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Readers' Letters: Why the analog sound is fat, and more...

A post by David Mellor
Thursday November 30, 2006
"Of course you have to define what the "real thing" actually is. I define it as the sound you hear if you are standing where the microphone is recording from. In reality, if you stand at exactly the same place at the same time..."
Readers' Letters: Why the analog sound is fat, and more...

In response to Why the analog sound is fat, Steve writes...

I have always found the argument about analog(ue) vs digital fascinating.

Of course you have to define what the "real thing" actually is. I define it as the sound you hear if you are standing where the microphone is recording from. In reality, if you stand at exactly the same place at the same time (yes, it is an impossibility), what your brain will "hear" will not be exactly what my brain will "hear".

Sometimes I laugh at the fervor with which people will profess to seek the perfectly flat sound and by flat I refer to the ability of the sound chain to not change the original sound. These are the same people who sing the praises of this microphone; preamp; equalizer; compressor; speaker; etc. because of the way they "color" the sound.

The "love" of the "analog" sound comes from the fact that most of us have heard that sound since the day we were born. Almost all of the early CD's were mastered from tape. All oldies are from tape, as stated in the article, many studios still master on tape and digital recordings strive to inject that same distortion.

This is why the love of analog persists.

Professed by the professionals is the desire that the recording/reproducing chain act as if it were a solid piece of wire affecting only the volume; but what they prize is what distorts the signal in a way they like.

I think the article is well written and factual and will be very informative to many.


In response to The all-time great analog multitracks, An MCI Enthusiast writes...

MCI was a company that manufactured recorders for multitrack recording in professional recording studios. One of their most successful products was the model JH-24 recorder, which recorded 24 tracks of audio to reels of 2" wide tape at either 15 or 30 inches per second.

The JH-16 and later the JH-24 were (and still are) one of the industry standards for 24-track analog audio recording, and were installed in many audio recording studios starting in the early 70s. The JH-24 is still in use today among recording engineers and recording artists who still desire to record in analog, and have 24 tracks at their immediate disposal.

MCI also manufactured audio mixing consoles as well. The MCI JH600 console is still sought after as a great sounding Analog Recording Console, and many studios in the 80's had the JH600 Console together with the JH24 Tape recorder and the JH110B 2 track Tape recorder, making for an "All MCI" studio.

Later on, Sony would market some of MCI's multi-track recorders (including the JH-24), after their purchase of the company.

The founder of MCI, G. C. "Jeep" Harned, owned a small Hi-Fi shop in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida when he was approached by Mack Emmerman, the owner of Criteria Recording Studios in Miami. Mack was constantly trying to improve the sound of his studios, and Jeep contributed to that by building custom electronics for Mack's Ampex tape recorders, and mixing/recording consoles as well.

The now famous Tom Dowd, who was the main engineer for Atlantic Records, was attracted to the southern Florida weather and began working on many projects at Criteria. The projects he worked on are legendary today: The Young Rascals, Eric Clapton, The Allman Brothers (and many other Southern rockers), The Bee Gees, and on and on. This exposure helped MCI to become the leading manufacturer of recording machines and consoles in the world, and in the late 70's, over half of the records in Billboard's Top 200 were recorded and/or mixed using MCI equipment.

Sony bought the company in 1982 in an effort to integrate audio with their burgeoning video product line, but were not very successful for a variety of reasons. The MCI logo soon disappeared from the Sony product catalog, and the product line faded away.

RP response: Excellent information. Thank you.


In response to Q: "How do you achieve good equalization on a live concert that pleases everyone?", Christopher DeMonk writes...

Quote "Firstly, the live sound engineer has a tremendous advantage - he hears what the audience hears."

False,false,false in anything but the most ideal situations. Move ten,twenty,forty feet away from the mix position in your typical(not ideal)live production and reassess your claim. Please don't belittle the live sound engineer who has a clue (or a whole lot more) and takes what the audience is hearing in every area of the venue to heart.

RP response: Hello Christopher. A mix engineer in the studio has no opportunity of hearing his work as the listener hears it. A live sound engineer has every opportunity to do so - from all over the auditorium if he desires (although this requires an assistant to look after the console). In fact, a live sound engineer who was not concerned with how everyone in the audience hears the mix would be a poor engineer indeed.


In response to Will your multitrack recordings be playable a year from now?, (Chael) Michael Thomas Candido writes...

I think the most ideal thing to do if you are going to send a session to a mix or mastering engineer is to make a folder of each song you are going to send and to place all track wav files in them also a recall sheet document for each song so no ones confused, this would help the mix or mastering engineer know what is happening with the mix and where you might want to go with it from there.


In response to How do I get more 'air' in my recordings, like the pros do?, (Chael) Michael Thomas Candido writes...



First of what David was saying about the sampling spectrum and frequency and alias tone matter is better know as or refered to The Nyquist therom somthing good to know about. I know many people have very diffent ways of describing or viewing on what air means to them in audio senses but to me it means in the example of vocals since you are dealing with them is to be able to stand out from the rest of the mix with clarity and detail and a sense of softness opposed to clear and harsh. For one the most important thing is what vocal mic best suits your voice as even 1 style of high end mic will not properly compliment everyones vocal tone. in the quest for air like david suggested Tubes can be an aiding factor to air...as well as older hardware compressors or preamps using many tranformers or germanium based transistors adding a coloration of some sort which will usually compliment vocals most of the time though i dont feel its the only option,,, i find that using a minimal amount of reverb....yes i said reverb will open up the higher frequencies and will give a feel of softness although i will address that the reverb should be the last in chain should be a small amount so that when you hear it in solo mode it isnt hall sounding but small room sounding and that when you put it in the mix wont sound as if there is any reverb at all . then hopefully what you notice is a strong vocal in the frontground wihtout competing for room space and is in terms sounding soft. in using this method i will however address that it should only be used on vocals and not anything else also if you are having probelms with harsh souding vocal material you might want to look into a deeser, but be very cautious just like a standard compressor if you do not know what you are doing you can ruin your mix but if you do know or learn how it will help you.


In response to The MP3 player is dead - here's what is about to replace it, Charles Slater writes...

Truly enjoyed your HMV 101 portable versus iPod discourse.

Reminded me a three-page tongue-in-cheek review in Audio magazine several years ago that provided full specs for an Edison Tin-Foil Phonograph. It was replete with actual s/n ratio analysis, frequency response, wow and flutter measurements etc. Such scholarly wit adds further evidence that technical types enjoy a greater sense-of-humour than a laymen would give credit.

To revert to the slightly serious, HMV's model 101 portable Gramophone was, without doubt, the most highly developed of its type. It was marketed back in 1927, and surprisingly subsequent models, although similar in design, never quick matched its superior sonic qualities. (Acoustic portable gramophones were manufactured in the UK up to circa 1958).

Its qualities were far from being a happy accident. HMV engineers sought to push the envelope of available acoustic player restrictions. This resulted in a properly designed exponential internal horn and a soundbox 'tuned' to complement the characteristics the then still newish electrical recordings. These 'Number 4' HMV soundboxes (the last to use mica as opposed to aluminium diaphragms) sometimes sell on eBay for as much as a complete machine.

Surprisingly, a 120-page book is currently available titled 'The Perfect Portable' by Dave Cooper. It deals with the history surrounding HMV's 101 portable and contains heaps of great vintage illustrations (No, I'm not on commission :)

On a personal level, I probably owe my ensuing passion for recording technology to one of these Gramophones. My parents gave me a second-hand 101 back in 1944, when I was just four-years old. (Not telling you my present age - that's a secret).

Would you believe I still have this HMV portable and it's STILL IN WORKING ORDER!

This, in spite of playing thousands of 78 sides and the rough treatment ('scientific experiments') inflicted on it by a ham-fisted juvenile owner.

Let me quickly add that, in no way do I wish to infer that this (or any other analogue audio recording technology) could compare favourably of present-day CD style digital sound reproduction. We are currently in 'Hi-Fi Heaven' compared to the limitations endured by pre-digital audiophiles.

Cheers,

Charles Slater

Bowral NSW

RP response: Thank you for your comments and insight. The Audio Masterclass HMV 101 is in daily use playing the demos we receive ;-)


In response to When to pan left, when to pan right, Vyero writes...

Speaking of panning...

It's been quite difficult for me to pan a drumkit from the audience's perspective...

I am a drummer myself... so I'm pretty used to pan the drumkit from the drummer's perspective on my recordings (Hi-Hat a little to the left, toms going from left to right, floor tom to the far right and overheads set Left and Right from the drummer's perspective).

It doesn't sound bad at all and I love it that way...

Now I have a few questions: The real problem for me is when I have to make a live room engineering... I have the tendency to pan the drumkit to the drummer's perspective but he's playing on opposite directions (I usually notice this after a while and change it the way it's supposed to, hehe).

One time I made an experiment and panned all the other instruments on opposite directions (the amps and the direct drum hits from one side, but the signal coming out from the console panned to fill the other side) The result gave the band's sound a little more body because you could hear hear "overdubbed" channels in real time without actually having two performers.

So then I tried another thing... I kept the drums panned from the audience's perspective and I panned all the guitars on opposite directions... and WOW... It sounded great!(for me, anyway)... the drums were really solid and the guitars had a better texture and body allowing me to complement the amp's settings with the "overdubbed" channel processed through the console.

Is this wrong? What can be recommended here?...Is it better to go with the real band's positioning in terms of panning?

Thanks!!

Vyero

Mexico City

www.myspace.com/vyeroproductor


In response to How to get a drummer to play in time to a click track, Dave Scrimenti writes...

If I can't just have the band play together without a click, I start with a quantized sequenced drum track. Then I have all the other instruments play to that. Finally, I remove the sequenced drums and let the live drummer play to all the other tracks. It's a lot easier for a drummer to play to a song than a click. But it's still in time, and without being unnaturally metronomic.


In response to Is your preamp suffering from beta degradation? If so, it's not as good as it was when you bought it!, Sneaky Pete writes...

Or...buy a Behringer tube 1953 pre-amp. After a month, two of the four gauge lights pack up. After 3 months, one of the two tubes blows. Like a scruffy girlfriend...the thrill is gone!


In response to How to get a drummer to play in time to a click track, Akshay writes...

It is, no doubt, very difficult for any percussionist to play on a click track. I prefer to use a very basic dummy drum-loop (if that's what I can call it), with just the kick and the snare, and play it back instead.

It seems to work!


In response to What is a record producer? Do you really want to become one?, Tony Anderson writes...

Dear Editor, I am frustrated artistic musician singersongwriter/v. small time producer on a deep level and like everyone of similiar talent dream about getting well paid for successful projects. I very much believe in my sensitivity to the public's needs in emotional feel good factors to create the satisfaction sought by a hungry market seeking the Great Escape into world of feeling good.The secret is knowing how to use sound fx,volume,musical arrangement,lyrics,timing,and Marketing.

'Art for Art Sake' or 'Money for God Sake'Balance for All Sake!, yours faithfully Tony.


In response to How does MP3 reduce an audio file's size to one-eleventh?, Shane writes...

If you bring up the .wav and the .mp3 in a multitrack program, then invert the phase of the .mp3, you will hear what is left of the .wav after the .mp3's sonic qualities are subtracted from the .wav. When you do this, it will be obvious why .mp3s seem to lose some "air" and detail in the high end.

RP response: We would recommend you try this. However, cancelation doesn't work properly if there are any phase shifts in the encoding process. What you will hear, and we've tried it, are the artefacts of the mp3 encoding process. So you get to hear what the mp3 process adds, rather than what it takes away. The results will differ according to which encoding software you use, and also the nature of the signal.


In response to 'Reverse latency' - is there such a thing? One Audio Masterclass visitor seems to have a problem..., Frank writes...

Hi Nat,

I have experienced the same problem with an Audigy 2 NX soundcard. The problem arises because Audigy products really only run internally at 48kHz.

Selecting 44.1kHz as a project sampling rate forces the card to do something it really doesn't do very well - convert everything in & out of the card, on the fly, to 48kHz and back again. This causes a bizarre "time compression" effect on your recorded tracks. Hence the "out-of-sync" result.

One solution is to set the project sample rate to 48kHz. Another solution is to buy a slightly more expensive soundcard!

cheers,

Frank


In response to EQ before compression, or compression before EQ?, Frank writes...

It pays to be aware that post-compression eq'ing will yield a different result to pe-compression eq'ing. This is because compressors are more responsive to low-frequency content.

Excessive pre-compression bottom-end may "pump" the compressor. Conversely, adding low-frequency content post-compression may add punch.


In response to Why music will soon be set free, Joe writes...

I'm not sure how old this article is and I'm sure most people probably know this already, but all you have to do with music you get on iTunes is make a CD of it then rip that cd back into your computer. No DRM. I never even knew DRM existed until I read about it online. I have had no problem playing my iTunes music anywhere.


In response to Is your preamp suffering from beta degradation? If so, it's not as good as it was when you bought it!, John Lusty writes...

Very interesting article! I'm an Electronic Engineer now, but as kids, I and my friends may have observed this so-called 'healing' of transistors. When we came back to use marginal transistors, they appeared to work better after being left in the junk box for an extended period - say a year or two. We couldn't explain it at the time, but this could have been related to your article.


In response to The equipment you need to master at home, Terry Ackerman writes...

Just in case you weren't aware, that photo of "Fat and Sassy" mastering is in actuality a photo of the old mastering room at Disc Makers.

Not that this is anything new. He (FnS) has been flushed out for fraud more times than I can count. But you might want to take that photo down.

I also noticed that much of his gear list is from Massive Mastering's old list. Also not a surprise. He used to post his exact list as his own on several audio forums until the lawyers got involved.

TrAckerman.

RP response: Rather a sad state of affairs really, and we have heard similar from other Audio Masterclass visitors. A note has been added to the article. Audio Masterclass advises that you check the credentials and track record of any provider of mastering services.


In response to Is your preamp suffering from beta degradation? If so, it's not as good as it was when you bought it!, Arni writes...

Is the old trick with a reverse biased diode across the base-emitter junction of the input transistors not used anymore?

Apart from the beta reduction, and often more serious, is an increase in noise of the zenered transistor.


In response to When to pan left, when to pan right, Mike writes...

Recording drums is another example of audience or player perspective.

As a home studio recorder of drums, all my drum mikes and mixer inputs are odd channels left, even numbers right, from the drummer's perspective. After tracking I pan all channels the opposite way to make the stereo mixdown be heard from the audience perspective. This is my personal choice since I have heard some great recording done the other way.

I usually have a very narrow field with toms and overheads spreading from the center panned kick and snare.

A post by David Mellor
Thursday November 30, 2006 ARCHIVE
David Mellor has been creating music and recording in professional and home studios for more than 30 years. This website is all about learning how to improve and have more fun with music and recording. If you enjoy creating music and recording it, then you're definitely in the right place :-)
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