(l-r) Engineers Gus Pollek and Jack Vad placing Royer SF-2 ribbon mics.
San Francisco, CA (February 23, 2015)—Jack Vad, engineer/producer of the San Francisco Symphony, captured the Grammy-nominated recording of West Side Story using Royer Labs ribbon microphones.
“Since we had to capture everything from the live, semi-staged performance, the main challenge was to ensure a studio-caliber sound,” said Vad, whose background includes more than 200 commercial classical releases. “Although there are many fine microphones available, I find that Royer ribbons add a warmth and depth of character that isn’t always present with other microphone types. The ribbon microphone’s characteristics are the ideal complement to the digital recording process.”
West Side Story was recorded by the San Francisco Symphony for release on SACD and digital download on the SFS Media label in June, 2014. The recording received a Grammy nomination in the Best Musical Theater Album category.
For the project, Vad used a Royer SF-24 as the primary drum kit mic, three SF-2 microphones for celli, solo bass, and piano, plus an R-122 to capture the saxophone ensemble. “The Royer SF-24 on the drum kit was something we had wanted to try for a long time,” he explains. “Although we needed to experiment with placement, we ultimately ended up with a front-of-kit location that was slightly higher than the cymbals and angled slightly down to ‘look’ at drummer Raymond Froehlich. In this position, we were able to capture the complete kit—including the kick. We were amazed how much of the kick we were able to pick up from the SF-24! Ultimately, no other drum kit microphones were used for this recording.”
He added, “West Side Story required closer mic placement than is usually the case for the San Francisco Symphony recordings. It was extremely important that those instances of close mic locations still achieved a natural, non-hyped quality that would blend with the standard hall pickup. As a result, the R-122 microphones on the three sax players excelled compared to other microphones by providing a wonderfully balanced and impactful sound.”