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In your opinion, what is the most critical link in a DAW chain?
Old 26th June 2005
  #1
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Big 3rd's Avatar
 

In your opinion, what is the most critical link in a DAW chain?

To get "that sound," what do you think is thy most important piece and/or key to a digital recording chain? The type of mic? The type of outboard compressor? Using strictly high end outboard gear before going to 1s and 0s? The converter itself? How about the backend, the DAC and the monitors? What do you think?
Old 26th June 2005
  #2
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carlsaff's Avatar
 

Well, since you made the specific distinction of "digital recording" chains, I'd say the most critical link is definitely your AD conversion. Few processes are more potentially damaging to signal. However, this is assuming that everything before the converter (mic, pre, cabling) is already as good as it would be in either an analog or digital chain.

The DA and monitors won't help you "get" "that sound." They will, however, allow you to properly determine whether or not you have it, which is equally important.

Sounds like you're looking to upgrade something in your chain. Maybe you should list your current setup and then people here can offer upgrade solutions.
Old 26th June 2005
  #3
Gear Guru
 
Ethan Winer's Avatar
 

Big,

> How about the backend, the DAC and the monitors? <

The weakest link is always the room and monitors. Even a $25 SoundBlaster sound card has specs 100 times better than the best loudspeakers in the world. And even a great room, if untreated, will give half a second of ringing and skew your low end response 10 times more than the best loudspeakers in the world.

--Ethan
Old 26th June 2005
  #4
The operator! heh
Old 26th June 2005
  #5
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Jamz's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jules
The operator! heh
Old 26th June 2005
  #6
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Big 3rd's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jules
The operator! heh
Very true!
Old 26th June 2005
  #7
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steins's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Big 3rd
To get "that sound," what do you think is thy most important piece and/or key to a digital recording chain? The type of mic? The type of outboard compressor? Using strictly high end outboard gear before going to 1s and 0s? The converter itself? How about the backend, the DAC and the monitors? What do you think?
The talent and/or gear IN FRONT of the microphone..

Stein Tore
Old 26th June 2005
  #8
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Big 3rd's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by carlsaff
Well, since you made the specific distinction of "digital recording" chains, I'd say the most critical link is definitely your AD conversion. Few processes are more potentially damaging to signal. However, this is assuming that everything before the converter (mic, pre, cabling) is already as good as it would be in either an analog or digital chain.

The DA and monitors won't help you "get" "that sound." They will, however, allow you to properly determine whether or not you have it, which is equally important.

Sounds like you're looking to upgrade something in your chain. Maybe you should list your current setup and then people here can offer upgrade solutions.

I agree with you 100%. No, I'm not looking to upgrade anything. I'm pretty satisfied with what I have but I just like to see the different points of view to any topic of convo. Ok, now that we, you and I, agree on the conversion being thy most important, what would you consider to be the second most important, of course other than the operator and the room itself? As a matter of fact, rank from first to least importance. I know this might be kinda cheesy, but humor me anyway, please.heh
Old 26th June 2005
  #9
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Jim vanBergen's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Big 3rd
I agree with you 100%. No, I'm not looking to upgrade anything. I'm pretty satisfied with what I have but I just like to see the different points of view to any topic of convo. Ok, now that we, you and I, agree on the conversion being thy most important, what would you consider to be the second most important, of course other than the operator and the room itself? As a matter of fact, rank from first to least importance. I know this might be kinda cheesy, but humor me anyway, please.heh
The CLOCK!!!!! Your master timing device makes a significant difference for all things digital. Converters, recorders, mixers, verbs- anything at all that is digital needs a single stable clock source. This is kind of old hat these days but the first few times I worked in "all digital" studios that had no master clock (aka house sync) stuff just felt...WRONG. Get everything timed together and voila, world of difference.

JvB
Old 26th June 2005
  #10
Motown legend
 
Bob Olhsson's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jules
The operator!


AND the monitors and D to A.

PLENTY of great sounding recordings were made using DAT machines during the '90s.

Where things get screwed up the worst is digital signal processing. Digital clipping is really hard to hear but the effect of it when the sound is processed further isn't subtle at all because it has introduced funny math into the process. Great monitoring and a transparent, no hype D to A allow you to identify that there IS a problem and then to back up a step or two and get the problem fixed.

We got away with flying relatively blind by using the very best analog gear. This strategy doesn't work in the digital world when you introduce digital signal processing into your work flow.
Old 26th June 2005
  #11
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Freakuency's Avatar
 

First is the MIC, if you have a crappy mic, but an amazing pre, converters, clock, etc. then i still doesn't matter how good the performance is, it will still sound crappy! Next is definatly the pre, but you have to have a good mic, then the converters, cause if you have crap before the converters they will just make your crap, clearer, punchier, and open sounding crap. Then probabally a good clock, for the same reason as converters, but they go hand in hand. Basically the Most important thing is the right mic for the job, and someone that knows how to use it.
Old 26th June 2005
  #12
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GYang's Avatar
Nr.1 factor is a lack of time and experience to put things together properly.

It is hard to find studios (even on project studio level) that don't have at least one very good pre, mic, ADC etc. Also, in my experience I heard many EXCELLENT productions made on mid level monitors (+ headphones).

So, if reasonable level of technology is on disposal of the operator (what today is almost always the case) the lack of experience would most likely affect (adversely) the result.

The most critical factors (should be the best available heh )

1. Source (talent, instrument, mic)
2. ADC
3. Mixing algorithm + effect implementation (choice of DAW)
4. Recording/mixing reasonably smallest number of tracks
5. Leaving analogue mastering (and mastering as such) to somebody with the best equipment and ears.

Important factors (should be reasonably good )

1. Pre
2. Monitors
3. Power conditioning (in most places)


Overestimated factors (unlikely to spoil good work or to improve not good )

1. Sample rates over 48 kHz
2. High $$$ esoteric cables
3. Too much room's acoustic treatment (don't read as no treatment at all)

GYang
Old 26th June 2005
  #13
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Big 3rd's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by GYang
Nr.1 factor is a lack of time and experience to put things together properly.

It is hard to find studios (even on project studio level) that don't have at least one very good pre, mic, ADC etc. Also, in my experience I heard many EXCELLENT productions made on mid level monitors (+ headphones).

So, if reasonable level of technology is on disposal of the operator (what today is almost always the case) the lack of experience would most likely affect (adversely) the result.

The most critical factors (should be the best available heh )

1. Source (talent, instrument, mic)
2. ADC
3. Mixing algorithm + effect implementation (choice of DAW)
4. Recording/mixing reasonably smallest number of tracks
5. Leaving analogue mastering (and mastering as such) to somebody with the best equipment and ears.

Important factors (should be reasonably good )

1. Pre
2. Monitors
3. Power conditioning (in most places)


Overestimated factors (unlikely to spoil good work or to improve not good )

1. Sample rates over 48 kHz
2. High $$$ esoteric cables
3. Too much room's acoustic treatment (don't read as no treatment at all)

GYang
Great post!

I'm feelin' everything you're sayin'.

Yes, we all know that the engineer and the talent are thy thy....thy most crucial things involved with a phenominal recording, but, many overlook the fact that there is very and I do mean very... little talent out here today. But when you consider those same talentless goons that are making it big, you have to look at what there music has in common. They all have great to phenominal production that's being done by a great to phenominal producer and engineer on great to phenominal equipment. Rarely do you find out that one or more of the top 20 artists worked with a less than stellar studio, producer, engineer, and equipment.

So to say, "Oh it's the operator, or, oh it's the talent behind the mic, " the talent part ( I think most would agree) can be questionable, at least when talking about the main vocalist. A good ear can and SHOULD BE ABLE to hear great production over a not so great vocalist, bassist, drummer, piano player, flute player, and etc. So it only makes sense to agree that the same can't be said for a not so great engineer.

So now that we got that out of the way, let's talk strictly hardware and software.

Again, Great post Gyang, you make a lot of sense.
Old 27th June 2005
  #14
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jpupo74's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jules
The operator! heh
A/D/A
Old 27th June 2005
  #15
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heathen's Avatar
 

Converters

Recently I had been having trouble with my bass freq's and high freq's it had been a while since I was happy with one of my mixes on my system,I knew it was'nt my mixing.I had recently added a motu 828 mk2 firewire unit '(for routing etc as a digital patchbay type setup and for mixing down into from my o2r hdr 24/96) ,which I at first thought sounded great,but after a while I realised things were not right,it was taking too long to get an impressive sound in a mix,the low freqs were muffled,and the highs were spitting,it was'nt right at all.Anyway I went and bought an apogee psx 100se,instantly I was happy with the first mix I ran through it and recorded ,no problems anymore just rich full sounding digital audio.I recommend DO NOT USE A MOTU 828 mk2 for any analog to digital conversion,mine is only used now for the stereo toslink ,as an interface with my apogee,I also use it for pb of records sometimes as now it's clocked by the apogee and sounds alot better than it did,still not great though.
For me converters and monitoring are the most important,even if you have a crap sound at least you will really know it with good converters and monitoring,and be able to fix it.
Old 27th June 2005
  #16
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neve1073's Avatar
 

Every link is critical. If it's in chain, the strength of the final result depends on it. Obviously the most critical are talented artists and competent engineering.

In terms of equipment in a DAW, most would prolly agree that converters are most critical, but not sufficient. Nice mics, mic amps are part of that sound. How much modeling software as opposed to outboard is a matter of style.
Old 27th June 2005
  #17
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DeeDrive's Avatar
 

Here's the typical audio path of most DAW setups:

Source --> Mic --> Mic Pre --> A/D --> DAW

IMO, the importance of each follows the same path Source being most important, DAW being least.
Old 27th June 2005
  #18
Gear Guru
 
Drumsound's Avatar
IMNSHO the most important thing is what's in front of the mic.
Old 27th June 2005
  #19
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Big 3rd's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Drumsound
IMNSHO the most important thing is what's in front of the mic.
Look damnit, enough already!

You people that keep saying this can't be serious. Are you telling me that Backstreet Boys were just so talented that it if they had a ****ty DYNAMIC mic, the sounds of a DR-5 drum machine, and doing all the tracking, mixing, effects, the whole bit through a Roland 1880, with a decent engineer, that they would still be who they are and have the millions that they have, today? Gimme a break, man. Be more real. Let's not even talk about the fact that these so called "talented" people have the capability to cut, paste, harmonize, and punch-in, within a SIAB or DAW, every piece of vocal that they spew from their "talented" little mouths.

We all know that in order to make it big out here, it is 90% business/marketing and 10% talent and production. But of that 10%, I would say 65% of THAT depends on the quality of the production, it might even be more. Let's not kid ourselves. When we speak of "that sound," we are meaning the big, seemless, open, thick, rich, loud, crispy yet smooth and unforced professional sound that is made possible by the skills of an obviously great engineer and the sonic characters of several tens of thousands of dollars in music equipment, FIRST.

Now it is this "first", I feel, that we are differentiating, decerning, and ranking.
Does anyone feel me on this?
Old 27th June 2005
  #20
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steins's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Big 3rd
Look damnit, enough already!

We all know that in order to make it big out here, it is 90% business/marketing and 10% talent and production. But of that 10%, I would say 65% of THAT depends on the quality of the production, it might even be more. Let's not kid ourselves. When we speak of "that sound," we are meaning the big, seemless, open, thick, rich, loud, crispy yet smooth and unforced professional sound that is made possible by the skills of an obviously great engineer and the sonic characters of several tens of thousands of dollars in music equipment, FIRST.
Good points, but I still believe we're recording and selling emotions. People get moved by emotions, not the sound of Pre X. I'm not questioning the importance of quality gear (heck, I'm about to sell my car for a couple of more 1073's), but sometimes, I just end up making really good recordings of crappy bands. And they don't sell records. That's why I put talent before gear. I agree on the fact that most of this could be fixed in the marketing these days.

Sorry to be off-topic; maybe this should be in another thread.

On-Topic: I believe the most critical link in a DAW-chain is the microphone and DA/Monitoring.

Stein Tore
Old 27th June 2005
  #21
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warhead's Avatar
 

A/D conversion and D/A monitoring conversion.

War
Old 27th June 2005
  #22
Gear Addict
 
Hiwatt's Avatar
 

ad and da conversion and monitors is more important than some might think. You won't really understand until you experience it your self. Do a recording with half ass converters and monitoring. Then record the same track the same way, you know the drill... with good converters and good monitoring. I bet you the second track comes out amazingly better.
Old 27th June 2005
  #23
Gear Guru
 
Drumsound's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Big 3rd
Look damnit, enough already!

You people that keep saying this can't be serious. Are you telling me that Backstreet Boys were just so talented that it if they had a ****ty DYNAMIC mic, the sounds of a DR-5 drum machine, and doing all the tracking, mixing, effects, the whole bit through a Roland 1880, with a decent engineer, that they would still be who they are and have the millions that they have, today? Gimme a break, man. Be more real. Let's not even talk about the fact that these so called "talented" people have the capability to cut, paste, harmonize, and punch-in, within a SIAB or DAW, every piece of vocal that they spew from their "talented" little mouths.

We all know that in order to make it big out here, it is 90% business/marketing and 10% talent and production. But of that 10%, I would say 65% of THAT depends on the quality of the production, it might even be more. Let's not kid ourselves. When we speak of "that sound," we are meaning the big, seemless, open, thick, rich, loud, crispy yet smooth and unforced professional sound that is made possible by the skills of an obviously great engineer and the sonic characters of several tens of thousands of dollars in music equipment, FIRST.

Now it is this "first", I feel, that we are differentiating, decerning, and ranking.
Does anyone feel me on this?
A great recording does not make a great record.

For me, there would be no difference if the Backstreet Boys did the home recording you mentioned or the big studio production that they do do because I personally don't care for them. I don't hear their music in a way that touches me as a listener and music lover.

I gravitate towards the emotion and soul of a record, not it's sonics. I have a lot of records that sound great that I never listen to because they don't have the emotion and soul that grabs me. I have other records that might miss the sonic mark but have a truly human emotion that I listen to regularly for that emotional reason.

I do think quality gear is important, I do think having the best system available for the way one likes/needs to work is important. But in the same token, I'd rather have great performances of great songs than great gear.

Let’s not confuse commerce with quality…
Old 27th June 2005
  #24
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TheReal7's Avatar
 

no no no! You are all missing the most important one of all.... the wallpaper...with out a kick ass wallpaper...the rest don't mean s**t. heh
Old 28th June 2005
  #25
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DeeDrive's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Big 3rd
Look damnit, enough already!

You people that keep saying this can't be serious. Are you telling me that Backstreet Boys were just so talented that it if they had a ****ty DYNAMIC mic, the sounds of a DR-5 drum machine, and doing all the tracking, mixing, effects, the whole bit through a Roland 1880, with a decent engineer, that they would still be who they are and have the millions that they have, today? Gimme a break, man. Be more real. Let's not even talk about the fact that these so called "talented" people have the capability to cut, paste, harmonize, and punch-in, within a SIAB or DAW, every piece of vocal that they spew from their "talented" little mouths.

We all know that in order to make it big out here, it is 90% business/marketing and 10% talent and production. But of that 10%, I would say 65% of THAT depends on the quality of the production, it might even be more. Let's not kid ourselves. When we speak of "that sound," we are meaning the big, seemless, open, thick, rich, loud, crispy yet smooth and unforced professional sound that is made possible by the skills of an obviously great engineer and the sonic characters of several tens of thousands of dollars in music equipment, FIRST.

Now it is this "first", I feel, that we are differentiating, decerning, and ranking.
Does anyone feel me on this?
So here's a question: What would sound better, backstreet boys through a roland workstation and all that, or white trash off the street in a million dollar studio. I think the backstreet boys would still come up with a better recording. If you don't have talent, you can't make music AT ALL. Sorry to burst anyone's bubble, but the backstreet boys do have at least a little bit of talent.
Old 28th June 2005
  #26
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natpub's Avatar
I think a more salient point is that we should assume the song/source are critical to your final recording of the song/souce.

It is "a priori" that you can have all the gear in the world, and without any song or source, or with bad song/source, you would end up with either nothing, or a very well recorded yet bad source. I feel the same about the rooms and room treatment. At some point it becomes assumed that all the great stuff in a bad room can end up with a fantastic recording of a bad room.

I just wish on a site called Gearslutz that when someone asks what GEAR is the most important element in the recording chain from mic/DI through to the final monitors, we could stop answering things like the engineer, the song, or the source.

I mean no disrespect AT ALL to the wonderful efforts of everyone here to be helpful and share what is so plainly true, about the songs, sources, engineers, and rooms needing to be attended to first.

Also, I fully realize that many new readers here may not totally give the true and proper weight when they are puzzled that their recordings do not sound good, and how often the problem is not gear at all.

Finally, I fully realize that many new, and some not-so-new readers here may believe that better gear will fix certain things that it simply cannot.

Perhaps posters could just start off by saying, "...OK, assuming we have a solid song, solid source, solid players, and assuming I am a reasonably decent operator in a reasonable room, what GEAR do you prefer for so-and-so...."


ANYWAY, to address the initial poster, I would say monitors and DA, assuming your room is proper-- imvho.





My 2 centavos,


KT
Old 28th June 2005
  #27
Gear Guru
 
u b k's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by natpub
I just wish on a site called Gearslutz that when someone asks what GEAR is the most important element in the recording chain from mic/DI through to the final monitors, people would stop answering things like the operator, the song, or the source...
My 2 centavos,
KT

i'll toss my hat in the ring and completely second your post; i've had the same thoughts many times.

especially in a forum called "high end," i would love to dispense with what i call "101" style conversations, as in "recording 101". here of all places it seems a reasonable assumption that we got the basics covered and are now engaging in that game of inches where the subtler stuff accumulates. i know there will always be times when that's not the case, but absent any evidence that a poster is totally green, why not just assume he's in the right place and ramp up the level of discourse from the start?


gregoire
del ubik
Old 28th June 2005
  #28
Gear Guru
 
u b k's Avatar
 

oh yeah, there was a question!

my take is that, of all the options discussed, the mic/pre combo is the biggest factor in the results you can achieve, and those two are tied for first.

no matter how good my conversion, or monitors, or dsp, if the thing i'm converting and monitoring is crap, all is lost. with the other elements i can minimize how much crud gets accentuated, and i can learn to work around their shortcomings.

the grand caveat: the mixing space has to have passable acoustics; if the monitoring environment is too far out of whack, i'll chase my tail forever to no avail.


gregoire
del ubik
Old 28th June 2005
  #29
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Big 3rd's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by natpub

I just wish on a site called Gearslutz that when someone asks what GEAR is the most important element in the recording chain from mic/DI through to the final monitors, we could stop answering things like the engineer, the song, or the source.

KT
Man you just hit the nail right on the head.... my point exactly. It seems everytime you ask one thing, you get a response that not only disregard the subject at hand, but it diverts the posts in directions that were not initially intended and eventually it takes responses like mine and yours to put things back in perspective. I mean... do I have to cover all these unnecessary bases before I post a thread like this one, to get a decent knowledgeable conversation going?

Ok, here it is.

Assuming there is great talent in front of the mic performing a great song, the control room is perfect, and the engineer is great, what do you think is thy most important piece of gear and/or key in a digital recording chain? NOTE: We are talking strictly about hardware and/or software.
Old 28th June 2005
  #30
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PlugHead's Avatar
 

IMHO,

1) the 'right' mic for the job
2) the 'right' pre for the mic
3) quality AD, and closely after, DA

These 3 should get anyone into the game, and the rest - that's where you'll be chasing your tail...
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