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Am I trying to shove a camel through the eye of a needl

Discussion in 'Recording' started by deanp920, Dec 31, 2003.

  1. deanp920

    deanp920 Guest

    Well, so much for clever topic titles :roll:

    I want to upgrade my DAW, and I have some questions that I hope, after searching this forum, won't be too redundant.

    Some stats:

    I have a Mac G4 and MOTU 2408MKII running Digital Performer. I use some outboard tube mic pres of my own design and construction and I also have a Presonus Digimax LT running ADAT lightpipe into the 2408.

    I use Neumann, AKG, Shure, and Sennheiser microphones to record acoustic drums, vocals, guitars, etc. in the Rock/Metal genre. Some Jazz and Blues players come by occasionally, also.

    I mix everything on Mackie HR824 monitors to a two track file in Digital Performer using the Waves Gold bundleplug-insand the UAD-1 card for EQ/effects where needed.

    Here's what's troubling me: Though my sonic results vary greatly depending on the individual project and production variables, a certain quality, or lack thereof seems to be present in all of my final mixes...

    It's like comparing a real person with a two dimensional cardboard cutout of the same person. To say it another way, all of the intended elements exist exist in my recordings, but theres absolutely no depth or roundness to be found... a quality that, aside from the arrangement itself, I feel makes a recording interesting and pleasure to listen to.

    I get these results time after time with so many different mic/preamp/instrument/artist/room/mixing style combinations that I'm really beginning to focus my attention and accompanying doubts on the digital hardware interface, and/or the mixing software.

    A converter upgrade has crossed my mind. However, the difference between the Digimax LT converters and those on the MOTU, as well as different word clock configurations between the two don't seem to impact this anemic condition significantly.

    Let's say I purchased some super high end Apogee converters; if I connect those digitally to my 2408 MKII, will I hit any other weak links from that point onward? That is, can the computer and 2408 MKII correctly store and reproduce the audio data as produced by the upgraded converters? Do the algorithms in the mixing/summing software impose limits on quality compared to what the high end converter produces?

    What's needed to get full, deep professional-sounding results on a DAW system similar to the one descibed here? Can I even get there from here?

    The cost of the upgrade isn't as much of an issue as knowing what's truly required, less the BS from those who might want to sell me an inflatable doll, thinking that I probably won't know the difference, or at least knowing that I'll spend a long time figuring it out like I believe I have in this case.

    I'm not as concerned with editing features and effects as I am with rock solid audio reproduction quality in a multitrack recording/mixing setup. It just needs to sound good. All these fancy features can't rescue a crappy sound, and I'm much more willing to live with less bells and whistles in exchange for superb sound quality.

    Please share your thoughts.

    Thanks,

    Dean
     
  2. Ethan Winer

    Ethan Winer Active Member

    Dean,

    > What's needed to get full, deep professional-sounding results on a DAW system <

    You already have great gear. The solution is not yet more gear. A new A/D converter is not going to improve your projects even a tiny bit.

    I suspect what you need most is more practice, especially with EQ and other effects. To me, a three dimensional "right there in the room with you" sound has more to do with small-room reverb and EQ'ing conflicting frequencies than anything else.

    Improving your monitoring will also make a huge difference, and this is what we discuss every day in the Acoustics forum here on RO.

    --Ethan
     
  3. MisterBlue

    MisterBlue Guest

    Also, could it be the quality of what you are recording? This is an important factor - it's garbage in and garbage out - don't blame it all on yourself. Are these good players with good or even great instruments and equipment ? Tone starts in the hands of a player, not in the electronics ...

    Your gear seems to be decent, although I agree that it is not the very high end. It should allow you to make quality recordings that don't disappoint you that much.

    Ethan might be quite right in pointing out your monitoring / control room acoustics.

    MisterBlue.
     
  4. deanp920

    deanp920 Guest

    Ethan & MisterBlue,

    Thank you both very much for the replies.

    I swept my control room with varied sine waves like Ethan outlined in his Acoustics FAQ.

    I have humps at 175Hz and 87Hz that are ~ +20db :)

    Dean
     
  5. mjones4th

    mjones4th Active Member

    heh, its hard to fight that gear itch sometimes
     
  6. Ethan Winer

    Ethan Winer Active Member

    Dean,

    > I think my equipment rack deserves an apology from me <

    ROF,L. Can I quote you on that? :D

    --Ethan
     
  7. deanp920

    deanp920 Guest

    Ethan,

    > ROF,L. Can I quote you on that? :D <

    You already did! ;)

    Seriously, while sitting there in my mixing chair sweeping sine waves from about 200Hz on down, listening to these huge resonances and looking at them on my SPL meter, I thought: "That could easily be a bass guitar or kick drum or some other element in a mix, and I wouldn't have a clue what was really there in terms of low end balance."

    I need to address this and, hopefully, improve my monitoring situation before I can make any critical judgements about the rest of my recording chain.

    Dean
     
  8. moles

    moles Active Member

    Dean,
    I've haven't heard Digital Performer in action, (though I've heard good things about it) but I wonder if you would have/are having the same problems with any other audio app? Even my inexperienced ears noticed a HUGE difference when I moved up from Cubase VST5 to Logic Platinum, (like comparing apples to oranges, I know) and I can still hear differences in the playback engines of Logic, Protools, Nuendo, etc.
    Long story short, it seems there is as much of a difference between to DAW apps as between to preamps, mic's, etc. I'd be very curious to know if you found a different app to be more to your liking...
     
  9. mjones4th

    mjones4th Active Member

    Interesting Moles, care to expound?

    I use Logic myself, and its the only one I've experienced, but I've heard some things about track summing, etc. that can lead to differences in the same mix across different DAWs. Interesting area of discussion.

    mitz
     
  10. lambchop

    lambchop Active Member

    moles, are you saying that the end product in Logic was better than Cubase, or simply different?

    I definitely agree that this would be a very interesting topic for a thread.
     
  11. deanp920

    deanp920 Guest

    Moles,
    I'd be very interested in trying some different applications, using the same soundbites, levels, panning etc. to create some simple test mixes that are as close to identical as possible, then burn a compilation CD to see if anything jumps out at me.

    I just don't have a clue where to start, as far as changing applications is concerned.

    How many different apps will let me use my 2408 MKII?

    What kind of software costs am I looking at?

    I'll have to reasearch this a bit. Suggestions?

    For what it's worth, I picked up a pair of Grado SR125 headphones yesterday. I'm simply stunned by the level of detail and lack of coloration.

    I've only heard playback that sounded similar to this in a professional mastering studio, on some really tall speakers in a huge room with lots of expensive gear and acoustic treatment.

    In certain frequency ranges, most of my mixes sound very similar to commercial productions over these headphones.

    Where I really hear the difference is in the lows and low mids, where it is fairly obvious that the resonances induced through my speaker/room lead me to believe that certain frequecies in my mix were at the right level, when there was actually a serious defficiency in the the actual mix signal.

    I can tell that my ability to hear reverb trails has also been compromised.

    Seriously, I can hear a fly farting in the background of a mix over these headphones. I'm shocked at how different some of my commercial CD's sound, in terms of fine details.

    I have yet to do a serious mix on the Grado's to see if they help any of the existing sonic issues with my mixes.

    I've listened to quite a few sets of headphones, and they all sound like crap compared to these. In fact, every playback system I own sounds like crap compared to the Grados.

    We'll see.
     
  12. CJ Grant

    CJ Grant Guest

    Hi,

    Been reading your thread regarding your poor general quality of mixes/sound, and the group has led you in the right direction. Just thought I'd reiterate what everyone is saying.

    The quality of your room acoustic and your monitor speakers are vital to the final objective sound quality of your final mixes, as you've been reading online in the forum. Your enlightening experience with the Grado phones is a good indication of where you need to head in terms of improving the monitor/listening quality of your room.

    I haven't gone to the room acoustic forum yet, but I'm certain that you'll be guided well there. Just about any room can be made at least reasonably proper. In the minimum, you should at least be able to create a room sound that you are knowledgeable of, and can easily compensate for, by comparing with the sound thru the Grados. I also highly suggest that you try listening to a set of Sennheiser HD600's. They are the best, in my opinion. I like them better than the Grados, and the Grados are hard to beat! They also have that tangible ability to hear deep inside the mix for tiny details, and they are more comfortable over long sessions, than the Grados - in my opinion. I don't recommend any other Sennheisers other than the 600's however. The closest are the 580's, but the 600's rock bigtime.

    If you spend your money on better monitoring speakers, plus some acoustical treatment for the room, and do that carefully, with good research, you'll have yourself a listening experience that you can really count on to tell you what's in your mix, and your clients will be awesomely impressed, as well.

    Continue to listen to other systems, and maybe those Senn HD600's; try auditioning some really Hi-end stuff at a high end audio specialty store - take your best mixes as well as some really well-done commercial releases (Dark Side of the Moon, Eva Cassidy Live at Blues Alley, etc...) and begin to learn how they really sound, then use that experience to guide your room improvement.
    regards,
    cal
     
  13. maintiger

    maintiger Well-Known Member

    I run DP 4.12 on a dual 867 mac with an 828mkII for a front end- I added an apogee rosetta to my front end and I have heard a great difference in the sound (of course also w/ good mics & pres)- also I am using the word clock from the apogee and that has tightened my mixes considerably- I suggest you borrow or rent some good converters and try it for yourself- that might be the difference for you- it sure worked for me- :D
     

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