The No.1 Website for Pro Audio
Piano Sample Libraries and distortion on bad speakers
Old 22nd January 2016
  #1
Piano Sample Libraries and distortion on bad speakers

One thing that I'm struggling with is using sampled piano's. (I don't mix extremely hot. Leave about -1 headroom.) But if I listen to them on bad speakers like laptops or mobile phones the piano distorts on high volumes. I'm taking care of the Inter sample peaks as well btw...
Im able to eq/compress some of the distortion out. But what makes me insecure is that It feels like I'm destroying the piano sound completely.

Even If I listen to the demo's of the sample libraries I can hear the distortion.
If I listen to recordings of live piano's on for example iTunes I don't hear the distortion. Or just a small amount. (acceptable)
One could argue the importance of music sounding great on bad speakers, but my personal opinion is that so many people listen on their iPhones and MacBooks that it is something to take care of..




Some feedback is greatly appreciated!
Old 22nd January 2016
  #2
Tui
Gear Guru
 
Tui's Avatar
I find piano libraries are the most difficult source to mix. You are right, they mostly sound too bright and "distorted", even though it may not actually be distortion you're hearing but an unfortunate frequency mix that emphasises the top end.

There is a lot of rattling going on inside a real piano, and it needs to be that way for the characteristic sound. I recently watched a video about the making of Bechstein grand pianos, and the engineers talked about how they specifically design the frames to vibrate as much as possible!

Anyway, I've been looking for the "perfect" piano compressor for a long time, but I currently use the Softube TLA-100A. Set Attack to slow and Release to medium. This works well and results in a well rounded, mellow sound.
Old 13th January 2017
  #3
To come back to my own question:
Thanks again for the tip of using the Softube TLA-110A compressor. Very nice one. It defenetily helped. Really like the sound of it.
The problem however when you mix/master loud (Without completely ruining dynamics) then the resonances are quite hard to tackle.
Some tricks that helped me where using Fabfilter multiband compressor, using downwards expension.. Also using the multiband compressor in the troublesome areas.
What gives the most trouble is 200/300Hz to 1K. But It changes the sound of the piano too drastically. And is it ok to (sometimes, not all the time) check in the mixing process with a limiter on the master buss to hear how it stands up when everything is loud?

Big thanks in advance for taking the time to help me out a little. And sorry if my english is not perfect. (I'm from The Netherlands)
Old 13th January 2017
  #4
Lives for gear
Curious,

did you try a version 2-3 db down ? I'm wondering if the quieter version listened at a louder volume sounds better than a louder version at normal listening volume.

It could be that there's a nasty resonance peak at a certain loudness level that your laptop just cannot reproduce, so it's distorting.
Also, who knows what kind of processing goes into piano samples, sometimes they are excited and limited, which make them difficult to mix. Depends on the library.
Have you also tried this with a VI? Or just loose samples?

I think it's a good idea to listen with the limiter occasionally. Sometimes I know I get fatigued and lose track of my balances, and can easily have a tendency to push piano too much forward - rather than stripping offending elements back. A good listening reference also helps.
Old 13th January 2017
  #5
Lives for gear
 
Sotsirc's Avatar
 

I bet certain frequencies are just too loud, turning down the whole instrument doesn't really help. Try sweeping with and EQ (boosting slightly) when listening on those crappy speakers. Usually cutting a bit at the frequencies that cause the most distortion will help a lot.
Old 14th January 2017
  #6
Lives for gear
i just think you run the risk of mixing just for those cheap speakers for a temporary nice sound.

I understand make it sound good for those folks, but I also agree with, if it sounds good here, it will always sound good there.

If you are clipping the laptop, is there something inherently wrong anyways.
Old 14th January 2017
  #7
You have a point. But I'm just checking after mixing on headphones and good speakers that nothing really strange is going on. I'm just discovering that certain instruments have resonances that are tricky to translate on crappy speakers. I'm referencing with other tracks that don't have the distorted sound on those speakers. But often the piano is not the main part/lead. Electronic sounds translate better. But thanks everybody for the thinking!
Old 14th January 2017
  #8
Lives for gear
Probably those folks are used to hearing that distortion and resonances! lol ... I have to admit, I have not listened to a lot of music on laptop/phone speakers ... that is a slippery slope I don't want to go down.
Old 4th April 2017
  #9
Gear Nut
 

Exact same problem here! I usually hear this distortion on left HS8 monitor, tried changing everything in my chain, but maybe it is the piano sound itself.... on the iPhone and MacBook speaker is really nasty sometimes, I've had just mixed a solo piano with piano in blue and it is impossible to get around this without butchering the piano character. How did you solve this? How everyone do? I mean in commercial pop releases, voice + piano for example
Old 4th April 2019
  #10
Zek
Gear Head
 
Zek's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Vanx View Post
Exact same problem here! I usually hear this distortion on left HS8 monitor, tried changing everything in my chain, but maybe it is the piano sound itself.... on the iPhone and MacBook speaker is really nasty sometimes, I've had just mixed a solo piano with piano in blue and it is impossible to get around this without butchering the piano character. How did you solve this? How everyone do? I mean in commercial pop releases, voice + piano for example
Hi,

may I ask you guys whether you have any updates on this issue ?
did someone could fix this distortion/saturation problem?

I hear that nasty saturation, distortion also on my headphones and monitors especially when I'm recording Vocals, Acoustic Guitar and other sources which are rich on overtones and harmonics.

I tried so far more less everything to sort this issue out but could not really find the root cause.

I have two Audio Interfaces (Antelope Audio Zen Tour and a MOTU 8A)
both devices can be used either as an USB or Thunderbolt Interface.

With both interfaces I have that distortion/saturation in my recordings.

I'm currently trying a class compliant driver for my MOTU 8A whether or not it makes any difference.

This is another thread where people reporting distortion on a piano sound and other sources, so I was also assuming that this issue is related to the Focal Alpha monitors which seems to be not correct.

Focal Alpha 65 distortion

I did measure my room acoustics and could identify this harmonic distortion even with a sinus sweep .
See attached graph, focus on the THD in that 1 kHz area which is was mentioned from someone already on this thread
Attached Thumbnails
Piano Sample Libraries and distortion on bad speakers-bildschirmfoto-2019-02-08-um-21.06.29.jpg  
Old 4th April 2019
  #11
Lives for gear
Wow. I remember this thread.

If I recall, the OPs distortion was only on piano sounds, which I still often have issues with.

Can I ask you. Does this distortion appear on commercial releases, or its it only the material you have recorded? How does it compare to a VI? Are you driving a pre, or recording hot?
Old 4th April 2019
  #12
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Zek View Post
Hi,

may I ask you guys whether you have any updates on this issue ?
did someone could fix this distortion/saturation problem?

I hear that nasty saturation, distortion also on my headphones and monitors especially when I'm recording Vocals, Acoustic Guitar and other sources which are rich on overtones and harmonics.

I tried so far more less everything to sort this issue out but could not really find the root cause.

I have two Audio Interfaces (Antelope Audio Zen Tour and a MOTU 8A)
both devices can be used either as an USB or Thunderbolt Interface.

With both interfaces I have that distortion/saturation in my recordings.

I'm currently trying a class compliant driver for my MOTU 8A whether or not it makes any difference.

This is another thread where people reporting distortion on a piano sound and other sources, so I was also assuming that this issue is related to the Focal Alpha monitors which seems to be not correct.

Focal Alpha 65 distortion

I did measure my room acoustics and could identify this harmonic distortion even with a sinus sweep .
See attached graph, focus on the THD in that 1 kHz area which is was mentioned from someone already on this thread
Yes mate, in my case the update is that after countless hours of tests, I've finally found the piano sample that was distorting (Piano in Blue library), so the culprit was of the library itself and how it was recorded! I was able to hear it even through my headphones but on the HS8 was more evident as resonating. Of course the "developers" are willing to do... nothing.
Old 4th April 2019
  #13
Zek
Gear Head
 
Zek's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by smoke View Post
Wow. I remember this thread.

If I recall, the OPs distortion was only on piano sounds, which I still often have issues with.

Can I ask you. Does this distortion appear on commercial releases, or its it only the material you have recorded? How does it compare to a VI? Are you driving a pre, or recording hot?

thanks for the reply, it's only on my own material.
I have seen once a Youtube video where the speakers voice was saturated in the same way like my vocal recordings sometimes do. Can't recall the video.

No I'm not over driving or driving my preamps hot neither I do for the AD conversion.

Sorry but what is VI?
Old 5th April 2019
  #14
Lives for gear
Sorry for late reply.

VI is virtual instrument, because I want to isolate the issue to see if it's only external inputs. Can you load up a stock VI and see if you are hearing distortion.

Also do you have a second set of monitors to test?
Old 5th April 2019
  #15
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by Vanx View Post
Yes mate, in my case the update is that after countless hours of tests, I've finally found the piano sample that was distorting (Piano in Blue library), so the culprit was of the library itself and how it was recorded! I was able to hear it even through my headphones but on the HS8 was more evident as resonating. Of course the "developers" are willing to do... nothing.
I find this interesting. I have had this on several piano libraries, and I've come to the conclusion that there is a particular high frequency I like, but does not work well.

Frankly it has changed the way I use my piano. until I scoop up the cash to afford a better one. The one in Arturia is.... ok. But I've now been using Rhodes type and e-keys lol
Old 6th April 2019
  #16
Tui
Gear Guru
 
Tui's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Vanx View Post
Yes mate, in my case the update is that after countless hours of tests, I've finally found the piano sample that was distorting (Piano in Blue library), so the culprit was of the library itself and how it was recorded! I was able to hear it even through my headphones but on the HS8 was more evident as resonating. Of course the "developers" are willing to do... nothing.
I've been using the Piano in Blue library for a long time. Are you aware that there are two sample sets, one recorded with tape which, naturally, distorts quite a lot?

Other than that, piano is always difficult to record. Many recordings of real pianos sound brash and rather horrible...
Old 6th April 2019
  #17
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tui View Post
I've been using the Piano in Blue library for a long time. Are you aware that there are two sample sets, one recorded with tape which, naturally, distorts quite a lot?

Other than that, piano is always difficult to record. Many recordings of real pianos sound brash and rather horrible...
Yes I know, bu I never use the tape sounds!
That distortion sound is present on both sample sets, as if I recall well, they processed the plain ones with tape in a consequent time.
I really used to love PiB and tried to fix the samples one by one by myself, I did a pretty good job, but then it was impossible to re-save the library as I liked and I reverted everything to standard (developers were aware of this as we exchanged numerous emails)
Old 7th April 2019
  #18
Zek
Gear Head
 
Zek's Avatar
 

Unhappy

Quote:
Originally Posted by smoke View Post
Sorry for late reply.

VI is virtual instrument, because I want to isolate the issue to see if it's only external inputs. Can you load up a stock VI and see if you are hearing distortion.

Also do you have a second set of monitors to test?

my sound problem is not with Virtual Instruments but its with recording any source in my home-studio. Doesn't matter what Audio-Interface and what computer I use.
Yesterday nigth I've noticed that just recording with this "simple" chain
Neumann km184 ->Vovox Cable -> Antelope Audio Zen Tour (or Motu 8A) -> USB cable ->Mac was more less not possible as there is so much noise like EMI or other interference in the signal.

When I touched the km184 the noise disappears.

I changed the Vovox Cable with another one which has shielding and the noise was gone, However trying to record by passive bass via DI lead to the same issue again

Last edited by Zek; 7th April 2019 at 05:06 PM..
Old 12th April 2019
  #19
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by Zek View Post
my sound problem is not with Virtual Instruments but its with recording any source in my home-studio. Doesn't matter what Audio-Interface and what computer I use.
Yesterday nigth I've noticed that just recording with this "simple" chain
Neumann km184 ->Vovox Cable -> Antelope Audio Zen Tour (or Motu 8A) -> USB cable ->Mac was more less not possible as there is so much noise like EMI or other interference in the signal.

When I touched the km184 the noise disappears.

I changed the Vovox Cable with another one which has shielding and the noise was gone, However trying to record by passive bass via DI lead to the same issue again
This is an issue beyond what I can titulate on. I know it's 5 days later, I'm catching up. Did you get any resolve on this? In any case I can think of this should not happen.

edit: You may even want to discuss this with the manufacturer.
Old 30th June 2020
  #20
Here for the gear
 

I have the same problem now in 2020. Trying to make The Grandeur or Alicia Keys to sound good on an Iphone 7. Impossible. They have an inherent distortion that somehow blows on Iphone speakers. Listening to all kinds of pianos (libraries or real ones) I can hear distortion on the phone speakers, but libraries seem to boost it to another level. I tried dynamic EQ, ressonance removal, dynamic comp, play with mono and stereo, playing with volumes, like changing the plugin volume changing kontakt volume, all kinds of different combiantions.

As a conclusion, I think these libraries have a very present sound, almost as if they were recorded inside the piano, or super close, so it's very hard to eq. (like changing mic position). I wonder if the distortion is also generated by digital artifacts.

In my case I'm trying to mix a solo piano piece, so all these distortions become very evident. If anyone has an update on this, I'd love to know.

Best,
Old 3rd July 2020
  #21
Tui
Gear Guru
 
Tui's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by cadu byington View Post
I have the same problem now in 2020. Trying to make The Grandeur or Alicia Keys to sound good on an Iphone 7. Impossible. They have an inherent distortion that somehow blows on Iphone speakers. Listening to all kinds of pianos (libraries or real ones) I can hear distortion on the phone speakers, but libraries seem to boost it to another level. I tried dynamic EQ, ressonance removal, dynamic comp, play with mono and stereo, playing with volumes, like changing the plugin volume changing kontakt volume, all kinds of different combiantions.

As a conclusion, I think these libraries have a very present sound, almost as if they were recorded inside the piano, or super close, so it's very hard to eq. (like changing mic position). I wonder if the distortion is also generated by digital artifacts.

In my case I'm trying to mix a solo piano piece, so all these distortions become very evident. If anyone has an update on this, I'd love to know.

Best,
Solo piano is really hard to mix. You need to cut a lot of low-frequency rumble and compress heavily. On piano I love the Korvpressor, it is very transparent.
Old 3rd July 2020
  #22
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tui View Post
Solo piano is really hard to mix. You need to cut a lot of low-frequency rumble and compress heavily. On piano I love the Korvpressor, it is very transparent.
It makes sense, even if I was always told that solo piano pieces should never be compressed at all
Old 24th July 2020
  #23
Gear Maniac
I talked to an experienced sound engineer/acoustics engineer the other day about this, and he's an accomplished acoustic pianist as well. He has since the beginning of 2010s heard this "acoustic piano distortion" on even classical high end audiophile recordings. All sample libraries too, and the only recordings he has not heard anything like this on, are the ECM catalouge that was made by Jan-Erik Kongshaug. Although that he didn't knew at all his fame around studio and recordings. He didn't know even that he passed last year and really couldn't care less, although he claimed that ECM records usually has a certain "air" or atmosphere and are devoid of that.

He compared it to something in the vein of "acoustic choir" dist, but is something that can't be read in peak/vu meters on any mixing board or interface. I e that when masses of people are singing the occasionally hit the exact note undeliberately and everyone hits a pitch perfect note that doesn't waver a cent up and down or are exactly +-0 dead on. However, this occurs only maybe through a few milliseconds at most. I e the piano strings that has double courses has to be spot on tuned properly. When they are not they waver slowly and passes in and out from the exact amount, and gives a "peak". The acoustic choir dist doesn't occur as distorting something above safe levels, but can be heard as if it was just one person hitting that one note. The choir loses the choir effect and sounds like one note. He said it can happen with certain piano recordings too. It seems to be always in the high-mid, upper midranges.

- - - - - - -

I've read that Jan-Erik Kongshaug heard this too, and very often was very reluctant to continue recording, if he didn't rang up his piano tuner to come in and fine tune the grand piano A SECOND TIME the same day, if he heard this during recording. He said certain studio monitors exacerbated this, and he used those for reference. He generally didn't like Genelecs because of this, and usually mixed and listened to high end B&W audiophile speakers. He also mentioned this, that certain microphones, whether they had round membranes, square, or triangle, could pick up this "acoustically distorted sound" in different manners, some not at all, and some magnifying it.

Me myself, have yet to hear this kind of piano distortion, and if I did, or ever do, I would find it so subtle that it is neglible for my purposes. I would think it was part and parcel of a grand piano's sound. I do know that whenever I am trying out audiophile speakers, that I have a reference or two CD's of very percussive music that must include steel pans. They are the most revealing and can make any speaker cone choke at low levels. Fast transients. It's mostly Andy Narell on Windham Hill records that has been recorded pristine too. And the like.

If the speakers can take this without choking, they're up for almost everything else too.
Old 24th July 2020
  #24
Gear Maniac
Of course any compressor will bring up these idiosyncrasies of the piano sound as well. Brick-wall limiting certainly does.

I should clarify that the sound man I was talking to, did say that it was "something in the vein of..." or "aikin to", that one with the choir dist comparison, and not exactly the same.
📝 Reply

Similar Threads

Thread / Thread Starter Replies / Views Last Post
replies: 112 views: 149394
Avatar for thomassmith
thomassmith 9th February 2017
replies: 70 views: 35559
Avatar for thomassmith
thomassmith 2nd February 2017
replies: 2062 views: 218475
Avatar for Trappa75
Trappa75 23rd July 2020
replies: 2 views: 1878
Avatar for mikoo69
mikoo69 21st December 2018
Topic:
Post Reply

Welcome to the Gearslutz Pro Audio Community!

Registration benefits include:
  • The ability to reply to and create new discussions
  • Access to members-only giveaways & competitions
  • Interact with VIP industry experts in our guest Q&As
  • Access to members-only sub forum discussions
  • Access to members-only Chat Room
  • Get INSTANT ACCESS to the world's best private pro audio Classifieds for only USD $20/year
  • Promote your eBay auctions and Reverb.com listings for free
  • Remove this message!
You need an account to post a reply. Create a username and password below and an account will be created and your post entered.


 
 
Slide to join now Processing…
🖨️ Show Printable Version
✉️ Email this Page
🔍 Search thread
🎙️ View mentioned gear
Forum Jump
Forum Jump