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Author Topic: hey, where's the vocals?  (Read 1406 times)

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Offline nulldogmas

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hey, where's the vocals?
« on: January 31, 2016, 12:22:00 PM »
I just had a cable (dual-RCA-to-stereo-1/8") fail in an odd way: While recording off the board, it seemingly converted the stereo signal to mono, only with the vocals almost entirely dropped out — there's a bit of vocal reverb, but almost no vocal signal. Guitars and all else sound fine.

I assume this has something to do with adding together the two channels of a balanced signal, so that anything dead on-center (i.e., vocals) gets canceled out. But 1) what kind of damage would cause a cable to do this and 2) is there an easy way for me to test cables for this at home, without anything that outputs a balanced signal?

Offline yousef

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Re: hey, where's the vocals?
« Reply #1 on: January 31, 2016, 12:58:59 PM »
The RCA outputs couldn't possibly be balanced...

Are you getting exactly the same content in each of your stereo channels? If not, try reversing the phase in one of them.

I think the worst case scenario is that the cable shorted out in such a way that both left and right outputs were combined and delivered to both your left and right inputs out of phase and thus losing forever anything that was equally present in the original left and right channels.
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Offline nulldogmas

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Re: hey, where's the vocals?
« Reply #2 on: January 31, 2016, 02:09:28 PM »

Are you getting exactly the same content in each of your stereo channels? If not, try reversing the phase in one of them.

I think the worst case scenario is that the cable shorted out in such a way that both left and right outputs were combined and delivered to both your left and right inputs out of phase and thus losing forever anything that was equally present in the original left and right channels.

Okay, this is even weirder now: The L and R channels are almost exact inverses of each other, but each of them has the same problem with the missing vocals. Here's a sample:

https://soundcloud.com/nulldogmas/cable-problem-sample

I suppose if one channel ended up with L minus R, and the other R minus L, this could be the result. Could a cable short do that?

Offline flipp

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Re: hey, where's the vocals?
« Reply #3 on: January 31, 2016, 04:42:02 PM »
Are you sure it's a cable problem, ie have you tested the cable since you made this recording?

From your desciption it could be the internal routing of the board was fubarred somehow; though it has been my experience that the vocals are very prevalent and it is instruments left out of the board mix, not the other way around as in your case

Offline johnfitz

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Re: hey, where's the vocals?
« Reply #4 on: January 31, 2016, 06:28:26 PM »
I had that happen to me once, about 20 years ago recording to DAT.

Board tape sounded great, but with very little to no vocals in the mix.

Always just figured it was just something funky in the feed I was getting.

Only time I ever recorded at that club so I don't have any subsequent experience to compare that night to...

Offline yousef

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Re: hey, where's the vocals?
« Reply #5 on: January 31, 2016, 07:35:35 PM »
Another vote for the board's routing being to blame here.

The only similar thing that has happened to me was due to the phase being reversed on one channel of a stereo keyboard signal. It was a multitrack recording so easy to rectify but if we'd have been recording a straight stereo mixdown I think the keys would have been all but absent.
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Offline nulldogmas

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Re: hey, where's the vocals?
« Reply #6 on: January 31, 2016, 08:55:21 PM »
It's happened with this cable, to varying degrees, on three different boards now — this was by far the worst, but the two other times it was similar problems: overly quiet and reverby main vocals, everything else sounds fine. Which made no sense at the time — if the lead vocals weren't in the mix, how did I hear them in the room? But I wrote those times off as crappy board mixes, and didn't suspect the cable.

After last night's recording went awry, I immediately tried recording from a tape deck to my M10 with both the suspicious cable and another one I know is good, and the results definitely sound different, though I haven't replicated the full cancellation effect yet. Let me run some more tests and post the results here.

Offline nulldogmas

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Re: hey, where's the vocals?
« Reply #7 on: January 31, 2016, 09:19:03 PM »
Okay, here we go:

https://soundcloud.com/nulldogmas/sets/good-cable-vs-bad-cable-test

Same TASCAM cassette player, same M10 recorder, same settings on each, same source (cassette of Blondie's "Hanging on the Telephone" that was the first pre-recorded cassette within reach), different RCA-to-1/8" cables. As you can hear, there's definitely *something* bad going on with Bad Cable, though I couldn't begin to tell you what.

Offline vanark

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Re: hey, where's the vocals?
« Reply #8 on: January 31, 2016, 11:10:37 PM »
It shouldn't be difficult to replace the cable now that you've determined there is an issue. I would just retire it and move on at this point.
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Offline nulldogmas

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Re: hey, where's the vocals?
« Reply #9 on: January 31, 2016, 11:24:58 PM »
It shouldn't be difficult to replace the cable now that you've determined there is an issue. I would just retire it and move on at this point.

But then where's the part where I edumacate myself from the experience?

Offline flipp

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Re: hey, where's the vocals?
« Reply #10 on: February 01, 2016, 05:17:51 AM »
It shouldn't be difficult to replace the cable now that you've determined there is an issue. I would just retire it and move on at this point.

But then where's the part where I edumacate myself from the experience?

I'm pretty much with vanark on this one. Personally the only way I would spend more time on the cable is if it has openable connectors, ie see if there is a bad solder joint, a frayed or loose wire that has one small strand shorting against a conductor that should be isolated etc. If it is a premade mass market cable with sealed/molded ends then any further time spent on it is wasted imo.

Offline nulldogmas

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Re: hey, where's the vocals?
« Reply #11 on: February 01, 2016, 07:31:29 AM »
The cable in question has been in the garbage since before I even opened this thread, and a new one is on order. (I have a spare that seems to work, but I figure it's worth $7 for the piece of mind of brand-new.)

I'm still curious what exactly went wrong and whether I need to worry about it ever happening again, but if no one else has anything else to add, I'm happy enough to chalk it up to cable gremlins and move on.

 

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