Heaven forbid - a band that actually WANTS dynamics

Discussion in 'Mastering' started by Cucco, Aug 26, 2006.

  1. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Hey guys -

    Just thought I'd share cuz it doesn't happen everyday.

    I just started working on a project for a California-based band (After the Crash).

    They have an album which was recorded recently and they're selling on their country-wide tour. The album is *okay* as far as recording is concerned. As for the performances - these guys are pretty good! Good intonation, good timing - in general, they work well as a group.

    Anyway, I'm mastering this recording and all of the recording errors aside (such as open mics at the heads and tails and a cellphone causing interference in the middle of one of the tracks...), they actually want a LOT of dynamics in this thing. When they were in the studio the other evening, I fired up the system to a level which I am accustomed to working (you know, where a lot of bands want to hear it - relatively loud...) I was consistently getting levels of -12 to -10 dB RMS on some pretty heavy rock. It didn't sound bad this way either.

    The lead singer (and manager...) said - I love the sound, but I want more of a difference in volumes. I'm not afraid if people have to adjust their knobs a little. It's a CD and I want it to sound as good as possible - when they put it on the radio, it's just going to get squashed anyway.


    Then I asked him if he had heard this before from other MEs or REs and he said - Nope, it's just the way I feel.

    It seems silly for me to get excited about this, but it's a rare occurance.

    They've given me the release to post samples when I'm completed - I'll put up a before and after.

  2. corrupted

    corrupted Guest

    WOW! Lucky you!

    I had the last band ask me for dynamics... but when I explained the trade-off... they said, "no way, we don't want that". It was impossible.
  3. Lee702

    Lee702 Guest

    How much of a RMS average should i go for modern hip hop when mastering for radio? Ive been reading that the radio limiters will smash your song.
    Thank :D
  4. Massive Mastering

    Massive Mastering Well-Known Member

    You *should* shoot for the volume the mix wants to be at. All you have to do is listen, and it will tell you.

    If it isn't telling you anything, well... I guess then you'll just have to take your best guess. For radio, I'd stay on the conservative side to a point...
  5. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    jeremy, that's a rare find indeed.

    I've got the opposite problem this week: A finished CD handed to me by a new client, referred to me from another engineer. It's squashed pretty badly, and I hear a lot of things I would have done differently had I mixed it. My first impulse is to send it back or offer to remix a track to show them the difference...

    The music is mostly blues/rock stuff, chicago blues and new orleans-sounding stuff. I like the material, but am stuck in a bit of a bind with what the guy who mixed it did to the material. Although he's not a "friend" per se, he is a professional contact, and I don't want to burn anyone.

    This (very loud) CD in question sounds like a lot of other projects I get like this; not only are they non-dynamic, but they have this weird, odd, "covered" sound to them. I asked for a 24/44 non-processed pre-Master CD from the engineer, and he said: "No, this is all 16 bit stuff from an ADAT multitrack session."

    So, I'm starting to think harder about some of these lifeless projects I get from semi-pro situations. I wonder what others have experienced with similar stuff. (I also once got a jazz project from someone who had the same weird "dead but nothings really wrong with it" sound. Turns out it was all done on a single, stand-alone digital workstation by one of the usual brands, with a built-in CD burner.) For Jazz, it sounded awful: lifeless and dull, with bad reverb.

    Is it from using just 16 bit? Is it from overprocessing? Is it just bad monitoring pushing them into bad mixes? If you know what I'm talking about, you know what I mean. I hear it all the time with small-time productions that are done with limited (but all digital) rigs.

    A while back, someone gave me a copy of Taylor Hick's demo CD (it was making the rounds as he was going into the final four or five contestants on American Idol.) Same thing; not a bad recording, but definitly MISSING something, in detail, top end and overall sound.

    Another friend - a drummer in a local pub/rock band doing originals - just gave me his band's new CD to listen to. Same thing: Nothing's really "wrong" with it, but there's no sparkle, no dynamic range, nothing interesting sonically. You can't really say "This is wrong" or "That is not right", but you KNOW it's missing something, almost like there's a shroud over it, or some kind of brick wall in terms of dynamics and/or EQ.

    When you put one of these CDs up against something done by a major label, it's immediately obvious how inferior they sound. I'm finding it's getting easy it's getting to separate the "men from the boys" when it comes to digital recordings..... any one else hearing what I'm hearing with things given to you for analysis?

    I'd love to give these folks a one-sentence explanation of where they went wrong......... Is it a case of "All of the above", or are they all just casualities of the volume wars again?
  6. CrackBuddha

    CrackBuddha Guest

    Hey all,
    That lack of sparkle joe is talking about is the destruction of the stereo image by any combination of;
    1)aliasing frequencies above nyquist
    2)poorly adjusted comp settings (which will cause aliasing frequencies as well in some situations, not to mention the main threat of destroying time-dependent frequency phase cues - the way an event's envelope unfolds, in the frequency domain)
    3)overprocessing (especially at 16 bit)
    4)bad recording/mixing/producing (you have to actually capture a stereo image first of all lest we forget :p )
    5)and then some of us would say the whole DAW/signal path/jitter/ cd encoding/ thing needs to be taken into account. I say take care of 1-4 and 6 first. People blame a bad DAW all the time, but I really think it boils down to user error - not knowing they're killing the stereo cues, cause they dont understand...
    6)Finally, the "cover" you are talking about can be caused by improper dither, proper dither with improper eq, or no dither when you should have(most common i think). people think they dither right, but rarely do. dither is very problematic because its subtle and gets missed till too late.

  7. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    All very good points, Nate.... I hadn't thought about the dither issue, either. (But how does that come into play with things that are done entirely at 16 bit? I've heard some great stuff done on 16 bit alone, so I'm not rushing to blame that alone.)

    But I'm glad to see you know what I'm talking about. Stereo cues are definitely messed with, as well. Perhaps it all comes down to what happens when one stomps the life out of dynamics. I'm really glad to hear Jeremy has run into someone who cares about that. Perhaps it could become a trend.......
  8. CrackBuddha

    CrackBuddha Guest

    The Dresden Dolls are good example of a very succsessful album with quite a lot of dynamics. To me, these dynamics lend to a more "theatrical" kind of feel...a narrative feel.

    A professional sound has more to do with the know-how of the production team. It's like flying an airplane; there's alot can go wrong when you dont know your ass from a whole in the ground! Conversely, a good pilot can fly might be able to fly a lesser-grade plane, but a non-pilot cant fly any plane...i think thats a pretty good analogy 8)

    As for 16 bit projects....dude takes his 16 bit audio file, runs it through God knows what plugins or outboard gear, which upsamples it, processes it, and applyies dither and downsamples it. Now, as far as I can tell you can do this all day with 24 bit, but with 16 bit there is a definite end of the line, because, well, that's a heaping load of dither man! :lol:
    So, not to say it cant be done...but rather it WON'T be done unless the "pilot" takes this into account. I find most people (even dedicated engineers) get a little glossy-eyed on these topics anyway, and its funny but these are the things that held me up for a while. But all together, I think we will grow and find many answers. I dig this forum :D

  9. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Good points Nate -

    I should also clarify that this particular recording, while dynamic at times, is overly squashed in others. What I'm finding is that I'm forced to leave my threshold wide open and gain ride other sections into place later. The VariMu with its threshold wide open still will provide mild compression at the absolute peaks, but minimal. However, as a wire with gain, it certainly helps widen and fill out the soundstage! Not to mention, putting it after the EQ in the chain certainly helps.

    Anyway, just thought I'd clarify...

  10. CrackBuddha

    CrackBuddha Guest

    Well just run it through the varimu and it will sound fine!
    Do you have the MS mastering version? I just started mastering using MS format...it has changed my world man...so much so that i will never master LR again. Well, never say never :roll:
    hey just checked out your myspace that's pretty cool setup man!!!
  11. Massive Mastering

    Massive Mastering Well-Known Member

    Give it another three weeks... Then you'll use M/S when the mix asks for it and never touch it otherwise.
  12. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Ha! I hear you! I do a LOT of MS mastering, but that's because so many of the mixes I get have horrible mixing on the Vox (either WAY too loud - producer/manager is lead vocalist - or way too soft - producer/manager is bassist...)

    Other than that, I try to do it in the two track realm. With M/S, I have to split it out into seperate tracks and so on...it's not that much trouble but after an entire album, it gets really damned annoying!
  13. TrilliumSound

    TrilliumSound Active Member

    Totally agree.
  14. Massive Mastering

    Massive Mastering Well-Known Member

    I remember thinking the same thing when I first tried parallel compression back in the late 20th century... I figured for sure that it'd be part of every project I did from that point forward.

    And it lasted about a week or so... :lol:

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