the sound technicians running the mixer board.
    For recording (presumably in a quiet environment) I think the microphone will give the most accurate sound including the resonance of the entire body of the harp and sympathetic vibrations of other strings and even the reverberation in the hall (such as when you are recording in a larger performance hall). It’s true that many listeners might not hear the difference.

    Participant
    sroreilly on #239863

    That’s a great job on the EQ!

    Participant
    Biagio on #240006

    Just curious whether anyone has retrofitted their acoustic harp with the system that David Kortier markets? It’s far beyond my personal interest (and technical knowledge) but seems to me the best solution if one wishes to invest the money. Here’s his description:

    http://www.kortier.com/pickups.htm

    Blissfully all acoustic,
    Biago

    Participant
    sroreilly on #240081

    I did not have the pleasure to hear/play one of Kortier’s pickup system, but as they are piezo pickups that are picking up individual strings, I believe they would essentially sound like the similar offerings from Camac, L&H, and Salvi. That system has many benefits, but sounding “just like an acoustic Harp” is not one of them.

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