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Old 25th July 2008 , 04:49 PM
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Default Smoothing over the cracks

Can anyway suggest how to make my music sound less "harsh". It is difficult to explain exactly what I mean, but I always feel that when I've finished a song and AB it against a professionally recorded piece it just somehow sounds rough around the edges.
I have a home studio with cubase, M-Audio 2496, focusrite sapphire pre-amp.
I have tried all sorts of high end VST compressors and analogue emulation but can't seem to find the magic ingredient to give my music that polished finish.
A typical track would have DI bass guitar, electro-acoustic guitar (room mic + di panned wide), VSTi synths, Battery 3 drums, vocals, electric guitar through a pod.
I mic the vocal and acoustic using a Behringer c1 (admittedly cheap but I don't think that's the problem because even without the vocal and acoustic the tracks still sound harsh).
I typically end up using waves c4 + psp warmer + L2 on my master bus.
I've tried rolling off the top end from the harsher sounding elements but end up with something that just sounds plain dull.
HELP!
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Old 25th July 2008 , 10:31 PM
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May help you mixes if you just add compression to the master bus, bounce the track, reimport the stereo mix and then effectively master it as a whole, ie roll off high end of the overall track and general eq, compress, maximize ( if you must), dither and then bounce again. also if you find your using higher comrpression ratios try using 2 compressors with a lower ratio this may smooth things out a bit. May also want to roll high end out of verbs as you could just be adding to much high end space which is only made worse by the high end in the dry signal.
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Old 28th July 2008 , 08:26 AM
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Thanks JAYDMF I'll give your suggestions a try
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Old 28th July 2008 , 12:15 PM
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another thing that may be giving you problems is what your using too monitor when your mixing.
my advice is try and use active monitors or if your using an extrnal amp try and get a studio amp with no eq so your not adding false hi or low end frequencys too your mixes.
if your using a bog standard hifi amp try and set your bass/treble/mid too 0 or some have a defeat button ..dont try and mix with any off the fancy presets that some amps come with such as jazz/rock/dance .if you try and mix sing these your mix will sound completely different on somebody elses set up.if your using the wrong amp or wrong set up that could be one answer why your getting lots of top on your mixes you will be over compensating for frequencys your set up isnt giving you correctly.
heres some studio amp examples--http://www.dv247.com/icat/Studio+Amplifiers/2960/
please post full set up so you can get further help.
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Old 28th July 2008 , 10:15 PM
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PAFO -

It's going to be very difficult for you to be able to create recordings that sound like professionally recorded CDs with your stuff in your space. Being blunt, and brutal, you're not working with pro stuff which is a huge part of the problem. But it is only part of the problem.

First - the room. When you record acoustic instruments or vox, are you doing it in a proper studio space with high ceilings, acoustic treatment, raised floors, etc, etc - basically all the things that make a massive contribution to that sort of sound? My guess is you probably aren't. That's unfortunately strike 1. Everyone should have room treatment - the more the better, but a few well-placed bass traps and some absorption panels will do wonders.

Second - the mics / the preamps. Honestly, the C1 is among the lowest quality mics money can buy nowadays. This isn't to say that it can't capture material at all - of course that's what it's useful for, at next to no money - so if it's about capturing an idea then that's one thing and it's valuable for that. But as a tool to capture a source and to capture it faithfully, well, some of your adjectives can already be attributed to that mic. It's harsh, it's brittle, it's probably muddy. Your preamps, which are a less important but still fundamental part of the chain also aren't exactly the best of the best. Mud comes to mind here, and one of the huge things about judging whether a preamp is good or not is not whether it sounds good on its' own when soloed, but rather, how a mix sounds when a bunch of stuff all recorded through the same pres stacks up. If there's a bit of high-end distortion on any given pre, for example, well, multiply that a few times or more and suddently your noise floor goes through the roof and the brittleness really comes through.

Third - the converters - proper studios, and most of the CDs you hear, are using ridiculously expensive, high-end digital converters from Prism, Lavry, Lynx and others. The converters in consumer-grade stuff, while miles ahead of even the stuff a few years ago, aren't quite as good and "jitter" is specifically an issue (although that's a whole massive argument unto itself). On the AD side, without significantly increasing your spend, you're not going to see a massive improvement, this is more of a point-of-reference comparison only.

Fourth - mastering. This is a significant and important "final polish" on a mix. You cannot really successfully master your own tracks - this is pretty much a universal truth. You can master them yourself if you have to, but part of the cohesion comes from the fact that the mastering engineer is a fresh set of ears on the mix, and can give it those subtle tweaks that just make it shine.

Here's the order I would upgrade things in order to see some improvement in your setup, as you find the cash.

1) Room/acoustic treatment (if you don't already have it).
2) If you're doing a lot of vox/acoustic stuff I'd upgrade the mic next.
3) I would get a good set of monitors - spend as much as you can, trust me, at the low end of things you're still going to have problems with mix translation. Tannoy Reveals would be my absolute lowest budget recommendation.
4) I'd get a good digital-to-analog converter next to ensure that what's coming out of your system is accurate and you can make the correct mix decisions. As waxxy has already pointed out, monitoring accuracy is everything and the DAC is a big part of this. A Benchmark DAC-1 would be a great addition - not super cheap, but brilliant for the price.
5) I'd either upgrade my interface to one with better pres (you don't say whether you're on mac or pc) or get a standalone mic pre or two that absolutely rock. The SSL Alpha Channel is fab, the Neve Portico stuff for more money is awesome too.

Finally - PSP VW AND Waves C4 AND Waves L2? Three compressor/limiter stages? Are you nuts?? I'd dump L2 altogether, it doesn't do mixes any favours at all, and I'd dump C4 until you know what you're doing - even pro mastering engineers only use multiband compression in very limited instances and under very specific circumstances, usually to problem-solve. Vintage Warmer should give you all the mojo you need for now.

That's about all I can think of, and it's sort of a you-probably-won't-buy-all-at-once-unless-you-find-an-abandoned-bag-of-cash arrangement, but it's a good path to follow, and slowly your mixes will get better. For now, take pride in your ideas, and relish the fact that you can still create something that still sounds relatively pretty darn good even if you can't hit the same sheen as a professional major-label release.

Equipment is a large part of the equation, but your ears are the most important tool you have - and some experience won't hurt either, so practice, practice, practice.

Good luck!
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Old 29th July 2008 , 03:53 PM
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everyone should have some kind of acoustic treatment in there studio..and i dont mean the old myth of sticking aldi egg boxes too the walls

get some good insolating materials check the density..if its to thin or too soft its not much use you want firm but stil got a bit of spring too it.anything less than 2 inchs id avoid..around 2inchs (50mm)is a good balance for the average room.

now heres the hard bit ,everyone will tell you completely different prices or how much too spend and which is best. i spent around 3--400 pounds on inslutaing my room ..its 3m -2.5m size room.

and another good tip ive got is too fix the acoustic panels onto plaster board not directlly onto the walls ..

if you fix them too the walls youll need a good glue cheap stuff will just let them pop off after a few weeks.but remember if you really secure them too the walls if you ever wanna sell your house there a nightmare too get off and theyll leave ugly residue on the walls and in worst cases youll need to redecorate and replaster.

just get the acoustic tiles and fix them onto plaster boards ..the reason i used plaster boards is because of the extra insulation the plaster boards have between the tiles and the walls..the acoustics are very very nice in my room now.and also if you ever decide you want too move your studio or sell your house you can take the boards with you very easily.just take the screws out which fasten the boards too the walls out and thats it no major decorating needed and no acousic panels are damaged

the acoustic panels dv are selling are very good ones.one idea could be too measure your room ..then find the best places you think tiles would be of use too you then count how many tiles youll need .best go for square or oblong type areas.once you create the boards get some mates too help you ..sit in your studio chair have your studio on and playing music then ask your mates too move the boards slowly around the room when the sound from your monitors sounds better ask them too stop ,mark were they are,fix a board onto the wall then repeat until your happy with the results.

i know ive not gone into great detail with frequencys and such but i feel were acoustic treatment is concerned its upto personal preference which is something audio theroy cant give you because each room in everyones studio is different to another persons studio..some have windows some dont ..some have doors in different places..some rooms are bigger some rooms are taller..and only the person who lives in that room can know if something sounds good or not..i hope this helps
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Old 29th July 2008 , 04:13 PM
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Hey guys sorry for my ignorance and post steal for a sec (sorry PAFO) but how would a DAC converter make you system sound better and also mix down better?
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Old 29th July 2008 , 04:36 PM
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Hi Waxxy and Terminal 3

Thanks for all the advice. Unfortunately I am still looking out for that abandoned bag of cash but I will be able to take on some of the suggestions.

I will drop the multiband comp and the limiter. At times, I definitely sense in myself the urge to throw the kitchen sink at my mixes in the hope that one of the effects will have a magic "solve all mix problems" setting ;-)

I am planning to move my set up to another room in the near future and acoustic treatment was on my agenda; your comments more or less bumped it to the top of the list. A better mic is also a distinct possibility - any suggestions?? Please don't suggest a 1000 mic though, unless you can point me at where that bag of cash is lying around ;-) My budget wouldn't stretch much more than 150 - 200 max.

My monitors are Fostex PM05As, not the best but the best I could do for the money I had at the time. I bought them from DV in Birmingham and went there intending to buy Reveal 5As. However, after listening to a few others in the same price range and doing an AB comparison between the Reveal 5A, the Fostex PM05a and a higher end model (Mackie 626 or 624 can't remember now). The Fostex monitors seemed more accurate than the Reveals to my ear (i.e. more similar to the sound of the Mackies).

As for the rest (DAC, SSL / Neve pres) ... well I just came off the only web site where I'm likely to get them in the near future ... [url=http://www.national-lottery.co.uk]Home | The National Lottery[/url] ;-)

Thanks again for the very useful advice.

PAFO
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Old 29th July 2008 , 05:16 PM
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Quote:
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Hey guys sorry for my ignorance and post steal for a sec (sorry PAFO) but how would a DAC converter make you system sound better and also mix down better?
Some people say that adding a high-quality DAC to a system is 'like lifting a veil off of the mix.'

It gives you a more accurate representation of what you're actually working with, warts and all. Because you're getting a better "picture" of your mix, so to speak, you'll a) have an easier time telling where the flaws are and b) be able to make the correct mix decisions to make things sound better. When you make better decisions, mix translation is easier.

Indeed the people that listen to your stuff will not hear your DAC (they WILL hear your ADC) but you will be able to provide them with a no-excuses mix, because with room treatment, flat monitors and a great DAC, your sounds will be as true to the source as possible and thus you'll know exactly what to do to them to make them shine.
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Old 29th July 2008 , 05:20 PM
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@PAFO

The mic I generally recommend for starters is the CAD M179. It's been described as "a poor man's AKG 414" - versatile, sounds good on just about everything, multi-pattern, has a switchable pad & HPF, and I believe it should be around or less than 150 - check with your local DV shop.

You can buy the M177 too, same capsule but limited to a cardioid polar pattern , so if you want omni or super you've got to spend the (teeny bit!) of extra dosh for the 179.

Yes, there are better mics out there, but for the price this one can't be beaten IMHO, and it's worlds better than your C1.
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Old 29th July 2008 , 05:25 PM
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Quote:
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everyone should have some kind of acoustic treatment in there studio..and i dont mean the old myth of sticking aldi egg boxes too the walls
My sitting room is my "studio". I output with optical cable to my Quad CD player which has a great DAC. My hi-fi speakers therefore act as my monitors. Not ideal of course, but not too bad either. Quad hi-fi is known for it's quality and transparency.

I did wonder about room acoustics a couple of years ago when I upgraded my power amps and my speakers really started to perform. I wondered whether I needed some sort of bass traps and found a piece of software I could use to check the room acoustics.
Welcome to R+D
I bought the basic one user license of RPlusD and ran a test which did clearly show problems in the 50hz to 60hz range. I was in the middle of redecorating at the time so put off doing another test until I had moved all soft furnishings back in to the room.

Personally, I like the idea of having the RPlusD software. If I had my own studio I would of course have professionals advise on the acoustic set up of the room(s) but I would still like to have software on hand so I could run a check any time.
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Old 29th July 2008 , 06:33 PM
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pafo i told understand your situation mate im in the same boat..

i know you realize that if you had more expensive gear your mixes would soound more pro sounding but the gear you have isnt crap its good.the monitors your using arnt crappy ones ..mine are broke so im using hifi speakers ! so your better than me lol.. the thing about having alot of great vsts is you think you need too use them all but its best using some vst compressors sparinglly some do more damage than fix the problems.

a thing you could try too help you mix better is listen too cds threw the same set of monitors and try and adjust your mixes acordingly.youll get a better sounding mix if youve got a bench mark too set yours at.

if you want your sng too sound like a trance cd then get your favourite cd play it threw your desk and hear what sets it apart from yours ..is it the mid,top or bass range that are different if so pause the cd then play your song and adjust the ranges you find fault in and with each adjustment save your track as different versions so you can compare them again days later ..hope this helps and dont worry your set ups fine
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Old 29th July 2008 , 10:58 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by waxxy View Post
pafo i told understand your situation mate im in the same boat..

i know you realize that if you had more expensive gear your mixes would soound more pro sounding but the gear you have isnt crap its good.the monitors your using arnt crappy ones ..mine are broke so im using hifi speakers ! so your better than me lol.. the thing about having alot of great vsts is you think you need too use them all but its best using some vst compressors sparinglly some do more damage than fix the problems.

a thing you could try too help you mix better is listen too cds threw the same set of monitors and try and adjust your mixes acordingly.youll get a better sounding mix if youve got a bench mark too set yours at.

if you want your sng too sound like a trance cd then get your favourite cd play it threw your desk and hear what sets it apart from yours ..is it the mid,top or bass range that are different if so pause the cd then play your song and adjust the ranges you find fault in and with each adjustment save your track as different versions so you can compare them again days later ..hope this helps and dont worry your set ups fine
Indeed its all about reference at the end of the day, you can have the room and the gear but if you havent spent time with your monitors in that set up well your not gonna get the best from it. I dont have great monitors by any sense of the word but ive had 5 years with them in many different setups and i know their general characteristics. Generally when i move into a new setup i just spend the first month or so listening to every CD i wanna listen to through them and get a feel for how things are sounding.

Most of the set ups ive had havent had acoustic treatment other than plastering the walls in posters and flags in order to try and stop some of the nastier more obvious room effects but ive managed to get some fairly balanced mixes just by knowing the character of my monitors. having 2 sets helps also, i use an old technics amp with some mordaunt shorts as another point of reference and again with those i spent a fair while getting used to them and between the 2 sets i can pick most things out and see whats what. Just sit down with all your favourite albums and have a mass listening session over the period of a few weeks and you'll soon be able to pick up on what your monitors are doing and then compare that to mixes youve done.
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Old 30th July 2008 , 11:11 AM
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Hey guys could anyone point me in the direction of any good DAC's?
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Old 30th July 2008 , 11:19 AM
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Quote:
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Hey guys could anyone point me in the direction of any good DAC's?
Here's a list of some good standalone DACs. Some of these are better than others in the list, it depends on what features you need and also how much you wanna spend! The Lucid is definitely at the low end, whereas the Weiss/Prism/Lavry stuff is generally seen as top of the heap. All of them will be an upgrade on consumer-level audio interface DACs. Just feed your S/PDIF out to one of these boxes and plug in your monitors.

Lucid DA9624
Sonifex RB-DAC1
Benchmark DAC-1
Mytek Stereo96 DAC (or better)
Apogee MiniDAC (or better)
Lavry Black DA10 (black is their 'low-end', blue is their 'mid-range' and Gold is their 'no-compromise' line of converters)

Any DAC by Weiss
Prism Dream DA-2

(by 'or better' I mean that these manufacturers often have even better models for more money, or multi-channel versions, etc).
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