recording an image

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recording an image

Postby url » Mon Aug 29, 2005 3:25 pm

I listen to my recordings against the work of better engineers, i hear the instruments on their recordings as i do on my own, except there is a fullness of tone and an image of the instrument that i cannot capture. i don't exactly mean stereo image in the sense of objects placed within the soundstage though this has something to do with it. i mean the fullness of the instrument as visualised within a recording. the best example is snare. on recordings i like you can see the snare in its fullness, the top, bottom and shell of the snare. same with the kick, there is the thump of the beater pressing against the skin extended out through the shell to the boom out front. I keep wanting to hold my thumb and index finger up while i'm writing this to say it seems this big (about 2-3 inches). its large within the mix - but so is everything else - or so it seems. my capture seems flat in comparison- tiny, about half an inch - do you think this comes down to mic technique? i've got some sytek and rnp pre's, the sytek's cool but it alone is not providing the magic. it' can't be all in the mix either, i do everything i can to shape an instrument, give it space and depth but that alone won't give it body. it's can't be just the instruments themselves either because even if they're shit, which they often are, I should still be able to get a full bodies shit sounding whatever. the other option is headroom, it would seem like i have an issue there, that i have to make things small to fit spaciously. i dunno. i guess for me this is the key to what makes a professional not an amatuer, but sure like hell would like to discover the secret.
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Postby Adam Dempsey » Mon Aug 29, 2005 6:25 pm

At the risk of sounding over-simplistic, headroom sure does have a LOT to do with it and generally the better the mic the more important the mic pre-amp. So what you've described, which I'm sure many of us can mentally 'hear', is largely separation, and is usually a result of:

- arrangement, allowing each instrument it's 'space' in both time and frequency domains* so that the brain can 'decode' the full mix,

- preparation/mic selection & placement (allowing the desired balance of fundamentals and harmonics),

- a clean signal path (with headroom) for an 'open' sound if that's what you're chasing,

- good (ie, accurate, low noise) analogue to digital convertors,

- adequate TIME for mixing, keeping your ears fresh, working with the separation* factor, often stripping things back rather than adding,

- and avoiding over-processing digitally or unnecessary truncation which can easily detract from the inner that's been captured.

My simplistic 2c worth.
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Postby JustinS » Mon Aug 29, 2005 7:33 pm

At the risk of being even more simplistic... I find that transformers tend to give "body" to instruments, different transformers & different designs behind the transformers will put them all in different places, add in your transformerless syteks & rnp's etc that put sounds in different places again & you might be heading somewhere that you're after....

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Postby scott » Mon Aug 29, 2005 8:34 pm

I definietly noticed a difference in exactly what you are talking about with my Brent Averill pres, even with my crappier mics things are more solid. But still comparing to fave records a way to go till im there. Too much close miking in a mix can give problems to I feel
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Postby Jason Dirckze » Mon Aug 29, 2005 8:47 pm

At the risk of sounding even more simplistic than previous posts, I have just one word....

VIBE

Its all about the vibe....
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Postby JustinS » Mon Aug 29, 2005 9:05 pm

Oh yeah,

And as Rick is so fond of pointing out... The right sort of compression - (from kick to vox to mixbus) is a major part of the equation!

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Postby davemc » Mon Aug 29, 2005 11:26 pm

Also the room.
If its small and boxy there.. Well your already have work to do.
Source and player makes a up a lot of the sound.

Better gear makes a difference.
I did a microphone test for a client.
We used a M149,U87 and Studio Projects B1.
The 3D sound of both Neumanns was a lot more then the cheaper mic.
I EQ'd the B1 for the female singer to get close to the same EQ response of the M149. Sounded better still 2D.
For there guide overdubs and demo the B1 at a fraction of the price will do.. Although they will not get the 3d Magic of the M149.
Hence they are coming in to do vocal tracks in a months time.
Although if the home recorded vocals are vibing when they come in. I will do what I can with B1 sounds in the mix.
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Postby Martin » Tue Aug 30, 2005 12:24 am

hugely to do with the room

have spent a litle in a 'real' studio after spending 4 years in a crap one (ie mine) ive made a few observations

my best description is that when you walk into the place with good well maintained gear, good monitoring and most importantly a well treated room its like seeing the sounds on a back background, their outlines are clear and the picture colourful.... in my own studio its like the background is grey and the outlines blurred and picture dull

you walk into a well treated control room and it feels like someones pulled the cotton wool from your ears
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Postby Chris H » Tue Aug 30, 2005 9:12 am

If it as any consolation, i think it is a real plus that you are hearing those subtle differences you describe and it is the persuit of those qualities in the "professional" recordings you admire that will make you a good recording engineer.
As for giving you the answers i feel there are others much more qualified who read this forum than me. Sometimes i get results i'm happy with, often i don't, and oftem my quantum learning leaps are discovered by accident or by having the privelage of working with someone who really knows the ropes.
In my line of work i don't always go for top sound as you describe but when i do for jobs outside the school here are some things that come to mind ;
* The foundation is the quality of the instrument and the way the player pulls their sound and the sound of the recording space.
*Next is mic choice, (an entire subject on its own)
* The reason i chose B&W's for monitoring are, to my ear they define the edge of the sound i'm recording, ( i think it means they have a fast attack with the transient response)
* The mids are critical to get full and clear. I bought a soundtracks desk a few years ago because it was big and cheap but once i got used to it i found i hated the cloudiness of the mids in the eq so i had to sell it again. I found the A&H mixwizard better because it was transparent and i could get some warmth and fullness from mic choice etc. Now i'm usind some better pres (70's vintage optros ) and they are rich, full sounding and transparent. Because the mids are a bit backward in the B&W's i regularly swithch to another set of speakers to get a different translation of what the mids are sounding like.
Another big issue is maintaining sound quality and defined sounds in the mix stage, with more than one instrument in the same frequency/tone range
Got to go but will add more later but i think this is a great topic.
It is a journey of discovery learnt with the gear you start out with (hence the blurb above) and as you get new gear to address certain issues in your sound a picture of the whole process starts to build, and that leads to different approaches by different engineers
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Postby Martinez » Tue Aug 30, 2005 1:13 pm

I was just going to repeat what was just said above.

the first step to becoming good at anything is to hear, see or both the small things that make all the difference, the subtleties.

everything starts with one small step but before you know it your near the top of your game and others are using you as a bench mark.

I'm glad you asked, cuz I have started thinking about things I had'nt before.

Great Post!
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Postby Linear » Tue Aug 30, 2005 7:09 pm

Here's what I've weaned out of my somewhat mixed experience to date.

I don't think there's any one specific thing that can be pointed at to improve your sound. Sure, certain things can help but all in all, it's the whole package. Source material (paramount), Room, Power, Mics, Front End, Cabling, Recording Medium, Console topology, Mix Buss, Effects, 2 Track - It's the everything that makes a great recording.

Getting one part spot on is often underwhealming if you have deficiencies elsewhere in the chain. Just as bad gear cumulatively ruins audio, good gear cumulatively adds value at each stage. To me, every A/D and D/A conversion loses something, however minute.

Do a review of your studio and signal path, beginning to end. Count how many times the signal passes through a capacitor. Count how many times the signal is de-balanced or balanced. Count how many analog/digital conversions there are. Count how many times it passes through an IC. Measure the length of cable that your poor signal has to travel up, especially when it's at mic level. These things all add up and progressively thin your signal.

For example, most consoles have a stereo insert, where the signal is put through a balancing opamp, sent through to a patchbay, returned from the patchbay and the debalanced through another IC. There were 8 caps that the signal passed through for that alone. I never use a stereo insert so I bypassed it with a quick trim and solder, and swear I could hear the difference.


Chris
Last edited by Linear on Tue Aug 30, 2005 8:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Jason Dirckze » Tue Aug 30, 2005 7:50 pm

Just to expand on my [VIBE] post...

I recently started listening to a band called "Iron&Wine". This guy recorded most of his early stuff in his bedroom, im sure with a modest setup. His albums are selling quite well in the Indie folk market...

The reason im posting this is to show you guys how terrible the recordings are. There is so much background noise (probably a shitty PC) and heaps of room sound. Often you can hear conversations, coughs etc, birds....it even sounds like he's used a dynamic for his vocals.

BUT....

The songs are absolutely gorgeous!!!!! His voice is magical, rough, and bare, but again, absolutely enchanting.

He is out on SubPop records (of Nirvana fame) so is obviously selling records. Anyway, I just thought it was quite amazing that something so sonically "rough" could at the same time be so beautiful.

Im hosting the song for download, which I have some moral issues with, as it is not mine to distribute, but I dont think he will mind if more people are turned on to his music.

Click on the link below....Enjoy!

Southern Anthem
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Postby Chris H » Wed Aug 31, 2005 11:47 am

24/96 wrote: Just to expand on my [VIBE] post...


You are 100% right about the VIBE, in the context of performance, art, etc,
but in relation to URL's quest for quallity recording it's not all about the vibe. The vibe is another topic. I'm not pointing this out to be smart or agro but to me the issues url's post raises are very relevant because of the fact that any muso, singer / songwriter who wants to, can record themselvs and most are. Its the whole new direction and growth area in the music buissnes.
I don't mind a bit of background noise, for example the rooster and dog sounds "accidently " captured when Tom Waits recorded Mule Variations, a top quality recording with great use of lo fi.
The problem is when the quality of the recording gets in the way of the vibe. The technology of recording should (sort of ) be invisible or enhance the listening experiance and vibe, not obstruct it, and to me a lot of what i hear has an element of technology obstructing the intent of the recording.
So this leads to the importance of going on the journey that url's obviously on and if singer songwriters would rather spend their time in more creative persuits there comes a point where they are best recourced by paying someone who has.
....penny for your thoughts
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Postby Adam Dempsey » Wed Aug 31, 2005 12:56 pm

JustinS wrote:Oh yeah,

And as Rick is so fond of pointing out... The right sort of compression - (from kick to vox to mixbus) is a major part of the equation!

Justin.


I deliberately left out any mention of the C word in my post.

Many factors (compression/tape/transformers) can all add to tone and highlighting musical harmonics, as long as it's captured in the first place.
But apply it to everything & all but the most experienced, with larger budgets & cleanest signal paths & consoles can end up with mush. Mix separation is imbedded in the sum of all parts. Often contrasts are the key there.
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Postby JustinS » Wed Aug 31, 2005 2:21 pm

Hey Adam,

I think its pretty easy to get a clean signal path these days in your average project studio.... In fact most signal paths tend to go through less transformers, gain stages, meter buffers etc. than if you're tracking in a "big" studio through the console. Halfway decent Chinese condensor mics don't cost a fortune, most digital converters sound pretty good these days & buying yourself a decent pre & compressor is much more affordable than ever. One thing however that project studios tend to miss out on in comparison to the "big" studios is the variety of gear you can put your stuff through. You don't have the luxury of deciding... hmm shall I use the 47 or the 67 on this guitar.

What I was focussing on in other posts but in a very narrow way (and you hit on in your previous post) is really thinking about contrast and how to achieve that... essentially some things have got to be small so others can be big. So that means thinking from the instrument level - ie the eq on your guitar amp / which guitar you use, to the microphone - dynamic or condensor(large or small diaphragm), how close or far the mic is from the instrument, mic pre amp - transformerless or transformer(and don't worry about the whole class A thing - are you telling me that a Neve 1081 sounds bad??) compression - to compress or not compress / and how you compress it - what ratio etc.... blah blah blah... And backing back from the gear altogether, contrast between verse & chorus, from start of song to end!

Now you can do this in a small studio, you just have to think about it a little more & work out how to get the most out of every piece of gear you have. Getting back to the post that started it all:

i have to make things small to fit spaciously


Totally right, some things have to be small so other things can be big - try recording some things small, in fact try odd combinations of gear you wouldn't think would work to get things to fit together... Have you tried a 57 on an accoustic guitar or a piano - the results can be great!

Anyways... enough rambling!

Justin.

PS - right on with the Iron & Wine thing... that stuff is oddly compelling! Also the Sufjan Stevens is a great example of what you can get out of a project studio - that's a cool sounding record, not always conventional but very cool!
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Postby wez » Wed Aug 31, 2005 11:29 pm

that Iron & Wine record was done on a cassette 4-track. the guy is absolutely brilliant.
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Postby mfdu » Thu Sep 01, 2005 10:58 am

chris H - so you got your optro's up and running? great. when i caught up with you (scabbing that old 1/2" reel) you were just getting them into line.

i run a home studio.
i have done ok - my PC is silent, the whole house is cabled up, and i can run signal from anywhere.
i have to contend with vocals done in the bedroom cupboard. need more air? close the cupboard doors and move the bed.
full band set up in lounge room? amps in kitchen, couch surrounding drum kit (close-miced and mixed to stereo with seperate kik/snare pre hdd), guide vox done into a dynamic and a foldback wedge for playback.

and i have to contend with the dog in unit 1, cars coming down the driveway, rain on the roof, and on a thursday morning in comes the garbage truck.

the main thing i find? i use tape. i use ribbon mics, i use large diaphragm condensors, clip-on dynamics. i use tube pre's, solid state pre's, hand made 1176 clones and modded 3630's. i'll put the piano through a guitar amp if thats what is needed. i'll use the hallway as an echo chamber.
all of that put together gives me texture, density, definition and flavour.

sure some tracks have a huge noisefloor. in most cases, thats a creative choice. but sometimes, the rain comes down and nothing is going to change that.

i love working within those constraints.

the hardest thing is finding the time to try all flavours before i print to hdd. after all - recording clean when you know you're going to screw with it later just adds time to the project and takes all the thrill out of it.

maybe one day i'll get to be an assistant in a *real* studio? or maybe one day, i'll have my own assistant.

but in the meantime, dont stop me 'cause i'm having a ball.

chris.
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Postby Chris H » Thu Sep 01, 2005 1:57 pm

mfdu wrote:chris H - so you got your optro's up and running? great. when i caught up with you (scabbing that old 1/2" reel) you were just getting them into line.

chris.


Here is a pic of the pair i racked. I have the other 10 in a sidecar but only with in, out ond power to each module as i had no elco conectors. Good news is i found that the elco's are now made by Edac, a Canadian company (thanks to John Klett) and i have them on order through the Australian company, Interconnect Systems. So the desk should be fully wired in a month or so
sorry no pic's as i havnt got access to a public server
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Postby mfdu » Thu Sep 01, 2005 2:38 pm

shame about the pics - i would have loved to see the units, as you were sooo excited about them when i caught up with you.

chris.
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Postby Jason Dirckze » Thu Sep 01, 2005 3:17 pm

wez wrote:that Iron & Wine record was done on a cassette 4-track. the guy is absolutely brilliant.

I didnt know that!!!! I have even more respect for him now....
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