Quantcast
The very best headset mics for opera - Gearspace.com
The No.1 Website for Pro Audio
The very best headset mics for opera
Old 14th March 2021
  #1
Lives for gear
 
🎧 10 years
The very best headset mics for opera

Hey, all.

In the early planning stages for a project that started out as a single concert, but due to COVID insanity has morphed through a straight studio recording into what will now be a full-on video production. It's operatic in nature, with three singers accompanied by a string quartet. Unobtrusive but effective mic positioning was always going to be a challenge, but the composer and director are now set on using wireless body mics for the singers. This video was sent as a reference:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N51L1b9hgqY

The audio quality on the vocals is absolutely fine, but the director, who has a lot of experience with big stage musicals, believes we can get similar quality with smaller, more hidden mics (think Hamilton). With no experience in such matters, I'll need more convincing.

Anyway, can anybody identify what mics these singers are using (I'd guess DPA's of some sort), and can you recommend a less Ted Talk-looking headset mic that might get equal quality? Any advice appreciated.
Old 14th March 2021
  #2
Lives for gear
 
🎧 15 years
Your director is right, if they are willing to give you the resources to make this work. A gold standard for this kind of thing is the feature film version of Les Miserables, with most of the sync singing recorded via DPA lavs and Lectrosonics wirelesses. As you might expect, great care was taken. The mic positioning was done more or less "movie style": on the chest (with mics removed from picture digitally). I recorded the Broadway musical Ain't Too Proud (the story of The Temptations) for two different video productions, and that show used the standard Broadway "Hamilton" method. The show sound crew was as pro as they come for this kind of thing, and the mic positoning had been very well worked out (and accommodated many many costume changes and talent groupings). The tracks I got were stellar: I expected them to be good but they were really great. They also used DPAs, with high-end Sennheiser wireless and all the fancy Broadway style hair/wig/hat/plant etc etc mounting methods.
Old 14th March 2021
  #3
Lives for gear
 
JCBigler's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
DPA 4061 is the gold standard for Broadway musicals. As many channels of Sennheiser or Lectrosonics wireless as you need. You’ll probably want to bring on someone who has experience doing RF coordination for large musical theatre. And a good A2 with musical theatre experience will be able to hide the mics pretty much anywhere.

Honestly, if all you’ve done is sound for opera where the signers and orchestra aren’t miced, you might want to find someone with musical theatre experience to assist you. Halo rigs are sort of the defacto standard for actor micing when it comes to musical theatre.
Old 14th March 2021
  #4
Lives for gear
 
JCBigler's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by seanmccoy ➡️
Hey, all.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N51L1b9hgqY

Anyway, can anybody identify what mics these singers are using (I'd guess DPA's of some sort), and can you recommend a less Ted Talk-looking headset mic that might get equal quality? Any advice appreciated.
I would put money on that being a Countryman Isomax H6 headset mic. You can remove the foam windscreen and make it less obtrusive. They are very good mics.
Old 14th March 2021
  #5
Lives for gear
 
🎧 15 years
For actual headset (ie over the ear) mics we tried a few including Countryman E6 etc. When we did a long-running+touring show with Lisa Fischer we switched to DPAs, mostly 4188 since the monitors in that show were very loud. They were able to hold Lisa's voice in a way the E6s could not. I've used the 4188 and also 4066 on many big voice vocalists since, always with wirelesses, and have been very happy with them.
Old 14th March 2021
  #6
Lives for gear
 
jnorman's Avatar
 
3 Reviews written
🎧 15 years
Well, opera and musicals are quite different beasts, and generally require different approaches. As jcbigler and others above mention, for musicals, lavalier mics are de rigueur, but I think many operas are recorded with stand and hanging mics. For a stage type production, my ideal is the absolutely wonderful broadcast of Bernstein’s “Candide” with June Anderson and Jerry Hadley, et al... For an “acted” opera or musical, I might opt for lav or head mounted dpa 4061s or countryman b6s, though handling that much wireless is probably above my pay grade...I imagine our illustrious moderator, Steve Remote, would be a most excellent contributor to this thread.
Old 14th March 2021
  #7
Gear Guru
 
Thomas W. Bethe's Avatar
 
1 Review written
🎧 15 years
For opera I don't like close miking of the singers. I recorded The Cleveland Opera from its inception to its demise and we never used any close up miking. IMHO it spoils the perspective and LOUD operatic voices can distort even the best headset mic. I think more "normal" miking with boundary layer mics and/or hanging mics would be a much better solution. To each his or her own...
Old 14th March 2021
  #8
Lives for gear
 
tourtelot's Avatar
 
1 Review written
🎧 10 years
We record the Seattle Opera for my group (BC) and we use LOTS of mics. Never a headset mic to be seen (heard?).

D.
Old 14th March 2021
  #9
Lives for gear
 
🎧 15 years
It's down to how the creatives want the show to sound. Operatic productions are designed to have the orchestra support the singers, the singers are trained to project, and we are used to a fairly ambient kind of sound for that music. Shows that use more rock etc style music, require onstage monitors at pretty high levels, involve energetic dancing while singing and may be playing in acoustically less favorable venues than a real opera house will probably go with body or headset mics just to be able to make any sort of usable mix. A local opera company here, used to doing their broadcasts via the usual operatic audio manner, is going to do a series of outdoor shows in a vast parking lot near a freeway. For those shows I'd put money on them moving to head or body mics via wireless.

Last edited by philper; 14th March 2021 at 06:20 PM..
Old 14th March 2021
  #10
Lives for gear
 
1 Review written
🎧 5 years
Not having had this experience myself, wouldn't you go with body/headset mics when there is a lot of risk of footfall noise from dancing in a theater production, but lean towards hanging mics and/or boundary mics when mostly dealing with opera singing?

But in the OP's case when dealing with only 3 singers, would you lean towards body/headset mics simply because there are only 3 singers and you're not trying to cover an entire cast of 20 -30 people over an entire stage????
Old 14th March 2021 | Show parent
  #11
Lives for gear
 
tourtelot's Avatar
 
1 Review written
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by philper ➡️
For those shows I'd put money on them moving to head or body mics via wireless.
Which just goes to the point of why audio engineers are still a valuable commodity. Thank the good Gods.

D.
Old 14th March 2021 | Show parent
  #12
Lives for gear
 
JCBigler's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Thomas W. Bethe ➡️
For opera I don't like close miking of the singers. I recorded The Cleveland Opera from its inception to its demise and we never used any close up miking. IMHO it spoils the perspective and LOUD operatic voices can distort even the best headset mic. I think more "normal" miking with boundary layer mics and/or hanging mics would be a much better solution. To each his or her own...
I feel exactly the opposite. I hate using boundary mics and hanging mics to try to pick up people on stage. You get so much extraneous sound and foot traffic that it sounds awful. And shotgun mics are not magic bullets with super isolation powers either. If you have one positioned off stage on one of the booms in the wings and you get two people chatting right next to it, you're still going to hear them. And depending on where the mics are placed, the singers can end up being closer to the audience or the orchestra mics than they are to the overheads or boundary mics.

But I grew up in the musical theatre world, so I'm much more comfortable working with close mics that need less gain to get the job done. And you don't lose level or change EQ when the singers turn off stage or upstage away from the mics.

I think if you are doing a broadcast or video production, close mics are the way to go.
Old 14th March 2021
  #13
Lives for gear
 
🎧 10 years
Thanks, gang, lots of great insight here, as always. Just to clarify, this isn't 'opera' in the traditional sense, but more of a 'modern artsy' thing with the three singers telling stories and making points about the plight of immigrants in America, supported by just a string quartet, which will be facing them from downstage. No props or action sequences, just a lot of moody scenic design. And because it's now strictly a video project, it doesn't have to adhere to any traditional theater format.

Body mics have been mandated, so it's now just a matter of choosing the right wireless systems to rent, and me properly applying them. We'll have a fair amount of time for tech, so I won't have any excuses.

So I think it's narrowed down to DPA 4188's or 4061's, or Countryman H6's (omnis, I assume?), paired with...what wireless system? Any clear differences between the Sennheiser and Lectrosonic options?

Also, any recommendations for a good rental house for such setups?
Old 14th March 2021
  #14
Lives for gear
 
tourtelot's Avatar
 
1 Review written
🎧 10 years
Trew Audio or Location Sound in LA. They are the pros.

D.
Old 15th March 2021 | Show parent
  #15
Lives for gear
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by tourtelot ➡️
Trew Audio or Location Sound in LA. They are the pros.

D.
Great, thanks. I've had some dealings with Trew, but not Location Sound.
Old 15th March 2021
  #16
Lives for gear
 
RobAnderson's Avatar
 
15 Reviews written
🎧 10 years
DPA 4060'/1s hidden in the wigline are de rigeur for a lot of this stuff. DPA now make something even smaller.

Proper and conservative gain staging at the beltpack, along with layers of main and ambient pickups to blend, is key imho
Old 15th March 2021 | Show parent
  #17
Gear Guru
 
1 Review written
🎧 5 years
whether one is using headsets or lavaliers, one will need lots of processing, expanders imo being crucial and of course (multiple) efx to compensate for unnatural proximity of mics to the sources.

i still prefer sanken cos-11 or mke-2's over dpa's...
Old 15th March 2021 | Show parent
  #18
Lives for gear
 
Bruce Watson's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by seanmccoy ➡️
Body mics have been mandated, so it's now just a matter of choosing the right wireless systems to rent, and me properly applying them. We'll have a fair amount of time for tech, so I won't have any excuses.
Some things to notice. First, if you're doing a body mount (that is, middle of sternum) you're exposed to what happens when the head/mouth turn and the body does not. That is, it allows the mouth to move out-of-pattern. This alone should be enough that you rule out entirely the use of any directional mic. Unless you love post work.

Second, the neck moves the other way too. As the chin pulls down (for whatever reason) a directional mic will give you increasing proximity effect. Fixing this "variable proximity effect" in post will make you wish it was just going in and out of pattern instead. So, another reason to insist on omnis.

The converse is also true -- for headset mics (or any mic that is attached to the head, like a hairline mic, or a ballcap mic, or glasses mount, etc.) you can use directional mics because the mouth can't move relative to the mic itself. If an earset mic, do not use too long a boom -- optimal placement is the corner of the mouth, unless you like plosives.

I'm sorta of the opinion that a trained operatic voice is difficult at best to close mic. You'll pick up all the imperfections that makeup the vocal character -- it's like getting too close to an oil painting. If you get to close you're looking at brush strokes and not seeing the expression of the picture. A lot of operatic voices are apparently like that.

Anyway, since your people have mandated close micing, I'd go with a head mounted mic of some kind.
Old 15th March 2021 | Show parent
  #19
Lives for gear
 
JCBigler's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by deedeeyeah ➡️
whether one is using headsets or lavaliers, one will need lots of processing, expanders imo being crucial and of course (multiple) efx to compensate for unnatural proximity of mics to the sources.
I disagree. In musical theatre we don't use expanders in lav and headset mics. And we use omni mics to get rid of the proximity effect. If it's done right, with a good sound designer and good mixer, you can't even tell they are on mics. It's literally invisible.
Old 15th March 2021 | Show parent
  #20
Lives for gear
 
GeneHall's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by JCBigler ➡️
DPA 4061 is the gold standard for Broadway musicals. As many channels of Sennheiser or Lectrosonics wireless as you need. You’ll probably want to bring on someone who has experience doing RF coordination for large musical theatre. And a good A2 with musical theatre experience will be able to hide the mics pretty much anywhere.

Honestly, if all you’ve done is sound for opera where the signers and orchestra aren’t miced, you might want to find someone with musical theatre experience to assist you. Halo rigs are sort of the defacto standard for actor micing when it comes to musical theatre.
This is the gold standard answer, ime.
I've used the dPA 4061 for everyone from mezzo to colouratura ,baritone to dramatic tenor/counter tenor.
They are impeccable microphones with excellent build quality, a more worthy investment in this specialised field would be hard to come by.

The dPA's will be a hearty investment you'll never regret.
I was initially turned onto the dPA's for outdoor popera shows where the venues weren't necessarily doing anyone any favours, it spared audiences a night of opera yelling and provided the experience folks expected in my opinion. I haven't done shows so big that I was overwhelmed by RF management , if I did I also think I would bring someone in for that rather than risk it .
Really good advice above

Old 15th March 2021
  #21
Lives for gear
 
kludgeaudio's Avatar
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by seanmccoy ➡️
Hey, all.

In the early planning stages for a project that started out as a single concert, but due to COVID insanity has morphed through a straight studio recording into what will now be a full-on video production. It's operatic in nature, with three singers accompanied by a string quartet. Unobtrusive but effective mic positioning was always going to be a challenge, but the composer and director are now set on using wireless body mics for the singers. This video was sent as a reference:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N51L1b9hgqY

The audio quality on the vocals is absolutely fine, but the director, who has a lot of experience with big stage musicals, believes we can get similar quality with smaller, more hidden mics (think Hamilton). With no experience in such matters, I'll need more convincing.

Anyway, can anybody identify what mics these singers are using (I'd guess DPA's of some sort), and can you recommend a less Ted Talk-looking headset mic that might get equal quality? Any advice appreciated.
I can't tell what the mikes are from the video, but if you are looking for something that is difficult to see, I would suggest the Beyerdynamic ones. With a little moleskin and a little makeup they can disappear even with a closeup. It can be argued that the DPA and the Countryman sound better (and I would personally pick the Countryman even over the DPA for sound quality although I might be alone in that)... but the question is whether you care more about looks or sound quality. Most producers care more about looks.

Now... I think the audio quality on those vocals is pretty terrible... the soprano is maybe okay but you're not hearing any of the chest of the tenor at all. I don't think you'll ever manage to do that much better with any headsets, though.

I would definitely go for a set of hypercardioids around the proscenium personally. Maybe SUPPLEMENTED with headsets if you absolutely need them.

If it's not a real opera, and you're describing something like a recital, then there might not be as much of a problem having mikes in the shot either.
--scott
Old 15th March 2021 | Show parent
  #22
Gear Guru
 
1 Review written
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by JCBigler ➡️
I disagree. In musical theatre we don't use expanders in lav and headset mics. And we use omni mics to get rid of the proximity effect. If it's done right, with a good sound designer and good mixer, you can't even tell they are on mics. It's literally invisible.
well, maybe you don't: i DO use expanders - a lot and for a very long time already (ever since the days the first jünger d0x unit came out so late 80's iirc).

to me, expanders are the most valuable dynamic tools as there's no other way to keep unwanted room sound at bay; not just for singers but on every instrument in the pit.

in fact, expanders to me are so important that i don't use desks which don't have them implemented as a standard; also worth noting that quite a few manufacturers call their gates 'expanders' if set to specific paramaters which is misleading/downright wrong...

(besides, expanders would be the wrong tools to address proximity effect: for this, a simple low shelving or low cut filter will do)

Last edited by deedeeyeah; 15th March 2021 at 11:45 PM..
Old 15th March 2021 | Show parent
  #23
Lives for gear
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by GeneHall ➡️
This is the gold standard answer, ime.
I've used the dPA 4061 for everyone from mezzo to colouratura ,baritone to dramatic tenor/counter tenor.
They are impeccable microphones with excellent build quality, a more worthy investment in this specialised field would be hard to come by.

The dPA's will be a hearty investment you'll never regret.
I have a 4060 that I've only ever used (wired) for ADR, but it's good to know this is already on the right track, and I'll be able to do a little experimenting with it to get a feel before this project. From what I gather, the less-sensitive 4061 might be the better choice for loud singers, yes?
Old 15th March 2021 | Show parent
  #24
Lives for gear
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bruce Watson ➡️
Anyway, since your people have mandated close micing, I'd go with a head mounted mic of some kind.
Thanks for the insight. Definitely leaning toward head mounted omnis.
Old 15th March 2021 | Show parent
  #25
Lives for gear
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by kludgeaudio ➡️
Now... I think the audio quality on those vocals is pretty terrible... the soprano is maybe okay but you're not hearing any of the chest of the tenor at all. I don't think you'll ever manage to do that much better with any headsets, though.

I would definitely go for a set of hypercardioids around the proscenium personally. Maybe SUPPLEMENTED with headsets if you absolutely need them.

If it's not a real opera, and you're describing something like a recital, then there might not be as much of a problem having mikes in the shot either.
--scott
I'll definitely be pushing to include at least one pair of general pickup mics in addition to the headsets. The composer has already said he was fine with the mics as seen in the video and is highly concerned with the audio quality, so if it comes down to sound versus visual transparency, he'll defer to the sound.
Old 16th March 2021 | Show parent
  #26
Lives for gear
 
hbphotoav's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
I'll echo the DPA love, having used everything from Shure WL83/85 (nasty and big/ugly) to Senny ME2 (thin and sizzly) to Countryman E6 (fragile, and prone to breath pops), and, my faves, DPA 4060/61 and 4066... surprisingly, my fallback is the venerable Shure WL93, a $100 plastic lav that is easy to mount and sounds way better than its price... especially in high school drama events. You won't be sorry with the DPA.

As to mics wrangling, there was a great video on YouTube about the "Hamilton" production. Eye-opening, it was, particularly regarding placements. Adam Savage is the host, so it's fun, as wells informative.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=351DxQghbh0

As to systems... Lectrosonics likely has the best frequency management and is tough as nails (according to my filmsound pal Matt). Truly pro-grade... as is Shure Axient and the Sennheiser 9000 top drawer stuff.

Good luck! I recently did a (much) smaller Opera Society fundraiser/banquet here in NashVegas. They required mics on sticks (5... Shure Beta87A and Sennheiser E865) across the stage, and handhelds (4, all Sennheiser, two each on House Right and House Left stages in the room), and a 7' Steinway (DPA4061 inside, gaffed to the frame out at the point the first low strings cross the high strings, lid up,). It was a lovely, "full-house" evening last fall. Here's hoping Covid is a memory, and I am remembered this year.

Cheers, and good luck!

HB
Old 16th March 2021
  #27
Lives for gear
 
JCBigler's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
@ hbphotoav

Hey Harry, are you going to be at the AES event at Soundcheck in Nashville at the end of the month? I'm hoping to be there and would love to meet if you are.
Old 16th March 2021 | Show parent
  #28
Lives for gear
 
hbphotoav's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Hadn't planned on it (I'm not an AES member) but would love to facilitate a meet-up with whomever GearSlutz might show up. I do have sufficient working knowledge of where to sip great local brews (both caffeinated tap-pulled) and, occasionally, where to enjoy a fine stick from Nicaragua or the DR. Please stay in touch... and anyone else interested, as well.

[email protected] will get my attention!

Cheers, all.
Old 16th March 2021 | Show parent
  #29
Lives for gear
 
GeneHall's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by seanmccoy ➡️
I have a 4060 that I've only ever used (wired) for ADR, but it's good to know this is already on the right track, and I'll be able to do a little experimenting with it to get a feel before this project. From what I gather, the less-sensitive 4061 might be the better choice for loud singers, yes?
I haven't had the chance to use the 4060 for operetic voices so I can only presume that your assumption is correct.
I think the 4061 does a great job of presenting voice moving between head and chest voice, without getting too hot when singer is pushing head voice or making dramatic fader moves to keep the chest voice present.

Mental note, during these Covid times, it might be an idea to have extra socks on hand in the event different singers are using the same headsets. I think I have spent well over 400 bucks recently just to have various sock sizes on hand to keep everything cool with current health and safety requirements.
The dPA socks aren't cheap so cost workup might be an idea just in case budget tightens up closer to the run

Old 16th March 2021 | Show parent
  #30
Lives for gear
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by JCBigler ➡️
I would put money on that being a Countryman Isomax H6 headset mic. You can remove the foam windscreen and make it less obtrusive. They are very good mics.
I'd actually bet on those being DPA 4066. It's hard to see, but between the shape of the foam and the way it hooks over two ears, it looks like the older design of DPA.

I've used those a ton for opera and classical voices and they work about as well as anything do. Of the mainstream wireless systems, I prefer the Sennheiser 5000 series stuff to the Shure (even Axient- although they're quite good). Non mainstream, Lectro and Audio Limited are very good.

--Ben
📝 Reply

Similar Threads

Thread / Thread Starter Replies / Views Last Post
replies: 126 views: 24400
Avatar for James Lehmann
James Lehmann 22nd November 2019
replies: 62 views: 15094
Avatar for tenor39
tenor39 21st September 2009
replies: 17 views: 1099
Avatar for deedeeyeah
deedeeyeah 13th March 2018
Topic:
Post Reply

Welcome to the Gearspace Pro Audio Community!

Registration benefits include:
  • The ability to reply to and create new discussions
  • Access to members-only giveaways & competitions
  • Interact with VIP industry experts in our guest Q&As
  • Access to members-only sub forum discussions
  • Access to members-only Chat Room
  • Get INSTANT ACCESS to the world's best private pro audio Classifieds for only USD $20/year
  • Promote your eBay auctions and Reverb.com listings for free
  • Remove this message!
You need an account to post a reply. Create a username and password below and an account will be created and your post entered.


 
 
Slide to join now Processing…

Forum Jump
Forum Jump