The No.1 Website for Pro Audio
Is Steve Albini exaggerating when claiming he barely uses compression and EQ?
Old 3rd June 2020
  #31
Gear Guru
 
Brent Hahn's Avatar
Being mainly a non-fan, one observation I have is that Steve tends to allow a fair amount of bleed. When you have a bunch of bleed, compressing individual channels is dicey, because whenever a compressor kicks, the ratio of bleed:direct goes up. And more than a tiny bit of that leads to an unmixable, unmanageable clusterfvck. Ask me how I learned this.
Old 3rd June 2020
  #32
Lives for gear
 
skybluerental's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by sumskilz View Post
It was mixed by Scott Litt.
Correct.

Heart Shaped Box and All Apologies were remixed by Scott Litt.

I have worked with Steve and he is a very straight forward person.
I would take him at his word about his use of compression and also at the same time keep in mind that there are likely occasional exceptions when he does use heavy compression.
Old 3rd June 2020
  #33
Gear Head
 

There are several of videos of him recording drums on youtube... I kind of find it funny how many people consider him to be some kind of Enigma. He does tons and tons of interviews, videos, seminars, and posting on forums, and is very forthcoming with what hes techniques are. As much or moreso than any major engineer I know.

In this video, relatively speaking, I would say hes using less compression and EQ than many people. Hes using some compression on kick in, and a fair amount on overheads. Very little EQ, but not none.

Old 3rd June 2020
  #34
Lives for gear
 
Sigma's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Space1999 View Post
I usually don’t compress when tracking. There is an insane amount of headroom nowadays, why would you need to? Really taking your time and being picky about mic placement and not just jamming a mic at every sound source can certainly eliminate the need for a lot of EQ.

Pat
im from the limited days of tape dbl entendre intended ... i try to tell people this all the time..you can always treat your capture as LIVE and put compressors on latter and use that as your "raw" track if you are that anal..ive seen tracked stuff with compression get ruined with overshoot if you aren't
careful
Old 3rd June 2020
  #35
Lives for gear
 
Space1999's Avatar
 

Early on I would use EQ and compression on everything. I had this notion that a HPF should be put on everything due to a lack of experience. I really needed to evaluate a source, move a mic or change a polar pattern.

I would compress everything on the way in because I was jamming levels as hot as possible and had to have protection against overs. I really needed to record at much lower levels.

So the end result had no dynamics and the mixes were anemic from about 250Hz on down with no way to correct it.

I was making a living at it but I was against the clock so I didn’t have time to sit and think. And like a snake devouring it’s tail, one fed into another.

That is not to say that I didn’t improve, I did, but at a much slower pace than someone who had the free time to experiment or better yet a mentor.

That is when I really began to improve. Having a living breathing mentor who could show me how to do better.

I believe Steve Albini if he says he is not using much EQ or compression nowadays. It is in the natural arch of an engineer’s experience to learn that less is more.

Pat
Old 3rd June 2020
  #36
Gear Addict
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Drumsound View Post
It should be pointed out that Steve thinks of himself as a documentarian. He's trying to capture, preserve and convey that. He wants the listener to hear the band, not the record, if that makes sense.
This raises the question: is type of music Albini records best served by a “documentary” approach? Traditionally, classical music is recorded that way. But rock recordings have been artificially constructed in the studio, at least since the days of the Beatles.

Personally, I prefer the artificial/constructed approach. The studio is an instrument, not a laboratory. The best engineer/producers are artists, not scientists.
Old 3rd June 2020
  #37
Gear Guru
 
Drumsound's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Honkermann View Post
This raises the question: is type of music Albini records best served by a “documentary” approach? Traditionally, classical music is recorded that way. But rock recordings have been artificially constructed in the studio, at least since the days of the Beatles.

Personally, I prefer the artificial/constructed approach. The studio is an instrument, not a laboratory. The best engineer/producers are artists, not scientists.
I guess that's up to the people doing the hiring.

I like the studio as a workshop/lab. We're trying different things to see how they work (or don't) together. I love hearing a song and thinking "lets add Hammond, and get some backing vocals happening." Other don't. Steve is very artist driven. He doesn't say "lets add Hammond," but if they do he says, OK and records Hammond.
Old 3rd June 2020
  #38
Lives for gear
 
norfolk martin's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by SquareHounds View Post
Plenty of people mixing these days without using compression on the master bus or much compression on individual tracks. Ethan Johns is a good example ... listen to his mixes of Ryan Adams or Ray LaMontagne.

And not that Albini does this (if he's still going to tape), but choosing automation over compression can make for a really nice outcome depending on genre.
If he's recording individual instruments to tape, he may be driving it into compression anyway.

It's rather like saying "I never compress the kick or snare" while watching a slow VU meter peak at +3 on those tracks
Old 3rd June 2020
  #39
Lives for gear
 
norfolk martin's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sigma View Post
im from the limited days of tape dbl entendre intended ... i try to tell people this all the time..you can always treat your capture as LIVE and put compressors on latter and use that as your "raw" track if you are that anal..ive seen tracked stuff with compression get ruined with overshoot if you aren't
careful
Good advice. I'm of the school of never making a decision until you have to. In modern situations of huge headroom, unlimited tracks, and instant mix recall, there is no need to eq or compress anything as it is recorded.

Last month I was remixing an EP that a band I was in cut on a 4-track in 1983. We recorded compression, reverb and delay as part of the vocal track! it was a nightmare to clean up.
Old 4th June 2020
  #40
Lives for gear
 
andychamp's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by norfolk martin View Post
(...)Last month I was remixing an EP that a band I was in cut on a 4-track in 1983. We recorded compression, reverb and delay as part of the vocal track! it was a nightmare to clean up.
Then this was one of those instances where the recordist went overboard.
OTOH, the same approach never harmed TheDoors/Botnick/Morrison.
I don‘t think it‘s wise to avoid a technique on principle, because it might just go wrong. I‘d rather slowly feel my way towards getting it right, than limit the scope of my experience out of fear of mistakes. „No-one ever learned anything by always doing everything right.“
But I don‘t think this very issue will be resolved with this thread...
Old 4th June 2020
  #41
Lives for gear
 
norfolk martin's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by andychamp View Post
Then this was one of those instances where the recordist went overboard.
OTOH, the same approach never harmed TheDoors/Botnick/Morrison.
I don‘t think it‘s wise to avoid a technique on principle, because it might just go wrong. I‘d rather slowly feel my way towards getting it right, than limit the scope of my experience out of fear of mistakes. „No-one ever learned anything by always doing everything right.“
But I don‘t think this very issue will be resolved with this thread...
I'm afraid I was that recordist.......
Old 4th June 2020
  #42
Lives for gear
 
XAXAU's Avatar
The better you get the less you compress imo
Old 4th June 2020
  #43
Theres also a fairly recent interview of him in the Somewhere Sound podcast. He goes in great depth about mic's and room, but I forget how in depth he went on about eq's and comps.
Old 4th June 2020
  #44
Gear Guru
 
Brent Hahn's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by szyam View Post
He goes in great depth about mic's and room, but I forget how in depth he went on about eq's and comps.
Actually -- he rarely abbreviates -- he goes into depth about "microphones" and "compressors" and "equalizers." Although I have heard him use "EQ" and "equalizer" in the same sentence. And he always says "bass drum."
Old 4th June 2020
  #45
Lives for gear
 
skybluerental's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Honkermann View Post
This raises the question: is type of music Albini records best served by a “documentary” approach? Traditionally, classical music is recorded that way. But rock recordings have been artificially constructed in the studio, at least since the days of the Beatles.

Personally, I prefer the artificial/constructed approach. The studio is an instrument, not a laboratory. The best engineer/producers are artists, not scientists.
Sounds like you should not hire Albini.

He would be the fist to tell you that.
Old 4th June 2020
  #46
Lives for gear
 
skybluerental's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by norfolk martin View Post
If he's recording individual instruments to tape, he may be driving it into compression anyway.

It's rather like saying "I never compress the kick or snare" while watching a slow VU meter peak at +3 on those tracks
Based on my experience working with Steve many years ago, he was not driving tape this way on any source.
He was using it as a clean capture medium.

Also, his decks are Studers with plasma meters.
Old 4th June 2020
  #47
Lives for gear
 
skybluerental's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by norfolk martin View Post
Good advice. I'm of the school of never making a decision until you have to. In modern situations of huge headroom, unlimited tracks, and instant mix recall, there is no need to eq or compress anything as it is recorded.

Last month I was remixing an EP that a band I was in cut on a 4-track in 1983. We recorded compression, reverb and delay as part of the vocal track! it was a nightmare to clean up.
Steve (and myself for that matter) are in the opposite camp.
Record it how you want it to sound and never look back.
Build a house on a solid foundation.

That said, printing reverb and delay on a vocal track is questionable in this day and age.
It probably did make sense to the guys in 83 on the 4 track though!
Old 4th June 2020
  #48
Quote:
Originally Posted by andychamp View Post
Don‘t forget he records to tape.
Lots of dynamics are taken care of there...
that is not really true
Old 4th June 2020
  #49
Quote:
Originally Posted by XAXAU View Post
The better you get the less you compress imo
It's actually more about HOW you compress.
Old 4th June 2020
  #50
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sigma View Post
im from the limited days of tape dbl entendre intended ... i try to tell people this all the time..you can always treat your capture as LIVE and put compressors on latter and use that as your "raw" track if you are that anal..ive seen tracked stuff with compression get ruined with overshoot if you aren't
careful
I'm also from those days, I don't ever compress drums or percussion on the way in or eq, unless you think of mic choice and placement as eq. Vocals, clean guitars horns I absolutely compress on the way in. They all get a kiss from my Cl1b or whatever compressor I deem appropriate. But nothing get's whacked on the way in .
Old 4th June 2020
  #51
Lives for gear
 
lobsterinn's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by psycho_monkey View Post
Same as for everything - to shape the tone. Grohl, good a drummer as he is, cannot make a snare drum sound the same as applying a compressor to bring up the tail (for example). He can't make his kick drum modulate the mix so there's a slight duck everytime it hits.

Compression isn't just about levelling things!
Of course, envelope-shaping, etc. I think that becomes less important the more mics you are using, how you use gates, room mics, etc. It's also a stylistic and conceptual choice based on genre and how dense the arrangement is.

My point was that there is nothing "wrong" with not compressing already compressed sources.
Old 4th June 2020
  #52
Gear Addict
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by skybluerental View Post
Sounds like you should not hire Albini.
Thankfully, there's not much danger of that happening.
Old 4th June 2020
  #53
Gear Guru
 
Muser's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Honkermann View Post
Thankfully, there's not much danger of that happening.
Albini will probably be relieved to hear that. thank you for your continued support of his wellbeing.
Old 5th June 2020
  #54
Gear Nut
 
occam's Avatar
 

If you really want to hear Albini's compression tastes you should listen to his band Shellac (plus they're awesome). Crazy dynamics. His older bands Big Black and Rapeman same thing (though those two use a drum machine). I actually wish there was more compression in Shellac, I feel like I have to ride the fader while listening to it.
Old 5th June 2020
  #55
Gear Guru
 
Brent Hahn's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by occam View Post
I actually wish there was more compression in Shellac, I feel like I have to ride the fader while listening to it.
That, and he mixes a lot of his own vocals really low.
Old 5th June 2020
  #56
Quote:
Originally Posted by occam View Post
I feel like I have to ride the fader while listening to it.
I think there's a piece of gear that can do that automatically
Old 5th June 2020
  #57
Gear Nut
 
occam's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by MoltenVoltage View Post
I think there's a piece of gear that can do that automatically
If you know about an iPhone compressor I'd love to hear about it.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #58
Quote:
Originally Posted by psycho_monkey View Post
Same as for everything - to shape the tone. Grohl, good a drummer as he is, cannot make a snare drum sound the same as applying a compressor to bring up the tail (for example). He can't make his kick drum modulate the mix so there's a slight duck everytime it hits.

Compression isn't just about levelling things!
Exactly right, I've heard the mastering engineer Scott Hull say he thinks of compressor as eq, I've always found using parametric compressor in the mix to help shape the tone and use less eq.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #59
Lives for gear
 
Sharp11's Avatar
 

Compression can be both a corrective and/or creative tool - so it depends.

I do agree though that these days I prefer automation for pure leveling and dynamic control over compression - to my ears, it just sounds better. Ideally adding a bit of compression after dynamic rides sounds good, too.

Everyone works a little differently.

For those truly smashed and crunchy tones, compression as a creative tool is great - some plugins are designed to do just that "Decapitator", "Devil Loc" etc.

Because I work primarily in television and doc films where sound design is combined with music, making new sounds using compression to shape reverbs and create distortion is common, and fun!
Old 4 weeks ago
  #60
Lives for gear
 
norfolk martin's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by skybluerental View Post

That said, printing reverb and delay on a vocal track is questionable in this day and age.
It probably did make sense to the guys in 83 on the 4 track though!
Yea, a lot of strange things made sense in those days . "We've got a Roland space echo, so we MUST use it somewhere." The EP is being reissued by a punk fanzine. There's nothing like hearing one's work described as a "historic example of early DIY American hardcore " to make a person fee OLD.

Honestly, after re-furbing my Teac 3340 to the point where it would play back the 4-track recording decently, I was surprised how good it sounded given the circumstances. The Ampex 456 was still playing without having to be baked, which surprised me give that it had sat in a drawer in an Oklahoma basement for 37 years.
📝 Reply
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
♾️ Similar Threads
🎙️ View mentioned gear