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Recording Harsh Sound Quality for Higher Notes ?

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rhysonsax

rhysonsax

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Another thought from me is that I am also experiencing almost painful harshness of the same sort when listening not only to my own recordings but also to plenty of recorded music, both compressed and uncompressed. That has made me suspect that either my headphones or my DAC/headphone amp could be the source of the harshness, rather than the mic, room or saxophone.

My DAC is an ARCAM rPAC (discontinued model) and the headphones are AKG K550 Reference Headphones, which I think have a reputation for being "revealing". They certainly aren't restful or smooth.

Any suggestions for better closed back headphones that I should audition ?

Rhys
 

Guenne

Senior Member
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Any suggestions for better closed back headphones that I should audition ?
Hifi or for Mixing?
I'm using these ugly Avantones:


Cheers, Guenne
 
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rhysonsax

rhysonsax

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4,145
Hifi or for Mixing?
I'm using these ugly Avantones:


Cheers, Guenne
Thanks @Guenne . That's an "interesting" look to say the least. The price looks to be about what I want to spend.

Ideally they would be for both purposes. In my innocence I imagined that a good pair of headphones with a neutral sound would work for both.

Any mixing I do is strictly as a hobbyist.

Rhys
 

Guenne

Senior Member
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960
neutral sound would work for both.
It's indeed an advantage to be able to switch them to mono and to a mode, where the mids are boosted.
If something sounds good with these phones, it really sounds good.
Try them at Thomann, send them back if you don't like them.
I always compare them to my Adam A7x monitors, and for hobby puposes it's good enough.
I also have a pair of Beyerdynamic Custom Studio headphones, and IMHO there's more Hifi in them, but more "Studio" in the Avantones :)

Cheers, Guenne
 

Veggie Dave

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Another thought from me is that I am also experiencing almost painful harshness of the same sort when listening not only to my own recordings but also to plenty of recorded music, both compressed and uncompressed.
If you can, post some examples so we can check them out, too.
 

Nick Wyver

noisy
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Might be worth getting your ears checked too. Just a thought.
Well, yes. This occurred to me too. I often get my wife to listen to stuff to make sure what I'm hearing in my head is actually there or whether my brain is playing tricks on me.
 
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rhysonsax

rhysonsax

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4,145
If you can, post some examples so we can check them out, too.
Will do.

I tried a few different closed-back headphones yesterday and several of them made a big improvement over my existing AKG 'phones. I think this is at least a large part of the problem I'm hearing.

Rhys
 
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rhysonsax

rhysonsax

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4,145
As an update for those who are interested, I have made several changes that seem to have helped a lot with the harshness I was hearing on my own recordings and other music tracks too.

I have replaced my AKG K550 headphones with a used pair of Bowers & Wilkins P7 closed-back, wired headphones. I got them from eBay for a very good price and they look and sound as good as new. They seem to be excellent for listening to music as well as the simple tracking and mixing that I do.

I have changed my recording position in the room slightly, so that I now play saxophone sitting down, with the microphone positioned lower down and so below half way between floor and ceiling.

I make sure that the EQ switches on my EV microphone are set without any bass roll off and with high cut. This brings it to a fairly flat frequency response.

I'm still using Audacity for recording and effects but I now use a stereo Reverb on the (mono) saxophone track and this seems to make it sound much more part of the whole recording. I have settled on one of the preset Reverbs for vocals and found a good balance between dry and wet that sounds natural. I still wonder whether the Audacity reverb effects cause some of the harshness at higher frequencies and so am exploring other plug-in reverbs that will work with Audacity.

Thanks to everyone who came up with ideas.

Rhys
 

Pete Effamy

Senior Member
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2,201
As an update for those who are interested, I have made several changes that seem to have helped a lot with the harshness I was hearing on my own recordings and other music tracks too.

I have replaced my AKG K550 headphones with a used pair of Bowers & Wilkins P7 closed-back, wired headphones. I got them from eBay for a very good price and they look and sound as good as new. They seem to be excellent for listening to music as well as the simple tracking and mixing that I do.

I have changed my recording position in the room slightly, so that I now play saxophone sitting down, with the microphone positioned lower down and so below half way between floor and ceiling.

I make sure that the EQ switches on my EV microphone are set without any bass roll off and with high cut. This brings it to a fairly flat frequency response.

I'm still using Audacity for recording and effects but I now use a stereo Reverb on the (mono) saxophone track and this seems to make it sound much more part of the whole recording. I have settled on one of the preset Reverbs for vocals and found a good balance between dry and wet that sounds natural. I still wonder whether the Audacity reverb effects cause some of the harshness at higher frequencies and so am exploring other plug-in reverbs that will work with Audacity.

Thanks to everyone who came up with ideas.

Rhys
Some reverbs can be very nasty indeed Rhys and ruin a track.
 

Pete Thomas

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I make sure that the EQ switches on my EV microphone are set without any bass roll off and with high cut.
Yes, I would never be afraid of some hi cut, I often use it on saxophones depending on the mix requirements.
Some reverbs can be very nasty indeed Rhys and ruin a track.
Of course, but some can greatly enhance a track. It all depends on the reverb and how it is applied.
 

TimboSax

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Glad it's getting better Rhys, but I thought I'd throw something else into the mix (hah ha, chuckle, er, I'll get me coat).

If you are placing your sax in a mix with other instruments it can sound quite different than when you listen to it by itself. Different instruments often have overlapping frequencies that can interfere with each other causing one or all to sound odd. You can find examples of well known tracks on youtube that have been "unmixed" down to individual tracks from the master, and what sounds like a searing. soaring guitar line in the mix can sound a lot thinner" in isolation. This can be because the mixer has used eq on each instrument so that they don't overlap so much, but serve to "fill in the gaps" for each other. For example, with a bass and guitar, reduce the high freqs on the bass, and the low freqs on the guitar. Individually they sound weak, together they "support" each other so they sound fine. With no eq treatment they could sound muddy together because of the overlap boosting/cutting certain frequencies.

Of course, if you're just recording sax by itself with no other instruments in the mix then all of the above is completely irrelevant.
:)
 

Pete Thomas

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You don't say...
Yes I do...
Pete, I'd like to find out more about setting up a decent reverb, especially for a straight ahead jazz sound. Can you recommend a link or something?
I discuss my reverb srtategy a bit here:


Basically for a live sounding recording I will add a bit of short (<1 sec) ambience or simulated small room to more or less everything. This is not heard as what people generally think of as reverb, just a bit of ambience that can bind everything together. If if they are very close miked, samples, MIDI sounds, loops or instruments recorded in different pleces this really can help a mix. I will also use some compression to bind things together but that's a whole different subject - possibly best left alone unless you are quite experienced with it.

So once everything has that cohesion, is the time to selectively put reverb (typically 2 - 3 seconds natural hall or plate) on specific things. because of the ambience I find I use less of the reverb which means you can get the advantages of the reverb without it sounding over the top. (Unless you intend to use the reverb almost as a special effect.

I use mostly the native reverbs avaialble in Logic, but if you are using Audacity or a different DAW, I can recommend the surpringle free and surprisingly good plugin Ambience.
 
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Pete Effamy

Senior Member
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2,201
As Pete says, or alludes to, the worst thing you can with reverb is to make it the most noticeable thing - unless that is what is being wanted. @Mark Hancock you talk about wanting a reverb for a straight ahead jazz sound - presumably for recording, not live and maybe for playing over a play along track?

This has to be considered too, as the play along production may have a discernible reverb and you'll need to fit in with this. If it sounds quite dry, then you can add to the whole track. The melding together that Pete talks about is what you need to go for whatever treatment you give to individual or all tracks.

What I was referring to in the comment about "nasty" reverbs is that some are "coloured" in a quite a nasty way and will EQ your sound in a way that is detrimental. The effect can be EQ'd too, but stacking lots of effects on 'acoustic' stuff can get sticky very quickly.

It also depends on whether you want to place your sound into a genre or period too. The use of reverb follows fashion like everything else.

Presumably you just want to enhance. There are lots of recordings more recently that give the impression that they are dry - mostly they aren't. Usually a recording needs some help, but perhaps the key is just to add until it sounds good, but you either can't hear the reverb or don't notice it. A lot of the 'dry' sounding recordings might have a large reverb, but a pretty short decay.

Try what Pete says first and then adjust in order to how your sound sits in the mix (sorry, that bit is obvious).
 

Pete Effamy

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2,201
It's also interesting what we tend to overlook - because of its place in jazz. There was a lot of experimental stuff going on with reverb on jazz recordings in the early 60's, and also with stereo imaging. The latter wasn't always noted by the public as they would probably have been listening in mono. So, consider these two recordings:

1) Stan Getz, The Look Of Love - terrible reverb. But I love it because it's Getz and it 'sounds like the 60's'.
2) Paul Desmond, Samba D'Orpheu - Gtr and Sax are on opposing sides of the stereo image with just a hint the other side via the reverb reflection. I tried this several years ago to get an authentic sound but it just sounded wrong.

If you tried either now, it would be hard to get them to sound acceptable.

View: https://youtu.be/zdkgNx_9q78


View: https://youtu.be/04Dztn0zcRs
 

Mark Hancock

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As Pete says, or alludes to, the worst thing you can with reverb is to make it the most noticeable thing - unless that is what is being wanted. @Mark Hancock you talk about wanting a reverb for a straight ahead jazz sound - presumably for recording, not live and maybe for playing over a play along track?

This has to be considered too, as the play along production may have a discernible reverb and you'll need to fit in with this. If it sounds quite dry, then you can add to the whole track. The melding together that Pete talks about is what you need to go for whatever treatment you give to individual or all tracks.

What I was referring to in the comment about "nasty" reverbs is that some are "coloured" in a quite a nasty way and will EQ your sound in a way that is detrimental. The effect can be EQ'd too, but stacking lots of effects on 'acoustic' stuff can get sticky very quickly.

It also depends on whether you want to place your sound into a genre or period too. The use of reverb follows fashion like everything else.

Presumably you just want to enhance. There are lots of recordings more recently that give the impression that they are dry - mostly they aren't. Usually a recording needs some help, but perhaps the key is just to add until it sounds good, but you either can't hear the reverb or don't notice it. A lot of the 'dry' sounding recordings might have a large reverb, but a pretty short decay.

Try what Pete says first and then adjust in order to how your sound sits in the mix (sorry, that bit is obvious).
Yes, that's a good point - I'm not trying to recreate a vintage jazz reverb sound (Oliver Nelson's Stolen Moments is another interesting example). I'm trying to get the kind of sound you hear on more modern recordings of Jazz Standards, something like this (SOTM Alert!!!) but what I actually got was this... (yeah, maybe not a good idea to put my own playing up after Scott Hamiltion...:oops:)
(EDIT: Just Sax on a backing track)

Maybe my recording is a bit too dry??? I was really suprised by the amount of reverb you can hear in Aubra's setup when he starts speaking (about 3:40 ) - the sax sounds quite different to my ears!
 
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Pete Effamy

Senior Member
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2,201
Scott Hamilton's recording uses quite a bit, because it's very evident and part of the sound. You seem to have a similar decay on yours. Don't forget that reverb progressively moves a recording into the mix, so it can get swamped and you just end up turning it up. Has the reverb made your sound smaller? The main thing about any solo voice is that it sits on top of the mix, and depending on the style of music it will be big too. Much of this is about how the sound is captured in the first place. Some mics fatten, some thin-out and some are almost transparent. Mics are chosen for a particular sound, or use - i.e. to cut through a busy mix or to fill space in a sparsely orchestrated ballad. Is your mic/positioning/polar pattern thinning your sound?
 
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