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Singer emits electronic distortion?
Old 11th June 2002
  #1
Gear Maniac
 
wurly's Avatar
 

Singer emits electronic distortion?

I was working with one of my fav rock singers last week. I have over a year of experience with him. I put up the olde Neumann N149, used an ADL 1000 for the preamp, ran it through the 1176, and then to my Eddie Ciletti hot rod LA4. Historically, that vocal chain was wonderful, loads-o-color, fat and sassy. But not last Wednesday. It sounded like crap. No intimacy, lots of distortion, totally unusable.

OK, fine tune levels to eliminate distortion-no luck. Move the singer. Nope. Swap mic. Sukt. Change pre three times. No luck. Change compressors. Yuk. Delete LA4. Still sux. Move microphone. Still crap.

The session was a bust. Nothing got done. The singer thought it was his fault. I blamed equipment and/or myself.

Four days later, different (rock) band, different singer, same vocal chain as I started with above. It sounded great. Everyone loved it.

What freaks me is that it sounded exactly like gear distortion when it sucked (Wed). Has this happened to anybody else? I thought that I forgot how to engineer on Wednesday. In retrospect, I think it was the singer, but it sounded so much like electronic overload I still can't belive it.

Am I overlooking something here?

Wondering Wurly
Old 12th June 2002
  #2
Perhaps he was distorting somewhere in the outboard chain, did you ever try just the pre - to the recorder?

Do you now what your input levels are calibrated to?

I use -14 on my converters

Some singer can 'bark' and freak out capsules...

I had a similar problem... I tracked it down to low headroom in my outboard chain do to a (my) badly chosen converter calibration level..

Perhaps if he was loud, he might have shown up just such a problem..

Old 12th June 2002
  #3
jon
Capitol Studios Paris
 
jon's Avatar
 

It sounds like your singer just had an off day, vocal-wise. Trash throat happens. No harmonics, lots of buzz/distortion. A couple days' off usually helps.

About converter levels, I like -18dB, though it is sometimes not enough headroom when transfering drum tracks from 2" directly to converters (sometimes have to go -20/22dB for the kick, snare and toms). FWIW I believe the standard in LA studios is generally -18. In Paris, it's generally -16dB.
Old 12th June 2002
  #4
Who has ever heard a vocal chord distortion / harmony?

I have! Just on one note..

It's freaky! We looked all over for a stray harmony, but it was on the MASTER track! Created by the singers throat..

Old 12th June 2002
  #5
Moderator emeritus
 

Quote:
Originally posted by Jules
Who has ever heard a vocal chord distortion / harmony?

Sure - listen to the Janis Joplin records for one version, and anything by the Thuvan troat singers for another approach.
Old 12th June 2002
  #6
Lives for gear
 

trash singer setup and vocal prefs. empty trash. restart.




as a last resort...sprinkle holy water.
Old 12th June 2002
  #7
Kev
Gear Nut
 
Kev's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by Sly
trash singer setup and vocal prefs. empty trash. restart.

heh heh heh heh heh heh

lol ... I think I just pissed myself.
rebuild singers desktop.

That was too funny Sly!


On a serious note (get it, "note'),

I once had a harmonic singer on the other end of my Mic and could not believe it. I had to walk to the other side of the glass to check that it wasn't a joke on me.

So dificult to explain !! Has anyone had a harmonic singer to record? As Jules said these notes come out of their throats that just don't make sense. Now, nothing suprises me when listening to a vocal.
Old 13th June 2002
  #8
Lives for gear
 
e-cue's Avatar
 

1st off, were you even going digital? I have had this happen once with an extremely hot 888. I turned it off, let it cool for 5 minutes, then turned it back on and it worked fine. (without trashing any prefs)... Kinda like one of those studio voodoo things, but I have heard other engineers mention 'over heated 888s' sounding crappy.
2nd off, did it sound like crap from start to finish? I've had some rappers I work with "spit" (literally) when they rap and overtime it kinda sounds distorted when they bark their lyrics.
3rd off, Did you throw a tone or a cd player though the chain right after the mic (cd music is better for most testing purposes since it's not 1 frequency)? Then bypass each unit you can, etc... trouble shooting your way through them all?

Usually, I like to 'train' every vocalist (if possible) no matter HOW experenced they are. If you want to be loud, sing loud. If you want more breathes, sing breathey, etc... It helps cut back on 'turd polishing' in the mix. I don't know how you vocalist sang, but usually, if they are distorting, a simple "Back off the mic a little" works better than tweeking 20 knobs.
Old 13th June 2002
  #9
"3rd off, Did you throw a tone or a cd player though the chain right after the mic (cd music is better for most testing purposes since it's not 1 frequency)? Then bypass each unit you can, etc... trouble shooting your way through them all? "

I like that one!

Great idea..

Old 14th June 2002
  #10
Lives for gear
 
Steve Smith's Avatar
 

I had a very similar situation that was totally phantom for months, that I was only able to fix with an equi-tech ac cblancing unit... sounded like overdriven componets, it was horrible, turned out to be some sort of dirt in the electrics.
Old 14th June 2002
  #11
Here for the gear
 

One last long shot: did the vocalist have a cellphone on his belt?

I never, and I mean _never_, allow cellphones in the studio. Take the damned things outside. When they are on and they send their "heartbeat" bursts back to the cell, it's an obnoxious series of clicks even in a well-set-up room, if they are too close to the wrong chunk of gear... But if the phone is "accidentally" left in the middle of a call, it's a long blast of EMI right into the gear that can last straight through a session. Yes, it can happen! I pride myself on good grounding, shielding, and signal integrity: but a good blob of RF only a foot or two from your M149 during a take can potentially spoil your whole day...
Old 14th June 2002
  #12
Lives for gear
 
drundall's Avatar
 

This has happened to me before. I double and triple checked my gain staging
then out of frustration went out into the room and there was that sound! The
distortion that sounded like gear overloading! Vocal chords were overloading...!:eek:
Old 14th June 2002
  #13
There is only one
 
alphajerk's Avatar
 

really? i have never heard of that... of course there is no cell coverage where i live so....
Old 14th June 2002
  #14
Lives for gear
 
e-cue's Avatar
 

I've only heard cell phones through speakers (not outboard/mics/etc) but I don't see why they couldn't cause interferance. Everytime I heard someone's cell phone through the speakers, it makes me wonder what those things are doing to our heads.
Old 14th June 2002
  #15
Here for the gear
 

Someplace I have a recording I did that was hilariously spoiled by a cellphone heartbeat burst. It was a location deal: live recording, an excellent female barbershop quartet doing a very delicate ballad. The tenor had her cellphone on her belt, standing 3' from a pair of Oktava MC012s set up in XY. They're just finishing the tag, and the harmony is just delicious, and they're pulling back and fading off into silence in perfect tune- and then there's this "bbpbpbpbpbp" farting noise.

Fuck. Well, other than *that*, it was a good take...

Anyway, just for amusement value, try a few of your mics with a cellphone. Just turn it on, don't start a call, set it a foot or two away from the mic, set your gains, and wait. They send their heartbeat out every minute or two, just to let the cell know that they are still in range. If your nearest cell is pretty far away, they'll crank out a good power level. They do use adaptive power management, to maximize battery life- they only radiate as hard as they think they have to. But if they have to hump it out, they will- and there's your mic right there as an antenna. Lather, rinse, repeat...

Different mics, mic cables, and preamps will exhibit different levels of sensitivity- but it's a rare rig that will be *completely* immune, and those farts can drive you apeshit-wildman-bugfuck_nuts_ until you figure out what they are.

Like anybody was gonna call her during the show? Like I said: leave 'em _outside_!
Old 15th June 2002
  #16
One with big hooves
 
Jay Kahrs's Avatar
Yeah, ever leave your cell phone next to a radio when it rings? Wow, that'll wake you up. Nasty shit. I leave mine outside the control room or at the back of the room if I'm expecting a call. The farther I can keep it from the gear the happier I am.
Old 15th June 2002
  #17
Moderator emeritus
 

Does the sound that you're talking about sound like a about a 1/4 second burst of pink noise every minute or so? I sometimes get that, but assumed that it was the radar station about 1 quarter mile from ere.
Old 16th June 2002
  #18
Here for the gear
 

Yup. If the cellphone is far enough away from the susceptible gear, it sounds like pink noise. If it is closer, it'll sound like about 10 bursts of pink noise packed into that 1/4 second- pbpbpbpbpbpbpb.

It's not the radar installation, probably- they radiate pretty much continuously, and if you're getting EMI from them, it'll usually be a series of pops or clicks- but that's pretty rare, and pretty unlikely. The inverse-square law works in your favor.

Try the mic/cellphone trick, and get used to the sound of it. Knowing that helps a lot in debugging in-session noise issues as they come up. That one is getting to be pretty damned common...
Old 16th June 2002
  #19
Moderator emeritus
 

Quote:
Originally posted by skippy
and pretty unlikely. The inverse-square law works in your favor.

Try the mic/cellphone trick, and get used to the sound of it. Knowing that helps a lot in debugging in-session noise issues as they come up. That one is getting to be pretty damned common...
I'll try that, since all but one of my usual guys bring cell phones with them. And mine generally lays on the console...
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