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Article: Realism vs. Accuracy for Audiophiles: Doctor, Can I Please Get a Prescription for Better Recordings?


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As often happens, I’m starting this series here, will circle back to the first two articles. But I wanted to mention that Tracktion DAW is available as a full-featured free version. This started with their making earlier versions free a few years ago. I may want to update mine...

 

https://www.tracktion.com/products/waveform-free

 

But in all honesty I use Audacity more often, partly out of familiarity, but mostly because it’s often the most efficient tool, at least for low track counts. 

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8 hours ago, Rexp said:

Can you link the unprocessed wav files again? Sorry i missed it

There are no raw tracks because the processing projects described in the article are done on stereo mixes.  So there are 3 links to wavs in the article, and all 3 are stereo mixes of multiple studio tracks of individual instruments. The first is a mixed and normalized but otherwise unaltered segment with an acoustic guitar, a resonator guitar, and a harmonica.  The second is a complete basic master track of these parts plus the vocal, and the third is a “remastering” of the second one using mid-side processing that added the delays, EQ etc described in the article.  
 

You could go back to raw original tracks and both re-edit and re-mix them before making a new master recording, i.e. the final version in the final format(s) to be copied for production of distributable / salable recordings.  But remastering alone is done on an already mixed file.  A complete remix of raw tracks is both much more involved and beyond the scope of this simple introduction to the life of a recording between capture and consumer.
 

The second link provided in the article is a basic stereo mix of the original instrumental and vocal tracks for one song from a CD made for and sold by the Philly Blues Society.  I performed and recorded all parts myself in my studio, and I provided this stereo mix to the commercial lab that mastered and issued the disc last year using this file.  It’s excellent for experimenting - the instruments and voice are simple, clear, and very responsive to editing.

 

The third link is an example of remastering the second file using mid-side processing with EQ, delay etc as described in the article.  It’s just one example - there’s an endless spectrum of possible results.  I hope you enjoy and benefit from this!

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11 hours ago, Mike27 said:

As often happens, I’m starting this series here, will circle back to the first two articles. But I wanted to mention that Tracktion DAW is available as a full-featured free version. This started with their making earlier versions free a few years ago. I may want to update mine...

 

https://www.tracktion.com/products/waveform-free

 

But in all honesty I use Audacity more often, partly out of familiarity, but mostly because it’s often the most efficient tool, at least for low track counts. 

I have Tracktion 7 on my Win10 PC and agree that it's well worth considering.  Strengths include good VST instrument support and a simple one window GUI with logical work flow from left to right.  As I recall, it does not have a separate mixer window and I missed that.  I've also installed it on Linux boxes, RPi 3 and RPi 4.  It's still a 32 bit RPi program, so it doesn't take advantage of the latest 64 bit Raspberry Pi OS (which means that it can't access more than 4 gigs of RAM).  It works very well on my Ubuntu 20 media center.

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On 6/17/2021 at 4:51 AM, bluesman said:

I have Tracktion 7 on my Win10 PC and agree that it's well worth considering.  Strengths include good VST instrument support and a simple one window GUI with logical work flow from left to right.  As I recall, it does not have a separate mixer window and I missed that.  I've also installed it on Linux boxes, RPi 3 and RPi 4.  It's still a 32 bit RPi program, so it doesn't take advantage of the latest 64 bit Raspberry Pi OS (which means that it can't access more than 4 gigs of RAM).  It works very well on my Ubuntu 20 media center.

Ha, I never got past opening a few files; was already using an old version of Studio One for a few simple projects, & have enough I/O to mix analog if I want. None of which is germane to the article. But I do sometimes make certain... adjustments... to favorite music I find “lacking.” It’s really just an outgrowth of decades of making safety copies, maybe using a click reducer or other such toy. So I’ll be interested in any observations, discussion of technique, etc. 

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1 hour ago, Mike27 said:

Ha, I never got past opening a few files; was already using an old version of Studio One for a few simple projects, & have enough I/O to mix analog if I want. None of which is germane to the article. But I do sometimes make certain... adjustments... to favorite music I find “lacking.” It’s really just an outgrowth of decades of making safety copies, maybe using a click reducer or other such toy. So I’ll be interested in any observations, discussion of technique, etc. 

That’s exactly what I had in mind when I came up with the topic and approach!  There are many pro tricks available to us too. And even those who won’t be doing this to their own files will benefit from knowing more about how recordings are made.  The mid-side decomp is particularly useful and common, but there’s an endless stream of tweaks out there.  Enjoy!

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5 hours ago, bluesman said:

That’s exactly what I had in mind when I came up with the topic and approach!  There are many pro tricks available to us too. And even those who won’t be doing this to their own files will benefit from knowing more about how recordings are made.  The mid-side decomp is particularly useful and common, but there’s an endless stream of tweaks out there.  Enjoy!

I stumbled across a free VST “stereo scope” plugin that might be useful here. The X-Y display illustrates the relationship of L/R to M/S in real time. 

 

https://www.meldaproduction.com/MStereoScope

 

I have no affiliation with the vendor, but they offer an interesting array of effects for various prices, in some cases free. 
 

Below is a screen cap, from a major label CD reissue of a well-known ‘70s album. The entire disc has been mastered about 3 dB out of balance. Oopsie!

6167ED22-B399-4680-981F-C36F50F96149.png

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8 hours ago, Mike27 said:The entire disc has been mastered about 3 dB out of balance. Oopsie!

6167ED22-B399-4680-981F-C36F50F96149.png

Then again, that may be the dynamic of the original recording.  Musical performance is not perfectly symmetric - it’d be pure coincidence if left-right balance were exactly 50:50 even if one or more performers (or their sound reinforcement or pan placement) had been dead center.  You could try “remastering” it to balance content exactly, just to see if it sounds different.

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7 hours ago, bluesman said:

Then again, that may be the dynamic of the original recording.  Musical performance is not perfectly symmetric - it’d be pure coincidence if left-right balance were exactly 50:50 even if one or more performers (or their sound reinforcement or pan placement) had been dead center.  You could try “remastering” it to balance content exactly, just to see if it sounds different.

I completely agree.  The track (first pic) is from a late-1980s CD issue of Wishbone Ash's "Argus."  I have an original MCA LP (you can see where the Decca logo was airbrushed from the jacket art) for comparison, and the difference is quite audible.  Many elements are panned to the center.  I chose this example partly because it's unusually bad, but also it points out the need to trust your ears and your monitoring above all.

 

Also, as much as we want the engineering to be perfect, there are many opportunities for error, human and electronic/mechanical.  In this case I suspect that, under pressure to get product out the door in the then-new CD medium, someone eyeballed it wrong and QA didn't catch it.

And, I did "remaster," and it does sound different.  In this case I also messed around a bit with the bass, and removed some noise below 20 Hz.  The second screen cap shows the final result.  Still doesn't sound quite like the LP, though, but I didn't expect that anyway. 

sword.png

swordproc.png

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  • 4 weeks later...

Wow...what an article ...another professional piece.... i only got a tiny taste of what these guys do for my listening pleasure by searching for low latency tips from the Pro audio world. My computer now sounds more like a tuned linux streamer than Win 10 NUC....

Thank you for another window into this world.... more like a primer for a budding mixing engineer...

 

Good luck

Dave 🙂

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