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Sonic Quality of various DAW's vs tape, etc.

Discussion in 'Recording' started by simonjbinks, Jul 17, 2002.

  1. simonjbinks

    simonjbinks Guest

    I am about to upgrade my system.

    I would like to hear from professional Musicians and Producers with their opinions on the sonic quality of various recording formats.

    For example, though many people I have spoken to claim that this is not possible, I believe that Pro Tools sounds better than Logic Audio. I have them both.

    With regard to interfaces, programs such as Nuendo, Paris, Logic Audio, Pro Tools, Cubase etc, I would really like to hear user's opinions.

    Also with Digital Desks, the Pro Control verses the Mackie D8B verses the Control 24 or anything else.

    The D/A converters: Prism vs Apogee, the Digidesign 888 vs the new Pro Tools HD 1,2 and 3, even Hammerfall vs ASIO, Dig 001, etc.

    Firewire vs SCSI?

    Hardware reverb vs Plug ins - TDM vs VST, Powercore, do computer reverbs really compare to hardware classics?

    Obviously it is very much horses for courses, but I'm merely talking about the quality of the audio signal at the end of the day.

    Appreciate all opinions.

    Simon Binks
     
  2. audiowkstation

    audiowkstation Active Member

    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2001
    Your question regarding formats is probably the least important to me in getting faithful natural works.

    The most important things IMO are in this order:

    Room Acoustics
    Monitor loudspeakers
    Integration, calibration and gain management
    Cables and Microphones
    Friendly artist atmosphere.

    Once this is really gone through with a fine toothed comb, then the hardware and formats are a matter of selection depending on the desired end result. Sometimes I go analog, other times I go digital. Many times I use a combination of analog and digital outboard gear , analog console, digital HD recording..etc..

    Give me a decent, quiet, predictable working environment and I can pop out super high quality with even budget gear..providing the list above was microscopicly inspected and properly integrated. Money spent on the above list is far far far more important to the end result than formats.

    Others can chime in here with the formats but the above list is crucial and will make or break ANY format if not exercised.
     
  3. simonjbinks

    simonjbinks Guest

    Bill,

    I should have further qualified my post.

    Though I come from a background where I made records in commercial recording studios, such as The Power Station; I was making reference to home-based studios, which forms the bulk of my recording today.

    In commercial studios such as above, I couldn't agree more. Last time I worked in The Power Station was with Producer/Engineer Neil Dorfsman.

    We put my guitar amp in the bottom of a stair-well and positioned a mic at the top, for great natural ambience (does that qualify as natural?).

    But my post referred to DAW's. I should have been more specific.

    I now write for film and TV, with Pro Tools and Logic Audio. Unfortunately, I rarely get the opportunity, or the budget, to record too many natural instruments.

    Even my guitar these days is through a Roland VG8. And drums are too often loops.

    But I really enjoy the times I do get such a budget. Working by yourself perched in front of a computer screen can get lonely - and dangerously subjective.

    Thanks for you reply. I agree with everything you say. And it's perked my desire to go seeking such opportunities again.

    Simon Binks
     
  4. keithricker

    keithricker Guest

    I'm not much of a seasoned "pro," but I do consider myself qualified to at least comment on, in very general terms, some of the topics you bring up.

    The only interfaces I've ever played with are: Pro Tools, Paris, and a standard sound card / PC setup. In terms of sound quality, my personal favorite of the bunch is Paris. I realize this isn't an overly scientific explanation, but I've just noticed a tad bit better-sounding mixes using it.

    The differences, however, are very slight and highly subjective. These days, I am using just a PC with a sound card, and I am quite happy with it. My recordings are no worse than the happy occasions I've gotten to work with PT or Paris. I don't have the same level of flexibility or fancy options. But I do find it much less confusing to work with, and I have learned all of the tricks and shortcuts necessary to get the most out of what I have.

    In the last 2-3 years, I believe digital tracking and mixing technology has reached a point, in general, where the single most important thing is how comfortable you feel working with that paricular software and that particular setup. The more comfortable you are, the better you will work, and ultimately the better your finished product.

    As far as the A/D and D/A conversion process goes, I am rather opinionated on this subject. I often get flamed for my opinions, but that's okay. The long and short of it is that, again, we've reached a level of technology where this is fairly neglegable. The AKM converters on a lot of sound cards rivals the sonic quality of even the most expensive a/d converters on the market. In blind taste tests, I honestly can't spot the akm from the apoge.

    But I have noticed a difference when an external clock is used. The first I believe one should spend money is on a good clock. A cheapo converter clocked with a good lucid will give you a clearer, tighter reproduction of your sound than a mega-bucks converter with an average clock.

    Do soft verbs compare to hardware verbs? About as favorably as Glenn Close compares to Catherine Zetta Jones. Not bad if it's all you got, but not really in the same ball park. There have been some advances lately in "Powered Plugins," namely the TC Powercore (mac) and the UAD plugs. Both use a dedicated dsp card to perform all the math. In theory, this should pave the way from some very advanced plugin-based verbs that should compete with the hardware units out there.

    In theory, but not yet in practice. The reality is that no one has yet come along to exploit the added power that these toys provide to design a world-class verb. But the door has been opened and the way has been paved, so it should only be a matter of time.
     
  5. sdevino

    sdevino Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2002
    Bill's point still counts in project studios and DAWs. If your room has well designed acoustics and you use great monitors (i.e. Earthworks Sigma 6.2) you will hear what you are recording and evewn a moderately skilled engineer using moderate quality gear will get a good sound.

    I vote for the Digidesign 192I/O for converters. They have really addressed the master clock issue and I think these things sound better than tape.

    ReverbOne is an excellent DAW based reverb. It is not quite the same as a $14,000 Lexicon (which is also DSP's plus a computer plus software). But I think it is in the same league.

    Por Control is a work surface, not a digital desk. If you are working in Pro Tools to make a living it is an incredible time saver and wrist saver. But it is useless outside of PT.
     
  6. RecorderMan

    RecorderMan Distinguished Member

    Joined:
    Mar 28, 2001
    Hmmm....a continually tougher one for me.
    I have a Mix+. Great fro editing/production/comping/ect. SUCKS for mixing. It can work, but I always feel like I'm a one legged man in a race when I'm mixing on them. Unfortuneatly were in about the same position with protoosl right now that the big studio'd were with SSL consoles back in the Late '80's. Back then, SSL had become this "thing". Rad automation (for the time), compressorson every channel, ect. Big studio's weer selling the amazing sounding (but old and limited) Neve's, left and right. Only a few peolple (Like Alan Sides) were hip enough to buck that trend.
    If I could do it now (re:wanted to spend money right now), I'd get a sony baby oxford (there down to around $13K us, right now), a radar and a used ProTools Mix+. I'd record and mix on the sony/radar for excelant sonics, and the ability to MIX. I'd then also have the cheaper/used ProTools for dense edits/autotuning/plug-in mania, ect.
    Best of both worlds. Maybe 1/2 as much more as a new full blown HD rig. Not as neat or fashionable..but I bet it would be way better sounding/usefull all around.
     
  7. sdevino

    sdevino Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2002
    Try tracking and mixing in PT HD with a 192i/o. I have not heard any mix medium that outperforms it in terms of sound quality.

    With just the slightest attention paid to gain structure, even the mix+ system can sound as good as an SSL (less bottom mud IMO). And all the nonsense about sound stage and image when mixing in PT is just that.

    Use what ever tool you prefer but there is no way that the HD stuff (and I am talking about using it at 44.1kSPs) is anything less than outstanding. Oxfords are cool, Radars are cool, but IMO they just represent different working environments not better sonics.
     
  8. bhenderson

    bhenderson Guest

    Hey Steve,

    Send me an email and I'll have one of our dealers bring a RADAR 24 up to your studio so you can do an A/B. I think you will be very impressed!
     
  9. RecorderMan

    RecorderMan Distinguished Member

    Joined:
    Mar 28, 2001
    1/2" ATR

    With just the slightest attention paid to gain structure, even the mix+ system can sound as good as an SSL (less bottom mud IMO). And all the nonsense about sound stage and image when mixing in PT is just that.[/QUOTE]

    The amount of Albums still being Mixed on Large Format Analog consoles would argue against this point. I for one have been working for this (all in the daw) for a while now. I wish that it was otherwise as I have done a significant majority (if not all) of my work over the last three years, in pro tools. I, and the overwhelming majority of recording engineers/mixers in LA, are still preferring to mix on Large Format Analog consoles , when budget is of no issue and sonics are.

    That said. I like the idea of digital, and many of it's benefits; and use it daily. But the next record I'm starting soon (that will be recorded in Pro Tools) will be mixed on an 8068. It will smoke the mixes done in PT, that got the deal.
     
  10. Henchman

    Henchman Active Member

    Joined:
    Oct 22, 2001
    well, none of the software reverbs sound as good as the external boxes. And anybody who believes that a company like lexicon or TC would even design a plug-in thayt would sound as good as their external boxes is dreaming a happy dream.

    You say you mainly do music for TV etc. How do you deliver it? This is a big factor in what system you choose. I work in post, and use Failrights. Best sounding system I've ever used. But then I haven't had a chance to use the RADRA, which I've herad also sounds amazing.

    One of the things I like about the Fairlight, is that I can do up to 48 tracks of 96k audio from a single drive. It is designed with a primary focus on Post. Which means you buy the thing, plug it in, and everything is in the box. 9-pin control, synch eyc.

    What are you using for picture?

    They have a new dream station which is a 48 track machine and mixer all in one.

    If that is out of your price range, the other thing to consider, if you need sequencing, would be Nuendo. Or just a midi sequencer, and something like a RADAR and a D8B. I use the D8B with our Fairlight, and I really find it a great combo. I like using a desk over a system like Pro-Tools, as there is less computer geeking while recording. Sessions move faster etc.
    If anybody tells you you can't get great results with the D8B, well then they suck. I'm an ex-SSL user, and can get as good, if not better sounding mixes with my set-up.

    Mark
     
  11. sdevino

    sdevino Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2002
    The amount of Albums still being Mixed on Large Format Analog consoles would argue against this point. I for one have been working for this (all in the daw) for a while now. I wish that it was otherwise as I have done a significant majority (if not all) of my work over the last three years, in pro tools. I, and the overwhelming majority of recording engineers/mixers in LA, are still preferring to mix on Large Format Analog consoles , when budget is of no issue and sonics are.

    That said. I like the idea of digital, and many of it's benefits; and use it daily. But the next record I'm starting soon (that will be recorded in Pro Tools) will be mixed on an 8068. It will smoke the mixes done in PT, that got the deal.
    [/QUOTE]

    1/2" ATR isn't as good as 1" ATR according to some, but a well designed DAC will outperform both in terms of pure fidelity. You may not prefer that much fidelity and that is your choice and the choice of the clients and very valid.

    There have been significant improvements in clocking converters and digital mixer structure in just the past year. I would expect most of the majors have not had a chance yet to do a really thorough mix using the newer stuff yet. If they do AND they don't just pretend it is digital tape I think many will be very happy with the result.
     
  12. RecorderMan

    RecorderMan Distinguished Member

    Joined:
    Mar 28, 2001
    Fidelity? Nothing we do sounds like being in the room. It's about making something sound great. Usually, in practical terms, if budget allows, in most instances it comes down to the infamous old A/B. " Listen to that setting...now listen to this setting....which SOUNDS BETTER. Here's the (digital recorder of your choice) here's the ATR...which SOUNDS BETTER. If I had to do a poll....the analog would statistically win.

    Trust me. If it's out in the market (or on it's way there) It's been/is in LA. (exception to every rule rule notwithstanding).

    Great debate STEVE!!!!
    :) :D :w:
     
  13. stedel

    stedel Guest

    Mostly analog front end -Peach Audio Tube Micpre's and Telefunken into a Fairlight Dream Series. For me..end of problem. Love to see a comparison between Radar (no. 2 on my list) and Fairlight.
    Kind regards :cool:

    PS:
    "I like using a desk over a system like Pro-Tools, as there is less computer geeking while recording."
    (Henchman)

    "Fidelity? Nothing we do sounds like being in the room. It's about making something sound great."
    (RecorderMan)

    Me too!!!
     
  14. 20db.com

    20db.com Guest

    So stedel does that mean you wouldn't throw someone out of the studio if they showed up with a GR mp-2nv, Soundelux 251 and a Radar Nyquist. :)

    I notice Simon started this mess but hasn't been in lately to guide the discussion. Simon, does any of this help ? I get the impression this thread has gone from one end of the map to the other but not really hit his original question.

    Its dangerous giving a bunch of engineer, producer types a wide open topic titled "Sonic Quality of (anything) vs (anything)". You know us we can go on for months and month and forget the actual topic. :p
     
  15. RecorderMan

    RecorderMan Distinguished Member

    Joined:
    Mar 28, 2001
    Right you are...OK...back on topic. Let's look at Simon's qustion again:

    OK. Honestlyof the four just mentioned, I've only used Pro Tools. I work on tracks alot provided me by composers that work with Logic. Logic uses the DAE from digidesign...no? So right there, I would think would be a case for them being similar.
    ProTools blows Logic (and I would believe) Nuendo, ect. on the point of jsut it's user interface. It's very mature. The resolution (compared to Logic anyway) is night and day. It is also a standard now in Post. All of the shows I work on use CDR's of ProTools sessions I send them. Apparently though they're using dubbers on the mix stage, so this doesn't make it mandatory to use PT obvously; as Henchman can attest.


    Also with Digital Desks, the Pro Control verses the Mackie D8B verses the Control 24 or anything else.
    [/QUOTE]
    Here's where it gets interesting for me. First when working with ProTools anything other than an ethernet controller like ProControl (my choice) or Control24 is out. That means no HUI, no MotorMix, ect. They are midi based and as such are useless for serious rides. Procontrol has the same resoltion (1000+ steps) at my favorite automation (FlyngFaders). If I were a Pro Tools only setup I might go this route.
    Another way , would be to get a digital mix desk in conjunction with ProTools (or whatever Recorder/Editor you choose).
    My opinionmas to the winner for this is hands down the sony oxford. I've worked a bit on the Big oxford, and it is in my opinion the best sounding digital desk anywhere near it price range (and I hera prices have dropped from the $20k area to around $13K). It's just better all around than the mackie (again...my opinion).


    The D/A converters: Prism vs Apogee, the Digidesign 888 vs the new Pro Tools HD 1,2 and 3, even Hammerfall vs ASIO, Dig 001, etc.
    [/QUOTE]

    Hmm....Pro Tools HD converters should be just fine if you go thatn route.

    If money were no object...I'd have Euphonix or DBtechnology converters...Radar(48tracks)....ProTools HD (inerfaced AES in/out)...sony oxford(two for 48 channels+).....fibre-net harddrives (100's of GB) mirrored, ect. It can get sick and ugly fast.
    A selection of great pre's: Avalon2022, a pair of Vipre's, some Neve (real or clone), API's, ect
    some good outboard compression. A Modified Manely 16X8 Tube mixer...to comp mic's ect. in the anal;og domain first....we're talking amazing here....

    What's your budget?

    Firewire vs SCSI?
    [/QUOTE]
    Both....scsi drives (fibre net is the real deal)....with firewire for cheap/large back-up


    Hardware reverb vs Plug ins - TDM vs VST, Powercore, do computer reverbs really compare to hardware classics?
    [/QUOTE]
    Some primary outboard verbs, AES digital in & Out.


    Obviously it is very much horses for courses, but I'm merely talking about the quality of the audio signal at the end of the day.
    [/QUOTE]

    Oh well time to quite dreamin'...

    Appreciate all opinions.

    Simon Binks[/QB][/QUOTE]
     
  16. sdevino

    sdevino Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2002
    I second everything Recorderman said (its a lot easier than editing in quotes). Only exceptions might be:

    SCSI is the best if you already have it but internal (not the main drive) IDE will do 64 tracks plus, easily. Firewire will to 48 plus per drive but I still only trust it to be a backup.

    Another slight detour:
    A lexicon 960 is just a computer with DSP chips, converters and software. Its reverb is no more "Real" than a plugin reverb running on a computer with DSP hw. It is just different. I am not sure that some plugin reverbs don't compete well with it. None are the same but that doesn't make the Lexicon stuff the only choice.

    AND... if you want to mix in the 21st century I believe all the external stuff are choices suited to particular taste. By that I mean you can get a great sound without any of it (except the mic pre's).

    I'm still waiting for Barry to send someone with a RADAR to show me how good it sounds. So far the only A/B comparison I heard was won by the 192I/O especially when it came to nice tight low end (IMO). YMMV!
     
  17. Kev

    Kev Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Nov 13, 2001
    After spending a few years chasing gear and waisting a lot of money. I have concluded that Bill is right. Money spent here is not waisted ... ever.

    Keep you digital purchases to a minimum. Chose a DAW that can meet your needs and perhaps even pick up a system second hand from last year or so and save your money for all the stuff above.
     
  18. Henchman

    Henchman Active Member

    Joined:
    Oct 22, 2001
    Recorderman, I think you are confusing the Sony Oxford with the sony-R100 when you talk about the $13-20k price range. An Oxford is still up there. And fgrom what I've heard the R-100 isn't in the same league as the Oxford.

    Mark
     
  19. RecorderMan

    RecorderMan Distinguished Member

    Joined:
    Mar 28, 2001
    Sorry that I'm confusinf you. I know the diff. When I write on these forums it's all from memory/ect. I own neither....that's why I called it the baby oxford. I know the big one pretty well...I was trained on it at OceanWay LA a couple of years ago when they had a room and were a beta tester/demo room for sony.

    the Litlle one the "100" model...the one everybody who owns one (except for Mick Guzauski and Walter A.) knows...is the one I was saying is know in the $13k range. I think it sounds GREAT (for a digital board). Great EQ & dynamics...good faders/automation.

    OH...and Bill's comments are absolutely correct. I just feel that they and my analog preferance rant were/are not exactly on the mark as to the original quetsion posed.
     
  20. promisespro

    promisespro Guest

    Hi all,

    I vote for the Digidesign 192I/O for converters.
    The secret is of great sound quality in the pro tools is in the (Converters of HD192 or 96 I/O Card's,) not the in pro tools software..

    Regard's

    Abdullah Al balushi
     

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