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Compressing/Limiting to digital multitrack
Old 21st April 2003
  #1
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ExistanceMusic's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Compressing/Limiting to digital multitrack

Just wondering what some of you are doing in regards to compressers, limiters or any other sort of dynamic control as you track to digital.

Are there any "purists", getting levels by fine tuning gain structure before the A/D stage, or is it common practise to squash those pesky transients before they get to anything digital, and if so, how do you find this affects your mix style in terms of dynamic procsesing "in the box"?
If not, how do you avoid digital clipping on signals with wide dynamic range, whilst still retaining a nice hot signal?
Old 21st April 2003
  #2
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cymatics's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Re: Compressing/Limiting to digital multitrack

Quote:
Originally posted by ExistanceMusic
(snip)...is it common practise to squash those pesky transients before they get to anything digital, and if so, how do you find this affects your mix style in terms of dynamic procsesing "in the box"?
The cumulative effect of this technique on all tracks of a multitrack recording sounds ****ty and lifeless to me.

Quote:
If not, how do you avoid digital clipping on signals with wide dynamic range, whilst still retaining a nice hot signal?
Determine what the loudest possible signal will be from the given source, then set that level a few dB below full scale for good measure.

If you are tracking to a 24 bit box, then you don't need to be right at 0 dbfs in order to achieve a high resolution signal. If you have a track whose rms level is 12 db below full scale digital, that is still in excess of a 20 bit wordlength!

- jon
Old 21st April 2003
  #3
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blackcatdigi's Avatar
 
1 Review written
🎧 15 years
Well, IME that depends on what is being tracked... This stuff is all so subjective and has also been covered extensively, so you may want to do a search for additional opinions... That being said:

If I'm tracking lead or backing vox, I'll usually apply comp(s) to taste. Not so much for dynamic control as for tone. Most other tracks go down with no dynamic processing, unless I'm after a particular flavor, but that can change on a case-by-case basis. You'd also be well advised to exercise some caution in processing dynamics on the front end, because you can't undo it later.

I'm certainly no purist, but there's no need to max out signals in a 24 bit recording session... All you gain is grain. And then you have to turn averything down to mix, anway. Whats the point?

Personally, I prefer to track w/conservative levels and plenty of headroom. If dynamics are needed, I insert HW later. If a particular track's level is too low, I simply turn it up. OTOH, I don't hesitate to use the built in limiters on the Spider, just to avoid any unexpected overs. I can see that feature being particularly useful in live tracking situations...

Then I usually spank the **** out of everything at mix. But of course, that's a different subject!

I also don't mix in the box...
Old 21st April 2003
  #4
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blackcatdigi's Avatar
 
1 Review written
🎧 15 years
Re: Re: Compressing/Limiting to digital multitrack

Quote:
Originally posted by cymatics

If you are tracking to a 24 bit box, then you don't need to be right at 0 dbfs in order to achieve a high resolution signal. If you have a track whose rms level is 12 db below full scale digital, that is still in excess of a 20 bit wordlength!
Yes. In fact, it results in a 24 bit wordlength. Any signal at all, regardless of level, (in a 24 bit session) results in a 24 bit file...

With the lowest levels represented by zeros... A non-issue.
Old 21st April 2003
  #5
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cymatics's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Re: Re: Re: Compressing/Limiting to digital multitrack

Quote:
Originally posted by blackcatdigi
Yes. In fact, it results in a 24 bit wordlength. Any signal at all, regardless of level, (in a 24 bit session) results in a 24 bit file...

With the lowest levels represented by zeros... A non-issue.
Obviously, a 24 bit recorder records 24 bits.fuuck

Perhaps my sentence should have read, "the portion of the word which represents the material intended to be captured is in excess of 20 bits."

Then, as you suggested, you can think of the last 2, 3, or 4 bits as headroom.

- jon
Old 21st April 2003
  #6
Lives for gear
 
🎧 15 years
In any tracking situation, it is important to consider your gain-staging. With today's digital (even at 16 bits), it really isn't necessary to always record at "a nice hot level." When the noise floors in even the worst situations are 30 dB less than out analog counterparts, this allows plenty of space for a few dB of headroom when we record.

That said, I do a lot of live work. Occasionally, I'll use a little bit of compression or limiting when I go to tape. It is for one of two reasons usually. I have a performer that is "out of control" and has wild fluxuations in dynamic. Sometimes this can help prevent clipping in the heat of battle. I find this to most often be the case with vocalists that don't always sing on mic and trumpet or other brass/sax players that go on and off mic.

The other reason is purely asthetic. I may have a comp/limiter that I really like at the show and not for mixdown. I may compress/limit a bit then-- just like in certain studio tracking situations. I make sure, though, that it is only on selected tracks and I don't do it too much. You can always compress more if it needs it, but expansion isn't necessarily going to help you if you did too much.

--Ben
Old 21st April 2003
  #7
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blackcatdigi's Avatar
 
1 Review written
🎧 15 years
Re: Re: Re: Re: Compressing/Limiting to digital multitrack

Quote:
Originally posted by cymatics
Obviously, a 24 bit recorder records 24 bits.fuuck

Perhaps my sentence should have read, "the portion of the word which represents the material intended to be captured is in excess of 20 bits."

Then, as you suggested, you can think of the last 2, 3, or 4 bits as headroom.

- jon
Yeah, I understand what you meant. Just trying to clarify for the lurking masses, as I've seen quite a bit of misunderstanding on this particular issue.
Old 22nd April 2003
  #8
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littledog's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
I'm in the middle, like some others here. No way would I automatically compress everything I'm tracking on the way in. Most tracks see no processing at all until the mix (if even then).

The two exceptions would be kick drum (in pop styles, not jazz) and vox. The kick because i like what it does to the sound. And the vox because it helps the performance of the vocalist by keeping their voice a little more present. I suppose I could just compress the voice in the cue mix, but I usually think it helps the sound, and I don't overdo it in the tracking stage. I rarely compress snares or overheads while tracking. Or acoustic piano, as being a pianist i seem to be more sensitive to compression artifacts on my Steinway, even with the most transparent compressors.

If something absolutely needs some EQ or gating while tracking (standard disclaimer: after various manipulations of mic choices, positioning, tuning, taping, muffling, etc.) I'll do that non-destructively with plug-ins.

Electric Guitars, on the other hand, I'll usually record with everything the guitarist wants/has included in the track. Assuming, of course, that I trust the player. Electric bass depends entirely on the player.
Old 22nd April 2003
  #9
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doug_hti's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
For me it matters what the source is, how well I know it, how important it is, if I know what I'm looking for in the mix. If I mixed through a console and had a load of comps or board comps and EQ, I don't think I would hardly ever compress on the way in, except for occassional peak control.

But since I mix mostly in the box, I would rather have a hardware comp on the way in rather than have a plugin comp or going through an additional DA/AD.

IME I don't compress the lead voxes much though if at all as it's usually hard to commit those to how they are going to sit in the mix.
If I'm doing stacks of BGVs, I will change the compression and EQ for each stereo pair going in.
Old 23rd April 2003
  #10
One with big hooves
 
Jay Kahrs's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
I use the same method of compressing on both digital and analog tape. I'll only compress things that need to be compressed, either to reduce dynamics from an out of control performer, make things more consistent or for tonal shaping. The usual list of suspects for a rock band is kick, snare, room mics (tonal), bass and vocals.

The most important thing to do when tracking to digital is maintain a reference to 0VU at all times. That could be anywhere from -12dBfs to -18dBfs depending on how your rig is calibrated. Even the best analog gear has a peak output of +22 to +28dB when related to 0VU. Asking it to hit 0dBFS is pushing that stuff to the edge all the time and it just doesn't sound very good. Not only that, but you'll have to lower all the faders when you mix just so you don't overload the 2-mix. And, if your in the box you'll lose bits there by lowering the faders. What's the lessor of two evils? All I know is that my digital recordings started to sound way better when I learned the above lesson.
Old 23rd April 2003
  #11
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Jules's Avatar
I used to go for the 'last chance to get it sounding good' ethos of compressing it 'the way you might like it in the mix' while tracking.

I have since found this method to be total balls (and I hereby apologise to any folks I may have mislead about 3 years back when extoling it's virtues on forums!)

It just paints you too much in a corner.

I have gennerally skipped being obsessed with serving up 'hot level' to the converters as a total time waste. tutt

Back to the old school method of a tiny lick of compression (often none) on the way in and a little more (or a lot!) at mixdown...

Let the sh!t BREATH!

At least untill squash time (oops I mean mixtime)

Old 23rd April 2003
  #12
Gear Maniac
 
Heterodox's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
I remember reading an article about a year ago in which Terry Date said he uses 2 compressors in a row when tracking Chino's (Deftones) vocals. Also he puts a floor monitor in the room with a mix of the entire track playing into the mic (similar trick used by Dave Bottrill on Danny Carey's drums).

He ALWAYS tracks to 2" studer....but its an interesting sidenote nonetheless.
Old 23rd April 2003
  #13
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C.Lambrechts's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
no or little compression / limiting during tracking. Especially on very dynamic stuff.

No way to take out overcompression in the mix ... so much easier to compress after the mix.

I will on the other hand, especially when recording vocall, throw a quick eq/compression chain on there to have an idea of how it will end up sounding in the mix. I find that not doing that can get you into trouble afterwards with 'S and T' sounds. According to that I tend to then adjust Mic position or ask the singer to go out and take some mic technique / vocal lessons and then come back.

In general keep your stuff as dynamic as possible during tracking. Again ... very hard to deal with overcompressed tracks once they're recorded.
Old 24th April 2003
  #14
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NathanEldred's Avatar
 
7 Reviews written
🎧 15 years
I compress lightly during tracking, especially on bass guitar, kick drum, and vocals. Sometimes on other things if I see the player is wildly dynamic in an inappropriate way for the style of music. Compressing only during mixdown is great, but I see two advantages to compressing during tracking and mixdown. One is for tonal benefit (like Jay mentioned). It's almost like using an EQ in some ways. Depending on the tone of the compressor, things can be made to sound bigger and 'punchier', softer and more mellow, or more airy and extended in the highs. Secondly, I think that a little compression on the way in, and then a little during post is a great way to reduce compression artifacts. Also, combining different types of compressors for the 'best of both worlds' tone gets my rocks off. I do that for two bus/mastering also with the Trakkers. For instance, a little soft knee vintage on the way to tape, then a little hard knee clean vca during mastering...it comes off great.
Old 24th April 2003
  #15
One with big hooves
 
Jay Kahrs's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Totally. Compressing during tracking and compressing while mixing do not yeild the same results, especially if you add analog tape to the mix. That's a whole other thing.

I went down the track flat with no compression path and got my ass kicked by a few clients because the sound changed dramaticly when it was mixed. It also took way longer to mix. After I get the mics placed I might use a little EQ before I add everything else. But I never add a compressor or really hack away with EQ until I have eveything up and I can hear how it all fits together. Mixing should be a process of throwing up the faders, adding a little polish and being done with it.
Old 26th April 2003
  #16
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ExistanceMusic's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Great thread guys, learnt heaps already.
I hit the studio for my first "practical" recording session with a TDM rig next week, and this advice/discussion,/whatever will be invaluable!!

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