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Different Audio Interfaces and Different Mics all sounding thin/shrill within mixes

e26chu

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May 9, 2022
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Hi all!
I've been recording/mixing music for a while (2 years) and I've come across a very strange issue regarding the quality of my + my friend's vocal recordings. The issue manifests in an incredibly dry/raw sounding vocal, which after my standard chain of effects would make it sound thin and harsh. It's very strange as friends who carry similar or identical setups sound much better before and after mixing.

This sample of a track im working on has everyone using an at2020 as their mic, and a Scarlett Solo Gen 2, whereas my friend with the issue is using a Motu M2, but has tried using a 2nd and 3rd gen Scarlett.

There are 3 singers in this sample, (<<< google drive link with different forms of the audio issue)
and my friend with the harsh audio issues is the second vocalist heard (the first male voice). I also personally have this issue with my setup/recordings but I figured this specific part would be the best to represent the audio issues.

Me and my friend have had this for several months, and have tried:

Different interfaces: SSL2, Focusrite Scarlett Solo Gen 3, Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 Gen 2, Komplete Audio 2, Motu M2
Different XLR cables + Different USB cables to connect to the interface itself
Different Microphones: 1 Blue Baby Bottle, 1 Blue Baby Bottle SL, Two Different AT2020's
Different Computers, AMD and Intel processors, all computers which should be much more than strong enough to run DAW's
Disabling Windows having the ability to shut down USB's to save power
Updating All USB drivers/Chipset on computer
Trying USB 2.0 ports vs 3.0 ports
Working with different sample rates 44100 & 48000 (of course making sure they are same within the DAW and Windows)
Reinstalling Interface Drivers + Using the ASIO4ALL Driver
Adjusting Buffer Sizes
Of course... Properly gain staging and singing from varied distances from the mic
Adjusting effects chain, but on a base level regardless of what effects and EQ to subvert the harshness, this issue is still existent unless I absolutely nerf the highs of my EQ's, making the effected vocals sound muddy and underwater at the most extreme of it.
Recording in different DAWs (ableton and reaper) and recording in Mono + Stereo.

From the friends we've asked in our circle, it seems like having this audio issue is very selective. In our entire circle, only me and my friend showcased in that audio clip has encountered an issue like this at all. Issue is more apparent after compression is placed upon the track, I've also shared an audio sample with only compression.

Any and all help is appreciated, this is my first post so please excuse me if something is amiss, thanks!
 

AnalogSteph

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Assuming that the signal is kept well out of clipping at all times, the issue may be an actual feature of your voices that's potentially accentuated further by the microphones used and your monitoring setup. It potentially requires EQ more specific and narrowband than what you have tried so far, perhaps a de-esser unless you already have that in, and/or changes to vocal technique / maintenance (drink plenty!). A microphone can only record what's there.
 

DVDdoug

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which after my standard chain of effects would make it sound thin and harsh
And I suspect that's the problem. Does it sound OK without effects?

as friends who carry similar or identical setups
It's difficult to get the effects setup identically on two different systems. It's not easy to get the same-exact effect settings twice on the same system!
 
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E

e26chu

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And I suspect that's the problem. Does it sound OK without effects?
well. that is the point of my original post? regardless of the singer and microphone, some recordings sound different in terms of harshness and take things such as basic compression very poorly. This is why we've gone to so many lengths to adjust the input of our sound to no avail.
I've offered some samples in my original post, if you listen to the raw version I'm sure you could pick out some differences in the raw quality. Are you saying it's normal for the same exact microphone to sound absolutely worse while recording in one scenario, and usable on the other? As much as I want to tie it to vocal skill, as someone who has mixed a variety of vocals on entry-level interface setups, I'm stumped on how different takes can be in terms of audio, and how some people can consistently not have clean audio despite all the troubleshooting and good recording technique.
It's difficult to get the effects setup identically on two different systems. It's not easy to get the same-exact effect settings twice on the same system!
is it normal for the same interface/same microphone setup to sound this different?
 

rayc

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Jun 26, 2022
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Hi all!
I've been recording/mixing music for a while (2 years) and I've come across a very strange issue regarding the quality of my + my friend's vocal recordings. The issue manifests in an incredibly dry/raw sounding vocal, which after my standard chain of effects would make it sound thin and harsh. It's very strange as friends who carry similar or identical setups sound much better before and after mixing.

This sample of a track im working on has everyone using an at2020 as their mic, and a Scarlett Solo Gen 2, whereas my friend with the issue is using a Motu M2, but has tried using a 2nd and 3rd gen Scarlett.

There are 3 singers in this sample, (<<< google drive link with different forms of the audio issue)
and my friend with the harsh audio issues is the second vocalist heard (the first male voice). I also personally have this issue with my setup/recordings but I figured this specific part would be the best to represent the audio issues.

Me and my friend have had this for several months, and have tried:

Different interfaces: SSL2, Focusrite Scarlett Solo Gen 3, Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 Gen 2, Komplete Audio 2, Motu M2
Different XLR cables + Different USB cables to connect to the interface itself
Different Microphones: 1 Blue Baby Bottle, 1 Blue Baby Bottle SL, Two Different AT2020's
Different Computers, AMD and Intel processors, all computers which should be much more than strong enough to run DAW's
Disabling Windows having the ability to shut down USB's to save power
Updating All USB drivers/Chipset on computer
Trying USB 2.0 ports vs 3.0 ports
Working with different sample rates 44100 & 48000 (of course making sure they are same within the DAW and Windows)
Reinstalling Interface Drivers + Using the ASIO4ALL Driver
Adjusting Buffer Sizes
Of course... Properly gain staging and singing from varied distances from the mic
Adjusting effects chain, but on a base level regardless of what effects and EQ to subvert the harshness, this issue is still existent unless I absolutely nerf the highs of my EQ's, making the effected vocals sound muddy and underwater at the most extreme of it.
Recording in different DAWs (ableton and reaper) and recording in Mono + Stereo.

From the friends we've asked in our circle, it seems like having this audio issue is very selective. In our entire circle, only me and my friend showcased in that audio clip has encountered an issue like this at all. Issue is more apparent after compression is placed upon the track, I've also shared an audio sample with only compression.

Any and all help is appreciated, this is my first post so please excuse me if something is amiss, thanks!
It's not all the same gear if you factor in the user as part of the gear/signal chain.
I listened to your samples and they each confirmed what I suspected. You've thrown a VERY hard high pass on the vocals and NOTHING exists below 100Hz. This means, from the outset that the vocals will sound thin. You've also boosted heavily around 600hz which accentuates some unpleasant parts of the voice. There's nothing smooth, calm or balanced about the audio. I also suspect that the vocal tracks may have been normalized as this can, particularly after the high pass, allow the harshness to become more apparent. I have a thin, annoying voice and I find I need to sing fairly loudly and off axis from the microphone to get a good, clean signal that isn't littered with the unpleasant sounds, often siblant, plosive or breath/mouth smacking based - as these sounds have a lot of energy and poke through and become more obvious with too much treatment. Realistically your effects chain, for a dry tracked vocal, should involve a little compression to add some colour more than squish, a little EQ to cut the problems gently and some boost to fill the weaknesses looking to achieve a gentle curve - again gently, a smidge of reverb, (if you can hear it then there's too much), and A LOT OF manual automation editing for level and manual de-essing through automation as well.
 
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