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How necessary is it to record vocals with a compressor for a ‘high end’ sound? Dynamics Processors (HW)
Old 26th August 2007
  #1
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How necessary is it to record vocals with a compressor for a ‘high end’ sound?

I've got an API A2D coming in and will only be recording vocals. My previous setup i tracked with compression on a VMpro just to tame several DB into the DAW for those 'Celine Dion' moments while recording vox.

My thinking is the advantage when of using compression PRE DAW is to boost the level a little hotter to take advantage of hitting the converters to get a full range A/D conversion (truer when rec 16bit!) So, specifically, would i benefit from using a compressor or am i good to go with the API?
Old 26th August 2007
  #2
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norman_nomad's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by musicl View Post

My thinking is the advantage when of using compression PRE DAW is to boost the level a little hotter to take advantage of the converters.
How would this take advantage of the converters?
Old 26th August 2007
  #3
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emkay's Avatar
 

I agree with the above poster that there wouldn't be an advantage. In answer to your question about compression, my opinion is that if you had an experienced vocalist who knows how to "work the mic" you could probably record without a compressor but for the most part with alot of singers you need to "squash" the irregularities of the vocal levels.
Old 26th August 2007
  #4
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Acko's Avatar
 

I always work with great singers, with great mic technique, and never record vocals with compression even when there's a wall full of them behind me, I don't want to put a limit on a great dynamic singer, I will ride a fader when neccesary. A well chosen mic and a nice pre and we're away.
Old 26th August 2007
  #5
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musicl's Avatar
 

what i mean by that is "maintaining a good signal-to-noise ratio by using up more of the available recording headroom more of the time".


Old 26th August 2007
  #6
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5down1up's Avatar
 

i only use compressors when going for a specific sound or working with some unexperienced singers. its undoable, so i usually like it better to do the compression during the mixing stage. i guess the world class sounds come from worldclass singers and a good chain. the magic vodoo is prolly not compression its riding a fader during the vocal performance. but this way you really gotta know whats going on. 99.9% of the time, the people i work with, thats not doable.
using compression to achieve a higher level is kinda sensless during recording imo.
headroom doesnt matter in those modern daws, if you use compression during recording, during mixing etc. you might gain a higher level but u raise the noisefloor as well.
good luck
Old 26th August 2007
  #7
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MeSoHornplayer's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by musicl View Post
what i mean by that is "maintaining a good signal-to-noise ratio by using up more of the available recording headroom more of the time".
Which is not that important when recording at 24 bit, but you said you're recording at 16-bit, so it is. You know, engineer Steve Albini hates compression, but he always uses it in the vocal chain and on bass guitar going in. I agree with the others, if you don't use compression in the vocal chain your singer needs to excert some high end mic technique.
Old 26th August 2007
  #8
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I'm not recording at 16bit - thankfully moved on!!

I was reading the vocal chain thread and every person is using a compressor. Granted, most of the posts in their contain high quality compressors which add to the sound so i guess i'll save a few more pennies in the piggie bank.

Thanks for all the input this Sunday!
Old 26th August 2007
  #9
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I think you will find more times than not for probably the majority, I know I'm reaching, record Vox with Compression. There are a lot of hi end boxes designed to do just that. That being said, I would not record with it unless I had to. I almost always use compression on Vox, but I use it as an Insert in PT HD. If I need to free up that compressor, then I'll bounce the track with compression and hide the original track. I can always come back to it later if I want to change something. This frees me up from using too many Plug-in compressors, which is the area of plugins that I feel have not gotten very close to hardware. I think they have nailed EQ and would not waist my money on hardware EQ, its just not justifiable to me. Ok guys, I said to me, so don't get in frenzy...
Old 26th August 2007
  #10
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cebolao's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by musicl View Post
My thinking is the advantage when of using compression PRE DAW is to boost the level a little hotter to take advantage of hitting the converters to get a full range A/D conversion (truer when rec 16bit!)

in 24 bits world you should not record full scale (close to 0 dB). there is no reason for doing that, there's still pleanty of dynamic range if you record with peaks at -6, -9 dB.

what happens if you record full scale (at least in protools, don't know how other DAWs behave) is that when you rise the fader above 0 dB with, for example, a vocal recorded with peaks close to 0 dB - you get distortion. the output of the track gets clipped! you can see it when you turn the "pre fader metering" option off.

most people have it turned on (by default). i was SHOCKED when i turned it off the first time and i saw HOW MANY CLIPPED TRACKS were in my mix!

so it's safe to record tracks at lower levels, if you want to mix them in PT. (even when mixing on analog desk sometimes i ride the faders in PT, so it's still the same story).



BTW i record vocals with compression, UA 1176 ratio 4:1

Old 26th August 2007
  #11
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Seems to me the question is best answered by looking at the reason compressors exist in the first place. Since that reason still exists, and is in fact inseparable for the nature of audio itself, compressors are still useful tools in the chain.

Since the use of compression for its original purpose is somewhat mundane, the conversation here tends to focus on its more exciting aspects -- the change that happens when simply running signal through a box. But the guy behind the drafting table wasn't on a quest for mojo or color. He was creating a tool to control dynamics.

So I'll answer you with another question: Do you feel that having the ability to control dynamics can lead to a better recording? I sure do.
Old 26th August 2007
  #12
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Oldone's Avatar
Sometimes, it's not about the transients or average level, it's about the sound of a voice going through the compressor that makes tracking with compression a viable option. There are a lot of notorious engineers that spout about the pristine experience of using 24 bit and not needing compression. However, those same people reach for an LA2A, 1176, C1B (pick your weapon) for their primary vocal, time and again.
Old 26th August 2007
  #13
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musicl's Avatar
 

Very pragmatic answer jigsawlogic!

Controlling dynamics is great if needed but for the purpose of non-destrutive editting i'd rather do it in the box after. This is considering IF there is any sonic/technical benifit other than colour a compressor is used for...

As studios have no idea on who is coming in day to day, a compressor is just a safe bet to ensure the vox take isn't ruined but any clipping. After re-thinking this, maybe i should of asked
'if it wasn't possible to clip the audio and singers had good mic technique would you still use a compressor'.
Old 26th August 2007
  #14
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Bob Olhsson's Avatar
 

Now that I track everything 24 bit digital, I've completely stopped tracking with compressors. Once the final arrangement is in place, just the right amount sounds awesome.

Prior to that point, it's really guesswork that only makes the vocal dynamics more difficult to get right in the mix.
Old 26th August 2007
  #15
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seaneldon's Avatar
 

you'd be surprised how many compressors actually ATTENUATE your "high end".
Old 26th August 2007
  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by musicl View Post
I've got an API A2D coming in and will only be recording vocals. My previous setup i tracked with compression on a VMpro just to tame several DB into the DAW for those 'Celine Dion' moments while recording vox.

My thinking is the advantage when of using compression PRE DAW is to boost the level a little hotter to take advantage of hitting the converters to get a full range A/D conversion (truer when rec 16bit!) So, specifically, would i benefit from using a compressor or am i good to go with the API?

Get yourself an La2a and set both knobs at 30.

After you hear what it does to ANY vocal (but especially the sweet, melodic singers) you'll wonder how you ever lived without it before.
Old 26th August 2007
  #17
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heathen's Avatar
 

If your recording a vocalist with a poor mic technique sometime a little comp in tracking can help, though if a singer has a superb mic technique then it's just not a problem and you'll generally only need a touch of comp on mixdown.

Thats my approach.
Old 27th August 2007
  #18
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artnoiser's Avatar
 

hi musicl,

I really have got no comment about the compressor at this point, but I gotta second that I've had greater results when i stopped fishing for recording as loud as I can, like cebolao also attested to previously.

It just simply started sounding better.

Cheers,

artnoiser
Old 27th August 2007
  #19
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Watersound's Avatar
 

I use compressors when tracking vocals for the sound, and I ride the fader into the compressor so as to never hit it too hard. I find that in many applications it enhances the sound to my ears.
Old 27th August 2007
  #20
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Jay Kahrs's Avatar
I pretty much always track vocals with a compressor in there, no matter how "good" the singer is or isn't. I'm doing rock records... gotta have it for multiple reasons. Partly is that the sound of a highly compressed super intimate lip-smacking vocal is in vogue & has been for oh... about 15-20 years? At least?!

Sometimes it's not very much compression, maybe 6dB at 2:1 on peaks... 4:1 or 8:1 with an 1176LN isn't uncommon... and I'll even chain compressors together if I feel the need for it. Basically, I wanna be able to put the vocal fader at '0' while the mix is up and not have it disappearing in & out of the mix...

It can always be squashed more later, but "good" singers know how to work the mic AND the compression. At least in a 'rock' context anywhoo...
Old 27th August 2007
  #21
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octatonic's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jay Kahrs View Post
I pretty much always track vocals with a compressor in there, no matter how "good" the singer is or isn't. I'm doing rock records... gotta have it for multiple reasons. Partly is that the sound of a highly compressed super intimate lip-smacking vocal is in vogue & has been for oh... about 15-20 years? At least?!

Sometimes it's not very much compression, maybe 6dB at 2:1 on peaks... 4:1 or 8:1 with an 1176LN isn't uncommon... and I'll even chain compressors together if I feel the need for it. Basically, I wanna be able to put the vocal fader at '0' while the mix is up and not have it disappearing in & out of the mix...

It can always be squashed more later, but "good" singers know how to work the mic AND the compression. At least in a 'rock' context anywhoo...
You got it.
Always tracking vocals with some sort of compressor- mostly transparent types- Focusrite Red 3 gets used a lot or the ISA220's compressor.
Chaining a couple of compressors happens from time to time- modest ratios- 2:1 or 4:1.
I hardly ever crush it to disk unless it is a 'character' vocal and I know what I am looking for.
Old 27th August 2007
  #22
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GYang's Avatar
I use compressor/limiters on all tracks.
Sometimes no compressing, sometimes more (really depending on source). no rules, but compressor is always in chain. I never found (well except some early years when overused) that something was spoiled with such approach. On the contrary, several times when 'no compressor' approach was applied result were 'less finished and like record' sound.
I fully agree that natural sound would be better without too much of any distortion in chain, but what a hell (we talk rock and pop here) it's all about pleasant artifacts, modulation and distortion (with sustained proportion please).
Tube Tech, LA2A, Portico, Chandler, Buzz Comp, 1176 etc. are real gems, so bit of compression during tracking, bit during mixing and that's it.
Old 27th August 2007
  #23
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as some have said, there is no real benefit to increasing bit depth, signal to noise or any of that stuff when you are at 24 bits.

the real part of the answer for me is....it depends. and further i would say its a convenience factor and dependent on the nature of the material and importance of the project.

if you know exactly what sound you are going for and have the tools to do it, by all means strap it on.

if its a rock or pop song and want lots of in your face intimacy and color, you've got the cl1b, 1176, la2a or whatever floats your boat by all means strap all three or four on and go for it. that is, if you are confident in your engineering abilities and vocal chain.

if its R&B jazz or another genre where you may want very clean or you're not sure and will want to audition many things out down the line, go clean, or a few db on a very clean unit.

if its a major label project or just for tv or an indie artist, you may want to consider that aspect. if somebody's going out to other major me's i'd leave it clean. conversely, if i'm producing and getting a great performance with the chain-in, i'd stay with that. sometimes you just don't have the time.

keep in mind, of course, that some vocalists may not react well to generous compression, or even reverb for that matter so, as i said originally, it depends.

what i have been seeing more today is a lot new people not confident in their work which creates this cycle of non-commitment. get confidence in your skills and go for it.
Old 27th August 2007
  #24
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RCM - Ronan's Avatar
If you really understand compression, go ahead and compress while recording to get a particular flavor, but when you are recording 24bit you should not be using a compressor to keep from clipping (live concert recording might be an exception). Just record with conservative levels. Even if your loudest peaks are at -15dbfs your dynamic range is still well beyond 16bit. When it comes to compressing while tracking, if there is any doubt. Dont.

As a guy that mixes records for a living, I have never had a track I could not make sound great because the levels were recorded too low, but I have had plenty that were unsalvageable or at least severely compromised because the engineer was a hack and printed the levels so hot that tracks were clipping.
Old 27th August 2007
  #25
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musicl's Avatar
 

Hell, yeah it's recording up front in your face, lip smacking vocals as mentioned.

Would it be worthwhile ditching my API A2D in favour of a preamp with a compressor AND converters with digital out? If so, any opinions on what to look at?
Old 27th August 2007
  #26
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Tim Farrant's Avatar
 

If you desire (or should need) some analogue mojo - and are prepared to make a decision on the sound as you record, then a compressor can be a useful tool. But there is no instant answer as to the best.
Old 27th August 2007
  #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by musicl View Post
Hell, yeah it's recording up front in your face, lip smacking vocals as mentioned.

Would it be worthwhile ditching my API A2D in favour of a preamp with a compressor AND converters with digital out? If so, any opinions on what to look at?
i don't know if you're going to find such a vocal chain in a channel strip. imho these units are nothing more than fools gold to me. some still like the manley voxbox but it doesn't have converters.

doesn't the a2d have inserts before the converters to patch in a comp chain?

if you like the sound of the 312 pre's i'd just patch in a couple of great comps (that's a whole other thread).
Old 27th August 2007
  #28
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musicl's Avatar
 

It's just a little crazy for me right now to spend that much on a compressor for a few DB's to tame vox while tracking after my recent gear splash out. I want a thick sound so i'm going to have to start selling some kidneys to raise the cash. Anyone want a high end kidney? Willing to trade or P/X for an 1176.... :-)
Old 27th August 2007
  #29
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Jay Kahrs's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by melodic_disaster View Post

what i have been seeing more today is a lot new people not confident in their work which creates this cycle of non-commitment. get confidence in your skills and go for it.
I heard a great quote from John Siket recently through a mutual friend...

"Yeah, slow & steady is ok... But fast & competent is better!"

IMO, there's absolutely NO reason to put a compressor in for the sole purpose of avoiding digital overs. Turn the level down! In my world it's always for tonal & dynamic control.



Quote:
Originally Posted by rcm View Post
As a guy that mixes records for a living, I have never had a track I could not make sound great because the levels were recorded too low, but I have had plenty that were unsalvageable or at least severely compromised because the engineer was a hack and printed the levels so hot that tracks were clipping.
Totally. Though, I've had a few things come to me from home studio enviornments that took a good bit of to make things 'gel' and come together because it was all tracked without any dynamics control... Even a little bit of 2:1 or 3:1 on vocals, bass & snare goes a long way towards making things come together easily if you aren't comfortable "killing" and fully commiting while tracking.
Old 27th August 2007
  #30
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barryjohns's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by musicl View Post
It's just a little crazy for me right now to spend that much on a compressor for a few DB's to tame vox while tracking after my recent gear splash out. I want a thick sound so i'm going to have to start selling some kidneys to raise the cash. Anyone want a high end kidney? Willing to trade or P/X for an 1176.... :-)
do you frequent the bathroom often? If not, I may be interested.heh
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