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flat sounding on radio (long post)

Discussion in 'Recording' started by swansonic, May 14, 2001.

  1. swansonic

    swansonic Guest

    So, I finished recording a band late last year in my home studio (I call them demos)and yes the bands that come through here have little money so I do it all, tracking, mixing and....CD prep (notice I didn't say the M word).

    A couple weeks ago I get a call from a couple local "band managers", one who has picked up the band that I recorded, and they like what they hear and want to run a bunch of bands through the studio, (so far so good).

    The recording that they are referring to actually does sound quite good in a typical listening enviroment. I have had some good feed back from some buddies who had nothing to do with the recording in any way, most thought it was some professional recording that I was playing.

    The problem is when "I" heard it on the radio it sounded quite flat, nothing like it does on a home stereo.

    I tend to track quite flat, saving eq and comp for mixing. When I eq it's 95% subtractive, and when I compress it's always fed to another channel and blended with the original track. I aways seem to "want" to have a bit of individual compression on everything, problem is I don't have enough channels of compression yet. Also I never compress the main 2 track bus while I mix.
    I mix to my computer then comp,eq, and limit in there when I do the CD prep.

    I believe that I track and mix relatively correct, due to the fact that my recordings tend to sound good (band dependent)on home stereos, the problem I believe is in the CD prep when it hits the radio station's limiters, and it sounds small and flat(bad).

    I think my problem may be that without enough channel compression during mixing I tend to over compensate while prepping the CD (?).

    For example a acoustic guitar break was louder that the rest of the mix on the radio, and the fade out at the end of the song got louder (ha ha) but the parts/mix sounds just fine at home (the acoustic part did not have channel compression during mixing).

    And when I limit using L1 I never have the threshold more than -4 db.

    The easiest answer is professional Mastering, but that's not likely to happen on these budgets.

    My CDs always sound quieter in over all volume than a professional release.

    Any ideas? Sorry that this post is so long but I thought it would help to have all the details...

    Thanks
    Mike
     
  2. user_gamesound

    user_gamesound Active Member

    Joined:
    Dec 18, 2000
    Originally posted by mike swanson:
    I tend to track quite flat, saving eq and comp for mixing. When I eq it's 95% subtractive, and when I compress it's always fed to another channel and blended with the original track. I aways seem to "want" to have a bit of individual compression on everything, problem is I don't have enough channels of compression yet. Also I never compress the main 2 track bus while I mix.
    I mix to my computer then comp,eq, and limit in there when I do the CD prep..........

    ....the problem I believe is in the CD prep when it hits the radio station's limiters, and it sounds small and flat(bad).

    I think my problem may be that without enough channel compression during mixing I tend to over compensate while prepping the CD (?).


    Hmmm, exactly what processing do you run your mixes through on your computer plug-ins? Are you using a good A/D converter/soundcard when you do so?
    When you say you blend in a compressed track, are you having any phase problems?

    Radio can do weird things to mixes because they generally squash the living snot out of all the audio....during your 'prep' stage, you may want to back off on the compression and limiting seeing how the radio station is automatically going to impose whatever settings on your mixes! If you've over-done it, your track is only going to seem much much smaller...

    Case in point, one of my songs/mixes ended up on the local college radio station and it sounded absolutely horrible, basically because I slammed it too much with a TC Finalizer. (the Finalizer can destroy your mixes if you're not careful)....

    hope that helps.
     
  3. Dan Popp

    Dan Popp Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2001
    Originally posted by ujaku:
    [QB]

    Radio can do weird things to mixes because they generally squash the living snot out of all the audio.QB]

    Dear Ujaku,
    I agree with your suggestions. May I add a piece of info from the point of view of someone who spent years (too many) in radio? The radio station folks are not trying to hurt you with their processing. The objective is to, in this order: 1) Present a consistent tonal balance and average volume to the listener despite widely varying input signals, and 2) Make their station sound louder than everyone else's.

    This was a bit easier in the vinyl days, since the dynamic range of vinyl was lower, and the stereo separation even worse compared to CD. So the input signals had to be more consistent to start with.

    Of course, broadcast processing today is beyond absurd, as is the urge to "master" everything to the top 2 dB, so we'll save those for another discussion.

    The bottom line is that, if you want your mix to sound as good as "X" on the radio, buy "X" and analyze it with your ears. What's the spectral balance? Pay close attention to dynamics, especially artifacts like pumping, or spikes in your mix that could cause them. Finally, try this trick. Get some broadcast-style comp/limiters like a couple of channels of Aphex Compellor followed by a couple of channels of Dominator. Hook these up to the monitor feed, but not the actual audio! Crank them up to "stun." By doing this, you can get "radio friendly" mixes without actually crapifying the record yourself. IOW, it still sounds good and breathes because you didn't "print" the extra processing, but you know it will sound good with the processing as well.

    Hope that helps.

    Yours,
    Dan Popp
    Colors Audio
    USA
     
  4. user_gamesound

    user_gamesound Active Member

    Joined:
    Dec 18, 2000
    Hey Dan

    I have spent a few years myself working at a few radio stations -- I wasn't necessarily bashing radio for doing what it does to be the loudest it can be, I was just stating the facts.... :D

    Interestingly enough, has anyone else noticed a different audio philosophy between, say, the public radio station playing classical, jazz, etc. VS. the top-40, heavy rotation, 50%-of-programming-are-commercials station? Stations below the 92 frequency (i.e. non-commercial) don't induce vomiting when I listen to them.... :D
     
  5. realdynamix

    realdynamix Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2001
    The classical and jazz stations in our area
    tend not to push the limits so much and the more commercial stations use exteme compression/limiting and HF exciters of one kind or another. The sound comes off with very sputterey highs, and bland bass with no detail, they don't care, and I don't listen.

    The post that suggested processing on a monitor only mix is a good one, but don't give up your subtle touches because of the radio stations, perhaps you can offer the client a seperate mix for radio.

    The equal loudness contour, the spectrum as mentioned, mild compression and peak limiting, when setting levels on the tracks or a CD master, can all work to achieve loudness without adverse effects.
    --Rick
     

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