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How Important Is It To Track Vox with Comp/EQ?
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burns46824
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30th January 2011
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How Important Is It To Track Vox with Comp/EQ?

Is it crucial to track vox with compression and EQ, or is it fine to leave such processing until mixing?
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How Important Is It To Track Vox with Comp/EQ?

It is mandatory that you compress and/or eq during tracking only.
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Very important to me, especially vocals, for two reason mainly
First one is because is not the same thing to process the track later on, the imprint,
the color and the character that - for example - a 1176 will give you during tracking you only get it if you track with it,
same goes for an eq;

the second reason is that in this way you're forced to make a decision, which imho is a good thing.
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Crucial? That's not the word that I'd use for it. There are advantages to hearing what you're going to sound like through the headphones, in terms of the musical performance. But actually, it seems like most people are leaving heavier processing for later, because if you do it on the way in, you are committing to that processing.

Now, for me, I like that commitment, and I'm willing to go with it up front so it's taken into account during the performance. Honestly, I could bulls**t around with the knobs all day, and end up with the exact same result that I would have dialed in in the first place. I'll still do some EQ later on, but it tends to be less.
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Umm, every studio that I've ever worked at puts some light compression on vocals while tracking, and we usually save the EQ until mixing. I've done sessions where we put a HP filter on the vocals, but I didn't really think it made a difference.

My vocal chain that I usually use for my voice is a U87 into my ADL600, through a distressor, and then straight into ProTools... no EQ at all.

hope that helps - keep in mind that there are always a billion ways to track anything. no rights or wrongs.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Retinal View Post
e same thing to process the track later on, the imprint,
the color and the character that - for example - a 1176 will give you during tracking you only get it if you track with it,
same goes for an eq;.
Why would this be? A line level input is a line level input, no?
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Quote:
Originally Posted by burns46824 View Post
Is it crucial to track vox with compression and EQ, or is it fine to leave such processing until mixing?
I wouldn't say crucial, but if you make smart choices with your settings it can really add something to the tone and also save you a bit of time tweaking the dynamics later. Also, the approach may change from singer to singer. Certain singers can be so dynamic I can't imagine not using a compressor while tracking, and others it just sounds right without. Personally, I almost always compress vocals a bit on the way in, but I generally try to use compression and EQ conservatively unless I'm going for a certain sound. Just have to try things out and find a general method that works somewhat consistently. If you're not feeling it though, it's not like you have to use them. You can always apply processing later and print it to another track, or just commit your hardware to that task. - paul
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For me, I track with compression on vocals as a necessity to control dynamics, but i suppose it depends on what kind of singing you do. No matter what I do on the way in I'll always slap a good Plug on the track for fine tuning .
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AllBread View Post
Why would this be? A line level input is a line level input, no?
Yes of course it is, the difference is in the performance, at least it is for me.
I speak as a singer too not just as an engineer, i find tracking with a compressor improves the performance
which is still the most important thing
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Let me give a counterposition to balance things a bit.

First: most nowadays music does not touch hearts. Many agree with this. But this music is produced by many of the engineers hanging around here. So be careful when listening to the masses here. Always listen to the different positions and find your own.

Second: start using a splitter (I guess an active one that splits into two signals with the same impedance, but ok, I did it with just a y-split-cable and it worked too...). There are some variants in splitters. You connect it to the output of your preamp. Then you record one signal without processing and the other goes through your processing chain (lets start with a compressor).

Some people seem to say that it's good to route the compressed signal to the singers headphone too (there are reasons for this, but I can't exactly remember). They say the singer does a better performance when he fights the compressor (maybe this gives him more push / emotion). Monitoring for the singer is sure very important.

Now you have 2 signals and you can make your own mind up. It's at least very good for learning. Use your ears. Learn to hear the nuances.

Don't record too hot into a DAW (-12 to -22). It's a different story if you are using tape, but I guess you don't.

Now there is the position: if you compress a little in each stage (recording, mixing, 2bus, mastering), you get the best results, at least better than compressing once heavily. This also depends on the musical style. In dense rock you might have to compress more to keep the vocals standing out. But these arguments are just one side of the coin.

Other people will argue: compression will kill your emotions (transients, dynamics, etc.), it will kill your frequency range (making it slightly duller), etc. You can never add, what you have lost. And you can still compress later which gives you more security and freedom.

I just tell you one thing: make up your own position on this. Don't believe what they tell you - at least not blindly.

And read: Bruce Swedien - Make mine music. He explains a lot about vocal recording. And he talks a lot about microphone technique and room etc. And I believe he never even mentions a compressor at tracking. This guy knows about recording. But maybe he is working with tape, and there is some compression happening there too... so you see, this is a complex topic.
Check Micheal Jackson recoring vocals after you read the book:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2uloW...eature=related
You see how he is working the room?

It also depends on your singer as mentioned above. But especially with dull sounding men, try to keep their natural frequency range...

Also try to experiment with parallel compression, if you like.

Peace.
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The huge majority of what are considered great vocal recordings are tracked with some compression, and sometimes EQ. It just makes sense, for several reasons, especially if the analogue hardware is of good quality.
I use compression 98% of the time, modest settings, same for hi-pass. Sometimes I use a touch of boost way up high as well. IMHO. YMMV.
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If you are a self recorder, and the only person you can screw is yourself, then make the commitment and learn over time how to get it right during the performance. Your stuff will be better for it, IMO. You may screw up quite a bit until you learn how to get it right, but that's the essence of experience. Instead of never learning how to get it right, and spending days sifting through the million possibilities at mix time, see the song as it will be (be the song, Grasshopper) and try to create that as you record it.

Eventually, you'll be able to do that, and I argue that you'll be ten times the artist that you would be if you went with what seems the standard scheme today of making almost no decisions and just recording a bunch of stuff and making it into a song at mix time (probably an exaggeration, but it sure seems that way sometimes.) And certainly you do hear a lot of top production/mixing type folks complaining about how piecemeal the whole process is these days.

Obviously you can still juice it up and enhance it during the mix since you can't do everything while recording (unless you have a whole band and a recording crew to make it all happen in one take.) But I think that it's a laudible goal to do it as much as you can. I definitely think that when you hear in the phones what the thing that you are doing is going to actually sound like, if you are a good performer you can then really doa lot of mixing of yourself, with mic technique, with finger/picking technique, etc... and that obviously used to be a common thing.
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I usually track vox with compression, but I can not remember the last time I EQ'd.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AllBread View Post
It is mandatory that you compress and/or eq during tracking only.
HUH??? lol

Almost all engineers will almost always track with at least some compression. How much depends on the vocalist, and how much dynamics the vocalist sings with. Also depends on the type of music. If it's an opera singer (for whatever reason they are in the studio) you would use very little compression if any at all - that is when you want alot of dynamics, and that genre of music does not cater to "louder is better".

Eq is used as well much of the time, tho not nearly always.

Then there is the compression added to the vox during the mixing process, again, depending on the vocalist, genre, etc.

Cheers.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RCM - Ronan View Post
I usually track vox with compression, but I can not remember the last time I EQ'd.
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There have always been good reasons to track with a compressor (and sometimes EQ). It was the norm even back in the days of big consoles and analog tape, and I think it's safe to say that engineers who opt not to compress vocals during tracking are a small minority. And these days, with so many of us mixing ITB, the recording may be the only opportunity to get the flavor of hardware into the mix. I definitely wouldn't call it "crucial," but as this thread has highlighted, subtle processing on the way in does offer many advantages.
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can a compressor plug in be used to compress while tracking? I dont have a hardware compressor....

can i stick a plug in compressor on the channel input buss in cubase to compress, and have it be the same as a hardware compressor?
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How Important Is It To Track Vox with Comp/EQ?

I always record with EQ and comp.
I'd like to get 80% done in tracking and touch up in mixing.
It is hard to get 100% done in one process.
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I compress to max 3db when recording. No EQ. I also ride the level with a specially built fader pre compressor and pre tape.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by takman View Post
can a compressor plug in be used to compress while tracking? I dont have a hardware compressor....

can i stick a plug in compressor on the channel input buss in cubase to compress, and have it be the same as a hardware compressor?
Not really familiar with Cubase, but I believe that the recorded track will not print the comp. In addition to this, and more importantly, you will add latency that will effect your monitoring path, if you are monitoring ITB. This will in turn affect the vocalists performance, and not in a good way.
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Not important at all.

Vocal performance outweighs signal chain by 10 fold.

More important to coach a vocalist how to sing. More important to have the right mic for the vocal. More important to print the right level.

If using a compressor be careful not to take the dynamics out of the vocal with it... with the un-experienced this is more dangerous than you think. If you ever record a Diva and screw up their dynamic performance trust me when I say "you'll get thrown off the project"... and you should.

I did many a record in the 70's and 80's with no comp used while tracking. Today it's a friggin crutch for most engineers. Get you engineering and communication chops down and then you can skip the comp while tracking with 80% of performers (especially with 24 bit digital and 40dB of head room). The other 20% still have a bit to learn before they step in front of that mic.

Good luck.
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I never use comp while tracking. If a vocalist is so out of control, he/she needs some serious training. Need a better vocal sound? Change the vocalist.
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How Important Is It To Track Vox with Comp/EQ?

Quote:
Originally Posted by RCM - Ronan
I usually track vox with compression, but I can not remember the last time I EQ'd.
Same here. Light compression & peak limiting as even those singers capable of great mic technical can still overload with a powerful note or phrase. This can ruin an otherwise perfect take of a great performance.

EQ? The product of the right mic and Pre choices with tweaks in the final mix. Pre-Eqing can cause phase issues.

YMMV!
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...but if you cant change the vocalist, try to make him/her sing with more control. If that fails, try LA2a with almost none dB's GR.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Silvertone View Post
Not important at all.

Vocal performance outweighs signal chain by 10 fold.

More important to coach a vocalist how to sing. More important to have the right mic for the vocal. More important to print the right level.

If using a compressor be careful not to take the dynamics out of the vocal with it... with the un-experienced this is more dangerous than you think. If you ever record a Diva and screw up their dynamic performance trust me when I say "you'll get thrown off the project"... and you should.

I did many a record in the 70's and 80's with no comp used while tracking. Today it's a friggin crutch for most engineers. Get you engineering and communication chops down and then you can skip the comp while tracking with 80% of performers (especially with 24 bit digital and 40dB of head room). The other 20% still have a bit to learn before they step in front of that mic.

Good luck.
I agree, most of the times, it's not necesairy to compress during tracking for audio perpective. But it can be handy, and if you know what you're doing, it can be an advantage in some cases. If a singer is not able to control his dynamics himself, it can be mandatory to fix the performance, but that is not ideal (you often need to compress to much to fix it)

I hardly do it. I eq (actually only hpf most cases, but sometimes some eq also) way more than i compress during vocal tracking. But very often there is no processing, just mic -> pre ->ad-> daw...
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The singer, microphone, position of microphone, room, mic pre and level that is being printed to tape or digital are all more important than a compressor while tracking vocals.

a great vocal sound can be captured by a skilled engineer with no compression, but it takes more work. the level to tape or digital needs to be adjusted by hand in real time using the output attenuator of the mic pre during the performance, like many did in the "old days" and some still do today.

that said, i almost always use a compressor and EQ when tracking vocals.
99% of the time, the EQ is not boosting or cutting anything, it is just there because i like the tone that the circuitry imparts when signal is passed through it.
compressor is a UREI LA 3A most of the time, again because i love the tone of the box. i ride the output fader of the mic pre to the compressor so that it never compresses more than about 6-7 db at the loudest peaks. if the vocalist is exceptionally dynamic and i feel i need to compress a bit more, i will put a UREI 1178 or a distressor after the LA 3A just barely compressing 1-2 db at the highest peaks.

i find that by passing the vocals through many levels of light compression and transformers/tubes, i can print a vocal sound to digital through my RADAR that gets me off similarly to the way going through a tape machine to 2 inch does.
different, but still effective and convincing.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Silvertone View Post
Not important at all.

Vocal performance outweighs signal chain by 10 fold.

More important to coach a vocalist how to sing. More important to have the right mic for the vocal. More important to print the right level.

If using a compressor be careful not to take the dynamics out of the vocal with it... with the un-experienced this is more dangerous than you think. If you ever record a Diva and screw up their dynamic performance trust me when I say "you'll get thrown off the project"... and you should.

I did many a record in the 70's and 80's with no comp used while tracking. Today it's a friggin crutch for most engineers. Get you engineering and communication chops down and then you can skip the comp while tracking with 80% of performers (especially with 24 bit digital and 40dB of head room). The other 20% still have a bit to learn before they step in front of that mic.

Good luck.
Yes no question the performance is everything, great performance beats crappy engineering hands down! If the track is a nice open spacious thing of beauty, then you can leave lot's of dynamics, and if it's a dense pop tune you probably can't just to get the vocal to cut right without getting hold of the vocalists dynamic range
I'm willing to bet you engineered it while someone else sang, I wonder how many here are going to sing and engineer at the same time. I'll bet you did a fair amount of hand rides, you never blew one? ever? really?

In my opinion a GOOD compressor set right is not a crutch but a useful tool. Compressing on the way in makes life easier in the mix, I find you don't have to compress as much in the mix, and it makes riding a vocal easier. Having mixed projects by people who didn't use a compressor on the way in versus the same client using a decent compressor tracking, I can absolutely tell you it was worlds better and easier to deal with in the mix. But a little goes a long way. Also if you're an ITB user then it's nice to get some analog compression, in the process.

NOW having said that, if you have a crappy compressor don't bother.
As far as eq, I haven't eq'd a vocal on the way in about 20 years. I think that's a decision that's best left to the mix.
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I never use comp while tracking. If a vocalist is so out of control, he/she needs some serious training. Need a better vocal sound? Change the vocalist.
Instead of using a comp, I call the label and tell them they should drop the singer because he/she is too dynamic. I expect a singer not only to self compress, but these days they should also know how to digitally limit themselves. Kind to think of it, we should all digitally limit ourselves. Go analog!

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Quote:
Originally Posted by takman View Post
can a compressor plug in be used to compress while tracking? I dont have a hardware compressor....

can i stick a plug in compressor on the channel input buss in cubase to compress, and have it be the same as a hardware compressor?
Yes you can in Cubase 5 (not sure about earlier versions). Just the way you stated.

To hear the effect, you'll have to click the "input" button on the audio track you are recording on. This is where the latency pops up, but after you dail in the sound just disable the "input" and monitor the input signal as normal. Latency won't be an issue.
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24 bits + mic technique = no tracking compression necessary.

Are you hitting tape?
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