What does multiple Grammy nominee, Morten Lindberg, have to say about recording music in immersive sound?

Morten Lindberg is a Norwegian music producer and sound engineer who specializes in classical music productions. He is a recording producer and Balance Engineer with 34 American GRAMMY-nominations since 2006, 26 of these in the categories Best Engineered Album, Best Surround Sound Album and Producer of the Year. He is the founder and CEO of the record label 2L and he often works with Norwegian and other Scandinavian ensembles.

Please tell us a little bit about your production company, 2L?

We started out as a production company in the early 1990s. But as the major labels scaled back their classical music recordings we wanted to move forward. Our obvious solution was to start our own label. We currently make 10 to 15 new releases per year, all on Hybrid SACD, Pure Audio Blu-ray and distributed as HiRes files. Most productions feature Nordic artists and contemporary composers, but also the classical European tradition. I believe our sounding results make an impact because it comes from the heart and soul of everyone involved. We don’t speculate in what a commercial market might want to receive. We make what we would like to experience ourselves. That makes it personal. 

Why listen to immersive music?

Rather than reproducing a concert situation we consider the Recording Art a discipline on its own. It gives us the¬†possibility to place the listener in an ideal position and become an actual party to the event. Through a dedicated¬†production of the music we can maximize energy, reveal all the small nuances and avoid disturbing distractions. The¬†emotional impact can be made massive. The conductor‚Äôs position is the seat no audience can afford ‚ÄĒ until now¬†with these dedicated recordings.

What microphones do you usually use for a 3D recording?

Our three dimensional 2L-cube is scaled to the size of the ensemble and to the volume of the hall for each recording. Distance between microphones in the array are typically shorter with smaller situations and scales up to the big cathedral. When preparing for distribution we target the playback situation with separate mixes. For Auro-3D or Dolby Atmos then all 5.1.4 microphones goes directly to each their according loudspeaker. With diminishing numbers of loudspeakers we do not sum or fold-down. We take away sources. So for 5.1 only the lower bed of microphones are active. Then it is usually only front left and right microphone playing in stereo. Possibly with a slight texture added from the rear microphones. Pure, clean and minimalistic.

Photo: Morten Lindberg

How do you dedicate microphones in recording to the surround sound set up?

Our philosophy is simple; one microphone straight to one speaker. The important aspect is to configure the array so time of arrival is captured and released in natural order. This works so well for us I’d rather spend time and energy with the musicians placing the array right in each situation rather than to experiment with other techniques.

"To me, stereo is a canvas, surround sound is a playing field and immersive audio is the globe. The emotional impact of the added dimensions are logarithmical."

Photo: Tom Henning Bratlie

At what level of high definition do you record at and why?

A simple and pure signal path is the means to true HiRes digital. Not only at recording but also preserving the purity all through editing, mixing and mastering. We record at 24bit 352.8kHz and preserve this resolution all through into our distributed master files. There has been much focus on word length but to me the sample rate is more important as impulse response connects directly to our primal sonic perception on a subconscious level

What is the most important aspects of post-production for an immersive audio mix?

The most important aspect of post-production is to not destroy the fine qualities captured at recording. Instead of EQ in post I much prefer to rather shift the angle or the distance of a microphone already in recording. It just takes planning. With a good recording I never use any EQ or dynamic processing at all. Editing is an important tool. It makes it possible to combine the highest level of energy and details into an intense performance. To do that you need to use a sonically transparent workstation. For the past decade we’ve worked with Merging Technologies on their Pyramix system.

What is the difference of your recordings in Dolby Atmos and Auro-3D?

The Auro-3D is discreet channel based and conforms 1:1 from our raw recordings. The Dolby Atmos preserves our bed channels and then the height is defined as objects which are rendered locally at playback. I find that our 2L-cube recordings translates very well into the Atmos codec and past year or so all our releases on Pure Audio Blu-ray have both Auro-3D and Atmos in user-selectable streams in parallel on the disc. To me, stereo is a canvas, surround sound is a playing field and immersive audio is the globe. The emotional impact of the added dimensions are logarithmical. 

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