Classical Recordings: The Phil Donahue Effect
Jul 3, 2005 at 6:17 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 2

Mark from HFR

500+ Head-Fier
Jun 1, 2005
There is sometimes a temptation among classical recording engineers to use as many microphones as they can get their hands on. Sometimes this leads to some strange sounds in recordings. Years ago MasonJar and I had a conversation where we came up with a memorable image for this: The Phil Donahue Effect. For you young 'uns out there who may not know, Phil Donahue was a talk show host years ago who had this odd way of running up into the audience to let them ask questions. He would get a step or two below the person and stretch himself out from the aisle, pointing his microphone at them. Well, in a moment of mirth, Jar and I pictured orchestral recordings being made this way, with an engineer running back and forth in the orchestra sudden slinging out his microphone at arm's length to catch a phrase deep in the orchestra very up-close and loudly, as opposed to how it would naturally sound in the concert hall if you were listening to the piece in concert.

So, this thread is about great performances that are seriously flawed by odd recording techniques. My own favorite nominee is the Gennady Rozhdestvensky recording of Shostakovich's 8th. A great performance assaulted by crude usage of multitrack recording... Arrgh!
Jul 3, 2005 at 7:22 PM Post #2 of 2

Doc Sarvis

1000+ Head-Fier
Nov 24, 2002
Multi miking is usually, but not always, a bad thing. In the rare instances where it's good, it enhances the dramatic effect and brings out inner voices.

Two of the better ones that come to mind:

1. Kondrashin's Shosty 1st: The Melodya guys were shameless multi-miikers. Listen to the clarinet solo in the 1st movement and you will hear what I mean. (I think it works here, though.)

2. Mehta's LA Philharmonic Planets. That bassoon in "Mars" is unnaturally prominent (again, though, I like it here).

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