Hi y’all nerdy music lovers!
I’m really happy I’ve recently joined the Denise team.
They are developing amazing plugins and they have a great vision.
In fact, they’ve just released their new noize plugin which is the result of a contest whose winner is JNB, who suggested an adaptive noise plugin.
I’ve been lucky to get my copy in advance and I’m already using it in several productions which are going on at the mo.
And because it’s such a creative tool to experiment with, we thought it would be cool to come up with a blog post with some tips and tricks and a tutorial on pink noise mixing, which has become quite a hot topic lately.
Since the first radios started using limiters to raise the volume of the broadcasted music, they have been implemented in studio and some models have become legendary for how they very uniquely color the sound.
As a result, nowadays you can buy all kind of clones and plugin emulations and each brand swears by the perfect imitation of the original vibe of those historical units.
Since I’ve been producing music, I’ve become more and more passionate about some of them so I ended up with my small but very precious collection of analog compressors.
I’ve recently started to endorse IGS Audio‘s Tubecore 3U Mastering Edition Vari-Mu compressor, which adds to my stereo Hairball1176 Rev. D Fet limiter, my modded G SLL (project by Gyraf Audio) and more analog beauties.
Analog compressors: The test!
I’ve tested them next to their plugin emulations to understand better how each model really affects the sound during my mixing sessions, and to make it clearer how each emulation/clone really behaves.
Here are the protagonists of my comparison test:
UREI 1176 models
• 2x 1176 Hairball Rev D (Linked stereo)
• Slate FG 116
• Waves CLA 76 (Blacky)
• Ik Multimedia Black 76
SSL Bus Compressor models
• Custom built G-SSL (w/Sidechain filter mod)
• Slate VBC FG-Grey
• Waves SSL G Comp
Some technical stuff before going to listen to the files or “How the test was done“
I’ve used a stereo stem of drums to drive the compressors and I’ve accurately matched both input and output levels among the same models, same thing for the gain reduction.
You can imagine how that’s a not-so-easy task to do, for the reason that each unit has a different monitoring & GR philosophy, but still I’ve been pretty meticulous. That said, this test doesn’t want to be – at all – a scientific test for comparing noise levels, exact RMS/ Peak levels, etc. The reason why I’ve done it, instead, is because I wanted to capture to the different coloration that each compressor is capable of, during tracking/mixing, confronting hardware vs software, and that’s why the drums have been compressed twice. Therefore the files feature a first round of compression and a second round of compression starting at 0.31 (where the first round is sent again into the compressors).
I’ve connected everything with balanced cables and the AD/DA converters are those of my Yamaha MR816x interface. Ps: The 1176’s and SSL’s have been fed 4db input gain more than the Vari-Mu’s because I wanted to keep the studio routing/settings of the production I’m now working on, but still the i/o gain and GR are matched between sw/hw.
Attack: 11 o’clock
Input Gain: 6db
Let’s listen (0:00 – 0:31 – First round of compression)
(0:31 – end – Double compression)
Have you made up your mind? Which one is your favorite? I have my preferences…
In November I came to Berlin with my beloved woman, and a good ol’ friend o’mine helped us drive all the way to this magic city and we settled in a tiny apartment in Ostkreuz in F’hain, bringing all our stuff like a convoy… We were carrying mostly instruments, preamps, compressors, amps and soundproofing material. Crazy.
II. God **** the queen!
After a few days tho, actually, we flew to Oxfordshire (UK) where I reached the crazy English/Zimbabwean band Kamikaze Test Pilots to record and produce their album “Stealing Chameleons”, in the beautiful Henwood Studios, filled with beautiful vintage microphones and instruments and a pretty nice neve console. We recorded everything LIVE and LOUD.
One of the cool aspects of recording these guys is that they are not afraid to push it till it sounds rough and basically they like to enjoy being in the studio, so we ended up experimenting quite a bit.
We were basically not only agreeing but also hyped about wanting to try not to edit stuff too much, using as much acoustic sounds as we could, delivering as much as possible the raw energy of their playing.
So we got everything cabled up, a bunch of good mics such as cascade fatheads, neumann u87s, sm7s, md421, all straight into the neve preamps and started recording takes and takes, coffee upon coffee, blasphemy upon blasphemy we ended up having some cool stuff recorded and taped into a massive studer tape recorder, ready to be mixed in my home studio Lullaby Productions in Berlin and to be mastered by mastering wizard Pete Maher.
Emigre’, one of the most beautiful and at the same time experimental tracks of this album, reflects completely this kind of laidback attitude to producing we shared… I ended up playing the accordion on this one, Valeria ended up singing la-la-la…, Ryan singing Bom Bom Bom, and the result is clearly something which goes far beyond the classic rock sound.
Kamikaze Test Pilots – Emigré
When you’re given new shoes they will shine When you’re given good news you will shine I know how nice it is It’s all new, and that’s what it is
When they shout out “non grata!” you must smile When they shout out nasty things you must smile I know how hard it is It’s all new, and that’s what it is
I’m feeling pretty rad right now because my remix to “We moved” by J.Views has been included in his new album “401.1 Days“.
Toghether with some amazing music and artists. And it’s been processed thru a VHS!
Being born in 1985, I have lived my childhood pressing the FFW and REW buttons a lot.
Kids nowadays can’t realize what it means to actually wait for what you love as we used to back in the 90s… Listening to music was all about waiting for your radio station to play your favorite song, waiting for the cassette player to reach your favorite part of the instrumental, waiting for. That’s what we were used to before point-click streaming came out.
And not only our cassette and cd players involved this kind of approach, same story for TV and VHS.
As an advanced nerd kid, I used to read all the manuals and know how to program my VCR to record the cartoons/films/concerts I loved the most from TV to cassette, and I still remember the time I had to wait to rewind it all back and watch it again, or the number of problems coming from the overuse of the same VHS cassette.
Lately, while getting used to OSX, soundcloud, youtube, DAW, etc., I kinda found myself missing that feeling, so I decided I would buy a video cassette recorder.
I opened ebay kleineanzeigen and I bought one used for real cheap, something about 30€. Deal! It’s got RCA ins and outs, I took an old VHS tape I used to record stuff from TV to and got all this whole nostalgia thing started.
• Am I gonna get useful/musical tape saturation out of VHS?
• Am I gonna get back from VHS that kind of 90s vibe? That kind of imperfect sound/ artifacts we were used to?
• Why am I wondering such stuff?
Aside from the 3rd question, still left untouched and unanswered, I found my own answers to my doubts, by experimenting a little.
THE VHS EXPERIMENT
So, basically, what I did was:
• connect my SEG VCR 5351 (not the best Stereo VCR but who gives a f***?) to my Steinberg MR816x (unbal jack stereo out -> rca unbal stereo in / VHS / rca unbal stereo out – XLR stereo in)
• open cubase and control gain staging with sine-wave
• record a very simple multi-track loop made by:
bus 1: Roland Sh-101-ISH vst bassline
bus 2: Roland Juno-ISH vst arpeggio
bus 3 (drums): my Roland TR09 + TR 808 vst + kick sample
bus 4: Telecaster gtr line
• reamp the four stereo busses via VHS – this phase involves a lot of PLAY / REC / REW / PLAY / REC / SYNC BACK MATERIAL BY HAND
• pass the whole mix thru VHS2 times
• bounce out these versions:
– Total Digital (Mastered and Unmastered)
– VHS (Mastered and Unmastered) (gain -10db, boosted back by +/- 10db)
– VHS 2x (where VHS mix has been recorded again on VHS and back to DAW – Mastered and Unmastered) (gain -6db, boosted back by +/- 6db)
• VHS tape saturation. Do I like it? Is it useable? I loved it on Drums and bass, plus the overall mix sounds a lot warmer.
• NOISE I did no accurate measuring but honestly I really expected a lot more noise problems while going out unbalanced at -10db and boosting back everything by 10db on the single instruments + 10 + 6 on VHS MIX 2x, plus I find it pleasing in a way.
• ARTIFACTS/ 90s sound I think that in the 2x VHS mix the overuse starts giving an idea of that kind of “boiling” sound the VHS could deliver, tho the Cassette I used was too healthy to deliver interesting artifacts like glitchy sound/ ruined tape detuning.
• AM I GONNA DO IT AGAIN? Yes. I’m writing new vaporwaveish material and I bet it’s gonna kick asses when mastered thru VHS tape.
DIGITAL UNMASTERED (Digital Stereo Mix with no Added EQ, Comp, Limiting)
VHS UNMASTERED (Busses to VHS, Digital Stereo Mix to VHS, no Added EQ, Comp, Limiting)
VHS 2x UNMASTERED (Busses to VHS, Digital Stereo Mix to VHS twice, no Added EQ, Comp, Limiting)
DIGITAL MASTERED (Digital Stereo Mix with Added EQ, Comp, Limiting)
VHS MASTERED (Busses to VHS, Digital Stereo Mix to VHS, Added EQ, Comp, Limiting)
VHS 2x MASTERED (Busses to VHS, Digital Stereo Mix to VHS twice, Added EQ, Comp, Limiting)
What’s your take on this whole nostalgia thing? Bullshit, magic, or another palette of colors? Any comments on this experiment is welcome!
When around 2006 I set up Lullaby Studio in Civitanova Marche, Italy, I made a wall in the garage and separated 2 very small and uncomfortable rooms, a booth and a mixing room.
Among the first albums which were sculpted in that humid cave in 2007 is “Converted Music” by my brother in arms from Salerno Gennaro “Lo Zio” Sica aka Zicka aka Peopleinmyhead. It’s a very experimental LP merging hip hop (mostly sung in a very accentuated dialect of Campania), bass music/dub, glitching samples and industrial electronica.
The mixing was made with a minimal amount of gear and mostly legendary freeware VST plugin suites on an old copy of Cubase Sx 3, and a beautiful example of the big effort we put into it is this long trip called “Voices Of Industrial Generation”.
“When you are young you always end up in doing something stupid, extreme but epic.
In this category fits naturally the mix that Enrico and I made for the Voice of Industrial Generator within the journey that brought to light the Converter Music…
The track pays tributes to the music of Bill Laswell, Eraldo Bernocchi, Almamegretta trying to deliver a diluted dub experience in a distorted environment… Where is the stupidity then?
The track is long I think something like 15 minutes… It is a natural progression of themes, combination of patterns which develop over time.
We used to mix at night at the Lullaby Studio, the first version on this massive valve hifi system made by Enrico’s Father, and mixing Voices was a very long one…
Enrico, with the patience of a buddhist monk and the craziness of a viking pirate tackled each sound, drum and bass making reality what was the crazyness of the People in my Head.
I was next to him with the classic thinking face which something was switching in amusement with big “ooh” and “uaa”… but it was extremely tiring…
The night after the giant track was there and we kept to coming back to it… In small doses.. Just for not abusing… Sometime was the drums, sometime a little distortion and sometime was for the trip.
We also thought that it was funny to add few minutes of silence to the already long track and hiding a sample from “Back to the future”… Eventually the track was ready for the mastering.
I managed quite well that phase… We left Voices as the last one and when the track started after a couple of bars… I left the studio… My face was green.
I knew that the Viking Monk could finish the job… And in the first light of a morning… Converted Music came to life.”
(Lo Zio aka People in my head)
A very heavy use of free VST plugins from the MDA suite (Smartelectronix), the very old (but gold) TK Suite and from the BRAM goodies was involved for the mixing process. I was learning to have a clear idea of gain staging at the time, and I often used a freeware Vintage Vu-Meter simulator by PSP Audioware.
We used to export songs from FL Studio (at the time, it was our favourite program for writing stuff) and we would mix them in Cubase.
During the making of the album you can tell that we were very big fans of Helmut Haas effect, which I would achieve on every snare drum on this record with the use of delays and filters. But on this particular song, it was used on nearly all tracks, creating a dreamy/unreal big space inside which to float.
Distortion also was a big protagonist. – Any kind of tube or tape saturation/distortion/bitcrushing would be used on almost every track, including the ones which were already distorted. Thus we achieved to create a very dark and grainy sound, which would sonically fit better with the “story” that we were telling.
I could tell a lot more but I’ll leave you with the quote from the movie 12 Monkeys which was sampled from a VHS and pasted in the middle the track:
“Proliferation of atomic devices, uncontrolled breeding habits, the rape of the environment, the pollution of land, sea, and air. In this context, isn’t it obvious that “Chicken Little” represents the sane vision and that Homo Sapiens’ motto, “Let’s go shopping!” is the cry of the true lunatic?”
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I’m starting to produce in a new environment here in Berlin, where I have moved since November, and I’m pretty excited to announce my subscription as a co-worker at beautiful Noize Fabrik Recording Studio.
Couple of weeks ago I enter this new path, marked by beautiful vintage microphones, Neve pres and Telefunken tape recorders, by recording vocals to the new Endless Nine (Italy, Fermo) album. Which I’m now editing in my home studio in Biesdorf.
Hopefully a new series of good collabs and productions will be developed here!