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Offline Patrick

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Mastering Help?
« on: December 28, 2005, 04:59:15 PM »
I've got a Sigur Ros tape that I stealthed last September.  This band can (and does, regularly) go from whisper quiet sections of songs to "balls to the wall" loud, it's an amazing juxtaposition that is great when hearing live, but it's a BITCH to tape.

Anyways, because it was stealthed with non stealth equipment, I had no way to check levels.

The highest level of music reaches at about -2db, and the quietest music segment is in the area of -36 db.  It's a huge difference and I am having no luck setting a respectable gain level.

Should i try normalizing?  I just would really hate for noise to be introduced, since some of the tape was recorded so low. 

Any hints?  Anyone want to take on the job  ;)
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Offline ashevillain

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Re: Mastering Help?
« Reply #1 on: December 28, 2005, 06:22:24 PM »
I wouldn't do anything except maybe add 2dB to the whole show. But even that is really unnecessary...just turn up the volume on playback. I like dynamics in my recordings....that's one argument against "riding the levels" whilst recording a show...no dynamics...if you were gonna do that, you might as well have cranked the levels and used the input limiter (although I've never used a UA-5 so I don't even know if it has one). I've known one taper that uses an AD1000 and he just cranks the levels with the soft-limit on. The waveform looks squared off and there are no dynamics...all music is at the same level. I don't like it. This is in my non-professional opinion.

Offline admkrk

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Re: Mastering Help?
« Reply #2 on: December 28, 2005, 07:22:47 PM »
I wouldn't do anything except maybe add 2dB to the whole show. But even that is really unnecessary...just turn up the volume on playback. I like dynamics in my recordings....that's one argument against "riding the levels" whilst recording a show...no dynamics...if you were gonna do that, you might as well have cranked the levels and used the input limiter (although I've never used a UA-5 so I don't even know if it has one). I've known one taper that uses an AD1000 and he just cranks the levels with the soft-limit on. The waveform looks squared off and there are no dynamics...all music is at the same level. I don't like it. This is in my non-professional opinion.

agreed,  if it was ment to be all at one level then the band would've played it that way.

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Offline wbrisette

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Re: Mastering Help?
« Reply #3 on: December 29, 2005, 10:17:01 AM »
agreed,  if it was ment to be all at one level then the band would've played it that way.

By definition, true mastering is not making all the levels the same. It's keeping the dynamics of the recording while making it better. What better is, is a whole other story. The recording industry has made it so that everything is so lacking in dynamics these days that it's not funny. The recent Simple Minds CD "Black & White 050505" is a great example. When I brought in a track to sample for my cell phone ringtone, I noticed that it was like a solid mass of black on my screen. A total lack of dynamics throughout the song and in fact the rest of the CD is the same way. It's a real shame.

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Offline Brian Skalinder

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Re: Mastering Help?
« Reply #4 on: December 29, 2005, 12:24:27 PM »
The highest level of music reaches at about -2db, and the quietest music segment is in the area of -36 db.  It's a huge difference and I am having no luck setting a respectable gain level.

Should i try normalizing?  I just would really hate for noise to be introduced, since some of the tape was recorded so low. 

Any hints?

Sounds like you want to reduce the dynamic range, i.e. the difference between the loudest and softest parts.  Try applying compression and gain.  The compression will lower the loud parts relative to the quiet parts and the gain will bump the overall levels up (a la normalization).  Toy around with different compression ratios and thresholds until you find a combination that works for you.
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Offline John Kelly

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Re: Mastering Help?
« Reply #5 on: December 30, 2005, 12:39:54 AM »
The highest level of music reaches at about -2db, and the quietest music segment is in the area of -36 db.  It's a huge difference and I am having no luck setting a respectable gain level.

Should i try normalizing?  I just would really hate for noise to be introduced, since some of the tape was recorded so low. 

Any hints?

Sounds like you want to reduce the dynamic range, i.e. the difference between the loudest and softest parts.  Try applying compression and gain.  The compression will lower the loud parts relative to the quiet parts and the gain will bump the overall levels up (a la normalization).  Toy around with different compression ratios and thresholds until you find a combination that works for you.

Doing this will also increase the noise, since when you add the gain to compensate for the compression the noise floor moves up with it.  Of course you may not notice depending on how hard you decide to compress.

I would leave it as it is - that's how it was performed. ;)
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Offline Brian Skalinder

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Re: Mastering Help?
« Reply #6 on: December 30, 2005, 01:28:17 AM »
Doing this will also increase the noise, since when you add the gain to compensate for the compression the noise floor moves up with it.  Of course you may not notice depending on how hard you decide to compress.

Yup, it'll add noise.  And Kohn is right - how hard you compress will have an impact on whether or not it's noticeable, as will the recording gear you use that determines the noise floor in the first place, as will the playback gear you use.  IME with the T+ UA5 and V3 as pre/ADC, I've not yet heard any audible increase in noise.  Then again, I rarely apply compression, and when I do it's usually pretty minimal.

If you find the dynamic range too broad for your listening pleasure, Patrick, I still recommend toying around to see if you find a level of compression / gain you like.  There's a lot of middle ground between the full dynamic range of the performance as recorded and compressing the snot out of it so there's damn near no dynamic range (a la the Simple Minds disc example).  Just because it was performed at that dynamic range doesn't mean that's the best way to listen to the recording for your ears.

For experimenting with compression, start by picking the loudest section of the recording and applying different levels of compression and gain - ratio & threshold and gain.  The threshold defines the point above which compression is applied.  The ratio determines how much to compress the data that falls above the threshold.  The gain defines how much to boost the resulting waveform after applying compression.  So find a ratio/threshold combination you like on the loudest section.  Determine how much gain to apply given your compression ratio/threshold.  Then apply the compression and gain to a larger section that spans the loudest and quietest section of the recording to get a feel for how it impacts the overall dynamic range.  Repeat until you find a configuration that works for you.

If the compression is audible - i.e. it sounds very "flat", or pulses, or generates other artifacts - either <a> you've applied too much compression, or <b> you need a better compressor (or both).  Once you find a ratio/threshold that seems reasonable to your ears, identify how much gain you then need to apply to that section in order to bring your peaks back to 0dB.

For example, let's say the loudest section peaks at -2 dB and the quietest section bottoms out at -36 dB.  That's a dynamic range of 34 dB.  If you settle on a compression ratio of 2:1 with -12 dB threshold, it may reduce the loudest part from -2 dB to -6 dB, for a 4dB reduction in dynamic range.  (Now your dynamic range is only 30 dB v. the original 34).  Since your loudest section now tops out at -6 dB, you'd then apply ~6 dB of gain to the entire recording to get your peaks back up to ~0 dB.  Of course, the 6dB of gain would also increase the quietest section from -36 dB to -30 dB.  While a 4 dB reduction in dynamic range may not sound like a lot, it may have a significant impact on your listening experience (it is, after all, a 1/9 reduction in dynamic range from the original recording).
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Offline udovdh

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Re: Mastering Help?
« Reply #7 on: December 30, 2005, 04:57:40 AM »
Just compress the stuff a little.

Offline stlram

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Re: Mastering Help?
« Reply #8 on: December 30, 2005, 09:26:54 AM »
Compression is the death of music! Even if you do add compression, which I wouldn't, it will have an unwanted effect on other qualities of the recording that you may not want, timbres, sound stage, ect. There is no free lunch.

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Re: Mastering Help?
« Reply #9 on: December 30, 2005, 10:42:38 AM »
I agree with Brian.  As would pretty much anyone else who has ever worked in a real studio.  It's sad that the "loudness wars" have led to a no-compression cult when the reality is that appropriate and judicious compression is an essential ingredient of most good recordings.

But your tapes sound good without compression? Well that's because it was already applied in the PA system, possibly tons of it, along with eq, sonic maximizers, and possibly delay and other effects.  You'd think the sound sucked it they didn't.  And if the live engineer botched it, you very well might be able to fix it rather than listen to poor tape.  Or you might not be able to, since you can only compress the entire mix, not individual channels.  It all depends.

I have to wonder how many of the people who have chimed in to bash compression on the various threads on this subject, here and on other boards, have ever had their hands on a pro quality compressor and been instructed how to apply it.  Compression, like eq, is NOT bad.  Cheap and/or misapplied compression is.  Knee-jerk responses that one should never apply compression and always leave things as is especially when made WITHOUT HAVING EVEN HEARD THE SUBJECT RECORDING!!!  are ridiculous.

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Offline it-goes-to-eleven

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Re: Mastering Help?
« Reply #10 on: December 30, 2005, 11:01:00 AM »
But your tapes sound good without compression? Well that's because it was already applied in the PA system, possibly tons of it, along with eq, sonic maximizers, and possibly delay and other effects.  You'd think the sound sucked it they didn't.

I guess it depends on how bad the artist sucks.

With good performers, you don't need any of those effects.

Given a choice, I'll take my bluegrass, folk, blues, etc, without PA and processing every time.. Unless the peformer sucks.

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Offline stlram

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Re: Mastering Help?
« Reply #11 on: December 30, 2005, 12:44:11 PM »
When multi tracking the use of compression "maybe" a tool that is used for drums, bass, a vocalist that doesn't know how to use a vocal mic and other such situations. Yes, many engineers use compression, reverb, echo, exciters, maximizers, ect. and it often, IMO, effects the music in a negative way. However, I don't.

I do a live music radio broadcast every Saturday, for "Crossing Borders", which can be streamed via the internet from 8:00pm to 10:00pm. The shows has had a wide variety of artists, locally, nationally and golble, from solo's to chiors to larger 8 piece bands. I never use compression even on the drums and have found that with proper mic'ing tech. compression can be avoided. I do a 96/24 multi channel/two track recording and we run a back up 48/24 muti-track/channel, which gets mixed after the show. The person that mixes the multitrack down adds what he thinks is necessary to get the sound he likes. When I compare the muti-track to my hi-rez two tracks I most often prefer my two tracks due to what every effect takes away from the recording.

Now, I have been guilty of adding some reverb to over dry recordings but usually it is avoidable with a properly placed ambient mic mix.

For 2 channels it is very difficult to add any effects without messing up other aspects of the recording. Also, the poster didn't say the recording sucked, just that it had a wide dynamic range, which should pay off on a high rez playback system, which is why I recommended staying away from compression for his recording, but hey, it is his recording and if he wants to play it backwards or inside out so be it.

To summarize, affects work better with multitracked than with 2 channel recordings. When you add an affect to a two track recording it walks all over other varables that oftne don't require it, thus often negatively affecting the overall recording. IMO.

BTW, If you are near your computer the New Years Eve stream Crossing Borders to hear the Bulgarian Wedding BeBop Band featuring Ivo Papasov. This is very dynamic stuff with no compression or EQ'ing. I'll leave it to your ears whether you think the recording is any good. But I feel you would be impressed.

Offline stlram

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Re: Mastering Help?
« Reply #12 on: December 30, 2005, 12:45:32 PM »
When multi tracking the use of compression "maybe" a tool that is used for drums, bass, a vocalist that doesn't know how to use a vocal mic and other such situations. Yes, many engineers use compression, reverb, echo, exciters, maximizers, ect. and it often, IMO, effects the music in a negative way. However, I don't.

I do a live music radio broadcast every Saturday, for "Crossing Borders", which can be streamed via the internet from 8:00pm to 10:00pm. The shows has had a wide variety of artists, locally, nationally and golble, from solo's to chiors to larger 8 piece bands. I never use compression even on the drums and have found that with proper mic'ing tech. compression can be avoided. I do a 96/24 multi channel/two track recording and we run a back up 48/24 muti-track/channel, which gets mixed after the show. The person that mixes the multitrack down adds what he thinks is necessary to get the sound he likes. When I compare the muti-track to my hi-rez two tracks I most often prefer my two tracks due to what every effect takes away from the recording.

Now, I have been guilty of adding some reverb to over dry recordings but usually it is avoidable with a properly placed ambient mic mix.

For 2 channels it is very difficult to add any effects without messing up other aspects of the recording. Also, the poster didn't say the recording sucked, just that it had a wide dynamic range, which should pay off on a high rez playback system, which is why I recommended staying away from compression for his recording, but hey, it is his recording and if he wants to play it backwards or inside out so be it.

To summarize, affects work better with multitracked than with 2 channel recordings. When you add an affect to a two track recording it walks all over other varables that oftne don't require it, thus often negatively affecting the overall recording. IMO.

BTW, If you are near your computer the New Years Eve stream Crossing Borders to hear the Bulgarian Wedding BeBop Band featuring Ivo Papasov. This is very dynamic stuff with no compression or EQ'ing. I'll leave it to your ears whether you think the recording is any good. But I feel you would be impressed.

 

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