Atherton Legacy Pipes with Ackland Reeds and Microphone positioning experiment

In addition to some 1950s Robertson pipes featured in the previous post, I was also loaned a set of Atherton Legacy pipes. My primary goal is to confirm that Ackland reeds work in them as well as they do in all the other pipes I’ve tried the reeds in. Verdict: I have not yet found a set of drones that Ackland don’t work well in. Their harmonic volume just works and they help bring the most out of those pipes lacking in the tonal character department. Most of these tests (using the pipes I own) are recorded in the Big Ackland Drone Reed post save for the 1950 Robertson test as it includes several other drone reed combinations for comparison.

In this post we’ll be exploring Atherton Legacy pipes with Ackland reeds coupled with various relative orientations between me and the microphone. People always try to dismiss recordings as inaccurate reflections of what a pipe truly sounds like and I generally disagree. I would agree that many recordings are disingenuous about the relative chanter and drone volume balance which is why I will sometimes indicate where I’m standing relative to the microphone, but even that may not be useful if there is no frame of reference; hopefully a frame of reference just may be what I establish with this post. However, as I only thought to do this *during* the recording session, well, it is what it is! I should point out that all my recordings are only ever done with 1 microphone. Well, that’s not entirely true as I use a Zoom H4n Pro field recorder which has 2 microphones on it which produces stereo recordings but the point is there is only one source of recording = 1 “track” with no mixing multiple sources and certainly no mastering. I just record the whole session in one mp3 file and then splice out the audio I want at the end with no re-encoding. One aspect of these Ackland reeds is their relative boldness over most other commercially available drone reeds. I think it’s important to convey this accurately when recording which can be a challenge when there is only one microphone. It requires that I choose a representative orientation to the microphone that accurately captures a natural balance of the chanter and the drones.

Fair Maid & Swallow’s Tail – The same tune set and method as used in the Robertson post linked above so a direct comparison to those can be made. Mic is behind me during the 1st part of Fair Maid, I then spend the 2nd time through rotating 360 degrees, and then at the start of the reel I side step and rotate back around so that the mic is in an imaginary corner between my chanter and tenor drones (front left corner, if you will). At all times the mic is about 5-6 feet away and 5’10” or so.

John MacColl’s March to Kilbowie Cottage, Clachnaharry, & Roderick MacDonald – In this MSR, I “march” (amble more like it) back and forth in front of the mic (perpendicularly, you might say) and then I end up in about the same spot for the strathspey and reel as above for the Swallow’s Tail with the mic off the front left side between chanter and tenor drones (if I’m remembering correctly).

John MacKenzie’s Fancy & Inspector Donald Campbell, Ness – Microphone is in the front “right” corner, so between the chanter and bass drone, if you will. Of course, the mic is in the same spot in the room, I’m just moving around relative to it.

Fiona Fergusson & Joseph MacDonald’s Jig – Microphone is right in front of me, but still 5-6 feet away.

The Redundancy & Kenneth MacDonald’s Jig – Microphone is behind me.

My preference is for the mic in the front, left corner (Swallow’s Tail and the SR of the MSR set). Of course, I also like the mic behind me for the full drone effect, though I think it takes a solid 3rd place behind mic-in-front for fidelity. Dead last is the mic on the right side which is a no-brainer. Hornpipe Jig sets are so fun!