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Neumann Helps Aspen Music Festival Define its “Signature Sound”

Old Lyme, Conn, – November 1, 2010: The Aspen Music Festival and School hosts one of the most famous music festivals in the world. Since 1949, it has been fulfilling its guiding principle of fostering the growth of the human spirit through music, hosting more than 350 events every summer. Recently, the Festival began to increase both the frequency and quality of its recordings and broadcast sessions, which are now featured regularly on American Public Media (APM) and other stations.

Working with Mike Pappas, owner of Pappas Consulting LLC, the engineers, technicians, guest conductors and music directors of the Aspen Music Festival began searching for a signature microphone to capture its performances and proceeded to blind test over 30 pairs of them, side by side. “Our goal was to accurately reproduce the characteristics of the hall — we wanted to be

able to capture the bloom that comes from the music tent. We were also looking for precision in our imaging and wanted to make sure we had detailed and defined images,” recalls head engineer of Aspen Music Festival, Chris Cecere.

The Aspen Music Festival’s performances are mostly orchestral in content and can range anywhere from small chamber ensembles (3, 4 or 5 musicians) up to over 100 musicians on stage. The tent, which has a capacity of just over 2,000 people, can be a challenging recording and/or broadcast environment given its immediate proximity to the outdoors and occasional swings in temperature. The chosen microphone would have to deliver both outstanding sonic performance and bulletproof reliability.

Neumann experiences uncontested win
Over 30 pairs of microphones representing the world’s top manufacturers were positioned side by side onstage to help Cecere and his team to make an informed, objective evaluation. Cecere recalls the moment of truth: “I had the assistant at the desk bring up the faders one by one — we listened to one pair, then another, then another; I had no idea what make or brand of microphones they were. When they brought up the Neumann M 150 Tube mic, the clarity and sense of space were all there. It was the clear winner, by far.”

Thanks to a gift from the Sidney E. Frank foundation, the Aspen Music Festival now relies on four Neumann M 150s across the front of the stage as their primary broadcast and recording microphones. One pair, placed at center stage and spaced about 3 feet apart and 15 feet high, helps define the center image of the stereo field. The other pair, which is hung from a similar height, flanks both far sides of the stage.

Since the Neumann M 150s have been put in place, the response has been outstanding. “Everyone has been extremely happy with the sound quality of the microphones, which deliver a rich and full bodied sound character — this is why we bought four of them,” says Cecere. “The M 150 makes the listening experience as authentic as possible and it has been fantastic to have a set up that we can rely on time and time again. We are very pleased to have chosen Neumann as our ‘signature sound’.”

Neumann M150 Tube specifications:
Acoustical operating principle – Pressure transducer

Directional pattern – Omni-directional

Frequency range – 20 Hz … 20 kHz

Sensitivity at 1 kHz into 1 kohm – 20 mV/Pa

Rated impedance – 50 ohms

Rated load impedance – 1 kohms

Equivalent noise level, CCIR1) – 28 dB

Equivalent noise level, A-weighted(1*) – 15 dB-A

Signal-to-noise ratio, CCIR(1*) (rel. 94 dB SPL) – 66 dB

Signal-to-noise ratio, A-weighted(1*) (rel. 94 dB SPL) – 79 dB

Typical SPL (tube characteristic)(2*) – K < 0,5 %: 114 dB, K < 5 %: 134 dB

Maximum output voltage – 8 dBu

Dynamic range of the microphone amplifier (A-weighted) – K < 0,5 % *: 99 dB, K < 5 %: 119 dB

Powering – Power supply N 149 A

Matching connector microphone – DIN8F

Matching connector power supply – XLR3F

Weight – 800 g

Diameter – 78 mm

Length – 165 mm

1*) according to IEC 60268-1; CCIR-weighting according to CCIR 468-3, quasi peak; A-weighting according to IEC 61672-1, RMS
2*) measured as equivalent el. input signal