• WANTED: Happy members who like to discuss audio and other topics related to our interest. Desire to learn and share knowledge of science required as is 20 years of participation in forums (not all true). Come here to have fun, be ready to be teased and not take online life too seriously. We now measure and review equipment for free! Click here for details.

Great Interview with a Music Producer/Engineer

pozz

Addicted to Fun and Learning
Patreon Donor
Editor
Joined
May 21, 2019
Messages
507
Likes
593
#41
It was interesting when the engineer explains he is not trying to recreate the natural, realistic sound of the real event, but rather an idealized artistic expression, especially one in concert with our expectations of recordings. (I have sympathy with this as all day long I'm doing sound effects where sometimes I'm trying to cobble together something that sounds natural and real to the ear, but other times it's deliberately idealized as to how we expect, or think it should sound).

That had me thinking about the various "audiophile recordings" I bought over the years - Chesky and others - in which they were trying to reproduce the sound of the singer and instruments in natural acoustic spaces, to sound as "real" as possible for the audiophile.

While there was in indeed a certain naturaliness, virtually all of them were limpid in terms of their musical effect, IMO. They actually had some decent talent in the artists here and there, but the production left the musical impact of a wet noodle - lacking vividness, excitement, drive. Boring.

I'm sure I'm not the only audiophile around who bought in to those things at one point, still have them around and never listen to them.
There are some great pieces on Chesky. The B&K HATS setup and binaural filters make for very nice stereo presentations overall.
 

Thomas savage

Power hungry desperado
Moderator
The Watchman
Patreon Donor
Joined
Feb 24, 2016
Messages
7,300
Likes
5,404
Location
uk, taunton
#44
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.
That's what's needed but why not just offer the master aimed at a hifi then let users use software to convert it for phone / earbud use?

What happens now is the reverse, music is not only mastered but arguably made to suit it's playing environment and that's earbuds , MP3 and portable speakers .

It's such a shame but it's always been this way and likely always will.
 

Blumlein 88

Major Contributor
Joined
Feb 23, 2016
Messages
6,743
Likes
6,832
#45
That's what's needed but why not just offer the master aimed at a hifi then let users use software to convert it for phone / earbud use?

What happens now is the reverse, music is not only mastered but arguably made to suit it's playing environment and that's earbuds , MP3 and portable speakers .

It's such a shame but it's always been this way and likely always will.
Money and market. You can put the stuff folded in available to those with better gear. Those with lesser gear rule in numbers and overall market size. So offering a top quality audiophile recording and asking low end music players or phones adulterate it with DSP just isn't in the cards.
 

Sergei

Senior Member
Patreon Donor
Joined
Nov 20, 2018
Messages
314
Likes
204
Location
Palo Alto, CA, USA
#46
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.
It was confusing to me at first, yet after a while I believe I started grasping what the translation is about. My current thinking is that it is mostly about making sure that the most important parts of artistic intent get through even the most inaccurate varieties of audio delivery chains.

It is not so much about trying to tune a record to this generalized end user system and also to that generalized end user system, but rather about making the composition outright simpler and cleaner, so that it has a good immunity against severe distortions.

Examples: Frequency range is cut. Dynamic range is reduced. Subtle echoes are removed. Emotions-conveying voice overtones are kept in check. Vibrato, chirps, and other effects based on frequency modulation are avoided. Genuine transients are replaced with noise bursts.
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.
Well, there are different approaches. Used for many decades. So as examples I'll use some pioneering ancient compositions, expressing the approaches in very pure forms.

Some of the songs are just made super-simple. Like "Fly, Robin, Fly" by Silver Convention:


Those translate to everywhere, and that's the single high fidelity version. A lot of pop music and EDM is done that way to this day.

A more subtle approach is to make a composition simple and clean enough to translate well, yet still keep some of the subtleties in a softer form, to be safely sacrificed while delivering through less resolving chains, yet still available from the same record to more discerning listeners.

One of my favorite examples of the subtler approach is Popcorn by Gershon Kingsley (apologies, you'll have to go straight to Youtube to see it):


Composer's own rendition illustrates the artistic intent even better:

Which is worst, having to master for the old 6x9 car speaker or for Apple ear buds?
Apple ear buds, when new and connected to an iPhone, are much more consistent than the 6x9s, made by many manufacturers, driven by various head units, in vastly different car acoustic environments. I understand why sound engineers prefer mastering for the ear buds rather than for car stereos.
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.
I think this is a great idea, and may fully flesh out one day. Hybrid SACD releases, and multiple Blue-ray audio options on a disk are approximations of that.
 
Joined
Jan 9, 2019
Messages
63
Likes
65
#47
The "translation" issue is exactly why so many studios used the Yamaha ns-10. It wasn't because it was a great (neutral) speaker. It was because it was a terrible speaker. But it was discovered that if a mix sound good in NS-10, then it tended to sound good (ie translated) to many systems. In my short stint in the studio, we would go back and forth between the main studio speakers (which were awesome) and the NS-10s (which sounded terrible) and we would find a balance between sounding good in the mains and sounding ok in the NS-10s. For hobby engineers, the key is to "learn" your monitors; learn how they translate across several playback systems by checking every mix in different systems.

And I've never heard of "translation" going so far as simplifying arrangements or composition to suit lower fi systems. Maybe that mentality exists, but I don't think its typical. In all the recording tutorials I've seen, its typically about mixing and EQing the tracked instruments so that the song sounds good on a variety of systems. So - for example - say you have a killer sub bass line that sounds great in the studios main monitors. However, it gets completely lost in small systems with bad low frequency response. So you might compensate by boosting the high end of the bass track up to get more of the bass harmonics and attack in the mix. That way, listeners on a bass challenged system will still "hear" that killer bass line, even if they don't get the full physical impact. That may conflict with where the electric guitar is sitting in the spectrum, so you might compensate by eq'ing the same range down on guitar or trying panning the guitar left or right so it sits in its own space.
 
Joined
Aug 24, 2019
Messages
35
Likes
11
#48
The "translation" issue is exactly why so many studios used the Yamaha ns-10. It wasn't because it was a great (neutral) speaker. It was because it was a terrible speaker. But it was discovered that if a mix sound good in NS-10, then it tended to sound good (ie translated) to many systems. In my short stint in the studio, we would go back and forth between the main studio speakers (which were awesome) and the NS-10s (which sounded terrible) and we would find a balance between sounding good in the mains and sounding ok in th-e NS-10s. For hobby engineers, the key is to "learn" your monitors; learn how they translate across several playback systems by checking every mix in different systems.

And I've never heard of "translation" going so far as simplifying arrangements or composition to suit lower fi systems. Maybe that mentality exists, but I don't think its typical. In all the recording tutorials I've seen, its typically about mixing and EQing the tracked instruments so that the song sounds good on a variety of systems. So - for example - say you have a killer sub bass line that sounds great in the studios main monitors. However, it gets completely lost in small systems with bad low frequency response. So you might compensate by boosting the high end of the bass track up to get more of the bass harmonics and attack in the mix. That way, listeners on a bass challenged system will still "hear" that killer bass line, even if they don't get the full physical impact. That may conflict with where the electric guitar is sitting in the spectrum, so you might compensate by eq'ing the same range down on guitar or trying panning the guitar left or right so it sits in its own space.
Just like the kick drum. One loses the 60hz thump in small transducers so its important to have a good click from the beater. And ducking the similar frequency from the bass guitar- say about 100ms helps.

If the tune is well arranged- each piece has its own space in the frequency spectrum and if each piece (snare, guitar, vocal etc) is well recorded it is much easier to achieve a mix which will translate well. Being able to accurately hear timbre and level allows one to minimize things like mud, harshness, frequency build up and such. It also greatly helps in managing the space where each piece resides- front, back, left, right, up and down. If one gets this right the tune engages the listener. Without a good room and good transducers it is a true battle to accomplish this. Different transducers placed in ways that change the listening position within the stereo field create a process which one can choose the best compromise. The key is to not allow these compromises to be detrimental to the listener who has spent the time and capital on a proper listening environment.
 

pozz

Addicted to Fun and Learning
Patreon Donor
Editor
Joined
May 21, 2019
Messages
507
Likes
593
#49
It also greatly helps in managing the space where each piece resides- front, back, left, right, up and down.
I generally agree with your post but in stereo space front/back depth is fairly limited and source height is only a matter of suggestion (through pitch). There are some physical characteristics of the room/speaker combination that will add to height perception, like the character of early reflections and the quality of driver integration, placement and off-axis response. But those are largely incidental since height information can't be captured with a stereo pair or reproduced over stereo speakers. Though I sorely wish this wasn't the case. It's a real challenge when mixing to account for everything sitting in the same sonic line.

At one point I made design notes for speakers whose drivers would move to reproduce source polar response and height. It was fun to think about everything involved. Totally impractical of course:p
 
Last edited:
Joined
Aug 24, 2019
Messages
35
Likes
11
#50
I generally agree with your post but in stereo space front/back depth is fairly limited and source height is only a matter of suggestiom (through pitch). There are some physical characteristics of the room/speaker combination that will add to height perception, like the character of early reflections and the quality of driver integration, placement and off-axis response. But those are largely incidental since height information can't be captured with a stereo pair or reproduced over stereo speakers. Though I sorely wish this wasn't the case. It's a real challenge when mixing to account for everything sitting in the same sonic line.

At one point I made design notes for speakers whose drivers would move to reproduce source polar response and height. It was fun to think about everything involved. Totally impractical of course:p
The range of front to back is quite big in fact. Our brain is constantly calculating this as it is key to safety and survival. Reverb, reflections(delay) level, frequency and compression all can be used to bring forward or push back. You are correct that the method and placement of playback can impact how much difference is perceived.

I am in no way professing to begin to understand the full technical aspects of the content of this site. I do find it fascinating. I lean more toward the concept of the designer of the Monitor (see his post) headphone amp which I own and use on a daily basis as part of my listening choices. Becoming proficient in managing the placement of pieces in the stereo field makes one a great mixer. I continue to strive towards that goal and learn a little with each tune I mix. Ah maybe someday.
 

rwortman

Active Member
Joined
Jan 29, 2019
Messages
141
Likes
103
#51
It is a strange paradox the many of the audiophile writers claim to want playback to be “true to the source” but are sure the equipment used to create the track is insufficient to play it in their homes. It’s BS. Everybody likes what they like and “true to the source” is just a snotty way to say their preference is superior.
 
Joined
Aug 24, 2019
Messages
35
Likes
11
#52
Agreed. Especially if you consider that "the source" is usually a single mono mic and this "source" is placed in an artificially created space along with the other "sources" that make up the tune. The art of recording multiple instruments and vocals in a natural space is almost a lost art. Those recordings that do indeed capture that space are rare and then and only then does "true to the source" apply.
 

pozz

Addicted to Fun and Learning
Patreon Donor
Editor
Joined
May 21, 2019
Messages
507
Likes
593
#53
Agreed. Especially if you consider that "the source" is usually a single mono mic and this "source" is placed in an artificially created space along with the other "sources" that make up the tune. The art of recording multiple instruments and vocals in a natural space is almost a lost art. Those recordings that do indeed capture that space are rare and then and only then does "true to the source" apply.
At least when it comes to playback equipment, "true to source" is best applied to the characteristics of the input signal. Compare input to output and you're good.
 
Joined
Aug 24, 2019
Messages
35
Likes
11
#54
But alas the cursed room or listening environment demands its dominance of what is heard. As usual the solution of "true to the source" has been around for centuries. Structures specifically created so that the audience is swallowed in the performance.

Technology has been striving to replicate this experience and it is closer now than ever before. However, using a basketball stadium for a music venue will never come close regardless of how hard one tries with line arrays etc as the structure itself is fatally flawed.

I tend to ramble but the key is the structure or listening environment. You can fill a bad room with mega dollars of gear to no avail. I know I would gladly pay a few hundred dollars to experience a great structure but we all would rather cater to the market by investing in gear that does much better at its designed function and place it in a fatally flawed room. Then we create extreme phase and comb filtering by applying eq so that a graph shows a nice curve.

So sorry. I will leave it at that.
 

ajawamnet

Active Member
Joined
Aug 9, 2019
Messages
103
Likes
98
#55
It was confusing to me at first, yet after a while I believe I started grasping what the translation is about. My current thinking is that it is mostly about making sure that the most important parts of artistic intent get through even the most inaccurate varieties of audio delivery chains.

It is not so much about trying to tune a record to this generalized end user system and also to that generalized end user system, but rather about making the composition outright simpler and cleaner, so that it has a good immunity against severe distortions.

Examples: Frequency range is cut. Dynamic range is reduced. Subtle echoes are removed. Emotions-conveying voice overtones are kept in check. Vibrato, chirps, and other effects based on frequency modulation are avoided. Genuine transients are replaced with noise bursts.


Well, there are different approaches. Used for many decades. So as examples I'll use some pioneering ancient compositions, expressing the approaches in very pure forms.

Some of the songs are just made super-simple. Like "Fly, Robin, Fly" by Silver Convention:


Those translate to everywhere, and that's the single high fidelity version. A lot of pop music and EDM is done that way to this day.

A more subtle approach is to make a composition simple and clean enough to translate well, yet still keep some of the subtleties in a softer form, to be safely sacrificed while delivering through less resolving chains, yet still available from the same record to more discerning listeners.

One of my favorite examples of the subtler approach is Popcorn by Gershon Kingsley (apologies, you'll have to go straight to Youtube to see it):


Composer's own rendition illustrates the artistic intent even better:



Apple ear buds, when new and connected to an iPhone, are much more consistent than the 6x9s, made by many manufacturers, driven by various head units, in vastly different car acoustic environments. I understand why sound engineers prefer mastering for the ear buds rather than for car stereos.


I think this is a great idea, and may fully flesh out one day. Hybrid SACD releases, and multiple Blue-ray audio options on a disk are approximations of that.

Interesting... one of our record promoters was Bill Jerome - the guy that was in the band that did the synth version of Popcorn with Hot Butter...
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hot_Butter
 

BigVU's

Member
Patreon Donor
Joined
Jul 30, 2019
Messages
68
Likes
31
#56
Great Topic! Audio is awesome!

I vaguely remember those garage band days of past where we tried to nail every chord note and change. That was way more important. Then after hours of that we would go back and tweak things. track overlays, cut ins, retake a few things, add some reverb here or there and it never ended. We used a pair of Tannoy studio monitors.

Ultimately we would mix it ridiculously, racing to the car and back to see how it played. This was because we would go cruising and we wanted all the friends to have it to play in their car as well. Mostly on cassette - then cd. If it sounded good in the car on those we felt pretty good about it. Occasionally we'd sneak it on at a kegger to see if any one noticed.

Some audio mixing engineers are magicians is all I can say and some.... are not. I was not. lol
 
Top Bottom