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Masterlink, dithering, and other Q's:
Old 31st January 2003
  #1
Lives for gear
 
007's Avatar
 

Masterlink, dithering, and other Q's:

Hello all,
this is my first post, though I'm a regular on Digidesign's PT LE forum, glad
to have caught this community, everyone seems really friendly and quite
knowledgeable.

I live in Brooklyn, have a modest home studio with modest gear, where I
compose (cinematic electronica, remixes, breaks) and record demos for
friends. My system is based around a QS G4 867, Digi001/ProTools LE,
16 channel Behringer mixer, Focusrite Penta w/SPDIF card out, Korg MS2000,
Alesis M1mk2Active monitors.

Now, I know this has surely come up before, the issue being that the final
mix often sounds dull once dithered and bounced to disk from the session.
I usually record at 24-bit/44.1, and have tried different BTD + Dither combos,
and all of them seem to heavily alter the sound of the mix (clarity and depth
loss, almost brittle sounding). I've tried Digirack, Waves L1, Waves IDR and even Jam's dither and still, the bounced/AIFF mix always ends up sounding dull.

Hence, the interest in the Alesis Masterlink, which is heavily discussed among
PT LE users, usually in a very positive way. But what I don't understand is, how are people using this as an A/D converter? I can understand monitoring through it's D/A, and burning a crisp master by bypassing Pro Tool's BTD, but using it as an A/D? Can someone please clarify?

-Do most sequencers yield dismal results after the BTD, or is PT's just worse than the others?

-Would a Masterlink be a wise investment, or would it be best to get a Benchmark DAC-1 (which I've read much great things about lately) and possibly and the forthcoming ADC-1 to take care of conversion, while still
using PT's BTD?

-Until I get better conversion in the chain, what can I do to improve the dull mixes from the BTD? (the session mixes are smokin', good headroom, all is fine, it's just sounds horrible after the bounce)
Do you recomend bouncing at 24bit and dithering elsewhere, perhaps T-Racks (for dither only) or Peak?


For any advice and comments, I THANK YOU SO MUCH in advance.
Glad to have joined this forumyuktyy

---------------------

www.krou.com
Old 31st January 2003
  #2
Here for the gear
 

Hey krou . . .

I am using a setup very similar to yours and I noticed the exact
same problem with my BTD files sounding dull.

My problem was solved and hugely improved by purchasing an
Apogee Trak 2. (no I am not affiliated with Apogee in any way,
I simply can't say enough good about my Trak 2)

The Trak 2, when upgraded with an ADAT optical card, will give
incredibly better, warmer, beefier A to D conversion, amazing
dithering, and digital inputs which allow you to never use BTD
again. You can burn cd's and completely bypass BTD.

If you're not familiar with the Trak 2, you can read about it at:

www.apogeedigital.com

It's sort of a swiss army knife for the digital studio. 2 mic pre's,
2 channels of A to D, dithering, and super accurate word clock
that makes PTLE sound way better when you use the Apogee as
the master clock.

If you want to hear what it sounds like check some of my mixes:

www.halftheworld.cc/music.html
Old 31st January 2003
  #3
Lives for gear
 
007's Avatar
 

thanks for the reply Pete,

your tracks sound great!

I've considered getting a Rosetta some time ago, but only having A/D seemed
like a cut-corner scenario. Then I read about the Masterlink, and how the D/A
and disc burning facility make the biggest difference in the final mix
(though I'm still hazy on how people use this unit for AD as well?).
Now comes the Benchmak DAC-1, and soon to be released, similar unit in charge of the AD conversion.
This seems like THE way to go, but the options can be mind-boggling.

So, my gut tells me to wait a few months before buying anything.
I checked out the Trak2, very nice but way out of may range. You mention
it's digital inputs "allowing you to bypass Digi's BTD", can you elaborate on
that? Are you using a stand-alone cd burner after the Apogee?

In the end, no matter if you have great 2-way conversion,
is ProTools' BTD the one step that can dull an otherwise great mix?
In other words, is that the ONE thing to avoid, hence the popularity
of units like the Masterlink?

Would love to know more...

Thanks for your input.
Old 31st January 2003
  #4
Re: Masterlink, dithering, and other Q's:

Quote:
Originally posted by krou
Hello all,
this is my first post, though I'm a regular on Digidesign's PT LE forum, glad
to have caught this community, everyone seems really friendly and quite
knowledgeable.

I live in Brooklyn, have a modest home studio with modest gear, where I
compose (cinematic electronica, remixes, breaks) and record demos for
friends. My system is based around a QS G4 867, Digi001/ProTools LE,
16 channel Behringer mixer, Focusrite Penta w/SPDIF card out, Korg MS2000,
Alesis M1mk2Active monitors.

Now, I know this has surely come up before, the issue being that the final
mix often sounds dull once dithered and bounced to disk from the session.
I usually record at 24-bit/44.1, and have tried different BTD + Dither combos,
and all of them seem to heavily alter the sound of the mix (clarity and depth
loss, almost brittle sounding). I've tried Digirack, Waves L1, Waves IDR and even Jam's dither and still, the bounced/AIFF mix always ends up sounding dull.

Hence, the interest in the Alesis Masterlink, which is heavily discussed among
PT LE users, usually in a very positive way. But what I don't understand is, how are people using this as an A/D converter? I can understand monitoring through it's D/A, and burning a crisp master by bypassing Pro Tool's BTD, but using it as an A/D? Can someone please clarify?

-Do most sequencers yield dismal results after the BTD, or is PT's just worse than the others?

-Would a Masterlink be a wise investment, or would it be best to get a Benchmark DAC-1 (which I've read much great things about lately) and possibly and the forthcoming ADC-1 to take care of conversion, while still
using PT's BTD?

-Until I get better conversion in the chain, what can I do to improve the dull mixes from the BTD? (the session mixes are smokin', good headroom, all is fine, it's just sounds horrible after the bounce)
Do you recomend bouncing at 24bit and dithering elsewhere, perhaps T-Racks (for dither only) or Peak?


For any advice and comments, I THANK YOU SO MUCH in advance.
Glad to have joined this forumyuktyy

---------------------

www.krou.com
Maybe I am missing something, but I've used the BTD option in PT and have never felt that it was as bad as you guys say.

The best dithering scheme around is the POW-R #3. When I am mixing in PT, I always have this on the mixbuss because i like to have some idea what it will sound like at after its dithered(I toggle back and forth from bypass to non bypassed).

One thing I've said before, is if you have lots of automation happening than this may affect the BTD. Try just recording your mix on 2 tracks in PT, and importing that into a different session. Do all of your premastering and BTD that.

I was one of the first guys touting the Masterlink for a mixdown device. I use it with a HEDD 192 on the front. The dithering scheme is nice(I do prefer the POW-R better though). I normally go into it digitally though(I am not a big fan of its A/D).

Try the above and see if it works.

Good Luck.
Old 1st February 2003
  #5
Lives for gear
 
chap's Avatar
 

I've had a Masterlink for a long time. Alesis gave it to me as part of an endorsement package. For a couple of years, I only used it as a cd player and
aux. burner. Recently, I've obtained the Dangerous 2 Buss, from various Apogee converters, removed any form of dither, spread the tracks out to 16 stereo pair (reconverted to analog) and sent the 2 Buss to a SLAM! and Massive Passive to the Masterlink.
The image retention is unbelievable as is the depth of field. Now I have 2 MLs. I think it sounds less 'contained' and more open than the BTD function.

I will say that BTD is much easier and I use it for reference mixes all the time. This allows me to save some 'bang' until the final mix.
Old 1st February 2003
  #6
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doug_hti's Avatar
 

Last week I was definately having a problem with bouncing something and after bouncing from 96k to 44, and listening, it sounded like a blanket was over the speakers compared to original at 96k.
I truly don't know if this is a sample rate conversion thing or what...and still don't completely understand why. So I didn't BTD and ran it to another track. Well, same thing, no different.
However, I definately feel I finally got a reasonable handle on how to do this whole process if you want to stay in PT. Mix your music, use whatever mix bus compression and maybe limiting on the final stages of your mix to hear what is changing on the mix and what your bringing forward so you can make last minute level changes. Don't mix it overly bright like you are used to doing to compensate for the BTD...then take off your limiting and leave plenty of head room on the master track and BTD still at 24 bit...
Then pull it into another session, listen to it being a bit duller, and put your EQ(maybe just high band to add back the sparkle), limiter, and then your dither on the track and I promise after you BTD that time, it will come out sounding better than if you tried doing it all in one shot like before...

I think where masterlinks can really come into play, as well as D2B's, is if you are using any sort of outboard...I definately agree that if you can avoid Digi's sample rate conversion scheme, that you will benefit....one way to do that may be to run your mix buss at 96k, 88.2k, or 48k through a comp,eq, limiter, etc. then into a nice converter into the Masterlink at 44.1...avoiding the regular conversion...

I always thought BTD was the culprit as well, and I really don't believe that any more, I have no idea what the problem is, but the mix (for me) always lost it's shine after going through 2 bus EQ, Limiting, and Dithering, and sample rate conversion all in one shot.....

Just give it a shot...?! good luck
Old 1st February 2003
  #7
Lives for gear
 
doug_hti's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by chap

Recently, I've obtained the Dangerous 2 Buss, from various Apogee converters, removed any form of dither, spread the tracks out to 16 stereo pair (reconverted to analog) and sent the 2 Buss to a SLAM! and Massive Passive to the Masterlink.
The image retention is unbelievable as is the depth of field. Now I have 2 MLs. I think it sounds less 'contained' and more open than the BTD function.
Now come on chap, your running your mix through a massive passive and a slam, do you think you can fairly compare that in any way shape or form to BTDing alone with plugs...
My goodness that must sound amazing though...
And regardless of the "inaccurate" papers written on the D2B, and taking out the other "goodies" out of the equation (MP, Slam), have you done a comparison of running out of your apogees into the D2B and back into the masterlink compared to running a 2 track out of the apogees (analog) into the Masterlink?
Old 1st February 2003
  #8
Lives for gear
 
chap's Avatar
 

sorry

You're right, but my point is that the ML was just sitting there until I found a way to integrate it.
I'm not trying to make a comparison. Just that I've found a use for the ML.
Sorry if it sounded like an 'a/b' thing.
They're 2 different animals.
cheers,
chap
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