Distorting with meters peaking in the green

Recording Techniques, People Skills, Gear, Recording Spaces, Computers, and DIY

Moderators: drumsound, tomb

Post Reply
christiannokes
steve albini likes it
Posts: 304
Joined: Wed Oct 29, 2003 10:22 pm
Location: South Lake Tahoe, CA

Distorting with meters peaking in the green

Post by christiannokes » Mon Dec 05, 2011 4:54 pm

I've got JBL Creature speakers and am mixing a choir on my Powerpc Mac and I'm getting distortion when I try to turn up the Creatures to an acceptable level.
This doesn't usually happen when I mix my own stuff or listen to music.

What is weird is that both individual and master levels, on Garageband, are all in the green. But when I put my Sennheiser HD280's on they don't distort.

*The choir doesn't look like it was recorded very hot or gain turned up very high.

*It happens in the loud parts of the piece.

*I don't really want to use compression unless I have to.

*I imported the tracks as WAV files from a Pro tools 9 sesh

Any ideas? I would turn levels way down but then the overall level is so low it would be laughable to do so.

kslight
moves faders with mind
Posts: 2732
Joined: Tue Oct 13, 2009 7:40 pm

Post by kslight » Mon Dec 05, 2011 6:58 pm

Sounds like you're distorting either the amplifier or the speakers? I'm not really familiar with these speakers but what I gathered online they look more like computer speakers than traditional studio monitors? Have you tried adjusting the volume control on the speaker itself? For example, I would start with having your master fader in Garageband at unity gain and increase the volume with the speaker control.

If you're not distorting in the headphones then its probably not a mix/track issue. I think if you are still distorting at low levels on the speakers you have probably blown one or both of them...not uncommon with small computer speakers.

top_ape
alignin' 24-trk
Posts: 71
Joined: Tue May 24, 2011 7:39 pm

Post by top_ape » Mon Dec 05, 2011 7:17 pm

quick test would be to import a file that you've worked on that you know is OK into the Protools session. If that sounds fine with all else unchanged then you know the issue is with the choir tracks.

User avatar
Snarl 12/8
ghost haunting audio students
Posts: 3415
Joined: Sat Dec 20, 2008 5:01 pm
Location: Right Cheer
Contact:

Post by Snarl 12/8 » Mon Dec 05, 2011 7:24 pm

If it's distorted in the speakers, but not the cans, then it's the speakers. Even I know that.
Carl Keil

Almost forgot: Please steal my drum tracks. and more.

standup
re-cappin' neve
Posts: 631
Joined: Mon Nov 01, 2004 7:04 pm
Location: Washington, DC

Post by standup » Mon Dec 05, 2011 7:24 pm

Maybe there's a frequency in the recording that the speaker can't deal with? If it sounds OK on headphones, the recording is probably OK.

If it's a small plastic speaker there may be frequencies in the audio or resonance in the speaker that makes it crap out in noticeable ways.

Just a thought. I got nothing to back it up.

kinger
steve albini likes it
Posts: 382
Joined: Wed Aug 30, 2006 4:34 pm
Location: Vancouver Island

Post by kinger » Mon Dec 05, 2011 9:35 pm

standup wrote:Maybe there's a frequency in the recording that the speaker can't deal with? If it sounds OK on headphones, the recording is probably OK.

If it's a small plastic speaker there may be frequencies in the audio or resonance in the speaker that makes it crap out in noticeable ways.

Just a thought. I got nothing to back it up.
That's sort of what I was thinking. Maybe slap on a spectrum analyzer and see if there are any powerful sub-low frequencies that are causing your speakers grief.

User avatar
vvv
zen recordist
Posts: 9090
Joined: Tue May 13, 2003 8:08 am
Location: Chi
Contact:

Post by vvv » Tue Dec 06, 2011 4:26 am

Check your wires, cables, connections ...

Also, if you have any switches in the path, check them.
bandcamp; vlayman;
THD; Geronimo Cowboys;
blog.
I mix with olive juice.

User avatar
jgimbel
carpal tunnel
Posts: 1688
Joined: Thu Jan 08, 2009 1:51 pm
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Contact:

Post by jgimbel » Tue Dec 06, 2011 6:31 am

I used to have a pair of crappy computer speakers (not saying that's what you have! Unrelated!) that I'd check mixes on. The mix would be fine in headphones and on my monitors, but through the computer speakers at louder parts or certain frequencies it'd distort and sound really nasty. It seemed it was generally either when there were a lot of sound going on below what the speakers could reproduce (which was a lot, since they were really small), or when there was a lot of high mid stuff ringing in that would resonate the speakers.

Like Snarl said, if it's not distorting in the headphones, I would think it's not the tracks. If the tracks are distorting, you'd be hearing it regardless of where it's being played. Check on some other headphones if you want. Better yet try some other speakers (take it to the car even).
My first new personal album in four years - pay what you want - http://jessegimbel.bandcamp.com

User avatar
farview
tinnitus
Posts: 1204
Joined: Tue Aug 31, 2004 1:42 pm
Location: St. Charles (chicago) IL
Contact:

Post by farview » Tue Dec 06, 2011 7:27 am

Don't confuse recording level, mixing level and playback volume. They are all separate things.

Those creature speakers are just computer speakers, so they will crap out under any kind of load. Choir recordings have a lot of dynamic range, by the time you turn your monitoring system up to an acceptable volume for the majority of the piece, the parts where the choir is truly loud will distort the crap out of those speakers.

Those speakers were not designed for production monitoring. They were designed to listen to Pandora while you post pictures of kittens on Facebook. Trying to monitor any sort of classical music, because of the dynamic range involved, is asking way too much of these things.

User avatar
Snarl 12/8
ghost haunting audio students
Posts: 3415
Joined: Sat Dec 20, 2008 5:01 pm
Location: Right Cheer
Contact:

Post by Snarl 12/8 » Tue Dec 06, 2011 9:21 am

farview wrote:Don't confuse recording level, mixing level and playback volume. They are all separate things.

Those creature speakers are just computer speakers, so they will crap out under any kind of load. Choir recordings have a lot of dynamic range, by the time you turn your monitoring system up to an acceptable volume for the majority of the piece, the parts where the choir is truly loud will distort the crap out of those speakers.

Those speakers were not designed for production monitoring. They were designed to listen to Pandora while you post pictures of kittens on Facebook. Trying to monitor any sort of classical music, because of the dynamic range involved, is asking way too much of these things.
But on the other hand, unless his speakers/amp are blown, he should probably find a way to make the choir sound great on those crappy speakers, since that's how a majority of Americans probably consume music these days. Either shitty computer speakers or shitty earbuds.
Carl Keil

Almost forgot: Please steal my drum tracks. and more.

User avatar
Nick Sevilla
on a wing and a prayer
Posts: 5027
Joined: Mon Mar 03, 2008 1:34 pm
Location: Lake Arrowhead California USA
Contact:

Post by Nick Sevilla » Tue Dec 06, 2011 9:22 am

farview wrote:Don't confuse recording level, mixing level and playback volume. They are all separate things.

Those creature speakers are just computer speakers, so they will crap out under any kind of load. Choir recordings have a lot of dynamic range, by the time you turn your monitoring system up to an acceptable volume for the majority of the piece, the parts where the choir is truly loud will distort the crap out of those speakers.

Those speakers were not designed for production monitoring. They were designed to listen to Pandora while you post pictures of kittens on Facebook. Trying to monitor any sort of classical music, because of the dynamic range involved, is asking way too much of these things.
+1

Please do yourself a favor christiannokes,

Use proper speakers for production monitoring.

Cheers
Howling at the neighbors. Hoping they have more mic cables.

User avatar
GussyLoveridge
gettin' sounds
Posts: 126
Joined: Thu Jun 24, 2010 7:58 am
Location: Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada

Post by GussyLoveridge » Tue Dec 06, 2011 10:30 am

Just do the best you can with the speakers you have. Reference it out to a few other stereos once you're done. It seems like if you don't have distortion when monitors on headphones, your source tracks are probably okay.

classical music is all about dynamic range. It's hard to find a really great classical recording that isn't sometimes too loud and too soft when played back on a consumer stereo.

In a pinch you could always mix on your headphones, if it's just a choir, you shouldn't have much stuff lower than 60Hz I think? Then reference it on a bunch of stereos you're familiar with and then touch it up.

User avatar
farview
tinnitus
Posts: 1204
Joined: Tue Aug 31, 2004 1:42 pm
Location: St. Charles (chicago) IL
Contact:

Post by farview » Tue Dec 06, 2011 11:20 am

Snarl 12/8 wrote:
But on the other hand, unless his speakers/amp are blown, he should probably find a way to make the choir sound great on those crappy speakers, since that's how a majority of Americans probably consume music these days. Either shitty computer speakers or shitty earbuds.
I would agree if this were popular music. But choir, classical orchestra, etc... would have to be compressed and EQ'd to death to not fart out cheap PC speakers. That sort of processing is not appropriate for this type of music.

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 54 guests