Surround Sound Recording Technique Research

Early in 2014, I completed an original research project for my Master of Science degree at the University of Salford. Below, you can find the abstract of the dissertation followed by links to each of the chapters. I hope you find it interesting and helpful. If you have any questions, please get in touch by email by clicking here. This project could not have taken place without the assistance of the people listed in the Acknowledgements section further down this page, so thanks again to them!

Abstract

Recording engineers have two financially similar options when selecting a surround sound microphone array for the recording of classical ensembles. The first option, referred to in this dissertation as a Multi Microphone Array, uses a number of discrete microphones to record the performance. They require careful set up in terms of the geometry between microphones meaning that errors cannot be fixed without re-recording.

The second option, called the Soundfield microphone, allows for 360° recording of a performance space by using a single contained unit. This system has a smaller physical footprint, is easier to set up and provides the manipulation of recording characteristics during the editing and mixing phases which enables the engineer to problem solve image related issues.

Given the financial investment required to purchase either of these options, this project aims to compare the options with a view to providing recording engineers with data and conclusions which would they would find useful in the decision making process when purchasing a surround recording system. By simultaneously recording a string quartet with both recording options, a sample of listeners gave their preference and opinions on sonic attributes of the recordings in listening tests.

Results show that option one was generally preferred and that perceived performance loudness was a factor on preference. Attribute results show indications of the preference results for exploration in further work. There is no evidence that the recording engineer would sonically benefit enough from using option two to justify its purchase over option one.

Contents

A PDF version of the dissertation can be found here.

1       Introduction

2       Literature Review

3       Audio Production

4       Listening Tests

5       Statistical Analysis

6       Results

7       Discussion

8 & 9      Conclusions & Further Work.

References

Appendices

A PDF version of the dissertation can be found here.

Acknowledgements

I would like to express my deep gratitude to my project supervisor Dr Phil Duncan, for his guidance, encouragement and critiques during the project. I would also like to acknowledge Dr Ken Games, Mr Laurence O’Toole, Mr David Strutt and Mr Michael McLoughlin for their valuable feedback provided on the practical and written elements of this project.

I am particularly grateful for the assistance given by Mr Henric Mattsson, the studio manager of the Newton Recording Studios at the University of Salford, for his assistance in securing a space for the listening tests. I would also like to thank the University of Salford PhD student, Mr Paul Power for the enlightening discussion on the aspects of this project.

I wish to thank Dr Bruno Fazenda for his advice on the statistical analysis and I would like to convey my gratitude to the staff of the University of Salford for their contributions. I wish to extend my thanks to the participants of the listening tests for devoting their valuable time to take part and contribute to this research.

This project would not have been possible without the considerable support of the School of Music and the Sonic Arts Research Centre at the Queen’s University Belfast in the provision of facilities and equipment used for the recording stages of this project. To that end, I would like to acknowledge my very great appreciation to Professor Michael Alcorn, Mr Chris Corrigan, Mr Craig Jackson and Mrs Audrey Smyth for their assistance.

I would like to offer my special thanks to Mr Danny McCann-Williams and the members of the Ulster String Quartet for their professional performances which were used in the recording of the test material for this project.

Finally, I would like to acknowledge the support of my family and friends who have been a great source of encouragement and energy throughout the timeframe of this project.

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