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Old 04-10-2014, 10:31 AM
wcap wcap is offline
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Default Recorded sound quality problem - ear piercing trebles - suggestions?

A recurring problem in some of my recordings has been a harsh, ear-piercing quality with the trebles in particular. This bothers me a lot - I find the first piece below sort of unpleasant to listen to on my iPod.

This harsh sound quality mostly bothers me when listening with my iPod earbuds - it is not too much of a problem with my AKG K240 headphones, for example. I realize iPod earbuds don't give the ultimate in sound quality, but the reality is that this is the main way I listen to music much of the time, so getting recordings that sound good on an iPod is something I'd like to strive for.

I hear this problem (with my earbuds in particular, but even on my car stereo) multiple times within the first 10 to 20 seconds of this recording, for example:



I also hear it in this recording done with my classical guitar just after 40 seconds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-nA4kJecH7s

And I hear it a bit around and just after the 1 minute point in this recording: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e0ARdKAeY3I

So, three recordings of three different guitars, all with the same problem, to varying degrees.

_______________________________________________

Does anyone have any thoughts on how to avoid this in future recordings?

There are things I can think of to explore and experiment with on my own of course (see my followup post below), but I'm wondering whether any of you who are more experienced than me have any suggestions that come immediately to mind.

And is there anything I can do with these existing recordings to soften the sound a bit?

Thanks!
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Last edited by wcap; 04-10-2014 at 11:18 AM.
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Old 04-10-2014, 11:02 AM
wcap wcap is offline
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Possible explanations for this harsh tone that have crossed my mind, but that I have not fully explored:

1. Two of those guitars have a pretty bright sound (guitars 1 and 3 above).
and
2. I have a pretty strong attack and a bright sound, and this might be playing a role (and in the classical guitar recording in particular I think my attack was too forceful for optimal tone).
BUT I don't hear anything like this ear piercing sound in person, even with my head leaning down close to the sound hole.

But perhaps I need to modify my attack when recording?
3. Perhaps I'm having troubles with recording levels and I'm having brief, transient clipping going on? (It seems this would be obvious if this was happening and I would have noticed this when monitoring levels, but maybe I have not be paying close enough attention?)

4. Maybe my microphones (or microphone placement?) or recorder are at fault?
Recording 1: Rode NT1A pointing at about the bridge, Rode NT pointing at the 14th fret. Plugged into Zoom R24. Processed in Garageband.

Recordings 2 and 3: Rode NT1A pointing at about the bridge, Rode M3 pointing at the 12th or 14th fret. Plugged into Presonus Firebox, feeding into Garageband.

All microphones about 1 to 2 feet in front of the guitar (the farthest was in the third recording above).

I've read threads where people have complained about some of the Rode microphones giving an overly bright sound, but I have also read about the NT3 in particular being a good guitar microphone...

5. Maybe I'm introducing problems in post-processing (with compression, etc).... BUT, I hear the harshness problem in this pretty much completely unprocessed recording, particularly after about 50 seconds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xe7WxFURuQU (recorded the same as recording 3 above).
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Old 04-10-2014, 12:10 PM
Fran Guidry Fran Guidry is offline
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Referring only to the last, unprocessed, example the level seems quite hot to me if you did not raise the level in post. Which makes me think you're trying to "use all the bits" in your tracking by going for a very high level. This makes your recording quite vulnerable to clipping, and digital clipping might be the source of your issue.

I experienced three breakthroughs in my recording - room treatment, tracking level reduction, and experience. My first few years of recording were spent trying to get tracking levels as high as possible and learning to use lower levels resulted in much more satisfactory results.

Fran
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Old 04-10-2014, 12:50 PM
wcap wcap is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fran Guidry View Post
Referring only to the last, unprocessed, example the level seems quite hot to me if you did not raise the level in post. Which makes me think you're trying to "use all the bits" in your tracking by going for a very high level. This makes your recording quite vulnerable to clipping, and digital clipping might be the source of your issue.
Though I have not been aware of, say, the recording level lights on the Zoom R24 going into the top red zone, I have wondered whether the problem might in fact be what you say here. And I have wondered whether there might sometimes be clipping that is so brief that the levels reflected in the lights don't show it (?).

I will have to check that last recording to see whether what I posted is absolutely raw, or whether I raised volume a bit in Garageband before uploading (I don't think I did anything else to it though, and certainly no compression). It probably was recorded pretty hot though.

An initial problem I encountered was recordings that were so quiet that I could not make them adequately loud enough in post processing, and this led to me doing exactly what you described - trying to get hotter initial recordings. But that was before I started experimenting with compression.

I don't fully understand compression, and I realize one can mess up sound quality with compression, but it is seeming that is a useful tool in the process of raising sound to more acceptable levels, and I'm realizing I don't necessarily have to have a really hot initial recording.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fran Guidry View Post
I experienced three breakthroughs in my recording - room treatment, tracking level reduction, and experience. My first few years of recording were spent trying to get tracking levels as high as possible and learning to use lower levels resulted in much more satisfactory results.

Fran
Thanks. I suspect you have nailed it here. At the very least this suggests a good thing to explore and experiment with.

I welcome further suggestions/feedback from others.
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Old 04-10-2014, 01:34 PM
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Hey Bill,
I don't do much recording, but here are some general comments. I usually record with peaks on the metering in the range of -18dBFS. If you're recording in 24 bit mode, and if the noise specs for your preamp and recorder are reasonably low, recording at this level shouldn't cause a problem. This should give some assurance that you aren't going to clip during high transient peaks. You can always bring the levels up (normalize) after recording.

When you bring your files into Garageband can you observe any clipping? I don't use that package so I'm not familiar with its feature set.
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Old 04-10-2014, 01:47 PM
MikeBmusic MikeBmusic is offline
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I'll echo the comments regarding recording levels - -18 to -12 is the best range.
I'm at work so can't watch/listen to your samples, but its possible that the unpleasant sound is coming upon conversion to whatever file format you are using when listening. You mention iPod, so I assume you are using iTunes for the file conversion. If so, are you using MP3s or WAV files when you upload to iTunes? Have you tried plugging your earbuds into the headphone output of the Zoom to see how it sounds?
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Old 04-10-2014, 01:55 PM
RedJoker RedJoker is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MikeBmusic View Post
I'll echo the comments regarding recording levels - -18 to -12 is the best range.
I'm at work so can't watch/listen to your samples, but its possible that the unpleasant sound is coming upon conversion to whatever file format you are using when listening. You mention iPod, so I assume you are using iTunes for the file conversion. If so, are you using MP3s or WAV files when you upload to iTunes? Have you tried plugging your earbuds into the headphone output of the Zoom to see how it sounds?
I was wondering about compression as well. If the raw sounds good, try the youtube version right away to see if you hear it there.
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Old 04-10-2014, 03:53 PM
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I doubt recording levels are the issue here. I did hear a fret hit zing at one of the points you mentioned (on my tablet - I will listen later on a better playback device). Many things can cause harshness, some in the actual sound, some in the recording setup, and some in the post processing. To help sort it out a little better, post a raw recording of one of those tunes. I can then do a better analysis of it and try some post recording tweaks on it.
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Old 04-10-2014, 04:05 PM
mc1 mc1 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MikeBmusic View Post
I'll echo the comments regarding recording levels - -18 to -12 is the best range.
I'm at work so can't watch/listen to your samples, but its possible that the unpleasant sound is coming upon conversion to whatever file format you are using when listening. You mention iPod, so I assume you are using iTunes for the file conversion. If so, are you using MP3s or WAV files when you upload to iTunes? Have you tried plugging your earbuds into the headphone output of the Zoom to see how it sounds?
i hear a weird digital glitch at 0:20 right after the harmonics. i also would see if it exists when listening directly to the zoom r24. perhaps it's a digital conversion issue and could be eliminated with different recording settings on the r24 (i have no idea of its capabilities) or if it is introdued later with different conversion options. i'd guess the earbuds are accentuating it.
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Old 04-10-2014, 04:33 PM
sdelsolray sdelsolray is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wcap View Post
A recurring problem in some of my recordings has been a harsh, ear-piercing quality with the trebles in particular. This bothers me a lot - I find the first piece below sort of unpleasant to listen to on my iPod.

This harsh sound quality mostly bothers me when listening with my iPod earbuds - it is not too much of a problem with my AKG K240 headphones, for example. I realize iPod earbuds don't give the ultimate in sound quality, but the reality is that this is the main way I listen to music much of the time, so getting recordings that sound good on an iPod is something I'd like to strive for.

I hear this problem (with my earbuds in particular, but even on my car stereo) multiple times within the first 10 to 20 seconds of this recording, for example:



I also hear it in this recording done with my classical guitar just after 40 seconds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-nA4kJecH7s

And I hear it a bit around and just after the 1 minute point in this recording: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e0ARdKAeY3I

So, three recordings of three different guitars, all with the same problem, to varying degrees.

_______________________________________________

Does anyone have any thoughts on how to avoid this in future recordings?

There are things I can think of to explore and experiment with on my own of course (see my followup post below), but I'm wondering whether any of you who are more experienced than me have any suggestions that come immediately to mind.

And is there anything I can do with these existing recordings to soften the sound a bit?

Thanks!
Many possible sources for the "harsh" treble response, most of which have already been mentioned. Likely a combination of several factors. I would add that your right hand fingernails and attack technique may be adding to the problem.
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Old 04-10-2014, 04:53 PM
Uncle Pauhana Uncle Pauhana is offline
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First of all, I love your playing! Really beautiful work.

My suggestion would be to try varying your primary EQ, otherwise known as mic placement. A very fine engineer I've worked with likes to place the mics thusly, to start with (and then makes fine adjustments to the position until the sound is pleasing to his golden ears):

Mic 1 is directed at the soundboard, treble side, lower bout. The mic is placed low enough so that it is angled slightly upwards, at a distance of about 12 to 16 inches, IIRC.

Mic 2 is directed at the soundboard, bass side, lower bout. The mic is placed about head height and angled downwards, lined up approximately above the other mic, IIRC.

Of course you may have already found your solution based on the other thoughtful answers that you've received, but mic placement can make a huge difference.

Glad to have had the opportunity to hear you play, anyway.
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Old 04-10-2014, 06:19 PM
wcap wcap is offline
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Thanks for all the suggestions. This is very helpful.

I will try to dig up the original sound files for one of the recordings - probably the first one, since this is the recording that bothers me the most.

I won't be able to get to this for a few days though, so hopefully folks will still be willing to listen and give feedback after a several day lag!

(I have some other responses to the various comments above, but they will have to wait until I get an exam written for my students for tomorrow!)
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Old 04-10-2014, 06:21 PM
wcap wcap is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Uncle Pauhana View Post
First of all, I love your playing! Really beautiful work....... Glad to have had the opportunity to hear you play, anyway.
Thank you!
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Old 04-10-2014, 06:23 PM
The Old Anglo The Old Anglo is offline
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The recording sounds good Except you need to compress and lower the trebles as they are way too shrill. Try it.
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Old 04-10-2014, 06:43 PM
wcap wcap is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Old Anglo View Post
The recording sounds good Except you need to compress and lower the trebles as they are way too shrill. Try it.
Can you explain briefly how one does this?

I've been using Garageband, though we also have Logic Express (which i have barely figured out how to use, but my daughter has been using some).

The shrill trebles are exactly the problem that prompted this thread,
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