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Is Steve Albini exaggerating when claiming he barely uses compression and EQ?
Old 4 weeks ago
  #1
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MoltenVoltage's Avatar
Is Steve Albini exaggerating when claiming he barely uses compression and EQ?

I've read more than once that Steve Albini claims to avoid compression.

"There will occasionally be compression on individual instruments in the mix, but not often. I don't normally try to get rid of wild dynamics."

Even on kick drums he says "I'll occasionally compress the front bass-drum microphone while recording, in the same way as the bass guitar, at a low ratio of a couple of dBs."

Listening to In Utero and some of his other masterworks, it seems like he's not being totally forthcoming. In Utero has good dynamics, but no "wild dynamics" and sounds like compressors and limiters are all over it.

Am I way off base here?
Old 4 weeks ago
  #2
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Drumsound's Avatar
Steve's not prone to BS. I'm sure there are exceptions to his rules. Speaking to In Utero, aren't a couple songs mixed by someone else? Scott Litt, maybe?
Old 4 weeks ago
  #3
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MoltenVoltage's Avatar
I think you're right. I dug a little deeper on In Utero and apparently the original mixes were not appropriate for release and they remixed.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #4
din
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Is the 'front' of the kick drum the batter head or the resonant head?
Old 4 weeks ago
  #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MoltenVoltage View Post
the original mixes were not appropriate for release and they remixed[/URL].
Maybe if he had just used some eq and compression they would have been.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #6
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andychamp's Avatar
Don‘t forget he records to tape.
Lots of dynamics are taken care of there...
Old 4 weeks ago
  #7
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Space1999's Avatar
 

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
Old 4 weeks ago
  #8
Quote:
Originally Posted by JLast View Post
Maybe if he had just used some eq and compression they would have been.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #9
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Jeff Hayat's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by MoltenVoltage View Post
I've read more than once that Steve Albini claims to avoid compression.

"There will occasionally be compression on individual instruments in the mix, but not often. I don't normally try to get rid of wild dynamics."

Even on kick drums he says "I'll occasionally compress the front bass-drum microphone while recording, in the same way as the bass guitar, at a low ratio of a couple of dBs."

Listening to In Utero and some of his other masterworks, it seems like he's not being totally forthcoming. In Utero has good dynamics, but no "wild dynamics" and sounds like compressors and limiters are all over it.

Am I way off base here?
Don't forget - the final mix you hear has another element - mastering. Could be that the mix delivered to the ME is not all that compressed, and that the ME smashes the crap out of it. You can usually tell - even in these circumstances - whether or not the mix eng used a lot of comp - but sometimes it's not that easy to tell.

Cheers.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #10
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Brent Hahn's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by MoltenVoltage View Post
I've read more than once that Steve Albini claims to avoid compression.
His tastes and mine are pretty divergent, so that doesn't surprise me.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #11
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vernier's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by MoltenVoltage View Post
I've read more than once that Steve Albini claims to avoid compression.

"There will occasionally be compression on individual instruments in the mix, but not often. I don't normally try to get rid of wild dynamics."

Even on kick drums he says "I'll occasionally compress the front bass-drum microphone while recording, in the same way as the bass guitar, at a low ratio of a couple of dBs."

Listening to In Utero and some of his other masterworks, it seems like he's not being totally forthcoming. In Utero has good dynamics, but no "wild dynamics" and sounds like compressors and limiters are all over it.

Am I way off base here?
Good mics and good analog recorder doesn't need anything else, really.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #12
Here for the gear
 

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.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #13
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bgood's Avatar
This probably sounds a lot crazier to someone only used to using plugins, virtual instruments, never having to commit, etc than an old fart who came up the olden way

I’m migrating back to the olden way... it’s expensive, but, it’s sure faster... so, I generally see what Albini’s saying...
Old 4 weeks ago
  #14
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Brent Hahn's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by SquareHounds View Post
... choosing automation over compression can make for a really nice outcome depending on genre.
When is compression ever a stand-in for gain riding, or vice versa? For me, they've never been interchangeable at all.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #15
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bgood's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Brent Hahn View Post
When is compression ever a stand-in for gain riding, or vice versa? For me, they've never been interchangeable at all.
Ha! Brent, you’re showing your age my friend... these young bloods don’t like messing with gain riding... why else would we have 137,002 compressor plugins???
Old 4 weeks ago
  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brent Hahn View Post
When is compression ever a stand-in for gain riding, or vice versa? For me, they've never been interchangeable at all.

I don't think I wrote that they were stand-ins for one another. Certainly, though, if something is a bit peaky here and there then we've got several choices on how to handle that. Which one is right and who gets to decide that (rhetorical).

Anyway, I'm not here to argue methods or preference. I really appreciate the level of uniqueness that people bring to the end result of a song. A mix just being the amalgamation of 1,000 choices someone had to make along the way. And so back on point, these things to me are just choices to further define however we want a mix to be.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #17
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Drumsound's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by din View Post
Is the 'front' of the kick drum the batter head or the resonant head?
Front head is the resonant head. Drummers sit behind the drums so the batter head is the back.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #18
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? .
Well, you know, there are some good reasons why a gentle, judicious smattering of light compression going in can be just the thing.

Old 4 weeks ago
  #19
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andychamp'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
Not disputing the need for good mic placement...
The use of compression may well have its root in a bygone necessity: headroom, s/n ratio, etc., but the resulting aesthetic may well be something someone might want to recreate.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by andychamp View Post
Don‘t forget he records to tape.
Lots of dynamics are taken care of there...
Hmm, I have a vague memory that he regularly talks against using tape outside the "linear range". This is the best/first reference I could find:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lq-Zxnryzv8#t=2m30s
Old 4 weeks ago
  #21
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toledo3's Avatar
 

I don’t think he was really doing that a million years ago, on something like Surfer Rosa...the album that is maybe a major reason he got to make the rest of the stuff.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #22
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
That's true, and people don't really use it for that.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #23
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Duane0270's Avatar
 

Some engineers leave all the compression it up to the mastering guy.
Depends on the gig but I like comp on Bass and Vocals at least.
Now days I have been cutting back (compression) a bit to let things breath dynamically a bit more.
I would agree if you are recording to tape it pulls back the more you drive into it and that's most likely why Albini doesn't need the outboard as much.
It does sound more natural.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #24
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Muser's Avatar
from what I understand, he’ll tend to use the eq and compression as minimally as possible. so if there isn’t enough low end in the kick, he’ll use an eq for targeting the frequency there isn’t enough of, and then put the return into the same buss to make a resonant feedback loop. and then maybe first use a comp to limit the snare as opposed to compressing it as such. but you don’t want to be encountering any latency in feedback loops, so that would have to be mitigated within the system you are using. it needs to be spot on to maintain the phase coherence. but I’d doubt he’s shy about using eq or compression where it does the job he needs it to do. in that sense, avoidance is different from evasion.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #25
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Drumsound's Avatar
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.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MoltenVoltage View Post
I think you're right. I dug a little deeper on In Utero and apparently the original mixes were not appropriate for release and they remixed.
That's just the singles. Most of the album are his original mixes.

When you are recording distorted guitars, mic'd bass amps, and a very consistent drummer like DG, why use a bunch of compression anyway?
Old 4 weeks ago
  #27
Quote:
Originally Posted by lobsterinn View Post
That's just the singles. Most of the album are his original mixes.

When you are recording distorted guitars, mic'd bass amps, and a very consistent drummer like DG, why use a bunch of compression anyway?
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!
Old 4 weeks ago
  #28
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beau_mckee'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
I can understand your perspective on headroom coming from an era where dynamics, signal to noise ratio are all extremely important. A lot of modern mixes really are reliant on each element having dynamics "pinned" so to speak, which isn't going to be everyone's flavour from the heavily focused analog domain. This is fortunately / unfortunately just what is required/ expected from clients nowadays to get that big polished commercial mix sound. It has become the standard aesthetic. Drawing in the desired dynamics in post lends to a consistent, more "controllable" sound. I remember reading James Meeker's guide on approach on GS years ago and I had that "aha" moment where it all made sense. Nothing beats listening to old Fleetwood Mac records though for those authentic dynamics played with excellent musicianship
Old 4 weeks ago
  #29
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MoltenVoltage's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by lobsterinn View Post
That's just the singles. Most of the album are his original mixes.

When you are recording distorted guitars, mic'd bass amps, and a very consistent drummer like DG, why use a bunch of compression anyway?
There's no way this song isn't heavily compressed. From the side stick to full smashing drums - roughly the same volume. Most of the other tunes have a similar soft-loud-soft-loud dynamic.

Old 4 weeks ago
  #30
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by MoltenVoltage View Post
There's no way this song isn't heavily compressed.
It was mixed by Scott Litt.
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