The No.1 Website for Pro Audio
Consistently Harsh Vocal tone (NOT SIBILANCE), help please?
Old 31st October 2019
  #1
Here for the gear
 

Smile Consistently Harsh Vocal tone (NOT SIBILANCE), help please?

Hello

To preface this i wanna be clear that i've been mixing for around 8 years but i'm aware that, as we say in egypt, "el leiba di malhash kebeer", roughly translating to "this game knows no masters" hahahaha -- i still have a lot to learn

Having said that, i'm mixing professionally now, making a living, etc..
Despite this, i am noticing that when mixing and mastering pop / hip pop songs that require lots of compression and limiting in the mastering phase, i get this insanely buzzy, almost inside my head sound in my vocals, and its never ever sibilance, that is well controlled using multiple stages of de-essing and multiband compression in some instances

It is just a broadband harshness accross the entire 2k - 15k region ... there is no cutting i can apply that can fix it, its like i have clipped this region or something, but i've made sure i haven't. It is particularly bad on vowel sounds (aaah, eeeeee's are very very harsh)

When i turn up my mixes to 60 (full volume) in my car, the vocals are absolutely unbearable. On other systems like apple earphones, imac speakers, my monitors, and bose speakers (my checkers), they sound more tolerable but still not sheen-y and smoothe and buttery like pop productions.


I don't mean to compare, since i dont have access to hardware compressors / eqs and i'm told those impart a certain warmth and naturalness, but SURELY something is going wrong somewhere in my chain, and trust me i have tried everything -- i went so far as to bypass plugin by plugin in the entire vocal chain / vocal buss chain / mixbus, and check at each stage in my car. it seems to be the addition of my processing, but i am not even booosting the high end ever. I'm only compressing (not heavily, the vocal is still dynamic and not choked), adding some decapitator, some waves scheps 73, basic subtractive eq, etc...


I'd like some help, particularly with understanding levels of saturation and how thhey can affect a mix. I often have decaptiator on my master bus, and sometimes waves abbey-road VINYL, and then ozone 8 suite for mastering. i use the tape module as well on ozone and i underbias it so that the mix is brighter. i tend to go heavy on hi end emphasis dial (but just as heavy as many tutorials and masterclasses)

Mics used:
Rode NT-1 A
Bluebird BABY BOTTLE
Neuman TLM 102 (known for being smooth, but i manage to fu** that up somehow)


Any tips? Anyone go through something similar? am i oversaturating or something? is it perhaps a buildup or reverb and delay? any thing that pops into your mind is appreciating because i've exhausted my options
Old 31st October 2019
  #2
Here for the gear
 

I can link some examples of what i'm talking about upon request.
Old 31st October 2019
  #3
Here for the gear
 

Recording equipment:

TLM 102 ---> Focusrite Scarlett (could it be bad converters) ----> directly into DAW
Old 31st October 2019
  #4
Gear Addict
 

It sounds like you have digital clipping on the way in. If EQ is not fixing the issue, the recording itself is mangled either by your mic, your pre, or your converter. I've done this with snare before. No amount of EQ could fix what I had done, and what I had done is slammed my converter on the way in
Old 31st October 2019
  #5
Lives for gear
Same thought... what levels are you seeing? Try recording at a lower level and add gain (if needed) at the end of your chain.
Old 31st October 2019
  #6
Quote:
i still have a lot to learn
Ichallah Elian
Quote:
i am noticing that when mixing and mastering pop / hip pop songs that require lots of compression and limiting in the mastering phase, i get this insanely buzzy, almost inside my head sound in my vocals,
What are your PEAK and RMS dB levels on your master bus and main outs?
Old 31st October 2019
  #7
Gear Head
 

Can you post a clip?
Old 31st October 2019
  #8
Lives for gear
 
decocco's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Elian20 View Post
I'd like some help, particularly with understanding levels of saturation and how thhey can affect a mix. I often have decaptiator on my master bus, and sometimes waves abbey-road VINYL, and then ozone 8 suite for mastering. i use the tape module as well on ozone and i underbias it so that the mix is brighter. i tend to go heavy on hi end emphasis dial (but just as heavy as many tutorials and masterclasses)
I haven’t even heard your mix and it sounds distorted!
You have LOTS of processing going on.

You need to troubleshoot. Start at the last thing in the chain, remove it and listen. Does the problem remain? Start by removing your master bus processing. Are the vocals still distorted?

Next mute everything in the mix that’s not vocal related and listen. Still distorted?

Remove vocal ambience effects. Still distorted?

Start removing processors on vocals, from the last in the chain to the first. Still distorted?

If your raw vocal track is still distorted, then you need to troubleshoot your recording chain.
Old 1st November 2019
  #9
Here for the gear
 
Flex1's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Elian20 View Post
Recording equipment:

TLM 102 ---> Focusrite Scarlett (could it be bad converters) ----> directly into DAW
it could well be this, i have a scarlett and if i use a mic straight into it it sounds harsh and to my ears pretty awful, i'd suggest mic into a mic pre add any gain with the mic pre before you go into scarlett
Old 1st November 2019
  #10
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by Flex1 View Post
i have a scarlett and if i use a mic straight into it it sounds harsh and to my ears pretty awful, i'd suggest mic into a mic pre add any gain with the mic pre before you go into scarlett
This seems wrong, and possibly wrong twice.
First, I’m not sure what you are describing as “harsh”. My experience with the Scarlett (and many other interface pres) is that they are very neutral. Sometimes neutral in a very bland way. If you try to drive them hard to add some character, they just crap out and distort. But before being overdriven, they aren’t harsh.
Second, your advice is to buy an outboard pre and then run that preamp into the Scarlett. If the Scarlett sounds harsh, it will sound harsh with the outboard preamp as a source.
Old 1st November 2019
  #11
Here for the gear
 
Flex1's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bushman View Post
This seems wrong, and possibly wrong twice.
First, I’m not sure what you are describing as “harsh”. My experience with the Scarlett (and many other interface pres) is that they are very neutral. Sometimes neutral in a very bland way. If you try to drive them hard to add some character, they just crap out and distort. But before being overdriven, they aren’t harsh.
Second, your advice is to buy an outboard pre and then run that preamp into the Scarlett. If the Scarlett sounds harsh, it will sound harsh with the outboard preamp as a source.
i hear what you're saying, but the scarlett interfaces are far from great imho, and it seems with mine at least, i get better results doing any gain staging through a mic pre and sending that into the interface rather than adding the gain with the scarlett
Old 1st November 2019
  #12
Gear Addict
 

I have the very same experience with the Rode NT-1 A and other under 1000 usd condenser mics.
Then I used Oeksound Soothe. Bam! No more harshness.
Old 1st November 2019
  #13
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Elian20 View Post
I can link some examples of what i'm talking about upon request.
Raw unprocessed to start.
For the record I've heard voices that flat out have a clipped' buzz sound to them --on dry playback, phones monitoring, for that mater heard standing with them in the room.
Old 1st November 2019
  #14
Here for the gear
 

This is the mix that prompted me to post this thread. It is not very good -- the arrangement did not help and the recording was through an NT1-A in an untreated room (the client's recordings, not mine)

spotify:album:6jfP3XfwNtuJjECDpekU8y


Please listen to the final chorus, turn up your volume -- do you hear the harshness in the word "so is every other DAY" in the word "day" --- the open vowel "ay" sounds painful to me.
Old 1st November 2019
  #15
Here for the gear
 

I was looking into Soothe! Is it actually that helpful?
Old 1st November 2019
  #16
Here for the gear
 

@ lionaudio (i haven't figured out how to reply to posts yet)

I am very much not clipping on the way in, or any fader, or any plugin, at any stage of the mix. Learnt that the hard way a few years ago and i've been obsessive about it not happening again since

My peak going on is around -12db -- both the scarlett preamp and my daw showing very healthy green signals well below 0db
Old 1st November 2019
  #17
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Elian20 View Post
This is the mix that prompted me to post this thread. It is not very good -- the arrangement did not help and the recording was through an NT1-A in an untreated room (the client's recordings, not mine)

spotify:album:6jfP3XfwNtuJjECDpekU8y


Please listen to the final chorus, turn up your volume -- do you hear the harshness in the word "so is every other DAY" in the word "day" --- the open vowel "ay" sounds painful to me.
Sounds fine to me man. Nothing is jumping out as harsh. Heavily processed for sure, but not in a way I'd call bad if I heard this track on my own.

And the part you mentioned is particularly hard to evaluate because there are so many vocal layers going on at that spot. It seems like extra tracks or some other kind of doubling drop in on that phrase.

Like a somebody else suggested, i'd just loop the spot you like least, and start bypassing fx one by one. It's easy for something to accidentally overdrive something else downstream, or otherwise interact poorly, even if those fx sounded great when you first added them.

If you want to post more stuff, maybe post just that one vocal track soloed, then again with all fx off. But overall, I'm not hearing anything that necessarily sounds out of place, just processed in a way that fits the style.
Old 2nd November 2019
  #18
Lives for gear
 

Taking Decapitator off your master bus would be a great start.
Old 2nd November 2019
  #19
Gear Guru
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by jammiedodger666 View Post
Taking Decapitator off your master bus would be a great start.
I was just about to say the exact same thing.

first place I would look for 'harshness' would be distortion plugs
Old 2nd November 2019
  #20
Here for the gear
 

I've recently found that something very weird happens when A/B-ing with waves abbey road on the master bus ... i used proq3 to solo the top end (anything after 7k) and something witht he vocals and the hi hats happen when its on .. that is only apparent once you listen to the top end on its own while a-bing

it sounds like every hi hat comes with a bit crushed sound .. a crunchy "kkhh" sound, and vocals distort much easier, even though i dont have any input drive at all. Im used to leaving abbey roads vinyl there because i like the crackle sound and it really does wonders for the width of the mix, always. Perhaps its this. When its bypassed the top ends sounds much more sterile, but also much much less distort-y and crunchy .. sigh. I liked that plugin

So the mix i posted does not sound overly brash in the open vowels in your opinions? it is not the mic, or the focusrite converters in your opinions
Old 3rd November 2019
  #21
Go back to basics. Does stuff sound good when it's tracked? You list about 45 plugins you're throwing at the issue...maybe you need to go back and check that everything is tracked as well as it can be. You know what they say...a well tracked mix should sound pretty good already just by pushing all the faders up.
Old 3rd November 2019
  #22
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by Elian20 View Post
When i turn up my mixes to 60 (full volume) in my car, the vocals are absolutely unbearable.
This is a little off-topic, but this sentence made the oxygen mask pop out of my overhead panel, and I’m not even on an airplane.

1. Why are you listening to anything anywhere at maximum volume? Have you checked the SPL of your car system at full volume? I fear you will damage your hearing and shorten your career.
2. On a car system, and really on most systems, there is a very good chance that the system or some element of the system will be driven into distortion to at least some degree when it is played at maximum volume. That makes your report that your mix vocals are “unbearable” at that volume somewhat unreliable because the system may be contributing to or creating that unbearable sound through amplifier clipping or some other overload factor.

You seem like an intelligent person who is approaching GS with an excellent attitude. I’d like to think that you have the sense to avoid extremely loud sounds as much as possible.
Old 3rd November 2019
  #23
Gear Guru
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bushman View Post
...the system will be driven into distortion to at least some degree when it is played at maximum volume. That makes your report that your mix vocals are “unbearable” at that volume somewhat unreliable because the system may be contributing to or creating that unbearable sound through amplifier clipping or some other overload factor....
I agree. I would suggest comparing to commercial records in that same environment if it were not so dangerous and futile. In any case, I am pretty sure the same thing would happen. Cranking your car system to the max is not a reliable "mix reference".

Quote:
You seem like an intelligent person who is approaching GS with an excellent attitude. I’d like to think that you have the sense to avoid extremely loud sounds as much as possible.
To me, this volume extremism may go hand in hand with the rather long list of saturation and "bigger-izer" plugins the OP seems to be continuously mentioning. Bigger, wider, awesomer. It all fits with a: "if some is good- more must be better" philosophy.

It should be noted that even when properly gain-staged, many of these types of effects are not additive, but multiplicative in nature.
Old 4th November 2019
  #24
Here for the gear
 

Hello,

The reason i push up the mix to near loudest value (car goes to 63, i push to 60) because i have done so with commercial records of the same-ish genres i work with usually (Tame impala records, Daniel Ceasar, Snarky Puppy, Gorillaz) -- None of them fizz out at 60. There is a truly noticeable difference between those records and mine at that loud of a level, and as they say, you know the sound of your car very well and thats why the car mix test is very valuable to me. Not to sound defensive, but i don't understand why all the condecension. I do have the sense and intelligence to approach this methodically... and part of that is holding my mix to the same standard as a snarky puppy record, which has as many instruments and is as crowded mix-wise.

Joeq, that is exactly what i have done and what we all do in our cars. i am sure you have cranked the volume in your car on a record you enjoy. I was simply doing the same with my mix and it sounds almost as if it is low passed. A loss of quality. a weird crispiness that is not comparable to the sheen and ease the top end on commercial records has. This thread is about why that may be -- and no the same thing does not happen with commercial records

For the record, decapitator is set to N module with drive knob on 1, mixed in 90 percent dry, 10 percent wet -- i dont consider that heavy handed, i am confused though as to why this crispiness occurs since it doesn't sound bad in my studio or other speaker systems (apple earphones, portable speakers, things i generally check my mix on)

I'm currently mixing a record and i will be doing almost nothing on my masterbus and eliminating saturation from my process to see if things sound less hyped and less fizzy. thank you!
Old 4th November 2019
  #25
Gear Guru
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Elian20 View Post
Hello,

The reason i push up the mix to near loudest value (car goes to 63, i push to 60) because i have done so with commercial records of the same-ish genres i work with usually (Tame impala records, Daniel Ceasar, Snarky Puppy, Gorillaz) -- None of them fizz out at 60. There is a truly noticeable difference between those records and mine at that loud of a level, ...
the commercial records you are using to compare to have all been mastered. Who is mastering your mixes?
Old 4th November 2019
  #26
Lives for gear
 
Sigma's Avatar
i hear capsule overload and a lot of 3k
Old 4th November 2019
  #27
Gear Addict
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Elian20 View Post
I was looking into Soothe! Is it actually that helpful?
Try the mid-high vocal rescue preset. You'll be amazed.
Old 4th November 2019
  #28
Lives for gear
 

I didn't see anyone asking the OP the most basic things you need to know before giving advice.

First. Are you using Headphones or monitors when mixing?

If the answer is Headphones (which I suspect) I wouldn't bother going any farther advising him.

If your mixes sound bad in the car why wasn't that detected mixing? Any decent set of monitors should make any harsh tones stand out like a sore thumb. You'd fix those issues long before you got to the point of doing a mixdown.

On the other hand, Headphones are anything but flat. You can mix all day long and never get a flat mix. it may sound OK on the headphones but the minute you play it back on speakers that are anywhere close to being flat, the flaws in the mix that were masked by the headphones stand out clearly.

The rule of thumb is this. Whatever the headphones or monitors have too little off, you can be sure you're mix will wind up having too much of. Likewise, whatever they have too much of, you'll wind up dialing back and make your mix need it. Example, headphones typically have too much bass. Your mix will wind up sounding thin and harsh. If they aren't bass boosted they may have a loudness curve which gives the EQ a smiley face with scooped mids and boosted highs and lows. When you mix you wind up reversing the damage the headphones are doing to the mix in an attempt to make the mix flat. Whet you actually wind up doing is boosting the upper mids and wind up with a mix that sounds like fingernails on a chalkboard.

What you must have for mixing are flat studio monitors which will make even the smallest flaws in that mix stand out like a sore thumb. If you can then make the mix sound anywhere close to sounding good, it will sound fabulous through normal Hi Fi quality speakers at any volume.

If you are using headphones the only suggestions I have are these. A/B compare you mix against commercial mixes. This isn't a solution but it helps.
Second download a Frequency analyzer plugin for your DAW and for your cell phone. Next time you play that mix in the car use the app and see what frequencies are peaking. Then go to your mix using its frequency analyzer and dial back those same peaks using an EQ. Note* It may not sound as through the headphones when you do this, but give the fact the headphones are imposing a handicap on your ears you have to trust the Frequency analyzer to go beyond what your ears don't hear because your ears are being tricked by inaccurate responses.

Also, using headphones causes more problems besides EQ problems. Even if the headphones were 100% flat, they set on your ears and your outer ears aren't being used to collect sound which causes a weird upper midrange bump when you attempt to make the mix sound natural. There isn't a dam thing you can do about it either. The only fix is to use actual monitors and your ears to make the final tweaks. The mix will Always suffer from being two dimensional instead of 3D too. Headphones put the sound in the center of your skull. There is no distance between you and the speakers which handicaps your ability to use time based effects like Reverb and echo. Speakers have crossfeed and your outer ears are used like radar to triangulate distance and depth.

If you cant afford monitors yet at least try using a plugin which attempts to add crossfeed and delay. Then make getting a set of monitors a #1 priority. If you do have monitors then maybe you need to look at room treatment or simply get more experience using them.
Old 5th November 2019
  #29
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Elian20 View Post
Hello,

The reason i push up the mix to near loudest value (car goes to 63, i push to 60) because i have done so with commercial records of the same-ish genres i work with usually (Tame impala records, Daniel Ceasar, Snarky Puppy, Gorillaz) -- None of them fizz out at 60. There is a truly noticeable difference between those records and mine at that loud of a level, and as they say, you know the sound of your car very well and thats why the car mix test is very valuable to me. Not to sound defensive, but i don't understand why all the condecension. I do have the sense and intelligence to approach this methodically... and part of that is holding my mix to the same standard as a snarky puppy record, which has as many instruments and is as crowded mix-wise.

Joeq, that is exactly what i have done and what we all do in our cars. i am sure you have cranked the volume in your car on a record you enjoy. I was simply doing the same with my mix and it sounds almost as if it is low passed. A loss of quality. a weird crispiness that is not comparable to the sheen and ease the top end on commercial records has. This thread is about why that may be -- and no the same thing does not happen with commercial records

For the record, decapitator is set to N module with drive knob on 1, mixed in 90 percent dry, 10 percent wet -- i dont consider that heavy handed, i am confused though as to why this crispiness occurs since it doesn't sound bad in my studio or other speaker systems (apple earphones, portable speakers, things i generally check my mix on)

I'm currently mixing a record and i will be doing almost nothing on my masterbus and eliminating saturation from my process to see if things sound less hyped and less fizzy. thank you!
I never listen to anything that loud (and I also do live sound engineering). I follow the rule that louder always sounds better. So I listen quiet. Since if it sounds right quiet, it will invariably sound great loud (if one has an accurate monitoring situation).

As for Decapitator and Vinyl.... Decapitator is a cool effect on a specific track. But I think it's always an unfortunate choose to use it on the mix bus. And I would steer clear of things like Abbey Road Vinyl. I notice you mentioned it did strange things with voice and hihat. I find most of their stuff just messes a good mix up. Especially the faddish plugs, like Abbey Road and all the Signature junk. I had the Mercury bundle years ago but these days I've cleared out everything except the multi band comps, which can come in handy once in a while.

Try mixing at a low volume and getting things right with as little as possible on your mix bus. Maybe a glue comp and a final limiter (if needed). Try that and then check it in your car, but don't ever turn it up all the way. That's just silly
Old 8th November 2019
  #30
Here for the gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by wrgkmc View Post
I didn't see anyone asking the OP the most basic things you need to know before giving advice.

First. Are you using Headphones or monitors when mixing?

If the answer is Headphones (which I suspect) I wouldn't bother going any farther advising him.

If your mixes sound bad in the car why wasn't that detected mixing? Any decent set of monitors should make any harsh tones stand out like a sore thumb. You'd fix those issues long before you got to the point of doing a mixdown.

On the other hand, Headphones are anything but flat. You can mix all day long and never get a flat mix. it may sound OK on the headphones but the minute you play it back on speakers that are anywhere close to being flat, the flaws in the mix that were masked by the headphones stand out clearly.

The rule of thumb is this. Whatever the headphones or monitors have too little off, you can be sure you're mix will wind up having too much of. Likewise, whatever they have too much of, you'll wind up dialing back and make your mix need it. Example, headphones typically have too much bass. Your mix will wind up sounding thin and harsh. If they aren't bass boosted they may have a loudness curve which gives the EQ a smiley face with scooped mids and boosted highs and lows. When you mix you wind up reversing the damage the headphones are doing to the mix in an attempt to make the mix flat. Whet you actually wind up doing is boosting the upper mids and wind up with a mix that sounds like fingernails on a chalkboard.

What you must have for mixing are flat studio monitors which will make even the smallest flaws in that mix stand out like a sore thumb. If you can then make the mix sound anywhere close to sounding good, it will sound fabulous through normal Hi Fi quality speakers at any volume.

If you are using headphones the only suggestions I have are these. A/B compare you mix against commercial mixes. This isn't a solution but it helps.
Second download a Frequency analyzer plugin for your DAW and for your cell phone. Next time you play that mix in the car use the app and see what frequencies are peaking. Then go to your mix using its frequency analyzer and dial back those same peaks using an EQ. Note* It may not sound as through the headphones when you do this, but give the fact the headphones are imposing a handicap on your ears you have to trust the Frequency analyzer to go beyond what your ears don't hear because your ears are being tricked by inaccurate responses.

Also, using headphones causes more problems besides EQ problems. Even if the headphones were 100% flat, they set on your ears and your outer ears aren't being used to collect sound which causes a weird upper midrange bump when you attempt to make the mix sound natural. There isn't a dam thing you can do about it either. The only fix is to use actual monitors and your ears to make the final tweaks. The mix will Always suffer from being two dimensional instead of 3D too. Headphones put the sound in the center of your skull. There is no distance between you and the speakers which handicaps your ability to use time based effects like Reverb and echo. Speakers have crossfeed and your outer ears are used like radar to triangulate distance and depth.

If you cant afford monitors yet at least try using a plugin which attempts to add crossfeed and delay. Then make getting a set of monitors a #1 priority. If you do have monitors then maybe you need to look at room treatment or simply get more experience using them.

... im using jbl LSR 308's in a treated room. Thank you very much i really do appreciate your advice Seriously.

But i dont understand the amount of assumptions being made here really ... it seems people are replying with an already made assumption that my craft isn't developed or that i'm a bit of an idiot ... haven't used headphones in 4 or so years. May i ask why you suspected that i use headphones?


What i got out of this thread so far is to maybe not use saturation on the mix bus and that actually may be it .. i used pro q 3 to solo 3k and upwards and applying decap / abby roads vinyl did some really wonky things to the top end. i mean really wonky ... it was hard to hear when the bottom half of the freq spectrum was in the picture but soloing the top end made it very clear. there is a horrid distortion going on and the vu meters on both plugins are literally at -20 VUdbs

Can't trust code. Will stick to eq and compression on masterbus. Thanks guys x
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…
Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Forum Jump
Forum Jump