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Let's talk about DISTORTION!
Old 18th May 2006
  #1
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Darius van H's Avatar
 

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Let's talk about DISTORTION!

I was wondering what the great and the good assembled here think about distortion in mastering (and maybe in production generally).

Do you ever put in distortion on purpose?

If so, how?

Do you think people expect their stuff to be somehow more distorted after mastering?

Do you think distortion is important at mix-time?

How do you think distortion differs now from, say, 30 years ago?

Distortion tricks?

And, well, anything else distortion related really.
Old 18th May 2006
  #2
Gear Maniac
 

Sure.. I've used distortion in mastering before.. probably will do again..

Hear alot of people talking about putting that pheonix plugin over the 2 bus.. thats distortion..

personaly as an extremely budget slut.. I've found the free THD plugin to do wonders in the right circumstances..

as with everything (and more so than most things!) used wrongly distortion is a crime.. sometimes a mix needs some light distortion (saturation if you will :p) to bring it out.. othertimes it's completely distorted to start with.. and your doing everything you can to try and save it from that.

No doubt more experienced people will come soon and make much wiser replies than this one :p
Old 18th May 2006
  #3
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Nigel Jopson's Avatar
 

This is the particular topic which will be discussed at the AES mastering seminar in Paris:
https://www.gearslutz.com/board/mastering-forum/70841-aes-paris-mastering-seminar-all-gearslutz-welcome.html

I hope to see you there, Darius.
Old 18th May 2006
  #4
Gear Maniac
 

the distortion talked about here (clipping) is more about straight out loudness.. the usual way people do this type of clipping is to simply push a signal thats too hot through their converters (and hence chop off the top of all the big peaks)..

I got the idea from the first post he was talking about distortion more as something to add to the sound.. than simply a way to make it louder.. but contary to my own opinion.. I am sometimes wrong :p
Old 18th May 2006
  #5
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Hey Nige'

Unfortunately i won't be in Paris.

Actually i wasn't really thinking about the loudness thing when starting this thread and purposefully didn't mention it - of course it's highly relevent these days but it would be a shame for this thread to focus too much on this one issue when it's been done to death so much recently!
Old 18th May 2006
  #6
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Nigel Jopson's Avatar
 

Sorry to hear you can't make it.

The AES mastering seminar is not just about loudness.

Daniel Weiss is addressing the particular topic of audio integrity/distortion in the digital domain, including:
- Fixed point / floating point differences and implications
- Clipping in SRCs due to the nature of linear phase filters, linear
phase filter behaviour in general
- Clipping in minimum phase filters (EQ overshoot)
- Dynamic range processors and the sampling the

Graeme (owner and ME at The Exchange in London) will, I'm sure, be addressing the issue of deliberately introducing an element of stike distortion, for effect, as you mention in your post.
Old 19th May 2006
  #7
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heathen's Avatar
 

If your using distortion in a song as a say vocal effect then it is best to record the distortion on a copied vocal track and blend it with the original, mixing distortion in is much better than adding it as a last minute creative decision. Make sure you know you want the distortion and what type of distortion before recording a track if possible. So in production distortion can be great.
Though distortion in mastering is'nt good I think unless its say the mild coloured distortion of valves or any other great piece of analog gear, all these cause mild distortions to the original sound, as you know.
We all know that clipping converters is'nt good practice, but if you like it that way just do it.

Just my opinion.
Heath
Old 19th May 2006
  #8
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Lots of things make distortion.. The HEDD-192, for instance. And a little bit sounds great. The L2 also makes distortion, maybe not-so-great.

Nothing wrong with distortion, but you should always start with the cleanest possible chain, and muck it up from there, imo.


DC
Old 19th May 2006
  #9
Gear Maniac
 

if i draw a crooked line and then hand you a lens that makes it look straight...you can bet there is a lot of distortion in that lens, but hopefully you don't see any at all.

jeff dinces
Old 19th May 2006
  #10
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lucey's Avatar
 

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all music has distortion, all recording has distortion

the issue is 'good distortion' vs bad ... and having a clean path, as DC said, that you can choose to take off the rails
Old 19th May 2006
  #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cerberus
if i draw a crooked line and then hand you a lens that makes it look straight...you can bet there is a lot of distortion in that lens, but hopefully you don't see any at all.
Duude! Adaptive Optics!

Ahem.

DC
Old 19th May 2006
  #12
Gear Maniac
 

i guess anyone who uses hedd 192 is a jedi of distortion. the trick is to add just a little bit! i never would have guessed that second part...thought more was always better...thanks dave.

jeff dinces
Old 19th May 2006
  #13
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Darius van H's Avatar
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by dcollins
Lots of things make distortion.. The HEDD-192, for instance. And a little bit sounds great. The L2 also makes distortion, maybe not-so-great.

Nothing wrong with distortion, but you should always start with the cleanest possible chain, and muck it up from there, imo.


DC
I agree, nothin wrong with a bit (or a lot) of distortion - as long as it's put in consciously and under control.

Good answers - keep 'em coming.

Bob O?
Chris A?
Old 19th May 2006
  #14
Mastering
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Darius van H
I agree, nothin wrong with a bit (or a lot) of distortion - as long as it's put in consciously and under control.

Good answers - keep 'em coming.

Bob O?
Chris A?

DC said it all. That's exactly my philosophy. It's better to have a clean chain and then add a little controlled fuzz than to have a fuzzy chain and have to try to get rid of it! I've just got a Pendulum OCL-2 (nice box) and I have some surplus Bournes knob pots. I sent Greg a pair of Bournes pots which he installed on the active output gain and also a passive attenuator at the tail of the box. The Knob pot is a ten turn pot marked from 0 to 1000. Unity gain is set at 0. If I want to overdrive the active section of the OCL-2 I turn up the knob pot and correspondingly turn down the passive attenuator. I can read the "amount" of overdrive on the knob pot so the amount of overdrive is all "under control" and repeatable. E.G. "using 570 on the overdrive".
Old 19th May 2006
  #15
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Hi Bob, Ive dreamed of getting stepped attenuators on the inputs and outputs of my Pendulum es8, I'm just wondering if you could recommend which type of pots would be good for the job. Not being that good with electronics, I'm just wondering if the Bournes pots you mentioned are the ones you would recommend (if plentifull) or any others. My only hassle with the es8 is no stepped attenuators, having to re calibrate every time I change i/o settings. I use it a lot so it probably is worth doing.
I really like this unit so I would like to be able to get the most out of it. I'd actually like unity gain at 12 o'clock, have you any tips you could share? If you get the spare time.

Thanks
Heath
Old 20th May 2006
  #16
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pingu's Avatar
 

Let's talk about DISTORTION!



Id rather we didnt.

Old 20th May 2006
  #17
Mastering
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by heathen
Hi Bob, Ive dreamed of getting stepped attenuators on the inputs and outputs of my Pendulum es8, I'm just wondering if you could recommend which type of pots would be good for the job. Not being that good with electronics, I'm just wondering if the Bournes pots you mentioned are the ones you would recommend (if plentifull) or any others. My only hassle with the es8 is no stepped attenuators, having to re calibrate every time I change i/o settings. I use it a lot so it probably is worth doing.
I really like this unit so I would like to be able to get the most out of it. I'd actually like unity gain at 12 o'clock, have you any tips you could share? If you get the spare time.

Thanks
Heath
You should talk to Greg, the designer. I do not have a schematic. All the mods were done for me by the designer, Greg. I just supplied the pots and discussed the setup I would like with him. The unity gain setting was done by Greg for me, tweaking an inside trimpot on the OCL-2 that already exists inside the unit.

If the ES8 is physically designed like the OCL-2, then there is not enough physical room for anything larger than the Bournes multiturn pot. I happened to have a pair of 50K pots that can be made to fit. Greg has to weigh in here, he is the designer and has to make sure the impedance is right, etc.

The neat thing about the Bournes pots is you can read out the position of the attenuator very precisely. I think I only have some 20Ks left. These are very expensive pots and I got them surplus.
Old 20th May 2006
  #18
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Masterer's Avatar
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Darius van H
I agree, nothin wrong with a bit (or a lot) of distortion - as long as it's put in consciously and under control.

Good answers - keep 'em coming.

Bob O?
Chris A?
Not much really. Unless I'm mixing, in which case quite a bit.
If I print to 1/2 inch during mastering some distortion usually happens along with compression 'cause I'm hitting it hard for that purpose.
Old 20th May 2006
  #19
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Thanks for the info Bob, much appreciated. I'll send him an email and hopefully he can advise me as to whether or not I can get mine done locally in Aus, if not I may have to order a 2nd one being the GS I am. Cheers for explaining about the pots and thanks for being on GS too, I've learnt quite a lot in the last few months reading your posts.

Cheers
Heath
Old 20th May 2006
  #20
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phild's Avatar
Chris,

Didn't I see Coyne and Gehringer with those SPL vitalizers last time I was down?

(part of the infamous "base" eq?)

They basically add distortion don't they? They're not just spatial fx ...?

Anyone here use one?

Phil
Old 28th May 2006
  #21
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Darius van H's Avatar
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by phild
Chris,

Didn't I see Coyne and Gehringer with those SPL vitalizers last time I was down?

(part of the infamous "base" eq?)

They basically add distortion don't they? They're not just spatial fx ...?

Anyone here use one?

Phil
I wonder if that's what Chris Gehringer used on Musiq Soulchild's "Juslisten"?....that album had a distorted, crushed sound i didn't really like.....definately the sound of tubes being hit too hard.
Old 28th May 2006
  #22
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Darius van H's Avatar
 

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What about distortion in jazz?.........I tend to like jazz recordings from the 60's and early 70's more then the recent stuff......something about tape and the tube gear they had in dem days seems warmer to me.......so whadayreckon?........jazz too clean these days?
Old 28th May 2006
  #23
Gear Head
 
Nigel Jopson's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by phild
SPL vitalizers ... They basically add distortion don't they? They're not just spatial fx ...?

Anyone here use one?
I've used the SPL vitalizers. There's a big difference between the small 1u rack solid state 9736 and 9526 Mk2 Vitalizer and the 9530 Tube Vitalizer. I would think of them as combined compressor/tone circuits rather than "spatial fx."

The 9736 and 9526 are not really for mastering rooms, they are the sort of little boxes which might help musicians make their mixes a bit more dramatic. The 9526 does have one of the best single-knob "stereo expander" circuits I've ever heard, though. It always sounded to me as if there is some sort of high-mid boost and limiting taking place as the knob is turned, it has a good way of bringing out the "rooms" in a mix without crowding it too much. Not bad.

The 9530 tube model Vitalizer is a far more flexible and sophisticated bit of kit (and more expensive.) It does not generate new hf harmonics in the way the old Aphex units did. The 9530 basically contains two compressors in each channel, one for HF and one for LF, plus limiters on the output. There's a couple of switchable filters for highs and lows on each channel as well. The tube output stage can be switched in or out and the box is very nicely level dependent in its effect on audio.

If you don't own any tube equipment then the 9530 is a well-priced and flexible means of colouring sound. If, for example, you already own a couple of Neve eqs, a small mixer with phase switches and a Manley variable mu compressor, you probably have the means to achieve similar results with better quality. "Psychoacoustic" is a rather ... er ... "extreme" term to describe the effect of the Vitalizers, useful though they are.

Just to confuse matters, SPL have recently introduced the 9739 Vitalizer Mk2-"T" (basically the MK2 with a tube output stage.) If you just want a tube processor, SPL also have the lower-price Charisma 2, which is a tube channel with drive and saturation controls.

SPL make good kit, but when put head to head with Manley/Chiswick Reach/EAR/Fearn the unfair nature of the comparison shows. I do reckon SPL are a top choice if you would like to try the sound of tubes without putting a hand too deep in your pocket.

Hope this helps.
Old 28th May 2006
  #24
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phild's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Darius van H
I wonder if that's what Chris Gehringer used on Musiq Soulchild's "Juslisten"?....that album had a distorted, crushed sound i didn't really like.....definately the sound of tubes being hit too hard.
Funny you mention that record. I had more than a few clients make me listen to the "juslisen" CD really hard - i.e. they wanted that sound! So I'm familiar with it.

AFAIK, CG used the VariMu and Prism comps around the time he did that project. The big Avalon eq, as well. Prism and Avalon are long gone now.

Phil
Old 28th May 2006
  #25
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phild's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nigel Jopson
If you don't own any tube equipment then the 9530 is a well-priced and flexible means of colouring sound. If, for example, you already own a couple of Neve eqs, a small mixer with phase switches and a Manley variable mu compressor, you probably have the means to achieve similar results with better quality. "Psychoacoustic" is a rather ... er ... "extreme" term to describe the effect of the Vitalizers, useful though they are.

Just to confuse matters, SPL have recently introduced the 9739 Vitalizer Mk2-"T" (basically the MK2 with a tube output stage.)

Hi Nigel,

Thanks. This was very informative. Point taken about comparisons and "quality" to other hi-end equipment, as well.
It's the MK2-T that I've actually ordered.
I've had so much stuff over the years and I suppose I want something more unusual?
I'm not so afraid of not liking it...in fact I suspect it'll be a rack warmer most of the time.

And It's not even so much for the "tube" effect either (I don't miss tubes at all). I just never had a vitalizer before and I get bored easily. It could easily have been a xbox360 instead!

If I ever went back to tubes I'd get a VariMu again.
I will admit that I'm curious about some of the TubeTech stuff. Although I sorta tried the multiband and didn't like it - the quality was good.. I sometimes wish we had kept our old stepped Pultecs at the studio. I could have found a use for those now and then. Wasn't Dave Collins building something like that?

Phil
Old 30th May 2006
  #26
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airmate's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Darius van H
jazz too clean these days?
definitely!
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