Mixdown Degradation - Computer DAW

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highball
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Mixdown Degradation - Computer DAW

Post by highball » Sun Sep 26, 2004 3:31 pm

I just set up my new (to me) Studiomaster Mixdown Gold desk a few weeks ago and auditioned it today using the board's EQ section to re"master" a friends band's tune that sounded quite sterile. When a-b'ing my new eq'ed mix with the original cd, things with the eq were like night and day in terms of depth and clarity in comparison.

So, I sent the signal out of the board's 2-track output and into inputs 1 and 2 on my Aardvark Q10. Standard procedure. When I monitored through the Q10, still things were close to what I heard coming straight from the board. I then boosted the level using the Waves L1 plugin and wrote to CD using Easy CD Creator at 4x. I also wrote the unedited version to CD for comparison. When I played the burned CD, the 2 tunes sounded almost identical, albeit the remastered track "slightly" better, but nowhere close to what came directly out of the board.

Anyone with any idea of what gives here? I am beginning to believe that I need to start mixing to a Masterlink or standalone burner in order to have my stuff not completely sterilized by my PC.

Input appreciated,
Mark T.

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Re: Mixdown Degradation - Computer DAW

Post by @?,*???&? » Sun Sep 26, 2004 5:11 pm

Several things.

1. Most prevalently, laser scatter.

2. An un-calibrated or uncalibratable laser in the burner.

3. Poor master clock source.

4. A multi-speed burned disc.

5. A silver/slightly green media on which to burn to. Better to go with a black disc like the HiSpace Carbon CDs to prevent laser scatter in lieu of using the CD Stoplight on the disc prior to burning.

6. Static electricity pulling the focus of the laser to cause a worse burn.

7. Bad clock rate on the digital eq.

8. If the master you started with was 'analog' and you took it into your computer via analog, you introduced another step of A-to-D to the mix. Taking it out of your board and going into the Q10 by any means other than S/PDIF or AES, you introduced a (third, or depending on the master of the song prior to the media you started with, or more) step of A-to-D conversion. People think you can convert material any number of times A-to-D and D-to-A and not end up with any loss of quality, but it ain't the case. If you're attempting mastering at home (and I don't recommend it), try and stick to digital files to begin with and leave the D-to-A as the last step. Preferably in a CD player. Try and work with the file entirely in the digital domain unless you have spent thousands of of $ on a highly rated digital master clock.

9. If the band can get you an analog master of the material, rent an analog machine and a quality digital clock for the transfer. Proceed to work in the digital domain until which time you want to burn to disc. Take precautions with the disc. A well-calibrated laser and burner (or a burner that test burns each disc before burning) would be preferred. A real mastering facility will have one of these, you should too if you think you're going to master.

10. With the scenario you described, there is alot of what I would call 'assumed knowledge'. There are many high-end considerations to take into account before you begin working on someone elses material.

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Re: Mixdown Degradation - Computer DAW

Post by highball » Sun Sep 26, 2004 8:58 pm

Perhaps I should clarify. The reason that I put "master" in quotes was because I did not intend to create a legit master of my friend's tune. I was simply experimenting with the EQ on the new board and seeing if I could improve in any way what he had been working on. I do not master my own work nor do I claim to do so for anyone else.

My concern is simply with the ballpark accuracy of input/output. After further investigating (with Jeff's help), I've come to a couple of conclusions. First, my cd media quality is subpar (a debatable topic in itself). Second, Easy CD Creator isn't probably the best burning application to be using. Third, I'm using a consumer-level Samsung CD burner. And finally, though the preamps on the Q10 sound great in my opinion, they are quite colored and require compensating for in the EQ department. One thing that I have not tried is using the dedicated line-only inputs on the unit.

Q10 users?

Regards,
Mark T.

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Re: Mixdown Degradation - Computer DAW

Post by maz » Sun Sep 26, 2004 10:39 pm

I'd be interested to see some CURRENT articles on the whole burner/media issue... it seems that there was a lot more concern over media choice and burner back when CDR's where newer and burners were 4x tops.

It's kind of like the "what speed should I burn a master" question, and I believe there might be a lot of voodoo involved in the answers.

Are you sure that the issue is in the burn? Did you listen to the file that you made before burning it?

I'm not saying it's not your burner and media and laser scatter, etc., but I'd just like to see more definitive test articles that are recent before I'd assume that's the issue.

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Re: Mixdown Degradation - Computer DAW

Post by bigtoe » Mon Sep 27, 2004 5:11 am

'When a-b'ing my new eq'ed mix with the original cd, things with the eq were like night and day in terms of depth and clarity in comparison.'

you a/b's the board with a cd, yeah? it does sound different. it always will. no matter what medium your'e mixing to.

the why's? no clue. i just don't think there are any solutions. you can make it better through better converters and all the stuff jeff speaks of which is over my bald head, but it won't sound like the board just by the simple fact you're adding something in the chain

i've used the q10 as a mixdown thang...as in from a q10...thru a studiomaster board and into the q10. sounded fine...though yeah, monitoring out of the board sounded somewhat better...that's pretty typical of mixing. (i'm hoping an A80 makes things sound better...not just different or in most cases ala DAT, worse.)

i could have read the situation wrong...i'm kinda whupped...

Mike

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Re: Mixdown Degradation - Computer DAW

Post by @?,*???&? » Mon Sep 27, 2004 6:58 am

maz wrote:It's kind of like the "what speed should I burn a master" question, and I believe there might be a lot of voodoo involved in the answers.
You should befriend a mastering engineer and let your ears do the work. I've done listening tests in a mastering facility experimenting with exactly that. We did all this off-hours because the mastering engineer wanted to get to the bottom of the issue too. A multi-speed burn presented less bottom end and less high-end clarity. A disc treated with the CD Stoplight prior to burning had the tightest bottom and best imaging of any of the discs we tried. The media were Taiyo-Yuden and the discs were burned on the house system which did calibrate the laser prior to burning.

Since then, I've found the HiSpace discs and the Black Memorex discs to provide a solid image and really clean high end- but this has been with a consumer end, Yamaha SCSI CD Burner.

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Re: Mixdown Degradation - Computer DAW

Post by jajjguy » Mon Sep 27, 2004 7:12 am

The L1?
Sounds like you listened to a good sounding mix, sent it into the computer, raised the level with the L1, then burned it to disc, and don't like the result. Could it be that you don't like the sound of the L1? Or that the L1 has the effect of making different mixes sound more the same?

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Re: Mixdown Degradation - Computer DAW

Post by maz » Mon Sep 27, 2004 7:21 am

Jeff Robinson wrote:
maz wrote:It's kind of like the "what speed should I burn a master" question, and I believe there might be a lot of voodoo involved in the answers.
You should befriend a mastering engineer and let your ears do the work. I've done listening tests in a mastering facility experimenting with exactly that. We did all this off-hours because the mastering engineer wanted to get to the bottom of the issue too. A multi-speed burn presented less bottom end and less high-end clarity. A disc treated with the CD Stoplight prior to burning had the tightest bottom and best imaging of any of the discs we tried. The media were Taiyo-Yuden and the discs were burned on the house system which did calibrate the laser prior to burning.

Since then, I've found the HiSpace discs and the Black Memorex discs to provide a solid image and really clean high end- but this has been with a consumer end, Yamaha SCSI CD Burner.
Jeff, I'm curious about the details of your test- were the listening sessions conducted blind?

Even if they were, it's still conjecture- how many times to we read things on BBS's that says "the tightest bottom and best imaging" only to read that someone did a quantifiable test (running the two mixes with one out of phase) and found they were identical?

This is why I'd love to see some more recent empirical data. I'm not trying to say you're wrong at all, but statements of "fact" like this have long been part of the CDR myth I believe and should be backed up with hard data. Can you point me to some? I'd love to put the issue to rest as well.

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Re: Mixdown Degradation - Computer DAW

Post by Cellotron » Mon Sep 27, 2004 7:51 am

Jeff Robinson wrote: 4. A multi-speed burned disc.
I highly disagree with this. Current burners are optimized to burn at their middle speeds. From all my tests with the Plextor Premium you will have MORE errors when burning at its slowest speeds!
5. A silver/slightly green media on which to burn to. Better to go with a black disc like the HiSpace Carbon CDs to prevent laser scatter in lieu of using the CD Stoplight on the disc prior to burning.
I also disagree with this. I've seen very high error rates on a lot of black bottomed media when used in some burners. Each burner works best with a particular dye type & media - best thing to do is find what works well for that burner (and usually manufacturers will make recommendations as a starting point) and use it.

Best regards,
Steve Berson

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Re: Mixdown Degradation - Computer DAW

Post by Cellotron » Mon Sep 27, 2004 7:54 am

jajjguy wrote:The L1?
Sounds like you listened to a good sounding mix, sent it into the computer, raised the level with the L1, then burned it to disc, and don't like the result. Could it be that you don't like the sound of the L1? Or that the L1 has the effect of making different mixes sound more the same?
Exactly!! The effects of something like an L1 on the sound of a master are far more dramatic than "laser scatter" could ever possibly be. A lot of time it's easy to bark up the wrong tree on finding where degradations in the audio chain.

Best regards,
Steve Berson

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Re: Mixdown Degradation - Computer DAW

Post by maz » Mon Sep 27, 2004 9:07 am

Cellotron wrote:
Jeff Robinson wrote: 4. A multi-speed burned disc.
I highly disagree with this. Current burners are optimized to burn at their middle speeds. From all my tests with the Plextor Premium you will have MORE errors when burning at its slowest speeds!
5. A silver/slightly green media on which to burn to. Better to go with a black disc like the HiSpace Carbon CDs to prevent laser scatter in lieu of using the CD Stoplight on the disc prior to burning.
I also disagree with this. I've seen very high error rates on a lot of black bottomed media when used in some burners. Each burner works best with a particular dye type & media - best thing to do is find what works well for that burner (and usually manufacturers will make recommendations as a starting point) and use it.

Best regards,
Steve Berson
See! This is what I'm talking about! I had "read" (in quotes because of course I can't remember where!) the same thing- that current burners were best at middle to high speeds as well. There's so much info that flies around the 'Net and recording circles that I really wish I could get my hands on a current test like the one Glen Meadows did back in 98.

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Re: Mixdown Degradation - Computer DAW

Post by Cellotron » Mon Sep 27, 2004 9:18 am

maz wrote: See! This is what I'm talking about! I had "read" (in quotes because of course I can't remember where!) the same thing- that current burners were best at middle to high speeds as well. There's so much info that flies around the 'Net and recording circles that I really wish I could get my hands on a current test like the one Glen Meadows did back in 98.
Well nice thing with the Plextor Premium drives is Plextool Pro software which allows you to check for errors and jitter of your burned discs - and my results have been confirmed by a number of others. I also have the luxury of being able to get discs checked by the Eclipse workstation - http://www.eclipsedata.com - which is one of the best optical disc data verification programs out there (the mastering studio I work at is in the same building as CD replication / glass mastering facilities - so every disc is checked by Eclipse prior to making a glass master).

Basically - a lot has changed since 1998!

Best regards,
Steve Berson

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Re: Mixdown Degradation - Computer DAW

Post by joel hamilton » Mon Sep 27, 2004 9:24 am

Search " cdr burning " and you will come up with many reports of error rates in a variety of burners with a variety of media. The annealing time of a given substrate seems to be the key to a "clean" burn.

I am not very interested in freaking out about any of this, because I simply have the critical burns done at a mastering place that DOES worry about things like this. I AM however, interested in the science behind it and have researched a lot on this topic. Google can be an amazing tool.

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Re: Mixdown Degradation - Computer DAW

Post by @?,*???&? » Mon Sep 27, 2004 9:43 am

Joel Hamilton wrote:I simply have the critical burns done at a mastering place that DOES worry about things like this. I AM however, interested in the science behind it and have researched a lot on this topic. Google can be an amazing tool.
The voice of reason. That's why I relegate that critical mastering step and PMCD burn to a place dedicated to do it of the highest order. Honestly, the black media do level the playing field with regard to basic scatter (to my ear anyhow), but I still can't guarantee that my burn is really any better. Call it psychoacoustic. After re-reading the initial post, I begin to think that the problem that is most prevalent stated above is the multiple A-to-D, D-to-A steps taken...

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Re: Mixdown Degradation - Computer DAW

Post by dreske » Tue Sep 28, 2004 8:26 am

Yeah, the final A-D from the board into the computer using the Q10s (presumably) stock converters was my first thought of where the problem may lie...
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