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Do you "Tune" your ears?

Discussion in 'Recording' started by LittleDogAudio, Dec 6, 2004.

  1. LittleDogAudio

    LittleDogAudio Active Member

    Just wondering if many other engineers sit down a few minutes before a session and listen to a really well produced CD in order to kinda calibrate thier ears?

    I do before every session because I feel that I hear things a little differently each day. I've also read a few times, that humans have a very short "hearing memory".

    Just wondering.

  2. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    I've read something about that too, Chris. (I think it's somewhere around 1.5 seconds or so, but don't quote me....)

    Kinda like goldfish and roaches, our actual "Hearing" memory is fairly short, at least the part that can make scientific analysis in a/b comparisons. The rest of our auditory memory is highly subjective and prone to coloration from the mood we're in at the time, or the sound of the room, the ambience, etc. Even a headcold can change the way we feel about sound (emotionally) as well as what we're actually hearing or not hearing due to congestion and pressure in the sinuses and cavities in our heads.

    These are some of the reasons why I'm always extremely suspicious of ANY statements that "such and such is WAY BETTER than so and so.." when the topic is audio. For me, anything other than instantaneous A/B toggling, blind testing (with no knowledge of which is which until the testing is done) and provable, repeatable results with calibrated test gear is highly suspect. I've heard claims about which AD/DA device is better, which preamp is better, etc. etc. when the comparisons are based on usage that happened days or weeks apart, sometimes in different studios, different musicians, etc. (Sometimes the ONLY difference between pieces of gear is just a change in level - and the "louder" unit is often considered "bigger, warmer, broader", etc. etc. etc.)

    As for clearing my head at the start of the day; more and more I find that peace & quiet, tranquility are good places to start from. (And a morning cup of coffee doesn't hurt, either!) I find that as I've gotten busier in the audio business, my "down time" is limited. There are days when I CRAVE quiet and nothing else; no TV, no radio, nothing; just clearing the playing field before my day begins. I love entering the studio and firing up the gear, knowing I'm starting from audio "ground zero" at the start of the day.

    I almost envy some of my friends that aren't in this business, in that they just listen to music for the sheer naive PLEASURE of it. (Hey, imagine THAT!) It's a joy when something like that really sneaks up on me and blows me away (and it still does indeed happen from time to time), but very often I'm so deep in the mix/recording side of things, those moments are for someone else to enjoy. (Of course there's nothing quite like kicking back and listening to the fruits of our labors and digging a job well done! ;-)

    Lots of people ask me: "What are you listening to these days?" And I usually have to say I'm just trying to clear my head from a couple of sessions that are STUCK in my brain. Again, peace and quiet are really welcome some days, esp after a long couple of mixing/editing sessions. In my car, I'm often making phone calls to family or clients about the next round or work, or I've got the local AM news station on, getting traffic reports so I'll get to the remote on time.

    Probably the best "listening" times for me are the rare times I can get away and travel. That's when the "Desert Island Discs" come out, and I play whatever I want, while flying away or floating on a boat somewhere....
  3. Big_D

    Big_D Well-Known Member

    I'm not an engineer (just an amateur on the recording side) but a lifelong musician and I do listen to a cd before a session. I will pick something in the style of what I'm about to record. It gives me a good reference point of what I'm shooting for and gets me in the groove to play when I'm recording myself. Hope that makes sense.

    Good Question :cool:

    Joe, that wouldn't happen to be KYW, News Radio, 1060 would it? :lol:
  4. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    You GOT IT! (Traffic on the 2's!) Let's all sing along: "KYW, Death Radio, Dis-ass-terrrrr!"

    Sounds like you're right nearby Big D. Where in the Del-Val are you?
  5. Big_D

    Big_D Well-Known Member

    I'm currently just outside Quakertown (UGH! moved here to be in the middle of my territory) but we're moving back to Doylestown (that's where we're from) in the coming year and I can't wait.

    How about you, what part of Pee Aye do you hail from?
  6. johnwy

    johnwy Well-Known Member

    I try to listen to a variety of cd's before the start of a session, and I'll have a cd on eternal loop while I am mixing to reference to. But it doesn't happen all the time. If its a control room that I am not familiar with, I would say that it is a must.

    It also depends on how loud I was monitoring the day before as well. Lets face it, sometimes you monitor louder than you should, and when your are monitoring too loud you have to deal with the ear fatigue factor, in which after awhile you don't know which way is up. After working on several rap/hip hop/r&b records with producers and artists who cannot listen to anything at anything less than the equivalent spl of sticking your head inside a jet engine with the afterburners on (and thousands of foam ear plugs later), you have to try regain some sense of reality back. And it can be tough.
  7. MrPhil

    MrPhil Guest

    That depends where I will work.
    If I know the monitoring, then no.
    If not, then yes. (And I mean IN the studio, not before)
    I think it's important to take breaks and rest your ears while you work. The ability to hear correct goes away quite fast.
  8. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Hey guys! Great thread!

    Joe and Chris: many people speculate that there is very little "acoustic memory." However, bear in mind that there is no physical way of measuring this, therefore, it is most definitely speculation. My somewhat opposite opinion is that we actually don't give ourselves enough credit for remembering such mind blowing detail. For example - I master all my recordings on NHT 2.5i's - I also enjoy all of my music on this same model of speaker. However, on my "alternate" music system elsewhere in the house, I have a pair of Infinity speakers. If you were to sneak into my house (and why would you...) and switch my NHTs and Infinitys, without even looking, I would very quickly be able to tell that the switch had taken place. This suggests that we actually have a very keen sense of acoustical memory. And why not - our optic memory is keen, our olfactory memory is almost supernatural, our hyperdermic memory is quite keen and our memory for taste is at least as good. (At least I think I don't like the taste of mushrooms!)

    Now, all that being said, I too try to calibrate my ear before shows - much as a photographer uses a gray card to meter their shot for perfect exposures, I have my trusty pieces that my ear know inside and out.

    If I am expecting to work on a particularly bright, loud orchestral score - I always default to the Telarc pressing of Atlanta performing Mahler 2. If I am aiming for a more "natural" and rich sounding recording, I will pull out Phillips recording of Beethoven 7 by the Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra. For jazz combos, Diana Krall.

    However Joe, I firmly agree with you when people give unqualified opinions about gear - e.g. "I heard that mic at Guitar Center and it sucks!" Well good, any mic auditioned AT Guitar Center will suck! Or, as you suggest, people make judgements about equipment when used in completely disparate set-ups. Our ears can not take what equipment is being used into consideration when accessing our creative memories...

    Of course, this subject could very easily shift into one where people discuss the merits of waiting a day to mix the tunes you track. (a suggestion that I am a firm proponent of.)

    Just some thoughts...

  9. eddies880

    eddies880 Guest

    Thats a dam good question !!!!----after reading some replys,it seems to make sense to me now.
    I too take a break when mixing,sometimes Ill record what I think is a keeper on a CDRW,listen to it at work for about 3-4hrs,get home,and start all over again with a different mind set and relaxed ears,keep a record of what I did or didnt do and go from there. :lol:
  10. mikE@THECAVE

    mikE@THECAVE Guest

    i have them tuned when i get a haircut
  11. Jeemy

    Jeemy Well-Known Member

    While just an amateur, I find I need to listen to something I know, of a mellow nature, after a long session with a band, just to calm my ears down and centre myself.

    While burning their CDs or exporting their mixdowns I always relax with something familiar on the same speakers just to 'bring me down'.
  12. johnwy

    johnwy Well-Known Member

    best answer yet :cool:
  13. inLoco

    inLoco Active Member

    next month i'll be producing my band's ep so i've been listening to a lot of music in particular this two cds that besides great music they are amazingly produced!
    "before these crowded streets" - dave matthews band
    "contraband" - velvet revolver

    love to hear dmband with phones! every time i hear something new, it's full of amazing details!

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