Why track vocals with compressor into a 24 bit system?

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Jeff White
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Post by Jeff White » Sun Jun 13, 2010 12:50 pm

90% of the time I track everything dry. Just recorded vocals on Friday night. Dry. They sound great. I compressed ITB.
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Post by percussion boy » Sun Jun 13, 2010 1:41 pm

thethingwiththestuff wrote: i think a larger issue of the appropriate amount of dynamic range for a given style is worth thinking about too, though. i think of 24 bits as leaving me plenty of headroom without noise concerns, not necessarily dynamic range. it gives me the option to keep a good gain structure while making things as thick and forward as they should be for pop/rock derived stuff. i really dont want that large of a dynamic swing on almost any instrument in a mix.
Sure.

What's kind of interesting is the historical aspect. When tape without noise reduction was the universal recording medium, headroom and dynamic range were all part of the same technical problem -- 'cause there WASN'T much dynamic range between noise at one end and distortion beyond tape saturation at the other. So compressing drums, vocals, etc. (really limiting) was presumably part of how the engineer covered his ass when tracking.

Anyway, great discussion. Time to dust off the LA3A.
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Post by Ryan Silva » Sun Jun 13, 2010 2:29 pm

percussion boy wrote:Anyway, great discussion. Time to dust off the LA3A.
Dust it off and drive it over to me is more like it. :lol:
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Post by percussion boy » Sun Jun 13, 2010 3:55 pm

Ryan Silva wrote:
percussion boy wrote:Anyway, great discussion. Time to dust off the LA3A.
Dust it off and drive it over to me is more like it. :lol:
No. There are lights, and little arrows that move. I turn it on and I turn it off.

People say it will make sounds too. I do not hear any sounds.
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Post by vvv » Mon Jun 14, 2010 5:05 am

Me, I use a cheap little Joe Meek VC3Q after a AT4040, and I love how the slow optical compressor kinda grunges up my crappy vox.

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Post by Nick Sevilla » Mon Jun 14, 2010 7:03 am

The SOUND.

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Post by honkyjonk » Mon Jun 14, 2010 9:19 am

I like compressing to tape (or digital) on the way in so I don't have to do it as much later. I'll eq on the way in too, and add memory man. Get stuff sitting right as soon as I can.

I've only had to go back and redo vocals a couple times due to too much echo or eq, or compression or whatever. Admittedly if I was getting paid to do somebody else's music that would be two times too many
But if I don't trust myself to do it right early on, then I have to make every decision in the end and it's totally overwhelming.
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Post by runrunrun » Mon Jun 14, 2010 10:33 am

drumsound wrote:I often track with two compressors, and sometimes add one in the mix.
I'm becoming more and more interested in the multiple compressor approach. Would you care to share an example of what compressors / time constants you are using and about how much compression from each, etc...

I've used 2 compressors in series on vocals before during mixing, hadn't thought to try it during tracking, but I like that idea.

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Post by drumsound » Mon Jun 14, 2010 6:51 pm

runrunrun wrote:
drumsound wrote:I often track with two compressors, and sometimes add one in the mix.
I'm becoming more and more interested in the multiple compressor approach. Would you care to share an example of what compressors / time constants you are using and about how much compression from each, etc...

I've used 2 compressors in series on vocals before during mixing, hadn't thought to try it during tracking, but I like that idea.
When I first got my Drawmer '69 Fletcher hipped me to using both channels in series. I do that sometimes, or 2 different units. It's often one slow and one fast, neither doing more than about 4db of GR. Often you can not hear the effect at that amount. Sometimes though I just like to get a lot of compression on one unit (esp the Action).

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Post by joel hamilton » Tue Jun 15, 2010 5:37 am

The idea that the dynamic capabilities of the channel we are recording to would dictate the entire approach to capturing a subjective sound, is flawed.

If it is a recording of a single voice, and will never be subjected to the relative volume of other elements, then we wouldnt really "need" to enforce a subjectively pleasing operational range, would we?

If you are going to have other noises happening, like guitar or drums or bass or all of the above: you may want to target a specific operational dynamic range where the vocal sounds right to you in relation to those other elements.

Aiming for that target on the way IN certainly makes it easier during the mix, when the other elements have presumably been made to jump through some hoops on the way to "better", to get the vocal to actually land near the targeted spot you had envisioned when recording it.
It also give intent to the captured sound that would be easily read by a mix engineer, if it is a project where that sort of thing is happening. like the way big room mics as opposed to tight R&B sounds would be easily read by people downstream, or even for YOU to mix later... the intent of the capture remains throughout the process. If the vocal is smacking the pre, and driving a little, and hitting an LA2A, that is going to read completely different tone-wise and affect how you approach the mix.

Its the same thing as choosing a fender or a marshall, an LA2A or a plugin, a les paul or a tele: subjective merits judged with context as the only possible measure.

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Post by Dakota » Wed Jun 16, 2010 8:09 am

runrunrun wrote:Would you care to share an example of what compressors / time constants you are using and about how much compression from each, etc...
A classic example of that is one doing peak limiting, one doing leveling. The limiter set to very fast attack, medium to short release (slow enough to not sound distorted) ratio 6:1 to 20:1, only catching the occasional spastic peak, not more than 6db reduction here and there.

Leveling compressor set to low ratio, 1.5:1 or lowest available, attack probably slower than 25ms, release probably slower than 200ms (to the rhythm of the song, really), again not more than 6db reduction at max, but this compressor riding along a lot of the time at a few db reduction. Smoothing.

Usually the limiter first helps the leveler act more smoothly, not lurch on sudden peaks. But both orders should be tried, whatever sounds good.

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Post by greatmagnet » Wed Jun 16, 2010 4:07 pm

joel hamilton wrote:The idea that the dynamic capabilities of the channel we are recording to would dictate the entire approach to capturing a subjective sound, is flawed...
Yeah I mean the thing is, nobody in the recording industry with a brain ever said that allowing any (and every) given instrument in a mix it's full dynamic range without limitation actually sounds good...at all...in the context of a mix with all thems other instruments. I would think most seasoned engineers would say quite the opposite.

Yet that's the party line you so often hear regurgitated with consumer audio enthusiast (high end home stereo) type folks: to point to the high dynamic range/low noise floor of the digital domain as THE reason that "CDs sound better than records" or whatever. That's GREAT for their system as a whole to be able to reproduce audio like that. But it's a clinical measurement: if those same people had any idea about just how much every single instrument on their favorite album is being compressed with hardware, software, and tape during tracking, mixing, and mastering, they'd be floored by how little of that dynamic range is actually being used during the course of a single album track.

The truth is, if you give each instrument it's full dynamic range...just totally let it off the leash...that will almost always sound WORSE. At least in the context of a rock song or whatever. Maybe not always true with sparser type stuff. It's the dreaded brittle picket fence that turns people off about digital recording in the first place.

Back to tracking with compression initially, for me it's not only about "that sound" but the fact that it just plain makes the singers I'm working with more comfortable. Like 200% more comfortable. Without it, they really do sense that "high school P.A." (or Karaoke bar) thing where their soft passages are totally lost in the mix and their louder passages...even just the usual plosives and sibilance surrounding their consonants...just explode out in the most unprofessional manner imaginable. It's really, really hard to sing with confidence against that. Much more comforting and inspiring to give it that sheen from the get-go and inspire them to sing with confidence.

However you could argue that you could feed them a mix that's bussed through a compressor for that same sense of self-confidence, yet record the pre-compression chain and process it later so that you're not limiting (ha-ha) yourself. Certainly nothing wrong with that. Although if you're being judicious on your tracking compression, it's unlikely you'll have any regrets later. It'll just save you time in the long run.
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Post by T-rex » Wed Jun 16, 2010 4:39 pm

Tone!

Also I have a limited number of nice compressors so using them on the way in frees them up for mixdown.
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Post by joel hamilton » Thu Jun 17, 2010 4:16 am

Caldo71 wrote: However you could argue that you could feed them a mix that's bussed through a compressor for that same sense of self-confidence, yet record the pre-compression chain and process it later so that you're not limiting (ha-ha) yourself. Certainly nothing wrong with that. Although if you're being judicious on your tracking compression, it's unlikely you'll have any regrets later. It'll just save you time in the long run.
I almost always have some compression patched up on the monitor channel, even if I am not hitting it like crazy on the way in.
SOmetimes I have a limiter set to push back just as a "session saver" type setting so i simply KNOW I wont et anything crunchy during the take. Squeezed a bunch in the bridge you didnt expect as opposed to completely useless? Clear choice.
Also, it really depends on what you have to work with. If I am in a studio with ONLY 160a's, I may not dig into those as much as I would let the 660 swing, or I maybe I would....

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Post by Gritze » Thu Jun 24, 2010 10:24 am

I generally apply light compression on a vocal if it especially thin going in, but there's really no reason to dramatically compress a signal with outboard unless one of your compressors has a certain desirable sound.

You could always pipe the track back through the compressor later on in the mixing stage I suppose, so you're not making any destructive decisions during tracking.

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