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Gear for softer/spongy high end
Old 9th September 2020
  #1
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Gear for softer/spongy high end

I produce Pop and EDM sample based music. The thing that bothers me in my ITB mixes is the spiky digital transients in the very top above 10k. I tried every saturator, clipper, transient designer, etc plugin that I can think of. Some do a decent job, but in the end its either not enough taming or too much to the point where it just gets too smeary and plastic. I'm looking for some suggestions for hardware pieces that will give me the softening effect that I'm looking for but at the same time keep the overall crispness intact. Things that I'm currently considering are: Crane Song HEDD, Sebatron Axis 200VU and 1073OPX

Last edited by sergxp; 9th September 2020 at 11:05 PM..
Old 9th September 2020
  #2
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First of all are you worried about the look of things or the sound?

Yes, they obviously are connected but one can get overly worried about how audio looks.

Most modern recording in all types of music is way over compressed in my book. If you want your recordings to have life and dynamics it isn't going to look all neat and tidy and it just isn't going to be as loud as commercial stuff.

Record some LP's from the 60's or 70's or hell even some CD's from the 80's and look at the wave forms and listen to what stuff sounds like compared to music from the 90's and beyond or even older music that has been remastered... Very different looking and sounding.

Finding a mastering engineer who can get your tracks to a place you like might be more effective than chasing it yourself.
Old 9th September 2020
  #3
I know you said you’ve tried every plugin but have you tried soothe 2?

For hardware I’d suggest a stereo tube compressor. Retro or highland dynamics come to mind. Have you tried the Fairchild plugin and tape emulation plugins?
Old 9th September 2020
  #4
Gear Nut
 

Maybe it would be helpful for you to post some examples.

I've become very skeptical that there's something "digital" that does this. The stuff I hear that is suffering is usually from recording techniques that were optimized to go to tape and then applied to digital.

So much of the conventional "wisdom" out there is designed to overcome the saturation and darkness of tape. Take those approaches and apply it to a clean digital medium and you get all the adjectives people associate with digital.

"Harsh"
"Overly bright"
"Spiky"
"Clinical"
etc etc etc

Given the fact that the range you're talking about is the exact range where most tape starts to naturally roll off, I would bet that you could get 80% of what you want just by using a carefully placed LPF with a gentle slope.

BUT, that's just a guess. There could be other things going on too. What genre are we talking about here? Post a clip!

Last edited by GravesNumber9; 9th September 2020 at 07:46 PM.. Reason: typo
Old 9th September 2020
  #5
Gear Nut
 

You also might want to try the magic microphone trick. Do a search. It totally works and is in no way stupid or a waste of your time.
Old 9th September 2020
  #6
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GreenNeedle's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by sergxp View Post
The thing that bothers me in my ITB mixes is the spiky digital transients in the very top above 10k. I tried every saturator, clipper, transient designer, etc plugin that I can think of. Some do a decent job, but in the end its either not enough taming or too much to the point where it just gets too smeary and plastic. I'm looking for some suggestions for hardware pieces that will give me the softening effect that I'm looking for but at the same time keep the overall crispness intact. Things that I'm currently considering are: Crane Song HEDD, Sebatron Axis 200VU and 1073OPX
tape sims
Old 9th September 2020
  #7
Gear Guru
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by sergxp View Post
The thing that bothers me in my ITB mixes is the spiky digital transients in the very top above 10k. I tried every saturator, clipper, transient designer, etc plugin that I can think of. Some do a decent job, but in the end its either not enough taming or too much
That's weird because every saturator, clipper or tape sim that I have tried has a knob where you can raise or back off the effect. Most have a blend or mix knob to use it in parallel as well.

I am surprised that the Goldilocks amount is so elusive. That the effect would suddenly "jump" like that from not enough to too much.

It makes me suspect that the issues might like further up the chain, before you get to your ITB mix. I am a huge believer in ribbon mics, tube preamps and so on for this very reason.
Old 9th September 2020 | Show parent
  #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Patrick Norton View Post
I know you said you’ve tried every plugin but have you tried soothe 2?

For hardware I’d suggest a stereo tube compressor. Retro or highland dynamics come to mind. Have you tried the Fairchild plugin and tape emulation plugins?

I use Soothe and Melda Spectral Dynamics on all of my mixes, I absolutely love it for taming upper mid range. It does not do much for me in the very top end though. As far as tape emulations I have pretty much all of them. By far my new favorite is the Tone Boosters ReelBus 4. It gets me super close to real tape in my opinion. But most EDM or Pop, it's too much. I've tried most Fairchild plugins, their great as well, but for that sort of vibe I prefer MJUC.

Quote:
Originally Posted by GravesNumber9 View Post
Maybe it would be helpful for you to post some examples.

I've become very skeptical that there's something "digital" that does this. The stuff I hear that is suffering is usually from recording techniques that were optimized to go to tape and then applied to digital.

So much of the conventional "wisdom" out there is designed to overcome the saturation and darkness of tape. Take those approaches and apply it to a clean digital medium and you get all the adjectives people associate with digital.

"Harsh"
"Overly bright"
"Spiky"
"Clinical"
etc etc etc

Given the fact that the range you're talking about is the exact range where most tape starts to naturally roll off, I would bet that you could get 80% of what you want just by using a carefully placed LPF with a gentle slope.

BUT, that's just a guess. There could be other things going on too. What genre are we talking about here? Post a clip!
You're absolutely right as far as there's nothing wrong with digital, it's just crystal clear representation of audio. And for my productions, where a huge chunk of is sample based and already processed. I'm having to fight to get some of the edginess and the sharpness off. Besides some guitars and vocals, I do not record anything so that takes control away from getting recording techniques right. As far as just an LPF, yes that helps some, but to me, you're just turning down the sharp transients, they're still just as sharp, just now quieter, which I still don't like. I will post a clip later today.
Old 9th September 2020 | Show parent
  #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by joeq View Post
That's weird because every saturator, clipper or tape sim that I have tried has a knob where you can raise or back off the effect. Most have a blend or mix knob to use it in parallel as well.

I am surprised that the Goldilocks amount is so elusive. That the effect would suddenly "jump" like that from not enough to too much.

It makes me suspect that the issues might like further up the chain, before you get to your ITB mix. I am a huge believer in ribbon mics, tube preamps and so on for this very reason.
Any tube pres you'd recommend?
Old 9th September 2020
  #10
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roystone's Avatar
 

I did my first mixes last month with 1073 opx as summing mixer... I love how it put the mix in a space. Bass freq are easier to mix and high freq become friendly.
You can drive it a bit if you want to add color and also keep it soft just to put things in place.
You also have 8 1073 preamps and control/save over lan at a very good price. A wonderful box!
I also have a tk-bc1 and manley vari mu comp on the 2buss though.
But the addition of the opx feels for me like it was the missing link!
Old 9th September 2020
  #11
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Have you looked into the Louder Than Liftoff Silver Bullet? I have one on order, it hasn't arrived yet, but to me one of the main appeals of the box was the way the mojo circuits take care of transients and add "analogue" depth to the audio signal.
Old 9th September 2020 | Show parent
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by B36arin View Post
Have you looked into the Louder Than Liftoff Silver Bullet? I have one on order, it hasn't arrived yet, but to me one of the main appeals of the box was the way the mojo circuits take care of transients and add "analogue" depth to the audio signal.
I demoed it, albeit using Access Analog. I didn't get it. Maybe I gotta take another look and focus closer to what it's doing to the transient. Speaking of Access Analog, the thing that I did like was the Black Box HG-2. You actually just reminded me about it. The plugin sounds NOTHING like the real thing.
Old 9th September 2020
  #13
Gear Guru
 
Brent Hahn's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by sergxp View Post
The thing that bothers me in my ITB mixes is the spiky digital transients in the very top above 10k.
What mic(s) are these spiky digital transients being recorded with?
Old 9th September 2020 | Show parent
  #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brent Hahn View Post
What mic(s) are these spiky digital transients being recorded with?
Nothing recorded. I'm mostly talking about modern sample based productions.
Old 9th September 2020
  #15
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szmola's Avatar
Not many sources need to have stuff above 10khz, try to cut with hi-shelf or low-pass filter some of the tracks. I find this helps to get clarity as well, not just removing unnecessary sizzle. Compensate and lift 5-10khz if the sound becomes too dark. Otherwise, I get much better results when choosing the right sounds and making good arrangement than playing with saturation, compression etc.
Old 9th September 2020
  #16
Check your monitoring and next time when mixing or arranging a song( most crucial), see if you can get away with doing an entire song without boosting anything above 10khz...literally.

Lastly experiment with finding the best high pass filter plug ins that don't ring above the turnover frequency( my favorite these days is the Dangerous BAX EQ).
That way if you use a lot of high pass EQing it won't add up later on further up the bandwith.
Old 9th September 2020 | Show parent
  #17
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by sergxp View Post
I use Soothe and Melda Spectral Dynamics on all of my mixes, I absolutely love it for taming upper mid range. It does not do much for me in the very top end though. As far as tape emulations I have pretty much all of them. By far my new favorite is the Tone Boosters ReelBus 4. It gets me super close to real tape in my opinion. But most EDM or Pop, it's too much. I've tried most Fairchild plugins, their great as well, but for that sort of vibe I prefer MJUC.



You're absolutely right as far as there's nothing wrong with digital, it's just crystal clear representation of audio. And for my productions, where a huge chunk of is sample based and already processed. I'm having to fight to get some of the edginess and the sharpness off. Besides some guitars and vocals, I do not record anything so that takes control away from getting recording techniques right. As far as just an LPF, yes that helps some, but to me, you're just turning down the sharp transients, they're still just as sharp, just now quieter, which I still don't like. I will post a clip later today.
In my experience a lot of samples are kind of hyped so that they jump out and sound good when you're listening to them, but they don't always sit that well. Plus it's a lot easier to take a hyped sample and tame it than the other way around.

So maybe part of the answer is to treat your samples a little more aggressively if you don't like how they sound. Split those drums up and EQ to your taste. Run that synth through a distressor and get some break-up on the high notes. For your audio recordings maybe try a dynamic or a ribbon where you're "supposed" to use an LDC.

Also, as joeq pointed out, you might have more of a downstream problem. Take a project that you're struggling with and try muting one channel at a time.

I think the thing is that you're struggling to find a solution because you haven't really identified your problem in a specific way. That's your first step.

Troubleshooting this stuff is fun (I think). Even more fun than buying a piece of new gear (heresy I know) and a whole lot cheaper. Step one? Find your problem. Step two? You'll know what to do when you finish step one.
Old 9th September 2020
  #18
When I get mixes that are mostly samples I use high and low shelves judiciously
Old 9th September 2020
  #19
Try mixing into a (non-resonant) lowpass filter (8kHz-12kHz)... Gives it a warm, tape-like vibe, even if you’re boosting the highs ahead of the filter.
Old 10th September 2020
  #20
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Oldone's Avatar
Too many plugins and improper gain staging is also a sign of harsh sounding digital tracks. If you've already adjusted for these then soothe is a good recommendation or just running the tracks out to a preamp and back can help.
Old 10th September 2020
  #21
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You know what sounds spongy, at least when recording? A fat foam windscreen (and no, I'm not joking!)
Old 10th September 2020
  #22
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One thought that was alluded to, but I didn't specifically see mentioned: Maybe you're expecting a little bit too much from a 2-bus processor.

Instead of trying to tackle the problem on the mix bus at the end of the mix, have you tried adding a plugin in the first insert slot of every single track? This could be either a tape sim to emulate tracking everything to tape or a console plugin or channel strip to emulate running everything through a single console. Or whatever the heck else you want to try. Then connect the parameters on all of the tracks by grouping them together in the plugin (like some tape sims allow you to), or using your DAW group functions to allow you to control all of parameters of the first insert slot together at once.

I find that adding color to the mix this way can be much more natural sounding, especially with saturation plugins. If you add saturation to each element individually, then the loudest element won't trigger the effect for everything else. It can really help to smooth things out while also allowing the quieter elements to breath and not get squashed.
Old 10th September 2020
  #23
Gear Guru
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by sergxp View Post
Any tube pres you'd recommend?
I have had my DW Fearn for 18 years and I am still in the Honeymoon phase. For a totally different flavor, the Pendulum is also quite lovely. But there are tons of great tube amps out there.


Quote:
Originally Posted by sergxp View Post
Nothing recorded. I'm mostly talking about modern sample based productions.
Well no wonder!

j/k (n/r/k)

Seriously, I really think moving some air might be worth a try. Try sending your stuff out of the computer, into an amp and recording the speaker with a mic. Even without pricey mics and preamps, it could be fun - and also an opportunity to try various mad-scientist things.
Old 10th September 2020 | Show parent
  #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by joeq View Post
I have had my DW Fearn for 18 years and I am still in the Honeymoon phase. For a totally different flavor, the Pendulum is also quite lovely. But there are tons of great tube amps out there.




Well no wonder!

j/k (n/r/k)

Seriously, I really think moving some air might be worth a try. Try sending your stuff out of the computer, into an amp and recording the speaker with a mic. Even without pricey mics and preamps, it could be fun - and also an opportunity to try various mad-scientist things.
Oooh, I love that. Now you have my wheels turning!
Old 10th September 2020
  #25
Gear Maniac
there are a few airwindows plugins that you may not have tried. they're quality and free, if you're not familiar:

dark - try quantizing to 24-bit with this instead of using dither or raw truncation, both of which will be brighter. it's like a dither, but it's not.
slew2 - cuts frequencies near nyquist, is not an eq
totape6 - fattens things pleasantly and features a 'soften' control, nice
tape - may also be pleasant for you

i'm also having a great time running mixes through my first and only outboard compressor. it's a chameleon labs 7721 stereo vca that i picked up on reverb for $600. it doesn't always beat my compressor plugins--vsc-2, psp busspressor, t-racks bus comp, kazrog true dynamics (good one for you, potentially)--but it's helpful when mixes are sounding bright/harsh. it tends to focus sound toward the midrange, whereas my plugin compressors will usually sound more in-your-face and brighter. can't really get this kind of midrange focus with pre-emphasis/sidechain eq, i did try quite a bit before making the purchase. so maybe a mixbus compressor would be a nice tool for you, rather than a preamp (if you're not recording anything). my capi vp28 is also super helps mixes not to turn out too harsh by capturing vocals and guitars better than my duet preamps, but running mixes through the vp-28 does nothing i like.

edit: also the diyre colours "15 ips" module sounded great to me in the demo i saw. and airwindows console5 might help introduce some depth/3D compared to plain digital summing, which tends to be flatter and more in-your-face in a way that can be harsh by comparison.

Last edited by Dirk Churlish; 10th September 2020 at 09:40 AM.. Reason: forgot to mention
Old 10th September 2020
  #26
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szmola's Avatar
People usually expect too much of the outboard gear (and plugins as well), sorry hardcore gearslutz.

Saturating and compressing already spiky and sizzly sounds, ITB or OTB, is probably not going to give pleasing results. Like few people said, some of the libraries are hyped in high freqs and there are two sensible ways to proceed - cut it or change the sound while listening in a treated room with good speakers and headphones.
Old 10th September 2020
  #27
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what he said

saturation - is a form of compression - compressing something "s*****" just makes the spikes worse.

as a basic try using a high shelf around 5K and drop 2-3 db before any comp / sat
Old 10th September 2020 | Show parent
  #28
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by joeq View Post
I have had my DW Fearn for 18 years and I am still in the Honeymoon phase. For a totally different flavor, the Pendulum is also quite lovely. But there are tons of great tube amps out there.
Single channel DW Fearn pre costs like $3k. For that price I could buy 103 Waves plugins and run them concurrently on 145 tracks. Plus recall. Don't forget recall.
Old 10th September 2020
  #29
Have you checked the overall spectral balance of your mix with Voxengo SPAN? At a 3 dB/Octave slope, the high end should look flat at most, maybe dropping down a bit. If it's not, you may be compensating for a lack of treble in your room.

Also, a plugin combo to try out: Waves TG12345 with saturation turned on (.1 or so) followed by Gullfoss.
Old 10th September 2020
  #30
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plainofjars's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by sergxp View Post
I produce Pop and EDM sample based music. The thing that bothers me in my ITB mixes is the spiky digital transients in the very top above 10k. I tried every saturator, clipper, transient designer, etc plugin that I can think of. Some do a decent job, but in the end its either not enough taming or too much to the point where it just gets too smeary and plastic. I'm looking for some suggestions for hardware pieces that will give me the softening effect that I'm looking for but at the same time keep the overall crispness intact. Things that I'm currently considering are: Crane Song HEDD, Sebatron Axis 200VU and 1073OPX
You’ll have to post examples of what you hear as good and bad. All edm sounds harsh and spike-y to me—its part of the sound.
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