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Brass Distortion - WTF? Studio Monitors
Old 31st August 2011
  #1
Gear Addict
 

Brass Distortion - WTF?

Can you hear this distortion and help me identify the cause, as well as a possible solution?

I could not hear this distortion when I tracked the quintet on my old Dynaudio BM5a's, but now that I'm mixing on my new Spiral Groove Sonics Animas, there is obvious distortion all over the place, whenever the section is full and loud. The Animas sound absolutely sublime on everything else, so I doubt its the speakers, but thats one reason I'm looking for another opinion.

There was absolutely, 100% no clipping on the way in to AD (hd 24XR), with peak levels around -6, and pre-amp gain on the zed around 50%. The same goes for DA into my Zed, and the zed r16 channels and master buss aren't close to clipping either. My AD on the way back in for the mix isn't clipping, not even close. I can only hear the distortion when I'm listening fairly loudly, but the lead trumpet says he can hear the distortion in several different systems as well.

They want a very warm recording, but I'm afraid that I'll have to butcher some frequencies to take care of this, unless someone has a genius idea or solution. I'm out of ideas...
Attached Files

test dist brass.wav (2.93 MB, 763 views)

Old 31st August 2011
  #2
Gear Maniac
 

I'm not hearing distortion.
Old 31st August 2011
  #3
Just 'cause I know it's going to come up -- to clarify, I presume you are not talking about the 'growl' effect around the 6-7 second mark, right? But rather subtle distortion on the peaks that precede and follow?
Old 31st August 2011
  #4
Gear Addict
 

The quintet and I are good with the growl. I hear a little bit of distortion towards the end of the growl in the L ch, which is the french horn, and then A LOT afterwards, particularly when the french horn swells.

Thanks for the quick replies fellas. I've just got that sick feeling...thought I was ready to blast through 20 brass tunes this week, only to spend my time trying to figure out what's going on...

So, theBlue1, you are hearing what I'm hearing?
Old 31st August 2011
  #5
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abechap024's Avatar
 

I hear no recording distortion. I used to play french horn and its a lovely sounding instrument because when played loudly it has a nice "overdriven" type sound to it. But that is true of any brass instrument.

Do you listen to this type of music very often?

Taking for granted my crappy laptop soundcard isn't letting me hear if there is some sort of very subtle distortion...
Old 31st August 2011
  #6
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andrew montreal's Avatar
No distortion here. No distortion, hear? If there was distortion on those transients, it would seperate itself from the actual image of the instrument. Sounds like the actual snappy burst of air from the players.

Amazing performance by the way. They sound great.
Old 31st August 2011
  #7
Gear Addict
 

I've played in symphonic, marching and jazz bands, even into college, and I regularly do live sound for a horn band, so I can definitely connect with the snappy transients of horns, but what I'm hearing on the Animas is so obviously distortion...but I can crank ANY other kind of recording, from fat bass hip-hop to screaming trumpets and I don't hear anything like what I hear on this quintet. I'm utterly baffled, especially if I'm the only one who hears it...

The group is called Legacy Brass, from Dallas. They played the national anthem at the Rangers game last night... It's the first quintet recording I've done, and it was in my little live room, but I was still excited about what I could do with the mix. Now I feel like I can't even get started.
Old 31st August 2011
  #8
Gear Addict
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by abechap024 View Post
Taking for granted my crappy laptop soundcard isn't letting me hear if there is some sort of very subtle distortion...
This is what I'm wondering as well. Am I only hearing it because the Animas are revealing details that other monitors simply smear or cover up? Or are the speakers themselves folding? (again, I can crank any other recording on the Animas and the sound is f*ing unbelievably pristine) Or could the XR convertors somehow be folding under the pressure of this full brass recording?

The lead trumpet player, who has a great ear for tone, says he can hear it on computer & car systems, but could that be the result of cranking a low-level, unmastered recording on a bad amp? My head is swimming.
Old 31st August 2011
  #9
Gear Addict
 

Also, the mics I used were Cascade Fatheads on trumpets, Royer 121 on the French horn (which I believe is the track causing the most trouble), RE-20 on trombone, and Joly modded mk319 on tuba...
Old 31st August 2011
  #10
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suedesound's Avatar
 

just listened on headphones off my laptop and had trouble hearing any distortion. great sounding section, sorry i can't be of help.
Old 31st August 2011
  #11
Gear Head
 

I am not hearing any distortion either.
Old 1st September 2011
  #12
Gear Addict
 

Thanks for the replies, they're helpful even if you don't hear it. In the morning I'll make and post a recording of what I'm actually hearing in the room, just to be sure I'm not losing it...
Old 1st September 2011
  #13
Gear Head
 

No distortion here either.
Old 1st September 2011
  #14
Gear Maniac
 
Gilli C's Avatar
 

just a passing thought - you mentioned you thought it was the French Horn track that was causing the trouble

A while ago I was recording myself playing my e flat tenor horn ( alto horn in the US) and couldn't pinpoint this distortion I was hearing.

Finally discovered the horn has an air leak which sounded like low level distortion. Heard it when I played the horn just in the room, rather than thru a recording chain.

Is it possible this is what you are hearing?

G
Old 1st September 2011
  #15
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mike vee's Avatar
maybe it's whatever you are listening through???? perhaps your drivers are going?
Old 1st September 2011
  #16
Moderator
 
narcoman's Avatar
 

The only distortions I'm hearing are:

1. in mono the intro part choruses - not surprising and not an issue.
2. The F and D on the horn. But this is acoustic distortion caused by a mild overblow. You wouldn't hear them like this in a room because you'd be picking up all kinds of reflective information which would hide it. A mic, though, will reveal that acoustic distortion.

I don't think you have any major issue here... I'm listening on Bryston into custom SP1m monitors (similar to 800D but with a better top end)
Old 1st September 2011
  #17
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noiseflaw's Avatar
 

I cannot hear any distortion - Sony MDR 7509's here...

Bar 5 - E to F quarter notes phrase with raspy sound, does not sound distorted either - not to me.
Old 1st September 2011
  #18
Gear Addict
 

This is what I'm hearing in the room, as recorded by a Joly Mod 319...After breakfast I'm going to hook the Zed up as my interface to rule out the XR convertors as the issue. I used a different monitor controller, and that didn't help. I could also try a different amp with the Animas. Besides that, I don't know what to do...
Attached Files

What I hear.wav (1.86 MB, 493 views)

Old 1st September 2011
  #19
Gear Addict
 

I connected my Zed r16 directly to my computer and ran it as the monitor controller/DA convertors, and the distortion is still there. If I'm the only one that can hear it, and I've tried with different monitor controllers and DA convertors, are the absolute only variables remaining the amp and speakers? Again, I have not heard one touch of distortion on any material besides this quintet, and I've listened for 30 hours last week when I got the Animas, from hip-hop and dance music to metal and jazz...I just don't get why this recording I did stands alone.
Old 1st September 2011
  #20
Gear Guru
 
Brent Hahn's Avatar
 

Definitely some interharmonic distortion going on. Pretty common with brass; their harmonics are pretty intense (especially French horns and anything with a Harmon mute) so your individual tracks will sound pretty clean, but when you combine them it turns into a mess.

That's why it's a good idea to record stuff like this with as few mics as possible -- to let the combining happen in the air rather than electronically. That horse is out of the barn already, obviously, but it would've been worse if you had used condensers.

I'm not familiar with the Zed R16, but if it's analog, it might help some to mix at the lowest level you can, so your mix bus doesn't come even close to crunching, and then boost the level of your finished mix. Or even better, mix on a super-high-headroom "real" console if budget allows.

Also, you can try lo-pass filtering all your tracks, setting the filters as steep as they will go, lowering the cutoff frequencies until you hear them working and then raising them back up a little. the basic idea behind it is that some of the harmonics of the individual horns are way up in dog-whistle country (inaudible), but when they combine with the high harmonics of the other horns beating occurs which is, of course, at much lower frequencies and very audible.
Old 1st September 2011
  #21
Gear Addict
 

Brent,

Thanks for your reply. Just to be totally clear, are you actually hearing this interharmonic distortion when you listen to the actual file, or just on the recording of what I hear in my control room?
Old 1st September 2011
  #22
Gear Guru
 
Brent Hahn's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by over-man View Post
Brent,

Thanks for your reply. Just to be totally clear, are you actually hearing this interharmonic distortion when you listen to the actual file, or just on the recording of what I hear in my control room?
I'm hearing it in the actual file.
Old 1st September 2011
  #23
Gear Addict
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brent Hahn View Post
I'm hearing it in the actual file.
Excellent. At least someone else can hear it too, though it begs the question why can't the vast majority of people hear it? In all of these threads about hardware vs. plug-ins, etc. etc., you have to wonder how much people's monitors are either revealing or covering things up. I started the thread wondering if the Animas are simply revealing things I've never heard, and that's what I'm leaning towards at this point. I'm trying the filters like you suggested Brent.
Old 1st September 2011
  #24
Gear Guru
 
Brent Hahn's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by over-man View Post
I'm trying the filters like you suggested Brent.
That's a tactic that's actually more likely to be effective with analog tape than digital recordings, for the simple reason that analog tape is more capable of capturing that ultra-high stuff in the first place. Between the 20K-ish cutoffs of your A/D converters and the rolled off highs of your ribbons, there's probably not much there to filter out. But who knows -- it might help a little.
Old 1st September 2011
  #25
Gear Addict
 

Yeah, you're right, the filters didn't do much, if anything at all. I also tried making a very quiet mix, with lower levels into the Zed, but once I start boosting the volume with a limiter, fader, etc., the distortion is back once again, maybe even worse than before. I'm not sure there's an emoticon to accurately capture the feeling of...f* me.
Old 1st September 2011
  #26
Gear Head
 

Well I hear the distortion now, on the room recording. It's loud and clear to me. That definitely is not there on the original file you provided, so it has something to do with your re-production chain. It sounds very much like straight up digital clipping to me. It is occuring on the loudest notes and phrases.

Have you recalibrated your A/D/A converters recently? As I said, it's not on the original recording, so it must either be clipping the output stage of the converters or the inputs on the zed. How have you got the zed configured?
Old 1st September 2011
  #27
Moderator
 
narcoman's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by over-man View Post
This is what I'm hearing in the room, as recorded by a Joly Mod 319...After breakfast I'm going to hook the Zed up as my interface to rule out the XR convertors as the issue. I used a different monitor controller, and that didn't help. I could also try a different amp with the Animas. Besides that, I don't know what to do...
ooh no - That's terrible. Not getting that in my room at all!

Sounds like you have amp or speaker problems. And what I've just heard isn't any kind of intermodulation distortion - that's flat out "crapping out" distortion!! The F and D I referred to earlier on are intermodulation and transient acoustic distortions. This is something very different!

It's the same sound I get from my left NS10 and that's a worn tweeter.
Old 1st September 2011
  #28
Moderator
 
narcoman's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by over-man View Post
Excellent. At least someone else can hear it too, though it begs the question why can't the vast majority of people hear it? In all of these threads about hardware vs. plug-ins, etc. etc., you have to wonder how much people's monitors are either revealing or covering things up. I started the thread wondering if the Animas are simply revealing things I've never heard, and that's what I'm leaning towards at this point. I'm trying the filters like you suggested Brent.
Well - I can assure you I have a set of superb monitors (800Ds and SP1ms) and those facets are not in your file. They are very obvious in your playback recording.... it's an amp or speaker issue.
Old 1st September 2011
  #29
Gear Addict
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by narcoman View Post
ooh no - That's terrible. Not getting that in my room at all!

Sounds like you have amp or speaker problems.
But did you see that Brent above clearly hears the distortion in the original file as well, and described it as a complex interharmonic distortion? If I were the only person that heard it, I'd think its my chain, but it seems that a few other people are able to hear it in the original file.

I'm not totally ruling out other problems in my chain, but this is the ONLY recording that sounds distorted at all. Every other recording sounds impeccable on the Animas when played with either the XR or Zed convertors. This brass quintet is distorted with both sets of convertors.
Old 1st September 2011
  #30
Moderator
 
narcoman's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by over-man View Post
But did you see that Brent above clearly hears the distortion in the original file as well, and described it as a complex interharmonic distortion? If I were the only person that heard it, I'd think its my chain, but it seems that a few other people are able to hear it in the original file.

I'm not totally ruling out other problems in my chain, but this is the ONLY recording that sounds distorted at all. Every other recording sounds impeccable on the Animas when played with either the XR or Zed convertors. This brass quintet is distorted with both sets of convertors.
Well - of course I could be wrong - but I'm not convinced he's hearing the "spit spit fizz" of the recorded example you just posted! That's clearly most nasty!!

I'll do the same as you tomorrow - I'll record what my speakers are doing..... see if that brings any light to it.

It COULD be something to do with frequency based distortions running through amps that are running at peak - but man, that'd be a long shot!
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