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Spectral curve? Equalizer Plugins
Old 6th August 2008
  #1
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Spectral curve?

This is going to be one of those overly general questions, but here goes any way. We talk a lot about spectral balance in mixing and mastering. What are everyones' thoughts on a good spectral balance? Of course this will differ on the source material (solo dulcimer versus a KISS record), but given a modern full range mix, do you guys tend to master more towards an inverted equal loudness like curve? I am just curious as to where folk's tastes lie and the industry "standard" if such a thing exists for the various genres that make up modern pop.

And as an aside, why do so many spectral meters have a 3db per octave slope to them?
Old 6th August 2008
  #2
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Spectral meters are for the HairBall crowd IMO.

I can't see (no pun intended) making sonic decisions based on what a spectrum analysis meter is showing me.

The fact/coincidence that the 'average good sounding recording' by most people's standards might have a 'typical' spectral shape based on a meter is a by-product - Not a goal. Taking a mix and shaping it to match the shape of another mix is no guarantee that mix is going to sound good...

We all did fine without analysis meters for decades. And personally, I think most recordings made before the 'meter craze' attached to the digital revolution sounded better (and more 'spectrally balanced') anyway.
Old 6th August 2008
  #3
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My question is not so much about measurement of the spectrum. (It seems spectral curve is a loaded term) More a "what is accepted now days". Again, certainly source is paramount... but I compare say The Joshua Tree or Talking Heads disks to the very bright and bassy tonalities we seem to run into so much today. I was reading Bob Katz's book the other day and he states that in his youth he tended to lean towards brighter results and now leans towards more balanced products. Well, what does balance mean to you? Certainly it is subjective, but I have a feeling there is a measurable component here to some extent as we can all agree too much 5k is harsh etc. (as you mention, if it fits into common average curves, that is a side effect rather than the goal) I am not suggesting there is some "match the curve" deal one can do... more, what tells you something is balanced? And I mean in an auditory fashion, not "Damn hell, look, there's a bump on the RTA!" I mean, there is more to balance than EQ.... Is the bass kicking enough? Is the mid present enough? Are the highs cutting glass or too subdued? Where do you pull your standard for excellence from? Experience is certainly part of it.... but you can also be the world's most experienced mud pie maker.

The reason I ask is I try to question my own abilities, ear fatigue and the like. Often times folks will want me to make things brighter when I think they are plenty bright, so at times I wonder, is it me, or is it them or does it even matter? So what do you do to tell yourself, yup, I am done!
Old 6th August 2008
  #4
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You just listen. I wish I could make that sound more interesting...

I listen to mixes as they are -

I (hopefully, realistically) 'mentally visualize' what it might sound like when it's done - **

I set up a chain to make it go from point 'A' to point 'B' -

I hit play again.

If it sounds the way I imagined it, I stop. If not, I tweak it a bit.

** If I don't have a relatively clear 'mental vision' then I don't force it... That's important. If I can't think of what's necessary (at least, IMO), I'm shooting in the dark. If the client is directing for "I'd like it sort of bright" or "I want to keep it a bit dark" or "Make it really, really loud" those are things you just need to consider before making those mental settings.
Old 7th August 2008
  #5
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heh
Quote:
Originally Posted by bubbagump View Post
My question is not so much about measurement of the spectrum. (It seems spectral curve is a loaded term) More a "what is accepted now days". Again, certainly source is paramount... but I compare say The Joshua Tree or Talking Heads disks to the very bright and bassy tonalities we seem to run into so much today. I was reading Bob Katz's book the other day and he states that in his youth he tended to lean towards brighter results and now leans towards more balanced products. Well, what does balance mean to you? Certainly it is subjective, but I have a feeling there is a measurable component here to some extent as we can all agree too much 5k is harsh etc. (as you mention, if it fits into common average curves, that is a side effect rather than the goal) I am not suggesting there is some "match the curve" deal one can do... more, what tells you something is balanced? And I mean in an auditory fashion, not "Damn hell, look, there's a bump on the RTA!" I mean, there is more to balance than EQ.... Is the bass kicking enough? Is the mid present enough? Are the highs cutting glass or too subdued? Where do you pull your standard for excellence from? Experience is certainly part of it.... but you can also be the world's most experienced mud pie maker.

The reason I ask is I try to question my own abilities, ear fatigue and the like. Often times folks will want me to make things brighter when I think they are plenty bright, so at times I wonder, is it me, or is it them or does it even matter? So what do you do to tell yourself, yup, I am done!

In the book Bob speaks about the natural shape of classic orchestra. Typical smile eq on a rock guitr full mids mix is going towards these reference. Taking in mind there must be a fundamental-harmonics balance,
to me there is a subjetive thing here and a universal law too, in the other hand it is changing by decades and technology.
I have been thinking about that, i feel there are some very GOOD records very unnatural and full of harmonics and richness and very pleasant soft to my ear. I have been tyn to make the HIs sweet like comercial releases for years and it is very dificult to make it right. I often have to say my clients we have some limitations and some goodness, there are big studios bright reference cd recordings...imposible to catch here. If you want to sound like Air studios go there!! (i say to my clients, in a well mannered form).
I catched my own happy goals too......heh
Old 10th August 2008
  #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bubbagump View Post
This is going to be one of those overly general questions, but here goes any way. We talk a lot about spectral balance in mixing and mastering. What are everyones' thoughts on a good spectral balance? Of course this will differ on the source material (solo dulcimer versus a KISS record), but given a modern full range mix, do you guys tend to master more towards an inverted equal loudness like curve? I am just curious as to where folk's tastes lie and the industry "standard" if such a thing exists for the various genres that make up modern pop.
It looks to me like you are asking 'how loud do you master?'.

It's a very good question.

If only the equal loudness concept were more widely understood we might have a far more consistent industry.

When I hear about engineers who state 'I always mix very softly' I immediately think of that 'smiley' inverted-equal-loudness curve.

It takes serious jedi powers to be able to make decisions conscious & independent of equal loudness effects and there are very few able to do it.

Andy

PS - It would not be a bad idea if recordings were classified as 'passing QC at xxxdB SPL c-weighted' - at least then the end user might have an idea what he is buying.
Old 11th August 2008
  #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bubbagump View Post
This is going to be one of those overly general questions, but here goes any way. We talk a lot about spectral balance in mixing and mastering. What are everyones' thoughts on a good spectral balance? Of course this will differ on the source material (solo dulcimer versus a KISS record), but given a modern full range mix, do you guys tend to master more towards an inverted equal loudness like curve? I am just curious as to where folk's tastes lie and the industry "standard" if such a thing exists for the various genres that make up modern pop.

And as an aside, why do so many spectral meters have a 3db per octave slope to them?
Bubba, do your own research. Download a free RTA and start analyzing records while you are young. After you have analyzed close to 1,000 + recordings and you have mixed another few hundreds of your own, the picture is clear in your head and every transient represented on the RTA begins to make perfect sense.

Obviously, this is a discipline that will take years to master, maybe 5 or less if you are committed. Those who speak nonsense about it and make fun of RTA users, are people who are talking from inexperience and most likely they are just too lazy to try one RTA of their own and stick with it for years.

This isn't about Hairball either. That company doesn't have a U.S. patent on RTA technology or anything except an equalizer and an archaic analyzer in a little software bundle. It is not the same approach to frequency analysis.

Therefore, those who mock a RTA and the process of interpreting frequencies, do it because is unbeknownst to them.

Yes, there is a co-relation between a great sounding mix and its resulting frequency curve. The confusion comes when someone tries to apply the same frequency curve to a different style of music, different instrument arrangement, or fails to compensate for high transients short harmonic oscillation, and/or the mix in question does not meet the conditions of being a good sounding mix.

You need to compare apples to apples and pears to pears to make this work and take advantage of this technology.

That doesn't mean that if you were deaf you could be able to accomplish the same results either. You do have to have the gift of listening for detail and be able to separate sounds in your mind and predict the outcome. It is that when combined both skills, that you accomplish this fine level of quality work.

Even if you are not too talented, you do better than the next guy. In example: I just did a quick sample for an aspiring ME who asked for help and feedback here at GS and I did this with a cheap computer and software. He posted 'before and after' samples of the mixes. The samples are mp3. I took the original and I processed it guided with a RTA and the knowledge of what I should see and hear. Listen to it and tell me if this sample processed from a mp3 source and at 44.1kHz/16Bit, doesn't sound better than his sample processed at higher sampling rate and resolution. (click here).

I didn't process it in a professional workstation because it's not worth my time. But still, listen to it.

One more thing, if Stephen St.Croix (R.I.P.) was here with us in this forum's thread, he would have created a lot controversy and enlightenment with his knowledge in RTA technology and believe me it would have made it very special for all of us. We learned so much from him and we missed his genius...
Old 11th August 2008
  #8
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Quote:
Those who speak nonsense about it and make fun of RTA users, are people who are talking from inexperience and most likely they are just too lazy to try one RTA of their own and stick with it for years.
Those who speak of not using RTA's speak from the experience of being able to listen. We did just fine for years (decades in some people's cases) without having digital RTA's.

Too lazy to try one? Every freaking program out there has them. But if you know how to listen, you have no reason to use it.

RTA's ARE the lazy way out of learning to listen.

What is a RTA going to teach me? What a good mix *LOOKS* like?!? Then I can take a pink noise file and shape it with an EQ to make it look pretty and that'll make it sound like classic rock?!? Listen to yourself (without using a RTA)...
Quote:
Bubba, do your own research. Download a free RTA and start analyzing records while you are young. After you have analyzed close to 1,000 + recordings and you have mixed another few hundreds of your own, the picture is clear in your head and every transient represented on the RTA begins to make perfect sense.
Ridiculous advice, IMO. Use your ears - REGARDLESS of what some RTA is telling you. RTA's can be handy tools for learning frequencies - Play a slow sweep through one. Adjust a 31-band graphic through one and look at it. Not that it'll help anything except you'll know what a curve looks like.
Old 11th August 2008
  #9
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To be fair looking at the RTA of well produced music for a couple of hours did help me a bit years ago. But not needed after having a visual representation for a little bit, my ears learned what I was hearing. It was just useful to have another sensory system involved to get a different perspective.
Old 11th August 2008
  #10
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I see posts on forums where people say 'I eq it until it looks flat on the analyser'
Old 11th August 2008
  #11
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What?
Old 11th August 2008
  #12
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I wish I'd saved this AIM conversation from the other day... It went somehting like this (this is 100% true btw). Oh, he's a house/techno producer by the way, and a lovely bloke, but...

'Bob, tell me if my method is right or wrong'

'ok'

'I get my kick, and I eq it so it looks pretty flat on the analyser, getting rid of any resonant peaks'

'erm, ok'

'then I get my snares and claps, and I eq them until they look pretty flat, with no peaks in the analyser'

etc etc, with various things about cutting room for the kick in other things, etc - but the general theme was 'I do it until it looks flat on the analyser, then mix them'

So I said;

'Let me ask you 2 questions'

'ok'

'1 - do you have any moitors, or headphones or anything?'

'yes of course'

' ok - q 2 - are they turned on while you're doing all of this?'


I then went on (being extremely patronising, frankly, but he got where I was coming from) about how I painted a picture the other day by putting the brush in my ear, and then when I turned my head back around, I was shocked to see the picture was crap.

This was just 3 days ago.
Old 11th August 2008
  #13
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HA ha. love it!
Old 11th August 2008
  #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MASSIVE Master View Post
Those who speak of not using RTA's speak from the experience of being able to listen. We did just fine for years (decades in some people's cases) without having digital RTA's.

Too lazy to try one? Every freaking program out there has them. But if you know how to listen, you have no reason to use it.

RTA's ARE the lazy way out of learning to listen.

What is a RTA going to teach me? What a good mix *LOOKS* like?!? Then I can take a pink noise file and shape it with an EQ to make it look pretty and that'll make it sound like classic rock?!? Listen to yourself (without using a RTA)...

Ridiculous advice, IMO. Use your ears - REGARDLESS of what some RTA is telling you. RTA's can be handy tools for learning frequencies - Play a slow sweep through one. Adjust a 31-band graphic through one and look at it. Not that it'll help anything except you'll know what a curve looks like.
Try this:
Download this sample, master it, make it sound better than the one I did with a cheap computer and software at 44.1kHz/16 Bits! Let's see how close (or better) your sample sounds to the one guided with a RTA! I doubt you you'll dare....
Old 11th August 2008
  #15
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Hey - How come the image won't load?
Quote:
'1 - do you have any moitors, or headphones or anything?'

'yes of course'

' ok - q 2 - are they turned on while you're doing all of this?'
Classic...
Old 11th August 2008
  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MASSIVE Master View Post
Those who speak of not using RTA's speak from the experience of being able to listen. We did just fine for years (decades in some people's cases) without having digital RTA's.
The research and development of the first RTA was in the middle 50's at Columbia University. In 1957 the U.S. Air Force used the first RTA which was able to measure a frequency range from 1Hz to 40kHz. It used a bank of parallel filters-detectors, providing a constant bandwidth spectrum when inserting an analog signal. That said, when someone says: "We did just fine for years", I can only say: "Ignorance is a bliss..."


Quote:
RTA's ARE the lazy way out of learning to listen.
Senseless gibberish, please read my comments above.




Quote:
What is a RTA going to teach me? What a good mix *LOOKS* like?!? Then I can take a pink noise file and shape it with an EQ to make it look pretty and that'll make it sound like classic rock?!?
Applying eq to pink noise is only going to change the shape of noise (like what you do), it will never create harmonic and sub-harmonic content to simulate rock music....hehheh

Quote:
Ridiculous advice, IMO. Use your ears - REGARDLESS of what some RTA is telling you. RTA's can be handy tools for learning frequencies - Play a slow sweep through one. Adjust a 31-band graphic through one and look at it. Not that it'll help anything except you'll know what a curve looks like.
Put your money where you MOUTH is. Go ahead, show us your greatness at mastering. This is your chance to show all the Slutz that you can MASTER music. I am giving you the chance to publicly humiliate me now... I made a sample with a CHEAP computer and CHEAP software, I am sure that your state of the art analog/digital system can beat the **** out of this little sample!! Come on, what are you waiting for?!! Finish me...
Now Download this sample, master it....
Old 11th August 2008
  #17
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Jeebus, will you please get a life...?
Old 11th August 2008
  #18
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Yay! I created controversy and strife with the use of a buzz word!

In any event, th question is not how loud, but much more, how do you know when you are done? I understand what you mean by listening to a zillion records as dub is going to be very different than a punk record. I guess i just find that to be a bit cookie cutter... but I guess the real test I have to think about is the mix and what they were after... make the master reflect the mix as bet it can and forget the rest.
Old 11th August 2008
  #19
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How is it ignorance? What, exactly, is being ignored here? We use our ears to make decisions on how to alter the sound. In the end, nothing else really matters. Once it goes out the mastering room door, no one is using anything other that their ears to make decisions on what sounds good.

Most people don't even know why they like a certain mix. It's a gut feeling. Go with your gut. Mastering is an art form.

Chill out. Take a walk.

(Hi, Bubbagump! I'm a fellow REAPERite.)
Old 11th August 2008
  #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mikeroephonics View Post
How is it ignorance? What, exactly, is being ignored here? We use our ears to make decisions on how to alter the sound. In the end, nothing else really matters. Once it goes out the mastering room door, no one is using anything other that their ears to make decisions on what sounds good.
That will never change, please read what I said above. I never said that you can master something without hearing....

Quote:
Most people don't even know why they like a certain mix. It's a gut feeling. Go with your gut. Mastering is an art form.
Yes, it is. But when you combine it with the skill of frequency analysis, you make your art with PRECISION.

Quote:
Chill out. Take a walk.
Thanks, but please read Scrip's responses first. If someone spoke to you in that tone, I doubt you'd be leaving them ( ) a peace and love sign.
Old 11th August 2008
  #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bubbagump View Post
Yay! I created controversy and strife with the use of a buzz word!

In any event, th question is not how loud, but much more, how do you know when you are done? I understand what you mean by listening to a zillion records as dub is going to be very different than a punk record. I guess i just find that to be a bit cookie cutter... but I guess the real test I have to think about is the mix and what they were after... make the master reflect the mix as bet it can and forget the rest.
Most styles of music have different frequency curves. The thing is, you won't accomplish much by just analyzing a few records and that's all. You need to train your ears with one good RTA and stick with it for many years. You also have to have a gift for listening to music. You need to be able to disassemble a mix or separate all the instruments in your head. Can you do that? Can you listen for that level of detail?
Old 11th August 2008
  #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MASSIVE Master View Post
Jeebus, will you please get a life...?
Sure, but first do the sample...
Old 11th August 2008
  #23
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Quote:
That will never change, please read what I said above. I never said that you can master something without hearing....
But that's exactly what you're saying - That a visual interpretation is going to be more accurate than someone's hearing.
Quote:
Most styles of music have different frequency curves. The thing is, you won't accomplish much by just analyzing a few records and that's all. You need to train your ears with one good RTA and stick with it for many years.
(Emphasis added to show absolute utter ridiculousness)

Now you're saying to use a tool of consistency over time to find that nothing is consistent - consistently.
Quote:
You also have to have a gift for listening to music. You need to be able to disassemble a mix or separate all the instruments in your head. Can you do that? Can you listen for that level of detail?
And you'll never build it by watching a dancing light show.
Quote:
Sure, but first do the sample...
Do you think I was born yesterday?
Old 11th August 2008
  #24
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I like it when my masters look like two large breasts through a spectral analyzer. When one is as large as the other I consider all of the frequencies "balanced". As someone else said a while ago, the dynamics should look like a "puffy cloud".

What we strive for in mastering are basically angels with large breasts sitting on puffy clouds.
Old 11th August 2008
  #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by masteringhouse View Post
What we strive for in mastering are basically angels with large breasts sitting on puffy clouds.
That cracked me up in a big way until I thought "Wouldn't that mean we were dead?"
Old 11th August 2008
  #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by masteringhouse View Post
I like it when my masters look like two large breasts through a spectral analyzer.
That is advice I can put in the bank! :p I will just wait or the client to say "Wow, that master sound like tits!"

(Yar, back fellow Reaper-ite. You ever use ReaFIR as a linear phase EQ? If so, whatcha think? Schwa tends to roll some pretty tight code.)
Old 11th August 2008
  #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MASSIVE Master View Post
But that's exactly what you're saying - That a visual interpretation is going to be more accurate than someone's hearing.

(Emphasis added to show absolute utter ridiculousness)

Now you're saying to use a tool of consistency over time to find that nothing is consistent - consistently.
Are you pretending not to know how to read, Scrip? Or, is it just like you loooove to annoy me. It won't work, you know? All you are demonstrating to the Slutz is that you are very immature and disrespectful to other people's opinions, especially mine. Go back and write your little tales of people stealing studio pics and mp3 samples. That will keep your audience going and your business flowing for the rest of the month....

Quote:
And you'll never build it by watching a dancing light show.
That's exactly what a fool sees...

Quote:
Do you think I was born yesterday?
I think you don't have the COJONES to do it (the sample)......
Old 11th August 2008
  #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MASSIVE Master View Post
That cracked me up in a big way until I thought "Wouldn't that mean we were dead?"
Nah, time for a new sig though!
Old 11th August 2008
  #29
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Ged Leitch's Avatar
 

To be fair, RTA's are very useful when mixing and doing production etc,
Manuel schleis uses one when he makes the Vengeance sample CD's - but obviously uses his ears too - handy for notching out specific resonances etc...
But to use an RTA when mastering a mix wont make that much of a difference - your ears will tell you if it sounds good/bad.
Old 11th August 2008
  #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ged Leitch View Post
To be fair, RTA's are very useful when mixing and doing production etc,
Manuel schleis uses one when he makes the Vengeance sample CD's - but obviously uses his ears too - handy for notching out specific resonances etc...
But to use an RTA when mastering a mix wont make that much of a difference - your ears will tell you if it sounds good/bad.
Hi Ged, the truth is only when you are really versed at reading frequencies with RTA, you can apply that knowledge to mastering. I'll use your same example, when you know you hear a bad resonance like in the bass area, you can see it, go with the filter and surgically notch it down. The result is a smoother bass sound...That's just one of the many things you can fix with mastering with the guidance of a RTA and there are other advantages as opposed to working without one. It literally gives you a view
of what's being changed...
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