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Parallel compression for classical?
Old 22nd June 2022
  #1
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Parallel compression for classical?

Anyone doing it with any regularity?

I'm remastering some of my old recordings and experimenting with parallel compression for the first time (ITB), and find it very valuable for soprano/piano recitals. I've always gain-ridden these during recording to a small degree (these are mostly 16/44), but still those soprano peaks can get pretty brutal. I've found that parallel compression keeps them under control in a more transparent way than anything else I've tried.

Your experiences?
Old 22nd June 2022
  #2
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my desks allows for blending the compression with the unprocessed signal - i sometimes use in on (vocal) spots or instruments with lots of transients (percussion).
Old 22nd June 2022
  #3
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Yeah, I wondered about using it on spots.
Old 23rd June 2022
  #4
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Plush's Avatar
 
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Certainly useful for singers. Pile on the compression.
Old 23rd June 2022
  #5
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I tend to use parallel compression on spot microphones. Sometimes I use the blend feature on the Rupert Neve MBP. I like the mixture of using very light limiting and parallel compression to tame extreme peaks, combined with manual volume automation. You know how a soprano can modulate huge dynamics on specific parts of their range, it's crazy, so I use a multifaceted approach. I also like this technique on instruments with overly pronounced transients.

Often when mixing jazz I like to use parallel compression into EQ on the master. To make the compression more transparent start by setting the attack time super fast, ratio of 2:1, medium release (300ms), you can experiment with how much gain reduction is necessary. If you want more mid dynamic detail, slow down the attack time and increase the ratio.
Old 25th June 2022
  #6
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Beth Harmon is an advocate of parallel compression during classical editing/mixing: https://m.youtube.com/channel/UCnoAQtkIUu7yv5mmmFR_JDQ
https://elizabethharmon.github.io/

Mike Stavrou ('Mixing with your Mind') suggested chaining a limiter with a high threshold before a compressor with lower ratio and threshold...his book explains the rationale
Old 25th June 2022
  #7
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Never really tried it myself. I use compression on vocal spots with enough attack time to let some transients through and usually assume the main mics will act as my uncompressed parallel. Works really well to my ears. I may experiment with parallel compression on my next vocal soloist, though. Kind of intriguing.
Old 25th June 2022 | Show parent
  #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by studer58 ➡️
Beth Harmon is an advocate of parallel compression during classical editing/mixing: https://m.youtube.com/channel/UCnoAQtkIUu7yv5mmmFR_JDQ
https://elizabethharmon.github.io/

Mike Stavrou ('Mixing with your Mind') suggested chaining a limiter with a high threshold before a compressor with lower ratio and threshold...his book explains the rationale
Stavrou's stricktly a pop/rock guy isn't he?
Old 25th June 2022 | Show parent
  #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by M50k ➡️
Stavrou's stricktly a pop/rock guy isn't he?
John Williams (classical guitar) nominated Stavrou as his favourite session engineer…so if Williams is pop/rock then, yeah…if you’re fishing for legitimacy to discredit ?

Stavrou also advocates recording grand piano in M-S with an omni mid mic and the ‘hotter’ side of the fig8 pointed at the piano’s tail…so I don’t know if that’s considered too ‘rock and roll’ around these parts…. ?
Old 25th June 2022 | Show parent
  #10
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whether i'm using parallel compression or a compressor and limiter in series depends on:

- the source
- the spot mic and its pattern
- the distance of the spot mic to the source
- the equipment available
- the situation (recording, mixing, broadcasting)
- the desired soundfield
- and my mood ;-)

i like dynamic processing in classical music in general quite a bit as it can bring up low level detail (or in the case of expansion makes huge mic count possible in the first place) - besides the dynamic processing built into my studer digital desk, i'm using drawmer, jünger, spl, tc electronics, waves and weiss dynamic (digital hardware) processors; my desks allows for blending in inserts so i could use all these processors also in parallel (or m/s) mode.
Old 25th June 2022 | Show parent
  #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by studer58 ➡️
John Williams (classical guitar) nominated Stavrou as his favourite session engineer…so if Williams is pop/rock then, yeah…if you’re fishing for legitimacy to discredit ?

Stavrou also advocates recording grand piano in M-S with an omni mid mic and the ‘hotter’ side of the fig8 pointed at the piano’s tail…so I don’t know if that’s considered too ‘rock and roll’ around these parts…. ?
You're right - I should have said 'mainly', not 'strictly'.
Old 26th June 2022 | Show parent
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by studer58 ➡️
Stavrou also advocates recording grand piano in M-S with an omni mid mic and the ‘hotter’ side of the fig8 pointed at the piano’s tail…so I don’t know if that’s considered too ‘rock and roll’ around these parts…. ?
I have his book but have not yet read it...so what, pray tell, is the "hotter side of the fig8"? All good, classic figure 8 miics have the same response on both sides, though some poor examples may have a hotter side. Or does he mean the side that produces a positive signal when (sound) pressure is applied?
Old 26th June 2022
  #13
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ronmac's Avatar
 
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Although most mic manufacturers claim their "bi-directional mics" ar true figure of 8, quite a few are not, especially multi-patterned, large dia. condensers. Even quite a few ribbons (Royer R series, AEA R92) exhibit a purposeful tonal difference, side to side.

As an example, this is a snip from the AEA R92 marketing blurb:

"A feature of the R92 that distinguishes it from any other AEA mic is a ‘dual-tone’ functionality that results in two distinct sounds from the front and back of the mic respectively. Turn the front of the mic towards the source to achieve a more crisp, bright sound and turn the back to the source for a darker, smoother sound that tames harsh high frequencies."

Royer also explain the differences between the "R" and "SF" product lines:

"The best way to explain the differences between R-series mics (R-121, R-122 MKII, R-122V) and SF-series mics (SF-12, SF-24, SF-1) is to take a look at their ribbon transducers (the transducer is the magnetic frame or assembly that the ribbon element is housed in).

This is the R-121 transducer (also used in R-122 MKII’s and R-122V’s). It has a long, wide, thick (2.5 micron) ribbon element. The transducer is a “flux frame” design; basically one frame that the magnets are secured to and the ribbon element sits in. It’s a tough ribbon design that can handle sound pressures that would blow most ribbon mics (135 dB SPL at 20 Hz). This design makes the R-series mics tough enough to use in live applications (see Are ribbon mics recommended for live use?)

The R-series transducer has a slight upper midrange rise (see frequency response) that gives it a little extra presence and “character.” Our R-series mics have become “must haves” for the recording of rock, pop, jazz, and country music.

This is the SF-12 transducer (also used in SF-24’s and SF-1’s). Compared to the R-series transducer, it has a shorter, narrower, thinner (1.8 micron) ribbon element. The transducer is a more “classic” design, utilizing separate magnets at the four corners and two pole pieces that the ribbon sits between. While SF-series mics can handle 130 dB SPL (at 40 Hz), they are not recommended for extremely loud applications.

The SF-series transducer gives a warm, flat response and extends a few kHz further into the high frequencies than our R-series mics. Its more purist sound lends itself to strings, woodwinds and other classical applications. The stereo imaging and realism of the SF-12 and SF-24 is uncanny – excellent for ensambles, drum overheads, choirs, acoustic groups, etc."

Or to put it another way, not all zebras declared to be both black and white, are symmetrically so.
Old 26th June 2022
  #14
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Thomas W. Bethe's Avatar
 
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I tend NOT to use any compression on classical recordings...I will record at a lower level if I know I will be dealing with a dynamic singer.

I did the Cleveland Opera from their inception to their demise and never used any type of limiter or compressor.

Classical music is meant to be dynamic so why screw with it? FWIW
Old 26th June 2022 | Show parent
  #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Thomas W. Bethe ➡️
(...)
I did the Cleveland Opera from their inception to their demise and never used any type of limiter or compressor.

Classical music is meant to be dynamic so why screw with it? FWIW
in the olden days with still lots of people having a decent home hifi, maybe...

...but imo there has long been a paradigm shift in terms of production and listening habits, distribution media etc.

nothing inherently 'wrong' with sticking to the old way though: to me, it's just one of several options that we have these days.
Old 26th June 2022 | Show parent
  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jimjazzdad ➡️
I have his book but have not yet read it...so what, pray tell, is the "hotter side of the fig8"? All good, classic figure 8 miics have the same response on both sides, though some poor examples may have a hotter side. Or does he mean the side that produces a positive signal when (sound) pressure is applied?
Do read it soon if you can, it is great fun and interesting!
Old 26th June 2022 | Show parent
  #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jimjazzdad ➡️
I have his book but have not yet read it...so what, pray tell, is the "hotter side of the fig8"? All good, classic figure 8 miics have the same response on both sides, though some poor examples may have a hotter side. Or does he mean the side that produces a positive signal when (sound) pressure is applied?
It's definitely worth immersing yourself in...if only to expose yourself to some radically left of centre ideas on recording and mixing...beginning with the spacing-apart of your monitor speakers and progressing through backwards-mixing, and all manner of innovative studio approaches to recording.

As regards the hot side of a fig 8 mic....as several have already mentioned here, it seems to be simply the side of an asymmetrical ribbon mic that has more HF than the other. Most folk in this forum prefer a symmetrical output for M-S purposes, but Stavrou turns asymmetry into an advantage for himself !
Old 28th June 2022 | Show parent
  #18
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mljung's Avatar
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Thomas W. Bethe ➡️
I tend NOT to use any compression on classical recordings...I will record at a lower level if I know I will be dealing with a dynamic singer.

I did the Cleveland Opera from their inception to their demise and never used any type of limiter or compressor.

Classical music is meant to be dynamic so why screw with it? FWIW
If one records an instrument or singer pretty close-up (as in spot microphone) the dynamic range will be proportionally bigger than it would be listened to from a larger distance. So in situations where you record closer than a typical listening position (which is quite common for most of us to do), I believe it gives very good meaning to use some sort of dynamic adjustment/processing, that it can actually get more natural if used carefully.

Otherwise it easily gets overly dynamic, and that can be just as much "screwing with it", the dynamics that is.
::
Mads
Old 28th June 2022 | Show parent
  #19
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Thomas W. Bethe's Avatar
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mljung ➡️
If one records an instrument or singer pretty close-up (as in spot microphone) the dynamic range will be proportionally bigger than it would be listened to from a larger distance. So in situations where you record closer than a typical listening position (which is quite common for most of us to do), I believe it gives very good meaning to use some sort of dynamic adjustment/processing, that it can actually get more natural if used carefully.

Otherwise it easily gets overly dynamic, and that can be just as much "screwing with it", the dynamics that is.
::
Mads
I have done over 3500 classical recordings including the Cleveland Opera, Cleveland Orchestra, Canton Orchestra and I have never used a compressor or limiter on any of them and a couple of them, done for commercial release, have been "editors choice" in Stereo Review so I pretty much know how to do "classical recordings". Thanks for your input.
Old 28th June 2022 | Show parent
  #20
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thomas, i don't think the previous post was meant as critique on your approach or merits - rather, it mentioned the circumstances based on which you'll want to use dynamic processing:

going (very) close with a (directional) mic has some benefits but also disadvantages, the latter of which can get mitigated though (without sacrificing the benefits) by using dynamic (and efx) processing.

the processing does what a bit of air between the mic and the source does: smoothing of transients, keeping excessive dynamics under control, adding a sense of space, breathe some air into an otherwise very dry sound - make it sound more natural.

no one needs to use this approach, just as it isn't helpful to demonize it.

cheers,
dd
Old 28th June 2022 | Show parent
  #21
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Thomas W. Bethe's Avatar
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by deedeeyeah ➡️
thomas, i don't think the previous post was meant as critique on your approach or merits - rather, it mentioned the circumstances based on which you'll want to use dynamic processing:

going (very) close with a (directional) mic has some benefits but also disadvantages, the latter of which can get mitigated though (without sacrificing the benefits) by using dynamic (and efx) processing.

the processing does what a bit of air between the mic and the source does: smoothing of transients, keeping excessive dynamics under control, adding a sense of space, breathe some air into an otherwise very dry sound - make it sound more natural.

no one needs to use this approach, just as it isn't helpful to demonize it.

cheers,
dd
I tend NOT to use close up directional mics as it messes with the perception of the music being recorded. As a human being we don't have ears that can "zoom in" on a particular instrument and always hear the total "picture" of what is being played. I think the idea of spot mics developed with TV and Movies where they wanted to "bring up" the instrument when it was shown "on screen"

As to my reply to the post...I sometimes get the idea that people here think they are always right and that others do not have a clue as to what they are doing.

I have been a classical recording engineer for over 50 years and have a lot of credits to my name and I do know what I am doing but others seem to negate that experience. FWIW
Old 28th June 2022 | Show parent
  #22
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well, i DO use directional mics close up on acoustic instruments - for two reasons:

- more often than in the olden days, orchestras (at least around here) play in all sorts of 'venues' which were never designed for concerts of unamplified music and which have sub-par acoustics - and yet the orchestras want to document the efforts: in these situations, the main goal is to keep out as much as possible from the room sound while recording but then recreate a convincing soundfield while mixing (or both at the same time when broadcasting); this i do mostly with signals from a large amount of directional spot mics.

- the other reason to rely on spots (even when recording in typical concert halls) is that it allows me to achieve a soundfield that i cannot achieve with a conventional approach of distant (omni) mics.

the former approach does require more mics, preamps, converters, dynamic and efx processors and hence more time to adjust things (although my desks allows for very fast tweaking - way faster than on any analog desk).

__


again, this is NOT a critique on anyone's approach or preferences; i'm merely trying to explain why dynamic processing - depending on approach - is a blessing (or even mandatory, unless you have two octopuses as assistants).
Old 28th June 2022 | Show parent
  #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Thomas W. Bethe ➡️
I tend NOT to use close up directional mics as it messes with the perception of the music being recorded. As a human being we don't have ears that can "zoom in" on a particular instrument and always hear the total "picture" of what is being played. I think the idea of spot mics developed with TV and Movies where they wanted to "bring up" the instrument when it was shown "on screen"

As to my reply to the post...I sometimes get the idea that people here think they are always right and that others do not have a clue as to what they are doing.

I have been a classical recording engineer for over 50 years and have a lot of credits to my name and I do know what I am doing but others seem to negate that experience. FWIW
It's very important for me to underline that my intention with what I wrote, was not in any way a question of what is right or wrong.

I simply wanted to give a possible answer to what I read as a question:
Classical music is meant to be dynamic so why screw with it?

I also agree that spot microphones can be undesirable (for the reasons you describe) - but in some situations they can also be what saves a good performance as a recording (e.g. in less than optimal acoustics).

Anyhow, in situations where you are closer to a performance than the typical good listening position, which is pretty common, well-judged dynamic processing can make a lot of sense - that's my argument.

But I do not in any way disregard your experience or question the quality of your work, not at all. I was merely taking part in a discussion about the use of compression in classical music and in which situations it could give good meaning.

Personally I love natural sounding recordings in beautiful acoustics with full dynamics!

::
Mads
Old 28th June 2022 | Show parent
  #24
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Thomas W. Bethe's Avatar
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by deedeeyeah ➡️
well, i DO use directional mics close up on acoustic instruments - for two reasons:

- more often than in the olden days, orchestras (at least around here) play in all sorts of 'venues' which were never designed for concerts of unamplified music and which have sub-par acoustics - and yet the orchestras want to document the efforts: in these situations, the main goal is to keep out as much as possible from the room sound while recording but then recreate a convincing soundfield while mixing (or both at the same time when broadcasting); this i do mostly with signals from a large amount of directional spot mics.

- the other reason to rely on spots (even when recording in typical concert halls) is that it allows me to achieve a soundfield that i cannot achieve with a conventional approach of distant (omni) mics.

the former approach does require more mics, preamps, converters, dynamic and efx processors and hence more time to adjust things (although my desks allows for very fast tweaking - way faster than on any analog desk).

__


again, this is NOT a critique on anyone's approach or preferences; i'm merely trying to explain why dynamic processing - depending on approach - is a blessing (or even mandatory, unless you have two octopuses as assistants).
I understand BUT, IMHO, it really messes with the "natural sound" of the ensemble. I too have recorded classical in some strange places including outdoors, in a high school "choral room", in a hallway and in a basketball gym but I have always been able to do this without a set of "up close and personal" spot mics. Your reasons for doing so are valid but I choose not to "spoil" the natural balance of the ensemble. There is no right or wrong way to record an ensemble and I am sure you are getting excellent results with your approach.

Different strokes for different folks...and different expectations.
Old 28th June 2022 | Show parent
  #25
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Thomas W. Bethe's Avatar
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mljung ➡️
It's very important for me to underline that my intention with what I wrote, was not in any way a question of what is right or wrong.

I simply wanted to give a possible answer to what I read as a question:
Classical music is meant to be dynamic so why screw with it?

I also agree that spot microphones can be undesirable (for the reasons you describe) - but in some situations they can also be what saves a good performance as a recording (e.g. in less than optimal acoustics).

Anyhow, in situations where you are closer to a performance than the typical good listening position, which is pretty common, well-judged dynamic processing can make a lot of sense - that's my argument.

But I do not in any way disregard your experience or question the quality of your work, not at all. I was merely taking part in a discussion about the use of compression in classical music and in which situations it could give good meaning.

Personally I love natural sounding recordings in beautiful acoustics with full dynamics!

::
Mads
Understood.

I try and go for the natural sound of an ensemble. My recordings have always been reviewed by the reviewers saying "it was like I was there" which really pleases me.

I have recorded in some strange places (see post above) but was always able to pull them off without using spot mics or compressors.

I once did the "King of Denmark" by Morton Feldman*. It is a very quiet piece and the loudest part is a ppp. I recorded this in a hallway with two M-49 Neumann mics and an audience in attendance. It came out very well and the performer was astonished by the sound and the depth of the recording. Yes, there was some HVAC noise but it was constant and if I did that today I could have probably eliminated it using RX by Izotope.

I guess I am a purest at heart and alway like to capture ensemble recordings as if I was in attendance. FWIW

*http://szsolomon.com/morton-feldman-king-denmark-1964/
Old 28th June 2022 | Show parent
  #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Thomas W. Bethe ➡️
Understood.

I try and go for the natural sound of an ensemble. My recordings have always been reviewed by the reviewers saying "it was like I was there" which really pleases me.

I have recorded in some strange places (see post above) but was always able to pull them off without using spot mics or compressors.

I once did the "King of Denmark" by Morton Feldman*. It is a very quiet piece and the loudest part is a ppp. I recorded this in a hallway with two M-49 Neumann mics and an audience in attendance. It came out very well and the performer was astonished by the sound and the depth of the recording. Yes, there was some HVAC noise but it was constant and if I did that today I could have probably eliminated it using RX by Izotope.

I guess I am a purest at heart and alway like to capture ensemble recordings as if I was in attendance. FWIW

*http://szsolomon.com/morton-feldman-king-denmark-1964/
I hoped the link was to the actual recording you are describing. If it is, instructions to trace it are most welcome!
::
Mads
Old 28th June 2022 | Show parent
  #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Thomas W. Bethe ➡️
I understand BUT, IMHO, it really messes with the "natural sound" of the ensemble
Tom, what’s your understanding of parallel compression…as outlined by the OP in post no.1 ?
Old 28th June 2022 | Show parent
  #28
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Thomas W. Bethe's Avatar
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mljung ➡️
I hoped the link was to the actual recording you are describing. If it is, instructions to trace it are most welcome!
::
Mads
The recording was done at the local conservatory while I worked there and I do not have access to their archives since I am no longer employed there. Thanks for your interest.
Old 28th June 2022 | Show parent
  #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by studer58 ➡️
Tom, what’s your understanding of parallel compression…as outlined by the OP in post no.1 ?
This from the WWW

Parallel compression, also known as New York compression, is a dynamic range compression technique used in sound recording and mixing. Parallel compression, a form of upward compression, is achieved by mixing an unprocessed 'dry', or lightly compressed signal with a heavily compressed version of the same signal. Is that not what the person meant???
Old 28th June 2022
  #30
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🎧 15 years
I never understood the difference between parallel compression (and all the phase havoc it could create) and some additional minor tweaking of inline compression.

But that’s just me probably.

It strikes me as either a. that’s overdone, let’s go back a little, or b. Two sources mixed = louder = better syndrome.

Did anyone conduct blind tests as we did with the loudspeaker cables ?
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