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John Kurlander Records ‘Live Free or Die Hard’ Score

Recording engineer John Kurlander (pictured) used a complement of Neumann microphones in recording the score for Live Free or Die Hard, the fourth installment in the Die Hard action-adventure movie series starring Bruce Willis. Composer Marco Beltrami’s score comprises two components, percussion and orchestra, which Kurlander recorded in separate sessions.

In the first session, Kurlander arranged the four percussionists in a semi-circle and placed a pair of prototype Neumann KM 120 D figure-8 digital microphones in a Blumlein pair 14 feet directly above them. All of Neumann’s digital microphones feature the patented Neumann A/D conversion process. AES 42 digital output interfaces with any PC or Macintosh computer to allow the engineer to remotely adjust gain, pads, filters, compression and (in some models) pickup patterns. Because the low bass tends to drop off in any figure-8 microphone, Kurlander supplemented the KM 120 Ds with a pair of widely spaced Neumann TLM 50 omni-directional condensers.

“The imaging from the KM 120 Ds was absolutely stunning and impossibly accurate,” Kurlander remarked. “You really can’t compare the digital microphones with their analog counterparts. They are totally clean, crystalline and truthful. It was clear to everyone involved that, although they were 14 feet in the air, they didn’t sound like they were far away. From a practical perspective, it’s enjoyable and easy to operate the microphones from the control room. The score had several passages that went from incredibly loud Taikos and Roto Toms to quiet shakers. I was able to track that change with the KM 120 Ds by changing the gain structure from the control room. It was completely seamless.”

In addition to the Neumann mics, Kurlander placed two very old JBL 15-inch woofers wired as microphones in the high-velocity sound pressure path of the Tyco Taiko drums to add to their bass frequencies. To capture the sound of the hall in a way that would match the orchestral recording, Kurlander used the same Decca Tree configuration he would use during the later session at a distance from the percussionists.

The Decca Tree comprised three Neumann M 150 small-diaphragm tube condensers with Neumann TLM 50s placed 14 feet to either side as outriggers. Kurlander also used Avalon AD2022 Class-A preamps.

Kurlander used a limited number of spot mics to focus his orchestral mix. He used the new Neumann TLM 49 on the bass section. He used two Neumann Solution-D large diaphragm D-01 digital microphones, one to spot the woodwinds and a second to spot the timpani.

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