Any tips for achieving superior-Clarity?

Discussion in 'Mastering' started by Kuroneku, Oct 18, 2016.

  1. Kuroneku

    Kuroneku Active Member

    Hello beautiful people, how is everybody doing :)

    While my heart mainly goes out to 70's & 80's music, I must say I am fascinated by the clarity that a lot of these modern tracks present in audio quality. I watched several interviews of Phil Tan, and he mentioned that as a rule of thumb he goes towards 'clarity' in his mixes (

    Now, specially when I record vocals, these are my personal steps:
    1. Create Mono Audio track
    2. Record vocals
    3. Use gate if necessary and/or use high pass filter
    4. Some compression
    5. De-Essing
    6. Eq, depending on the recorded track
    7. Add a little bit of Reverb/Delay

    My question would be, what are some of your personal approaches to achieve more clarity in the vocals and overall mix other than additive or subtractive eq-ing? Additive/Subtractive eq-ing is something I read about, but I'm sure there are more techniques?

    There is a Taylor Swift song my wife & I listen to, and I think the sound and clarity are simply incredible:
  2. Sean G

    Sean G Well-Known Member

    Whilst sometimes its necessary to use plug-ins to shape the sound and tone you want, be mindful that the more processing and plug-ins on a track the more you are degrading it.

    Sometimes less is more...if your pre-amp has Eq or a de-esser and compression features by way of a channel strip then sometimes it can be more beneficial to apply that going in, shaping your tone before capture rather than adding a whole lot of post processing to the track. YMMV.

    It would be fair to say that the track you have used as an example would have been recorded in a top-flight studio with very high-end equipment, including the very best mics available.

    This also plays a large part in the clarity of the vocals and the overall sound quality achieved.

    IMHO :)
    Kuroneku likes this.
  3. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    Clarity can be missunderstood easily.
    Many newcomer in the craft will find signal clear because it has more high frequencies. No surprise the industry is selling so many hyped budget condensers.
    For the more experiensed, clarity is more about being able to hear everything in a mix, having a sens of dimension and having all the tracks taking their own place.

    Like sean, I think that clarity begins with the recording itself. Fix it in the box is the worst approach.
    Choose the right mic, placement and preamp goes a long way.
    You know, I've been there. Recording my ass off and trying to make my mixes sound pro. I've been at it for years.
    Althought many people said my sound was good, deep down, I knew I wasn't near pro studios.
    Then I bought a new interface with better converters and then my first pro preamp ! I just sat there and said out loud eventho I was alone. ''Man that's how they do it!!!''
    Too many videos on youtube brags about being able to do good recording with budget gear. Of course it's entirely true but what they don't say is while the recording could be good, they're not pro level.

    It's hard to comprehend the difference between a good and a not so good recording when we begin.
    In my opinion, a good recording will capture the natural evenly range of frequency the source produce in the real world.
    On the other hand a less good recording will have an un-natural frequency curve and/or will capture just a part of the signal leaving out some frequencies.
    There's also the unnatural approach. Some wants to capture a larger than life signal, room, mics and preamps are also the right Tools to start with.
    Kuroneku likes this.
  4. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Your clarity all starts with your capture - good mics, preamps and converters ( and room) are all key.

    It's nearly impossible to put back what wasn't there to start with.

    Kuroneku likes this.
  5. Kuroneku

    Kuroneku Active Member

    Thank you Gentlemen for your responses. Everything mentioned makes plenty of sense, and I think Recording/Mixing audio is extremely similar to Photography/Videography. Starting with the most true fact that sure, one can surely capture, edit, and publish great results with an entry level Crop Sensor DSLR for instance, however if you're shooting Medium Format or Full Frame you may have that extra amount of detail, dynamic range, and less noise, etc.

    The way I understand file formats is.. if you for instance record a video in 10-bit format, you will mathematically have a lot more 'information' in the video than if you were to record in 8-bit. Now, even if you end up rendering/downsizing the 10-bit finished video to 8-bit, you will still have a better result than if you initially recorded in 8-bit.
    The same thing applies to recording music with bit depth.

    My next question would be, let's assume one person is recording vocals with a Focusrite 8i6, an AKG C214, Pro Tools 12, and a pretty decent room (not perfect, but very, very well treated).
    As far as mixing techniques are concerned, are there any techniques, recommendations to apply? Panning techniques? Particular instruments to watch out that may interfere with male Rock/Pop Tenor vocals?
  6. audiokid

    audiokid Staff


    1. Create Mono Audio track
    2. Record vocals
    3. Use gate if necessary and/or use high pass filter
    4. Some compression
    5. De-Essing
    6. Eq, depending on the recorded track
    7. Add a little bit of Reverb/Delay
    • 2 DAW mixdown capture (real time SRC)
    • M/S
    Kuroneku likes this.
  7. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    When mixing, every choices should be relative to the context of the song.
    But there is some signal chains that might be used more often than not. (by signal chain I also include the ITB work)

    In rock/pop music, we rarely hear any panning in the lead vocal but some are often done on back vocals. So no panning for the lead.
    Usually it goes the same way for the bass, bass drum and snare. Since with the vocal it gives us 4 items in the center, most other tracks can be spread left and right to avoid fighting for space and attention.

    For the vocal chain, we'll mostly use a compressor and/or thight volume automation but I wouldn't venture in stating any other processing as standard.
    The rest of the work is to decide to leave the track alone or fix problems if any.

    Understand that every move we do can help or not but can easily kill it... It's not uncommon that I'd ask beginners to strip down there mix to volume and pan only and compare that to their previous mix. 80% of the time the stripped down version is more enjoyable. Overmixing is the easy path. (isn't that funny), doing the minimum required demands some guts and maturity ! If a tracks has a big problem, it's often better to retrack before spending endless time to fix the unfixable.
    RedStone likes this.
  8. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    my colleagues here have all given you exceptional food for thought - which doesn't surprise me in the least, because these guys are serious at what they do.

    But ... I think that perhaps it's time for a question to be asked of you, and that is this:

    By "superior clarity", are you talking about high definition, with perhaps little attenuation in the upper mids, so that these ranges will "cut through" a mix? or perhaps something hyped in the upper ranges ( 3k-6k)... because color/character can indeed play a part in that...


    Are you referring to a signal with as little color/character possible? Something that is more "transparent" sounding than what you would get with say, a tube-based gain structure?...

    If it's the latter, then I could also suggest that for a capture that is as transparent as possible, that you consider using a preamp that is tube-less and transformer-less - such as a Grace ...

    ...along with a mic that also has neither tube nor tranny, something like a Mojave MA50 for vocals, or... if you're recording mainly acoustic instruments, perhaps an SD condenser would be a better choice, (something like a Neumann KM184/85, or a Shure KSM81 or 109)

    This is probably as "transparent" as you are going to get... but with this caveat: While there are gain-chains that are far more transparent sounding than others, there's really no such thing as true 100% transparency.
    Anytime you route a signal through anything with electrical components, through wires and cathodes and resistors and amplifiers, it will color the signal... The degree of that coloration depends on what you are using. ;)

  9. Chris Perra

    Chris Perra Active Member

    Most of the instruments on that Taylor Swift track are not live, so that helps alot. You can shape things alot easier that way.

    Have a good mic and preamp and think about your orchestration before you start. If you have that worked out and good tones going in you'll be good to go..

    That can't be instantly learned.. Lot's of trial and error to get there..
    Kurt Foster and pcrecord like this.
  10. RedStone

    RedStone Active Member

    For me, the biggest obstacle to clarity was bad monitoring. flattening out the curve in the room, monitors and headphones completely changed my perspective. Now I'm hearing that sweet spot where a mix goes from "meh" to "oh yeah!" And the decisions im making to get there are surprising me.

    One song needed a 10db shelf reduction above 8khz and another -4db notch at 6.5kHZ. It would be hard to hear on monitors that have a 12db boost at 100hz or headphones that had similar boosts in the 8-12khz range.

    Brutally linear monitoring is key ... and then the standard hyped monitoring let's you know when you've reached the zen point as you A/B. When it gels, it's almost ... magic. before then, it can be gruelig work trying to sort out what's what. haha.
    pcrecord and DonnyThompson like this.
  11. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    A point well taken. While it's important to have the right gear to capture with, it's also vital to have a room to mix in that isn't lying to you as well.

    Welcome to RO :)
    RedStone likes this.

Share This Page