Hardware EQ - Used Tracking Versus Used In Post???
Gatsby
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#1
12th October 2011
Old 12th October 2011
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Hardware EQ - Used Tracking Versus Used In Post???

Hi everybody! I hope this isn't a redundant thread, I'm not aware of any other thread asking this.

I'm wondering what the most optimal and frequent use of a hardware eq is and where it should be found in the recording chain, during tracking or in post/mixing stage leaving a DAW?

I record indie-rock stuff in a home studio. I record acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass guitar, synths, drum machines, and vocals. I have yet to pick up any type of hardware eq and I was additionally wondering should I definitely pick one up and how should I use it in the recording chain.

So I figured most people use hardware eq's after audio has reached the DAW and become digital. While mixing they send out a signal through a converter to an analog hardware eq and then back through a converter into a DAW, treating a track or tracks, right? That seems to be the most logical placement and use of a hardware eq, where you can select a track or portions of a track, loop them, and apply eq. However, I own a GTQ2 mic pre that has a good EQ section and I have found tweaking that eq section while tracking enables me to better get the guitar or other instrument recordings that I want! And everyone says get it right at the source first which implies using a EQ if you have one while tracking, which might be beneficial rather than trying to fix things later while mixing in your DAW. At the same time to use something like a Manley Massive Passive EQ while tracking an electric guitar seems a bit much...

Advice, comments, thoughts??? (A newbie question for sure, but a good one).

Thanks!
#2
12th October 2011
Old 12th October 2011
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AnthonyRochester's Avatar
 

Getting it right at the source doesn't quite mean reaching for the EQ first thing. But if you're going to use EQ, using analogue gear while tracking would be both sonically best and also good from the perspective of getting the tracks right first rather than fixing later. The main issue here is that if you're the one playing, you may or may not have a clear idea if the EQ you're applying is right for the track or not, especially if you'rerecording one thing at a time. But if you're sure of how you want to process the sound, I think its best to do it while tracking, as long as it isn't something you'll later wish you did differently..
#3
12th October 2011
Old 12th October 2011
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NathanEldred's Avatar
I think in your learning years EQ is best used during mix, just try to get the tracks down as cleanly as possible. Compression can be complicated to understand also (in particular the comps with attack, release and ratio), but I think sound-wise tracking things like vocals, bass guitar, acoustic guitar, synth on the way in (lightly) with compression is a good idea. I'm comfortable tracking with EQ, but even then I use it with discretion...if I think something needs a 5db boost, I might only do 3db just to be safe and leave it for mix (and this is after choosing the right mic/pre combination too).
Gatsby
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#4
12th October 2011
Old 12th October 2011
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Thread Starter
Thanks for the informative replies so far Nathan and Anthony, it's definitely appreciated!

Anthony you hit on a great point, because I am a one-man musician and sound engineer at the same time in my little home studio. So if I get the right guitar, the right settings on the guitar, amp, mic pre, choose the right mics, and position the mics well, I would still would be strumming a guitar part while also bending over and tweaking a hardware eq at the same time while listening to it on headphones with cords going everywhere. So it isn't super practical or easy if I'm the only one there to play and record at the same time. That's the draw for me of using a hardware eq later, post DAW, instead.

Nathan you make good points about light compression while tracking. I am also interested in hardware compressors too, I just figured using and adjusting a hardware compressor while tracking, like adjusting attack and release to work well with a particular strumming pattern, strumming speed, pic dynamics of playing an acoustic guitar, would be very hard to do in general as the newbie I am or because I am a one-man operation mostly. So I was thinking of hardware compression during mixing instead of during tracking.

And I am still admittedly not clear on what the negatives are in applying analog hardware eq and compression during mixing, after the signal has become digital, followed by then turning it back analog, applying the eq and compression and then turning it again back to digital VERSUS doing such stuff while tracking in a totally analog domain before the signal is ever converted to digital (exluding digital guitar pedals of course). ???
#5
12th October 2011
Old 12th October 2011
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fastlanestoner's Avatar
 

I really only use it during mixing as a correction. If I use it in tracking it's just a low cut, etc
#6
12th October 2011
Old 12th October 2011
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NickNagurka's Avatar
 

Hardware EQ - Used Tracking Versus Used In Post???

I love the API 550 for tracking....even so, I find that I only use it sparingly and only on instruments that I know fairly well, like a certain Steinway that nearly always needs a cut at 240Hz.

It's sometimes nice to get some of the EQ and compression you want while tracking, especially if you'll be mixing in the box. It's also a really great feeling to pull up a tracking session later, bring up your faders to unity and have a mix.
#7
12th October 2011
Old 12th October 2011
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archfrenemy's Avatar
 

I record a similar style music and instruments and I do use a hardware EQ some during tracking. Personally, I have never liked the sound of plugin EQs when a track required anything but a subtle tweak. To me it sounded unnatural and sterile. (I am sure others will disagree) I went with the Empirical Labs Lil Freq during tracking and occasionally as an out of the box EQ for tracks that need heavy tweaking. (although, I still try and EQ during tracking by mic/pre/placement first when possible)

The biggest impact was on my synth/circuit bent/drum machine sounds. They often get the most eq tweaking in my studio since they are DI'ed into my preamps. Since I always record my midi tracks to the daw sequencer and have my gear record ready, it is super easy to re-record those tracks with a different EQ to better fit the final mix. That way I can use my hardware EQ (during mixing) on the instruments that use it most, and avoid multiple A/D and D/A quality issues.

I also agree with the above sentiments of only light compression during tracking. Especially, if your mixes are complex and dense like mine. You can always squash it later if you dig that.
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12th October 2011
Old 12th October 2011
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#9
12th October 2011
Old 12th October 2011
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archfrenemy's Avatar
 

If you haven't acoustically treated your room yet, then you should definitely consider doing that first. A DIY approach to frequency control can be inexpensive and get you better results than even the best hardware EQ. It is much easier to control EQ with recording techniques in a good sounding room, than it is to try and make a bad room sound good using EQ.
#10
12th October 2011
Old 12th October 2011
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Unclenny's Avatar
 

As a home recordist you'll most likely find yourself tracking the same instruments in the same spaces on most of your projects.

If you find yourself coming back to the same EQ adjustments often than it might make sense to get things sounding that way on the way in using some good circuitry instead of plugs.
#11
12th October 2011
Old 12th October 2011
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superwack's Avatar
To answer your question - the downside of DAW > EQ/COMP > DAW vs. EQ/COMP > DAW us that you are doing another round of conversion so you are, in effect, sampling the sample again. Depending on the quality of your interface/converter this may have a detrimental effect on your audio quality. This may outweigh the advantages of external hardware post processing but, then again, your EQ/COMP may be worth it.

As for the additional benefits of tracking with processing you can further improve things like signal/noise by cutting frequencies you won't need and light compression to DAW.

I agree with most people here as far as not overdoing it but I also think you should try to get it as close to the final sound when you track. I would think recording yourself would make this easier as you should have an idea of what you are trying to achieve.

As for gear - I'd look in to a simple tracking comp (LA2, LA3... etc.) so you don't have to worry too much about attack/release settings and an EQ with HPF/LPF and, ideally set values/frequencies as they are easier to recall and limiting your choices can be helpful in the tracking phase.
#12
12th October 2011
Old 12th October 2011
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taherbert's Avatar
I would just say, be prepared to do it wrong, do it, and then redo it. That's the best part about recording yourself. That's the only way to learn how much EQ is too much/not enough and how much compression is too much/not enough. Doing it in the mix is easy because redoing it doesn't take as long, and that's probably the best way to hear how changes in EQ and compression parameters affect the sound of not just the tracks, but also how they sit in a mix.

But once you've tied yourself in knots for days or weeks trying to get a good mix with poorly recorded tracks, try rerecording the tracks giving you conniptions. Track with improved mic placement, some light compression with the right attack and release, and enough EQ to get what you want in your mix you'll be amazed how easily the new tracks will sit in your mix and wonder why you were tearing your hair out trying to fix stuff that wasn't all that great in the first place.

Once you've been through this trying to mix tracks other people recorded without the option to get them in and rerecord the tracks, you'll really learn to appreciate it. Now stop reading and go record!
Gatsby
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#13
14th October 2011
Old 14th October 2011
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Thread Starter
Thanks again everybody for these helpful tips and info!

archfrenemy that's a good method for synths and drum machines. I could definitely do that for the synths and drum machines I own. That would just leave guitar, bass guitar, vocals, etc to try and deal with. And you're right about room treatment, it's just my place of residence is a little uncertain so I haven't been able to commit to treating a room. I suppose there's at least basic treatment stuff I could do, easy to put up and take down if needed. Things like bass traps, etc. I need to visit the acoustics forums here as well as read up more about that.

codegreen, thanks so much for that link, it looks very informative, comical, and cool. I'm going to print it out and slowly read through it a few times.

Good point Unclenny, I just need to spend a lot more time recording all my different instruments so as to observe, recognize, and learn where I might keep needing to add eq repeatedly as a fix and then solve the problem as you said, making the tweak during tracking.

Great informative answer to my question Superwack about eq/compression during tracking versus later on and the resulting multiple conversions, sampling of samples. As a newbie, I've always worried about the problem and what happens when you keep converting a signal. Early on and initially I ignorantly assumed that people only used hardware compression and eq on the way in, not later. My converters right now are this, happily a Burl B2 Bomber ADC for A/D, but sadly a mbox2 for a DAC to my monitoring situation. And also that means I only have 2 channels of A/D D/A conversion so any use of outboard after tracking is going to require me to pick up another converter with more channels. (I'm eventually looking to add the Apogee Symphony I/O). But based on having high-end converters like a Burl B2 Bomber ADC and 8 channels of I/O in a Apogee Symphony in the future, is multiple conversions not then a big issue?

And Superwack that's interesting advice about getting a simpler compressor for tracking. I just assumed that if I was getting my first hardware compressor that would probably be my only hardware compressor for a couple years that I should get one that has the most controls and features versus some of the simpler designs out there (even though I know they're just as useful).

Good points taherbert, I'm thinking that I'll first invest in eq/compression software plugins, record a bunch and use them, and from that get more of a grasp of my eq and compression needs and what they can do, all before spending thousands on outboard eq's and compressors.

Another factor to mention, bring up, and ask about is hardware eqs and compressors and added coloration, added character, "analog warmth", etc. Like if there are benefits to using hardware compressors and eqs a bit during tracking, but also later while mixing, if I look at say some tube units that give a lot of coloration or some kind of effect, where do I want that, before or after? I mean eq's and comps during tracking, should they just be clean, transparent, tools that just transparently and accurately boost and cut your sound and compress your sound as needed with you maybe sending your signal later, after the DAW, to those more coloring units as an effect, one obviously more easily controlled and less permanent when applied later?

Lastly, if I'm recording acoustic guitars, electric guitars, bass guitar, synths, drum machines, and vocals and I'm buying my first hardware eq and first hardware compressor, the only ones I can afford for a couple years, each in the $2000-$3600 pricerange, what do people suggest I get first that I can get the most out of and why? Examples of specific units or types of EQ's and Comps (pultec vs. parametric, opto vs. tube veri-mu, etc) are welcome!

Continued thanks guys!
#14
14th October 2011
Old 14th October 2011
  #14
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taherbert's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gatsby View Post
Great informative answer to my question Superwack about eq/compression during tracking versus later on and the resulting multiple conversions, sampling of samples. As a newbie, I've always worried about the problem and what happens when you keep converting a signal. Early on and initially I ignorantly assumed that people only used hardware compression and eq on the way in, not later. My converters right now are this, happily a Burl B2 Bomber ADC for A/D, but sadly a mbox2 for a DAC to my monitoring situation. And also that means I only have 2 channels of A/D D/A conversion so any use of outboard after tracking is going to require me to pick up another converter with more channels. (I'm eventually looking to add the Apogee Symphony I/O). But based on having high-end converters like a Burl B2 Bomber ADC and 8 channels of I/O in a Apogee Symphony in the future, is multiple conversions not then a big issue?

Another factor to mention, bring up, and ask about is hardware eqs and compressors and added coloration, added character, "analog warmth", etc. Like if there are benefits to using hardware compressors and eqs a bit during tracking, but also later while mixing, if I look at say some tube units that give a lot of coloration or some kind of effect, where do I want that, before or after? I mean eq's and comps during tracking, should they just be clean, transparent, tools that just transparently and accurately boost and cut your sound and compress your sound as needed with you maybe sending your signal later, after the DAW, to those more coloring units as an effect, one obviously more easily controlled and less permanent when applied later?

Lastly, if I'm recording acoustic guitars, electric guitars, bass guitar, synths, drum machines, and vocals and I'm buying my first hardware eq and first hardware compressor, the only ones I can afford for a couple years, each in the $2000-$3600 pricerange, what do people suggest I get first that I can get the most out of and why? Examples of specific units or types of EQ's and Comps (pultec vs. parametric, opto vs. tube veri-mu, etc) are welcome!

Continued thanks guys!
There's definitely sonic benefits to having outboard gear during mixing and tracking. I can scrape, scoop, and boost with EQ plug-ins for hours and still not get as phat a bass sound as I can with 5 minutes on an API 560.
As far as EQs, there's a ton out there that get really high marks around here. The API 560 and 550 (a and b) are solid, people seem to really dig the API 5500. I also really dig the Daking Mic Pre-EQ. Do a search, there's a ton of things available. Get at least 2-channels of the same EQ so you can use it for bus work.

There's so many compressors out there it's ridiculous. It's hard to go wrong with a classic compressor like an 1176. If you want something with more control over parameters there's plenty of options. I don't have a ton of first hand experience with most of them, but I've been really happy with our Safe Sound Dynamics Toolbox, it's stereo/dual mono, goes from transparent to colored and has a ton of features. If you could only get one compressor it wouldn't be a bad choice. It's pretty inexpensive relative to some other similar units (a little less than $2K used), so you might have enough money left over to pick up a 500 series Opto compressor within your budget.

I wouldn't worry too long about multiple conversions if you have good quality converters. I also wouldn't worry about committing to sounds with hardware during tracking if you're just starting out and recording yourself. You'll learn more by making some mistakes and figuring out what works and what doesn't than you will by being non-committal and just driving yourself crazy with endless options during mixing.
#15
14th October 2011
Old 14th October 2011
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Are you just looking for a general EQ (to cut or boost highs/mids/lows), rather than a parametric EQ (to dial in specific frequency ranges for adjustment)? I know you said that you had a preamp with a general EQ already. They are more limited, but faster to tweak and easier to set than a parametric for a one man artist/recording studio. (I often have to adjust mine by playing guitar with one hand and tweaking the parametric EQ with the other until I locate a problematic frequency range)

I don't know what sound you are after or what your room sounds like... Just listing the EQ and comp units that work for me.

Universal Audio 6176 - tube pre, general EQ, 1176 compressor. Advantages - warm sounding, detailed, can swap tubes to tweak tone, great easy to use compressor, nice sounding simple EQ.
Disadvantages - tube in a bad sounding room can really sound muddy, the EQ is very limited. Still costs around $1,500 used on eBay.
It also sounds very analog to me, so if you are looking for a modern digital sound then keep looking.

The Lil Freq parametric EQ.
Advantages - high pass, low pass, shelf, 4 parametric freq ranges, great DI input for synth and drum machines, and one of the best de-essers around.
Disadvantages - a parametric EQ so it can be harder to set in some instances for a one man artist studio, going to cost you around $1,100 used for a single channel on eBay...

Someone else suggested API stuff. Great gear as well, their preamps and comps are more modern sounding but great on heavy bass and synth music. Pretty pricey though.

All of this stuff may be overkill now that I think about it... You could get great recordings out of something like an old Orban 622 parametric EQ and an RNC or PBC-6A compressor. That stuff would only cost you like $700 total on eBay, and considering you are in an untreated room it will probably give you a similar production quality vs the high end gear.
#16
14th October 2011
Old 14th October 2011
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In your case, I'd go with eq later simply because you'll still be hearing the sound of the guitar in the room as well as in the cans while making eq changes and that will make it difficult to make the right decisions. I've eq'd guitar amps while tracking myself that were placed in the other room and ended up with some pretty thin sounding guitars because of all the low end from the amp bleeding through the walls and affecting my decisions.

Personally (assuming decent converters without a ton of color) I wouldn't worry at all about the extra D/A/A/D round trip when doing it while mixing. I never liked the idea of it but when I actually tested it I realized that I really could not detect in change in tracks that I sent out and back (with no hardware) and the original. The Beatles (and others) had to constantly bounce down (or reduce, as they called it) from tape tracks open tape tracks repeatedly so that by the time the final mix was done, some parts were on their 6th or 7th generation of tape bouncing! We have it easy, don't be afraid to take advantage of it, especially if it improves your work flow and make it easier to both record and mix.

Every listener will notice your performance, a small percentage will think about your EQ choices, and I dare say zero will notice that the track took an extra round or two through your converters.
Gatsby
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#17
19th October 2011
Old 19th October 2011
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Thread Starter
Again, continued thanks guys!

taherbert good to here about the conversions not being a factor. That's reassuring. As for an 1176, it's hard to say no to one. They seem to be the most used and well acclaimed compressor/limiters out there. The only other one I hear as much about is the Empirical Labs Distressors. And others of course...

archfrenemy excellant info about choosing between the type of eq to use, parametric versus a general eq, etc. I guess I might start with a general eq.

Allbread, again great to know about conversion with higher-end converters not being much of an issue on sound.
#18
23rd November 2011
Old 23rd November 2011
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I'm starting to toy around with outboard compressors and eq as well in my home where I play and engineer. It's hard for me to both play and adjust the gear so what I do to mess around with different settings is record it with nothing and then route it back out to play around with different units and settings. After I find something I like I set it all up and track with it that way. I learn a lot about the gear that way and how to record my stuff better - of course this is a hobby for me so I have the luxury of time and never having to change anything to get ready for the next session.
Gatsby
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#19
25th November 2011
Old 25th November 2011
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mjtripper that's sounds like a very smart method I should definitely try. Thanks for the suggestion. And for me playing, recording, and being an engineer (if I can boldy use that title) is a hobby as well. So I don't have to change things for different sessions. I figure a key solution to all this that will come when I get more outboard gear is over time I will find the settings that work for each recording application and I'll write down all the settings so that I can quickly dial in what gets things going right. I already have found some great settings to use on my current gear for when I'm recording acoustic guitar.

Speaking more about eq, I'm not sure I mentioned this earlier, but I couldn't live without the eq section on my GTQ2 mic pre. At least that's been the definitive case for me when recording my acoustic guitars no matter what the mic used is and where it is placed. As for what I have done when using the eq on my mic pre, while owning up to some admitted newbie ignorance, I do find that I'm never boosting at any frequencies and that i'm pretty much always doing some cutting of the bass, mids, and highs. I cut bass a small bit, mids I cut a decent amount, and highs I cut a lot to get rid of very apparent harshness. Again, this is for recording acoustic guitar. And it seems to always take that tweaking to get my acoustic guitar recordings sounding in my ears through headphones or monitors not crazy bright and harsh but like how the guitar actually sounds in the room and to my ears naturally.
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