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Handling harshness & retro RMS on full dj mix live - multiband comp? de-ess?
Old 1 week ago
  #1
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Handling harshness & retro RMS on full dj mix live - multiband comp? de-ess?

Hello all and hoping someone with more experience can point me in some cool directions with the below! Thanks in advance!

To head off "why don't you do this instead" stuff, I will start by saying I am a professional DJ & video DJ and do "general audience top 40" type stuff. I do use hifi, uncompressed files when able, but music video files & certain mashups & remixes are mp3-only. The turnaround for top 40 is too quick and my customers are too fickle to dj/vj exclusively high fidelity content, though believe me, I wish I had access to everything in hifi. The clubs and bars themselves are NOT audiophiles and are not going to help pay for rackmount units aside from dbx speaker protector type stuff, and I don't have access to that necessarily, OR I don't want to touch it because other DJs work in the same spaces.

I therefore just have to deal with the badness of mp3 & mp4 files.

I also DJ retro & current music, often side-by-side. Equalizing and maintaining perceived levels is extremely difficult, given new music having very high RMS levels and older music having oftentimes too much dynamic range where all you can hear is the kick and the snare and the harmonic content is too low in volume and gets eaten up by ambient room noise, audience, loud air conditioning, etc.

So I was doing this convoluted setup where I was essentially running my dj mix through master effects using a UA apollo setup and a de-esser set to the harshness zone of 3-8Khz, and some saturation /limiting /compressing so I can push retro music up into it to get the RMS hotter, but leave the threshold alone so contemporary music with already-hot rms is unaffected.

I was pleased, but it's just not worth the risk, equipment for deejaying most clubs and bars should be cost-effective and easy to set-up, and risk minimal loss if a patron spills beer on it, or whatever. Also latency can begin to be an issue.

>>>I would strongly prefer a couple pieces of hardware to the digital domain.

SO WHAT CAN I DO HERE? Harshness is out-of-control on many club systems. One system has a sibilance problem at around, i venture to guess 8-10kHz, and the other club has a real "presence" problem around I would guess 3-4kHZ. Would love to run whole dj set through a multiband compressor that can take care of stuff between 3-8kHZ only, in a sort of automatic, deft way, but that is cost-effective and rugged enough to handle vibrations from super-loud sound systems and not add too much badness to the signal.

What do you think I could feasibly transport from gig-to-gig, that is rugged enough to handle lots of vibrations & moving around, potentially a beer spill, and that can remove digital harshness and sibilance from a full mix? Also, what would I do about increasing RMS on old music, while leaving new music alone, aside from remastering hundreds and hundreds of songs myself?
Old 1 week ago
  #2
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Sebastian N's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
@ Begbick easiest and quickest to work with would just be an old fashioned graphic eq. they are 19" but i'd rather use an eq to fix certain systems than compressing already compressed material. as far as smaller, i would suggest a mod devices (whichever version you want). use parametric eq on it, add a compressor if necessary highly customisable. for quick compression you could go for a used dbx go (i have 2, one for backup that i use with my live eurorack setup to glue everything together and give me more level so i can play between djs. sadly discontinued but you can find them used for very little). it aslo has preset eq curves but here ymmv. i never use the eq.

there's also some audio interfaces that have onboard dsp and can be used standalone (without a computer connected) and keep settings (think of them as a sort of headless mixer). the portability is an issue.

otherwise a behringer xr (for your needs the 12 should be enough). plenty of eq and compression power available (including multi band but be aware that it adds latency so beatmatching might get tricky, but not as bad as DJing in a radio station while monitoring the actual broadcast).

hope this helps or at least gives you some clue as to what's out there
Old 1 week ago
  #3
Gear Addict
 
Sound system deficiencies are not your problem so don't try to correct for them. The best way to deal with vintage music is to pre process the files, run them through Audacity or something similar to add compression and whatever else you like and replace those files with the processed versions. Yes that is a lot of work but it's the best way to keep it simple.
Old 1 week ago | Show parent
  #4
Here for the gear
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sebastian N ➡️
@ Begbick easiest and quickest to work with would just be an old fashioned graphic eq. they are 19" but i'd rather use an eq to fix certain systems than compressing already compressed material. as far as smaller, i would suggest a mod devices (whichever version you want). use parametric eq on it, add a compressor if necessary highly customisable. for quick compression you could go for a used dbx go (i have 2, one for backup that i use with my live eurorack setup to glue everything together and give me more level so i can play between djs. sadly discontinued but you can find them used for very little). it aslo has preset eq curves but here ymmv. i never use the eq.

there's also some audio interfaces that have onboard dsp and can be used standalone (without a computer connected) and keep settings (think of them as a sort of headless mixer). the portability is an issue.

otherwise a behringer xr (for your needs the 12 should be enough). plenty of eq and compression power available (including multi band but be aware that it adds latency so beatmatching might get tricky, but not as bad as DJing in a radio station while monitoring the actual broadcast).

hope this helps or at least gives you some clue as to what's out there
Oh that’s very helpful. The Behringer looks like overkill but is also very close to what I would want.

What audio interfaces have onboard dsp that dont need to be connected to a computer? I am googling myself but most of these I see except for that exact Behringer, require laptop to control.
Thanks a lot!!!
Also, any parametric eq hardware will withstand the shaking and vibrations of live? Thanks again
Old 1 week ago | Show parent
  #5
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Sebastian N's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by paul o ➡️
Sound system deficiencies are not your problem so don't try to correct for them.
yes but also no. in this case i think it's a lot of smaller bars/"clubs" with debatable sound system quality. so the op may very well run into harsh systems, badly set-up or whatever. so it's in his best interest to be able to quickly adjust something on his end so his DJ sets sound balanced and not destroy people's ears.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Begbick ➡️
Oh that’s very helpful. The Behringer looks like overkill but is also very close to what I would want.

What audio interfaces have onboard dsp that dont need to be connected to a computer?

Also, any parametric eq hardware will withstand the shaking and vibrations of live? Thanks again
there's the RME UCX II, Motu has one as well. A few others out there but keep in mind that this needs a laptop to control. You can set and forget it but it's not ideal. and none of them are really budget friendly (though worth the money imo).

Usually parametric eqs nowadays are for studio use. And they won't take travel too well. There's always these more budget friendly loudspeaker management systems but rather finicky with menu diving or again, a laptop to control them.

i'd go fir the xr12. you get a parametric eq on each input, one on each output plus you can insert graphic eqs everywhere. it's small enough to chuck in a bag and you can use a tablet or phone or whatever you have with you really. and you just need to play a couple of tracks and do some rough adjustments to the eq. mostly i would assume you end up with cutting some harsh frequencies or just bring down the highs with a shelf eq. gentle stuff that will make things sound a bit smoother and less fatiguing

as far as using the compressor on it, it will work fine but i'd go more for the suggested route of boosting things beforehand and levelling tracks in a controlled environment rather than between beatmatching and all the other stresses of a performance.
Old 1 week ago
  #6
Gear Guru
 
1 Review written
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Begbick ➡️
(...)What do you think I could feasibly transport from gig-to-gig, that is rugged enough to handle lots of vibrations & moving around, potentially a beer spill, and that can remove digital harshness and sibilance from a full mix? Also, what would I do about increasing RMS on old music, while leaving new music alone, aside from remastering hundreds and hundreds of songs myself?
imo there's not much you can do about ridiculously loud mixes other than applying some (dynamic) eq and maybe multiband expanders for damage control (of both the mixes and the misalignment if pa systems) ut you can help the older mixes a bit.
i've succesfully been using both multiband compressors/expanders/limiters (from tc and drawmer) and a 'multi-loop' compressor (unique design from german manufacturer jünger; essentially a broadcast tool) with great success.
Old 1 week ago | Show parent
  #7
Here for the gear
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by deedeeyeah ➡️
imo there's not much you can do about ridiculously loud mixes other than applying some (dynamic) eq and maybe multiband expanders for damage control (of both the mixes and the misalignment if pa systems) ut you can help the older mixes a bit.
i've succesfully been using both multiband compressors/expanders/limiters (from tc and drawmer) and a 'multi-loop' compressor (unique design from german manufacturer jünger; essentially a broadcast tool) with great success.
the problem is opposite! I need to bring up the RMS on older stuff not expand it. On say, disco music, the dynamic range is so great, when you walk around the bars and clubs, all you hear is kick and snare and the RMS / harmonic content is like, too low to hear over the din of the audience & air conditioning etc. So I actually have to compress or increase the RMS by pushing it up into a limiter or clipper on older stuff, not expand it! Newer stuff that is "over-compressed" can sound bad, sure, but the RMS is hot and you can hear everything over the crowd. so 2009 on is not the problem, the problem is tunes from 1982 and earlier. disco in particular. those transients are hella louder than the meat of the songs. I was looking at Looperator's Sa2rate, it is solid state parts but adds valve distortion, even harmonics, which should increase RMS on stuff AND smooth out some of the harshness in the highs. And the price is right, it's $800 vs like, some other saturators that are 2k. Plus most saturators are tape emulation, odd harmonics, so could potentially accentuate harshness... Though your recommendations are spot on for that problem and I appreciate your thoughtful response!!! <3
Old 1 week ago | Show parent
  #8
Here for the gear
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by paul o ➡️
Sound system deficiencies are not your problem so don't try to correct for them. The best way to deal with vintage music is to pre process the files, run them through Audacity or something similar to add compression and whatever else you like and replace those files with the processed versions. Yes that is a lot of work but it's the best way to keep it simple.
YES. I actually have some bulk analysis stuff from Maat & I have wavelab which can bulk process. The biggest issue is I work with video files, my bread and butter is at video lounges, and the bulk stuff can only do audio files. So looking at a LOT of work!!! HAHA but probably be worth it. You are right, it's not my problem, but I desire to sound gold. I may just have to whittle down the selections and just make sure I sound great and consistent.
Old 1 week ago | Show parent
  #9
Here for the gear
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sebastian N ➡️
yes but also no. in this case i think it's a lot of smaller bars/"clubs" with debatable sound system quality. so the op may very well run into harsh systems, badly set-up or whatever. so it's in his best interest to be able to quickly adjust something on his end so his DJ sets sound balanced and not destroy people's ears.



there's the RME UCX II, Motu has one as well. A few others out there but keep in mind that this needs a laptop to control. You can set and forget it but it's not ideal. and none of them are really budget friendly (though worth the money imo).

Usually parametric eqs nowadays are for studio use. And they won't take travel too well. There's always these more budget friendly loudspeaker management systems but rather finicky with menu diving or again, a laptop to control them.

i'd go fir the xr12. you get a parametric eq on each input, one on each output plus you can insert graphic eqs everywhere. it's small enough to chuck in a bag and you can use a tablet or phone or whatever you have with you really. and you just need to play a couple of tracks and do some rough adjustments to the eq. mostly i would assume you end up with cutting some harsh frequencies or just bring down the highs with a shelf eq. gentle stuff that will make things sound a bit smoother and less fatiguing

as far as using the compressor on it, it will work fine but i'd go more for the suggested route of boosting things beforehand and levelling tracks in a controlled environment rather than between beatmatching and all the other stresses of a performance.
Thanks so much! Can solid state handle travel well? I am looking at Looperator's Sa2rate. As I said in another comment, it's a soft clipper and adds even order harmonics, so could potentially increase RMS on retro while simultaneously smoothing out harsh highs. I would just have to set it up so i can push retro music peaks into it but leave modern music alone. The price is nice on that, less than 1k.
Old 1 week ago | Show parent
  #10
Here for the gear
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by deedeeyeah ➡️
imo there's not much you can do about ridiculously loud mixes other than applying some (dynamic) eq and maybe multiband expanders for damage control (of both the mixes and the misalignment if pa systems) ut you can help the older mixes a bit.
i've succesfully been using both multiband compressors/expanders/limiters (from tc and drawmer) and a 'multi-loop' compressor (unique design from german manufacturer jünger; essentially a broadcast tool) with great success.
Also - the drawmer 73 looks amazing but the low crossover ends at 1300 I think. If I could get something at that price point to focus more specifically on 3-8kHz I would be in business on handling harshness. BUT I do want one for my home studio. I used the softube vst version and its so nice.
Old 1 week ago
  #11
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I also have been looking at the Allen & Heath Xone96 dj mixer. It is 4 band eq instead of three, and the crossovers seem to me that "high mid" knob would be exactly what I need on some tracks.
Old 1 week ago | Show parent
  #12
Gear Guru
 
1 Review written
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Begbick ➡️
the problem is opposite! I need to bring up the RMS on older stuff not expand it. On say, disco music, the dynamic range is so great, when you walk around the bars and clubs, all you hear is kick and snare and the RMS / harmonic content is like, too low to hear over the din of the audience & air conditioning etc. So I actually have to compress or increase the RMS by pushing it up into a limiter or clipper on older stuff, not expand it! Newer stuff that is "over-compressed" can sound bad, sure, but the RMS is hot and you can hear everything over the crowd. so 2009 on is not the problem, the problem is tunes from 1982 and earlier. disco in particular. those transients are hella louder than the meat of the songs. I was looking at Looperator's Sa2rate, it is solid state parts but adds valve distortion, even harmonics, which should increase RMS on stuff AND smooth out some of the harshness in the highs. And the price is right, it's $800 vs like, some other saturators that are 2k. Plus most saturators are tape emulation, odd harmonics, so could potentially accentuate harshness... Though your recommendations are spot on for that problem and I appreciate your thoughtful response!!! <3
you got me wrong/my previous post was probably misleading: i suggested using an expander on new stuff and use a limiter on old stuff; the gear i mentioned can get used on both by means of bypassing the appropriate function/processing blocks - sorry i can't help with plugins: i'm using all (digital) hardware...

(some of the hardware processors i can recommend are the tc finalizer/dbmax, drawmer 2476, jünger d0x series etc.)
Old 1 week ago
  #13
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Sebastian N's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
imo that would be wrong way to go about it. you're thinking of boosting stuff. but you're gonna end up adding more distortion on top of files that potentially have distortion and artefacts already baked in. i see it as completely the wrong tool for the job. from everything you described, it sounds like you need tools to correct crappy sound systems. which mostly involves removing or lowering certain problem frequencies.

and again, do you wanna faff around with a hardware multiband compressor every 2-3 tracks, getting the crossover point right, than adjusting thresholds and a/r times, all this while you're trying to entertain guests and some drunk girl/dude is asking for that one song shouting in your ear and blowing blue shots vapours in your face? i really wouldn't

just separate the 2. the eqing/correcting of the system is one aspect. and the rms issue an another. but even if you don't wanna go the route of processing certain files in the studio, on something like a digital stagebox mixer (could be the behringer, could be whatever other brand you choose) you can easily just bypass the compressor when not needed, and set it in an auto mode (some of them might give you reasonable results) and focus on what you're actually being payed for.

but for either of these, i can't see a better solution than one of these small headless stagebox mixers. hell, if there's not enough space in the booth, just put it on the floor. it was designed to go there anyway. keep tools(toys) like the sa2rate for the studio
Old 1 week ago | Show parent
  #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by deedeeyeah ➡️
you got me wrong/my previous post was probably misleading: i suggested using an expander on new stuff and use a limiter on old stuff; the gear i mentioned can get used on both by means of bypassing the appropriate function/processing blocks - sorry i can't help with plugins: i'm using all (digital) hardware...

(some of the hardware processors i can recommend are the tc finalizer/dbmax, drawmer 2476, jünger d0x series etc.)
A-ha! I did indeed misread! Some of the new stuff could benefit from expansion, especially the DIY bedroom produced mashups & remixes. Those are squashed to ****. Overall though, newer stuff tends to be tailor made for the club systems. i will check out all the equipment you listed! A digression but all this investigation on sounding better live has REALLY helped me on my original productions though. I can now identify healthy transients, overcompression, and I take great care in that hurty zone in the upper mids.
Old 1 week ago | Show parent
  #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sebastian N ➡️
imo that would be wrong way to go about it. you're thinking of boosting stuff. but you're gonna end up adding more distortion on top of files that potentially have distortion and artefacts already baked in. i see it as completely the wrong tool for the job. from everything you described, it sounds like you need tools to correct crappy sound systems. which mostly involves removing or lowering certain problem frequencies.

and again, do you wanna faff around with a hardware multiband compressor every 2-3 tracks, getting the crossover point right, than adjusting thresholds and a/r times, all this while you're trying to entertain guests and some drunk girl/dude is asking for that one song shouting in your ear and blowing blue shots vapours in your face? i really wouldn't

just separate the 2. the eqing/correcting of the system is one aspect. and the rms issue an another. but even if you don't wanna go the route of processing certain files in the studio, on something like a digital stagebox mixer (could be the behringer, could be whatever other brand you choose) you can easily just bypass the compressor when not needed, and set it in an auto mode (some of them might give you reasonable results) and focus on what you're actually being payed for.

but for either of these, i can't see a better solution than one of these small headless stagebox mixers. hell, if there's not enough space in the booth, just put it on the floor. it was designed to go there anyway. keep tools(toys) like the sa2rate for the studio
Agreed but I ran I think the Oxford or sonnox de-esser on a set once and was extremely pleased. The way I see it it’s about setting the threshold right so it only reacts when I push it up into it, and otherwise is on standby? But yes, I think you are correct that I should just be more selective, limit requests, and do the hard work of getting **** done at home before I dj.
Old 1 week ago
  #16
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99% sure i am gonna go with Behringer X Air XR12. I did read I can control it from my laptop (i do not need a separate ipad, I am pretty sure, I read I can do ethernet port to ethernet port and direct connect laptop to it) and I am sure my laptop can handle the app while I dj, as I have taxed it harder than this before with no problems.
THANK YOU all who responded. Everyone's input was great!
Old 1 week ago
  #17
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Sebastian N's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
yeah, you can control it directly over ethernet. app uses barely any resources. it's just a remote control
Old 4 days ago | Show parent
  #18
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8 Reviews written
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Begbick ➡️
the problem is opposite! I need to bring up the RMS on older stuff not expand it. On say, disco music, the dynamic range is so great, when you walk around the bars and clubs, all you hear is kick and snare and the RMS / harmonic content is like, too low to hear over the din of the audience & air conditioning etc. So I actually have to compress or increase the RMS by pushing it up into a limiter or clipper on older stuff, not expand it! Newer stuff that is "over-compressed" can sound bad, sure, but the RMS is hot and you can hear everything over the crowd. so 2009 on is not the problem, the problem is tunes from 1982 and earlier. disco in particular. those transients are hella louder than the meat of the songs. I was looking at Looperator's Sa2rate, it is solid state parts but adds valve distortion, even harmonics, which should increase RMS on stuff AND smooth out some of the harshness in the highs. And the price is right, it's $800 vs like, some other saturators that are 2k. Plus most saturators are tape emulation, odd harmonics, so could potentially accentuate harshness... Though your recommendations are spot on for that problem and I appreciate your thoughtful response!!! <3
Why don't you simply play these tracks a bit louder? Are you running out of the headroom on the PA?
Nobody in the audience cares about the absolute peak levels, it's all about the perceived loudness.
Just leave a bit of headroom when playing the more compressed tracks and then take advantage of the more dynamic ones. Unless the room is super reverberant, music with more dynamics usually sounds better on a large PA.

I really think that DJ mixer should have a LUFS meter.
Old 4 days ago
  #19
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MIKEHARRIS's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
buy a used DCL200.
I dont understand why you think additional digital processing will help with the crappy sources & systems.
If a DCL200 can make a EV Deltamax sound good it will do the job handily
Old 2 days ago | Show parent
  #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MIKEHARRIS ➡️
buy a used DCL200.
I dont understand why you think additional digital processing will help with the crappy sources & systems.
If a DCL200 can make a EV Deltamax sound good it will do the job handily
It's more like using additional processing to correct bad ****, like I said, talking about mashups and remixes by bedroom producers. I use aiffs when I can, but a lot of the most fun content in the top 40 realm is made very DIY. When I play classier places with better taste level, I am using AIFs of great productions. But the bulk of my gigs are trashy top 40 places at bars with subpar systems. And I enjoy it, perverse maybe, but it can be a lot of fun.

Why I think it sounds better is because I have done it, and it did. I ran my set through a UA apollo with some multiband on the harsh zone & saturation and limiting, and it sounded fantastic. Unfortunately, now that we are back to full capacity after the pandemic, transporting 2k worth of additional equipment and ransacking my studio setup every gig is not feasible and is high-risk as patrons feel more comfortable to get in my space again, sloshing their drinks around near my laptop. That is why I am looking for an alternative that is hardware and lower cost and less convoluted.
Old 2 days ago | Show parent
  #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jetam ➡️
Why don't you simply play these tracks a bit louder? Are you running out of the headroom on the PA?
Nobody in the audience cares about the absolute peak levels, it's all about the perceived loudness.
Just leave a bit of headroom when playing the more compressed tracks and then take advantage of the more dynamic ones. Unless the room is super reverberant, music with more dynamics usually sounds better on a large PA.

I really think that DJ mixer should have a LUFS meter.
Great suggestiion, and yes, I have also done this. Keeping the compressed stuff green and then allowing retro with less compression to peak in the yellow on the drum hits but keeping the rms in the green.

Unfortunately, two of the spaces I play at have subwoofers, I forget the brand, but I researched them and I guess they are a brand that used to be considered high end but after the company was sold repeatedly now use sub-par parts but have a name recognition legacy for folks who don't know it's no longer bespoke boutique ****. At any rate, they have a crossover much higher than other subs, they go up to 180. So the woofiness on the peaks on less compressed material gets pretty icky and bad. Would much rather clip or limit the transients ahead of that. I will say my one venue with super high ceilings this particular higher crossover actually sounds great, I am not an engineer, but something about the space responds better to an over-emphasis in that range. It's under a parking garage and has concrete walls.
Old 1 day ago | Show parent
  #22
Gear Addict
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Begbick ➡️
Unfortunately, two of the spaces I play at have subwoofers,
I forget the brand, but I researched them and I guess they are a brand that used to be considered high end but after the company was sold repeatedly now use sub-par parts but have a name recognition legacy for folks who don't know it's no longer bespoke boutique ****.
Cerwin Vega?


Quote:
Originally Posted by Begbick ➡️
At any rate, they have a crossover much higher than other subs, they go up to 180. So the woofiness on the peaks on less compressed material gets pretty icky and bad. Would much rather clip or limit the transients ahead of that. I will say my one venue with super high ceilings this particular higher crossover actually sounds great, I am not an engineer, but something about the space responds better to an over-emphasis in that range. It's under a parking garage and has concrete walls.
It's a large echo chamber, classic dance and club tracks are built around an over emphasized kick with lots of boost in the 80-160hz region.
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