Studio De Meudon – Julien Bassères [Engineer]

A good piano recording always catches my attention, and so when I heard the records that had been made at Studio De Meudon, I knew that I’d found the perfect opportunity to learn more about recording pianos. Thankfully, Julien Bassères obliged to talk to me, so I passed by the place and we had a two-hour chat about the studio, his background and of course, what makes for a good piano recording.

– Hi Julien. Thanks for taking the time to chat with me. Can you start by telling me about your background in music?

Sure. I enjoyed going to concerts as a teenager, and I remember being more interested in the technical aspect of the show than the musical performance, even though I was a musician. I was lucky to later meet a guy at my sports club who was a freelance sound engineer, and he let me join him as an assistant on his live gigs when I was fifteen. Soon after that I went to school for audio engineering at two different institutions: the Conservatory of Boulogne-Billancourt, where I studied recording for a year, and ENS Louis-Lumière, where I did my engineering studies. The ENS program was very technical, and my final year involved writing a dissertation on loudspeakers, after which I graduated in 2006.

My focus during my school years was to learn as much as I could about the technical side of recording; I never wanted to be in a situation where technological problems would interrupt my sessions. So I studied a lot about acoustics, and also worked with acousticians to bring my skills up to par, even though my school program had little to do with that.

– As someone who was able to get such an extensive audio education, do you feel your schooling adequately prepared you to be a full-time engineer?

You don’t learn how to be a professional at school; school is mainly about learning how to learn. It’s only once you start working as an assistant that the real work experience begins. That’s where you get to see how other engineers manage their sessions, and how they work with things like microphone placement. Of course, mic placement isn’t difficult to learn if you understand acoustics. Once you have a good grasp of that, and the technical specifications of the mic itself, mic choices become more of an aesthetic thing. The real challenge for an engineer is that of psychology, in understanding the artist and how to get the best out of them. That’s why I wanted to master the technical aspects of this job as quickly as possible. Any problems with mics or pre-amps can be solved in an instant once you know how they work, which allows me to focus more on helping the artist deliver the best possible performance.

– Clients and studio owners have little patience for a new engineer whose skills aren’t fully developed, yet all engineers have to get past the stage where they make a lot of mistakes in their work. How did you get past that?

I was lucky to be at the Conservatory of Bologne during a time when there was a lot of solo recording work to be done. So I was able to make all kinds of mistakes at very little cost. Even at Lumiere, I spent a lot of time after school mixing other people’s sessions for practice. When I later became an assistant, I would watch the head engineers to see which of their techniques worked and which ones didn’t. For example, early into my assisting career, I did a session with Joe Ferla. He’s a Grammywinning American engineer, and it was one of the last projects he did before retiring. We were working at Studio De Meudon on Avishai Cohen’s Aurora” album, and it was an amazing week of sessions with great musicians. I served as the assistant, and I remember how Ferla had a very simple workflow that was also very efficient. He placed a lot of importance on simplicity, yet still managed to produce impressive results, and I still prefer the rough mixes he did during the sessions over the final album mixes. We were outside taking a smoke at the end of the session, and I asked him, “You have a long résumé with a lot of albums on there. Which one is your favorite? “. He thought about it for a moment and said, “The one I’m doing now “. I didn’t understand him at the time, and frankly I thought it was nonsense, but I now understand what he meant: as an engineer and producer, you’re always learning. You spend your whole life learning, and the final outcome of your current project is the result of all your past success and failures. So the thing you’re doing now is the best you can do, and the next thing will be even better. So that’s how I look at making mistakes.

– And how did you end up at Studio De Meudon?

During my studies, I did live sound gigs as a side job and I learned about Studio De Meudon through that. I had already met the owner, Bernard Faulon, and decided to mail in a résumé. I was lucky that they were looking for an assistant at the time, so they accepted my application and I’ve been here ever since. I don’t have a full-time contract though, which allows me to work on other projects elsewhere, but I’m still the main in-house engineer of the studio.

– Can you tell me about the studio founder, Bernard Faulon?

Sure. Bernard is a piano tuner who worked at many different recording studios in Paris in the 90s. He did a lot of work with Steinway & Sons through one of their retailers called Hanlet. He also did a lot of piano tuning for live shows, and he would often remark on how the pianos he saw were never given the care they deserved, and were never the center-piece of any studio. He would receive many last-minute calls from studio owners, asking him to come in right before the session to tune their pianos. So his idea was to create a studio were the piano is the main focus, alongside the musicians. That was twenty years ago and it was a pretty novel idea at the time. We were, and still are, the only studio in Paris to have two concert pianos, which we never move from “Studio A”, and they receive constant maintenance.

The second aspect of Bernard’s vision was to place the musicians at center-stage, and not the engineer, which is why Studio De Meduon was built without a large-format console. That concept may be more commonplace now, but it certainly wasn’t the case when we started in 2001. So the idea was to have good pre-amps, good mics and a computer that could handle the recordings. It’s interesting to see how the industry has caught up to us, and how this setup has become standard in other studios.

– Do you know how Bernard obtained this studio space?

He spent a long time looking for it. It used to be a factory site for plumbing, and it looked completely different in the beginning. He was lucky to get it for cheap, and it was already divided into two parts; one for living and another for working. So he first built his living quarters and then spent ten years building the studio itself. In addition to working as a piano tuner, Bernard also had a background in construction, so he worked with an acoustician to build the studio himself. They would spend a lot of time on trains between Paris and Bordeaux, talking about how to proceed with their plans. We’ve maintained the same acoustics and construction since they finished.

– In my interview with Question De Son, I learnt that famous studios like Davout and Plus Trente were built on an older model of taking loans to obtain large consoles and big live rooms. But once the money in the music industry dried up, those studios couldn’t afford to service their loan payments anymore and had to close. How has Studio De Meudon been able to avoid the same situation?

First of all, we don’t have a large-format audio console, which eliminates the maintenance costs associated with that. We also started the studio with a small amount of gear and built it up gradually with our own money, rather than taking loans. We’re also lucky to be located just outside of Paris, so the rent is affordable, and the pianos weren’t that expensive either because of Bernard’s history in the industry and his connections. So we had many factors in our favor to create a studio that doesn’t lose money;we don’t make a lot of money, but we don’t lose any money either. We arrived at a time when big studios were closing down because musicians didn’t have the budgets to afford them. By comparison, our rates are less expensive and we have an expertise in recording pianos, which has helped us attract clients. We also have multiple recording spaces here, like the big room in “Studio A”, which has two adjoining booths, in addition to a kitchen and a bar, all which have their own patch-bays for recording.

– Is there a lot of demand for Studio De Meudon’s services nowadays?

Yes there is – I work about twenty days a month. Sometimes the workload is too much (laughs). It gets even more hectic in the summer when artists want their albums to be done and released in September. But we consider ourselves fortunate to be fully booked, and I don’t have to carry all the workload on my own. Clement Gariel has been part of our engineering staff for a while, although he’s about to leave. We’re building a new team now as a result of that.

– Capturing a good piano recording has everything to do with the quality of the instrument, the player, the acoustics, the mic selection and the engineering staff. But which of those would you say is the most important?

There are many factors that come into play when recording pianos, like the genre, the sensibilities of the artist, the requirements of the session, etc. But if I had choose between the piano, the acoustics, the staff and the gear, and I’d choose the piano; having a quality instrument eliminates a lot of variables. I’m asked to do a lot of mixing nowadays, and I’m hearing a lot of pianos that just don’t sound good. There’s no magic in the recording, and I can’t do much as a mixer to fix it. Give me the worst mics or acoustics and I can still produce a good mix if the instrument and the artist performance are top quality. For example, take a musician like Miles Davis. You recognize him in every recording he makes, even though he’s using different studios and staff on each album. That means the musician and his instrument are the most important thing to the recording. The rest are variables that help you do a better job, but the technical side is never more important than the artistic side.

– So if I give you only SM57s, can you still make a good record with just that?

Sure I can. It’s funny that you bring up the SM57 – a few months ago, I was working with a retired engineer that I used to be an assistant for. Prior to the gig, he told me, “The studio we’re going to work at has all these fancy mics, but trust me, you’ll end up using the worst SM57 out of their collection, and it’ll be the one that works best “, and he was right. So even though I have the best mics in the world, I also know how to make records with “bad” mics. For example, when I do live recordings in places that only have a little gear, I have to make do with what they give me. Technology has come to a point where even cheap mics sound good now, so it’s not controversial to say that you can achieve a decent sound with cheap mics and pre-amps. I have a lot of people who call me for recommendations on budget gear, and I’m able to suggest them things that end up working well for them.

– In that case, what’s the best budget mic for recording pianos?

I’ve used cheap ribbon mics like the t.Bone RB 500, which you can buy on Thomann. The SM57 gets used a lot too, as well as the Sennheiser MD 421 and the Beyerdynamic M88. For affordable condensers, I use Oktava mics like the MK-012.

– You have a big live room here called “Studio A”, but tell me about the smaller one, “Studio B”. How did that one come about?

“Studio B” is a mix room we developed years after we started. We used to only be a recording studio, but when I became a full-time engineer, our clients started asking why we don’t mix records here. The answer was that “Studio A” is too big to waste on just doing mixes, and we didn’t want to hold up the work there. So we decided to create another room.

We used to have an old Neve console in “Studio B”, but it would always have technical problems and we couldn’t rely on it, so we sold it and made some changes to the room. For example, we decided to turn “Studio B” into a place for doing both mixing and mastering, since there weren’t many places in Paris that offered both services in the same room. So we built our own furniture for that and filled the place with analog gear that suited our needs.

– The speakers in “Studio B” seem quite unique. What brand are those?

You won’t recognize them because they were made by a newly-formed company. One of the acousticians I worked with on “Studio B” was Patrick Thevenot. He told me about some new technology that he wanted to create a new speaker with, and so I was like, “OK, why not make one for us? “. So we decided to make one together, which became the first product of a new company called Prosodia. I’m not a part of the company, though I helped out during its early stages. So now “Studio B” has very precise loudspeakers which sound great.

– Let’s talk about the main drawing point of Studio De Meudon: the pianos. Tell me about them.

We have a Steinway and a FazioliThere used to be a lot of studios in Paris that had Faziolis, which Bernard worked on regularly as a tuner, and he was advised to buy one. The first Fazioli we had used to be played by Herbie Hancock, but the technology behind it was outdated. So Paoulo Fazilio, the founder of the company and a close friend of Bernard, reached out to us and said, “I know you have one of my pianos at your studio, and that your customers tend to choose the Steinway over the Fazioli. So I want you to sell it and let me make a new one for you.” So that’s what happened.

Both the Steinway and the Fazioli are concert pianos. The Steinway is a D Model and the Fazioli is a Model F280. The F280 is quite special because much of the sound projection occurs inside the piano, which is what we need in a studio environment. It’s not like a regular concert piano that has to project sound across 40 rows of seats, like the F308, which is a little too large for our work here.

– Do you have a preference for one piano over the other?

I can’t say that one piano is better than the other, because it’s the artist who ultimately chooses the one he wants. Before we start a new project, we have a meeting with the artist to let him choose which one he wants to use. We generally leave them alone to make their choice, although we answer any questions about the instruments if they ask us.

– But I noticed that the Steinway has on a Bösendorfer piano cover. Does that mean you’re looking for a Bösendorfer too?

That’s just a joke (laughs). The guy who rented us our covers wanted to poke fun at us because he didn’t have any Steinway covers left. I do think the Bösendorfer Imperials are really good instruments, but no, we don’t have our sights set on one. It’s another world of pianos, and the two we have are enough. Bernard used to dream about having a bigger studio where we could have seven or eight different pianos from brands like a Yamaha, Pleyel, Bösendorfer, Steinway and Fazioli. But that’s just a dream for now.

(Above: Pianos in “Studio A” at Studio De Meudon)

– What has been your experience of the music business, given that the industry often complains about it’s lack of revenue streams? Does a studio like yours have to worry about that?

Not really. The business may not be selling records, but the music is still alive. I’m amazed at how many projects get recorded nowadays, which means there’s still revenue being made from them, though I’m not exactly sure how that revenue is generated. Major labels are less relevant than before, but self-taught producers are on the rise, and companies like KissKissBankBank help with crowdfunding for new artists. CDs are sales are also doing better than people think, especially when it comes to acoustic music. One of the best channels for CD sales is concerts because if people like the music they hear, they want to go home with a CD at the end of the show. So even if you can’t sell millions of them like before, CDs are still relevant. So I think the music business continues to move forward, and in my case it’s actually more productive than it was in years past.

– What about the piano industry? The music industry may have experienced a downturn since the 2000s, but can the same be said about the instrument business?

The instrument business has suffered too, though not for the same reason as the music business. Their problems came mainly from the financial crisis of 2008. When people have money problems, their priority isn’t to buy a new piano. So less and less people see a need for a piano in their house. Pianos take up a lot of space, and in cities like Paris where a lot of people have small apartments, they could just buy a keyboard instead, although it’s not the same playing experience. There’s also the inconvenience of noise levels that comes with pianos, which can disturb your neighbors. That’s why one of Bernard’s main jobs nowadays is to install piano silencers for his clients. So the piano industry suffers more from social problems than music business problems.

– What is the main criteria of a good piano for you?

I wasn’t a piano expert when I arrived at Studio De Meudon, and I learned the secrets of what makes a great piano by working alongside technicians like Bernard. One of the first things I learned was this: you can’t just buy a high-quality piano in a store. A good piano has to be deliberately maintained and prepared before-hand. Even if you have a piano that’s old or that isn’t from a well-known brand, you can still get a good sound from it if your technician knows how to maintain and tune it. This is something I explain to all the musicians I work with; tuners like Bernard or Bastien Herbin can work magic with a piano. So it’s important to have your piano maintained and tuned everyday.

– Everyday? I’ve never heard that before.

Yes, for recording purposes the tuning happens everyday. Piano tuning shifts on a daily basis, which can create complications. If a concert halls has three days of live recordings, they request three days of tuning for the piano. For me as an engineer, the tuning and maintenance matters more than the brand of the piano itself. You can hear a badly-maintained piano just by playing a few notes. I see a lot of pianos in music clubs and even in other studios that sound terrible, and it’s mainly because they aren’t tuned or well-maintained.

– How relevant is the size of a piano to the sound it has?

Concert pianos have deep bass and clear trebles, which is directly related to the size of the instrument. So a smaller piano means less frequency bandwidth, although it can be more practical to record with a small piano if you know that the other instruments will be. When we record duets or ensembles, we actually have to find techniques to make our pianos sound smaller in order to accommodate the other instruments.

– Is it possible to record an upright, yet make it sound like a grand piano?

Not convincingly. It’s very hard to do those kinds of tricks with acoustic instruments. Sure, you can try, but there’s no replacing playing an upright if that’s what you want.

– Can you tell me about the following brands of piano manufacturers and your experience with their products:

Bösendorfer: It’s a piano for people who want the feel of weighted keys under their fingers, although that does make it harder to play. They keys do get heavy if you aren’t used to them. But it has an interesting sound, and the bass response is pretty significant.

Blüthner: Honestly, I’ve had bad experiences with those pianos, so I’d rather not say to much about them (laughs). I just haven’t found many good-sounding ones.

Bechstein: I know of good Bechstein pianos, but it’s a tricky brand because I’ve heard some bad ones too. Sometimes it feels like they want to be a cheaper version of what Steinway offers.

Yamaha: The interesting thing about Yamaha pianos is how they manage to offer consistent quality from one unit to another. But as a result of that, it’s rare to find one that sounds extraordinary. But I’d say they make good pianos because of how consistent they are. It’s the opposite of Steinway, where you hear a swing in quality even on the same model. So you can find really good B Model Steinways and really bad B Models. Yamaha somehow managed to avoid that.

Steinway & Sons: Like I said, they tend to be either magical or really unimpressive. I know of famous musicians who only play on Steinways when they tour, and when they find a good one, they write down the model number. For example, Brad Mehldau has a number of Steinways in different countries which are the only ones he plays. That’s because he’s already made notes of the good and the bad ones. You’ll hear a lot of stories like that about Steinways, given how famous they are.

Kawai: I haven’t had good experiences with Kawai pianos. I’ve yet to hear a good one, even though I used to know people who were Kawai retailers.

– In your experience, what kind of microphones tend to produce the most pleasing piano recordings? 

Condensers are the best for recording pianos, although ribbons can be interesting too. Dynamic mics can be used to create interesting effects, but I don’t use them as standard recording mics.

– What do you use ribbons mics for the most?

I mainly use ribbon mics for two applications: I either put them in front of the piano hammers to capture the sound of them hitting the strings, or I put them under the piano to capture the sound of the body.
– Which brands of microphones are the most reoccurring in your piano recordings?

First of all, having matched pair mics is very important when recording pianos, and I use them a lot. As far as models go, I often use the DPA 4041T, which is an omni-directional tube mic. I also use Neumann U67s and U87s, and I have Coles and Royers as my main ribbon mics. There’s a brand from Belgium called No Hype Audio which makes cheap ribbons that sound good too. I also use mics from SontronicsAudix and Schoeps, and there’s a French brand of home-made mics that were made by a former maintenance guy from Radio France called Jean Marie Mallet. We have a lot of his mics, and they sound wonderful. Unfortunately, they’ve been discontinued now.

– Can you tell me about the pre-amps Studio De Meudon has? Are they mainly rack or 500 series?

We don’t have a lot of 500 series gear here, so we mainly use rack pre-amps and we many have different types; vintage ones, modern ones, Neve-sounding ones, ones with tubes, etc. Using the same mic on a Millennia pre-amp versus an old Telefunken pre-amp will give a completely different sound. We also have a small-format Neve Melbourne, which I use a lot for drums because I like the dynamics it has, and we have pre-amps from the Neve 88R as well. I love the sound of Neve pre-amps; they offer more interesting dynamics than even SSL ones, and the ones from the Neve VR Legend work great for vocals because of how clean they sound. But I also love the clarity of Millennia pre-amps, and my MP-2As from A-Designs sound interesting too.

– But given that you don’t have a console, doesn’t the use of stand-alone pre-amps produce a different sound than if they were used in their original desks?

Yes, they do. But using a standalone pre-amp with a simplified signal path makes for a more precise sound with a lot of definition and clarity, which is useful for acoustic music.

– What are your thoughts on recording to tape when working with pianos? Is there any advantage to that?

I sometimes get clients who want to record to tape, so I was recently thinking about buying a one-inch tape machine, but I finally decided against it. You can do a lot of things using only digital, and if you’re going to use tape, you need a machine that’s well-maintained. You also need to find a good tape manufacturer. I used to work with analog tape at the start of my career, but I view it as something archaic now, and it’s not something I need in my line of work. I’d rather use gear that facilitates my workflow. For example, because I use a lot of mics to record the same source, I need to be able to adjust the timing of the files so I don’t get phase problems. You can’t do that with a tape recording.

– Can you walk me through the various parts of a piano and how you record them?

Sure. When you’re facing the keys, you have the bass frequencies on the left and the treble on the right, and the first consideration is the sound of the hammers on the strings. Then you have the projection of sound that comes out of the piano itself. If you keep the cover on, it retains most of that projection, which makes for an interesting bass response in the tail of the piano. If the piano has a wooden body, you’ll be able to capture some interesting recordings by placing a mic underneath it too. Beyond that, you can use room mics if the acoustics of the room are suitable.

I may use five or more microphones for a piano recording, mainly to construct the right sonic image, and I’m very deliberate about my mic choices. It’s important to know precisely what each mic is going to add to the final result. Afterwards, I can make a balance of the different mics to achieve the result that the artist needs.

– What’s the maximum number of mics you’ve used for a piano recording?

Too many (laughs). I’ve used twelve mics on a session once, but it was mainly because the artist was so stressed and wanted more mics in case some of them didn’t sound good. Personally, I wouldn’t need more than six.

– Can you record a piano with only one mic? What about only two or three?

I could use only one, but a mono recording won’t have much resolution. For me, “stereo” doesn’t mean only two channels of audio – it means an image that’s immersive. That’s why I try to reproduce the acoustic effect of the piano sound. If you’re working with a classical or jazz artist, you’ll discover that each musician has his own sound, and your job as an engineer is to be aware of that and work to reproduce it. With only one mic, you won’t be able to represent the space around the instrument. You’ll only get the tonality and some of the front-to-back depth. Two mics makes things easier, although it still won’t be sufficient to capture the nuance of a piano. Three mics is the minimum you need, in my opinion. You could use two of them for the hammers and one for the tail, which is setup often used in jazz recordings.

– To what extent do you manage piano bleed when recording an ensemble or a trio?

If an ensemble is recording in the same room, I would use the bleed to my advantage; it’s a useful tool. I don’t insist on separating musicians just because I can, and I prefer to have the players as close as possible to each other. Having the sound of the drums bleed into the piano mic is as important as the drum mics themselves. So if a group of players are to be recorded in the same room, it’s my job to manage the bleed in a productive way. So I might set up the piano mic first, and then place the rest of the mics relative to that until the amount of bleed in each sounds good to me.

– What kind of converters are you using here at Studio De Meudon?

At the time we created the studio, Apogee converters were some of the best in their price range, so we still use those. But I also use Antelope pre-amps and converters for my other gigs, and I think the Zen Studio is amazing. It has twelve mic pre-amps and is very practical. I don’t understand why they discontinued it. I do many live recordings with it and can take it to a gig in my backpack.

I remember when I started as out as a student and the first portable sound cards came onto the market. They weren’t very good, similar to the digital live consoles that were being sold at the time, like the old Yamahas. On one hand, they were amazing in terms of functionality because you had everything in one little box, but the sound was crap. But today’s cheap digital mixers offer tons of quality in comparison. Behringer have a small one called the X32 that sounds great.

– How often do plugins get used in your work? And what about analog versus digital reverbs?

I mainly use plugins for mixing due to the precision they offer. But for color I prefer to use analog gear, though it’s getting less and less necessary because certain plugins are getting good at that, like the Slate Digital and Fabfilter stuff. I think it’ll become easier to exclusively use plugins for mixing, especially since there’s total recall when you have to open a session months later. There’s also a psychological component to using plugins – you’ll have sessions where it’s known beforehand that you’ll need a lot of recall, and it’s easier to use plugins because you can better keep track of things and be sure of the result.

For the moment, I still think analog reverbs sound better that digital ones, but there are still good plugin reverbs like Valhalla and Altiverb. But a Briscati machine still sounds better than all that, as well as plates like an EMT 251.

– I’m going to mention three categories of instruments and let you tell me which microphones you’d use to record them.

Double bass: That’s a tough one to mic, especially in jazz. It has a low register, but the sound isn’t that powerful. But there are lots of mics that work well for that, like the ones from Jean Marie Malle and the DPA 4041T. Sanken mics, like the CU-41, sound interesting on double bass, and I also have a small €100 mic from Audix that I use in live applications. It’s the ADX20iP and can be placed in-between the strings. I have another one which is made by a Danish company called REMIC, which you place behind the strings also, and it has two little mics in it. It sounds better than a DI and offers more bleed.

Woodwinds: There’s a lot of condenser mics that work for that. I might use a Neumann M149 with multi-pattern capsules.

Brass: Ribbons are good for brass, although they aren’t enough on their own. I tend to mix ribbons with condensers; the ribbons give me the size of the instrument, whilst the condenser captures the clarity of it. Saxophones can be hard to record in terms of mic placement, especially in jazz, because the sound of the recording can change by as little as 10cm of mic movement.

– I’d like to round off the interview by looking at some YouTube videos of recordings you’ve done, and ask about your mic choices in each of them.

Antoine Karacostas Trio – Aharisti

Two piano mics at 00:16 – Those are Neumann U67s on the left and right of the piano, though it’s hard to see one of them in the video. It’s a weird position, but it alters the stereo image in a way that makes the piano sound bigger than it is. The pair of DPA 4041Ts in the back are for picking up a more natural projection.

Mic in front of bass at 00:30 – That’s an AEA R84 ribbon mic. There’s probably another two mics further in front, since I generally use a stereo pair on every instrument.

Mic in front of amp at 00:54 – That’s a Sontronics Sigma. I think there’s two of them in a Blumlein position.

Antoine Karacostas Trio – To Monopati

Brass mics at 00:42 – It’s a combination of ribbon mics: an old RCA 74B and a Neumann U67.

Accords et Âme – EPK

Piano mics at 00:44 – Those are two U67s over the hammers.

Piano mics at 1:02 – I see two mics that are meant to capture the projection away from the piano and there’s another one that’s really close to the cover. There’s also one on the side that helps create a larger stereo image. When I mix the side mic with the other ones, it makes the overall sound bigger.

Vocal mics at 1:08 – I often use two or more mics on a vocal. In this case I’m using two Coles and a Neumann U47 tube, which is one of the most expensive mics in the world, but it’s worth the price. The key to using a U47 on vocals is to not be too close to the singer. You can place it anything from 10cm to 4 meters away and still get an amazing presence in the recording.

Acquaviva Trio – Weather Groove

Double bass mic at 0:16 – That’s a Josephson C700A. It has two capsules: a big omni-direction one and a small bi-directional one, which allows you to adjust the overall tonality of the mic by changing it’s position.

Piano mics at 00:20 – Those are a pair of DPA 4041Ts, a Soundeluxe E47, and replica of the Telefunken Ela M 251 on the tail of the piano. I also have a pair of Schoeps M221 omni-directional mics to pick up the projection.

Hat mic at 00:42 – That’s an AKG C451.

Snare mic at 1:31 – That’s a Beyerdynamic M88.

Tom mic 2:18 – That’s an AKG C414 XL II on toms. You don’t see the overhead mic, but I think it’s a Neumann M149.

Maurizio Minardi – Tulipano Nero

Accordion Mic at 00:09 – That’s a Jean Marie Mallet mic and the other one is a Neumann KM 184.

Acoustic guitar mics at 00:45 – Those are a U67 and a pair of Royer R-121s, which are ribbon mics with an interesting low end that capture the body of the guitar, whilst the U67 condenser captures the high end.

EJMA (Extrait)

Hat mic at 00:28 – That’s a Beyerdynamic M360 ribbon mic.

Double bass mic at 00:45 – Neumann U47 tube.

Christophe Wallemme – Ôm Project

Mics at 00:30 – Those are U67s in an X-Y configuration.

Tabla mics at 1:12 – Those are measurement mics by Earthworks. They’re clean and transparent, which allowed me to capture the details and nuances of the tablas.

Vocal mics at 1:35 – Those are Coles and a U67. It’s a useful setup because the singer can move around more without the recording losing presence, and the Coles pick up more bass than usual for a ribbon mic. Most ribbons tend to sound neutral, but not those ones.

Drum mics at 2:26 – That’s the M88 on snares, an AKG C451 for hat and an AKG C414 for toms

Vincent Touchard – Renaissance

Piano mics at 00:30 – Those are a DPA 4041 pair, a Schoeps M221 pair and a Soundeluxe E47.

Cello mic at 00:42 – I see a Sontronics Sigma and Neumann U87.

– Thanks for talking to me Julien. It’s been a pleasure. So what will you be working on for the rest of the year?

A lot of things. Firstly we’re building a new team for the studio, which involves a lot of work; we have a new assistant and engineer coming. Personally, I have a lot of recordings in the works, as well as upcoming releases like a big-band record from Dedication Big Band and an album from a band called ASTA. I also have some jazz music that’s coming from a Canadian trumpet player called Rachel Therrien. I’m also working on a blues record by Same Player Shoot Again. So I’m very busy, even if my Discogs page doesn’t reflect it. I’m still not sure who manages that, because I work on about 60 – 70 records a year and my page lists a lot less. I have to look into that (laughs).

(Below: Julien Bassères)