Check out the Live Sound page of my site. Hear the difference between various mics and a pickup.
This document contains information on mics,pick-ups, amps, eq's and many other topics related to the amplified cello sound. Pick though it to find what you need.
What I use:
I try to use only my Schoeps microphone if I can get away with it. This involves less cello in the monitors but you can get used to this. If I'm playing with a fairly loud band than I might use my pickup.
- Schoeps CMC6 microphone amplifier (this is what Schoeps calls the mic "body" without the capsule) with the MK41 super-cardioid capsule.
- The Realist created by the combined brains of David Gage & Ned Steinberg.
- When I use my pick-up I generally use whatever the club provides -- I'm not too fussy.
- I used to power my speaker with a Walter Woods Stereo Power Amp. I highly recommend these amps, extremely well made, clean and not too heavy.
- I used to use Contra EX cabinet which weighs only 20lbs and is made by Bob Gollihur. I no longer bring this as even at 20 lbs., it's too heavy for me to want to bother. The sound is very good however.
My current live setup includes The Realist pickup, a clever little thing that becomes a semi-permanent part of your cello setup--it's not super easy to simply remove. As far as I can tell after just a short time of using the Realist I can say that I don't notice any change in the sound of the instrument acoustically when it is installed.
So, If you're just starting out with this whole amplified sound situation I would suggest The Realist and you'll need to buy an amp. When touring and I usually ask for either a Hartke 410 (a cabinet with four 10" speakers, hence the name) or the Bose speaker. I find the Bose to be the best right now for cello. In both these cases the 'amp' and 'speaker' or 'cabinet' are separate from one another and need to be purchased separately. This is a more expensive alternative to buying an integrated amp/speaker. The Gallian-Kruger keyboard amp is OK. Stay away from Roland or Fender guitar amps, they're too harsh. For most club situations you don't need more 50 Watt RMS amp. If you can try out the amps in the store (often not something they like to do) go for it. Another option I hadn't thought of was pointed out to me by a friend who purchased a powered speaker by JBL. He said the sound was good and that it was loud enough. Something worth checking out.
Advice about Preamps (from Kurt Zasadil)
"I have this to suggest, that you add how important it is to have a pre-amp for virtually all of the cello pick-ups on the market. I have noticed that several of the manufacturers claim that with their system a pre-amp is not necessary but after reading the specs, I find that their pick-up is just like all the rest and will not be operating optimally with most inputs it is plugged into when used without the pre-amp. The term pre-amp confuses people. It's not just to get a weak signal up to line level but rather it (the pre-amp) buffers an impedance mimatch that prevents the input whatever the pick-up is plugged into) from reacting optimally to the output of the pick-up. It's a little like having a weight lifter lift with elastic bands between the weight and the floor. I have read a lot about this in bass and acoustic guitar forums. I've also had the chance to discuss it with the techs at my wife's business, a musical electronics repair firm here in Los Angeles. A pick-up will never sound completely Hi-Fi but a good pick-up, pre-amp match can get it up from the common 60-70 percent to something closer to 85-90 percent of being truly accurate. This last has come up before in discussing this; the direct box the sound guy plugged your output into to get it to his board is not the same as a pre-amp and will not fix the inherent impedance mismatch between the pick-up and the board input." I plan on doing more experimentation with preamps and the like..more later.
More on Mics
There is a capsule Neuman microphone that is very high quality and a bit cheaper than the Schoeps, around 6-800 for the base and capsule. Before I bought the Schoeps I used both an Audio-Technica and an AKG microphone. The Audio Technica mic is modelATM35 (The strings on Dave Douglas' Parallel Worlds cd were recorded using these). I owned and used the AKG C416 for years and now they have a new one especially for strings called theC411. Both the AT and AKG mics were under 300.00 and attach to the cello by clamping them to the tail piece and then bending the "goose-neck" to place the head of the mic. around the bridge pointing down (Like all these options, mic. placement benefits from experimentation.) There is an even cheaper AT mic (AT831b) that runs around 80.00 and you can wrap this in foam or a sock and put it under the tail piece or under the fingerboard pointing down, towards the end pin. This mic comes with a small battery powered phantom power pack (anther plus!) I've used this mic more than a few times when all else fails. The other mics I've mentioned need phantom power which most mixing boards have but make sure to ask the sound engineer at wherever you plan on playing or just put it in the rider that you will need phantom power.
The REALIST, a relatively new acoustic transducer pickup designed by Ned Steinberger in collaboration with David Gage.
Applied Microphone Technology: True Acoustic Microphone System designed to be used for the cello. Microphone clamps to side of instrument. Has supple gooseneck that allows for easy positioning. Comes complete with True Acoustic Pre-Amp with chip technology and case. Cello mic-add-mic is suspended in a 4 point isolation ring eliminating sympathetic vibrations and handling noise. "The pre-amp works with a computer chip, that contours the mic to the instrument, to produce the natural sound of the Cello. It sound's just like your instrument, but louder. All our mics are hand-made, one at a time." -- Les Silver from AMT.
Stephan Schertler is an imaginative and scholarly researcher into the latest ways to create an amplified sound. He is constantly coming up with new things, new ways to attack this issue. Check out his site.
Schoeps Microphones: company home page
Audio-Technica also has a very detailed web site.
Fishman: makers of pickups and other sound amplification devices for acoustic instruments.
Barbera Transducer Systems: An advanced piezo-type pickup system. Many are quite happy with this slightly more expensive option. It is installed permanently into a bridge and this means you will have to change bridges when you want your "normal" acoustic sound OR you can fit the bridge on a second instrument.
KK "Primarily bass pickups by K&K but also has some interesting-looking violin pickups, including one that is not permanent."
Baggs "These people have a pickup mounted in a bridge, claims that it doesn't affect sound, but I don't have any personal experience."
Acoustic Connections "...has several pickups for the violin."