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Author Topic: Why Do My Recordings/Mixes Suck?  (Read 5434 times)

bloodstone

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Why Do My Recordings/Mixes Suck?
« on: May 31, 2004, 07:44:27 AM »

I've been in the biz about 25 years as an artist, recordist/producer.  6 years ago, my group did a record using a Studer 2", Trident console, mixing to 1/2" tape.  The thing turned out great, and I had positive influence on the outcome from pre-production all the way through mastering.  

So now, armed with a Tascam MX2424 (stock A/D), a Soundcraft Ghost and the gear list below, I can't seem to come up with anything that sounds anywhere close to what I've achieved in the past sonically.  Am I expecting too much out of myself and my equipment?  What would you suggest could be the most significant upgrade I could make to take it up a notch?  I tend to fault the DA20 more than anything else (my main mixdown device).  I've experimented with Apogee Rosetta and Lucid A/D, but ultimately felt the analog ins were superior. Thanks.  I've toyed with the idea of getting an 1/2" 2 track, maybe mixing into a PC with a Lynx card to get 24 bit masters, etc.

Outboard:
Tascam DA20
Tascam CDRW700
Drawmer 1969
Langevein DVC
(2)Alesis Midiverb 4
Lexicon Reflex
Avalon 747sp
(3) Joe Meek VC6Q
Joe Meek VC1Q
Distressor

Mics:
CAD M-9
AKG Solidtube
Sennheiser MD421
AKG 414 BULS
Oktava ML52
Oktava 319
Oktava 219
AKG C1000S
Shure SM57

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hargerst

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Re: Why Do My Recordings/Mixes Suck?
« Reply #1 on: May 31, 2004, 09:35:46 AM »

Some of the problem is due to less than stellar equipment (but some of it is stellar), but most of the problem is probably due to too high expectations and not enough time spent on mic placements and eq. A lot of the mics you list would not be my first choices (or even my fifth choices).
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Harvey "Is that the right note?" Gerst
Indian Trail Recording Studio

bloodstone

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Re: Why Do My Recordings/Mixes Suck?
« Reply #2 on: May 31, 2004, 10:00:18 AM »

hargerst wrote on Mon, 31 May 2004 14:35

Some of the problem is due to less than stellar equipment (but some of it is stellar), but most of the problem is probably due to too high expectations and not enough time spent on mic placements and eq. A lot of the mics you list would not be my first choices (or even my fifth choices).


Out of curiosity, I just did a dry flat mix of the same song to my DAT & CD-R.  At matched levels, the CD-R definitely sounded clearer with more top end, and less murky.  I'm monitoring the analog outs of both devices.

I definitely spend a lot of time trying to use eq to improve what I've tracked at mixdown, mainly subtractive.    

Are there other mics in the above price points you think I should try and are superior for the money?

Do you think I would hear a marked difference if I mixed to 1/2" tape?  The output of my Ghost tends to sound better than the outs of the CD-R or DAT.  Thanks again.
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Greg Youngman

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Re: Why Do My Recordings/Mixes Suck?
« Reply #3 on: May 31, 2004, 10:57:46 AM »

For me... you left out the most important piece.  What monitors are you using?  Describe your monitoring setup.
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John Ivan

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Re: Why Do My Recordings/Mixes Suck?
« Reply #4 on: May 31, 2004, 12:38:12 PM »

Hi BloodStone;

What Harvey and GY said. I'll add this. You said you had a positive influence on the old recording ,all the way through. My question is, Did you engineer it? Was it done in a Pro room with all the bells and whistles? It's amazing what a really great engineer can do in a purpose built studio. The thing is, they make it look so easy man. They through the mic's up and quickly get sounds and know which comps to plug into and all that .. There is a whole lot going on that we don't see, but they hear. I have found my sound getting better and better over time {my stuff is in boxes right now and it's killing me} and while I'm getting close to Major release quality and in fact, think that some of my stuff could go out and hold up anywhere,I still freak when I hear the big boys who do this 10 and 12 hours per day. Don't get me wrong,I'm not pointing my finger at you,any more than I am myself. The rig your using should be fine and you might be being slightly hard on yourself {which is mostly good}but, I have found that it is very very very hard to replace a big studio staffed with a career engineer. Keep trying.


I also have much better luck with two inch machines than any digital format, although, my rig is mostly digital tape. Go figure. I'll be buying a machine this year,finally.
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bloodstone

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Re: Why Do My Recordings/Mixes Suck?
« Reply #5 on: May 31, 2004, 02:07:20 PM »

GY wrote on Mon, 31 May 2004 15:57

For me... you left out the most important piece.  What monitors are you using?  Describe your monitoring setup.


My monitors are pretty lame.  A pair of Alesis Monitor One's (the original model) powered by a Samson studio amp.  Yet for the most part I get what I hear, excepting the low end obviously isn't very accurate.  I'm still curious what y'all might say would be the most prudent upgrade.

With regard to ivan40:

I didn't "engineer" the 2" recording, but I did oversee the choice of mics on various tracks based on listening to what we were getting, and at mixdown the choice of inserts to signal chain on the channels: where to apply the 1176, the LA-2A, etc.  My role was more giving the engineer direction and challenging him to make things sound better.  Occasionally I got involved with the EQ on a given channel, and did almost all of the selection/fine-tuning of effects.    
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John Ivan

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Re: Why Do My Recordings/Mixes Suck?
« Reply #6 on: May 31, 2004, 07:37:30 PM »

Hey,For the record: I'm not in any way questioning your skill or your ability to make a record.I'm saying that if you expect to get results that match a Trident??? a Studer ,1176's LA-2A's a set of rooms made for recording,great monitors,great mic's and what generally comes with an old school purpose built Studio, It is very very hard to get done.When it comes to the mixing stage alone, the monitors and room could kill it for the best of the best engineers. It's not all about equipment but, there is, as you know a universe of difference between high end stuff and mid end stuff. I know how this feels because I'm in the same boat except,in some ways, your rig is nicer than mine.

I'm someone who thinks that a whole lot of things about making records has gotten worse ,not better. Your rig and my rig are fine and we can get good results and make people happy about our music but we can't sound like an old school studio. To much stuff adds up to degrade the audio just enough to make a difference. I'm glad I get to have a studio and I will continue to work my ass off to make it sound great but there is only so much I can do about the signal chain.$$$$$

Peace......
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bloodstone

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Re: Why Do My Recordings/Mixes Suck?
« Reply #7 on: June 01, 2004, 04:32:01 AM »

ivan40 wrote on Tue, 01 June 2004 00:37

Hey,For the record: I'm not in any way questioning your skill or your ability to make a record.I'm saying that if you expect to get results that match a Trident??? a Studer ,1176's LA-2A's a set of rooms made for recording,great monitors,great mic's and what generally comes with an old school purpose built Studio, It is very very hard to get done.When it comes to the mixing stage alone, the monitors and room could kill it for the best of the best engineers. It's not all about equipment but, there is, as you know a universe of difference between high end stuff and mid end stuff. I know how this feels because I'm in the same boat except,in some ways, your rig is nicer than mine.

I'm someone who thinks that a whole lot of things about making records has gotten worse ,not better. Your rig and my rig are fine and we can get good results and make people happy about our music but we can't sound like an old school studio. To much stuff adds up to degrade the audio just enough to make a difference. I'm glad I get to have a studio and I will continue to work my ass off to make it sound great but there is only so much I can do about the signal chain.$$$$$
Peace......


Well, ultimately we do have to take responsibility/"ownership" (to use a corporate term I despise) for the quality of the work that we do.  I don't expect to match a Trident/Studer combo, but I'd just like to get it closer, push myself & gear further (plus there are great recordings done on less equipment than I have).  No offense taken, but I'm sure it's partly a lack of skill on my part.  I'm definitely still learning.  Since I last wrote I've been experimenting with more drastic EQ (steeper cuts and more aggressive boost in appropriate ranges) and it seems to help a lot.  I've determined the fidelity of my DAT is inferior to that of the CD-R.  Thanks for your comments.  
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hargerst

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Re: Why Do My Recordings/Mixes Suck?
« Reply #8 on: June 01, 2004, 09:34:13 AM »

bloodstone wrote on Tue, 01 June 2004 03:32

Well, ultimately we do have to take responsibility/"ownership" (to use a corporate term I despise) for the quality of the work that we do.  I don't expect to match a Trident/Studer combo, but I'd just like to get it closer, push myself & gear further (plus there are great recordings done on less equipment than I have).  No offense taken, but I'm sure it's partly a lack of skill on my part.  I'm definitely still learning.  Since I last wrote I've been experimenting with more drastic EQ (steeper cuts and more aggressive boost in appropriate ranges) and it seems to help a lot.  I've determined the fidelity of my DAT is inferior to that of the CD-R.  Thanks for your comments.  



How hot are you recording to your DAT?  I've found that some of them sound really harsh when you go for that last bit of dynamic range.  Try keeping your peak levels down to -5 or -6dB, no higher than that, and see if that improves the sound.  On the DA-30, I found the A/D converters so harsh, I now use a Lucid A/D in front, just to bypass the Tascam converters.
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Harvey "Is that the right note?" Gerst
Indian Trail Recording Studio

bloodstone

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Re: Why Do My Recordings/Mixes Suck?
« Reply #9 on: June 01, 2004, 10:19:07 AM »

hargerst wrote on Tue, 01 June 2004 14:34

bloodstone wrote on Tue, 01 June 2004 03:32

Well, ultimately we do have to take responsibility/"ownership" (to use a corporate term I despise) for the quality of the work that we do.  I don't expect to match a Trident/Studer combo, but I'd just like to get it closer, push myself & gear further (plus there are great recordings done on less equipment than I have).  No offense taken, but I'm sure it's partly a lack of skill on my part.  I'm definitely still learning.  Since I last wrote I've been experimenting with more drastic EQ (steeper cuts and more aggressive boost in appropriate ranges) and it seems to help a lot.  I've determined the fidelity of my DAT is inferior to that of the CD-R.  Thanks for your comments.  



How hot are you recording to your DAT?  I've found that some of them sound really harsh when you go for that last bit of dynamic range.  Try keeping your peak levels down to -5 or -6dB, no higher than that, and see if that improves the sound.  On the DA-30, I found the A/D converters so harsh, I now use a Lucid A/D in front, just to bypass the Tascam converters.



Thanks.  I'll try that.  I'm not sure you can bypass the stock converters on the DA20.  I'd still appreciate your comments on alternative "better" mics in the price range of what I own per the above list, and a comment on what you think might most improve my final product: Lynx card (mixing to pc in 24 bit), 1/2" 2 track, etc.  
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John Ivan

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Re: Why Do My Recordings/Mixes Suck?
« Reply #10 on: June 01, 2004, 12:44:53 PM »

Hi Blood Stone,  what a Name:-}

It looks like your mixer is cool, you recorder is also very cool. I would not get rid of any out board stuff but I would add. You have the pre's in your console, the 69, and the Langevein DVC is something I've been drooling over. It looks like a Neve-ish pair of pre's would add to your colors. Keep picking up pre's that sound different over the years. It would be nice to have some more higher end reverb choices. And a variety of comps would not hurt either but What Harvey said about mics is the big big one.When it comes to buying mics, {and other stuff}, think of life time use. I would say you need a pair of small diaphragm condensers. I personally really like the sure SM-81's but, you might like something else. Go listen to them. I had some CS-1000's and the top end just ripped my head off and I stopped using them,then sold them. Others still use and like them. I still have an old CS-3000 that I pull out for Some Rapers. I would look at a pair of ribbons also. Beyer 160's are nice mic's that don't cost to much. For LDC condensers,I like the AT-4050's. I have heard the Studio Projects C-1 and really like it for male vocal.Harvey has written quite a bit about some of the inexpensive china mics that sound great. He would know too. Him and his kid are doin' some kick ass stuff down in Texas. For dynamic mics, I love my RE-20 and I love the sure SM-7. I also find that 57's and 58's can be used in a lot of places we don't normally think of.

Another thing that has already been mentioned is your monitors. Ya know, there are folks still using those damn things and they get fine results but, I bet they're not using that amp to push them.Look at Hafler {spelling?} I've got an old broken one here that I miss. I also have a Parasound amp that I really like. Monitors are a very personal thing and once you get used to them,your used to them. Monitors have gotten lot's better than the monitor ones though.


The other thing I always mention is the room. This is close to my heart right now because I'm fixin' to build new rooms. The room your in can make a bigger difference than almost anything else so read every thing you can about shape,size,treatment and so on { Ethan winers site is great}.


Just keep stabbing away at little improvements and they add up quickly. Spend outlandish amounts of time trying things and don't give up.

Peace.
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Ethan Winer

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Re: Why Do My Recordings/Mixes Suck?
« Reply #11 on: June 02, 2004, 12:30:26 PM »

Blood,

> What would you suggest could be the most significant upgrade I could make to take it up a notch? [long list of gear] <

If your monitoring is inadequate you can't hear what you're doing, so creating a great mix will remain elusive. I see a bunch of gear, but what sort of room treatment do you have? Personally, I'd rather have only semi-pro gear in a room that's properly treated, than $1,000,000 worth of primo gear in an untreated room.

--Ethan

bloodstone

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Re: Why Do My Recordings/Mixes Suck?
« Reply #12 on: June 02, 2004, 12:38:14 PM »

Ethan Winer wrote on Wed, 02 June 2004 17:30

Blood,

> What would you suggest could be the most significant upgrade I could make to take it up a notch? [long list of gear] <

If your monitoring is inadequate you can't hear what you're doing, so creating a great mix will remain elusive. I see a bunch of gear, but what sort of room treatment do you have? Personally, I'd rather have only semi-pro gear in a room that's properly treated, than $1,000,000 worth of primo gear in an untreated room.

--Ethan


Initially I had no room treatment whatsoever, then I installed  some 4 X 8 sheets of Auralex "spray glued" to the walls & ceiling in what I felt were appropriate locations (behind the monitors, on the wall opposite the monitors, on the ceiling above my sitting position, and on the side walls where I thought I'd get reflections from my nearfields.  This lessened the discrepancy between what I heard and what I printed tremendously).  I'm in a small basement room with a concrete floor, sheetrock walls & ceiling.  Not the best situation, and my board/monitors aren't centered on the wall they are near due to the layout of the room.  But as I mentioned previously, I think I'm pretty much printing what I hear when I monitor the DAT, but I'm not printing what I hear out of the Mix A of the Ghost.  That implies to me "something's getting lost in the translation" i.e. my mixdown devices suck.  Thanks.    
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Tim Gilles

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Re: Why Do My Recordings/Mixes Suck?
« Reply #13 on: June 03, 2004, 05:55:05 PM »

Ethan Winer wrote on Wed, 02 June 2004 12:30

Blood,

>  Personally, I'd rather have only semi-pro gear in a room that's properly treated, than $1,000,000 worth of primo gear in an untreated room.


What's the time frame?

'Cause if it's more than a week or so....

Couldn't disagree with ya more profoundly.

I'll learn/deal with/overcome the room.

Grados/Portable traps/Idiots tacking crap on the walls.

Whatever. Been there... Done that.... Plenty.

Gimmie the gear.

Any day.

We're talking MIX here, right?

Then it's the gear... I'll take the gear.

Every time.

Rumblefish

Ethan Winer

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Re: Why Do My Recordings/Mixes Suck?
« Reply #14 on: June 04, 2004, 01:08:15 PM »

Tim,

> I'll learn/deal with/overcome the room. <

How can you possibly "learn" to deal with a response like this one below?

http://www.realtraps.com/art_response.gif

This response graph is absolutely typical of the small rooms many people mix in these days. It's not like there's an overall low end boost or cut, which you probably could learn to compensate for. More to the point, with so many peaks and deep nulls only a musical half-step away from each other, the key of the song - heck, just the current chord - changes the balance between the bass and kick enormously.

--Ethan

Tim Gilles

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Re: Why Do My Recordings/Mixes Suck?
« Reply #15 on: June 04, 2004, 02:37:00 PM »

Nodes - Schmodes. [Daffy Duck Voice].

Is that all you got?

That graph?

LMFBO.

Whatever.

My opinion stands.

Adapt and overcome.

It's "pick yer poison".

You take the room.

Gimmie the gear.

Rumblefish.

gtoledo3

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Re: Why Do My Recordings/Mixes Suck?
« Reply #16 on: June 04, 2004, 03:14:48 PM »

Not to underestimate the benefit of a good sounding room, but...

Most people have spent the vast majority of their listening time in untreated rooms, with wildly differing responses. Even when talking about properly treated rooms, there are vast differences from one to another.

Who spent their adolescence/adulthood listening to Led Zeppelin II in an anechoic chamber? Not me.

Any engineer worth their salt is going to put on their reference cd's, and be able to adjust to that room. Their may be a period of "cognitive dissonance", but the subconcious/concious mind and ears have a great ability to adapt.
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Invisible Member

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Re: Why Do My Recordings/Mixes Suck?
« Reply #17 on: June 04, 2004, 04:12:19 PM »

Tim Gilles wrote on Fri, 04 June 2004 11:37

Nodes - Schmodes. [Daffy Duck Voice].

Is that all you got?

That graph?

LMFBO.

Whatever.

My opinion stands.

Adapt and overcome.

It's "pick yer poison".

You take the room.

Gimmie the gear.

Rumblefish.


Ya might also add to the discussion the individuality of the human response chart. No ear is flat. Plus drummers Smile are often deaf as bat in a fish tank to boot. And the results speak for themselves don't they?  There is no such thing as "all things being equal" in the recording industry.  

Even if in a perfect room with a gearsluts wetdream for a gearlist, if you can't learn the monitors your worthless.

Alrighty then.    Maybe we can prove it...

You find a crappy room and load it with a 60 series Neve and gobs of high end gear and jam it full into a untreated garage. Pick a band and record them. Then you do the same band on Mackie rig (8bus and HDR) with mid level pre's from presonus, Behringer or whatever etc... and see who's results stand.

I got the garage, who bringing the Neve and stuff:)


Peace,
Dennis
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Buzz

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Re: Why Do My Recordings/Mixes Suck?
« Reply #18 on: June 04, 2004, 05:38:16 PM »

Blood from what I've read in this post your biggest improvement would be your MONITORS , I used to use the Alesis M1's then upgraded to Tannoy system 800a's and the difference is HUGE !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! , I havent worked on my room as Ethan suggests but he is right about getting the best sounding room possible ( why would most studio's spend $$$$$$$$ on room's for the past 30 years if it didnt work ??? )

Anyhow Harvey is a great source for mic info I've learned ton;s from him

Later
Buzz

bloodstone

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Re: Why Do My Recordings/Mixes Suck?
« Reply #19 on: June 04, 2004, 06:20:26 PM »

Buzz wrote on Fri, 04 June 2004 22:38

Blood from what I've read in this post your biggest improvement would be your MONITORS , I used to use the Alesis M1's then upgraded to Tannoy system 800a's and the difference is HUGE !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! , I havent worked on my room as Ethan suggests but he is right about getting the best sounding room possible ( why would most studio's spend $$$$$$$$ on room's for the past 30 years if it didnt work ??? )

Anyhow Harvey is a great source for mic info I've learned ton;s from him

Later
Buzz



Perhaps you are correct, yet that doesn't acount for the huge discrepancy in what I hear when I monitor Mix A of the Ghost (Sounds pretty damn good and I'd be satisfied if that's what printed)to what I hear when I monitor the analog output of the DAT (sounds small and crappy). I appreciate your feedback and will consider your comments.  Something tells me I need better A/D, mix in 24 bit to a PC or Mac,  or a 1/2" 2 track, though.
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Han S.

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Re: Why Do My Recordings/Mixes Suck?
« Reply #20 on: June 04, 2004, 07:45:51 PM »

Tim Gilles wrote on Fri, 04 June 2004 19:37

Nodes - Schmodes. [Daffy Duck Voice].

You take the room.

Gimmie the gear.

Rumblefish.


Tim, I do have a darkbrown feeling I know you.
How are you my good old brother in arms?
Mmmmm? think Dutch...... a 'rock solid engineer' from North Europe and the C1000 bashing.

Thanks for the support a while back bro!
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Ethan Winer

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Re: Why Do My Recordings/Mixes Suck?
« Reply #21 on: June 05, 2004, 11:13:10 AM »

Buzz,

> why would most studio's spend $$$$$$$$ on room's for the past 30 years if it didnt work ??? <

Bingo.

--Ethan

Buzz

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Re: Why Do My Recordings/Mixes Suck?
« Reply #22 on: June 05, 2004, 04:04:27 PM »

Blood obviously the DAT is the problem ( 20 bit etc. ) I would find a good 2 track or a good sound card for your mix/mastering.
Later
Buzz
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