How the Sphere L22 microphone played a part in capturing an iconic piece of musical history

Townsend Labs Sphere L22 microphone Stradivari Violin keyart 1920x1080 high-res

When the Museo del Violino (the guardians of the Stradivari collection) wanted to find a way to capture and preserve the tone and playability of their priceless collection of instruments, they turned to e-instruments. The team at e-instruments is known for approaching the creation of modern digital instruments with the same craftsmanship and attention to detail as the luthiers who first created these world-famous violins. Unusually, the story of how the whole town of Cremona, Italy had to keep quiet made global news last year

But how do you go about choosing microphones to capture the most revered stringed instruments in the world? Townsend Labs was granted an exclusive behind the scenes interview with e-instruments' Thomas Koritke, the man tasked with capturing these priceless instruments.

What microphones were used?

The usual suspects, of course, so there were several different Schoeps microphones, each with different characteristics, Neumann, DPA, an AEA ribbon, and the Townsend Labs Sphere L22, of course. 

Townsend Labs Sphere L22 microphone Stradivari Violin mic setup group shot

The full microphone array for Stradivari Violin featuring the Sphere L22 microphone and several other classic mics.

What reason did you have to choose these microphones?

One of the main reasons to have that variety of microphones was to have all the options laid for the post-processing because we knew we couldn't go back later and redo the recording. There's no way to come back here two years later and try to do a similar session again. So we have to capture all the options we can so that we have all the choices in post-processing. 

What made you want to use the Sphere when you had such a collection of iconic mics?

What drew the attention to that microphone certainly was to have that flexibility later on, as I said, in post-processing. Of course, it would be great to change the microphone type later on all the characteristics, but then it turned out that we used it as a stereo mic because it is just a great stereo mic. So aside from all the modeling technology, it's just a very solid and very nice stereo mic. 

There is no question regarding quality, signal-to-noise, or transparency compared to the other microphones. It wasn't a modeling microphone for us; it was another option to have in a great collection of mics.

How the Sphere L22 microphone helped capture the Stradivari violins and cello for e-instruments

Watch the making-of video courtesy of Native Instruments to find out more about the recording and sampling process. You can see how the Sphere L22 microphone was set up to capture the intricate details of the Stradivari violin and cello:

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So how were you using the Sphere?

We used it as a stereo mic for some of the recording. However, it came into its own on the cello where we set it so one diaphragm was pointing to the bridge and the other to the fingerboard. So on the violins and viola, it was a stereo microphone, while on the cello it was working as a pair of microphones. You can see this in some of the pictures. This versatility makes the Sphere a great microphone to have in your toolbox, few other microphones can do this.

So was this idea for using the Sphere in this way planned?

No, it wasn't planned, it was not even my idea. We had a great tonmeister, a German sound engineer, who does classical work for Deutsche Grammophone and stuff, and he came up with that idea. 

When he saw the Townsend and the cello, he said, "let's try it sideways because then we have the option between the fingerboard and the body, and we can adjust it." It was perfect for that part of the recording process.

Townsend Labs Sphere L22 microphone Stradivari Violin Thomas Koritke CEO

Thomas Koritke, CEO and Chief Tonmeister at e-instruments

Did you spend time in post-production trying the other features of the Sphere microphone?

Yes, we did. We tried the models, but what I found even more interesting and especially what I like about the Sphere is being able to change the characteristics such as the polar patterns and proximity. As I said before, you can't go back later and record again in a project like this, so it gave us options other mics can't. That's quite amazing!

Given that this was your first experience of the Sphere, did it meet your expectations?

It exceeded the expectations actually because it's so flexible, transparent, and I really like the sound of it. We will definitely continue to use the Sphere L22 as part of our microphone selection when we are recording. It complements the already great collection of mics we have but also brings things none of the other mics can.

If you'd like to hear the results of this amazing recording session then visit the e-instruments website. You can hear sound samples of Stradivari Violin with the Sphere L22 microphone in action.

With Sphere you now can:

  • Record with the sound of microphones many have only dreamt about
  • Change mic type, polar pattern, and other microphone characteristics, even after tracking!
  • Audition the sound of different microphones without tiring the vocalist
  • Reduce bleed, undesirable room coloration, and other common issues using Off-Axis Correction™
  • Record in stereo from a single microphone

We invite you to install the free, fully-featured Sphere plug-in for all major platforms and DAWs. Try it now and reimagine our library of pre-recorded tracks.

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