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Exciters and Motown's "exciting compressor"
Old 24th February 2003
  #1
Jr. Gear Slut 2nd class
 
chessparov's Avatar
 

Exciters and Motown's "exciting compressor"

Just wondering how much you have used exciters like BBE, Aphex,
the SPL Vitalizer, and how they have helped you in the studio?

Robert Dennis wrote a very interesting article on "The Motown Exciting Compressor" about how Lawrence Horn came up with
a creative way to achieve the goals of these products-way before
they were made. They'd split a track in two, and then have one with minimal EQ and with the appropriate reverb.
The other duplicate track would be very compressed with lots of EQ. Then they'd blend the two tracks together so that whatever vocal or instrument choosen could stand out in the final mix better.

Of course, my description is somewhat simplified so if anyone cares to elaborate (paging Bob Olhsson) feel free to do so.
Already know the standard warnings on overexcitement BTW.

Thanks
Chris
Old 24th February 2003
  #2
One with big hooves
 
Jay Kahrs's Avatar
I have a Vitalizer here and it doesn't get used much. Maybe on a stereo effect that I want to spread out a bit more using the phase/width enhancer deal. I've also used it a bit on loops and background vocals. But, I think I used it three times last year. Not much in the grand scheme of things. Before that I had a single channel BBE that I used almost as often and sold. I got the Vitalizer on a whim because BSW was blowing them out for $120 and I figured someone will use at sometime for something, and it was cheap.
Old 24th February 2003
  #3
Motown legend
 
Bob Olhsson's Avatar
 

Mike McLean actually got the idea from a classical music technique used by DGG and Lawrence adapted it. At the time the best limiter we had was a Fairchild 670 which sounded pretty funky on vocals. We also were recording lead vocals on track one of our 8-tracks because dealing with the lack of HF response and hum did less harm to vocals than other things. The bass went on track 8 for the same reason. After we went 16 track which had a flat response on all the tracks, we pretty much dropped that technique in favor of just using an LA-2a or an Electrodyne compressor. I continued using parallel compression for tracking vocals without Lawrence's eq. or the noise gate that Bob Dennis didn't mention in his article.
Old 24th February 2003
  #4
Jr. Gear Slut 2nd class
 
chessparov's Avatar
 

Thanks for the responses.

I have a Joe Meek VC6 and have to admit that,
SM57 as an example, prefer adding a mild amount of
the "exciter", along with a moderate amount of its
compressor for my vocals. Setting the "Q" at 11 o'clock,
and the enhancer setting at 9 o'clock or less.
The compressor section thickens it up nicely.

On my other microphones that have a brighter top end,
you can sure hear the exciter get mighty harsh quickly
if you're not careful-not that it's news to you guys.

Chris
Old 26th February 2003
  #5
urumita
 
7rojo7's Avatar
 

When I track vocals I like to "help" the vocalist as much as I can.
This always means making a variety of mults.
If the vocalist needs more compression than I need i can give him his own signal path. We can usually agree on less (enough for me). The parallel factor usually comes into play in the first argument and usually for "loud" music.
The Dolby A-card mods are a classic example of parallel excitation.
It's basically simple: mic. to pre. and its channel, mult or buss to compressor>eq(400>4k filters)>buss or same buss>"tape". Add the effect or set levels to tape untill it sounds good. You may want to set this up in advance before the "talent" arrives to get the good take (!st). How many times does it happen that the singer arrives and expects the mix, the levels etc... to be perfect? What do you say when it's not?
Old 27th March 2018
  #6
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Olhsson View Post
Mike McLean actually got the idea from a classical music technique used by DGG and Lawrence adapted it. At the time the best limiter we had was a Fairchild 670 which sounded pretty funky on vocals. We also were recording lead vocals on track one of our 8-tracks because dealing with the lack of HF response and hum did less harm to vocals than other things. The bass went on track 8 for the same reason. After we went 16 track which had a flat response on all the tracks, we pretty much dropped that technique in favor of just using an LA-2a or an Electrodyne compressor. I continued using parallel compression for tracking vocals without Lawrence's eq. or the noise gate that Bob Dennis didn't mention in his article.
Do you happen to remember if Lawrence had the EQ before or after the compressor? I could see reasons to do it either way and the articles I've read on the subject don't seem to agree on the order. Obviously in practice it's "do whatever sounds right for the song" sort of thing but I was just curious how it was done originally. Thanks!
Old 27th March 2018
  #7
Motown legend
 
Bob Olhsson's Avatar
 

I was never there when he was doing it but I used an equalizer between the console output and the tape machine.
Old 28th March 2018
  #8
Lives for gear
 

Holy thread resurrection Batman! I forgot to remember when I started this thread, way back when.

Fascinating stuff. As always, thanks Bob for your insights...

Chris
Old 28th March 2018
  #9
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Olhsson View Post
I was never there when he was doing it but I used an equalizer between the console output and the tape machine.
Thanks! And thanks for everything you’ve contributed to this site - I always enjoy reading your posts.
Old 28th March 2018
  #10
Quote:
Originally Posted by chessparov View Post
Robert Dennis wrote a very interesting article on "The Motown Exciting Compressor" about how Lawrence Horn came up with
a creative way to achieve the goals of these products-way before
they were made. They'd split a track in two, and then have one with minimal EQ and with the appropriate reverb.
The other duplicate track would be very compressed with lots of EQ. Then they'd blend the two tracks together so that whatever vocal or instrument choosen could stand out in the final mix better.
I wish that there were more exciting compressors out there that weren't just utilitarian but actually transformed sound.

Alas, my kingdom for a Fairchild...
Old 28th March 2018
  #11
Motown legend
 
Bob Olhsson's Avatar
 

We were happy to have the Electrodyne compressors replace the Fairchildren for tracking in 1968. The mix rooms had LA-2as.

What made the sound exciting is that the singers were back far enough from the mikes that compression wasn't castrating them. The parallel compression channel just brought up the low parts. Today I record each on a separate Pro Tools track.
Old 28th March 2018
  #12
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Olhsson View Post
We were happy to have the Electrodyne compressors replace the Fairchildren for tracking in 1968. The mix rooms had LA-2as.

What made the sound exciting is that the singers were back far enough from the mikes that compression wasn't castrating them. The parallel compression channel just brought up the low parts. Today I record each on a separate Pro Tools track.
When I first started engineering years ago, I thought that compressors would be magical tools that helped transform sound in major ways. While that occasionally happens, especially with rhythm, my instruments have a much more profound influence than compressors. Tape, when distressed, is magic.
Old 28th March 2018
  #13
Lives for gear
 

I didn't see anyone mention it but the Exciting compressor and the exciters either hardware or software have absolutely nothing in common.

The Motown trick used parallel effects. The dry signal is split to two channels. One channel gets reverb, The other has the presence boosted and compressed. This makes lyrics clearly legible over the reverb and other loud instruments in a mix.

Most new exciters using something very different. In the case of many digital plugins they increase and/or generate upper harmonics from multiplying lower order harmonics. I suppose its not that much isn't that much different then how harmonizers work except its focused on fixed frequency content and not pitches.

BBE and similar device's work totally differently.

It imparts a pre-determined phase correction to the high frequency where most harmonic information exists. It breaks the signal into three sub-bands or groups;
Low frequency group which is crossed over at 150hz, the mid [email protected] and the high frequency group that handles everything else up to 20k

Low group is delayed 2.5 milliseconds (below 150hz) It has a control to set at flat or boost @50hz

Mids are delayed at .5 milliseconds while the highs are passed through a voltage control amp.

The high group is used as a point of reference to make dynamic amplitude corrections to the high frequencies. RMS loudness detectors continuously monitor both the mids and high frequencies to compare the relative harmonic content levels of the two bands and apply the appropriate amount of control voltage to the Voltage Controlled Amplifier thereby determining the amount of high frequencies harmonic content present at the final output❞

In short it tweaks the timing/phase of the frequencies based on a fixed formula and automatically adjusts them so the highs get to your ears before the lows do. This mimics what happens when you hear sound through a PA which has larger horns. The horns project highs like a laser to your ears in a straight direct line. Bass drives are heavy and take longer for a signal to get them moving, and because bass waves allow and long they take longer to fully develop in a room.
A BBE mimics what happens with a live sound system in a larger room. You could classify that as exciting the acoustics when used in a smaller room I suppose.

There are other types of exciters that all wind up doing similar things to the frequencies. Like many I experimented with them and over used them when I first got one and like many I quit using it when I found it was doing more harm then good. There's only one exciter I know of, The Alesis Exciter which actually boosts high frequency content without the noise that typically resides in those upper bands. Many of the others typically add distortion to the upper bands which winds up doing bad things, especially on recordings.
Old 28th March 2018
  #14
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by wrgkmc View Post

In short it tweaks the timing/phase of the frequencies based on a fixed formula and automatically adjusts them so the highs get to your ears before the lows do. This mimics what happens when you hear sound through a PA which has larger horns. The horns project highs like a laser to your ears in a straight direct line. Bass drives are heavy and take longer for a signal to get them moving, and because bass waves allow and long they take longer to fully develop in a room.
A BBE mimics what happens with a live sound system in a larger room. You could classify that as exciting the acoustics when used in a smaller room I suppose. ...
I was aware of the basics of process, but this is new to me.. and very odd.
..That anyone would want to mimic the sound of old sloppy SR stacks.
Wow.
Old 29th March 2018
  #15
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by wrgkmc View Post
There's only one exciter I know of, The Alesis Exciter which actually boosts high frequency content without the noise that typically resides in those upper bands. Many of the others typically add distortion to the upper bands which winds up doing bad things, especially on recordings.
I've just put some new pots in my Alesis Micro Enhancer. Before that, the Threshold pot was so messed up that it worked like a static EQ, and I could certainly hear more noise! Sounded quite good though, it certainly made my ESQ1 sound more present. With the new pots it takes a lot of input level to hear it working. It seems more for percussive stuff.

I've got a little BBE 262, that can be a bit much but it's worth having around. It could certainly screw up a main mix. Synth sounds can get very plasticky. I quite like my Behringer Ultrafex EX3100, it's a lot more natural than the BBE. It has a form of noise reduction in it too, along with bass enhancement and a stereo widener. Pretty cool toy for peanuts. Behringer also made a Dualfex, that had a pot that was Exciter one way and Enhancer (dynamic EQ?) the other way.

If anyone needs to replace their Alesis Micro Enhancer pots, these ones will do the job. They need different knobs though, they're splined rather than D shafts.

Bandwidth 10kB dual (linear)

10K OHM Linear Dual Taper Potentiometer

Threshold 50kA dual (log)

50K OHM Logarithmic Dual Taper Potentiometer

Mix 10kA dual (log)

10K OHM Logarithmic Dual Taper Potentiometer
Old 29th March 2018
  #16
Lives for gear
 
Sigma's Avatar
the Aphex exciter had a horrid phasey characteristic..to get "glass" i used to run a send of bkg's to dolby 361's encoded but not decoded and mixed it back in with the bkg tracks
Old 29th March 2018
  #17
Lives for gear
 

For those who want to review the source talked about above

THE EXCITING COMPRESSOR By ROBERT DENNIS Link: THE EXCITING COMPRESSOR
Old 25th October 2019
  #18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bassmankr View Post
For those who want to review the source talked about above

THE EXCITING COMPRESSOR By ROBERT DENNIS Link: THE EXCITING COMPRESSOR
Link no longer works so here is a link to the archived page.

http://web.archive.org/web/201801202...REQ/excomp.htm
Old 25th October 2019
  #19
Lives for gear
 

My old thread is baaaack. So many changes in my life, from 16+ years ago!.
Chris
Old 25th October 2019
  #20
Motown legend
 
Bob Olhsson's Avatar
 

Bob Dennis passed away a year and a half ago.
Old 26th October 2019
  #21
Lives for gear
 

Very sorry to hear that Bob.
Chris
Old 3rd November 2019
  #22
Gear Nut
 

Spatializer PCE™ (Phase Corrected Equalization) as part of a system-wide playback toolkit on XP made by Spatializer Audio Labs is the same as BBE process I think.

Excerpt from patent:
"The inductance of the coil creates a larger impedance as frequency increases, resulting in a time delay (the higher frequencies have a larger phase shift, causing a greater time delay than at the lower frequencies)". It's this PCE sets out to solve.
Link to patent
Link to Spatializer Audio Labs micro-site (archived)

Spatializer Audio Labs were formerly Desper Products Inc which were later acquired by DTS.

Virtual Surround Processor works on windows XP in 2019:


Story behind Stephen w. Desper:

Quote:
Way back in 1982, Stephen W. Desper, the renowned Hollywood recording engineer, filed a US patent for a device he called the Spatializer. While working in the Studio with groups like the Beach Boys, Steve was also working hard at home to find new ways of improving the audio presentation. His goal was to make the sound that came out of the speakers the same as what he was hearing in the studio - to eliminate the spectral transmission losses inevitable in even the most sophisticated of recording environments. The Spatializer was just such a device - it created a rich immesive soundfield which seemed to envelop the listener, without introducing any spectral or tonal distortion.

Realizing the potential of his invention, with the help of friends, Steve further researched and refined the Spatializer and in 1986 formed a company called Desper Products, Inc. By 1990 Desper had produced a prototype system, and began a series of successful trials on several animated productions with Warner Bros. Studios. In 1992 the Spatializer was declared 'ready' and the first integrated circuit Spatializer was produced. Immediately following this an initial public offering was made under the name Spatializer Audio Laboratories, Inc. In October of that year Spatializer Audio Labs' first product, the PRO Spatializer, was released at the Audio Engineering Society conference in San Francisco where it received global acclaim. From there the PRO went on to be a runaway success and become entrenched in many recording studios as an old friend.
Old 3rd November 2019
  #23
Lives for gear
 
Funny Cat's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by chessparov2.0 View Post
My old thread is baaaack. So many changes in my life, from 16+ years ago!.
Chris

Why did you upgrade to Chessparov "V.2.0"? I liked your old avatar.


On topic, it's crazy to think that Motown was using parallel processing way back when, or even orchestral engineers for that matter!
Old 3rd November 2019
  #24
Lives for gear
 

Great question! I loved that avatar too (Jules surprised me with it BTW)

Unfortunately, the specific password was lost, for my old username. Also at the time, IIRC there was another "Chessparov" name in use then.

So, like water... Went the path of least resistance!
Chris
Old 3rd November 2019
  #25
Lives for gear
 

Also... Yes, Motown, incredible innovators!
Chris
Old 3rd November 2019
  #26
Lives for gear
 
GreenNeedle's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sigma View Post
the Aphex exciter had a horrid phasey characteristic..to get "glass" i used to run a send of bkg's to dolby 361's encoded but not decoded and mixed it back in with the bkg tracks
Yeah, on the waves one there is one spot on the mix knob that gives the best phase, only one and it isn’t 100%
Old 4th November 2019
  #27
Lives for gear
 

I'm a bit busier onstage with other singers now, sometimes doubling on Tenor vocals...

Because we get a similar "shimmering" effect, to When they were using the higher quality 70's Exciter units, on vocal.mixes. Ala Bee Gees, etc.
(I have a humble Type C at home BTW)

You can hear that, in my voice, in the earlier "Handle With Care" clip. The last one "Indiana Wants Me" was just for fun.

BTW there were finally two versions of that hit because...
When car radio listeners heard the Siren intro, they thought the cops were pulling them over! The revised radio version, had no siren.
Chris
Old 4th November 2019
  #28
Lives for gear
 
robert82's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by chessparov2.0 View Post
Great question! I loved that avatar too (Jules surprised me with it BTW)

Unfortunately, the specific password was lost, for my old username. Also at the time, IIRC there was another "Chessparov" name in use then.

So, like water... Went the path of least resistance!
Chris
I think you should be able to combine your post tallies. You would seem so much more . . . authoritative.
Old 4th November 2019
  #29
Lives for gear
 

Gee, I already know enough to be mildly dangerous, in a real studio. That'd be like having an Evil Twin!
Chris
P.S. The "Handle With Care" audio clip, was recently buried, within the recent 70's thread.
Old 4th November 2019
  #30
Motown legend
 
Bob Olhsson's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by chessparov2.0 View Post
Also... Yes, Motown, incredible innovators!
Chris
Our "innovations" were simply ways of solving very real problems. We made things that sounded pretty bad by today's standards sound passable and not a distraction from the music.

Motown was by far the most brilliant group of people I've ever encountered and the company was entirely about solving all manner of problems for our artists.
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