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Serpentarius Introduces Himself With A Song

Discussion in 'Recording' started by Serpentarius, May 18, 2012.

  1. Serpentarius

    Serpentarius Active Member

    Hi all!

    I'm brand new to this forum so let me introduce myself, before anything:

    I'm a professional opera singer and have been since 2001. I've been singing since I was 7. Music is what I do and have always done, however lately I've become interested in other pursuits, such as writing and cooking. I received my singing and opera education in London, England and Stockholm, Sweden respectively. While at college in London I was introduced to computer-based music making and have been hooked ever since. The last 6-7 years I've picked up the music production again in a more serious fashion and I'm toying with the idea to change careers—well, we'll see about that. It all depends on what you guys say!

    Regarding my knowledge of music production—mixing, mastering and recording—I'm almost totally self-taught, apart from the 6 years at college, although what I got there was pretty basic, considering the technical possibilities existing today. Basically, I know quite a lot but due to my lacking formal education regarding music production, I don't know where the gaps are. So I decided to come here to try to find out and hopefully fill them in.

    Now, to business!

    I have here a song I've been working on—for years actually—with a friend. Lack of consistent time has forced us to drag this process out way longer than we wanted. It's all done with software synths, apart from the guitar parts and the singing. Of course, I have a zillion different versions of it and this is the latest one. I'm well aware of the problem of working in a basically untreated room, and in this latest version I've tried to counter the absurd bass resonances I get sitting in the sweet spot. I quickly noticed this listening to previous versions, where of course it was way too heavy in the high frequencies and way too thin in the low frequencies. So I attempted to remedy this by adding a few mastering plugins, mainly the Waves L3-16 and MaxxBass. Maybe it's too much, I don't know. I've compared it to a reference track and to my ears it's alright, but I need a second opinion!

    Ciao for now!

    Sacred Eagle by Serpentarius on SoundCloud - Create, record and share your sounds for free
  2. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Musically, reminds me of Steely Dan. very cool! Your vocal does not sound operatic at all. You are covering that up very well.
    About the only thing I would critique is the kick drum is a bit to dominating for me (sounds like a drum machine). A slight more reverb on it and take off about 2 db around 2.5k to 4k and I would love the mix. Just so it doesn't stand out there so much.


    Please share your gear list and some of your mixing tricks on this track?
  3. Serpentarius

    Serpentarius Active Member

    Hi audiokid!

    Thanks for the compliments!

    Your points about the kick drum and the slightly sharp highs is spot on—and I'm aware of them. I noticed when I played a version of the mix I liked on my hifi, that the treble is way too sharp to the ears. Regarding the kick drum, yeah, in this version I tried to boost the lower frequencies a bit more because when I compared it to my reference track (Incognito's "Will I Ever Learn") the bass sounded way too thin, particularly the bass guitar. In the Incognito track the bass guitar sounds very lush and liquid but not at all overpowering and I tried to somehow get closer to that sound. Of course, I didn't record a $7000 bass in a top-notch studio so I know some things are impossible to achieve just working with computer-based sounds and synths, but I try to get as close as I can. So what I did was take the worst treble peaks off (but not enough!) with the L3-16 and boost the bass with MaxxBass, but admittedly I didn't fiddle around with the settings too much—and evidently not enough. Maybe that's the right way to go, that is, to use the L3-16 to try to tame the kick? Or I could go back and fix it in the mix, .i.e. just work on the bass guitar and kick drum sounds individually, before making (yet another) master. And while I'm at it, take the high frequencies down even more. Regarding the cymbal sounds, maybe too much cutting in the low end is what's making them sound too sharp to the ears? I've read that there's not much sonic information in cymbals below, say, 200Hz, but cutting too much leaves too much treble?

    Regarding the gear list, it's there in my profile, but I guess it's easier to just post it here as well:
    iMac 3.6 GHz Intel Core i5 12GB RAM, OSX 10.6.8, RME Babyface interface, Genelec 6020A monitors, Novation SL 49 mkII controller keyboard, TSM MT87S mkII and AKG C2000B mics, Charvel and Ibanez guitars, Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro headphones, loads of Waves and other plugins.
    DAW is Logic Pro 8.0.2 and Reason 5.0 as slave for sounds and synths.

    The only thing I haven't used
    on this track is the the AKG mic.

    Mixing tricks...

    I suppose I went about the whole thing pretty much the standard way. Cutting the sub bass in most tracks, brightening up the dullness of the vocal recording, panning the rhythm guitars left-right, but not all the way. Actually, I had to work a lot on the vocals, because at the time I recorded it I had no
    SE Electronics X1 Reflexion Filter and no mic stand, which means I held the TSM mic in my hand sitting right in front of the computer! Consequently, there was a lot of noise and rumble coming from the computer and my handling the mic. I thought about recording it again using the reflection filter, but eventually decided to keep the original recording because I liked the delivery and the phrasing, and I knew I couldn't replicate it.

    One of my little mixing quirks is to use uneven numbers when panning. I'm sure it doesn't make a difference, but I just had a fix idea about that. The horn section is actually three different sections that I tried to combine so that it sounded like one: a regular trumpet section, a loud trumpet section (a couple of dB louder) and a soft french horn section. The french horns are meant to sound like a soft brass section with trombones; I didn't like the specific trombone sounds. So the french horns are used for soft chord pads and occasionally to fill out the trumpet sound, while the trumpets are used for the traditional horn lines and hits. Thus I almost don't use any track automation at all.

    I lifted the high frequencies on the backing vocals quite a bit to get more clarity and then lowered the volume to make it fit as a package with the lead. I kind of had the backing vocal treatment of Lenny Kravitz in mind, only not as prominent. The lead in the last verse is tripled, or rather, I sing in unison with the lead on the two backing vocal tracks, and then break into occasional harmonies.

    What else... I bused all the instruments to separate buses; the drums, guitars, bass, keys, horns and vocals and then I EQ'ed them. Is that a kind of stem mixing?

    I suppose that's it—pretty straight forward.

    Regarding acoustic treatment of the room, I'm in the process of addressing that: I'm planning to build bass traps. Also I'm thinking of adding a sub, to hear the bass frequencies, but first priority is room treatment.
  4. audiokid

    audiokid Staff


    Before I read your reply in detail I wanted to clarify what I meant. I was referring only to the kick, not overall mix. How I would tame the kick, just pull out a few db of upper mids ( where the the hot spot is around 2.5 to 5k) to get rid of the tick ( just a bit). I didn't find the overall mix bright at all. It sound great to me.

  5. Serpentarius

    Serpentarius Active Member

    Yeah, I re-read your post and realised that. Still, I think it is a bit harsh in the cymbals, maybe they're just a bit loud, no?
  6. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    The kick is what stands out to me. I usually don't comment on things that are a more personal flavour or what cannot be changed because it is what it is. Sometimes it takes another set of ears to point out a part we miss because we get used to it. The kick is an easy fix.

    Are the drums including the cymbals samples? The cymbals do sound a bit 12 bit and ya, maybe a bit less 5k or so there too. They don't bother me like the kick does. A slight amount of reverb on the kick would help it sit in the mix better.

    Stemming is what I do as well, Kudo's. I sum OTB though. I sent stems into a summing amp and add analog glue and colour.

    I like the background vocals. That's what adds to that Steely Dan sound I like so much. You don't hear that often so I think you are onto a good sound there. I think your main vocal would sound better in a more live room, better acoustics than with the SE Reflexion Filter. You have such a great sound already, I would invest in my vocal sound a lot now. If you can afford it, look into a bricasti reverb. This would do wonders for opening up your vocal to help improve the ITB sound you are getting from the SE Reflexion Filter. I'm looking at buying one. They are expensive and I keep thinking they will be replaced with a plug-in one day but that doesn't seem to be happening anytime soon, and too much plug-ins aren't good in my opinion anyway. But I'm on the war path back to balance, less plug-ins and a bit of analog boutique spice.

    Some analog gear just for your vocal might be just the thing. Something so subtle to take your voice out of the boxy sound and give it some space and a bit of vibe. You are very close, now you just need a little something extra and I think it would be wow.

    Hope that helps.

    I really like what you are doing.


    Maybe Remy will chime in here and give you some great pointers. She is a lot more experienced with your sound and mix and preamp flavours that could take your sound to the highest level. You are entering that last 2% mode.
  7. Serpentarius

    Serpentarius Active Member

    Hey, thanks a lot for the constructive criticism!

    Actually, the things you're suggesting are exactly what I've been contemplating recently: I was dreaming of getting hold of a good channel strip, or at least a good-sounding preamp for the vocals and maybe one that suits the guitars as well. Any suggestions? I've been ogling the API The Channel Strip, but at the moment it's too expensive. Maybe I can find something used that is equivalent? I'm even toying with the idea of selling off some of my hifi gear; I have a really audiophile setup: a Simaudio MOON i5.3 integrated with a Bluenote (now Goldenote) Koala Tube CD player handmade in Italy and a vinyl player from Hanss Acoustics, German brand making some of its parts in China. (I don't like that, but for once I compromised.) Speakers are a three-way design by Audiophysic, also German. It all sounds really excellent, but I don't have much time to actually listen to music for any longer period of time these days. So I thought maybe if I sell off at least some of it, I can invest in something like you're suggesting. The Bricasti reverb is unfortunately way out of my league, at $3700! If I get hold of that much money at the same time I think I'd go for something more versatile that I could use with the guitars, as well as the rest. Also, I've been thinking of getting a Radial Workhorse for the API 500 series gear: it actually contains a built-in 8-channel summing mixer. What do you think of that piece of gear?

    And that summing mixer thing I've been looking into as well. Like I said if I get the money together I'd go for something along the lines of the Radial Workhorse, unless I can find a good deal on a used separate summing mixer. Any suggestions? API does a small version of the "lunchbox" format with 3 slots, if I remember correctly. That's probably cheaper but would it be enough to improve on the vocal sound? I like the fact that the Radial has a built-in summing mixer. And it's half the price of the Bricasti reverb!

    Next time I might try to finish the mixing of the instruments, put the file on a laptop and take it to the opera house where I work and record the vocals in one of their rooms. You think that might give it a nicer sound?

    Speaking of reverbs, I do use the Lexicon LXP reverb bundle. I haven't really explored it enough yet.

    Yes, I also want to get away a bit from the ITB thing, money permitting. Music production gear is so expensive and I'm not a professional who can deduct buying stuff like this off my taxes! At least, not yet.

    Thanks again for your input, it's greatly appreciated!
  8. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Personally, I think your mixes are to the point that you don't want to go summing OTB unless you invest in high end from this point. It becomes expensive to get that last 2% and you need to do it right. However, tracking and doing some things to help gel your vocal and guitar are a great idea. But your guitar sound in this track is good enough to me. Your lead VOX however is where I would put my money.

    I'm a musician (guitarist)/composer/mixer more than I am a recordist so you'll get better help from someone else from this point.

    I can however give you some advice on hybrid. Two companies I recommend most for hybrid DAW systems are SPL and Dangerous Music. I'm not familiar with the Radial Workhorse.

    You might just need to ADDA your vocal out to a few 500 series goodies, don't know. On this track however, I would personally be looking to improve your vocal sound though a better acoustic space and using gear to add a bit of vibe. This could be a different mic, preamp and quality converter during the tracking process.
  9. Serpentarius

    Serpentarius Active Member

    Yes, they are samples, but actually I think they are 24bit samples. I'm note sure, as we speak, whether they come from the built-in Logic drum kits or the Reason sample library, but if they are from Reason they should be 24bit. I'll check and let you know.

    I checked now and the cymbal sounds and percussion are from Logic Pro's built-in drum kits. I decided to use them rather than the cymbals from Reason because I thought they sounded better. However, I'll use the Reason 24bit samples next time to see if they sound better.

    I had a look at the SPL stuff and it seems very interesting indeed. Not as expensive as I imagined. I had a closer look at their channel strip Channel One and it retails at around €1209—around $1600, which is affordable by pro audio standards.

    I read a review of Dangerous Music's summing mixers, 2-BUS and 2-BUS LT, and that made me interested in the analog summing business. I don't know much about their other products though. I'll have a closer look and I'll try to understand all the tech talk.

    When you mention quality converters, do you mean products like the RME Babyface that I'm using? As far as sound cards go I'm really not too good with the ins and outs of digital-to-analog and analog-to-digital conversion. I mean, I don't really need loads of I/O's because I mostly work alone or with a friend and record one track at a time. That's why I figured the Babyface was good enough, with quality conversion and a clean preamp sound. Am I correct in assuming that you're saying there's much more quality to be had regarding ADDA conversion? Are you suggesting that I replace the Babyface? In that case, any suggestions with what, that would not at the same time be overkill for my needs?
  10. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    This is big topic with many opinions.

    I find the biggest issue with digital music and mixing ITB is when you introduce vocals or other acoustically recorded sounds > AD to a VSTi environment through average ADDA and low end micpre's. Like the Babyface. Its okay for projects but its not up to your ability IMO. Not after hearing your talent.

    I know this sounds weird but you are kind of mixing water with oil. Oil being your analog vox and water being digital. The digital samples and all the VSTi's sound stellar while your real world tracks ( vocals, acoustic guitars etc) sound less quality than your VSTi's. Its a no brainer when we look at it like this.

    So, the vocals or acoustic tracks always sound cheap and (IMHO) out of place compared to ITB music. So what do we all start doing? Plug-ins, and more plug-ins.... and what a gong show and what a business! Its called the curse in my world. The plug-in business is growing and no doubt why. But, its not 100% for me and why I choose hybrid. I like plug-ins for certain apps but not as much as the people whom are cursed with it all. The more you are trying to merge the analog world with digital, the more we need to learn how to glue it together. Hybrid is a balance and it helps this all come together better, faster and I think it sounds better, plus you need less plug-ins. I believe the people who claim to have tried hybrid that didn't find it was any better then ITB, missed something in their set-up because I definitely know it sounds better. Is it starting to make more sense?


    The next best thing before hybrid is using great quality pre-amps and converters.This will help a lot. You are at least getting your analog chain up to par with the VSTi and super clean digital sound now right? So investing in a few really nice mic's, pre's, and possibly a compressor and eq with some vibe is just the ticket. And this is what people are more opt to do.

    And to take it even further, hybrid and specialty gear is when it gets really fun. But... it comes at a price.... You have to do it right or you will fall into the lost crowd that only took it half way and gave up because they didn't understand it all and didn't use quality gear that mattered. Follow?

    Its why OTB is growing. When we mix OTB, it helps glue it all better. Once you step into the high end hybrid DAW world, you will start learning about certain products that works great for a vocal bus, bass, guitars, drums etc. and this is when the summing systems like dangerous music or SPL MixDream come into play, and the converters start becoming more and more important because you are going ITB and OTB convertions. But, I will add, I use the MixDream and love the use of the IO switching it has which keeps my need to ADDA down to a min so I am not doing a SRC more than once.

    I'm getting deep into this subject so I'll stop now but I thought I would touch on that for future reference. Everytime you do SRC ( sample rate conversion), sound degrades. Its a big topic, way too much for me to try and explain in one sitting but thats it in a nut shell.

    I have to stop here. And forgive any typo's . I'll try and correct those the next time I review what I wrote.

    Hope that helps a bit more.

    Check this out:


    and this requires a bit more gear but is also very cool:

    And this is a very cool product that uses a different approach:
  11. Serpentarius

    Serpentarius Active Member

    I feel that we are very much on the same wavelength regarding all this. ITB has become ubiquitous the last 20 years, and that's both a good and a bad thing: good, because it makes professional music production available and possible for anyone; and bad because it makes professional music production available and possible for anyone. The plugin business is riding that second wave, that is, they cater to the musically and technically mediocre, talentless people with huge egos, who still want to sound like a megastar, and insist on it being cheap, too. It will always be necessary to pay for higher for quality, and everyone knows an analog piece of kit is higher quality than a digital one. I mean, who would seriously claim that a virtual electric guitar is better than the real thing? To me, digital will always be second best to analog, simply because it factually is—it's a compromise. While in the digital realm one needs to decide how much information is to be left outside the sound reproduction, the dynamic resolution of analog sources are unlimited, period.

    Plugins are the McDonald's of the music production. I have at my fingertips over 300 plugins, many of which are professional quality, from the likes of Waves and Lexicon. I can't avoid feeling uneasy though, about products that emulate a legendary piece of analog equipment. Here is a product that people built with their hands, out of physical parts. They put it together after having worked it out by experimenting endlessly and perfecting it for years, sometimes decades. It has proven itself over decades of use by professionals in the studio and live. And now, along comes Waves with a few well-paid snotty teenage computer hackers and simply emulate the sound and performance of that same piece of gear and it's suddenly available to millions of people who have no musical talent and no knowledge about the original piece of equipment and what it's used for. But they can reproduce a professional and aurally attractive sound by just popping it into an insert in Logic and pretend they are a rockstar. The original piece of equipment is fast becoming redundant to the masses (but not to the professionals) and might even go out of business, because more and more professionals are succumbing to the pressure from the digital world. I'm telling you, there will be a backlash—there always is when something swings as hard to one side as it has in the battle between analog-digital.

    Of course, I'm working ITB because I can't afford working OTB, and I've had no reason to invest in professional analog gear until now, when I've started toying with the idea of going professional, or at least semi-professional. I'm prepared to invest quite a lot into analog gear, I just need to find out and decide what approach to take—exactly how hybrid I want to go. I'm not sure yet what will work best for me, but I'll research more and will eventually find the answer.

    Your analogy of mixing water with oil is spot on. I understand totally and agree 100%. The ITB sounds are clean and crisp while the recorded analog sounds, such as the vocals, sound muddy and muted in comparison. Of course, that's the function of plugins: to fix and patch up the analog sound so that it sounds as clean and crisp as the digital ones, in order to blend it easier with the ITB sounds.

    Now, I come from the world of classical music where everything is analog and people frown upon singers who would accept or even consider using a microphone, and all that is well and good: the essence of classical music is that it is played by musicians and sang by singers live, in front of an audience, and the musical communication is direct, with no help or manipulation by EQ or compressors—no middle man—and that the nature of that communication is physical, working on the spiritual. In other words, by the use of the universal physical laws of Nature (such as resonance and harmonics) classical musicians seek to affect the human brain and heart, in order to provoke emotional (and ultimately spiritual) responses in the audience. If any kind of manipulation would come into the equation, it would feel like a let-down, since the whole point of learning a proper singing technique (or instrumental technique) is to be able to do that without expensive mic pre's, fabulous EQ's and brilliant compressors.
    The point of that little excursion was that to me what sounds good is the voice (or guitar, or piano, or drums) recorded analog and the ITB sounds, even if they are good samples, are as if they were "dead". They are not organic; they sound exactly the same everytime you push that button.
    Consequently, in everything I do I try to make it sound as live and musically spontaneous as possible, as if all the instruments really were played by a real musician, not just me programming everything at two in the morning.

    So, to the more practical issues then.

    Regarding the Babyface, I suppose it's a combination of ADDA conversion, digital preamps and digital mixer with built-in digital EQ. (I don't use the mixer part at all, in fact, I can hardly understand their Totalmix software, it's very confusing.) So are you suggesting that I simply get gear dedicated to one single task, instead of have an all-in-one solution like the Babyface? So let's say we pick the Babyface apart and replace the individual functions with dedicated gear, what would you suggest?

    How about this:
    Apogee Ensemble (8 channel FireWire interface - 24bit/192kHz AD/DA converters, 4x digital adjustable mic pre-amps (75dB gain), 4x Hi-Z instrument inputs, 2x headphone outs, 8x channel ADAT I/O, 2x channel SPDIF I/O)
    Dangerous Music D-Box

    The D-Box has a summing DB-25 input for the eight channels to be summed. Does that mean that I have to have an 8 channel ADDA converter, to match the 8 summing channels? Or an 8 channel preamp? Like I said, I mostly work alone or with a friend and have, thus far, not recorded on two channels simultaneously. It is not that likely that I will in the near future, unless I suddenly start recording bands, or form a band myself (no, not that likely!). So I don't need an 8 channel preamp. I'm a little confused. Is not a straight-forward, good-quality ADDA converter sufficient? It needs to convert the analog signal coming from the preamp into digital to go into the computer, right? Then it needs to be converted again to analog to go into the summing mixer, and then out to the monitors, right? So then maybe I actually do need an 8 channel ADDA converter! I'm thinking "aloud" as it were, sorry if this is basic stuff for you, but this is where I suspect some of my knowledge gaps are.

    In the setup above, yes, the preamps are integrated into the Apogee Ensemble. If that is not desirable then it would probably be even better to have a separate preamp, which then goes into the ADDA.

    Am I on the right track here?

    To finish this post, yes, I've had a look at the Folcrom: it has 16 channels. Again, does that mean I need a 16 channel ADDA converter, to match the Folcrom's 16 channels?

    So my big question is: what 16 channels (Folcrom) or 8 channels (D-Box) need to go into the summing mixer?
  12. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    nice response! thumb

    re babyface

    most likely an excellent choice for ITB and project work. But, yes, if you want to go OTB and do more, its not going to do it for you.

    Do yourself a favour and check out this video on hybrid mixing. There is a free version and a 1hr 20min pay. The pay version is well worth the investment. It will answer a lot of questions.
    Hybrid Digital/Analog Mixing - PUREMIX

    Here are a bunch of free trailers and more:


    For your vocals
    I'm not a recordist or remotely proficient in knowing what combinations are choice for a certain style. I have my flavours, you will find yours. If you can go to a pro studio and have them profile you, I would do that if I was you.. You could experiment with mics and pre-amps until you find the right match. You will find the right combo that will totally rock for you.
    Are you able to demo gear where you are?

    regarding the ADDA. for a functional hybrid rig, you need a minimum of 8x8 AD DA to db25 > Dangerous dbox or SPL MixDream. I would also not invest in a ADDA with built in pre's unless you are doing the remote studio thing or project stuff, which you are outgrowing IMHO. the good ones are pricy. The affordable ones are not what you are looking for IMO. I personally only use the built ins pre's for remote work for a convince. The ones in your RME are most likely why your vocal is suffering.

    The Orpheus is an 8x8 and it has built in pre's. Its stellar but its also $4500.00 and still, I think you need a personal preamp with vibe like an API, A-Design, GR or Neve and you may want to check this new pre on the market http://warmaudio.com/.
    (This is where a pro studio could really help you discover the right flavour)

    On the other hand, Lavry Blacks have 2 track AD DA system with a built in mic pre's. They are excellent for 2 track recording which rock compared to most product on the market. But they are pricy and modular and I think you need a pre for your vocals with vibe and a bit of colour. You may out grow them needing more IO if you choose hybrid too. But, if you did, and bought a larger converter system like Lynx, RME ADI-8 QS, Prism, to name my top picks,, you could do like me and use them for mastering to a second computer and thats when things really start to get fun. But thats another topic down the road. I'm telling you all this so you can see a head. Don't rush your process here. Take your time. If you were in my studio, I would be working on your lead vocal sound until it got the vibe.
    Hybrid , solution may follow after if it seems like you want to move that way. I love the Lavry's because they are something that will prove to be very valuable for high end 2 track recording and pre mastering.

    Did you master this track I heard here, its very good.

    I'll stop now, so much gear and so little time for it all. Hope this helps.

    Watch some video's and get back to us here. You'll have new questions.
  13. Serpentarius

    Serpentarius Active Member

    You're most likely right about the Babyface.

    I had a look at the preview clip and sure, it all looks—and, above all, sounds—like great gear. I know the whole tutorial is 1½ hours long, but in the short clip he's hardly using any plugins, only that cut in the 200Hz range. That's like analog, going towards digital—the opposite from what I'm aiming at! Seriously though, I'll think about buying that video tutorial. I'll have a look.

    Well, as far as consumer equipment like the Babyface is concerned, there are a few music stores around in my town. However, as soon as you want something more professional I think they will either fall short and refer you to some other place I've yet to discover, or they will simply order what you want and then you'll "have" to buy it. As far as I know, there is nowhere I can audition professional high-end equipment such as those we're discussing here, apart from one place, actually. Sure, I can buy mostly anything via The German, as we say here (Thomann), but to actually have the opportunity to audition something like that is not likely. There's that one place I mentioned where they sell genuinely professional studio gear. I'll see what they have and what their routines are...

    So I was right when I was thinking aloud...! I think the Mix Dream XP looks very promising, in combination with an 8 channel ADDA from maybe RME. But then we're already in the $4500 area and the possibilities and alternatives are numerous...
    I know you're not a fan of the Babyface, but what about the more "grown-up" products of RME? Do they measure up, in your opinion? Or would you suggest another brand for the ADDA conversion? Other than the Lavry Blacks, of course—$3160 for both in a package! I've seen a lot of people talking about Crane Song HEDD 192. I'd never heard of Crane Song before starting to read about pro gear. Of course, it's also very expensive, at least for me at this point. But any good? It's stereo so maybe not usable if I'd want to combine it with the D-Box or MixDream XP?

    I've had a closer look at both API and Neve, I know they're both classic brands with a lot of history. I need to hear the gear, before I do anything, I've realised that. I've not heard any of the equipment we've been discussing, so really I've just been going on specs and looks, and everyone knows that's no good at all! So tell me, the API 500 series, do they sound as good as they look? I'm partial to the modular format—relatively easy to change and add new modules, it looks like it's quite easy to handle, doesn't take up as much space as a full-size rack would—but does it deliver a professional sound? And in a Radial Workhorse, with the summing mixer, I'd only need to add an ADDA converter... But like I said, I only speak from having studied the "theory"; I've not done anything in "practice", i.e. I've not yet heard any of this gear. I have to look into where I can do that as soon as possible.

    The RME ADI-8 QS costs around $3400 here, including VAT, and that's a lot of money. But you're saying that's the kind of conversion quality that would make a significant difference? Is there any possibility at all to get close to that quality for less money? Please?:smile:

    And I haven't even seen the complete video! This helps immensely—thank you!

    And yeah, I did master that track. Like I said earlier, I did many, many master versions before reaching this version. And I'm not sure this is the final version—in fact, I know it's not, because I need to fix the kick, right?:smile: I kind of used this song to really learn to record, mix and master in Logic Pro. And I did learn a lot, considering that in the first "good" master that I was happy with I used the old mastering trick of tripling the track, inverting the phase on one, making the other mono, adjusting the levels appropriately and busing them to the master out. It sounded "soo much better" than what I'd tried before that. Hahaha.
    Actually—as an aside—that trick of tripling the tracks etc. you can do infinite times... I wonder how that sounds. Imagine: doing that once, bouncing it down. Then taking that bounced-down track, tripling it again. And again, and again. I wonder how that would change the sound... Someone must've done that at some point in the 70's while taking large amounts of "medication"...

    Enough of that.

    So I was happy with that tripled version until I tried to just simply have one track and applying, let's say, a Waves L3-16 and just letting it do whatever it is that it does. Now that started to sound truly professional. Easy on the levers though because it's really easy to overcook it. Really easy.
  14. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    High end converters are open, wider, transparent, silky and make a bigger difference when you are doing a lot of AD tracking including hybrid. Reason being, the more tracks, the more of the same colour/mud/flavour etc so having something that is very true, transparent and open helps keep it that way as things start to get congested. Other reasons are headroom and gain staging features.

    Your setback is the babyface pre. The converter is the least of your problems. I don't like RME pre's at all. They are dry and boring sounding. They are great to get you by but not for pro level but this is the era of MP3 so... great songs are great songs. We can get too caught up in technology. I would forget about hybrid for now ( keep researching it thought) and concentrate on a better chain for your vocals.

    So you need to be able to bypass your babyface pre , so you can use a better mic/pre >AD. or, find a better AD that you can use with the mic/pre gear you choose. But remember you need an interface. That's why the BabyFace was a good choice, it has everything in one package. I have an AD11. Its a two track stellar USB AD, pre combo that will allow you to bypass the pre, but you would need the DA11 to monitor. So yes, it is at least $3000 for just 2 tracks.

    Look at the Universal Audio Apollo. This is new on the market and it looks pretty nice!

    Remember you need something that will allow you to use an external preamp with a good monitor playback and interface. For my RME ADI-8 QS' I used a PCIe card.

    The Lavry has a USB interface and the Prism Orpheus has Firewire.

    Lynx Hilo might be cool but I don't like the touch screen.

    For a first run at all this, wow, you are a natural.

    I'm always thinking high end and there are mid level routes that I don't know about that are way less expensive. But there isn't a cheap way around getting killer vocals. Its going to cost you money one way or the other to move beyond what you have now. And what you have now is still really good.
  15. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    You can bypass the pre's on the BabyFace:

    RME User Forum / Bypassing pre-amps on Babyface?
  16. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    For fun, check this out:

    I'm sharing info in hope that it really makes us think past the trends. I'm searching and trolling for others all the time, who share the same vision I suppose. To help support the boutique manufacturers that make the choice gear that works, so we rise and help connect the dots that make our lives better.

    I love this one:

    Marek Stycos

    There is so much mis information on the web. So many opinions from a lot from people that don't even use the gear they profess to know something about.
    My approach is sharing knowledge that will help you see ahead enough so you get a deeper look into pro audio and will then return the favour back . It took me a while to understand the hybrid thing and I'm still having a wow from time to time.

    My biggest lesson was Pro Tools 888 24. That trend cost me 50 grand and its all in the closet. I've spent thousands of hours trying to overcome problems with the sound of digital audio since 1980. Todays DAW's are so much better. But, I don't support any turn key systems like Pro Tools for good reason. They are always behind in sound quality and locked into corporate BS that hold us hostage. I invest in modular systems that share the high end hybrid chain. Certain analog gear is going to become very expensive.

    I've made very few mistakes in gear purchases and direction over the last 10 years because I've been following the crowd that hears the same problems I do. So I'm not guessing like I used too. I know what I'm trying to do with digital now. The hybrid crowd is finding each other , the cream is rising and the DAW sound is leveling out. It has a sound that is boring and hard to stay attached to. Subliminal maybe. Clean vs dirty, and what house do you have more fun is as a kid?

    But in the end, its about the song. All the gear in the world won't make a great song but it sure helps if it has a sound people like hearing more than a few times. Its proven that the analog holds the attention of people longer than digital. This is of course debatable but I think I know why.
  17. Serpentarius

    Serpentarius Active Member

    I hate trends!facepalm

    I can see that I'll have to do this in stages. I'll have a look at what preamps are available around here for auditioning. I think going to a store to audition mic pre's is going to be better than going to a studio to profile my voice, since I'd get the same info from both places, but at the studio I'd probably have to pay for the consultation, without necessarily being any wiser. However, at the store I can get the same info for free and I can repay them by actually doing business with them if I find what I'm looking for.

    So here's the plan, over a longer period of time:

    • invest in a high-quality mic pre (preferably with tubes), possibly including a good high-Z instrument input;

    • invest in a high-quality stand-alone ADDA converter;

    • invest in a summing mixer, like the D-Box or Mix Dream XP.

    I think I'm set to go down the hybrid way, I like that approach. The sound of digital is inferior to analog, but the editing possibilities of digital is superior to analog, and that's the combination to go for: analog sound (as much as possible), with digital precision editing and mixing. However, we need to keep in mind that having to deal with artistic or technical restrictions is—or should be!—inspiring for a genuine artist. I like the fact that putting everything through only 8 channels on a D-Box or Mix Dream XP would require some creative and artistic problem-solving on my part. Now, I don't have to think about that; I can use however many tracks I want and frankly I find that actually uninspiring. With the summing mixer I'd really have to use stem mixing in order to get the music through the D-Box. On that Sacred Eagle song I used probably more than 20 individual tracks, only because I could, which sort of creates a somewhat cluttered overview.

    Right, so thanks a lot again, audiokid, for all the useful and helpful information! I'll get back here after having auditioned at least a couple of mic pre's.

    If it's OK with the mods I'll just keep posting here any developments of significance in my endeavours.

  18. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    One last thing,

    I don't know if I would be sold on sticking only with a tube pre. There are a lot of preamps with attitude that are FET too like:. API, GR, Neve, Daking, A-Designs, Also, I just ordered the WA12 from http://warmaudio.com/. It should be here in a week or so, I don't know much about it but the specs say its going to have some meat to it and its under $500.
    And for a bit less attitude but big headroom, the newer SPL Premium micpre's are incredible silk and lush. Awesome for acoustic instruments and Vocals. I have 8 of those and love them. So there are a lot of options in SS too.

    Glad to help, stay in touch, it was fun discussing hybrid with you.

  19. Serpentarius

    Serpentarius Active Member

    Hey, don't disappear!!:smile:

    I had a look at that Warm Audio preamp and I listened to the example tracks and they sure did sound great. Within the next few days I'll have listened to a few of the preamps available around my neck of the woods and then I'll be able to brief you on the results. In exchange let me know what you think of the Warm Audio preamp when you've had time to listen to it.

    I was interested in hybrid before I came here. Now, you've only added to my fascination with it and I'm convinced it is the right way to go for me. Thanks and I'll let you know as soon as I've had a few auditions!
  20. Serpentarius

    Serpentarius Active Member

    Hey audiokid!

    Right, now I've watched the PUREMIX Hybrid Digital/Analog Mixing video tutorial. I suppose my overall general impression of this tutorial is that, let's say, around 10-15% of it was new information to me, mainly regarding the use and application of the dedicated hardware ADDA converter and the 2-BUS. He also had a couple of really helpful explanations regarding the consequences of using analog summing, such as achieving more headroom and an overall more pleasing analog sound, which is obviously really useful. A neat trick that I'll try ITB—even though he used OTB hardware—was to set up a couple of mastering units, such as compression and EQ, on the stereo out bus (mix bus) quite early in the mixing process: he had worked on the vocals and the electric bass sound, and already then he set up the mix bus (light) comp&EQ. The reason he said was (if I remember correctly): without any compression&EQ on the mix bus you would up the levels of the individual instruments too far, even if they're not clipping, so that when you start mastering the track, any compression or EQ on a bass guitar would also affect the rest in that frequency range, resulting in squashing the track. With compression&EQ on the mix bus from the start you would hear what that gentle mix compression&EQ did to your bass guitar sound as you were actually carving it out. As soon as you would push its volume level a little too high you would hear it and notice it in the mix bus. So the result, he said, was that instead of being forced to squash the complete sound with the mastering compressor, you end up with a better-controlled, but more naturally mastered track without having to cut the dynamics of an instrument or the complete track.

    I hope that makes sense and that I understood him correctly. I'll definitely try that ITB just to see if it helps the sound.

    I think that in general the video was not worth the money, even though it is very informative. $35 is far too much money for a clip you don't even get to keep—you only "rent" it for 30 days. I don't know if that's the price of online streaming of a regular feature-length movie these days, but I don't think so. Since this is really no different I don't see the reason why a "buyer" cannot keep what he's "bought" for $35. However, I think it was a useful video for me personally to watch, because it filled in a few of the gaps I was looking fill in, regarding my own knowledge of these things. Most of the stuff he does though, I already knew, but fair enough, it's always interesting to see how other people work on a track. You don't find many videos on the net of this length for free, discussing such in-depth mixing and mastering techniques.

    Now, regarding hardware, watching the video tutorial I realised that my wanting to cut costs by thinking I only need 8 channels for stem mixing was probably just wishful thinking. I suppose I use as many tracks to mix/record/produce a song as this guy does in the video. This simply means I'll need more channels than 8, that's clear. However, still wanting to cut costs—but absolutely not quality—I had a look at what other ADDA converters there are around other than those well-known brands that cost a fortune. I came up with this guy:


    Ferrofish A16 MK-II

    It costs around $1300 instead of almost $3700 for the Lynx Studio Technology Aurora 16 that the guy in the tutorial is using. What do you think? Do you know the brand? It seems to be German.

    Then, connecting it to either a Dangerous 2-BUS LT ($1700) or the SPL MixDream XP ($1300). Prices are what they would cost me to buy them here, but in US dollars.

    Now, I know you've been talking about mic pres, like the SPL Premium RackPack gear, but I just watched the tutorial and in it he talked about summing mixers and conversion, so...

    That SPL RackPack looks good, maybe I can/should scratch together the money for a 4-frame with a good mic preamp to start with, and then build it slowly bit by bit?

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