AF’s Weblog

August 30, 2012

Tips for Controlling Vocal Sibilance

Filed under: Singing — Tags: , , , , , — audiofanzine @ 7:31 am

To read the full detailed article see:  Tips for Controlling Vocal Sibilance

Vocal sibilance is an unpleasant tonal harshness that can happen during consonant syllables (like S, T, and Z), caused by disproportionate audio dynamics in upper midrange frequencies.

Sibilance is often centered between 5kHz to 8kHz, but can occur well above that frequency range.

This problem is usually caused by the actual vocal formant, but can also be exaggerated by microphone placement and technique. This article will discuss some ways to control vocal sibilance, and keep the problem from becoming a musical distraction.

Sibilance at the Source (best read with sibilant whistle)

In phonetic terms, sibilance comes from a type of vocal formant called a fricative consonant. During these sorts of utterances, the airway (usually the mouth) is drastically constricted by two anatomical features, like the teeth, tongue, or palette.

This pressurization causes some amount of noise that forms the consonant sounds we would recognize from a phase like, “Sally sits sideways on the tennis trolley.” Sibilance is a very necessary feature of human speech, but when there’s (subjectively) too much noise created during these consonants, we get a very distracting harshness.

It isn’t really practical or productive to address micro-muscular vocal technique during a session, so your best bet to mitigate sibilance at the source is microphone selection and placement. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Every vocalist is remarkably different, so don’t pre-suppose that anything you’ve tried before will or will not work again.
  • Be sure to leave some space between your vocalist and the microphone. Twelve to eighteen inches would be a nice starting point.
  • A pop filter won’t do anything to help with sibilance.
  • Once you find a microphone and distance combination that helps, try angling the microphone downward 10 to 15 degrees to place the 0-degree axis toward the throat instead of the sibilant source.

Now let’s take a closer look…

Other Precautions

When you’re recording a vocal performance that may have a sibilance problem, resist the urge to compress the signal in the channel path. Over-compression can exaggerate sibilance. Instead, try using a fader to level the vocal performance, or just record with an adequate amount of headroom.

The same applies to the mixing process. Once you’ve done your best to control vocal sibilance, try using a fader and automation to maintain a consistent vocal volume in the mix. If you simply must instantiate a compressor on every vocal track, keep the attack time slow (> 30ms), and the ratio low.

Finally, don’t listen too loudly when you mix. That’s good general advice, but quality control issues like sibilance highlight its importance. Try a control room volume of 78-83dB(C) SPL. You might be surprised how much detail you’re suddenly able to hear.

To read the full detailed article see:  Tips for Controlling Vocal Sibilance

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August 27, 2012

Dynaudio DBM50 Review

To read the full detailed article see:  Dynaudio DBM50 Review

The Danish manufacturer which has been very quiet these last years has decided to come back and take front stage with a new speaker model from the BM Series. The DBM50’s most unique characteristic is that it has an angled front baffle and it was designed to sit on a desk. Is it a good idea?

Dynaudio DBM50Dynaudio DBM50The BM5A and BM6A are still reference models when it comes to near-field studio monitors, so Dynaudio wasn’t very active in this market segment the last couple of years; meanwhile competitors were frequently renewing their product ranges. That’s why we were very pleased to get a new product from the Danish manufacturer whose know-how and skills are tried-and-true.

There’s not much to say about the overall look of the product, since they look very similar to the BM MKII: dark finish, with a typical Dynaudio woofer and the round gray plate around the tweeter.Surprise, surprise: the DBM50 distinguishes itself from Dynaudio’s product range — and also from similar products — with an original design based on the fact that most home-studio owners place their speakers on their desks, next to their computer, without any speaker stands. Dynaudio’s front-panel angled design allows to direct both transducers towards the ears of the user, which is crucial for monitor positioning. For standard speakers cabinets, some foam manufacturers offer tilting mats that also reduce resonances. By the way, we recommend all home-studio owners to buy such accessories: even though they can’t quite match the performance of a speaker stand, they are easier to set up and less expensive. For people who want to use the DBM50 on speaker stands, do notice that you can place them horizontally.

Now let’s take a closer look…

Conclusion

Dynaudio DBM50The new Dynaudio offer several advantages and they are naturally angled to distinguish themselves from competitors on a fully saturated market. The idea is quite good for home-studio owners who want to put their speakers directly on their desk! We also like the look, the manufacturing quality and the sleep mode making up for the inconvenient rear power switch. It’s a pity that no remote control is included, all the more considering that the speakers have no volume control… The sound is well-balanced for a speaker sold for about $600. As usual, the response is contoured around the crossover frequency (1.5 kHz), the low-frequency reproduction is quite good and not overemphasized (unlike the ADAM A7X); however, some users might find that the high-end should be a bit more present. Luckily, the EQ settings allow you to adjust the frequency response if needed. A top monitor without a doubt.

Advantages:
  • Practical angled front-plate design
  • Good overall sound balance
  • Comprehensive EQ
  • Look and manufacturing quality
  • Sleep mode

Drawbacks:

  • No volume control and optional remote control
  • Slightly contoured frequency response (around crossover frequency)
  • High-end slightly weak with flat EQ settings

To read the full detailed article see:  Dynaudio DBM50 Review

August 23, 2012

4 Steps for Effective Guitar Mixing

Filed under: Guitar reviews, Mixing reviews — Tags: , , , , , , — audiofanzine @ 10:46 am

To read the full detailed article see: 4 Steps for Effective Guitar Mixing

The world may not revolve around guitar music anymore, but there is still a lot of it out there. Whether you’re working on face melting hardcore or a gentle country ballad, the presentation of the guitar content in the mix has a lot to do with the overall stylistic impression of the song.

Here are a few tried and true techniques for working with guitar tracks:

Hear the Arrangement

Some guitar tracks are played and recorded to stand out as focal points in the mix. Other guitar parts are intended to work as tonal layers of another instrument. Before you dive into the mix (or even the tracking session), take a moment to consider why each guitar track exists.

You’re probably going to come up with one of three answers:

  • It’s a musical focal point, a source of interest and energy in the song.
  • It’s a rhythmic element that adds tonal complexity to a percussive instrument.
  • It’s not musically functional at all (and should be muted).

With your answer in mind, you’ll have a great benchmark for evaluating the guitar parts within the mix, as opposed to evaluating them as individual elements.

Now let’s take a closer look…

Refine the Tone of Your Guitar Content ‘In Place’

With the musically essential choice about function established by rough balance and reinforced by smart panning, it makes sense to address how the harmonic content of the guitar tracks can be optimized.

There’s no point in pretending to relate EQ specifics (or even most generalities), but if the guitar tracks you’re working with haven’t already fallen victim to knob twisting, there are some themes that might help organize your decision-making.

The fundamental frequencies of the guitar lay largely between 160Hz -1300Hz. In reality, your typical rock or country rhythm track is probably played in the 160Hz-700Hz range.

This frequency band will provide ‘fullness’, ‘warmth’, or even ‘muddiness’ when accentuated. The same range can be attenuated to get thinner, less supported tones. Try starting in the 350Hz-500Hz range with your center frequency.

Boosting a wide peak approximately two octaves above the fundamental frequency center can very easily, naturally brighten picked performances on metal-stringed instruments. This is the frequency range in which these instruments are naturally bright, so it pays to play along.

Below about 80Hz even the most theoretical harmonic contribution to your guitar sound has been exhausted. Don’t hesitate to high-pass filter guitar tracks to prevent non-programmatic low frequency content from messing with your gain staging and dynamics control.

Working From a Musically Relevant Basis

Notice we haven’t touched a single multi-band compressor or 8-bit distortion-cruncher-thing. Tricks aren’t tricks unless the tracks are working in the arrangement (i.e. for the song). Starting with these types of basic considerations can take decent tracks most of the way to musical effectiveness, and take excellent tracks all the way.

To read the full detailed article see: 4 Steps for Effective Guitar Mixing

August 21, 2012

Optimize Your DAW Computer for Your Home Studio

To read the full detailed article see:  Optimize Your DAW Computer for Your Home Studio

This is how you can easily build and maintain a professionally equipped music computer to power the digital audio workstation for your home recording studio.

Music Computer, or a computer specifically intended for processing digital audio simply means that there are several components that you need to look at and understand in order to optimize for this environment. These elements are crucial to performance, and can have a massive impact on your workflow and overall efficiency.

You may use your computer for other functions as well as music production, but to get the most from your computer in order to power a digital audio workstation, you need to understand how to optimize it best for home recording. Faster is almost always better, and perhaps the most important ingredient to optimum performance in THIS environment is MEMORY.

Today, you will learn how to assemble a computer for your home studio. We will look at the several options for doing so, as well as my recommendations. You will also learn what specific parts and components you need to understand that play an integral role in designing an effective system.

You will learn some ways to protect your studio computer, because having a solid backup system is worth it’s weight in gold. Lastly, we will cover a few key maintenance actions that you can integrate into habit to keep your system healthy and working like a champ.

This article isn’t meant to be a comprehensive “textbook explanation.” I’m not writing a paper to a professor. I’ll be moving quickly as i condense a lot of years of dealing with and learning about first-hand, down into a few short paragraphs that tell you the key things you need to know.

So let’s get it…

Options For Building/Buying a Music Computer

Although there are variety of options that exist and we will cover them shortly, i want to point out that in my personal experience Apple (Macintosh) computers offer a great “out of the box” solution for most beginners and are a great starting point. Further, with just a few upgrades you can arm yourself with a world class digital production experience.

  1. Build the computer yourself. You can pick out all the components you need, order them and then assemble them just how you want them.  To build your own computer you will need to have reasonable technical expertise so unless you know what you are doing, or have someone who does assemble it for you, i wouldn’t advise going this route.
  2. Buy a new computer from the store.  I can assure you that a new Mac, off the shelf, will be adequatelyoptimized for recording music in most cases and there are quite a few PC models that would also be well optimized. Again, in either case there are a few key components that you need to consider, which we will be covering shortly.
  3. Buy a music computer that is custom built specifically for music recording.  There are a number of computer companies like MusicXPC that create specialty computers which are built and optimized for audio and recording. However, expect to pay a bit more for a custom computer like this. It’s worth checking out, do your homework and ask a lot of questions as you compare.
  4. Buy a computer off the shelf and then replace some parts.  This means that you are purchasing a computer for their bare-bones platform and then buying parts separately to upgrade the overall performance. So for example, buying a computer basically for its operating system, processing power and ease of use; then buying memory and hard drive upgrades, etc. from a third party source.  You can either install them yourself or have someone install them for you. In most cases this is a fairly simple procedure.

Option #4 is the route i always take now. It is in my experience the BEST way to cost effectively build a super powerful DAW computer. As you know i am a big proponent of Apple, and have been for the last eight years.

See the little secret about Apple is, their parts are RIDICULOUSLY expensive. Not as if they were cheap to begin with…!

But if you buy a Mac Pro or Macbook Pro for their processors, motherboard, delicious and simple interface, operating system, support, and other lovely little inclusives…

THEN you purchase some high quality third party Memory (RAM) and Hard-Disk upgrades, you got the best of both worlds for a killer price!

Now let’s take a closer look…

Home Studio Computer Maintenance

Lastly, let’s top things off with something i hope you’ll do regularly and make habit of. Don’t neglect the maintenance of this machine. It is the brains of your home studio. Here are a few basic maintenance tasks that’ll get you on your way.

  • Keep your computer clean by dusting it off once a week, also dust off all electronics in your home studio weekly.
  • Always keep at least 20% of your hard drive space free. Ensuring this amount of free space will keep your computer from lagging or losing response time, and won’t put any unneeded strain on it.
  • Backup your work regularly, setup time machine or other service to back it up on a physical hard drive; and then also setup the second backup of your most critical files through a virtual storage service.
  • Run a disk utility weekly and verify all volumes. This is just to check and fix any errors, and to verify the disk is working properly.

I’ve done this stuff every week, and have had computers running like a champ for over five years.

So there you have it. Tried to keep it straight to the point, although it went a little longer than most, but I hope you’ve found this article helpful and i’ve answered your questions about what it takes to setup a DAW computer for home recording.

To read the full detailed article see:  Optimize Your DAW Computer for Your Home Studio

August 5, 2012

EVH 5150III Review

Filed under: Amps — Tags: , , , , , , — audiofanzine @ 7:07 am

To read the full detailed review with sound samples see:  EVH 5150III Review

When Fender launched a new amplifier featuring a new “EVH” logo and the traditional “F” next to the 5150 III logo, questions were certain to rise. Rumors said this new monster is made for metal. There are too many secrets surrounding this new amp — it’s time for me to jump into my van and find out the truth.

EVH 5150III

The front side of the head distinguishes itself by the number of distinctive signs — an “EVH” logo, a “Frankenstein”-inspired design, a Fender logo and the 5150 III name. What a mystery this new product is! I call in the famous “doctor” Robert Klaptone to help us understand all those “religious” signs. “EVH” is the acronym of the famous guitar player: Edward Lodewijk (aka Eddie) Van Halen. The man was a Peavey endorser from 1993 to 2004 when he regularly used the 5150 (which is also the name of one of his albums), renamed “Peavey 6505” after the separation from Eddie. Since then, Eddie joined the Fender artist roster, but with a quite unusual agreement. Mr. Edward founded his own brand called EVH leaving the full manufacturing process to Fender. This is the reason why both EVH and Fender logos are so close, while “5150” reminds the LP (and the sound of those days) and “III” just means three channels.

Now that the context is cleared, let’s have a closer look to the beast….

Rock is Not Enough

Fender offers a very good product to all big-sound fans (and all Eddie fans). This small racing engine goes for about $1,333 (MSRP), which is quite affordable for an all-tube 3-channel 50W amp. We missed a small reverb to bring warmth to the sound. And let’s don’t forget the difference in output level in channel 2, which makes it almost impossible to use on stage or during rehearsals. I recommend this amp to all musicians who are looking for a big sound, reliability and good finish quality!

Advantages: 
  • The price
  • The finish
  • Compact and sturdy
  • Three channels for good versatility

Drawbacks:

  • Volume difference between channel 2 and the other channels
  • No reverb
  • Sound a bit too straight

To read the full detailed review with sound samples see:  EVH 5150III Review

Audiofile Engineering Quiztones Review

Filed under: Software — Tags: , , , , — audiofanzine @ 7:02 am

To read the full detailed review see:  Audiofile Engineering Quiztones Review

As engineers, we all have particular strengths and weaknesses. Some are musically gifted and play multiple instruments, while others naturally take to composition. However, what about the most basic of skills – our hearing?

Unless you have absolute pitch or synesthesia, we’re all playing with the hand dealt to us at birth. The only thing we can do is hone our auditory perception. That’s why so many forms of ear training for musicians and eventually engineers have evolved over the years. Because, according to Quesnel & Woszczyk, “there is substantial evidence…that auditory perceptual skills can be improved by controlled practice and training.”[1]

Auditory perception is one of the most basic skills required of audio engineers as we go about our daily tasks of balancing, treating, and mixing audio. Therefore, providing new ways for engineers (especially students) to develop auditory skills is critical. Audiofile Engineering has created a Mac and iOS based ear training program for audio engineers, Quiztones, helps the listener develop more acute listening and frequency recognition skills.

Now let’s take a closer look…

Final Thoughts

Every engineer knows that better frequency recognition helps him or her in the development and discussion of sonic ideas, so why not train and improve aural skills with a system that provides immediate feedback? And, fundamentally, fast frequency recognition helps engineers decide how to react if, for example, they hear Xproblem in the Y frequency band. So, using a system that helps engineers improve their accuracy over time with varied scenarios in a controlled environment is a tremendous asset. Can I say that Quiztones is the absolute perfect aural training solution for you? Perhaps not quite yet, as I’d love to see more options in the quiz answers, and I think a “Match the Sound” style trainer would be incredible. Audiofile Engineering tells me this is the direction Quiztones is headed: hearing a modified audio loop and letting users utilize on-screen controls to try and match the modified sound while receiving feedback on accuracy.

To read the full detailed review see:  Audiofile Engineering Quiztones Review

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