The Focusrite team recently had the pleasure of recording Hill Quartet at the Royal Academy of Music’s historic Duke’s Hall; a fantastic opportunity to put the Clarett 4Pre USB through its paces, and create an incredible-sounding recording.
The Quartet perform a unique arrangement of Anton Webern’s Langsamer Satz – a piece known for its broad dynamic range, from gentle pizzicato through to big, lush harmonies. An ideal audible illustration of the detail Clarett's capable of reproducing.
There were a few challenges involved in the recording process too; with just five hours to film and record, the added rumble of the Bakerloo Line, and the desire to take advantage of a beautiful, live room and capture the space in the recording.
Hill Quartet - behind the scenes
The recording chain begins with three AKG C414 microphones, all switched to the omni response and in the Decca tree configuration. “They’re connected to the Clarett 4Pre USB, which is being used as our audio interface to give us a really nice high quality, pristine recording,” explains Focusrite Head of Product Will Hoult.
The goal in terms of mic positioning and mixing was to capture the optimum balance of direct signal from the musicians and the characterful natural ambience of the hall. After adjusting the distance of the Decca tree from the quartet, and the height of the microphones, the sweet spot was found. “I think what we’ve ended up with is a very balanced sound, but also with a very natural stereo image to it, which the Decca tree is famed for,” affirms Will.
The piece selected for the session is Anton Webern’s Langsamer Satz, an early work by the Austrian composer and student of Schoenberg that provides the ideal material for demonstrating the key technologies of the Clarett 4Pre USB. “Some of the features that we wanted to show of the Clarett 4Pre USB today were the low noise of the mic pre, the very high dynamic range of the conversion, and the very flat frequency response of the combination of the mic pre plus the A-D converter,” says Will. “The Hill Quartet have chosen a piece that has that dynamic range. They go all the way to the very quiet through to very loud, and it really shows off the power of the interface.”
“There’s so much dynamic range,” agrees Hill Quartet first violinist Bridget O’Donnell, “and what you hear in the recording is just exactly that – these perfectly created soft sounds, and then these really beautiful, large, full sounds at the other end.”
As you can hear in the video, the final recording speaks for itself. And Bridget couldn’t be happier with the results... “It was a really wonderful experience, to hear it back for the first time,” she enthuses. “So heartening to just hear that the mix is so beautifully put together and the overall product is so polished in the way that we want it to be.”