May 5, 2014 1 Comment
Last Sunday (27th April) was ‘National Drive It Day‘ in the UK where everyone who owns a classic car tries to take it out for a drive. Luckily, I had access to this beautiful 1960 Jaguar XK150 DHC and decided it was the perfect opportunity to do some recording.
For this recording, I wanted to try out some positions for the exhaust and engine and see what results I could get. I got hold of some DPA 4061s (these are the low sensitivity version so can handle high SPL sources) and was thinking about how I was going to attach to them to car, when I came across these little gadgets:
The picture above shows a ‘DPA Magnet Mount’ which grips the cable of the lavalier and allows you to attach it to magnetic surfaces. I was pretty sceptical about how well they would work when attached to the back of a car travelling at 60MPH, but my reservations were unfounded and they worked astonishinigly well.
I started with the exhaust mic, and decided that the best thing to do was to attach it to the rear chrome bumper. I didn’t want to place it directly above the exhaust, in case it was in the path of fumes (I’d just got these mics so was still a little precious over them), so I situated it within the curve of the overrider shown below.
The cable entered the car through the boot, which I was quite anxious about doing. The boot had a thick rubber sealing tube around the inside edge to provide a flush fit with the body of the car; it looked like it would be enough to stop the thin mic cable from being cut, but I wanted to be absolutely sure so I found some thicker foam and wrapped the cable in that. I then pushed the boot gently over the foam until it closed to see what kind of indentation it made on the foam. Luckily, there was little to no sign of extreme pressure, so I was happy that the mic cable would remain undamaged.
The boot of the car has an opening which allows you to access it from the backseat. The cable was passed through this opening and trailed through to the passenger seat so I could plug it in to the recorder.
The placement of the engine mic was more forced than decided. I ran the engine to let it get hot and had a feel for where the mic would be safest. The engine block itself was obviously roasting so I had to avoid that area as much as I could. I found a metal block in the corner of the engine bay which would be perfect for the mic, and there was nothing in the vicinity getting too hot, so I decided to give it a go. I initially place the mic on top of the block, but due to the omni-directional nature of the mic, this placement wasn’t ideal as it was too close to the underside of the bonnet and the top of the block giving little direct sound from the engine. To rectify this, I kept the magnetic mount on the top of the block, but hung the mic down further into the engine bay to get more direct sound from the engine.
With both mics in place, it was time to record. It took a while to get the levels right as I wasn’t anticipating quite how loud the car would be at these kind of distances. My rig for this record session consisted of a Sound Devices Mix Pre (leant to me by good friend and recording buddy Matt Meachem) as a front end, which was routed in to a Fostex FR2-LE. The volume pots on the Mix Pre had to be so low to prevent clipping and the record level pot on the FR2-LE was also lower than expected. However, once I set the levels right I had a pretty smooth recording run.
I recorded two drives for 45 minutes on the 27th and also two, one hour drives this bank holiday weekend (4th and 5th May). I tried different mic positions over all three drives, and am going to listen to and compare them all to ascertain the best sounding positions, or a potential location for another mic. I’m planning on doing a full record to distribute via Arrowhead Audio and will use these as test recordings which will sit in the personal library.
Unfortunately, one of my Rycote Lavalier Windjammers blew off (the one attached to the exhaust) mid-drive on Monday 5th May, which is a shame. I’m going to have to think of a way around that and listen to the recordings to see if it’s possible to tell where and why it blew off so it doesn’t happen again. In the meantime, I’ll be ordering some new ones, or if anyone knows of any alternatives that may hold a bit better, I’d love to hear about them.
Here are some clips of the recording taken on the first day (27th April); One is solely the engine mic, one is solely the exhaust mic and the third is a mix of both.