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That Sheen Condenser Microphones
Old 20th July 2014
  #1
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uptoolate's Avatar
 

That Sheen

Its hard to put this into words, but what is that "sheen" i hear on commercial mixes? My mixes sound good, but they lack that certain something...almost there, but miles apart.

My mixes are brighter and lack what i call "shrink wrap". That certain cohesiveness...glue...sheen.

In my mixes..its more like hearing each element seperately..each element is too large or something.

I process ITB w mostly UAD plugins...sometimes the 33609 plug on the mix bus gets me closer. I track w a Daking Mic Pre EQ and a UA 2-610...mostly flat with some low cut...into a fireface 800.

Would a great outboard 2 bus comp get me closer? Im guessing this is the glue I hear? Great mixes sound darker...rounder...but sparkling too.

Also, how much of this is mastering? I wonder how different a great pro mix sounds before and after mastering?

I uploaded a couple of my mixes in post #31 for you to evaluate.
Old 20th July 2014
  #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by uptoolate View Post
but what is that "sheen" i hear on commercial mixes?
compression

Quote:
Originally Posted by uptoolate View Post
...into a fireface 800.
you should upgrade this, that most likely is your issue
Old 20th July 2014
  #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chainrule View Post
compression


you should upgrade this, that most likely is your issue
hmmm...not sure i would agree with that...about my conversion being the issue

really?

what do others think of that?
Old 20th July 2014
  #4
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I think a loy of it is down to good mastering.I do know what you mean its almost like the mix is behind a plate of glass.
I also think its down to very good mixers.Comp/distortion /verb/eq
Old 20th July 2014
  #5
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futura2012's Avatar
 

I have a RME 9652 and got better results from it as soon as i externally clocked it.

However, I think RME is pretty good.

I think in terms of sheen (which is a very interesting question by the way).

Could you maybe tell us a bit more about what kind of music you are writing and what you are doing? Also what monitors are you using?

infact add to that maybe a brief kit summary if you dont mind i think that might help people answering the question.
Old 20th July 2014
  #6
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Great question!
I have found that running mixes (and often individual tracks) through some good analog gear (EQ's, comps, etc.) does indeed add much of that sheen you are talking about.

In UAD, you might also try the Fatso in conjunction with the Precision Maximizer - I've had some nice results with those two plugs when I'm not able to run hardware for whatever reason.
Old 20th July 2014
  #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by futura2012 View Post
I have a RME 9652 and got better results from it as soon as i externally clocked it.

However, I think RME is pretty good.

I think in terms of sheen (which is a very interesting question by the way).

Could you maybe tell us a bit more about what kind of music you are writing and what you are doing? Also what monitors are you using?

infact add to that maybe a brief kit summary if you dont mind i think that might help people answering the question.
I record mostly acoustic pop type stuff. In the Jason Mraz vain. Some rock here and there.

My gear:
2-610
Daking MicPreEQ
Fireface 800
Mackie 834s
UAD, waves and more
sm7b
ksm32
Rode NTK
run Sonar
Old 21st July 2014
  #8
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BOWIE's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hendyamps View Post
I have found that running mixes (and often individual tracks) through some good analog gear (EQ's, comps, etc.) does indeed add much of that sheen you are talking about.
That does help a lot.
I believe that a lot of the sheen that people refer to comes from harmonic overtones. I'm big on this and find the best source is from certain types of analog gear. In addition to transformers and tubes, I'll even use old carbon comp resistors and such in the gear that I build, to get as much of this sheen and "glow" as possible. I've tried getting this harmonic vibe through plug-ins but it never sounds as natural and organic as it does through the real deal.
Old 21st July 2014
  #9
"glue" and "sheen" are two separate things to me, though they are often found together. I think of "glue" as the mix elements all becoming part of one whole instead of separate sounds, whereas "sheen" has more to do with a very clear but smooth high end. I like your term "shrink wrap" - it aptly describes a combination of glue and sheen.

I don't think any one single process or piece of gear gets you "shrink wrap", rather glue and sheen come from a combination of many steps from tracking through mastering, including many great pieces of gear and engineering techniques. That's why you hear it on commercial mixes - because they have the budgets to use great recording engineers, mix engineers, mastering engineers, along with all the great gear that those engineers insist on working with.

It's the culmination of all of that gear and experience. Not so easy eh?
Old 21st July 2014
  #10
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Do you think running my mixes through my 2-610 might help? Ive never tried that. I know that pre doesnt get much love here, but I love mine.
Old 21st July 2014
  #11
Quote:
Originally Posted by chainrule View Post
compression


you should upgrade this, that most likely is your issue
Can't say I agree with either of these comments! I've certainly heard material tracked on RME converters that sounds "pro". Blaming the conversion in this day and age is a poor excuse.

I'd say the problem is not easy - it's quality at all stages of the production. Quality sounds chosen or instruments recorded; quality tracking chain where appropriate, with the skills to match; quality mixing and processing by skilled engineers, in a good sounding environment; and quality mastering by the same.

Often multiple personnel too, except in the world of producer driven edm perhaps.

You can compensate if one if these stages isn't the best; but it soon becomes audible if multiple stages are being compromised.

Just my view!

EDIT; yeah, what trakworx said...
Old 21st July 2014
  #12
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I think sheen resides in a specific frequency range. I try to open that area up. Verb in r&b for me....bkgd vocals get a sheen in that genre.
Old 21st July 2014
  #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by uptoolate View Post
not sure i would agree with that...about my conversion being the issue
you have to keep in mind that everything you put on your tracks has to go through your converter. So in other words, your tracks are as only as good as you converters. In large commercial studio even though they don't always use great converters (192s in particular) they use a LFC to mix and loads of high quality outboard to bring it to life and get that sheen you are talking about.


What I would do is buy a nice converter and start there. Then you have a solid base to build on. Get a nice used Apogee Rosetta for like 700. Then snag
an api mic pre those have tons of smoothness and sheen. If you have the money get a burl B2 or better yet a used 2192, they have that major label sheen inherently. Everything you run through it will sound like an album.

I just had this conversation with a guy at a rival studio in my town. He uses a RADAR system still, it gets you "that sound". It's a big part of it, like a tape machine was in the old days.
Old 21st July 2014
  #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by psycho_monkey View Post
Blaming the conversion in this day and age is a poor excuse.
I agree, but the fireface is almost a 15 year old design and was a prosumer device at the time it came out. The newer stuff is definitely better and could never be used as an excuse. But in reality and all fairness, can anyone blame any piece of gear or software these days for not getting that pro mix? not really.......... no one has any excuse with any of today's technologies. It's all pretty dang good these days for relatively cheap investment.


IMO that pro quality starts with the room and the sources and the performances, then in builds till you get ITB and morph it all together into that mix. I don't think you can just rely on one piece of gear or a plugin. That sheen comes from the collective performances of the artists, the producer and the interaction with the tools. One week link will not break the sonic bank but it will certainly hold you back comparatively.
Old 21st July 2014
  #15
Quote:
Originally Posted by chainrule View Post
I agree, but the fireface is 15 years old
And the Rosetta is....10? Or older?

You mention large studios and 192s in your post - I've done mixes itb/hybrid with 192s that I consider to have "that sheen".

It's not that long ago rme was being praised as being superior to just about everything under a lavry.

Recommending a guy who we know nothing about the rest of his studio to buy a burl is irresponsible IMO. If he's mixing on small boxy monitors in a poor room - wouldn't he put his money there first?

Converters are important but as my stuck record voice likes to say, they are almost never the weakest link in your average home studio. Fix the weakest link first.
Old 21st July 2014
  #16
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Converters do not hold you back. I've been in multimillion dollar facilities with the best converters and my phone mix trumped what was playing. Nope, mix, analog gear, monitors to hear it with. Some people have a penchant for nice audio, some don't. Fact. Just like seasoning.....
Old 21st July 2014
  #17
Quote:
Originally Posted by uptoolate View Post
Do you think running my mixes through my 2-610 might help? Ive never tried that. I know that pre doesnt get much love here, but I love mine.
I haven't done it in a long time, but I know I had mixed results when I did. It can get a bit "wooly" in a hurry.

I would suggest trying it at the cleanest possible setting, and then gain matching another pass of the same mix without it. If it's better, then go for it.

The EQ is pretty crude, but a little 10k and 70hz can be nice on 2 bus.
Old 21st July 2014
  #18
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hasbeen's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by uptoolate View Post
I wonder how different a great pro mix sounds before and after mastering?
There are some very talented people that offer mastering at reasonable enough rates.

Why not send off one of your mixes that lack this certain 'sheen' you desire and see what they can do?
Old 21st July 2014
  #19
Well, you've edited this post substantially since I quoted it! Basically saying the same thing I did.

I don't really agree with "prosumer" though. Bit snobby? If you consider UAD Apollo or apogee quartet "prosumer" then maybe...I don't!

Quote:
Originally Posted by chainrule View Post
I agree, but the fireface is almost a 15 year old design and was a prosumer device at the time it came out. The newer stuff is definitely better and could never be used as an excuse. But in reality and all fairness, can anyone blame any piece of gear or software these days for not getting that pro mix? not really.......... no one has any excuse with any of today's technologies. It's all pretty dang good these days for relatively cheap investment.


IMO that pro quality starts with the room and the sources and the performances, then in builds till you get ITB and morph it all together into that mix. I don't think you can just rely on one piece of gear or a plugin. That sheen comes from the collective performances of the artists, the producer and the interaction with the tools. One week link will not break the sonic bank but it will certainly hold you back comparatively.
Old 21st July 2014
  #20
Quote:
Originally Posted by hasbeen View Post
There are some very talented people that offer mastering at reasonable enough rates.

Why not send off one of your mixes that lack this certain 'sheen' you desire and see what they can do?
One of whom has taken time out here to answer your question quite helpfully. (Not speaking about myself.)
Old 21st July 2014
  #21
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I honestly think this is a difficult question to answer without knowing your mixing practices and hearing your mixes. It's likely that the sheen you are looking for is the result of several different things you aren't doing. I guess you could post stems and a bunch of details on how you mix and get some recommendations.

I seriously doubt a OTB compressor or new converter will help.

The best thing you can do is study. Read everything you can find, then try out the techniques you learn until you slowly improve the quality of your mixes. Experimentation is key.

And pro mastering certainly won't hurt! Have one song mastered and see what you think...
Old 21st July 2014
  #22
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uptoolate's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dr. Mordo View Post
I guess you could post stems and a bunch of details on how you mix and get some recommendations.

...
How would i go about posting a mix for you guys to evaluate? I would love that
Old 21st July 2014
  #23
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Well, there's bunch of ways. Here's two:

You can attach an mp3 to a post if you "Go Advanced".

You could post a track to soundcloud, which is pretty common.
Old 21st July 2014
  #24
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It's the high shelfs and mid cuts. Maybe some saturation.

Certainly NOT the compressors or converters.


Most important of all is the sound design itself. Some noisy type of elements can make the high end sound a lot more massive. It will be a lot more difficult if the elements aren't there.
Old 21st July 2014
  #25
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Quote:
you should upgrade this, that most likely is your issue
Definitely not.

Take one of those mixes with the "sheen" you like and put it thru you FF800. I bet its still there.

I agree with the "its a combination of things". Well EQ'd highs, right choice in instruments, quality mix compression, harmonic content, quality Mastering compression, and mastering EQ choices. Gotta have good monitoring in the right environment as much as any of the others.
Quote:
Certainly NOT the compressors
Absolutely, highs have to be consistent.
Old 21st July 2014
  #26
Manley Vari Mu -> Clariphonic

[EDIT: Given subsequent comments, it should be noted that the above suggestion was tongue and cheek.]

Or just have it mastered.

Definitely not your convertor.

Last edited by Robby in WA; 21st July 2014 at 10:09 PM.. Reason: see above
Old 21st July 2014
  #27
Gear Maniac
There's a lot of waffle about all the kit you need to buy and upgrade to make yourself sound pro, but I don't think you have to spend a lot of money to get there at all,

I think a mix has to be solid, and since spending a lot more time on my EQing and building mixes step by step (literally piece by piece starting from drums, making sure each new part is sitting nicely with the previous ones) I've found that once I start multiband compressing and limiting afterwards, things feel a lot more glued and professional. No expensive outboard gear, just spending more time making sure every element sits together nicely from the get go, and fills out the entire spectrum.

I feel my most recent mixes have been a lot closer to that finished "sheen" and there's no single thing I could put that down to, it just seems to happen once I get everything else in order, though if I had to pick on the main thing that brings it out, I'd say a bit of squashing with a multiband compressor such as the Waves LinMB can glue very nicely.
Old 21st July 2014
  #28
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Aaron Rash's Avatar
I've been chasing the "Sheen" forever a good example of it is Bon Iver at Air studios. When his vocal comes in it gives me chills how "Sheeny" it sounds.

Here's the Bon stuff: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A9Tp5fl18Ho

To the unexperienced ear you will find yourself adding crazy amounts of high shelf EQ until it turns into a sibilant mess but that's not where it's at. It's all the harmonics! Particularity in the 2K area that stretch's upwards adding sheen on top.

Particularly the easiest way I have found to achieve this is to just record through a 1073 running it a little hot. It will give you all that sheen, mojo and then some. If you're going the tube route you would want to try a V76 it does the same thing but differently.

There's a reason why these preamps cost so much money. Not because they cost very much to build, but because they do something special that us engineers can't live without.

Just my 2cents
Old 21st July 2014
  #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by psycho_monkey View Post
Well, you've edited this post substantially since I quoted it! Basically saying the same thing I did..
Sorry I wanted to be more clear in my explanation.


Quote:
Originally Posted by psycho_monkey View Post
I don't really agree with "prosumer" though. Bit snobby? If you consider UAD Apollo or apogee quartet "prosumer" then maybe...I don't!
Not trying to be snobby I just think (in general) the difference between mass the produced stuff and the boutique stuff can differ greatly in audio quality.


Quote:
Originally Posted by psycho_monkey View Post
And the Rosetta is....10? Or older?
Apogee is different in the sense that they were before the pack. They were designing boutique converters 20+ years ago. Back in the day lots of big studios retrofitted their Mitsubishi digital multitracks with apogee converters. They have been at it a long time and at one time were arguably the leaders in this area. not so much today but they still make great products better than RME

Quote:
Originally Posted by psycho_monkey View Post
You mention large studios and 192s in your post - I've done mixes itb/hybrid with 192s that I consider to have "that sheen".
Yeah and I stated that too. Big studios have LFCs and all the great outboard, this is a big deal for that pro sound. For a small home studio I think top of the a line interface is perhaps MORE important because they are ITB.

Quote:
Originally Posted by psycho_monkey View Post
Recommending a guy who we know nothing about the rest of his studio to buy a burl is irresponsible IMO. .
It will give your tracks a sheen though. It sounds amazing.

Quote:
Originally Posted by psycho_monkey View Post
If he's mixing on small boxy monitors in a poor room - wouldn't he put his money there first?
definitely
Old 21st July 2014
  #30
Gear Head
 
futura2012's Avatar
 

Quote:
I record mostly acoustic pop type stuff. In the Jason Mraz vain. Some rock here and there.

My gear:
2-610
Daking MicPreEQ
Fireface 800
Mackie 834s
UAD, waves and more
sm7b
ksm32
Rode NTK
run Sonar
Thanks for the update

Wow this is an interesting thread for sure. Some gem comments above.

For me I produce only EDM so my comments about Mic Pres or Mics themselves wont be so relevant.

The only thing I can add is it really made a big difference once I acoustically treated the studio even for the odd vocal and general listening experience im not sure if this contributes to Sheen par say but I think I have certainly noticed the quality of my output since this investment.

In terms of improvements on the non vocal side of things these are some things I have done to get a more polished sound.

Stopped using plugins for final mix instead been experimenting with TC Electronics Finalizer (this has made a definite improvement).

Used a Hardware Analogue EQ on the final output stages have x2 White 4400 EQs I bought them when I was in the States this Christmas been very happy with those. They have a very subtle and non aggressive filtering action but with some tweaking again a definite improvement on the final sound.

Clocked my RME card using an external clock. I use an AArdsync clock and this made a difference. Not massive but definitely a worth it improvement. I picked this up for approximately $70 used well worth it.

I have definitely read positive comments about the use of valves on the output stages too (like many other comments). I dont have mountains of cash and have an interest in electronics so at some point I may experiment with building some form of mixer from a Valve Radio I purchased at a Car Boot Sale. I built a Valve VCA for one of my modular synths last year and I didnt think it would do much more novelty but it really made an amazing difference like far more than I imagined. I think there is an awful lot going on inside a valve that is almost unique very very difficult to emulate in a mathematical equation effectively what a plugin is operating on.

Quote:
Take one of those mixes with the "sheen" you like and put it thru you FF800. I bet its still there.
I couldn't agree with this more. I always like to listen to Dire Straits Brothers in Arms through my studio setup and sure enough regardless of how low life my gear is it still sounds VERY POLISHED LOL.

I am also wondering if your monitors contribute to this Sheen Question but im not 100% sure. I would be interested to know what people think. I am definitely wanting to upgrade my monitors at some point ideally ATC as they are just down the road from me and they give a life time Warranty. even if i buy second hand
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