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help with recording quality?


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  • help with recording quality?

    First off, the main question: does this(https://soundcloud.com/gabriel-szabo/new-song) sound bad because of recording, mixing or both? What I don't like about the sound is the overall distant feel of the guitars and drums, and that it all kind of muddles together at times. I've gotten good sound out of the drums before (ie https://soundcloud.com/gabriel-szabo/spira)

    Now the details:


    mics: mxl990 for drum overheads/vocals/on guitar speaker, cad drum mic kit.

    mixer: mackie profx12 connected to pc by usb 

    software: mackie tracktion 2

    guitar rig: gibson sg, pedal chain (no multi effects processor), fender super champ.

    room: big empty concrete basement (sigh). i do have a couple of sound dampening panels mounted to plywood that I surround the amp with when recording so that I don't get a lot of background noise.

    what do you think i should work on in order to fix these problems? is it mic placement? should i use line-out instead? do i need to raise gain and lower volume? lower volume and raise gain? on amp or on mixer? should i use a recording interface between the mixer and the computer? Could my problem be not my recording but just mixing? honestly i have hundreds of ideas of what to do, but no idea which could help. Thanks in advance for any input or direction anyone can give me!

  • #2

    My first question is this live? The mix would be the thing to work on, as long as every instrument has it's own track. It sounds like you're using mics based on your post and the music sounds like a live performance because there's so little seperation between instruments. Try recording in overdubs and keep each instrument mostly without effects, you can add that in later. If you are already overdubbing, use a line in when you can.


    • #3

      First thing that struck me was the frequency response of the mix. From what I'm hearing, it either sounds like you haven't learned to mix properly yet or you are using either headphones or bad monitors that make it impossible to get a good mix. I'm guessing its bad monitors. What happens when you don't use studio reference monitors is you may wind up mixing to those monitors and it may sound fairly good, but since their frequency response is poor you are adding and removing frequencies to make up for the speakers or headphone deficiencies. You wind up with a bad mix because the monitors are awful, and think it has something to do with your tracking technique.

      Its true, a large open basement can cause issues with overly reflective sound, but that's fairly easy to tame. You can hang blankets on the walls of spend $50 and buy some foam rug under matting and cut it into squares and create a checker board surface to absorb allot of that. But that's not the main issue.

      What you need most is a set of nearfield monitors that will give you a good mix. Studio monitors have an extremely flat frequency response and are highly directional. What you hear on them, will sound as good or better on other playback systems.

      You don't want to mix on a normal commercial playback system like computer monitors or a Hi Fi System because most have hyped highs and lows. They do that to make the professionally mastered music sound bigger and better than it actually is.  This is a manufacturing trick to save money on electronic components when they build say a hifi system. They simply boost the highs and lows to enhance the response and  make your ears think the system is better quality than it actually is.

      When you mix a recording on these types of speakers or headphones, you have too much upper lows and upper mids and practically nothing above 10K. The result is your ears tell you there's too much of those frequencies mixing so you roll them back. Then when the mix is played back on other systems, it sounds like those frequencies are missing or the one who mixed it has tin ears. 

      The fix is to spend a couple of hundred bucks and get some nearfields. Without them you are pissing in the wind and hoping the winds blowing the right way when you mix. You may get lucky and stumble into something that sounds half way decent, but in reality you're mixing blind because you have non reliable baseline to work from.

      I'm also leaving out the possibility of a really bad mixing environment, or trying to mix through a PA in that same boomy environment which only compounds the problem because the echoes that were captured tracking are doubled when you try and compensate for those bad acoustics a second time mixing. A PA head and its cabs are designed to project vocal frequencies above the rest of the music. Their EQ systems don't produce a very flat response so again, any mixing done with them is improperly shaped. You have similar issues passing a mix through a board when you pre EQ the mics when tracking as well. 

      You had to do allot of that recording analog so you wouldn't oversaturate the tape with hyped frequencies and limited dynamic response. When you record digital, there's plenty of dynamic headroom so there's really no need to pre eq the signal with a mixing board. If everything is miced and those mics all have separate channels, all the EQing can be done when you mix.  

      Even in a boomy environment, nearfields travel straight to your ears and you hear the direct sound much louder than the reflected so you have better results. You can even build a booth with drapes or blankets hanging from the ceiling around the mixing desk and kill allot of that reflectivity that's altering your hearing, and making you compensate for the room resonance mixing. Or you could transfer the project to a dryer room for mixing and not have that resonance compounding the problem.

      I left out headphones because most know headphones are only good for tracking. There's no distance between your ears and the diaphragms so your mixes will always suffer from two dimensionality lacking depth. If they also lack a flat response, they are doubly bad for mixing. You can use them to check the stereo field, and see if the mix you did on nearfields is compatible with headphones, but that's about it.

      I'll also note, I was often broke and couldn't afford the proper gear for recording and used what I had to record and mix. I know how difficult it is to mix with bad headphones and monitors first hand because I did it for so many years. Now a days the gear has never been so inexpensive. What cost $10K for a monitor system when I started can be done nearly as well for a couple of hundred bucks.


      • gszabo
        gszabo commented
        Editing a comment

        Thanks WRGKMC, i think this could be a good place to start. I use headphones to mix, sennheiser hd598's and my final output always sounds different on every set of speakers or headphones i ever use. I never realized how much of an effect not using studio monitors could have. I'm definitely going to look into getting a pair before i try to mix anything else!