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Mix is NOT inverse of room response Multi-Ef­fects Plugins
Old 16th September 2011
  #1
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Mix is NOT inverse of room response

I've finally come to the conclusion that Steven Klein was right on the money when he told me that it is a myth that the frequency response of a mix will be the inverse of the frequency response of the room. Conventional wisdom says, for instance, that a bass light room will result in bass heavy mixes, a reverberant room will yield dry mixes, etc. I, like probably most people here, take this relationship as a matter of faith and common sense.

However, I am finding this not to be necessarily true, at least as relates to my own experiences. I used to work in a carpeted, muddy, boomy room, with too long a reverb time, and it was always a challenge to create mixes that were not bass heavy and which were punchy and etched. When I look back, I realize that my mixes came out sounding exactly like my room--bass heavy, muddy, too much reverb. Now that the room has been treated and the low end cleaned up and the top end brightened my new mixes are coming out sounding exactly like the new room acoustics.

In an interesting conversation with Steven he had some thoughts about this. In a boomy, bassy room, when you go to bring the bass up in the mix you have to bring it up higher than normal in order for it to be heard distinctly above the low end masking mud. If your room is super reverberant, then when you go to add reverb you have to dial in too much to even hear a difference. If your room is dry, then the last bit of added verb becomes clearly apparent. And so forth.

I know I've mentioned this before, but am bringing it up again because I've now experienced exactly what he was talking about. I guess it's more of a philosophical issue than anything, because whether you agree with him or not the message is still to create a room with balanced acoustics.

-R
Old 16th September 2011
  #2
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Glenn Kuras's Avatar
I guess not every case is going to be the same and would depend on different things, but what you are saying is hard to disagree with. The bottom line is if you can't hear what truly is going on then you can't make a judgment when you grab that KNOB/fader (or mouse??).

Take a listen to the following video around 3:30 into it. It has music playing with and without treatment. Nice eye opener!

GIK Acoustics. Treated and untreated listening room video.

Which btw I was forced to mix something for a friend in a untreated room not so long ago and the low end came out just like you said. MUDDY AS ALL GET OUT!
Old 16th September 2011
  #3
Gear Guru
Yes and No

Quote:
I used to work in a carpeted, muddy, boomy room, with too long a reverb time, and it was always a challenge to create mixes that were not bass heavy and which were punchy and etched.
This is an unusual situation.
Most CRs tend to have very low Decay time and are often tuned way too bright in my opinion.
Such rooms do consistently force one to mix dull. Similarly if the bottom end is simply not there due to positions or weak speakers we will add too much bass.

Continual reference to well known tracks and well known headphones is sure to limit any of these issues.


DD
Old 17th September 2011
  #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DanDan View Post
This is an unusual situation.
Most CRs tend to have very low Decay time and are often tuned way too bright in my opinion.
Such rooms do consistently force one to mix dull. Similarly if the bottom end is simply not there due to positions or weak speakers we will add too much bass.
Well that's exactly the conventional wisdom I'm disagreeing with. Bright rooms don't force you to mix dull. I believe that when you experience any room your mind very quickly takes it in and makes it the "new normal". You don't crank extra bass in a bass-lite room because your brain has already calibrated it. Likewise, when you go to eq your track, say wanting to brighten a vocal, you have to crank on too much before you can even hear what you did, because everything is already so effin bright. Otoh, if your room is too bassy, when you bring the bass guitar and kick up in the mix you might have the tendency to make them too loud in order to hear them distinctly over the room's low end masking.

Likewise with reverb. You're trying to create a 3-D illusion between the speakers, so you need to use reverb to do this (or reverberant tracks). But if you're already in a too-live room you'll have to crank up your ambient tracks too high in order for the image between the speakers to "out-shout" the ring in the room. Ergo, wet room = wet tracks.

Steven Klein is an original thinker with some interesting ideas. I wish he would hang here. His other controversial thought is that often times too much bass trapping just gives you not enough bass.

-R
Old 17th September 2011
  #5
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I think there are two things at work: frequency response and resonances and reverbs. A dull monitor rig might make you mix bright, especially if you're not used to the speakers, or not referencing often enough. Similarly a bass light system could make you boost the lows, if you're not sure how they should sound on that system.

On the other hand, a room with lots of reflections and reverb will mask your reverbs, as you say, same with bass resonances. These are much harder to work around, headphones are the only way (short of treating the room.)

In general, referencing can make the eq issue less dramatic, as can checking a RTSA plug in to see if you're doing anything crazy. The reverb/reflective room thing is a much bigger issue to me. I don't worry too much about trapping the bass in a room (I try not to work in very small or overly live rooms, anyway.) But killing reflections is something I believe is important, if they are severe.
Old 17th September 2011
  #6
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Sorry, it depends...

The important thing is that if the room is not good, good mixes can not be made in it, without compensation.

Well compensated,
Andre
Old 17th September 2011
  #7
Gear Guru
Unclear

Sorry R I didn't make my point clearly. I believe the reason for the problems quoted is the length and unevenness of decay in the room, not the steady state tonality of the speakers.
A boomy lively room is indeed very likely to result in increased Reverb, just in order to hear it.
Similarly the Bass may be boosted, or made harsh, just to hear it.
Similarly the HF, to get clarity.
Hang on a minute, if everything has to fight to get through, these mixes should be very robust and sound good everywhere.

But they don't.

I have noted elsewhere that every CR I have been in sounds dead.
It would appear that they need to be in order to work as desired.

DD
Old 17th September 2011
  #8
jrp
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what plays a great role in my oppinion is the ability of our brain to adapt.
If you would set an eq the way many rooms look with peaks and nulls over 15db apart the result would be drastic. Especially if you do the same for a spot a few meters away that measures completly different.
Yes, it also sounds different, but not as much as when you compare two EQ Settings being as different.
This leads me to the conclusion that our brain will constantly analyse the room and adapt to a great degree (if acoustics are poor our brain will have a harder time).
So no, the mix is never the inverse of the rooms responce. just my thought.

The other thing, if a room sounds bright and great i would maybe enjoy the brightnes and mix in a lot of sparkle...
Old 18th September 2011
  #9
Gear Guru
Opposites

+1. The brain. When I first delved into acoustics, after a long time using just ears/brain/musical taste, I thought this was just adding Physics. I slightly noticed Andre Vare's whimsical references to the omnipresent opposite factor. His Aspirin references....
Doubt can be a very healthy thing, particularly self doubt.
DD
Old 18th September 2011
  #10
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Sorry, with all due respect to Steven Klein this is not (on the face of it) correct.

Let's begin with the fact that there is no such things as either a bass light - or bass heavy room - modal activity results in a series of peaks and dips that vary throughout a room - it isn't possible to have a room that has either a uniform dip or peak throughout the room.

So we aren't talking rooms here - we are talking listening positions.

Reality is that (sight unseen) there is no way possible the brain can distinguish the difference between a room and the board the very first time someone walks into a room.

If you've never been in a room before your mind will have no reference points to make determinations from. Are you (or he for that matter) really suggesting that if you walk into a room and sit in a chair in a location where there was a 30dB dip in a particular frequency that your mind would automatically say "wow - this frequency has a 30dB dip - so I better mix it 30dB lower than what I hear"?

An experienced engineer, who understood the board and gear being used in a space, might well realize that he/she would never adjust levels on the board (in a good room) to achieve what sounded good in a bad room - and would thus realize that the room was affecting the mix - and therefore adjust the mix to levels that seemed more appropriate - that however is not the same as the brain automatically distinguishing between room artifacts and what emanates directly from the speakers

So what we're really talking about here is the ability of the mind to learn to distinguish what the room adds (or detracts for that matter) from what's actually coming out of the speakers.

Any good engineer can certainly learn to work (effectively) in a bad room environment - however even the best engineers will have to take the time to figure out what's happening in a bad room before they could ever compensate for room anomalies.

However - I have seen a ton of cases where an inexperienced person in a home studio does exactly what you're suggesting does not take place......... they push the heck out of frequencies where dips exist - pull back on frequencies where there are peaks and make dull mixes in untreated bright rooms........ this because they have no experience in mixing - and are simply making the mix sound good in the room they're sitting in - and it will not sound good if they add a bunch of reverberant to an already reverberant room - nor if they add bass to a peak or cut bass when there's a dip.

Experience can train the mind to compensate - but there is not anything that is inherent in the brain that automatically adjusts for room anomalies in a room we have never been in - we are not born knowing these things........

Perhaps either you or Steve know of some actual scientific studies that prove otherwise - if so I would be interested in seeing the results of those studies....... the only studies I know of indicate that anomalies in a room can trick the brain.... not the other way around.......

Sincerely,

Rod
Old 18th September 2011
  #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RKrizman View Post
I've finally come to the conclusion that Steven Klein was right on the money when he told me that it is a myth that the frequency response of a mix will be the inverse of the frequency response of the room. Conventional wisdom says, for instance, that a bass light room will result in bass heavy mixes, a reverberant room will yield dry mixes, etc. I, like probably most people here, take this relationship as a matter of faith and common sense.

However, I am finding this not to be necessarily true, at least as relates to my own experiences. I used to work in a carpeted, muddy, boomy room, with too long a reverb time, and it was always a challenge to create mixes that were not bass heavy and which were punchy and etched. When I look back, I realize that my mixes came out sounding exactly like my room--bass heavy, muddy, too much reverb. Now that the room has been treated and the low end cleaned up and the top end brightened my new mixes are coming out sounding exactly like the new room acoustics.

In an interesting conversation with Steven he had some thoughts about this. In a boomy, bassy room, when you go to bring the bass up in the mix you have to bring it up higher than normal in order for it to be heard distinctly above the low end masking mud. If your room is super reverberant, then when you go to add reverb you have to dial in too much to even hear a difference. If your room is dry, then the last bit of added verb becomes clearly apparent. And so forth.

I know I've mentioned this before, but am bringing it up again because I've now experienced exactly what he was talking about. I guess it's more of a philosophical issue than anything, because whether you agree with him or not the message is still to create a room with balanced acoustics.

-R
indeed
use earphones
removes the room effect
Old 18th September 2011
  #12
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RKrizman's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rod Gervais View Post
However - I have seen a ton of cases where an inexperienced person in a home studio does exactly what you're suggesting does not take place.........
Ah, well there's no accounting for what inexperienced people do in a home studio.

-R
Old 18th September 2011
  #13
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RKrizman's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rod Gervais View Post
Sorry, with all due respect to Steven Klein this is not (on the face of it) correct.

Let's begin with the fact that there is no such things as either a bass light - or bass heavy room - modal activity results in a series of peaks and dips that vary throughout a room - it isn't possible to have a room that has either a uniform dip or peak throughout the room.

So we aren't talking rooms here - we are talking listening positions.

Reality is that (sight unseen) there is no way possible the brain can distinguish the difference between a room and the board the very first time someone walks into a room.

If you've never been in a room before your mind will have no reference points to make determinations from. Are you (or he for that matter) really suggesting that if you walk into a room and sit in a chair in a location where there was a 30dB dip in a particular frequency that your mind would automatically say "wow - this frequency has a 30dB dip - so I better mix it 30dB lower than what I hear"?
First of all, it certainly is possible for one room to have more overall low frequency energy than another, regardless of position. Secondly, just walking into a room and speaking or listening to a bit of music or ambient sound can very quickly clue the brain into a "new normal".

Also, I don't think these 30 db frequency dips you talk about are really the issue. I have never seen an engineer apply 30 db of corrective eq on a track, so perhaps there is something in the brain that tends to identify and ignore some anomalies that ultimately don't matter. My own room has a huge, narrow chasm at 90 hz at the listening position, but I don't find myself cranking that frequency to compensate.

As for evidence, I only have my own anecdotal experience that throughout my 30 year career of composing and mixing it seems that my mixes in the end tend to sound very much like the room they were mixed in, as opposed to the contrary.

But in any case, I'm putting this out there more as speculative thinking than scientific fact. But if I were a scientist in this field I'd be all over it.

-R
Old 18th September 2011
  #14
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Karloff70's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by RKrizman View Post
As for evidence, I only have my own anecdotal experience that throughout my 30 year career of composing and mixing it seems that my mixes in the end tend to sound very much like the room they were mixed in, as opposed to the contrary.
As before, I'm with that notion when I think back on the rooms and the sounds I pulled from them.......and what better reason could there be to have a glorious sounding room than that! heh
Old 18th September 2011
  #15
Gear Guru
Rooms

R, I hear you that a boomy reverbrant room led to ditto mixes. However I don't think this works the other way. A tight dry room won't lead to mixes with no reverb, etc.
DD
Old 18th September 2011
  #16
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Room Acoustics

Quote:
Originally Posted by oldeanalogueguy View Post
indeed
use earphones
removes the room effect
Ears phones will not tell you everything, like harsh audio or soft audio, resolution, resolve , DYNAMIC RANGE, etc.. ONLY a large monitor system in a great room will closely reveal what your actually monitoring! Neutreality. It does exsist! In a great room, you can mix emotionally and actually take it out of the room and feel the same way about the mix! My control room does do this, but unfortuately cost me a few million to build..

MicAngelo
www.TheMusicpalace.com
Old 19th September 2011
  #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DanDan View Post
R, I hear you that a boomy reverbrant room led to ditto mixes. However I don't think this works the other way. A tight dry room won't lead to mixes with no reverb, etc.
DD
I agree, if the room is masking the reverbs, you'll add more. But if the room is overly dry, you might be inclined to add more reverb, as well. Headphones are kind of like that. On the one hand, you can hear reverbs so well, that if you're paying attention, you might mix a little dry, but since you've eliminated the room, you might add a little more. On balance, I've had pretty good results in headphones, all things considered...

I have to say that I've never noticed a room mode or resonance causing me to cut or boost a particular frequency. If the bass line seems uneven to me, I usually compress it, and it's fine. Which tells me it's not the room making it sound that way. Maybe the room it was tracked in caused that, but not the room I'm monitoring in. I could see a kick drum being more problematic, since it's sitting at one frequency, rather than changing throughout the song...
Old 19th September 2011
  #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DanDan View Post
R, I hear you that a boomy reverbrant room led to ditto mixes. However I don't think this works the other way. A tight dry room won't lead to mixes with no reverb, etc.
DD
It won't lead to mixes with no reverb. It will lead to mixes with a thoughtfully controlled amount of reverb.

-R
Old 19th September 2011
  #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RKrizman View Post
First of all, it certainly is possible for one room to have more overall low frequency energy than another, regardless of position.
We're talking apples and oranges here......... different sized rooms will have modal activity in different frequency ranges - but - within the room itself - where modal activity is involved - there is no bass heavy/bass light aspect to this - for every dip there is a peak, and this varies throughout the space - my statement was not that there would not be differences from room to room - but simply it is not physically possible to a room (in it's entirety) to be either bass light or bass heavy...... in a perfect anechoic chamber - you would have neither heavy nor light - you would simply have exactly what came directly from the speakers - sans ringing......

Quote:
Secondly, just walking into a room and speaking or listening to a bit of music or ambient sound can very quickly clue the brain into a "new normal".
You prove my point with this statement - which is that this is not something inherent - but rather something learned..... the amount of time it takes someone to learn the room is irrelevant - in fact people who aren't engineers might never even get it........

Quote:
Also, I don't think these 30 db frequency dips you talk about are really the issue. I have never seen an engineer apply 30 db of corrective eq on a track, so perhaps there is something in the brain that tends to identify and ignore some anomalies that ultimately don't matter. My own room has a huge, narrow chasm at 90 hz at the listening position, but I don't find myself cranking that frequency to compensate.
My statement was that engineers were different from non-engineers in this regard....... again - training versus no training - any experienced engineer is going to have a different perspective in a room than someone who is not experienced....... and when we speak of innate tendencies, the focus should be on those who are not trained...

I've said for a very long time that there is some really good music that's come out of really bad rooms........ and that is a testimony to the ability of the engineers working in those rooms........ in those rooms engineers realize that they have to compile a mix that doesn't sound (necessarily) perfect in the room to overcome the room's anomalies - BUT - the tendency for someone not experienced is to adjust the settings until the sound is "right" in the (bad) room - which ends up with it sounding great in there - however it (then) doesn't translate well outside of that room......

Again - the point being that this is learned - not innate - the brain doesn't just automatically adjust - if it did then it would for (at least) the vast majority of non experienced people trying to mix as well......

Rod
Old 19th September 2011
  #20
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I think "learned versus innate" is a false dichotomy here. I'm certainly not suggesting that someone would "understand" a room before experiencing it. But I do think that it requires very little experience of a room for the brain to make sense of it and understand it as an acoustic space. Probably part of our hunter/gatherer evolution (but that's clearly for another forum).

Also, I still say that it doesn't matter what the inexperienced engineers do. They can screw up a mix in random ways in the most perfect of rooms.

If we tend to inversely compensate for room anomalies, then why don't people with those 30 db dips at 90 hz add that much back in when they mix?

-R
Old 19th September 2011
  #21
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RKrizman's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rod Gervais View Post
We're talking apples and oranges here......... different sized rooms will have modal activity in different frequency ranges - but - within the room itself - where modal activity is involved - there is no bass heavy/bass light aspect to this - for every dip there is a peak, and this varies throughout the space - my statement was not that there would not be differences from room to room - but simply it is not physically possible to a room (in it's entirety) to be either bass light or bass heavy...... in a perfect anechoic chamber - you would have neither heavy nor light - you would simply have exactly what came directly from the speakers - sans ringing......
If you overly dampen high frequencies then you will tilt your frequency balance toward the low end.

Also, let's not discount the speakers themselves. Some will have more low end than others.

-R
Old 19th September 2011
  #22
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RKrizman's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Glenn Kuras View Post
Take a listen to the following video around 3:30 into it. It has music playing with and without treatment. Nice eye opener!

GIK Acoustics. Treated and untreated listening room video.

Which btw I was forced to mix something for a friend in a untreated room not so long ago and the low end came out just like you said. MUDDY AS ALL GET OUT!
That's a great video, Glenn. Thanks.

-R
Old 19th September 2011
  #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MichaelAngelo View Post
Ears phones will not tell you everything, like harsh audio or soft audio, resolution, resolve , DYNAMIC RANGE, etc.. ONLY a large monitor system in a great room will closely reveal what your actually monitoring! Neutreality. It does exsist! In a great room, you can mix emotionally and actually take it out of the room and feel the same way about the mix! My control room does do this, but unfortuately cost me a few million to build..

MicAngelo
www.TheMusicpalace.com
phones help a lot
removes the room effect
maybe not (but i dispute that) as good as monitors
but far better than a bad room
and certainly helpful

i can hear things on headphones
taht the monitors seem to hide
and would never rely on monitors alone
Old 19th September 2011
  #24
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RKrizman's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rod Gervais View Post
We're talking apples and oranges here......... different sized rooms will have modal activity in different frequency ranges - but - within the room itself - where modal activity is involved - there is no bass heavy/bass light aspect to this - for every dip there is a peak, and this varies throughout the space - my statement was not that there would not be differences from room to room - but simply it is not physically possible to a room (in it's entirety) to be either bass light or bass heavy......
Ah, here's the misunderstanding. We don't need to address the room in its entirety. The meaningful location for the purpose of this discussion is at the mix position.

-R
Old 19th September 2011
  #25
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Quote:

Cool video, I definitely heard a difference (albeit less drastic) with my three 4" traps set up in my room when I first made them. Question about your video though, in all the shots of the room with treatment, where is the mic? How come it's not in the same position as without treatment?
Old 19th September 2011
  #26
jrp
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Quote:
Are you (or he for that matter) really suggesting that if you walk into a room and sit in a chair in a location where there was a 30dB dip in a particular frequency that your mind would automatically say "wow - this frequency has a 30dB dip - so I better mix it 30dB lower than what I hear"?
Yes i do, sort of. If you would beam into the seat, then no.
But by walking (as you said) through the room your brain will learn about the particular acoustics.
THis is my guess, i have no scientific explenaition.
But it is the only way for me to figure how it can be possible to walk through the room with 30db peaks turning into 30db dips without going cracy.
You notice the change in sound, but it is nothing compared to what switching between those curves with an eq would be like.
Old 20th September 2011
  #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RKrizman View Post
I think "learned versus innate" is a false dichotomy here. I'm certainly not suggesting that someone would "understand" a room before experiencing it. But I do think that it requires very little experience of a room for the brain to make sense of it and understand it as an acoustic space. Probably part of our hunter/gatherer evolution (but that's clearly for another forum).

Also, I still say that it doesn't matter what the inexperienced engineers do. They can screw up a mix in random ways in the most perfect of rooms.

If we tend to inversely compensate for room anomalies, then why don't people with those 30 db dips at 90 hz add that much back in when they mix?

-R
They would if what they are mixing happened to be a sine sweep!


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Old 20th September 2011
  #28
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Glenn Kuras's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Torea View Post
Cool video, I definitely heard a difference (albeit less drastic) with my three 4" traps set up in my room when I first made them. Question about your video though, in all the shots of the room with treatment, where is the mic? How come it's not in the same position as without treatment?
It was just a picture he took after the fact. I doubt you could move the mic around to make it sound that bad vs that good. lol lolheh
Old 20th September 2011
  #29
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Rod Gervais's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by RKrizman View Post
I think "learned versus innate" is a false dichotomy here.
With this I have to disagree.......

There are no contradicting divisions with my choice of words here.

There are certain things that are going to happen in the brain when it comes to acoustics - the Haas effect is a prime example - you cannot teach the brain to separate the combined signals when this takes place - that is innate.

Learning to discern room anomalies is just that - it takes experience - it takes work - it is not anything that comes naturally........

Quote:
I'm certainly not suggesting that someone would "understand" a room before experiencing it. But I do think that it requires very little experience of a room for the brain to make sense of it and understand it as an acoustic space. Probably part of our hunter/gatherer evolution (but that's clearly for another forum).
Understood

Quote:
Also, I still say that it doesn't matter what the inexperienced engineers do. They can screw up a mix in random ways in the most perfect of rooms.
Actually - that's not besides the point - that IS the point - this forum really is for the uninformed - experienced engineers should be giving advice here - but what is natural to you is certainly not natural to them...... and the fact of the matter is that the best possible solution for them is to make their rooms the best that they can be - so they don't have to try to battle through a bunch of problems with room acoustics (on top of everything else they can potentially screw up)

Quote:
If we tend to inversely compensate for room anomalies, then why don't people with those 30 db dips at 90 hz add that much back in when they mix?
Well the inexperienced actually do - they try to make their mixes sound good in bad room - and in the end they wind up quite bass heavy - extremely bass heavy - when they have dips in rooms - which is why they walk out to check their mixes in other locations and all they can hear is the bottom end trying to rip the speakers apart - do you really believe they do this because they can hear all kinds of bottom to begin with?

Rod
Old 20th September 2011
  #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rod Gervais View Post
With this I have to disagree.......

There are no contradicting divisions with my choice of words here.

There are certain things that are going to happen in the brain when it comes to acoustics - the Haas effect is a prime example - you cannot teach the brain to separate the combined signals when this takes place - that is innate.

Learning to discern room anomalies is just that - it takes experience - it takes work - it is not anything that comes naturally........
I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree about this. Learning to identify a certain room anomaly as 90 hz may not be innate, but I think even the untrained ear grasps the sonic content of an environment instinctively, even if one can't articulate it in scientific terms.

-R
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