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Great Interview with a Music Producer/Engineer

amirm

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#1
This is a great interview about the technical ins and outs of studio work. It is with Alex Sterling, owner of Precision Sound studio. He has a very nice, pragmatic, down-to-earth way of explaining things that I like. Very informative and not too long so give it a watch. It covers everything from use of studio monitors and headphones to preference for mixes and such.

 

StevenEleven

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#4
That was very interesting. By getting insight into how recordings are made I think it helps in being informed about what you are doing in choosing playback equipment. This was a useful but honestly I think relatively shallow investigation of the subject. In my view, the more you hear, even from the recording and mastering engineers on the production side, the more realistic and informed you are about what you are tying to accomplish with a playback system.

How are drums mic'd? How are voices mic'd? How are pianos mic'd? How much is recording to capturing the ambient sounds in the studio? How much reverb is being used? How much of music is synthesized so that there is no "reality" that was recorded? How realistic is it that your perfect stereo will sound just like you were there for the performances in the studio? Extremely, extremely unlikely, and you probably wouldn't want it that way if you knew, assuming everyone was there to play at once. While they are performing how much do musicians understand about how they sound to an audience? I would bet they are surprised and fascinated more often than not when they hear a new recording of themselves for the first time.

So then you get to the playback end, and often what you have on a recording is a very carefully crafted set of idealized sounds, not some content such that if your audio gear is just so it will feel like you are there and closer to an elusive reality (a reality that never existed). So in the end there is nothing mystical about getting the very best sound out of a system, no transformative level of hifi.

The transformative element is the music itself. And as I've said in the past, but not here, if you want to hear more details in the music and get the emotion of the music and get goosebumps sometimes, the next level up of audio system isn't really going to get you there in any meaningful way. What will get you there is listening to the music several times very closely--then you will hear more and more detail each time, what these artists are doing extremely well, in a way that no audio gear could ever do for you.

If you read all this thanks for reading. I ramble sometimes.:rolleyes:
 
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amirm

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#5

StevenEleven

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#6
I got half-way. Line breaks would enable me to read the whole thing. :)
I just broke it in to four hopefully conceptually coherent paragraphs. As some guy named Don who knows an awful lot about electricity always says, HTH. :)
 

amirm

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Blumlein 88

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Could we talk about translation? Studio guys sweat over it greatly. Audiophiles say they want to hear what the sound was in the studio, and the studio is trying to make tasteful adjustments for what they think things are like on the playback end. Most interesting dichotomy don't you think? A self amplifying circle of confusion if one goes too far down the rabbit hole.

I think the great majority of mastering people use more than one monitor due to translation concerns. So which one is the true sound of high fidelity? There isn't one.

Which is worst, having to master for the old 6x9 car speaker or for Apple ear buds?

An idea I think would be good, and I know it's never going to happen, is rather than bull like MQA authentication, is a different folding. A folding where you get masterings for big home speaker use, ear bud use, and in between like good phones or good car audio. All in one file. And maybe something like movies which have the Director's cut, we'd have the Mastering guys master or some such.
 

StevenEleven

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#11
Also if there are professionals on the music production side on this site and we could get some focused exchanges with them or if we could bring some to post regularly here I'd really love to hear their contributions more often. If we could have Q&A as to what it's like on the production side, the nuts and bolts of it, from recording the musicians to mixing and mastering, it could give a lot of insight as to what a realistic perspective is on the playback side, exactly what we are consuming, and make listening to recordings all the more engaging with that background.
 

Wombat

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#12
This is a great interview about the technical ins and outs of studio work. It is with Alex Sterling, owner of Precision Sound studio. He has a very nice, pragmatic, down-to-earth way of explaining things that I like. Very informative and not too long so give it a watch. It covers everything from use of studio monitors and headphones to preference for mixes and such.

I enjoyed that interview. The last few minutes covered an aspect that many audio enthusiasts go into denial about - that the recordings are made to suit various requirements, not just those of home-based audiophiles. :cool:
 

MattHooper

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#13
I think the great majority of mastering people use more than one monitor due to translation concerns. So which one is the true sound of high fidelity? There isn't one.
Yeah...my experience is in post production sound for film and tv (sound design/sound effects editing). It was always disheartening in the 80's/90's and even 2000s when, after a pretty nice mix on the studio system the mixer would switch to the "cans" - tiny, tinny speakers emulating the typical TV speakers of the time, and then remix somewhat to make sure it sounds good on those speakers.

It's still done to some extent, mixing for the "soundbar" level playback. But mixing for TV is a lot better now.
 

Blumlein 88

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#14
I enjoyed that interview. The last few minutes covered an aspect that many audio enthusiasts go into denial about - that the recordings are made to suit various requirements, not just those of home-based audiophiles. :cool:
A very basic dichotomy is mastering for headphones or speakers. The very best for either one isn't best for the other. There are some approaches that aren't bad on either, but necessarily not as good as they can be.
 

MattHooper

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#15
I enjoyed that interview. The last few minutes covered an aspect that many audio enthusiasts go into denial about - that the recordings are made to suit various requirements, not just those of home-based audiophiles. :cool:
Yes this is a problem, of sorts.

There are those who say they want to pursue "accuracy" which sounds like a goal anyone could get behind. But accuracy to what? It makes things easier to define it in objective terms such as "accuracy to the source signal - reproducing the signal of the source with as little distortion as possible" or some such goal. But this still begs the question "why that goal? To what end is that goal chosen in the first place?"

The justification for wanting to hear the source as undistorted as possible is very often pushed back to "because I want to hear what the artist/mixer/engineer intended me to hear."

Well, then..uh-oh...we find ourselves in a morass due to the types of issues raised in that video. In some cases, the artist/engineer assumed you'd be listening on apple earbuds in terms of how it was mixed, so do you ditch your speakers for those albums? There are a great many studio monitors that sound different from each other. Which are we to emulate at home? And even if a studio uses some very neutral monitors, you can see how the mix is still considered for a variety of possible uses, and mixed appropriately, so they aren't even necessarily mixed to sound right on the very monitors they were mixed on!

Floyd Toole is right in the sense that if both the engineering side and consumer side lined up their priorities we could to some degree break the "circle of confusion." But in the real world, with so many different studio monitors, the influence of so many different studio spaces, and then the fact mixers know there is a vast number of different speaker types used by consumers, the practical nature of mixing makes this a very difficult if not impossible goal.

This is one reason why my worry about "accuracy" only carries so far. I want a generally neutral sound, but I don't sweat departures that simply help me enjoy music through the system more. I'm the one listening to my system, I have my goals, I'm trying to please myself, and pleasing myself ultimately means increasing my enjoyment of music played through my system. Given I'd think the most important goal of the artist is that you enjoy their music, that seems a win-win meeting of goals, given the compromises involved.
 

garbulky

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#16
Which is worst, having to master for the old 6x9 car speaker or for Apple ear buds?
I would say it's worse mastering for the car speaker. The fidelity of portable bluetooth headphones and the such are getting quite a bit better as of late. Now, don't get me wrong, it's still trash. But when the majority of people used to listen to complete trash, trash that has some sort of coherent soundstage and instrument separation and even some low level of bass clarity is a godsend!
 

Blumlein 88

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#17
snip.......
Extremely, extremely unlikely, and you probably wouldn't want it that way if you knew, assuming everyone was there to play at once. While they are performing how much do musicians understand about how they sound to an audience? I would bet they are surprised and fascinated more often than not when they hear a new recording of themselves for the first time.

So then you get to the playback end, and often what you have on a recording is a very carefully crafted set of idealized sounds, not some content such that if your audio gear is just so it will feel like you are there and closer to an elusive reality (a reality that never existed). So in the end there is nothing mystical about getting the very best sound out of a system, no transformative level of hifi.

The transformative element is the music itself. And as I've said in the past, but not here, if you want to hear more details in the music and get the emotion of the music and get goosebumps sometimes, the next level up of audio system isn't really going to get you there in any meaningful way. What will get you there is listening to the music several times very closely--then you will hear more and more detail each time, what these artists are doing extremely well, in a way that no audio gear could ever do for you.

If you read all this thanks for reading. I ramble sometimes.:rolleyes:
Yes, I've done only a few recordings, but that was an early moment of enlightenment that also made me feel very stupid not to have seen it. People have this idea of the musicians approving of the sound. They have no idea how they sound a dozen feet away to an audience. They never have experienced that for themselves.

I early on recorded a mandolin player. Now a mando is easily lost in the mix. I used a purist microphone pair of pencil omnis on a jecklin disk. Put the mando player in real close. He was very pleased, saying, "first time I've heard something like what playing my mandolin is supposed to sound". Bandmates said, "we can't hear you that well when we play. It does sound nice, but we never hear you that way."

Just as a side comment, I heard Ronnie McCoury live one time. Man is he a mando player. He deserves to be front and center with everyone else supporting him on a recording.
 

Blumlein 88

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#18
I would say it's worse mastering for the car speaker. The fidelity of portable bluetooth headphones and the such are getting quite a bit better as of late. Now, don't get me wrong, it's still trash. But when the majority of people used to listen to complete trash, trash that has some sort of coherent soundstage and instrument separation and even some low level of bass clarity is a godsend!
Even if they are Jensen Triaxials man!? Yeah, dating myself I guess. I do remember a local drive thru burger and shake joint had lots of trouble with customers not hearing their orders. One of the guys there also worked part time in a car stereo shop. Replaced all their terrible speakers with Jensens. Remember Jensen touted how they were water resistant. That sure was an upgrade and hearing your order was nice and clear. I bet it more than saved the cost in time no longer lost to customers saying 'what did you say?'
 

Wombat

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#19
 

garbulky

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#20
Even if they are Jensen Triaxials man!? Yeah, dating myself I guess. I do remember a local drive thru burger and shake joint had lots of trouble with customers not hearing their orders. One of the guys there also worked part time in a car stereo shop. Replaced all their terrible speakers with Jensens. Remember Jensen touted how they were water resistant. That sure was an upgrade and hearing your order was nice and clear. I bet it more than saved the cost in time no longer lost to customers saying 'what did you say?'
Well you should have said Jensens before! Lol.
I guess my problem with car audio is that for the most part it's hard to get the soundstage properly focused left right center considering your either sitting off to one side or to the other. So whatever one gets is always some sort of weird compromise that's just not "quite" right.
 
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