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Mixing Discussion => Mixing Talk => Topic started by: imispgh on September 11, 2011, 10:21:56 PM

Title: Too much bad sounding stuff out there - a root cause?
Post by: imispgh on September 11, 2011, 10:21:56 PM
I originally posted this topic on Mike Senior's thread for his book and song mixing competition for the book.  Given the audience is bigger here I figured I would post the thread here. For reference I was commenting on the quality of the entries in the contest. That thread can be found here
http://mixoff.org/index.php/topic,87.450.html
---------
I just finished the article, listening to the songs and reading the comments.

First - Mike you sir have the patience of Job.  You did a lot of work, treated people with respect and took the time to try to help a lot of people. You are a good man (Love the book)

I gotta say, and there is no way this comes off good because I am not a credentialed producer etc, But I am SURPRISED at truly how bad most of these sound and not how dead on - every single time - Mike is, but how easy it was for him. (Yes I am going to post a version here myself. I just found out about all of this). I would have thought people who thought they were good enough to post on a thread like this would all be good and the differences would be matters of taste and subjectivity. NOPE - the problems are VERY easy to hear.  Given that I think there is a huge major root cause. The underlying problem is that people are getting used to crappy audio (while they crave better quality video).  Our reference for what good audio sounds like is rapidly changing for the worst.  Yes I am an audiophile but I am not suggesting one only listen to music recorded without amplification or that people spend their life's savings on equipment.  But clearly something has to be done.  I have one high end system, two sets of headphones and my monitoring system and each, while different, would have allowed me to come to the exact same conclusion.  Why? because I have educated myself on what sounds like what and what sounds good. And most importantly I take the time, especially with room systems, to engineer the room as well as the system correctly.  An OK system in a great sounding room and set up always crushes an incredible system in an average or poor room - especially below 300hz and reflection issues like comb filtering.  While everyone has different tastes in music and how things can or should sound the majority of the music in this thread is nowhere close enough to what sounds good to argue those points.  Yes it sounds elitist and this direct and straight talk should be coming from a verified professional in the business.  BUT let me say this. Even in the "high end" industry and even, believe it or not, most musicians and recording professionals have no idea what sounds good either because their equipment and rooms are crap too.  But the issue is not that they can't understand what good or right is. I would BET it is because they have literally NEVER been exposed or educated on what I am talking about.  it is not an issue of intelligence or desire. It is an issue of EXPOSURE.

If you made it this far in my post and can get passed the directness, the fact that I am not someone in the business, your own ego to some degree and what I would assume is coming off (unfortunately) as arrogant (Or hypocritical or insane if you listen to my songs and think they are crap) on my part please AT THE VERY LEAST be open for a second to the fact that I MAY be right.  And if you can do that take a shot at experiencing what I am talking about.  (A long time ago I thought I had my crap together too. Hell I even used to repair and align stereo equipment.  Then after a while equipment came in I never heard of - NAD, McIntosh, Spica etc.  I thought my Carver, JBL etc were it.  While those companies have made some good stuff it was the companies that i never heard of who made the great stuff, it doesn't have to cost much more and if set up right - WHICH IS MOST IMPORTANT- can result in huge differences.

There are so few people, professional or otherwise, that get this right that I would have no idea where to send you. Hell even most high end stereo stores sound like crap.  The best I can suggest is a good pair of headphones.  Most of the issues experienced in this thread would be caught by them.  And after you get a pair I would like to suggest you listen to some specific music - listed below. As for headphones there are a bunch of good ones.  Cost is usually, though not always, somewhat proportional to quality.  I have Sennheiser 280s (which I think are a tad bass light) and the amazing Klipsch S-4s which are a tad bass heavy.  The last tip I will give you, and Mike covers all of this great in his book, is to listen in nearfield to eliminate as much of the room as possible. If you equipment is OK and you can't treat your room this will help.  AND unless you know what good sounds like or ran sweeps (assuming you have not identified a specific hearing loss issue) do this listening with everything flat tone control wise. (Oh yeah - and listen loud enough for it all to "pop" in. You can tell. There is a volume where most music sounds right. Too low and due to your bell curve hearing too much is missed)

Music - I tried to very my taste and admit there isn't too much new stuff I play
Cowboy Junkies - Trinity Sessions - DAT recorder with one mic. Amazing. The tone is right and you can hear the room they are in.  Has to be the best minimalist recording ever - or darn close to it. This one is a must.

Stevie Ray Vaughn - Texas Flood - song Tin Pan Alley - The drums are processed a bit much but loud there impact is amazing

Xavier Rudd - Dark Shades of Blue - songs Dark Water and Dark Shades of Blue

Steely Dan - Two Against Nature and  Everything Must Go

Mermen - most of their stuff is great but try Food for Other Fishes

Tracy Chapman - first album self titled

Paul Speer and Scott Rockenfield - Hell's Canyon - High end is a tough recessed but it's amazing instrumental rock and sounds great cranked

Chris Rea - Road to Hell

Rush - Moving Pictures and Snakes and Arrows

And the wining songs from this thread/contest. Again you don't have to like them but you do need to understand how and WHY they won and sound good.

And to be fair since I have opened my big mouth HUGE here I am providing a link to some songs I created.  Some are just NINJAM jams I tweaked and others are originals. Like I said I will post the song from this thread here so to put my capabilities where my mouth is. (Unfortunately these are Mp3s. The wavs will sound better but not result in a drastic earth shattering difference)

http://www.icompositions.com/artists/imispgh
Title: Re: Too much bad sounding stuff out there - a root cause?
Post by: JohnSuitcase on September 11, 2011, 11:32:02 PM
I think one of the main mistakes that people make (myself included) is a failure to reference frequently while mixing.  OUr ears adjust to the frequency curves of our mixes so quickly that after 10 minutes, things sound good, even if they're out of wack.

I'm looking forward to hearing your mix, as well as Mike Senior's, which he has said will be the subject of an upcoming Mix Rescue article!
Title: Re: Too much bad sounding stuff out there - a root cause?
Post by: imispgh on September 11, 2011, 11:46:53 PM
I think one of the main mistakes that people make (myself included) is a failure to reference frequently while mixing.  OUr ears adjust to the frequency curves of our mixes so quickly that after 10 minutes, things sound good, even if they're out of wack.

I'm looking forward to hearing your mix, as well as Mike Senior's, which he has said will be the subject of an upcoming Mix Rescue article!

So am I after what I posted. Hopefully it will not be a case of open mouth insert mixer and laptop

While I agree with you in the micro I think you excuse too much in the macro.

Some of those mixes were way off for the genre.  If one hears enough of the wide range of what is truly Good then I think the switching you refer to is needed for tweaking. If one has to visit for major changes something is off. Having said that however one does have to start somewhere and until you are accustom to what is Good then you are dead on. Keep switching.  (I like to switch mediums to do this too. It forces a delay to put on headsets or move to a different system. Forces a little recalibration.)

I would like to make one more comment on what Good is.  It is determined a lot if not predominately in the macro by genre.  The suggestions I made for Good recordings are not hugely different in the macro by genre differences.  Now one can screw all of them up by making some major offenses but short of that recalibration by genre is needed and too be honest I have so little experience in some I am not qualified to opine on them and would probably make the mistake of applying my normal biases to them and pick something the majority of the faithful would say was horrible.
Title: Re: Too much bad sounding stuff out there - a root cause?
Post by: JohnSuitcase on September 12, 2011, 12:29:01 AM
I should also point out that most of the mixers on this forum are not pro's getting paid big bucks for mixing. I try to encourage everyone to post their mixes, even if they're not great, as it gives a good opportunity for feedback from others, with real objective mixes to compare to. Unlike most forums, where advice is given in the abstract, generally. Getting feedback from someone like Mike is valuable for anyone, pro or rank amateur. I don't think being a quality mixer should be a prerequisite for posting here.

You're probably right about getting things close just based on experience (assuming you have the skills to get the results you want.) But things like tubby bass, or harsh highs, etc can often be a result of fatigue, or not referencing, or just not knowing what to listen for, or how to correct it.

I appreciate your post, and it's an interesting line of thought. Surely we can all benefit from conscientious listening to quality work on decent quality monitors/headphones, etc.
Title: Re: Too much bad sounding stuff out there - a root cause?
Post by: LCressy on September 13, 2011, 02:17:12 PM
To the OP, I would agree with your observation, but I disagree as to the root cause. Most of the people I know recording are actually musicians that want to record themselves, so they start out not as an engineer, but rather a musician. They naively go into Guitar Center and ask what equipment is needed to record, then purchase an mbox, computer, headphones, monitors, some cables and a mic. They spend between 5-10K, with the resolve that they now have a recording studio, and so the journey begins.
I have no doubt that when these people are making the recordings, it sounds really good to them in their rooms, it's when it leaves their rooms where the problems begin, in the translation. There is nothing exciting about hanging rockwool on your walls, but a new reverb unit, monitors, etc., that's "cool", but it takes a person some time to realize how important the room is, and learning what a good starting sound is, in terms of the recording. What sounds good live may not translate to a good sound in a recording. For me, I post mixes not as a competition, but more to see how things are translating to others, in order to improve my room and my ears. When I first started getting paid for small projects, I would take all the money I got, and paid that to a ME so I could learn what I may have missed - money well spent. 
      I am curious to hear your mix as well, because as an audiophile, working in a tuned room, your mix may be sonically more balanced, but you, not being a musician, will probably be weak on the "vibe", "Feel", and "pocket" areas, which would be expected since you have spent more time on learning about acoustics, and where they have spent more time on learning to play an instrument. Neither is better, just different sides of the same coin - I believe you need both, and that takes time.  And to be clear, I am not disagreeing with your orignial post, just the cause of the problem. I think that this site, allowing people to submit their mixes, recieving feedback and teaching about bass traps, phase cancelation, etc, is the thing that needs to happen. It is the solution that you are asking for. How else would we as hobbyists learn that? When I have the raw tracks, make a mix, then have the opportunity to hear another version that sounds better/different it leads me to ask why, then find the solution. It' part of the process and some are further along than others.
     I just spent $7k on wood floors in my room, and finally have it measuring +/- 10 db from 50hz up to 10K, and then after that it goes up another 2 db until 20k, but it took me quite a while to figure that out, let alone why that was important. It was hard at first to spend the money on traps, when it would be more fun to get a new mic, or some API pres, or whatever. However, now I have no surprises with my mix. Having the room flat, is simply amazing. FYI - I am monitoring through Dynaudio BM5A's, Benchmark DAC, Velodyne Sub have 6 Bass Traps, 8 2" panels and 2 auralex roominator kits. I just pulled out the carpet and put in the wood, and now I feel i can hear everything. I do have a dip in my hearing around 3-4k of around 20 db, from playing loud guitar, so the carpet, with that hearing loss was a struggle.

P.S. - I took it from your post that you are not a musician, but an audiophile and the songs you had posted were mixes that you did, not played. If in fact you are a player, I didn't mean any offense, just didn't get that impression.












In the game of golf for example, to lower your score, you need to putt really well, not drive 350 yards - but - on a driving range, everyone is trying to drive 350 yards and noone is on the putting green. Why? Because they haven't been playing the game long enough to figure that out or
Title: Re: Too much bad sounding stuff out there - a root cause?
Post by: imispgh on September 13, 2011, 04:13:40 PM
LCressy excellent post

I do play drums and harmonica but am not a musician yet. I prefer to compose, arrange and mix.  And I do none of those professionally yet. I did do some of the drums for some of my recordings.  However you are correct I am working at this backwards compared to most.  From the listener to player etc
The gist of my point was that musical sound quality is degrading over time and it is not mostly by choice but by lack of understanding and exposure.  As you say most of the people in this business start out as musicians and get excited by the musicianship in their recordings not the sound quality.  Hell that applies to most professionals too.  Having said this if one wants to sell one creates what the masses (kids) like.  I wonder though if the kids were educated would things still be this way? Would they give up the cheap headsets and low bit rate Mp3s.  (I think the small resurgence of vinyl among the young shows that when exposed many are open minded enough to get it and make a change. Of course the issue is how to expose them. And maybe the best case in point. HDTV.  The same people who are allowing and contributing to music sounding worse are driving video quality higher.  Why?  Exposure to what is real or good.  We constantly see what real is. As such we are very familiar with what good is. Therefore we know that HDTV, for the average person, is photo quality and that a human and a tree look real give or take an inch, between the HDTV and the person or tree standing next to us. If the same people had similar exposure to audio that would follow HDTV)
My issue is not that what I hear should sound the way I like or even that it sound "Good". My problem is more with how it got there and if the artists were exposed to what is "Good" would it sound better.  You are right me or any audiophile could put purity ahead of feel.  Again I am not saying that Good is always those qualities an audiophile might like.  But KNOWING and understanding what and why things can sound that way is key.  The choice should be an informed one.  Why? Because even if your choice would still be the same I bet that choice would even be modified a bit to sound better even if the sound one creates is a he departure from what an audiophile might like. My bet is that over half of the poor sounding entries in Mike's contest are due to lack of understanding in how it could sound. (And here's one for you. I listened to the artists version of the song for the first time last night.  It’s good. It defiantly has that modern pop rock feel. But I think the kick drum is out of place. Not because it isn't to an audiophiles liking but because I that sound doesn't match the genre or the music they created.  Now of course that is a choice and if it is an informed one on their part that's fine.  To each his own)
I agree with your point about getting the room right and that it is not a cheap, fun (in most case) or even pleasant thing to look at when you do it right. And that is obviously one of the big reasons it isn’t more popular.  Like I said and I am sure you agree. Truly good sounding systems in good sounding rooms is VERY rare. As such I my suggestion to give these people exposure is to try good headphones  first along with truly “Good” recording AND most importantly someone to point out what to listen for and then for them to switch to something that clearly isn’t good as a juxtaposition.  An example. Years back several friends of mine knew I was in to high end stereos. So they ask me what to buy. I told them that they can find something much better and not pay much more than they did for the usual brands.  All I said I wanted them to do was listen to my system then one at a high end store and be open minded – using their own material and mine.   In every case where they did as I suggested they were flabbergasted and bought the “high end” system. And didn’t pay a bunch. The key was they were open minded and they spent the couple of hours.  If most musicians and recording industry professionals did the same it would be eye opening.  To me the key is what do these people play their music on at home. If it is crap in a crappy room then they are either uninformed or informed and don’t care. Neither is good.  Why? Because even if the music they create isn’t audiophile like at all either by choice or because genre wise it shouldn’t be its sound will still suffer because they are not informed.
Your system and the work you did to get the set up right is excellent.  I am glad to hear you hear the difference and enjoy it.  The area below 300hz and first order comb reflections are key. (And so many people miss the floor and ceiling relative to those points. If you can see your speakers in a mirror then absorb all sound at those points. And that includes seeing both speakers). Those bass problems force people to lower the overall bass to compensate so they lose a lot or they can’t adjust it, buy too much speaker for the room, and have mud.

“I have no doubt that when these people are making the recordings, it sounds really good to them in their rooms, it's when it leaves their rooms where the problems begin, in the translation. “
But does it sound good to them because their references are crap and it’s proportional?  As for leaving their rooms 99.9% of people who listen to music, even musicians, have crappy systems in crappy set ups (which is worse) and because it is what everyone else has and thinks is  good too - they think it is good.  As such it never sounded really good in the first place. It was better than very bad. So when they go somewhere else if does get worse as you say but it didn’t go from good to bad it went from bad to worse. It’s relative.
As for my mix of  “Blood to Bone” I am working on it.  Boy did I set my self a freaking high bar?.  I have no doubt it will sound better than most.  And that is surely not because I have more skill than the others. I truly don’t have a fraction of their experience with the tools and what they can do.  It will sound better because I can employ enough rudimentary tools to make it sound better than bad- probably tonally (as you guessed) and to some degree arrangement wise.  As for meeting today’s kids expectations it won’t be there.  I am choosing to do a version I like as opposed to copying what the band normally does.  Maybe I will work on that one next.  Lastly unless I hear something huge in a timing area I am not going to worry about timing. It’s a human band who I assume play live. I prefer those types of recording to sound like humans did them. And to give the group some chance to reproduce most of it and have it sound close live.  As such small timing errors and parts where automation would help will stay put.  I will adjust macro parts but not micro.

Some of my prime time songs-mixes. They are pretty varied in genre. I would truly like your opinion on them especially regarding feel
http://soundcloud.com/imispgh

Lastly sorry for being long winded.  I struggle with knowing when to stop when the subject interests me greatly.
Title: Re: Too much bad sounding stuff out there - a root cause?
Post by: LCressy on September 13, 2011, 04:58:31 PM
If I understand your point, the younger generation of mixers/musician are allowing their hearing to be "dumbed down", therefore having lower standards. This can be directly related to earbuds and the loudness wars. Yes, I agree with that. I guess the point that I was trying to make is that having mix contests where they can post mixes, compare to better, more open mixes,  may in fact be the answer to this. John only started this site a few months back, and it is growing pretty fast I think, so the interest is there.
    I did listen to your soundcloud site, and here are my comments. Most of what I heard was electronic, sample based, so the raw tracks have already been processed, so not very much is needed for it to be "good", it already is. Your spectral balance across the freq. range is all there, nothing poking out, no harshness, very easy to listen to. I will venture that when you do the mix of people actually playing in a room, where the amount, type, decay time of the reverb needs to place the instrument in the "right" space in the mix, things are going to change. When the guitar isn't a very good one, nor in tune - it's a fight to get it where it should be in the mix. I think it will be different from what you have been doing. No disrespect intended, and I may be wrong, but the tracks uploaded here, are not from processed samples, they are quite raw. I don't know what song you are planning to mix, so that is not intended at any one song in particular, but just a general comment.
     As far as the timing and such, for me anyway, it is important to make a connection with the music both from the ears, sonically as well as the heart, the feel. I try to keep after the groove until I feel it, and as John pointed out, sometimes it takes so long, that your ears "adjust" and you "think" it sounds good. So, all of it comes in to play, thus the importance of a good room! It allows you to work faster, more confidently and more accurately. You mentioned that you feel you may be approaching this backwards, you just started with a good room and trained ears first, now you will be learning the music part, as well as the daw.

     When I started getting serious about my recording, going from the roland vs 1880 to protools, I remember putting a reverb plugin on a track, moving some of the controls and thinking," why do they put controls on this when they don't do anything?". Well they did, it's just my ears weren't trained to listen for .5db changes in a reverb tail and my room was not tuned and working against me in that regard.

I just encourage your input on this site. Your observations and thoughts on the subject are spot on, just coming at it from a different perspective. As you participate, I'm sure you will pick up some info that will help you on your journey, and no doubt your input will help others on theirs. I wish that when I first started someone, like yourself would have told me the importance of the room - I would have saved thousands of dollars! That is not an exageration, my wife will be a witness to that!
Thanks for your input! Looking forward to your mix!
P.S. - If you wouldn't mind, I posted a mix under modern rock, Don't Give Up - Wooden Ladder, I would love some feedback on. It's the first mix I did with the new floors. I am very curious how it is translating.Thanks!
Title: Re: Too much bad sounding stuff out there - a root cause?
Post by: imispgh on September 13, 2011, 05:34:48 PM
You are correct most of them are arranged loops that do come processed to some degree. However I think you have a misconception about at least some of them - or at least most of what I do. (And that does depend on genre). Most of the ones I uses are not that processed because they know people can't strip that back out well. Especially the ones recorded from a human playing an instrument. As such they still have to be arranged and worked with to mesh and like I said most are thankfully recorded with little processing even tonally so the user can do what they want with them.  Now the ones that aren't recorded from a human playing can be pretty well processed especially for the hip hop and dance genres like you suggest.  I will post a totally unprocessed version of one of the arrangements so you can hear it. I think it will be Here and There since that one has me playing live drums on it mixed with the other loops. (I do notice a big difference in sound quality when I post on Soundcloud. Most of the ones there sound much deader than the Reaper or even WMP Mp3 I have.  Have to figure out what to do about that.  I am actually replacing a couple now. 

We have quite a lot of common ground here and I find the discussion and even the push back interesting and enjoyable.

I will check out your mix now.   

Title: Re: Too much bad sounding stuff out there - a root cause?
Post by: imispgh on September 13, 2011, 06:00:41 PM
Just listened to Don't Give Up

Very, very nice. And I never just say things like that just to be nice.

Sounded good on my monitors, headsets and even the big rig.  (Gotta say I think the Klipsch S4s are amazing. A Little hot on the bass but that can be dealt with by backing them out of the ear just a tad).

The only comment I have - and this may a subjective choice thing or a source issue - is that the cymbals seem more spread out than the rest of the kit?  (And this kit sounds good. The one on Mike's thread sounds bad to me especially the toms and snare top. Not easy to work with)

Curious how does Soundcloud sound to you?  It seems it diminishes the treble and soundstage to me.
Title: Re: Too much bad sounding stuff out there - a root cause?
Post by: LCressy on September 13, 2011, 06:03:19 PM
Myself as well! I find it very interesting that we seem to be in a common ground, although from different starting places. Your thoughts are very refreshing, to approach it primarily as a listener, and second as a musician. Also, keep in mind, I am at work at the moment so I don't have time to listen to your work in much detail at the present, so I was commenting on the general vibe of what I picked up.
 
Title: Re: Too much bad sounding stuff out there - a root cause?
Post by: imispgh on September 13, 2011, 06:09:17 PM
Hey no problem. I am between job and have the time unfortunately.

And I agree the commonality from two different perspectives is great.  You are not common amongst your peers.

Title: Re: Too much bad sounding stuff out there - a root cause?
Post by: LCressy on September 13, 2011, 06:11:42 PM
ok, posts are little out of sequence! this is the first time I have used soundcloud, but I tend to agree with you. Normaly I use dropbox, but my account was suspended due to too much traffic. I have some session that I have that people must be downloading as well, so I used it. But, to me, it does something to files, and not good!  As far as the cymbals, I'll listen when I get home and see what I did, typically I pan far LR for the overheads, Kick, snare and HH are dead center, toms usually are far LR. Thanks for the nice words, it does mean alot! Like I stated earlier, I just now got the room where it needs to be, and it's been work, money and patience!!!!
Title: Re: Too much bad sounding stuff out there - a root cause?
Post by: imispgh on September 13, 2011, 06:38:59 PM
Curious did the room treatments solve all the under 300hz issues?  I assume you can see the sweep from your chair? Also did you treat/absorb all first reflection points including the ceiling and side walls  - for both speakers.  (I assume there is no reflective surface behind your head?
Title: Re: Too much bad sounding stuff out there - a root cause?
Post by: JohnSuitcase on September 13, 2011, 06:50:24 PM
Soundcloud can be used, if you allow downloads of the source file. If you don't allow downloads, the streaming is pretty awful to my ears...
Title: Re: Too much bad sounding stuff out there - a root cause?
Post by: imispgh on September 13, 2011, 06:53:55 PM
Soundcloud can be used, if you allow downloads of the source file. If you don't allow downloads, the streaming is pretty awful to my ears...

Thanks - I will look at that option
Title: Re: Too much bad sounding stuff out there - a root cause?
Post by: imispgh on September 13, 2011, 06:56:28 PM
Big difference. 

LCressey - please use that option when you listen to mine
Title: Re: Too much bad sounding stuff out there - a root cause?
Post by: imispgh on September 13, 2011, 08:48:23 PM
LCressey

Please check out my stuff on iCompositions.  The dated jams were live on NINJAM.  All of the original feeds are unprocessed except a skosh of reverb on my drums. I then mix them- add FX etc.  I just posted one of them as no FX so you can compare.  Most are a mix of live and electronic instruments. No loops. (NINJAM is live but with a measure delay. Sounds odd but it sounds great.  Makes singing hard and we have to communicate with text. Which usually doesn't happen cause u only have two hands. So most of it it really jamming with no plan or communication)

http://www.icompositions.com/artists/imispgh

File Feb-26-2011 is jam and is up there in a final and no FX version so you can hear the difference.  I am on drums.


(I don't post them on Soundcloud because only so many entries show on the first page)
Title: Re: Too much bad sounding stuff out there - a root cause?
Post by: noeqplease on September 13, 2011, 10:17:26 PM
Hi,

I think a lot of it has to do in generall to our culture, which has accelerated production in all facets, and thus lessened the quality of any given product in order to satisfy demand.

Thankfully, there are still a lot of artists who respect themselves and their art enough to care about how they present their work to the public. They understand that their work provides a valuable cultural and social fabric,one that jnfortunately at this time most of society is taking for granted, and not valuing as much as they could.

With modern hectic lives, it is harder and harder for the common man to slow down a little and enjoy life. This is more true in Westernized societies which expect it's members to value work and money above all else.

It is hard for Art to compete with providing basic necessities, when it is hard to give yourself and your family these basic necessities.

As in many past economic downturns, some of the first things to suffer in a depression, are Art, Education, and secondary needs, such as a higher quality machine, such as car, washing machine, etc, all in direct relationship to how bad it gets.

Cheers
Title: Re: Too much bad sounding stuff out there - a root cause?
Post by: LCressy on September 13, 2011, 10:52:50 PM
imispgh, I attached my room's freq response graph in case you are interested. For traps I have - front wall 28 auralex 1x1 squares to make an "attack wall" if you will. Behind my mix desk is a 6 inch thick 2'x4' trap. It just is on the floor behind the desk. My sub is located directly in front of it. On either side, I have a 2'x2'x3' laundry bag filled with 100 lbs of organic insulation and then sitting on top of that are 4" thick 2'x4' bass traps. There is about a foot and a half of the corners exposed. Above me are 2 2" thick 2'x4' traps, hanging about 6" from the ceiling. I have 7 2" thick 2'x4' panels for RFZ around the room. My back corner are the 4" thick traps, although one is actually hung on the door because of the layout of the room, I can't position it in the corner because of the door. With this, the lowend is pretty well behaved, it was just too dampened with the carpet and that's where I was having trouble. The laundry bags came about when I moved into this house from my last one, I shot the room and the lowend was a mess. I completely freaked out! Ran out and filled up the corners as fast as I could! The room in my last house was double this size, the room I am in now is 14"x14.5"x 8", pretty small, I know.....but I do have a closet, 7"x6" I use for guitars and vocals. I have about 2 roominator kits in it! It actually sounds pretty good, and even better with the wood floors. Ok, I'll post this and go listen to your tracks!

- Just gave the tracks another listen, and downloading is MUCH better than streaming with soundcloud !!!! I feel your sense of balance with the frequencies is spot on, really sounds really good. There are things that I hear where a light compressor may help tame a certain area, but on a whole it sounds really nice. The verbs are convincing, putting things in the right space, so as a listener, I believe what I'm hearing, which I think is important. I am not familiar with the online jam, but if that is live over the internet and you have no control over mics, pres, converters and just working with what you get, that's pretty impressive!
Title: Re: Too much bad sounding stuff out there - a root cause?
Post by: imispgh on September 14, 2011, 09:15:42 PM
LCressey

Nice plot.  Funny about the laundry backs.  Shows you absorbent mass in corners means a lot in the low end. Hell a couple towers of rolled insulation with the bags cut off wrapped in something nice would work very well.  Your room measurements are tough so the job you did is awesome. You have a square, which is bad, and multiples of 2 big time.  That one area, the dip and 50hz and especially the bump at 70hz could be easily handled with an active device.  I have a Behringer active parametic EQ and it works great for this. They are pretty cheap and other than a hint of noise I have to crank to hear I detect no downside. Having said this  it would only be noticeable when those tones are hit. (You can probably buy one used for under $200).  What you could do is create a reverse EQ and alter your favorite songs then play them back and see what that area adjusted would sound like.

Thanks for listening. Ya know I never run a compressor on the output bus for anything - guess I should.  I have this thing for letting the players feeling and dynamics rule - barring odd or out of place events.  I will take a crack at it. (I have compressed or limited tracks for this reason just not the master bus)

You are correct I cannot control anything on those jam recordings. Luckily NINJAM/Reaper record everyone to their own track and at 44.1 and 24 bit so it gives me a good starting point.  It records offline in OGG then Reaper reconstitutes them in a project.
Title: Re: Too much bad sounding stuff out there - a root cause?
Post by: imispgh on September 14, 2011, 09:24:58 PM
noeqplease

I understand your point but I am not sure it's that.  I think most people or artists care but they don't have a good reference.  And as for effort it takes just as much or more to alter it to bad than to alter it to be good. Having said that it is culturally genre peer pressure driven. They mix things in whatever format is popular these days.  That is the beauty of video and why it moves in the opposite direction of audio in quality.  You can't go too far or something being different than real becomes noticeable to everyone. Video cannot be dumbed down like audio because we constantly see the standard.  In audio we rarely hear that standard if ever.  The closest we get is voice but that is limited in freq and is usually spoken so we ignore that as a standard.

I find Neal Young to be a great example. Here's a guy who puts out music with a lot of grungy elements. But he prefers vinyl and analog recording.  Somewhere he heard that even something purposefully distorted can sound better.



Title: Re: Too much bad sounding stuff out there - a root cause?
Post by: imispgh on September 15, 2011, 01:08:15 AM
My shot at Blood to Bone remix

https://dl-web.dropbox.com/get/Music/Blood%20to%20Bone%20Remix%20imispgh.mp3?w=efee7bc7
Title: Re: Too much bad sounding stuff out there - a root cause?
Post by: JohnSuitcase on September 15, 2011, 05:46:27 AM
My shot at Blood to Bone remix

https://dl-web.dropbox.com/get/Music/Blood%20to%20Bone%20Remix%20imispgh.mp3?w=efee7bc7

Can't get your link to work, can you double check it? You might not have it in a 'public' box?
Title: Re: Too much bad sounding stuff out there - a root cause?
Post by: imispgh on September 15, 2011, 01:45:13 PM
My shot at Blood to Bone remix

https://dl-web.dropbox.com/get/Music/Blood%20to%20Bone%20Remix%20imispgh.mp3?w=efee7bc7

Can't get your link to work, can you double check it? You might not have it in a 'public' box?

Sorry new to that service

Try it now
Title: Re: Too much bad sounding stuff out there - a root cause?
Post by: LCressy on September 15, 2011, 06:58:58 PM
imispgh - it's still not working.......it says the file can't be found  ???
Title: Re: Too much bad sounding stuff out there - a root cause?
Post by: imispgh on September 15, 2011, 07:18:39 PM
imispgh - it's still not working.......it says the file can't be found  ???

it says it is shared and plays for me. What do i do?
Title: Re: Too much bad sounding stuff out there - a root cause?
Post by: JohnSuitcase on September 15, 2011, 08:31:34 PM
In your dropbox, there should be a folder called 'Public' try putting the file in there, then get the link using the little icon thingee. If you're trying to share it, you have to invite each other user to have access (works great with clients, but not to share a file with everyone...)
Title: Re: Too much bad sounding stuff out there - a root cause?
Post by: imispgh on September 15, 2011, 08:46:48 PM
Thank you very much

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/40987858/Blood%20to%20Bone%20Remix%20imispgh.mp3
Title: Re: Too much bad sounding stuff out there - a root cause?
Post by: the-grid on September 16, 2011, 01:22:55 PM
Wow - a lot of big themes interwoven here.

I think the audio vs video point is very interesting. To my mind it's more about the hardware and the environment than about the format per se. What video hardware is pushed as sexy at the moment? Large full-HD TVs and Blu-Ray players. What "audio" hardware is pushed as sexy at the moment? iPhone. This would be partly industry-led and partly necessitated by circumstantial factors: people normally watch movies sitting in a room at home, and normally listen to music on the move. I don't buy the "if you provide higher-resolution audio formats, people will flock to it" argument. CD is better than MP3 and sales are dying. The convenience of MP3 (especially considering how much easier it is to steal than CD) outweighs the sonic degredation for the majority. And furthermore the industry has made no attempt whatsoever to "hype" better-quality audio in the way that it has with HD video.

It's worth remembering too that we are a visual-dominant species. We are inherently more discriminating visually than through any other modality. Anecdotal example concering the point above: my girlfriend loves the picture quality of Blu-Ray on our 42" plasma, but thinks I'm nuts for commenting on how good the uncompressed 24-bit audio sounds through even a mid-range hi-fi - and she's an accomplished musician. It takes years of practice for our discrimination of audio quality to reach the level of visual acuity that we all have hard-wired from birth.

This is important in understanding not only the relative priorities of consumers (convenience over resolution etc) but also the apparent failings of noob/amateur AEs/mixers. The ear-training curve is super-steep! I'm now listening to mixes I did less than a year ago, which I thought sounded great, and being stunned by the catastrophic depth of their deficiencies. I hasten to add that I'm a total amateur, and I guarantee that the defects in what I do now will be painfully obvious to seasoned pros, even if barely discernible to me at this stage.

Bottom line is - the work of anyone below you on the ear-training curve will probably sound incomprehensibly terrible, but we all have to remember that there's always someone above us on the curve too...

Then of course there's the skills angle: the mixing tricks, the workflow aspects, the mechanisms for referencing properly etc. On this point I cannot stress enough how beneficial it is to witness a pro at work. I was really struggling to improve at the rate I wanted, and so hired Mike Senior to mix a track in my room, with me in the "assistant" chair. This is without a doubt the most cost-effective "investment" I've ever made to improve my mixing, including acoustic treatment!

(Incidentally, the room was untreated when Mike did his mix, which kicks ass. With the treatment I now have, he probably could have reached the same end point more quickly, with greater certainty, but it would have been the same result in the end.)

So I completely second LCressy's plan of hanging out with an ME - don't buy that shiny new mic pre, buy some time with someone higher up the curve and see if they can pull you up a few notches!

Respect to everyone out there who still cares about audio,

Alex
Title: Re: Too much bad sounding stuff out there - a root cause?
Post by: JohnSuitcase on September 16, 2011, 02:52:06 PM
The visual metaphor is interesting.

I think HD looks great for sports, concerts, live events. I think it looks good for film, if done correctly. But many TVs have a way of 'upsampling' film, to meet the much faster frame rate of HD. They do interpolation to smooth things out, and I think this totally destroys the 'film look' of a movie. I'm talking about movies like Star Wars, which I've seen many time, in theater and on TV, which suddenly looks like it was shot on video, like an old BBC production of Dr.Who.

That and the digital artifacting of the Mpeg format, which is terribly visible on HD tvs bother me a lot. I actually prefer to watch a CRT rather than most LCD and plasma screens. I'm hopeful that newer HD tvs will have better image.

As to sound, I think you're right about learning to listen, and being used to high res audio, as opposed to MP3's on tiny speakers, etc.

I'll listen to this mix of Blood to the Bone on my decent monitors when I have a chance!
Title: Re: Too much bad sounding stuff out there - a root cause?
Post by: imispgh on September 16, 2011, 03:20:00 PM
the-grid

Outstanding post.  I think CDs are dying but ONLY because they are physical mediums and you have to buy every song.  I think if people were educated on high bit rate mp3 vs low and other higher fidelity formats AND they were the same price AND just as available there would be a switch.

You are right about us being a visual species.  Our hearing is tuned to human voice and animal sounds which is why we hear on a bell curve.

Getting the room right is huge. Working with an ME is a great idea. I actually just put in for an apprenticeship at every studio in Pittsburgh yesterday. Mostly i want to learn the normal approaches and some tricks. Technical/mechanical stuff.  I would like to find an ME too. I have learned that while there are way to many "masters" in every field who actually suck at what they do, one can learn a lot by understanding what not to do. If I were to look for my Mike Senior I would want to not only listen to their stuff but hear their control room and their personal home systems so i can decide if they are the kind i want to emulate or learn what not to do from.

Johnsuitcase
I agree - some HD goes too far and in spite of the better resolution the artifacts are still a detriment. As such video is surely not without flaws yet. However I would love to hear people push audio so far it sounds better to pull back.   
Title: Re: Too much bad sounding stuff out there - a root cause?
Post by: noeqplease on September 16, 2011, 06:11:10 PM
Quote
The underlying problem is that people are getting used to crappy audio (while they crave better quality video).

While your thesis on why this is so, is interesting, I also disagree with this view.
Although the general public may indeed be used to less quality audio, it is not in direct connection to a "craving" of any kind, whether for video, or oatmeal cookies. Creating this connection is tenuous at best.

Everyone here has to remember that the value placed on entertainment objects and products is different than when we were younger. Not worse, not better, just different.
And it also will change again in a few years. And it also is not the same in each Country of the World.

Cheers
Title: Re: Too much bad sounding stuff out there - a root cause?
Post by: imispgh on September 16, 2011, 08:15:46 PM
Quote
The underlying problem is that people are getting used to crappy audio (while they crave better quality video).

While your thesis on why this is so, is interesting, I also disagree with this view.
Although the general public may indeed be used to less quality audio, it is not in direct connection to a "craving" of any kind, whether for video, or oatmeal cookies. Creating this connection is tenuous at best.

Everyone here has to remember that the value placed on entertainment objects and products is different than when we were younger. Not worse, not better, just different.
And it also will change again in a few years. And it also is not the same in each Country of the World.

Cheers

Craving is overstated. So let's say look for, desire etc.  At that level the point is correct

Saying it is not worse or better but different is incorrect - and objectively not just subjectively. it dismisses audio quality as some completely nonobjective phenomenon and that is incorrect.  While tastes very within a range the range can be set by % of subjective concurrence by learned individuals or objective measures.  Using both of these standards it can be easily proven that audio quality has degraded over time and within a range what is obviously bad.  Almost anyone who is explained what to listen for can hear the difference between a 192k mp3 and 320k mp3 and especially when streaming even lower bit rates. And the difference between the two is easily seen in measurements.  As such this can be extended to music and its audio quality with those other variables being constant.  If it is widely known an accepted that standing waves in a room can degrade sound quality then it is surely no stretch to accept and understand that there are many variables that could lead someone to unknowingly produce bad sound. Try bad room, sitting off axis from the monitors, bad monitors etc.  Since this is true then is is not a stretch to understand that a generation could wind up not understanding these and other issues and create bad sound that becomes universally accepted because that many people are uninformed and therefore wrong.  As for "time" have you listened to 1950s and 60s jazz recordings?  Take one that is very popular Kind of Blue.  Speakers were not flat beyond 12k back then so flat monitors in the treble area did not exist. But these engineers knew that and used meters to make sure they recorded that zone the best they could. Even with that limitation and much older gear those recordings sound much better than a lot of later smooth jazz recordings for example. Try Any of David Sanborn's 80s material.  It sounds horrible. And I doubt if that was by choice.
Title: Re: Too much bad sounding stuff out there - a root cause?
Post by: noeqplease on September 16, 2011, 08:26:09 PM
 :D

All I can say is that you defend yourself with too many facts assembled together hastily, that it would take me too long to try to undo your post.

Simply stated, let's just agree to disagree.
Title: Re: Too much bad sounding stuff out there - a root cause?
Post by: imispgh on September 16, 2011, 08:58:54 PM
:D

All I can say is that you defend yourself with too many facts assembled together hastily, that it would take me too long to try to undo your post.

Simply stated, let's just agree to disagree.

With all due respect you are dodging and making a strawman saying it it too complex and hasty (which I think are counter intuitive - and facts are facts  - the time they were conceived bears no effect on the degree to which they are facts or true)

On some things there are no opinions. On subjective matters people can disagree but on objective matters where there  is consensus by a preponderance of reasonable or trained individuals there is no allowance for objective disagreement. 

Let me give you a easy example.  (And i am pressing this point because i think your response is a large reason the problem exists). if I record you talking with a widely accepted quality voice microphone and then play it back to you over just a 12' woofer or just a tweeter the sound would objectively inferior to the playback of the voice of a widely accepted speaker that plays that freq range flat or close to flat.  Now my example is a bit exaggerated but not that much if you listen to some very poor recordings.  Another example. Record an acoustic bass in a treated room and in a non-treated square bedroom - all hard surfaces.  Ask someone to identify which one sounds more real. Most people even those who never heard one live will realize the one in the bedroom is so far off it can't be real, right or "good".

The subjectivity you refer to does come in to play in that wide range of good or what real might be after you get beyond what is obviously abhorrent or flawed. Like using different mics etc. Or in cases where one purposefully alters the original or good sound for effect etc.
Title: Re: Too much bad sounding stuff out there - a root cause?
Post by: JohnSuitcase on September 16, 2011, 09:05:18 PM
I think sound quality, that is fidelity, is objective, of course. Something either reproduces the original sound accurately or it doesn't. Whether that is desirable is subjective and subject to culture, etc.

While I like hi fidelity recordings, I also really like early punk, 80's hardcore, and 90's indie rock. None of it is terribly hi-fi, but I don't think it loses anything, in fact I think it gains value from that.

On the other hand, getting used to bad reproduction is a problem, I suppose, but if that's that case, anyone raised in the era of small speaker radios, LPs played on mono all-in-one record players, etc should have terrible hearing and not be able to tell the difference between a CD and a micro cassette recorded at slow speed!

Now, getting a mix to be balanced, and sound good, etc, is no easy feat. Getting it balanced, without 'errors' and technically even is pretty easy, but getting it to sound, artistically and aesthetically consistent with the vision the artist is trying to put forth is the hard part. The best engineer, from a technical perspective, often doesn't create the best final product because he simply doesn't 'get it.' You mention in your first post the importance of being aware of the genre, and I think that is key, but I think there's a step beyond familiarizing yourself with the genre and 'getting it.' I can familiarize myself with hiphop, but I don't 'get it' and I don't think I could do an artist justice, no matter how well I eq'd, compressed, etc. Maybe the thing that mix needs is tons of distortion, or some crazy flanger. I'd have no idea.

Now, finally listening to your mix!

First impressions are that the drum sounds are too ambient, and a little soft for this track. The kick in particular disappears when the instruments come in. Toms are kinda muted, a little like a jazz drummer playing with a rock band. Snare seems kinda thin, could use more body, and doesn't seem to have any sustain to it.

The guitars seems a little thin to me, edgy and a little harsh in the upper mids, but kinda anemic.

Bass guitar is pretty good, could maybe use a touch of distortion or something to add some articulation. Mostly it's just masking the kick too much to my ears.

The vocals are a little on top, and a hair syballant here and there. Maybe a bit more compression, and some de-esser. The reverb is a little too much for this type of track, I think, or maybe just not blended in quite low enough. Not sure, my first impression was 'whoa, reverb!' :-)

As far as building tension, I think your mix has the same problem as most, it doesn't have a real payoff, sort of loses momentum after the bridge.

Tonality wise, your mix doesn't seem off balance, there's good lowend, good mids, good treble, just stylistically it doesn't really work with the track.

Hope that doesn't sound overly negative, I'm trying to give my honest impression. My mix suffered from some serious tonality issues (my own fault for trying to mix in a new room, without referencing, using some new outboard for the first time...) Thanks for posting!
Title: Re: Too much bad sounding stuff out there - a root cause?
Post by: imispgh on September 16, 2011, 09:55:45 PM
No sir your comments are more than applicable, fair and reasonable. I think overall what we might not agree on is genre. I think most of our differences lie in that choice.  I think this is a rock-pop song with a roll not an alt rock song. I actually don't like the groups original version though recognize that given that choice it is well done.

I do not like to drastically alter the original recording- especially given this was a contest and most people didn't. I don't like to add or cut parts, change the base arrangement or even massively alter base sounds or feels. (Unless a dance remix is called for) Of course this group alters the hell out of what they record so that explanation doesn't hold a ton of water. Since i didn't like the original I broke part of the rule and adapted it to my preference that this not be an alt rock song. So there were no big tone or arrangement changes other than left to right which I did because of those choices and two of the guitars being so close in sound and given where they were in the arrangement I didn't want to pan left and right.

You are dead on with the drums.  I play and record drums and I found these hard to mix.  Obviously I need to learn how to work with all kinds of stuff. I found the direct tom mic feeds especially the high tom were very narrow in range, mostly bass and the high tom was tuned with a huge pitch bend that i do not like, avoided and probably did with negative unintended consequences. .  The overhead mics picked up the sound of the toms and snare great, far better than the local mics, but were very low in the field compared to the cymbals. I prefer locations for these mics to try to even that out. And even those mics missed some of the crashes and I needed the room mic for that but  that mic was mono which means use too much of it and you narrow the sound field. I never liked the sound of the toms and need to learn to turn what I had in to something better. Regarding the bass drum that choice follows my change of genre. As for the snare top I think it was bass heavy and had no range. Like it was a Sennheiser e-series mic. And I kept going back and forth on phase to the bottom mic which sounded better but it altered the phase of the cymbals and changed their sound field depending on phase. With respect to the overall drum ambiance that is also a change of genre but I could very well have over done it a skosh. Yup - I struggled with the drums and need to learn how to deal with working with a wider variety of source recordings.

Guitars. Again genre change but beyond that I thinned the guitars on purpose to avoid them clashing with the bass and since two of the guitars sounded so close I tried to distance them from each other. Having said that I can see how someone might think they were thin. (Of course the original goes in the opposite direction and lowers the high end for the obvious effect) 

I didn't add distortion on anything because of my genre change. Additionally the stereo feeds on the bass were naturally gritty.  I did go back and forth on how much of them to use.  I can see the argument for a bit more of them. But again I think that is a genre issue.

Vocals - Yup I cut a little low end. Same genre choice - at least in my head.  I didn't touch sibilants at all.

Didn't try to build tension.  Changed it to a rock-pop song.

"Tonality wise, your mix doesn't seem off balance, there's good lowend, good mids, good treble, just stylistically it doesn't really work with the track. "  I think this is an excellent demonstration of the genre difference. If i tried to copy the original's genre every one of your points would be dead on. As i changed it I think they fit in that context. or at least fit better.

The tonality balance being on comment pleased me.  When I made my original comment about so many being so bad this is what I was talking about. I thought so many were tonally so far off that the rest of the areas were beyond secondary in importance. Now having said that the original song alters tonality big time by instrument but does mesh them together well in the context of the whole song and genre/song style pretty well except the whole thing has a midrange glare. But that works if it has to be an alt rock song.

You were not overly negative at all.  You took the time to listen intently and were not only honest but like I said reasonable, applicable and fair. I appreciate that (If you said I was majorly off tonally though  I wold have dismissed everything else you said) I hope to do this again some time. Obviously with my comment on so many being so off and my postulation to why I set myself up to be able to produce the Mona Lisa.  Over time I hope to match my abilities as an audio critic (at least tonally) with my ability to create a stellar song that is more than just good tonally.
Title: Re: Too much bad sounding stuff out there - a root cause?
Post by: the-grid on September 16, 2011, 10:14:14 PM
Saying it is not worse or better but different is incorrect - and objectively not just subjectively. it dismisses audio quality as some completely nonobjective phenomenon and that is incorrect.  While tastes very within a range the range can be set by % of subjective concurrence by learned individuals or objective measures.  Using both of these standards it can be easily proven that audio quality has degraded over time and within a range what is obviously bad.  Almost anyone who is explained what to listen for can hear the difference between a 192k mp3 and 320k mp3 and especially when streaming even lower bit rates. And the difference between the two is easily seen in measurements.  As such this can be extended to music and its audio quality with those other variables being constant.  If it is widely known an accepted that standing waves in a room can degrade sound quality then it is surely no stretch to accept and understand that there are many variables that could lead someone to unknowingly produce bad sound. Try bad room, sitting off axis from the monitors, bad monitors etc.  Since this is true then is is not a stretch to understand that a generation could wind up not understanding these and other issues and create bad sound that becomes universally accepted because that many people are uninformed and therefore wrong.  As for "time" have you listened to 1950s and 60s jazz recordings?  Take one that is very popular Kind of Blue.  Speakers were not flat beyond 12k back then so flat monitors in the treble area did not exist. But these engineers knew that and used meters to make sure they recorded that zone the best they could. Even with that limitation and much older gear those recordings sound much better than a lot of later smooth jazz recordings for example. Try Any of David Sanborn's 80s material.  It sounds horrible. And I doubt if that was by choice.

There are three conflated arguments here.

One is purely objective from an audio point of view, and concerns the format of the delivery medium. Yes, 192k mp3 is inherently inferior to 320k mp3, which is inherently inferior to 16/44.1, which is inherently inferior to 24/96. Audio information is lost for the sake of faster download times and the ability to squeeze more tracks into your telephone. This is uncontentious.

The next argument concerns environmental factors that lead to the printing of a substandard mix - something that is COMPLETELY independent from the format of the delivery medium (with the exception of mastering for vinyl). Yes, having a bad room will impede your ability as the tracking or mix engineer to deliver a good end product. Note - impede. Not render impossible. It just gets harder. I have yet to see any evidence that the current generation of consumers has a worse understanding of standing waves than consumers in the 1950s (ie none), nor have I yet to see any evidence that the current generation of audio engineers has a worse understanding of standing waves than audio engineers in the 1950s (ie plenty). If the average is skewed by the fact that more consumers these days take an interest in audio engineering thanks to the availability of pretty decent technology, that's a different issue.

The final argument concerns taste. This is the tricky one, the big one, the one that makes this whole area interesting in the first place. We just need to be VERY careful to separate vibe, musicianship, innovation etc etc from pure "sonics", in the audiophile sense. I don't know this David Sanborn, and from what you're saying, I might be lucky. But in terms of SONIC fidelity, there is no question that a modern recording (eg Brad Mehldau The Art of The Trio vol. 3) is superior to a vintage one (eg Miles Davies Birth of The Cool). If you find one more evocative than the other - and therefore more faithful to the feel of a certain era or style - again, that's a separate issue. Similarly, is Led Zeppelin I a hallmark of fidelity, audio quality, whatever? Absolutely not! In these terms, it sounds absolutely terrible! Is it one of my favourite albums? Of course! But I could name any number of recent albums that have technically superior audio.

Now for the big aesthetic claim: the greatest artistic successes often stem from the simultaneous achievement of seemingly contradictory goals. So in this case, who can deliver a record that combines the engaging detail, clarity and separation that modern techniques and media afford with the absorbing cohesion, atmosphere and emotional involvement of the old school? Only the very best, that's who. That's what we should all be aspiring to. Never mind nostalgia, the bar is set pretty damn high right now - until you look at the prevailing format of delivery medium. But then, I already covered that...
Title: Re: Too much bad sounding stuff out there - a root cause?
Post by: imispgh on September 16, 2011, 10:39:21 PM
I agree with everything you said in the micro but not macro. Meaning there are songs that sound far better today than years back. BUT on the whole far more proportionally sounds far worse especially when compared to how damn good things can sound these days.  You are correct when talking about songs out of the norm today or the subset.  I believe I am correct on average. I prefer you were correct on the whole.
Title: Re: Too much bad sounding stuff out there - a root cause?
Post by: JohnSuitcase on September 17, 2011, 12:46:23 AM
imispgh -  I understand your reluctance to mess with the recorded tracks, of course! The thing is that many, if not most, home recordists, and many studio engineers, adhere to the idea of getting tracks down that are passable, but often far removed from the actual sound they are going for. In some cases, I don't think they necessarily know what sound they are going for, in actuality. I've recorded bands with the idea that I'd get a true to life representation of their performance, only to discover during mixdown that the guy with a piccolo snare actually wants a big beefy snare of the sort you'd get with a maple snare at least 6" deep! In more recent years, I've gotten better at quizzing the band about what they're going for before starting to track!

With a set of tracks like this one, I tried to envision what they were after, rather than what they provided, if that makes sense. I can sort of hear the drum sound they wanted, by the way he played the parts. Same with the guitars and bass. Maybe it's because I'm so familiar with that genre, and that may be a limitation on my creative input, but I tried to match what I thought they were wanting to hear, based on the references they gave, and the way they played the parts.

Hope that makes sense!

Title: Re: Too much bad sounding stuff out there - a root cause?
Post by: living sounds on September 17, 2011, 02:19:24 AM
Interesting! IMO there are at least three seperate issues: 1. Quality of recording equipment and tracking skills, 2. Technical mixing and 3. Getting a certain "sound". They're all somewhat related, too.

Nr.1: The multitrack. Put a vocalist in a good sounding room in front of a well-maintained U47 and a Neve preamp through an LA2A with a little GR into a quality converter and you'll get a signal that works great and requires little tweaking, but will take lot's of it no problem, too. Similar signal chains and environments are being used and have been used for recordings for many decades, but it's not what in today's reality is availible to most. You simply need a lot less of 2. and will have much less trouble going for 3. this way, too.

Nr. 2: The technical aspect. It's what you're aiming at mostly, I think. Most people have less than ideal monitoring, an untreated room with budget monitoring fed by budget converters make it almost impossible to achieve balance and even hear the details necessary.

Nr.3: The "sound". This is where the high end gear helps again, to create excitement, texture, punch, debt and whatnot. The mojo, vibe etc. It's also the mixing engineer doing part of the producer's job by creatively using all the tools at hand. So it's inspiration, creativity on the one hand and the right tools on the other. What is technically right might not be the best choice after all. Walking the thin line between "wrong" and what is "inspired" is especially challenging, and knowing how to get the sound you want can be very difficult, too, and requires much, much experience. And, again the raw material must allow for this and often expensive gear is required to pull something off convincingly.


So in the case of the mix contest we're dealing with far from great sounding raw tracks, very probably lot's of non-pro's with little experience in less than ideal mixing situations and without mojo gear. It shouldn't surprise anyone that we didn't end up with a ton of jaw-dropping sounding mixes, and that in fact most of the focus was on getting creative with what was availible to each mixer. E.g., it might be impossible to get the low end right, but clever automation of delay lines and making up extra harmonies is availible to anyone now. If you look at current pop music that's exactly where it all went, using the DAWs endless possibilities for gimmicks to gloss over all the shortfalls of modern low budget recording, and semi-pro composition, production, mixing. All the way to the best-selling artists. I've got the tracklist for a recent Pink song: Ten different kick drums, 20 snare, hihat, cymbal, tambourine and shaker tracks, around 20 each for guitar and vocals, and lot's for FX, synths, bass and other things. And detailed instructions for a myriad of sidechain compressors, automation, FX, all done within the DAW.
Title: Re: Too much bad sounding stuff out there - a root cause?
Post by: imispgh on September 17, 2011, 02:35:26 AM
living sounds I agree with you - excellent points.  Some, while true, are disappointing comments on the current state of affairs. 

JohnSuitcase I understand that approach. Makes sense.  It's all in the chosen direction or genre. Curious if you recalibrate based on the way i went would it modify any of your opinions?
Title: Re: Too much bad sounding stuff out there - a root cause?
Post by: noeqplease on September 17, 2011, 02:59:58 AM
:D

All I can say is that you defend yourself with too many facts assembled together hastily, that it would take me too long to try to undo your post.

Simply stated, let's just agree to disagree.

With all due respect you are dodging and making a strawman saying it it too complex and hasty (which I think are counter intuitive - and facts are facts  - the time they were conceived bears no effect on the degree to which they are facts or true)

On some things there are no opinions. On subjective matters people can disagree but on objective matters where there  is consensus by a preponderance of reasonable or trained individuals there is no allowance for objective disagreement. 

Let me give you a easy example.  (And i am pressing this point because i think your response is a large reason the problem exists). if I record you talking with a widely accepted quality voice microphone and then play it back to you over just a 12' woofer or just a tweeter the sound would objectively inferior to the playback of the voice of a widely accepted speaker that plays that freq range flat or close to flat.  Now my example is a bit exaggerated but not that much if you listen to some very poor recordings.  Another example. Record an acoustic bass in a treated room and in a non-treated square bedroom - all hard surfaces.  Ask someone to identify which one sounds more real. Most people even those who never heard one live will realize the one in the bedroom is so far off it can't be real, right or "good".

The subjectivity you refer to does come in to play in that wide range of good or what real might be after you get beyond what is obviously abhorrent or flawed. Like using different mics etc. Or in cases where one purposefully alters the original or good sound for effect etc.

Dude,

Let's agree to disagree. I've had too many of these "discussions" with non engineer "audiophile" types like yourself. And it never ends well.
You have your concept of what is "Good", which you presented in your earlier posts. I do not agree with your position.
The issue you have is that you are insistent that you are "right" where there is no "right" nor "wrong" even in your supposed "objective" examples.

If I sat here and told you what I consider a "Good" audio recording, a "Good" mix, and a "Good" playback system, we'd be here for months. And we'd still be nowhere near being in agreement.

I'd rather have a coffee, and play with Legos with my son.

Ok dude?

Have a great weekend...
Title: Re: Too much bad sounding stuff out there - a root cause?
Post by: JohnSuitcase on September 17, 2011, 03:14:14 AM
living sounds I agree with you - excellent points.  Some, while true, are disappointing comments on the current state of affairs. 

JohnSuitcase I understand that approach. Makes sense.  It's all in the chosen direction or genre. Curious if you recalibrate based on the way i went would it modify any of your opinions?

Not sure I know what you mean by 'recalibrate'? If you're asking if I could mix it as a pop/rock recording, I suppose I could, but I find it hard to re-imagine a track once I have it in my head. I did a project back in the 90's for a band, and I did it with the understanding that it would be an AmRep type noise-core thing. Then the record label came back and wanted it to be more or a 'death metal' kinda thing. We remixed it, and the band and label were happy, but I could never really let go of the vision I'd had, and I still think it would've been better the way we originally had it.  So I'm not sure..
Title: Re: Too much bad sounding stuff out there - a root cause?
Post by: imispgh on September 17, 2011, 02:11:06 PM
living sounds I agree with you - excellent points.  Some, while true, are disappointing comments on the current state of affairs. 

JohnSuitcase I understand that approach. Makes sense.  It's all in the chosen direction or genre. Curious if you recalibrate based on the way i went would it modify any of your opinions?

Not sure I know what you mean by 'recalibrate'? If you're asking if I could mix it as a pop/rock recording, I suppose I could, but I find it hard to re-imagine a track once I have it in my head. I did a project back in the 90's for a band, and I did it with the understanding that it would be an AmRep type noise-core thing. Then the record label came back and wanted it to be more or a 'death metal' kinda thing. We remixed it, and the band and label were happy, but I could never really let go of the vision I'd had, and I still think it would've been better the way we originally had it.  So I'm not sure..

Sorry I meant if you thought about the approach/genre being the one I suggested would your comments of my mix be different in any way? If your expectations were different would you think differently about any of them? For example when I listened to the contest entrants I purposefully had not listened to the bands version yet. I was trying be unbiased - at least as much as possible given I have biases - and let the  entrants mix set my expectations.  At that point I try to decide if it is consistent to itself.  I made the comment about the tonality issue because regardless of style or genre (short of a massive whole song alteration for far reaching artistic purposes) I thought they didn't sound good against the own bar they were trying to set. As an example I don't prefer the bands mix but to itself it's very good.  Had for example they not applied a ton of FX to the kick drum and raised it up big time that mix would have been out of place with itself. Or had the entrants mix the song to sound like it was coming out of a big pipe then the tonality issues would not have been relevant and lopping off the highs and lows would work.
Title: Re: Too much bad sounding stuff out there - a root cause?
Post by: JohnSuitcase on September 17, 2011, 02:51:27 PM
Hmmm. If I'd not heard any of the other mixes, would I have been more open to your approach to this song?

I don't think so. The song itself conveys the idea and suggests a sound to me. Of course, it's hard to go back and pretend not to know something we know.

Sometimes a genre mixmatch can work. If you think about Nirvana's 'Nevermind' it's kind of an example of that. Previously, bands doing that style of song, including Nirvana, had been producing rough, edgy, sort of lo-fi recordings. The genre was about indie labels, small studios, not caring about things being perfect, etc. But when Butch Vig got great tracks and performances, and Andy Wallace put a finished polish on the mixes, it became something that mainstream listeners could understand and enjoy. People who were really into the punk/indie aesthetic generally dismissed Nevermind as being overproduced, etc. So, the mix did sort of turn off people inside that genre's fanbase, but it also allowed the mix to convert tons and tons of people who would have just turned it off if it sounded like another Mudhoney album. That includes radio folks, and MTV.

I think your mix just lacks emotional power. It could be much more polished and still not connect for me. Not to say that it's impossible to mix it for the genre you mention, just that if you do, I think you need to rework the drums and guitars, and probably add some keyboard pads, rhythmic loops, or other ear-candy to reach a pop/rock kinda polish. It might work, who knows?
Title: Re: Too much bad sounding stuff out there - a root cause?
Post by: imispgh on September 17, 2011, 03:05:08 PM
You could be right. I am pushing back because I want it to be good on it's own not changed. I went for more of a live we like the way most of this base recording sound kind of thing as opposed to a wholesale change.  I listened to the ambiance and think i double up?  I use an FX called Up Stereo then i play with reverb and delay.  I think the Up Stereo tool widens and adds some of those to increase ambiance and I am doubling up?  Anyway thanks for the comments. They are greatly appreciated.

(And please do not take my push back as being argumentative for the sake of arguing or my not thinking there is room for improvement.  I am passionate about these things and have to understand these things as opposed to just accept at face value.  I have to get it even if i don't agree with it. I am just trying to understand it all in the context of the feel I was going for vs what it could have all been. Both can be right I just want to do each well and as such need to make sure the comments really do fit each as opposed to trying to morph one way or the other. For example i do not prefer the original version but once accepted as what it is you can hear they did a great job.  If I didn't accept that my comments would be to change this and that and those changes would wind up changing the whole direction or approach of the song)
Title: Re: Too much bad sounding stuff out there - a root cause?
Post by: Martin Olsson on October 20, 2011, 12:19:53 AM
Well, I think most of us here, are here to learn how the be a better mixer. I´m a musician(bass) that also teach a lot. The point you´re making, is the same as if I would ask my students "It doesn´t sound that good when you play. Haven´t you heard a good bass player?". That kills the fun of it, I would believe.

The mixes I post here, are not what I consider done in anyway. Some songs are so badly recorded so it takes a long time to make them sound decent and I really don´t have them time, nor the skills to achive audiophile quality. But I learn a ton of trying different plugins in different ways, like expanders, gates, transient designers, de-essers etc, when solving problems. It took me many hours of trying to minimize hihat bleed on a snare track with different unsuccesful techniques, before I tried a expander. Next time I encounter this problem, it will take me no time at all to solve.

Everytime I do a mix here and post it, I here things that I would´t here if I just mix it and then forgot about it. When the mix is posted here, I almost imedialty here things that I should change, or should think about next time I mix. I would believe that this is the same for other guys around here. Some guys are maybe just starting out, other people are doing it or fun and some guys sucks and never going to be good in mixing, but hey, it´s just music. Let everyone do what they do at their level and try to help each other out with constructive critisism instead of just saying we all sucks and should get a treated room and audiophile speakers before we post anything here.
Title: Re: Too much bad sounding stuff out there - a root cause?
Post by: Zabrilla on December 04, 2011, 12:14:21 AM
To the O.P. I posted an entery into the compitetion and...

I defend my right to be a novice engineer, AND I defend my right to submit crappy works in this competition forum for listening and no doubt casual judgement by the masses. I didn't win, so I dont get your issue (I actually do, but I dont get the corrilation between what you would consider commercially viable, and the enteries in the compition? Apples and Oranges!). You are of course entitled to your opinion however that doesn't mean you should always excersise that right vocaly.

I learnt a lot from the feedback given to me by Mike which is invaluble, unlike this thread that provides no real benifit to me. If your looking for an avenue to vent, try the Avid forum!



Title: Re: Too much bad sounding stuff out there - a root cause?
Post by: imispgh on December 04, 2011, 12:55:13 AM
To the O.P. I posted an entery into the compitetion and...

I defend my right to be a novice engineer, AND I defend my right to submit crappy works in this competition forum for listening and no doubt casual judgement by the masses. I didn't win, so I dont get your issue (I actually do, but I dont get the corrilation between what you would consider commercially viable, and the enteries in the compition? Apples and Oranges!). You are of course entitled to your opinion however that doesn't mean you should always excersise that right vocaly.

I learnt a lot from the feedback given to me by Mike which is invaluble, unlike this thread that provides no real benifit to me. If your looking for an avenue to vent, try the Avid forum!


You are 110% correct.  My comment was only focused on those mixes I thought people thought were prime time enough to win the contest. And I lumped that in with my feeling on the state of popular music and it's sound degradation overall.

Of course people have to start off somewhere. I myself learned a whole bunch this week on some of my mixes.  I have no desire or interest in stifling anyone wanting to learn or participate. (I don't remember many stating they didn't think or know if their mix was ready for prime time and wanting opinions only to learn).

If my assumption of intent was incorrect in most of the cases then I was wrong.
Title: Re: Too much bad sounding stuff out there - a root cause?
Post by: p-ten studios on April 18, 2013, 01:16:55 AM
its bad because having a true professional in with you when recording such as an engineer and a producer.  bands really cant do it all