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Author Topic: This one is for the Saint  (Read 4114 times)

rosshogarth

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This one is for the Saint
« on: March 04, 2011, 03:28:45 am »

Ron
would you expound on your feelings about compression and your use or lack there of ....
I would love your thoughts on this .....
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The practice of forgiveness is our most important contribution to the healing of the world.

The standard of success in life isn't the things. It isn't the money or the stuff. It is absolutely the amount of joy that you feel.

saint

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Re: This one is for the Saint
« Reply #1 on: March 05, 2011, 06:13:04 pm »

Hey Ross,  Thanx for asking.... Compression... THAT'S a big one (I know Brauer & I go around this one a lot, but different strokes for different folks!). I COULD rant for days, but it's just a fact of audio life these days. Rupert Neve, pretty much the UNDISPUTED KING of the analog recording desk in ALL Audio history, labeled that device "Neve Correction Units". THAT pretty much sums up my entire approach to their application. A device to be applied to constrain those spurious transients (peak limiting with a fast attack & fast release) that were unpredictable and unmanageable with manual fader manipulation during the actual recording process as well as to help pull the lower level audio up louder to help hear it better. The trade off being a louder, more even recorded dynamic, therefore a better 'signal to noise' ratio on tape. Dynamics were CRUCIAL then, as was controlling signal to noise ratios as well as distortion (the inevitable result of over modulating the tape with high levels).

In todays audio world, the overuse and total ABUSE of compressors has become the drug of choice among MOST of the top mixers. WHY??? I remember it starting with engineers wanting to present their mixes to the A&R guys at the label in a way that enabled their mixes to sound louder than the competition and more like songs on the radio BEFORE the mastering. With the advent of the digital recording format EVERYTHING changed, but specifically as it relates to compression, our entire approach to recording had to shift. All of a sudden we had to use up ALL the 'bits' available to achieve full bandwidth (before the emergence of the HD format & higher digital 'word' lengths). To get recorded all the way up to '0' WITHOUT going over, precipitated the "I must limit &/or compress everything in order to get the best sound". This has since evolved into what is now the standard in virtually ALL commercial releases today of "Squeeze the F_ _ k out of EVERYTHING" until the dynamic range is around 1.5Db! Sometimes I look at the meters and I swear that look like alignment tones! I have seen several mixers routinely (BEFORE even LISTENING to the tracks they are putting up) patch source (tape or digits) out to a compressor in, compressor out to line in. Then Insert out to compressor in (&/or one or more E.Q.'s), to insert return. Then assign ALL the groups of audio to stereo sub groups, i.e. drums, bass, guitars, keys, vocals, background vocals, strings, etc. and patch each of those busses out into a compressor and return those to separate line ins, and AGAIN, out of the insert points on those sub group faders into other stereo compressors, too! Additionally, and this is the real kicker, in addition to the Sissel (SSL) onboard bus compressors, add another stereo compressor (&/or E.Q.) to the Master 2 Buss input and (yep, were not done yet!), STILL another stereo compressor (&/or E.Q.) to the insert point of the Master 2 Buss!!! One famous 'Star Designer Mixer' had 78 compressors on a 24 track mix!!!! He was wondering why he had no level at the 2 Buss until his ASSISTANT reminded him of the fact that not only did he have at LEAST 2 compressors on EVERY channel, but 3 stereo compressors across the Mix Buss and he NEVER ONCE checked a SINGLE one for 'unity gain'!! Not that 'unity gain' would have meant MUCH at that point, but a SERIOUS reassessment of the very CONCEPT of gain structure, much less signal to noise is certainly in order in today's recording environment.

We have the technology to reproduce a dynamic range of 120+Db with tolerable results in the higher (24/176.4 or 192) sample rates, yet are content with 1.5Db! Radio has NEVER been a good place to judge how good a record sounds. Radio compress EVERYTHING to death, NOT for audio, but to maintain MAXIMUM POWER OUTPUT to reach their listeners with their ADVETS, NOT their music! The music has always suffered as a result. The vinyl product, however, was the BEST way to hear what the REAL record sounded like and to this day, is STILL the best SOUNDING representation (though certainly NOT as portable as iPods, cassettes, etc.) of the final product. I am so SICK of listening to music that 'sounds great on ear buds', BUT still sound as if it were coming out of an earbud on Studio Monitors!

The 'level wars' are as destructive to decent audio as actual wars are to the people that must fight them. It is PAST DUE for a resurgence of GREAT audio which will demand that the overuse, misuse and continual abuse of them cease and desist. The 'factory assembly line' approach to the art of recording and music in general is systemic and it is up to US, the so called "Professionals" in the business to MAKE that change. It's bad enough that "MP Frees" are the STANDARD release format (to Radio as well as the 'Buying' (eerrrrrrr... 'Stealing') public. Those of us in CONTROL need to take the initiative on this. Just because the listener (and most A&R people) can't tell the difference (EXCEPT for how 'loud' something is or is not) is no reason to sacrifice the years of struggle, invention, innovation and progress we've made in audio. It's like being happy (settling??) for White Tower burgers as the EPITOME of Culinary Art! HORSE PUCKY!!!

What I will say in closing is that a great mix can withstand 15Db of compression at a Ratio of 10 to 1 and in mastering and STILL survive! If your mixes go IN to Mastering like that, there is NOTHING the Mastering engineer can do to save your work. I say, at LEAST try to do a separate Master to go to radio and MPFrees, but let the CD breathe for Christ Sakes! Do you want to make garbage records (that may even sell or win a Grammy... oh Boy!) or do you give a HOOT about the QUALITY of audio that you put your name on?

You need to be reminded of the fact that back when there WERE real Labels, America put out approximately 30 to 35,000 Albums a year. THIS past year alone, we topped out at 100,000 albums PER MONTH! Do I even NEED to say that the majority of those releases were 'Produced, Engineered & Mixed" in the box, in some "wannabe's" bedroom or basement and they SOUND like that! As professionals we need to set the bar ever HIGHER rather than sink to that level.

It behooves us all to a SERIOUS reevaluation of our concept of gain structure and dynamics as it applies to the ART of Recording.





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Jeff Goodman

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Re: This one is for the Saint
« Reply #2 on: March 06, 2011, 10:51:35 am »

Here here! I couldn't agree more.

Jeff
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Gio

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Re: This one is for the Saint
« Reply #3 on: March 06, 2011, 12:08:49 pm »

Refreshing read, to say the least.

I imagine it's difficult when a paycheck is involved.... "Do it like this, or we'll get someone else!!"

Hopefully enough will not bend to the pressure as to effect some sort of long term change for the positive.

Thanks for that!
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Nobtwiddler

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Re: This one is for the Saint
« Reply #4 on: March 06, 2011, 05:59:22 pm »

 Hallelujah !
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tunetown

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Re: This one is for the Saint
« Reply #5 on: March 06, 2011, 06:53:50 pm »

Well said Saint.
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Peter Houghton
Tune Town Pty Ltd

Fletcher

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Re: This one is for the Saint
« Reply #6 on: March 07, 2011, 09:11:56 am »

At the same time... there are other things you can do with compressors beside "squash the piss" out things.  My most common use for compressors is to mess with the envelop of a sound... especially bass.

I've found it very difficult to EQ a bass to really do what I want it to do in a mix and far better to mess the envelop to get it to sit right [besides the obvious leveling functions].

I'll often do that with guitars as well [especially "lead guitar" where I'll try to pull out every ounce of sustain possible.  Couple that with an expander with a slow attack and you can get some really interesting stuff that can fit into the music beautifully... but might not have been exactly what the player had in mind.

I'm sure there are others who use compressors to play with the envelop of stuff... maybe Ross, Michael or John would like to chime in on some of their uses of "dynamic range control devices" for "non - squashed" applications...
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CN Fletcher

mwagener wrote on Sat, 11 September 2004 14:33
We are selling emotions, there are no emotions in a grid


"Recording engineers are an arrogant bunch
If you've spent most of your life with a few thousand dollars worth of musicians in the studio, making a decision every second and a half... and you and  they are going to have to live with it for the rest of your lives, you'll get pretty arrogant too.  It takes a certain amount of balls to do that... something around three"
Malcolm Chisholm

rosshogarth

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Re: This one is for the Saint
« Reply #7 on: March 07, 2011, 01:36:15 pm »

pressed for time here right now ..
but I agree Fletcher, the Bass is particular is an instrument that seems to take the right compression very gladly
In general I find bass an uneven instrument and particularly in the hands of your rockers, it has many frequency's that jump out and others that go completely away
I know for my self I use very specific compression for this
Saint, do you also never compress bass ?
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The practice of forgiveness is our most important contribution to the healing of the world.

The standard of success in life isn't the things. It isn't the money or the stuff. It is absolutely the amount of joy that you feel.

Michael Brauer

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Re: This one is for the Saint
« Reply #8 on: March 07, 2011, 02:03:56 pm »

i agree, different strokes for different folks. I use compression to make things bigger and give more depth to a sound. I think my records are dynamic.  I don't like music flatlined either. I like dynamics but I also know that the amount that I can play with is less than it was 10 years ago. mastering engineers know not to slam my records.

 I think it also depends on the kind of music being done. If you listen to a song and it feels and sounds good on repeated listens, then that's good enough for me.

If you use no compression or you use some or a lot and it sounds like crap, crap it is. Try a different approach.

Saint's records sound and feel good to me, that's really all I care about. Do I really think or care about whether he put a compressor on something?

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Fletcher

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Re: This one is for the Saint
« Reply #9 on: March 07, 2011, 04:49:52 pm »

In general I find bass an uneven instrument and particularly in the hands of your rockers, it has many frequency's that jump out and others that go completely away

I wasn't really talking about getting the bass "level" - I was talking more about changing the envelop of the sound... sometimes using a medium fast release to make the back end of a note sharpen up or a long release to have the notes hang longer... a really slow attack so the front end of the note "pops out" before the compression catches it causing a bit of a "push" to where the bass hits or rounding out the front end of the bass so its almost like a "low legato groan" / "wash" rather than really distinct and well defined notes.

The "evening out" thing is just a reaction to a bass that wasn't set up great or a bass player that could use a little work on their technique [some more than others, but they almost all need some].  I have actually had the pleasure to have worked with a bass player [Tim Landers] who made every note come to zero every time... it was kinda freakish until he told me about how he practiced doing that for a couple / tree years.

Peace.
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CN Fletcher

mwagener wrote on Sat, 11 September 2004 14:33
We are selling emotions, there are no emotions in a grid


"Recording engineers are an arrogant bunch
If you've spent most of your life with a few thousand dollars worth of musicians in the studio, making a decision every second and a half... and you and  they are going to have to live with it for the rest of your lives, you'll get pretty arrogant too.  It takes a certain amount of balls to do that... something around three"
Malcolm Chisholm

Extreme Mixing

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Re: This one is for the Saint
« Reply #10 on: March 08, 2011, 02:01:27 am »

I love compression.  But I don't love severely limited flat line mixes.  That's not compressing, it's Decapitating as one of the software manufacturers proudly calls it.

I hear that Apple is pressing for 24 bit master downloads.  Funny thing is that it won't make any difference in the sound of music unless we lower the level of the masters.  Squashed is squashed, and if you don't hear the 12db that you just hacked off the top of the mix, what makes anyone think they can hear that detail that happens 110db down?

Sheesh...

Steve
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saint

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Re: This one is for the Saint
« Reply #11 on: March 16, 2011, 07:35:21 pm »

The other aspect which I did NOT mention is that often compressors will be used as E.Q.'s. Obviously, ANYTHING you put between you and the sound WILL add it's 'color' to it and that can be good as well.

In GENERAL, the amount of compression that I hear today on records only adds fuel to the fire of the 'level wars'. At the end of the day, especially now that radio uses the 'MP Free' format for broadcast (and CD's sell around 1/3's the numbers they did 3 years ago) it hardly matters at all.

Fact about it is, even when mastering engineers do NOT or CAN not (because the mixes they are asked master have been delivered to them compressed to the MAX), the ONLY thing left for them to do is to put a digital steamroller on them in order to get the VOLUME elevated to +9!
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Michael Brauer

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Re: This one is for the Saint
« Reply #12 on: March 23, 2011, 10:41:57 am »

I agree, for the most part I've used my compressors more for EQ than EQ themselves. Without any compression I can get a natural tone or attitude change to an instrument or vocal by simply using my AWA or EAR comps. BTW, not using compression in the chain is a lot harder but saint mastered that a long time ago.
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saint

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Re: This one is for the Saint
« Reply #13 on: April 03, 2011, 01:19:19 pm »

Not totally relying on compression (to enable me to work much faster or conform to whatever may perceived today as 'contemporary'); just applying it 'judiciously' as I tend to do, does take MORE TIME in the mix. In these days of little to no budget, it is definitely a 'diminishing return' to not go the 'factory production' route. What I DO find to be the benefit is the ability to have more of the 'audio clay' to enable me to truly sculpt the audio in search of a clarity, definition and dynamic range that is much more 'musical' to my ears. I actually really LIKE depth and dynamics and I am especially fond of listening to mixes on ear buds that do NOT sound like they are still being listened to through those aberrations when they are being played back on my (or any excellent) monitoring system!

Oh, Ross, Vocals & Basses I find for the most part, MUST have compression. My relatively recent (past few years or so) problem is not unlike what many Mastering engineers have to face and that is the tracks I am receiving to mix theses days have already compressed those two key elements so MUCH, that I can't recover enough of the original vocal or bass to EVER get them to sound like it should because the audio is just so permanently "scarred". In addition to running them through tubes, I will occasionally, split such tracks out to a few faders and eq back in those areas that are missing and then just use those faders 'judiciously' to re-insert clarity on an 'as needed' basis. I feel sometimes like I am doing a sort of 'audio restoration' not unlike working on restoring an ancient architecture. Sad that it even HAS to be that way when these recordings are all current!
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