A Shure technician adjusts an SM57 microphone in front of a traditional Chinese pipa.
Students from the School of Music at Northwestern University teamed up with Shure Incorporated for a series of recording sessions. Over a period of several months, students and faculty from the School of Music performed in the Personal Listening Center at Shure’s headquarters in Niles, Ill.
“The Personal Listening Center is our sonic laboratory,” says Shure audio technician Dean Giavaras. “The benefit of having these musicians come in was that we could make recordings with a variety of instruments and a caliber of performer that we would normally not have access to.”
Shure will use the recordings to demonstrate the tonal differences between different microphones, and to show the effects of microphone placement on sound quality. While Northwestern is home to a number of excellent performance venues, including the famed Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, a dedicated recording facility is not available. And while the School has an adequate supply of microphones, Shure’s private microphone locker includes virtually every model that the company has ever made, as well as prototypes that are still under development.
A musician from the Northwestern University School of Music plays bass while being recorded by a Shure Beta52 microphone.
The School sent soloists and duos, as well as a full jazz ensemble, with all types of instruments, including the pipa—a traditional Chinese stringed instrument—and crotales, or small antique cymbals. Each performer or group was surrounded by an array of microphones. Shure’s SM57 was always used as a benchmark, and various models from Shure's entry-level Performance Gear line and the studio-standard KSM line were also included. To ensure consistency, duplicates of each model were placed in three or four different positions. Each microphone was recorded individually, so that it could be used to build a reference library of sounds.
“We’ve had a very good relationship with Shure,” says Richard Van Kleeck, Director of Concert Activities at the School of Music. “Having access to this kind of studio—with a great crew and a complete stock of high-end microphones—gave us the opportunity to create some outstanding recordings. These reflect the diverse talents of our students and faculty, and add another dimension to their education as professional musicians.”
The School of Music’s jazz ensemble performed a set of classic big band numbers. With the drum kit located in the PLC’s isolation room, area microphones were combined with accent mics on the piano, bass and other instruments. The recording will be released as an album.