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Tracking vocal with or without compression? Single-Channel Preamps
Old 21st July 2014
  #1
Here for the gear
 

Tracking vocal with or without compression?

I've read alot of threads on this topic but is like to ask the question myself.

It's all about whether I should track with compression on the way in.

I have some compressor plugins but really think it's time to get a good hardware compressor.
I have a warm audio tone beast and was thinking of getting the wa76 and insert it into my vocal chain.

Can plugins really do the same job ? I mainly track with a big rock vocal the dynamics are huge , I feel like I need that compression on the way in as its influencing the take like its restricting me to really push the loud parts when singing!

Mic technique isn't working im like 3 feet away from the mic on the rock screams for it not to clip!

Some opinions on this would be really appreciated thanks :)
Old 21st July 2014
  #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sambo View Post
I've read alot of threads on this topic but is like to ask

...Mic technique isn't working im like 3 feet away from the mic on the rock screams for it not to clip!
Need to get the voltages (or gains) sorted out first. Mic pad on if it has one, pre already at min gain? Then what you're looking for is an XLR in-lline pad.

Last edited by Wayne; 21st July 2014 at 03:39 PM.. Reason: spelling
Old 21st July 2014
  #3
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As long as you're talking about digital clipping and not the actual microphone breaking up then you're first job is to simply give yourself more headroom. At 24 bits you have more than enough dynamic range to capture even the most dynamic vocalist. Pad the mic pre or roll it back another 10dB (sounds like your recording yourself so I assume you've had the mic pre set about the same for awhile). Just don't worry about the small waveform on the quiet stuff of where the meters hit - it's too easy for your eyes to start taking control of your decision when working in a DAW. So, I'd never use a compressor to help you with clipping - it's best to learn how to set your gain structure so that you have enough headroom without clipping (and remember, the loudest parts don't have to hit -.1, even if they're hitting at -6dBsomething then you still have plenty of resolution.

Now that the obligatory "use proper gain structure" advice is over, in your situation I would definitely want to track with a compressor. Compressors, IMO, work best using multiple stages of compression so that you don't have one compressor trying to do all of the work. So, the way I record, I'd make the first stage of compression between the pre and daw while tracking and use a light touch since this is the undoable compressor and you don't want to remove too much dynamic range or hear the compressor pumping hard. This, of course, will also help with your monitoring if you don't have someone riding the fader for you so that you can hear yourself louder on the quiet parts.

Not familiar with the WA76 but I'm going to take a wild guess that it's a FET stye 1176 clone. These have a very hard knee and the lowest ratio is 4:1 so don't dig in too hard with it on the way in - save the smash for mix time. The trick is to let the needle go home on the quiet stuff so that it's not being too compressed and then it kicks in as you get louder. I might use it with attack and release times on the faster side for the first stage of compression to catch those wild peaks and then in the mix use a moderate attack and release time to control the overall dynamics of the track.

When in doubt - and if this is your first hardware compressor you should start off in doubt of your settings, always Y off the mic pre (or use a half normalled patch bay which will split the signal for you) and record the the uncompressed vocal (mic pre output) on a muted track. Do a take and really listen to what the compressor is doing and make sure it's what you want (small changes in attack and release times can make a big difference - especially with that style of compressor). Then, take the uncompressed track and run it through your compressor and dial it in just right while comparing it to your compressed take to see if you can find better settings - don't think about what the controls are doing - just close your eyes and rotate the attack knob back and forth and then do the same with the release. Always err on the side of using less compression and when you get those setting use those for tracking mode. If you find yourself wanting to hit it to hard to get the sound that you want to end up with then hit it once lightly, record back, then spit it out again and you'll see the benefit of multiple passes.

Have fun!
Old 21st July 2014
  #4
Gear Head
I generally like to compress vocals on the way in. Depending on the style of music, source and what I'm looking to work with down stream at mix time, an 1176, LA-2A, or even Distressor can do the job nicely. Even if I don't compress much, the sound the 1176 or LA-2A impart on the source is highly desirable.
Old 21st July 2014
  #5
Here for the gear
 

Just slam the crap out of it on the way in. Experiment. Find out what works and doesn't. Do it now. Otherwise you will just keep asking everyone else what they do.

Figure it out.
Old 22nd July 2014
  #6
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Compression on the way in...sure man...do it.

WA76 is great from what I hear.

No reason why you can't use the WA76 after you record dry either.

If you are concerned with printing the compression instead of a dry signal but still would like some compression during your take...pull up a plugin while you are tracking...best of both worlds.

I would still get the wa76 though...and use it while tracking or in the mixing stage.
Old 22nd July 2014
  #7
Here for the gear
 

Great advice guys thanks yep ill defiantly get the outboard compressor.
It seems as though it will really help with tracking.
There is alot of talk about dont compress at all when tracking but like you guys have advised its seems best even if its just a little in the way in to catch any wild peaks.all bread good advice too mate ill try splitting the track and experiment this way too
Old 22nd July 2014
  #8
If you're looking for professional sounding results, compress your vocal lightly on the way in. I own a WA76 amongst others and it's a good compressor that won't mess with your audio and the price is hard to beat. Just remember a little goes a long way
Old 22nd July 2014
  #9
Gear Maniac
 
kraus's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Musiclab View Post
If you're looking for professional sounding results, compress your vocal lightly on the way in. I own a WA76 amongst others and it's a good compressor that won't mess with your audio and the price is hard to beat. Just remember a little goes a long way
The WA76 sounds as good as the UA reissue to my ears. I have owned both. Grab it.

Compress the **** out of your vocals! You can work backwards from there. That is how you learn. You will make some mistakes along the way. I know I totally botched my first few records by overcompressing everything! You need to push your gear to the end so you know the limitations. Same with your voice..

Good Luck.
Old 23rd July 2014
  #10
Quote:
Originally Posted by AllBread View Post
As long as you're talking about digital clipping and not the actual microphone breaking up then you're first job is to simply give yourself more headroom. At 24 bits you have more than enough dynamic range to capture even the most dynamic vocalist. Pad the mic pre or roll it back another 10dB (sounds like your recording yourself so I assume you've had the mic pre set about the same for awhile). Just don't worry about the small waveform on the quiet stuff of where the meters hit - it's too easy for your eyes to start taking control of your decision when working in a DAW. So, I'd never use a compressor to help you with clipping - it's best to learn how to set your gain structure so that you have enough headroom without clipping (and remember, the loudest parts don't have to hit -.1, even if they're hitting at -6dBsomething then you still have plenty of resolution.

Now that the obligatory "use proper gain structure" advice is over, in your situation I would definitely want to track with a compressor. Compressors, IMO, work best using multiple stages of compression so that you don't have one compressor trying to do all of the work. So, the way I record, I'd make the first stage of compression between the pre and daw while tracking and use a light touch since this is the undoable compressor and you don't want to remove too much dynamic range or hear the compressor pumping hard. This, of course, will also help with your monitoring if you don't have someone riding the fader for you so that you can hear yourself louder on the quiet parts.

Not familiar with the WA76 but I'm going to take a wild guess that it's a FET stye 1176 clone. These have a very hard knee and the lowest ratio is 4:1 so don't dig in too hard with it on the way in - save the smash for mix time. The trick is to let the needle go home on the quiet stuff so that it's not being too compressed and then it kicks in as you get louder. I might use it with attack and release times on the faster side for the first stage of compression to catch those wild peaks and then in the mix use a moderate attack and release time to control the overall dynamics of the track.

When in doubt - and if this is your first hardware compressor you should start off in doubt of your settings, always Y off the mic pre (or use a half normalled patch bay which will split the signal for you) and record the the uncompressed vocal (mic pre output) on a muted track. Do a take and really listen to what the compressor is doing and make sure it's what you want (small changes in attack and release times can make a big difference - especially with that style of compressor). Then, take the uncompressed track and run it through your compressor and dial it in just right while comparing it to your compressed take to see if you can find better settings - don't think about what the controls are doing - just close your eyes and rotate the attack knob back and forth and then do the same with the release. Always err on the side of using less compression and when you get those setting use those for tracking mode. If you find yourself wanting to hit it to hard to get the sound that you want to end up with then hit it once lightly, record back, then spit it out again and you'll see the benefit of multiple passes.

Have fun!
great explanation.
Old 23rd July 2014
  #11
Lives for gear
Think of it this way - adding gentle compression while tracking may benefit the song; if you want further compression/limiting, you can add it later via your hardware as an insert or with plugins.

If you commit to severe compression (like all buttons in on a 1176) may sound great, but you are stuck with it on that track.

Experiment and see what you like. I tend to use my TLA-50 for gentle compression while tracking voice, guitar or bass, and then will fine tune if needed ITB with plugins.
Old 23rd July 2014
  #12
Lives for gear
I use a LA610 MKII with a Sputnik mic. I use a 15db pad on the pre and about 3/10 on the compressor level so a lot of pad and very little compression. I found any higher compression and it was too noticeable and the lower level was smoother and still compressed nicely. I track like this all the time and also compress a little more in the box with a CA2A. I find it takes a lot less automation on vocals when I'm mixing.
Old 23rd July 2014
  #13
Here for the gear
 

Great advice thanks!
I've gone for it and purchased the wa76 !
Ill sleep better tonight knowing its on the way and I can hook in soon !
Great to be on a forum with people who understand !

I know it's called gear slutz, could it be gear addicts ?
Or is it just that sonic quest we are all on ?
I know I'm not the only one who dreams about that sound.
Let me know what you think guys !

More info on compression tips and tricks please keep them coming thanks a bunch
Old 23rd July 2014
  #14
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kraus's Avatar
 

Do a search for "1176 all buttons in".

Any time I get a new piece of gear I push it as hard as I can so i'll know the limitaions.

Cheers!
Old 23rd July 2014
  #15
Quote:
Originally Posted by kraus View Post
The WA76 sounds as good as the UA reissue to my ears. I have owned both. Grab it.

Compress the **** out of your vocals! You can work backwards from there. That is how you learn. You will make some mistakes along the way. I know I totally botched my first few records by overcompressing everything! You need to push your gear to the end so you know the limitations. Same with your voice..

Good Luck.
really don't do that. there already is too much music over processed. A little goes a long way. Some on the way in and you can hit the compressor harder if you like in the mix.
Old 23rd July 2014
  #16
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kraus's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Musiclab View Post
really don't do that. there already is too much music over processed. A little goes a long way. Some on the way in and you can hit the compressor harder if you like in the mix.
Easy with the cop there buddy. I am suggesting to the op that he learn the limits and go backwards from there.
Old 23rd July 2014
  #17
Gear Guru
 
Brent Hahn's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by kraus View Post
Compress the **** out of your vocals! You can work backwards from there. <><> I know I totally botched my first few records by overcompressing everything!
I guess that m.o. is cool, as long those were your first few records and not someone else's. I bet it was fun watching you learn to drive a car. :-)
Old 23rd July 2014
  #18
Quote:
Originally Posted by kraus View Post
Easy with the cop there buddy. I am suggesting to the op that he learn the limits and go backwards from there.
He can do that in the mix and not wreck anything, sorry I think you gave him bad advice.
Old 23rd July 2014
  #19
Gear Maniac
 
kraus's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Musiclab View Post
He can do that in the mix and not wreck anything, sorry I think you gave him bad advice.
I dont think I said during tracking... I do agree with you there.
Old 23rd July 2014
  #20
Quote:
Originally Posted by kraus View Post
I dont think I said during tracking... I do agree with you there.
the title of this thread is "tracking vocals with or without compression"
Old 23rd July 2014
  #21
Gear Maniac
 
kraus's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Musiclab View Post
the title of this thread is "tracking vocals with or without compression"
I just remembered that after posting. In any case I still think it's a good idea to push your gear as hard as you can. Knowing the limitations of any piece of gear is very important. I'm sure we can all agree on that..

To be clear. I am not suggesting to the OP that he compress the snot out of takes going onto his record. I am suggesting he learn the gear.

Old 23rd July 2014
  #22
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by kraus View Post
I just remembered that after posting. In any case I still think it's a good idea to push your gear as hard as you can. Knowing the limitations of any piece of gear is very important. I'm sure we can all agree on that..

To be clear. I am not suggesting to the OP that he compress the snot out of takes going onto his record. I am suggesting he learn the gear.

I agree entirely that it's essential to understand how to use equipment, and it takes many different approaches to do this. These approaches can be as unique as the individual learning how to use X or Y process. I think you're spot on there.

However, I'm not sure that the "Turn it up to 11" and work backwards is particularly sound advice in and of itself. My feeling is that as a learning device, one would just end with poor results and not a great deal of understanding into (as in this particular case) the merits or demerits of tracking with compression. Whilst rules are there to be broken, comprehending a process and why one is using that process means first learning the rules. Then, once understanding has been gained the rules can be bent.

Looking at it another way, the technique you suggest is an abstract way of learning to use compression. It may seem tangential, but the great abstract or surrealist painters from Picasso to Braque to Dali learnt the nuts & bolts of painting technique before successfully going on to develop abstract work (therefore learning the rules first before comprehending how to break them for maximum effect).
Old 24th July 2014
  #23
Here for the gear
 

Got an email today the WA76 has shipped and on its way.

Keep the advice coming guys I'm learning with every post.

Some of these tracks are ready to go for tracking vocal when I get back in my studio.

Maybe it's best not too smash the hell out of it on the way in just incase the take is great and I realise when mixing its over compressed ?

But I totally get your points about leaning the compressors capabilities.

The other tracks have had some hardware compression from a mindprint envoice but not much so ill try running back through the WA76 too.

There is so many ways to do it, I'm learning with every post guys so keep them coming !

Old 24th July 2014
  #24
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If I go back out through the compressor then back in let's say a couple times using the multiple stages of compression technique will this decrease audio quality due to d/a a/d d/a etc ?
I have heard use a setting of at least 48khz to compensate for any loss in quality ?
Advice on this please!
Cheers
Old 24th July 2014
  #25
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I agree with kraus...

At no point did he say " squash it super hard and track that sound"

The op had reached a conclusion. He will use comp on the way in...and he will buy the wa76...

Kraus then said...hey when I get a new piece of gear I push it hard to FIND it's limitations. Not to get a "pro sound" ...same way you would likely cruise around the block a few times in a new car before jumping on the highway.

And by the way...we use computers now not tape...no reason why he couldn't track it with the wa76 pushed to the limit and then simply do it again with a gentle comp and use which ever he likes more.
Old 24th July 2014
  #26
jrp
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One thing you could try: Split the signal after the pre. Compress heavily while tracking if you like the sound and it fits your performance. Couse this is the most important thing... record the splitted dry signal as well. Then you can mix both for parallel compression and monitor the compressed sound only while singing.

Another hint that works for me while setting up a comp:
I start with a very low threshold/high ratio so it´s really working hard, lots of reduction going on. This gives me a very exagerated idea how Attack and release are working with my material. Once i like the way it breathes, i reduce ratio untill the exageration is gone and everything sits well.

Low threshold, low ratio if you want your softer parts to get a touch of compression as well.
High threshold, high(er) ratio if you want to tame only the peaks.
Old 24th July 2014
  #27
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kraus's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Korbin View Post
I agree with kraus...

At no point did he say " squash it super hard and track that sound"

The op had reached a conclusion. He will use comp on the way in...and he will buy the wa76...

Kraus then said...hey when I get a new piece of gear I push it hard to FIND it's limitations. Not to get a "pro sound" ...same way you would likely cruise around the block a few times in a new car before jumping on the highway.

And by the way...we use computers now not tape...no reason why he couldn't track it with the wa76 pushed to the limit and then simply do it again with a gentle comp and use which ever he likes more.
Thanks for adding some clarity to my rambling posts..

Quote:
Originally Posted by jrp View Post
One thing you could try: Split the signal after the pre. Compress heavily while tracking if you like the sound and it fits your performance. Couse this is the most important thing... record the splitted dry signal as well. Then you can mix both for parallel compression and monitor the compressed sound only while singing.

Another hint that works for me while setting up a comp:
I start with a very low threshold/high ratio so it´s really working hard, lots of reduction going on. This gives me a very exagerated idea how Attack and release are working with my material. Once i like the way it breathes, i reduce ratio untill the exageration is gone and everything sits well.

Low threshold, low ratio if you want your softer parts to get a touch of compression as well.
High threshold, high(er) ratio if you want to tame only the peaks.
Yes, that! Do a search on "Parallel Compression". I have used as many as 4 tracks (3 different compressors + the clean) before. This method can generate some amazing results.
Old 24th July 2014
  #28
with...
commit to the sound before I hit record,
in order to love life later,
Old 26th July 2014
  #29
Here for the gear
 

Great tip mate :)

Quote:
Originally Posted by jrp View Post
One thing you could try: Split the signal after the pre. Compress heavily while tracking if you like the sound and it fits your performance. Couse this is the most important thing... record the splitted dry signal as well. Then you can mix both for parallel compression and monitor the compressed sound only while singing.

Another hint that works for me while setting up a comp:
I start with a very low threshold/high ratio so it´s really working hard, lots of reduction going on. This gives me a very exagerated idea how Attack and release are working with my material. Once i like the way it breathes, i reduce ratio untill the exageration is gone and everything sits well.

Low threshold, low ratio if you want your softer parts to get a touch of compression as well.
High threshold, high(er) ratio if you want to tame only the peaks.
Old 30th July 2014
  #30
Gear Addict
 

I know you already purchased your compressor but for anyone else who's reading, IMHO money is better spent on good mics and preamps. The bang for buck you get from good mics and pres go beyond any other part of your chain. For myself having a compressor for tracking is beneficial because it'll affect the way the musician performs. If the singer is singing through compression he/she will be able to "dig in" more for louder sections and let their voice sit in the pocket a bit better. The same with drummers, if you have compression going on the snare or kick, the drummer will play differently because of the different dynamics you're playing.
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