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Old 01-13-2012, 03:38 PM
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Default mix/master of a track from redavide

In another thread, redavide asked how to get his track louder, and I volunteered to take a crack at his track if he'd send it to me. Here's the result. This is a cover tune, so between that and the interest of keeping download time short, I'm only posting the intro chord progression, about 20 seconds or less as a wav file:

Original

"Mastered"

I'm not a mastering engineer, so apologies to anyone here who is, but this is my best shot at what I'd do with the track.

First of all, nice playing, the most important part. Second, ideally, I wouldn't do any of what I did, it'd be far better to achieve closer to the final sound just by mic positioning, etc.

The most obvious problem with the original track is that it's balanced way to the right.



The left side is about half volume. The track's also pretty muddy and muffled, and there's also a bit of noise in there. When working in noisy environments, it's a good idea to leave some total silence at the beginning and end, in case noise reduction can help. So I'd do that, work on balance, and see if you can find a better sound with mic positioning. Redavide, perhaps you can fill us in on the details of how this was recorded, mics, placement, etc

The 1st thing I did was balance the recording by raising the left side. (One problem with this is that the track already had reverb applied, and this raised the reverb on the left side to more than it ought to be) Then I applied a little noise reduction. Part of sounding "loud" is standing out from the background. Ideally, we don't do noise reduction, tho.

Then I loaded the track into logic and applied a few plugins, basically compressing, widening, and EQing. This is a fairly percussive track, with big peaks that prevent the rest of the music from simply being raised, so it seems like a reasonable candidate for some compression, and I used more than I typically would here. I put a limiter on the track first, to knock down the percussive peaks by about 4db, so I could in turn raise the total level by 4 db.


The stereo image is very narrow, giving the track a small feel, so I used the Voxengo MS tool to widen the track quite a bit.



I also added an EQ that has a very sharp cutoff to kill any mud and hum below about 60Hz.

Then I brought in Izotope Ozone and applied some over all EQ, boosting the highs and cutting a little low mids to try to get some more presence:



I also used the Ozone Exciter to add a little more presence, and topped it off with some "maximizer" style compression to bring the overall level up and bring the track forward.

My suggestion would be to keep working with mic placement with a goal of getting a better sound without any of these extra steps. Ideally, little or no compression, no EQ, no noise reduction, no manipulating the stereo image - just get all this as right as possible during tracking. That will sound much better than massaging the signal afterwards.
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Old 01-14-2012, 02:14 AM
redavide redavide is offline
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Doug, thanks for taking the time to do this -- it's very helpful.

There's a major, obvious difference between the 2 clips. What I notice foremost is how much of the "mud" you cleared out of my clip and the widened stereo image. I don't notice any volume increase on your clip, but it's probably because the mud on my original was responsible for a lot of unnecessary volume. I also hear a much better reverb sound and a much better high-end presence. I'd also add that the segment of the recording you used was maybe one of the muddiest parts of my track -- the parts played later in the track at a higher register probably weren't originally as muddy as the intro . . .

I understand your point about addressing these issues during mic placement and I'm going to start experimenting in trying to get more of the sound you got after mastering right from the beginning -- through mic placement alone . . .

I recorded the original track with an AT4050 (LDC) pointed at the bridge and an AT4041 (SDC) pointed at around the 12th fret, both at a distance of about 6 inches. Probably was too close because I was paranoid about phasing problems and eliminating the room sound.

Also, I record these things as videos for Youtube and sometimes mic placement is constrained in an effort to get a not-too-horrible video. That's probably just plain stupid and I have to figure out a way to get both a minimally acceptable video with maximum mic placement. Something to work on . . . Also, I record these videos live -- no punch-ins, overdubs, cutting/pasting . . . so sometimes when I get a decent take but then when I listen back the sound isn't the greatest, I use it anyway just because it was a decent take, figuring I'll try to doctor the sound in the mix. Probably also stupid and something to think about and find a solution.

Anyway, thanks again Doug.
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Old 01-14-2012, 12:34 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by redavide View Post
I recorded the original track with an AT4050 (LDC) pointed at the bridge and an AT4041 (SDC) pointed at around the 12th fret, both at a distance of about 6 inches. Probably was too close because I was paranoid about phasing problems and eliminating the room sound.
That setup seems fine. You could try backing up a bit, you may be getting too much proximity effect. But 6-8 inches is what I usually use. Not sure why you're getting such a dark sound. How does the guitar sound in person? Reasonably new strings? I'd continue to check out mic positions, even moving a half inch can change the sound. I wouldn't worry too much about phase issues. Room sound's a bigger concern, and it's harder to find a good mic placement in a poor acoustic environment. Check out the budget recording example I posted in the "evolution" thread. That was a pair of AT's about 6-8 inches away in an untreated room.
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Old 01-15-2012, 07:40 PM
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I listened to both clips a few times through my headphones and my Daedalus monitors. What stands out most about the second mastered clip is that the sound is considerably louder on the left side than the right. Is it just me? Other than that, it is interesting to hear the difference. It certainly is amazing what can be achieved using plugins! Though I do think the original recording could have been improved greatly with better mic placement, it is nice to know that one can go back later and improve the recording.
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Old 01-15-2012, 07:48 PM
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I may have overcompensated for the original, which had a dramatically louder right track :-)

You may also be hearing the reverb on the left. Since the reverb was applied evenly on both tracks, and the right track was much louder, when I raised the left track in an attempt to be equal, the reverb becomes unbalanced on the left side, really calling attention to itself and making the left side more obvious. It'd be better to fix the balance first, then apply reverb. This is one of the issues where you can't fix everything in the mastering stage, just as you can't fix everything in the mix.

The main thing I was trying for was more brightness and clarity.
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Old 01-16-2012, 08:07 AM
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Doug I am not at all familiar with your plugs ins ( being strictly a PT guy w/ Waves and Digi plugs) Just out of curiosity what DAW are you using? And do you ever in that Izotope EQ use it in mixing for a surgical narrow Q cut on a specific offending freq. ?
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Old 01-16-2012, 08:37 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Doug Young View Post
The main thing I was trying for was more brightness and clarity.
Doug, you certainly brought brought it to life with more clarity and brightness, very nice indeed!
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Old 01-16-2012, 09:46 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rick Shepherd View Post
Doug, you certainly brought brought it to life with more clarity and brightness, very nice indeed!
I've compared my Youtube version with the wav. file of exactly the same recording after Doug got through with it. The difference is enormous and really has shown me how much potential, sound-wise, even a not-so-great recording can have after a bit of mastering and without having been put through Youtube degradation.

If you're interested, you can hear the whole track as mastered by Doug here:

https://idisk.mac.com/duglsyoung//Public/weeps_dy.wav -- (it will take about a minute to download)

as compared with exactly the same unmastered recording through Youtube
here:

http://youtu.be/DmCKHOy8dWA

Pretty much night and day.
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Old 01-16-2012, 11:41 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KevWind View Post
Doug I am not at all familiar with your plugs ins ( being strictly a PT guy w/ Waves and Digi plugs) Just out of curiosity what DAW are you using? And do you ever in that Izotope EQ use it in mixing for a surgical narrow Q cut on a specific offending freq. ?
I use Logic, and mostly UAD plugins. For this exercise I mostly used iZotope's Ozone, which just packages a parametric EQ, exciter, multi-band compressor, and maximizer-style limiter (ala Waves L1) in one convenient package. Nothing too esoteric, you should have all that with PT and/or Waves, and I could have used various Logic or UAD plugins as well.

No, I can't recall a time I needed surgical EQ. I try to get it right with mic placement, and only rarely need some broad EQ to add presence, midrange warmth, etc. If you checked out the "evolution" example, I used no EQ at all, other than a subsonic filter.
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Old 01-16-2012, 12:19 PM
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Quote:
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I use Logic, and mostly UAD plugins. For this exercise I mostly used iZotope's Ozone, which just packages a parametric EQ, exciter, multi-band compressor, and maximizer-style limiter (ala Waves L1) in one convenient package. . .
I see that you can get Izotope Ozone 5 at B&H for $199. Doug, in your opinion, is that a fair price for what it does?

I've read that you can find similar plug-ins separately for almost nothing -- but don't know if that's really true. Is the quality and convenience of Ozone 5 worth 199 bucks?
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Old 01-16-2012, 12:34 PM
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I see that you can get Izotope Ozone 5 at B&H for $199. Doug, in your opinion, is that a fair price for what it does?

I've read that you can find similar plug-ins separately for almost nothing -- but don't know if that's really true. Is the quality and convenience of Ozone 5 worth 199 bucks?
Its a nice plugin, seems to be high quality, and $199 for 6 plugins seems good to me. For sure, you can find EQs, compressors, etc out there for free, so it depends on whether you like the way ozone works. There's a free trial available, so check it out first.

Of course, I'd try for getting a better sound without resorting to tools like this. I don't use it often on my tracks. But if you're self-mastering, it seems like a good choice.
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Old 01-16-2012, 01:53 PM
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. . .

Of course, I'd try for getting a better sound without resorting to tools like this. I don't use it often on my tracks. But if you're self-mastering, it seems like a good choice.
I completely understand what you're saying, and appreciate it -- you'd rather see a cripple walking on his own than using a cane . . . And of course you're right -- these "tools" are a secondary thing -- the idea is to get it as close to the final product right from the beginning . . . Make-up only goes so far, but it does help sometimes.
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Old 01-16-2012, 02:04 PM
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I completely understand what you're saying, and appreciate it -- you'd rather see a cripple walking on his own than using a cane . . . And of course you're right -- these "tools" are a secondary thing -- the idea is to get it as close to the final product right from the beginning . . . Make-up only goes so far, but it does help sometimes.
These tools can be useful for learning. You don't like the sound, so you start playing with some tool, and discover that a bass boost sounds good. Then go back and see if you can get it without relying on EQ - different mics, different guitar, play differently, etc. Another very useful tool for this is HarBal (only runs on a PC). Its billed as a mastering tool, and its "automated mastering" features will make most engineers shudder, but it ability to compare the EQ curves of two tracks is really educational. There are other tools that do this (including Ozone), but I like HarBal's display. I learned a ton from comparing my tracks to my favorite recordings with it.

Nothing wrong with relying on the tools, but I think your results will be better if you use tools like this to slightly tweak an already good sound. Like adding a little salt to an already tasty dish, rather than trying to cover up something that tastes bad.
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Old 01-17-2012, 06:45 AM
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Doug,

Could you tell us a little more about these steps you did and explain what this means in a bit more detail...........

"I also used the Ozone Exciter to add a little more presence, and topped it off with some "maximizer" style compression to bring the overall level up and bring the track forward."

Thanks,
--Bill
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Old 01-17-2012, 09:51 AM
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The only criticism I have is with the reverb. The tail is quite "splashy" resulting in a very unrealistic sound. I'm assuming it was a preset. I've yet to find a preset that didn't need tweaking.
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