Longtime Sanken User Jim Anderson Explains His Use of Numerous Sanken Microphones
Jim Anderson is an internationally recognized recording engineer and producer, specializing in acoustic music for the record, radio, television, and film industries. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including eight Grammy and Latin Grammys and 22 nominations, as well as two Peabody Awards and two Emmy nominations for television programs. For 15 years, Anderson has been the recording engineer for “In Performance at the White House.”
In addition to his positions as the Chair of the Clive Davis Department of Recorded Music at New York University and VP of the Eastern Sections of the AES, he has been a frequent lecturer and master-class guest faculty member at leading international institutes of higher education, including the Berklee School of Music, McGill University, Banff Centre, Ude K in Berlin, Lulea University in Sweden, the New School University, and Penn State University.
How long have you been using Sanken microphones?
I have been using Sanken mics since the late 80s. In fact, at that time I met Tokio Takeuchi, who was the son of the founder of the Sanken company. I was recording Hank Jones with a rhythm section and a string quartet. I put up a pair of Sanken CU-41s, the mic with dual diaphragms, and the sound was just phenomenal. Now I have seven CU-41s. I use it on almost everything, because it just makes the sound so interesting.
I remember once I was doing a percussion overdub, a tambourine, and the assistant set up a 421, which is a good mic, but it didn’t sound interesting. I set up a CU-41 and all of a sudden the sound came alive. There it was – all the detail in the top end that you could want, good bottom — sounded great.
I also have a pair of CU-31s, and CU-32s. Those are the rough equivalent of a KM-84. The CU-31 is an end firing mic and the CU-32 is a side firing mic. I use them for a variety of instruments, sometimes the high-hat, the beater side of a kick drum, or to capture little details in a woodwind section.
The Sanken mic I really love playing with is the M-S mic, the CMS-2. I have a pair of those and I’ve used them on bass, on kick drum, etc. I was told that they were designed for orchestral recording in high definition television. It was meant to be a low profile microphone that you could put up over an orchestra and it wouldn’t be seen in the picture. I have recorded quite a bit for television, such as the Canadian Brass, and you just hang that mic up and it works great. On piano for TV, I would use the CMS-2, or now I am using the new CUW-180.
What have you discovered using the CUW-180?
When we set up for “In Performance at the White House,” we had a stage that had to remain absolutely clean, without mic stands. We had a pianist and then the singer came over near the piano. And we had dancers throughout the show. I thought the CUW-180 would be perfect, because I could conceal it in the piano, with a single point source. If I wanted a wider image I could adjust the dual capsules, because they have a ratcheted détente that you can lock into 90 degrees, or 120 degrees. It has that Sanken sound that I really like, with a very clear transient top end. And it’s a microphone that is not afraid to go down to the bottom end.
When Sanken comes up with these new microphones they are designing them to sound and fit with the rest of the Sanken line. They are not trying to make an omni that sounds like a Schoeps, or a DPA. The Sanken stereo mics don’t sound like any other stereo mics.
The new two-capsule CUW-180 has a very clear bottom end, so I have started using it on bass. I just finished a Ron Carter project with an acoustic bass. I placed it near Ron’s instrument, somewhere between the bridge and the fingers, for that articulation spot that still has enough of the wood sound coming off the bass. We went into the control room and someone asked, “Is that everything – all the mics?” No, I said, that is just the little Sanken X-Y microphone. People just fell off their chairs. They couldn’t believe it. The CUW-180 has very good imaging and very good frequency response.
I like to do some funny tricks with stereo, and this new mic was designed perfectly for the way I work with a pair of microphones. For example, there are times on a guitar amp where I will take a pair of capsules looking straight ahead, in what I call “wide mono.” If I am recording a trio and working with a guitarist like John Scofield and he only brings in one amplifier, I can use a mic like this and widen it out to be like his typical stage sound is like.
I have also used the CUW-180 on acoustic guitar, for the new Patricia Barber album, in an X-Y fashion across the instrument rather than going up and down the neck. You get a stereo image that is very nicely detailed. If you are doing a backing track, it’s nice to have that width, and then you can put a mono right up the middle and build some depth into the track.
For purposes of duplicating mic positioning, is it beneficial to have the rotating heads with exact detentes?
Yes, absolutely. It helps to recreate the situation, and you can go back to a setting that works. In fact, I have occasionally done sound effects for film, and they ask for things to be very specific, like 120 degrees for a background effect, because they know that won’t interfere with the Dolby surround. It will stay locked into Left-Right. So, I think this mic would be an excellent choice for sound effects recording.
Have you used the new CO-100K mic that goes up to 100kHz?
Yes, we put a pair on the drums and the articulation and the clarity was incredible. You could tell that the mic was going well beyond 20K. It sounded so clear. My students were amazed. And I used it on an acoustic bass at the Village Vanguard here in NY, with Bebo Valdez. We did four evenings of bass and piano duo recording. I needed something that could give me precision, and still have a very low profile. I had the 100K on the acoustic bass, and the musicians were just knocked out with the accuracy and the clarity of the sound. I love it when the musicians come into the control room and only talk about the music, and don’t question the quality of the sound at all.