Compression/EQ vocals during tracking or mixing?
Old 3rd December 2008
  #1
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Compression/EQ vocals during tracking or mixing?

So I'm interested in recording vocals at 24-bit / 96 kHz. I'm trying to decide which preamp I should be using. Specifically, I'm wondering whether I should be compressing / EQ-ing in the preamp or save that for mixing. Looking for the greatest flexibility in sound here. I'm sort of leaning toward compressing ITB, but I'd be curious to hear what people think!

Thanks,
jeff
Old 8th December 2008
  #2
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Sort of depends on the sound you're trying to get.

I personally record mostly classical music, and I choose to track with what I consider to be great sounding mics and preamps with little or no compression or EQ at all (except for the occasional HPF for vocals). Then if any dynamics or coloration is needed, I can always apply during the mix where I have the option to undo.
If you're doing something other than classical music, then all bets are off...you'll have different compelling reasons to track with effects, especially limiters.
Old 8th December 2008
  #3
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considering there is no compressor itb that sounds as good as hardware i like to track with a bit of compression on the way in but not too much. i'm usually looking to get a vibe off of the mic/pre/compressor combination. anything else that i may need can usually be done with a bit of volume automation after tracking. or sending back out to hardware at mix time if it is called for. as far as eq i may add a high pass or a slight high end boost on occasion but for the most part like to keep it off in case we need to retrack later.
Old 8th December 2008
  #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jmit01gs View Post
Sort of depends on the sound you're trying to get.
It also depends on the sound of your compressor.

Quote:
Originally Posted by dhiltonlittle View Post
considering there is no compressor itb that sounds as good as hardware
Not true. The first hardware compressor I tried was a Behringer. The UAD-1 compressors (all) totally blew it away. However, the (hardware)
Aurora Audio GTC2 I use now totally blows away the UAD-1 compressors, so these days I will unflinchingly compress vocals and bass going in. On acoustic guitars I'll compress, depending on the player and the song. On drums I save compression for mixing; it seems like there is less margin for error on drums, plus I am usually using my GTC2 for something else when the dums are tracked. Saame as above for EQ, plus the standard G.S. advice - look at the source and the microphone before you reach for EQ. I don't EQ going in unless I am absolutely sure it needs it.
Old 8th December 2008
  #5
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I think you need to figure out what works best for you. Id rather have the option so get something with some compression if possible. Its one of those things that only end in a maybe. I like a small amount of compression just to keep the dynamic range in tack.
Old 8th December 2008
  #6
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Why choose? Just put the compressor, plug or hardware on a bus and record it while tracking, then choose the blend of compressed/uncompressed you want when mixing.

I normally put up a chain that I like for a specific instrument being very careful when dialing in the sound you want at the moment, but if it's hard to decide or you don't have a clue I always have the possibility of reprocess some of it later in the mix.
Old 8th December 2008
  #7
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i would only compress singers who are experienced. They got to know what they do, how loud they sing. Than i wouzld ride the fader. Than i would do parallel compression.

I would not use any EQ. I would try to find the right mic + placment and preamp first.

Most times i wouldn´t use any eq or compresor while tracking.
Track at -18dbfs at 88.2 and be fine on most converters.
Than draw the vocals. Than limit, than compress, than eq..or parrallel.
Use the uncompressed vocal to get the reverb.
Use split harmonizers.
Be fine.

When you do mistakes while recording its a major league catastrophe..
Old 8th December 2008
  #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Summa View Post
Why choose? Just put the compressor, plug or hardware on a bus and record it while tracking, then choose the blend of compressed/uncompressed you want when mixing.

I normally put up a chain that I like for a specific instrument being very careful when dialing in the sound you want at the moment, but if it's hard to decide or you don't have a clue I always have the possibility of reprocess some of it later in the mix.
Old 8th December 2008
  #9
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I compress on the way in w/distressor, then EQ in the DAW. If I had a good outboard EQ, I might do both before hitting the computer.

Justin
Old 9th December 2008
  #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Flying_Dutchman View Post
i would only compress singers who are experienced.
I agree. They can end up fighting the compression , trying to get louder and not hearing it in the headphones.

I prefer to record without compression and instead "help them out" by riding the volume in my DAW. I use a gain plugin in Logic and quickly set up som automation. Up the gain on the softer phrases , lower in the chorus etc.

This way I can choose how much compression and what kind I want at mixtime.

Thomas
Old 9th December 2008
  #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by steveschizoid View Post
It also depends on the sound of your compressor.



Not true. The first hardware compressor I tried was a Behringer. The UAD-1 compressors (all) totally blew it away. However, the (hardware)
Aurora Audio GTC2 I use now totally blows away the UAD-1 compressors, so these days I will unflinchingly compress vocals and bass going in. On acoustic guitars I'll compress, depending on the player and the song. On drums I save compression for mixing; it seems like there is less margin for error on drums, plus I am usually using my GTC2 for something else when the dums are tracked. Saame as above for EQ, plus the standard G.S. advice - look at the source and the microphone before you reach for EQ. I don't EQ going in unless I am absolutely sure it needs it.

sorry, should have been more specific. we are talking "high end" here so behringer isn't really in my vocab.

should've said, no itb compressor sounds as good as a real compressor.
Old 9th December 2008
  #12
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Thread Starter
thanks for all the recommendations.

summa, question:

Quote:
Why choose? Just put the compressor, plug or hardware on a bus and record it while tracking, then choose the blend of compressed/uncompressed you want when mixing.
are you saying record the track with 2 input buses.. one with the dry signal, and one with the hardware inserts ?

also, as far as mic preamps for vocals, i was leaning toward the neve 1073, although i've read here on G.S. about another one made by Geoff Tanner, which apparently is comparable to the neve,.. can't remember the model. thoughts?

thx!
Old 9th December 2008
  #13
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geoff's is the aurora audio. excellent pre. and compressor. and eq! i have several and also the brent averill 1073's. you can't go wrong with either. there are alot of options in that style of a preamp. take a look at the avedis in a 500 series. i've got my eye on bae 1023's.
Old 9th December 2008
  #14
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Mortal Engines's Avatar
 

I was always of the impression that it was a good idea to compress vocals on the way in with the compressor in limit mode so it wouldn't clip on the way in and ruin the take.
Old 9th December 2008
  #15
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Great mic to start with, then a fine preamp, then some decent compressor(s).
EQ - Tracking
A good eq can be a great tool, or it can get you in real trouble. If you know what you are going for, then you can eq some. Until you understand your Eq's and the end result they bring, tread lightly. At first, it may be better to use them at tracking to cut problem frequencies then to boost frequencies. What you do with eq will come to you after a while.

Tracking comp
I always compress vocals lightly on the way in. I like taking compression in stages. Easy at tracking time and then as needed at mix.

At tracking, I set up two comps in series. One compressor that is a bit more agreesive that only kicks in at a higher VU setting to smooth some peaks, and another comp an opto type compressor with a slower attack that comes in at a bit lower VU setting. The second compressor also is set to give a couple of DB more of gain

When the vocalist is singing quietly the comp(s) should not be doing anything. From a medium to louder signal the comp(s) start to do a little bit. I also tend to ride the fader. When the vocalist gets loud, I dip the fader a bit, when the vocalist is soft, I push the fader more. Forgot to mention that the comps are post Fader. That is how the fader helps control how much compression is going on

Mixing comps
One comp may do the trick at mixing, or again it may be a couple of different comps that each do a bit. By doing some at tracking, but not squashing it, you leave yourself room at mix to decide how to have the vocal in the track.
Old 9th December 2008
  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dhiltonlittle View Post
geoff's is the aurora audio. excellent pre. and compressor. and eq!
Yes!!!! The GTQ2 (dual mic pre) was my introduction to the world of high end gear. It comes with a wonderful sounding (though somewhat limited) EQ. I had tried a Rupert Neve Portico (which has a high end price) for a while, but it was nowhere near as exciting as the GTQ2. I moved on to the the GTC2 -the 2 channel compressor, then the GTP8. GT also makes a channel strip - basically one channel of the GTQ2 plus one channel of the GTC2, and will soon be coming out with a 2 and an 8 channel EQ that will have the flexibility that the GTQ2's EQ lacks. I am sure it will sound incredible. Check out: Aurora Audio, Intl.

The guy who turned me on to Geoff's stuff (G.S. user name wallace) was playing in a band that opened for mine at one point a few years ago (obviously, before he moved to LA). His avatar is a picture of a small part of the faceplate of the GTQ2, and he recently posted about the experience of mixing the shows from the recent Smashing Pumpkins tour. Ask him what he thinks.

Geoff used to work for Neve a long time ago, but he isn't cloning Neve gear. I don't know what the Avedis sounds like, but, you can bet thousands of dolars on it: if Geoff Tanner made it, it will rock!
Old 9th December 2008
  #17
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Rob C's Avatar
 

I always compress a vocal on the way in. Echoing the others here, I try to get the vocal (and everything else, for that matter) to sound the way I want it come final mix, and that usually means some compression, some EQ if it calls for it.. if you have the final mix in mind, it's really not that hard or crazy an idea to print processing to tape.
Old 9th December 2008
  #18
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depends... I prefer to compress lightly and maybe touch an eq if needed for depth.

But lately I've been recording quieter vocals that don't really need either... so there isn't any need to compress much.

there is no right way... usually there's just what works.
Try the different ways and find the one that works best for you, that's the only real solution.
Old 9th December 2008
  #19
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Deuce 225's Avatar
FWIW - I bought a book a while back, Behind the Glass that had interviews with a number of "A List" producers and engineers. The book alternated between chapters with interviews with American engineers/producers and UK engineers/producers. It was observed on more than one occasion that the UK engineers were more likely to go for a more of a finished product i.e. EQ'ing and Compressing while tracking -vs- their American counterparts who preferred to track without dynamics or EQ.

With that said, I usually (but not ALWAYS) track without EQ and Compression. I think it provides more flexibility to make the vocals sit better in the mix. As usual -- there are no absolutes and....YMMV
Old 9th December 2008
  #20
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Rednose's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by dhiltonlittle View Post
considering there is no compressor itb that sounds as good as hardware i like to track with a bit of compression on the way in but not too much. i'm usually looking to get a vibe off of the mic/pre/compressor combination. anything else that i may need can usually be done with a bit of volume automation after tracking. or sending back out to hardware at mix time if it is called for. as far as eq i may add a high pass or a slight high end boost on occasion but for the most part like to keep it off in case we need to retrack later.
All the ITB comps and eqs are virtual like a blow up doll.
Looks like the real thing, just aint!
Old 9th December 2008
  #21
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I used to be a die-hard record-it-straight-in guy and "make-it-work" the vocal later, but now I put the signal through as much stuff as I can (as the song calls for, too) before I hit the converters. I suppose I just got sick of waiting to make a decision, and I'd rather not have to do another round of ADA to use the same hardware.

But I think you answered your own question. If you're looking for the "greatest flexibility in sound," then do all of your comp/EQ/FX/etc after recording and ITB.
Old 9th December 2008
  #22
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Thread Starter
yea, i don't think clipping will be an issue if i'm recording 24-bit, so using a compressor for that reason alone probably isn't justified. the vocals on my songs are generally of a more subdued quality.. hip-hop, ballads, etc. as opposed to other pop genres. regarding the aurora audio pre's mentioned above, would they be suitable for these kinds of vocals?

thx!
Old 9th December 2008
  #23
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...

I would sugest no eq just in case you have to come back and re-record some lines... that way you will not have to spend time trying to match sounds..
Old 9th December 2008
  #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by steveschizoid View Post
Yes!!!! The GTQ2 (dual mic pre) was my introduction to the world of high end gear. It comes with a wonderful sounding (though somewhat limited) EQ. I had tried a Rupert Neve Portico (which has a high end price) for a while, but it was nowhere near as exciting as the GTQ2. I moved on to the the GTC2 -the 2 channel compressor, then the GTP8. GT also makes a channel strip - basically one channel of the GTQ2 plus one channel of the GTC2, and will soon be coming out with a 2 and an 8 channel EQ that will have the flexibility that the GTQ2's EQ lacks. I am sure it will sound incredible. Check out: Aurora Audio, Intl.

The guy who turned me on to Geoff's stuff (G.S. user name wallace) was playing in a band that opened for mine at one point a few years ago (obviously, before he moved to LA). His avatar is a picture of a small part of the faceplate of the GTQ2, and he recently posted about the experience of mixing the shows from the recent Smashing Pumpkins tour. Ask him what he thinks.

Geoff used to work for Neve a long time ago, but he isn't cloning Neve gear. I don't know what the Avedis sounds like, but, you can bet thousands of dolars on it: if Geoff Tanner made it, it will rock!


In regards to the Avedis... The MA5 sounds like a 1073, but is made for the 500 series format. The Aurora stuff is a little different, and I am a huge fan of both products. The GTQ is very similar to the 1073 type of sound, especially in the low end... but, it has a slightly more open, airy sound. Not to be confused with a "cleaner", or "clearer" sound. Just a little more open.
Quote:
Originally Posted by jwleeman View Post
the vocals on my songs are generally of a more subdued quality.. hip-hop, ballads, etc. as opposed to other pop genres. regarding the aurora audio pre's mentioned above, would they be suitable for these kinds of vocals?
!
Yes, the GTQ preamps will work great in this scenario.
Old 9th December 2008
  #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jwleeman View Post
thanks for all the recommendations.

summa, question:



are you saying record the track with 2 input buses.. one with the dry signal, and one with the hardware inserts ?

also, as far as mic preamps for vocals, i was leaning toward the neve 1073, although i've read here on G.S. about another one made by Geoff Tanner, which apparently is comparable to the neve,.. can't remember the model. thoughts?

thx!
man you slutz answer so fast I can't take a piss and get back before I'm two pages behind... so answering your question without knowing what others wrote:
Yes, use buses for every fx you want on the dry signal. Go crazy, turn the knobs and make the gear sing! If you don't do it on real "subjects" you'll never know or learn (really) how things work. So use them buses and ears and you'll find

Summa
Old 9th December 2008
  #26
I've kind of gotten to where I don't compress while going in on vocals...If the singer (OK, me) needs some compression for performance, I'll just add it with a plug temporarily. If you've got an awesome mic, and a great pre, why take the chance of screwing it up where you can't change it later?
Old 9th December 2008
  #27
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TheRealRoach's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by jwleeman View Post
*snip*
Looking for the greatest flexibility in sound here.
*snip*
Then i'd say you should not compress on the way in. It will leave your decisions down the road more limited. The greatest flexibility would be to leave all EQ/Comp decisions for the mix.
Old 9th December 2008
  #28
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I never EQ vocals while tracking, not because I don't like it but because if we have to punch later when the singer changes their mind on a few parts, it's more easily to re-create the chain. Choosing the right mic usually means very little EQ, sometimes none in the mix.

I almost always compress with a clean compressor that doesn't alter the tone of the original source or "sound" compressed or obviously compressed. During the mix I can choose character compression / limiting if needed.

War
Old 9th December 2008
  #29
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If I absolutely know that I want the vocal colored by the compressor, I'll go ahead and commit to that. If I'm not sure, I'll record it clean. Same thing with the mic preamp decision as well.
Old 9th December 2008
  #30
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Rob C's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by elmono View Post
I would sugest no eq just in case you have to come back and re-record some lines... that way you will not have to spend time trying to match sounds..
If you take proper notes, this is a non-issue. I don't think that using undue caution, possibly sacrificing the quality of audio being recorded, has any real justification. If it needs compression or EQ going in then you do it. If you need to recreate it, you do it.

That said, I have yet to encounter a vocalist that doesn't benefit from a db or two of compression on the way in, or a boost around 18K.
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