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Clipping without getting the "choked" sound
Old 3 weeks ago
  #1
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darkalex's Avatar
 
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Clipping without getting the "choked" sound

How do you achieve the hard clipped sound of Hip Hop/Pop without actually making stuff sound "choked", for the lack of better words?

I've heard quite a lot of stuff mastered by Brian Gardner or Chris Gehringer and the usual super loud suspects are hard clipped at least 1-2dBs and yet they sound fine except for the lack of dynamics and obvious little distortion.

When trying to replicate the same on any mix I've found that the correct amount of limiting with proper time constants or even clipping it (soft or hard) makes it sound choked, it sounds good and punchy but it just has that "choked" sound that spoils the whole thing.

How to refrain from this artifact and how to clip without sounding choked? Any ideas?

Thanks so much!
Old 3 weeks ago
  #2
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🎧 10 years
A combination of compression and limiting. To do it right, you spend say $5000 on a stereo compressor and another $5,000 on a limiter.
Or you use a good plug.....can of worms.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #3
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Hippocratic Mastering's Avatar
 
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I really don't think many mastering engineers are buying $5,000 limiters.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #4
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SmoothTone's Avatar
 
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Before we go any further with this, we need to be clear about what you mean by 'choked.'

Loss of depth?
Blurring of detail?
Things getting muddy or kinda veiled?

Are the mixes you're working on of the same calibre as the ones you're comparing to? That's a big part of it.

I reckon those guys are doing more than a couple of dBs of clipping, too.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #5
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Personally I think that A/D clipping was a solution to the problem of brickwall limiters sounding like ****. There are loads of limiters that sound *way* better now, so the problem doesn't exist in the same way. I'd never criticise an established ME for continuing to use a technique that has worked for them for years, but there are often better ways to get a similar sound with modern digital limiters, IMO. Certainly if you're starting from scratch and looking to pony up for a Lavry Gold or whatever.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #6
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Slug1's Avatar
 
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I know we never really like to hear it, but a lot of it is also coming from the program used in production and the skills of the mix engineer.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #7
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JLaPointe's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Sometimes that's just your limiter trying to tell you that your eq balance isn't quite as dialed in as it needs to be.


Quote:
Originally Posted by darkalex ➑️
How do you achieve the hard clipped sound of Hip Hop/Pop without actually making stuff sound "choked", for the lack of better words?
Old 3 weeks ago
  #8
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IM WHO YOU THINK's Avatar
 
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🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by darkalex ➑️
How do you achieve the hard clipped sound of Hip Hop/Pop without actually making stuff sound "choked", for the lack of better words?

I've heard quite a lot of stuff mastered by Brian Gardner or Chris Gehringer and the usual super loud suspects are hard clipped at least 1-2dBs and yet they sound fine except for the lack of dynamics and obvious little distortion.

When trying to replicate the same on any mix I've found that the correct amount of limiting with proper time constants or even clipping it (soft or hard) makes it sound choked, it sounds good and punchy but it just has that "choked" sound that spoils the whole thing.

How to refrain from this artifact and how to clip without sounding choked? Any ideas?

Thanks so much!
I think many people have spoken the proverbial arrows that all lead to the same target, you have the capability to do it in the mix.

But, you can't just slap a limiter at the end and get what you're seeking. Still, slapping a limiter on the end and getting the volume you're looking for is the first step to solving your issue IMO.

Start there and it will sound like ass. But you have to analyze that ass and be able to say specifically what's wrong with it. It will tell you what needs fixing.

Now you have to experiment.
Solo your drums and ask what do they sound like compared to your reference mixes at the level of your ref mixes?

Is your snare missing? Now you experiment
What happens if you mult your snare with a snare that gives what yours is now missing, and you don't sent it to the limiter? If it's sounding closer to your target, you've just told yourself that you can get closer by having a parallel with your snare where part of it goes through a limiter, but one a snare sample stays out.

Now what happens if you shape the transient on yours a bit? What happens if you EQ, or if you pull back on the limiter? What happens if you add saturation?

(This may not apply to your mix and work. It's just a direction to begin with.


If you get closer, to your target, then experiment and see what happens if you bring down your ref to the level of your mix, instead of bringing up your mix to the level of the ref. Now analyze what sounds different between your mix and where you'd like it to be?

There's no single path, and everyone who mixes records fights the same battles. The difference is their experience has given them a tool set of things that usually work for them to fix problems.

You have to spend time finding the tools that work for you.


The limiter is telling you what's wrong with your mix. You have to learn to decipher what it's saying.

You may want to pay to send a song you feel is done to Big Bass and see how it comes back. (Evaluating the difference between what he did with it and where you had it will teach you more about which tools you're missing. It may not come back sounding like you want it to. But you'll learn more about what was wrong with your mix. If it does come back exactly as you want it to, you've learned that you need to keep mixing the same way and hire Big Bass)

You have to experiment and learn what works for you.
Old 3 weeks ago | Show parent
  #9
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majoraxis's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Modern clipper plugins with high rate high quality oversampling handle bass better without sounding chocked.

Voxengo OCV-128 v1.7 with the new oversample algorithm does not sound as choked as other clipper plugins IMHO and worth a try again if you tried it before version 1.7 without the upgraded oversampling.

I am mastering in the box so I am using other plugin's like TC MD4 Native to control dynamics before going in the OCV-128 and not using the internal TC limiter.

Another trick that may help to create an acceptable clipper sound is to run one clipper in to a second clipper/limiter and split the gain reduction / clipping duties. 2 db max for each clipper. This can also add the "true peak" capabilities in the second clipper position (Ozone and Flatline have this.)

OCV-128 > OCV-128
or
OCV-128 > Flatline 128xOS
or
OCV-128 > Ozone Maximizer

It is also worth mentioning that I am not using a limiter when using back to back clippers. I think of it like the OCV-128 is like converter clipping, being follow by digital clipping/limiting.

Basically, the OCV-128 v1.7 "replaces" the Lavery Gold. Blasphemy, I know, but if you don't have a high end D/A A/D converter at your disposal, it's worth trying...

Last edited by majoraxis; 3 weeks ago at 09:55 PM..
Old 3 weeks ago
  #10
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X-Pand Sound Mastering's Avatar
 
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I don't understand what's the "purpose" of the clipping discussed here. Is it to achieve a certain loudness that otherwise couldn't be achieved on "that" specific mix/song using other processing followed by a "traditionnal" brickwall limiter ? Or a clipping to intentionnaly color the sound with some kind of distortion ..?

@ darkalex I'm asking so I can fully understand your goal with clipping here. Because if it sound "scoped" than it isn't the right choice for that particular song. In Mastering never trade something positive for something negative.
What you do must be beneficial to the song, otherwise you're in the wrong direction.
Things must "flow" naturally and not be a struggle in any way.

Last edited by X-Pand Sound Mastering; 3 weeks ago at 08:28 AM.. Reason: Finishing the post
Old 3 weeks ago | Show parent
  #11
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Greg Reierson's Avatar
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JLaPointe ➑️
Sometimes that's just your limiter trying to tell you that your eq balance isn't quite as dialed in as it needs to be.
For example, WAY too much 30Hz energy in a mix that the tracking and mixing engineers never heard because they're working on nearfields. With full range monitors in mastering you can deal with it before it hits the limiter. With a band-limited system in mastering you might be left to wonder why the limiter is working so hard and sounding so bad.
Old 3 weeks ago | Show parent
  #12
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🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hippocratic Mastering ➑️
I really don't think many mastering engineers are buying $5,000 limiters.
The top end of mastering engineers will have three different $5,000 compressor and Limiters, and tools that split up mid side, transients, all kinds of controls.

The EQ's are the real expensive part, like $9K for a GML 6 band and they may have more than one EQ.

I Bet there are working mastering engineers only ITB. But I would not expect that from most of the top tier of mastering.
Old 3 weeks ago | Show parent
  #13
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Greg Reierson's Avatar
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by elegentdrum ➑️
The top end of mastering engineers will have three different $5,000 compressor and Limiters, and tools that split up mid side, transients, all kinds of controls.

The EQ's are the real expensive part, like $9K for a GML 6 band and they may have more than one EQ.

I Bet there are working mastering engineers only ITB. But I would not expect that from most of the top tier of mastering.
Many of us have that and more. Limiters are all ITB now. A few hundred bucks tops.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #14
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Exactly. As far as I know only Maselec and Pendulum are even making high end outboard limiters. Compressors are a different matter.
Old 3 weeks ago | Show parent
  #15
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Simon Morrison's Avatar
 
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🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by elegentdrum ➑️
I Bet there are working mastering engineers only ITB. But I would not expect that from most of the top tier of mastering.
Top tier ITB limiting here!
Old 3 weeks ago | Show parent
  #16
Quote:
Originally Posted by IM WHO YOU THINK ➑️
The limiter is telling you what's wrong with your mix. You have to learn to decipher what it's saying.
...what a great way of looking at it .
Old 2 weeks ago
  #17
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I master a lot of urban stuff and i find it easy to get it as loud as top commercial productions, providing the mix / production is half-decent.

Here are some tips for you:

Try to get the track as an instrumental and vocal stem. This is really crucial. Plus a full mix as reference because the balance between vox and beat is often wrong (bounced at the wrong volume by the producer / mixer), so you can reference to the full mix for vocal volume.

I master all urban stuff in-da-box.

I never hard clip anything, but i will use some saturation.

Ok, to some specifics:

This is important: do some limiting and maybe compression on the beat stem. So that when it's summed with the vox, you don't have big transients adding with the vocal to give even bigger, troublesome peaks. I also think this makes it sound smoother. Only do compression if it sounds good, don't just do it because you think you need to do it.

Now you sum beat and vox.

I actually use very little compression on the sum, its mostly saturation and limiting.

I do have a custom M/S compressor that i use sometimes, see the pic below.

So what i do is push the sum up into the FabFilter Saturn saturation so it's rounding off some peaks and smoothing any low end bumpiness. Then i do a couple of deebs with Pro L2 and also a bit with the Waves multiband limiter, prolly 1 or 1.5dB. I always think just a little multiband limiting makes it "sound like a record"!Β 

Obviously you can also do stuff to the vox stem, like de-essing, and i'll also sometimes limit and compress the vocal stem if needed. Again, it's those jumping out transients that might cause a problem in the sum.

And Bob's your uncle, a loud and good sounding master!

Separate vox and beat stems is important because you can compensate for any harshness created, which is very difficult on a full mix as you can't target the vox and beat separately.

Oh yeah, another plug i find useful is that Tokyo Labs transient plugin, sorry, i forgot the name, can be useful for aggressive hi-freq transients in the beat stem.

Have fun with it!Β 
Attached Thumbnails
Clipping without getting the "choked" sound-melda.jpg  

Last edited by I.R.Baboon; 2 weeks ago at 09:53 PM..
Old 2 weeks ago | Show parent
  #18
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loji's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by JLaPointe ➑️
Sometimes that's just your limiter trying to tell you that your eq balance isn't quite as dialed in as it needs to be.
This ... 100%

start doing EQ cuts, little ones . . -0.2dB here and there, watch the sound open-up . . .
Old 2 weeks ago | Show parent
  #19
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Slug1's Avatar
 
6 Reviews written
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by loji ➑️
This ... 100%

start doing EQ cuts, little ones . . -0.2dB here and there, watch the sound open-up . . .
Double 100%!!

Especially in the low lo end!!
Old 1 week ago
  #20
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Todd Loomis's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
A lot of it may depend on your room and speakers. The guys above mentioned a less-than-ideal frequency balance. That's really tough to get correct without an amazing speaker system and room. It may sound "perfect" to you, but if you've got room modes cancelling and summing at 4 different locations under 100Hz, it's not perfect, and the limiters and clippers will struggle more.

In addition to that, even when mastering makes something extremely loud, it's often not clipping alone that does it. First, the mix may already be super loud to begin with if the mixing engineer prepped it that way. Second, the mastering engineer may additionally be doing other types of processing before and/or after clipping.

It's really tough to really nail a master without a high end room like what they've got at Grundman or Sterling. Most people just can't compete with that. The speaker system and room could be a quarter million dollar setup alone, not including the rest of the actual processing equipment like converters, eqs, compressors, consoles, etc. Do the best you can and it will probably be pretty good, but unless you invest some serious $$$, it's just gonna be tough to make it as good as the best of the best.

Todd
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