Favorite ways to warm up your digital tracks?

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Babaluma

Post by Babaluma » Tue Jun 04, 2013 3:51 am

Yep, it's hard to English the un-Englishable! ;) All these audiphile buzz speak words are bullshit, but at the same time we have to try and describe what it is we want and are hearing, or lacking!

Bob Olhsson said something very funny on Gearslutz yesterday:
What blows my mind is how many people use more signal processing on every single Pro Tools track than we had available in an entire 1970s control room and then gripe about how it just doesn't sound "analog" enough.
And +1 on gain staging (digital, analogue, and between those domains), it's hard to over-estimate the importance.

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Post by LeFreq » Tue Jun 04, 2013 3:53 am

Babaluma - Right on! You actually get exactly what my thing is... I'm, by no means, making my whole living as a mixing/mastering engineer only, but I do mix and master electronic tracks for bedroom producers as a side gig. It was purposefully my market because a) I know a lot of them and b) I'm better at it than they are (while also not being amazing enough to take on many bigger projects). So, my point is, that this is where my head is at, too. I also like to use it in my own music and my other work... and I just enjoy the sound!

Thanks for the tips, I have heard similar things before and, of course, noticed it and utilized it myself to some degree, but your info was more detailed than most, so I feel like I get it even more. Thanks!


Since I started this thread, I've been digging deeper into the use of what I have (particularly my 2-buss chain - PM-8 and BC2-ME) and have had some great results. I'm excited to test out the RNLA on some individual elements (I doubt it will be good on the master buss), but I still want to try some "better" gear someday... I'd really like to just have a really great sounding board to mix with and strap the BC2 on the end. That's probably something I can achieve soon. There's always big boards popping up on Craigslist here. I looked at a few recently, but there were too many issues and risks. I will find something perfect. For now, I'm enjoying overdriving these old Mackie mixers. Cranking the gain and EQ bands all the way up on them makes synths sound awesome.

Oops, I forgot to say that by "digging deeper" I have actually been working on the gain staging, particularly going into the BC2 compressor after the summing mixer. There's a world of difference in there... Also, the PM-8 has 3 different outputs (Transformer, Transformerless, Passive, the usual I guess) so I've actually been on this path and I've started to be more content with using what I have properly... although it still doesn't hurt to try other things and I always will be.
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Babaluma

Post by Babaluma » Tue Jun 04, 2013 5:55 am

No worries, information wants to be free. :)

Could always try the RNLA in parallel if you are wondering about it not sounding great on the master channel. Nice to blend stuff in sometimes, and lets you use "heavier" settings too. E.g. all out smash the buss, but then blend it in very subtly with the clean signal. My comps have a wet/dry control, but I rarely use it as I usually prefer the sound of it 100% wet, only never doing more than about 1.5dB of GR.

Never liked the sound of over-driven Mackie preamps myself, but it was THE sound of Gabba 909 kick's back in the day! ;)

It's not just gain staging, but impedance matching too, you need to think of the whole analogue chain as a system, and swapping the order of things can change the sound in interesting ways, not due to anything except different input/output impedances.

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Post by Truckfumes » Tue Jun 04, 2013 7:57 am

I'm interested in this too. I'd prefer to be totally analogue, but that isn't feasible for me.
I'm very new at all of this, and am still early on in the experimental stages.
I'm still learning how to use equipment, what equipment is available etc.
I mainly try to write, produce and record psychedelic rock/RnB type music.
But I have to rely on digital drums or digital keyboard substitutes.
Like a Wurlitzer organ on my Yamaha MOX-6. I'm never gonna get a real analog organ-obviously.
I do like trying out electronic music ala Tangerine Dream or Pink Floyd.
I always want that vintage warmth tube/tape sound.
Right now I get it by subtle detunes, subtle bad notes(clams) minor tempo/meter errors in playing and of course the cheap plug-ins available from my Cubase or Free stuff. Like Grungelizer(used very sparingly) or the
Vinyl simulator from Sony(?)

Babaluma

Post by Babaluma » Tue Jun 04, 2013 9:31 am

i don't own any any tube or tape equipment, but have often been complimented on the tube/tape like sound i can achieve...

no idea what that's all about, but i think half the time people talk about the "tube", "tape", "analogue", "transformer", or "saturated" sound, they actually have little idea what it really is, or can be.

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Post by LeFreq » Wed Jun 05, 2013 12:15 pm

Babaluma wrote:No worries, information wants to be free. :)

Could always try the RNLA in parallel if you are wondering about it not sounding great on the master channel. Nice to blend stuff in sometimes, and lets you use "heavier" settings too. E.g. all out smash the buss, but then blend it in very subtly with the clean signal. My comps have a wet/dry control, but I rarely use it as I usually prefer the sound of it 100% wet, only never doing more than about 1.5dB of GR.

Never liked the sound of over-driven Mackie preamps myself, but it was THE sound of Gabba 909 kick's back in the day! ;)

It's not just gain staging, but impedance matching too, you need to think of the whole analogue chain as a system, and swapping the order of things can change the sound in interesting ways, not due to anything except different input/output impedances.

Yes, definitely. I use a lot of parallel compression and recently started using it on the 2-buss... but I've been using Cytomic's The Glue plugin so I can have it running during the 2nd half of my composition process (when doing my own music or producing something else) and the whole mix process. The BC2 has a wet/dry but I like it 100% wet usually. The RNLA may become my new parallel buss for drums or something. We'll see, it should be here today.

The Mackie overdrive is a distinct sound, can't use it on everything, but I like it. It's a bit too cheesy on a boomy kick for me, haha, very 90's gabba/hardstyle. I have been doing it subtly, last night I set up an 808 drum beat and then smashed it thru the Mackie in parallel (keeping the kick out) and it really made the drums crack through the mix, but without any harshness. So far I've just been playing with it, haven't used it in a mix yet.

Thanks for the extra tips, so would you say that impedance could actually cause you issues if your chain isn't really suited to work together?
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Post by LeFreq » Wed Jun 05, 2013 12:31 pm

Truckfumes - Well, if you're doing it software, try out the PSP Vintage Warmer... maybe even Guitar Rig or other guitar amp emulations and use them in parallel. There's some cheap tube compressors and pres out there (mentioned by me earlier - Pro VLA and MPA Gold from ART), but they don't seem to impart a whole lot of tube sound.

I think it's really just warmth, again... Maybe with a little bit of "heat", lol. Tubes sound like they're hot to me, if that makes any sense at all... that's more of a guitarist thing though, as I used to be somewhat of one and had some tube amps (still do, just not as many, actually). It may stem from the amps literally being warm and it's just a mind association, haha. But, I feel like it definitely has more gain and distortion, not necessarily the pleasing kind like tape, but still even order harmonics. Anyways, there's definitely some tube plugins out there and some cheap tube gear and you can always reamp something thru a tube amp (or emulation).

Tape, is more of a pleasing harmonic distortion and (more importantly) natural compression you get from hitting the tape a little hard. This is also warm, but without the "heat" and maybe a bit more intense. It will also boost lows and soften highs. There are tons of tape emulations out there... someone mentioned a really cheap one in this thread earlier. I like the Waves Kramer MPX and the UAD emulations. The Slate one is great, but you have to mix into it to really start to notice it, just throwing it on doesn't do anything, really. I never got around to buying that one, even though I really enjoyed the demo.

There are cheap tape machines out there, I have an Akai DS-model, but it needs new heads. I got it for maybe $100 or something on ebay. This, obviously, will give you more of a tape sound than any plugins, but the classic tape machines have a sound all their own that can't be emulated by plugins or another tape machine.

Well, I don't know if that was helpful at all, I hope so.


Oh, you know what? I completely forgot about the SPL Twin Tube plugin (or the real thing). I just started using it and it's pretty nice.
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Post by lvoemachine » Wed Jun 05, 2013 1:49 pm

I think also, something to remember is what we associate with tubes/tape is actually the transformers in the analog signal paths. I had a friend that took his 70s marshall in to get it retubed and they said his transformer was on its way out and they swapped in a new one for him. It sounded instantly like some crappy, harsh new metal BS. I have friends who swear by using a decent VHS deck to warm up certain parts of their tracks as the amount of tape dedicated to audio is bigger than on cassette. Personally, I love the way a cassette deck with a bit of input drive sounds, especially when hard hitting dance music is involved.

Babaluma

Post by Babaluma » Wed Jun 05, 2013 1:56 pm

LeFreq wrote: Thanks for the extra tips, so would you say that impedance could actually cause you issues if your chain isn't really suited to work together?
Definitely, there are reams of correspondence regarding this exact issue on the mastering forums out there! Having a router or mastering console with analogue inserts switchable at the touch of the button will allow you to hear these differences, even when all the units are in bypass.

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Post by LeFreq » Fri Jun 07, 2013 3:30 pm

lvoemachine wrote:I think also, something to remember is what we associate with tubes/tape is actually the transformers in the analog signal paths. I had a friend that took his 70s marshall in to get it retubed and they said his transformer was on its way out and they swapped in a new one for him. It sounded instantly like some crappy, harsh new metal BS. I have friends who swear by using a decent VHS deck to warm up certain parts of their tracks as the amount of tape dedicated to audio is bigger than on cassette. Personally, I love the way a cassette deck with a bit of input drive sounds, especially when hard hitting dance music is involved.
Truth. But, I think you also contradicted yourself a bit, because the tape (and cassette) also has a sound... a VCR definitely doesn't have a great audio path, but it sounds nice, because of the tape. It's both. This is why I still like some digital FX and synths and outboard stuff that can be replicated ITB, because the signal path can make something come to life. I always have attributed it to things just going from 1's and 0's to actual physical voltage... that's where the magic happens, it's manifested in the real world at some point and so it takes on life. Obviously, this isn't entirely true, but it's one way to look at it.


Babaluma - figured so! But, that makes a lot of sense about a mastering console. Most of the mastering engineers I've learned under and my own work in that realm has been in software w/ just a little hardware. I have always wanted to sit in at an all analog mastering studio and learn more about the specifics in that realm. Anyways, I can definitely rig up some monitoring to allow me to see what's going on there. Thanks again!


So, I got the Portastudio, I'm just waiting on some tapes to come in now... I'm interested to check this out. I'm also seeking out new heads for my tape machine. I got the RNLA in, but haven't really been able to put it thru the paces yet... just ran the Tempest (w/ direct outs into a mixer) thru it and was not impressed, but that was not a good application anyways.
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Post by nuromantix » Sat Jun 08, 2013 3:13 pm

I like using cassettes and I always use this technique:
EQ out all the bass and boost the treble, record HOT to cassette.
Bounce back from cassette and put the bass back. The treble doesn't ever need cutting!
This way you can get all the red lights going on the cassette and get a nice saturation but with no pumping or problems with the bass eating up all the headroom.
This works really well in getting a nice tape-squashed and saturated sound without getting very hissy.

Another thing I've done on digital tracks which might be crazy is to mix in VERY low level white noise, with a compressor sidechained from the master buss, so the noise comes up when the track is quiet and goes away when the track is loud. If you get it right, you don't notice it, yet it takes away some of the clinical vibe. You can't hear it but you can tell when it's not there.

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Post by LeFreq » Sat Jun 08, 2013 3:18 pm

Thanks for that... I was thinking about asking in here or starting a new thread for basic cassette techniques... there's a few already for distressing them and stuff, but I wanted more saturation stuff. This sounds like a great trick. I hadn't thought of it and will be using it as soon as my blank tapes get here. :tu:

With the white noise trick, I've done this with atmospheric loops. I always felt using something musical was better. I actually read or heard deadmau5 say he does that with field recordings he does out in the city or wherever... just some constant (but changing, which is what white noise is missing) signal will help fill those holes. That was the only other person, oddly enough, that I've ever heard mention that.
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Post by Babaluma » Sun Jun 09, 2013 5:17 am

LeFreq wrote:Babaluma - figured so! But, that makes a lot of sense about a mastering console. Most of the mastering engineers I've learned under and my own work in that realm has been in software w/ just a little hardware. I have always wanted to sit in at an all analog mastering studio and learn more about the specifics in that realm. Anyways, I can definitely rig up some monitoring to allow me to see what's going on there. Thanks again!
no worries, in my estimation it's usually the case that an analogue mastering chain bears no comparison whatsoever to an all in the box chain. of course it's down to the engineer and their experience, but in my case analogue processing (specifically compression and eq) wins out every time (from a sound and ease of use context) against plugin equivalents. i run a hybrid D/A/D loop setup, only things i use plugins for are metering, M/S processing and brick wall limiting.

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Post by nuromantix » Mon Jun 10, 2013 4:22 am

Here are two records I released using that cassette technique:

http://soundcloud.com/edmx/fresh002-samples

http://soundcloud.com/edmx/fresh011-samples

Of course the wholeproduction style is meant to sound "old" as well.....

Sorry for the self-promotion :)

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Post by Truckfumes » Wed Jun 12, 2013 8:40 am

LeFreq wrote:Truckfumes - Well, if you're doing it software, try out the PSP Vintage Warmer... maybe even Guitar Rig or other guitar amp emulations and use them in parallel. There's some cheap tube compressors and pres out there (mentioned by me earlier - Pro VLA and MPA Gold from ART), but they don't seem to impart a whole lot of tube sound.

I think it's really just warmth, again... Maybe with a little bit of "heat", lol. Tubes sound like they're hot to me, if that makes any sense at all... that's more of a guitarist thing though, as I used to be somewhat of one and had some tube amps (still do, just not as many, actually). It may stem from the amps literally being warm and it's just a mind association, haha. But, I feel like it definitely has more gain and distortion, not necessarily the pleasing kind like tape, but still even order harmonics. Anyways, there's definitely some tube plugins out there and some cheap tube gear and you can always reamp something thru a tube amp (or emulation).

Tape, is more of a pleasing harmonic distortion and (more importantly) natural compression you get from hitting the tape a little hard. This is also warm, but without the "heat" and maybe a bit more intense. It will also boost lows and soften highs. There are tons of tape emulations out there... someone mentioned a really cheap one in this thread earlier. I like the Waves Kramer MPX and the UAD emulations. The Slate one is great, but you have to mix into it to really start to notice it, just throwing it on doesn't do anything, really. I never got around to buying that one, even though I really enjoyed the demo.

There are cheap tape machines out there, I have an Akai DS-model, but it needs new heads. I got it for maybe $100 or something on ebay. This, obviously, will give you more of a tape sound than any plugins, but the classic tape machines have a sound all their own that can't be emulated by plugins or another tape machine.

Well, I don't know if that was helpful at all, I hope so.


Oh, you know what? I completely forgot about the SPL Twin Tube plugin (or the real thing). I just started using it and it's pretty nice.
Yes it was helpful. I know what you mean. I like that barely perceptible hiss myself. Saturation. And almost imperceptible warble.
Incidentally how does dithering play into all of this?
I've mixed down some tracks with and without dithering, and I can't seem to tell the difference.

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Post by Truckfumes » Wed Jun 12, 2013 8:46 am

nuromantix wrote:Here are two records I released using that cassette technique:

{Your tunes}
Of course the wholeproduction style is meant to sound "old" as well.....

Sorry for the self-promotion :)
Oh, don't be sorry. Very tasty Composition.
I like the tape sound.

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Post by nuromantix » Wed Jun 12, 2013 9:43 am

Dither is basically very very very quiet hiss!

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Post by Truckfumes » Wed Jun 12, 2013 9:46 am

nuromantix wrote:Dither is basically very very very quiet hiss!
Right, it's supposed to fill in the cracks left over when mixing down to 16 bit for example.
How come I never can hear those "cracks or holes" whether I dithered or not? Is it just me?

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Post by nuromantix » Wed Jun 12, 2013 10:14 am

You'd have to listening very hard, especially to the quietest parts of a track. I have only ever heard problems as the last note of a track fades away, or on the very end of a naked reverb tail.

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Post by mystico » Wed Jun 12, 2013 10:15 am

I use soundcloud :hihi:

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Post by clapclap » Tue Jul 08, 2014 1:14 pm

How would something like a TASCAM MiniStudio Porta 02 work for warming up some drums or any other element in a mix? Could you get tape compression if you overdrive the low end?

http://www.totallywildaboutmusic.com/wp ... 0_0914.jpg

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Post by BendingBus » Wed Jul 09, 2014 7:01 pm

Hi guys,

It may sound simple, but perhaps the best way to give the impression of analog smoothness is by applying a digital LPF to each track during the mix stage.

If you are recording a quality analog synth into good A/D converters, it should already sound excellent. You just need to combat the fact that digital captures so much high frequency detail. So on any tracks with treble frequencies apply a LPF in the mix; around 15K is a good starting place but you can go lower depending on the track. A spectrum analyzer is a handy tool here. Of course any tracks which you recorded with your synth's LPF cranked down won't really need this, as there won't be much going on up top.

This is coming from someone with a lot of analog mix gear; mixes still sound "digital" if you don't filter off the top end.

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Post by unmode » Fri Jul 11, 2014 6:38 am

Truckfumes wrote:
nuromantix wrote:Dither is basically very very very quiet hiss!
Right, it's supposed to fill in the cracks left over when mixing down to 16 bit for example.
How come I never can hear those "cracks or holes" whether I dithered or not? Is it just me?
Because quantisation noise is at like -100db or something. It's completely unimportant in the context of a finished mix. Either the record is good or it ain't.

This video explains it: https://www.xiph.org/video/vid2.shtml

I presume that vid has been posted here before? Everyone should watch it.

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Post by slovo » Sat Jul 19, 2014 8:05 am

I dig bendingBus's post because it is so obviously true. Although I don't always do it (because I don't always shy away from sounding "digital"), almost all the analog-style channel strip VSTs include such a feature for a very good reason. It sounds quite dull and often annoying to my ears, but it makes a huge difference and is especially important when trying to capture a "classic" sound. I often use the 10k LPF on my favorite channel strip, and almost always have to use the 40 Hz HPF as well, on every track.
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Post by steampoweredsequencer » Sat Jul 19, 2014 3:21 pm

EQ.
mild compression.
bit reduction (12-bit mostly).
occasionally driven eq peaks, pre-distortion.

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