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Author Topic: Help me setup a "Gate" hardware piece?  (Read 3530 times)

Mike Henderson

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Help me setup a "Gate" hardware piece?
« on: November 12, 2020, 02:32:03 pm »

Hey guys, I wish to tackle now what is perhaps the major issue I have always had playing mp3's and can use some technical help with it please if you pros won't mind?

I had visited a guy once whose DJ system would play back every single tune like a Radio station with all frequencies being constant. I just spoke with him and he said he uses a "Gate" hardware piece to get that and recommended I look into a DBX unit. He said I should look at a gate specific unit as first option but if not then any DBX compressor/limiter/Gate unit would do.

Since my DJ software has a limiter/compressor which keeps the volume constant I am thinking as he has recommended I get something like this to keep all frequencies constant?

https://www.ebay.com/itm/DBX-172-SUPER-GATE-SIGNAL-PROCESSOR/192788835752?hash=item2ce31c2da8%3Ag%3AmVEAAOSw91JcOkVG&LH_BIN=1

or should I get one like this please?

https://www.ebay.com/itm/dbx-166xs-Professional-Audio-Compressor-Limiter-Gate-Dynamic-Processor/154125765763?hash=item23e29c8c83%3Ag%3A7xoAAOSwvGNfX13c&LH_BIN=1

I run a Mono system. Thx.
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Matthias McCready

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Re: Help me setup a "Gate" hardware piece?
« Reply #1 on: November 12, 2020, 03:05:35 pm »

Hey guys, I wish to tackle now what is perhaps the major issue I have always had playing mp3's and can use some technical help with it please if you pros won't mind?

I had visited a guy once whose DJ system would play back every single tune like a Radio station with all frequencies being constant. I just spoke with him and he said he uses a "Gate" hardware piece to get that and recommended I look into a DBX unit. He said I should look at a gate specific unit as first option but if not then any DBX compressor/limiter/Gate unit would do.

Since my DJ software has a limiter/compressor which keeps the volume constant I am thinking as he has recommended I get something like this to keep all frequencies constant?

https://www.ebay.com/itm/DBX-172-SUPER-GATE-SIGNAL-PROCESSOR/192788835752?hash=item2ce31c2da8%3Ag%3AmVEAAOSw91JcOkVG&LH_BIN=1

or should I get one like this please?

https://www.ebay.com/itm/dbx-166xs-Professional-Audio-Compressor-Limiter-Gate-Dynamic-Processor/154125765763?hash=item23e29c8c83%3Ag%3A7xoAAOSwvGNfX13c&LH_BIN=1

I run a Mono system. Thx.

I really do not see a gate helping you out at all; I have never heard of gate used in a such a matter.

A gate is a dynamic unit, think of it as the bouncer in a club, if a signal is not loud enough, it doesn't get let in.

A gate is typically used on the input side of things, and I have never heard of it being used on the output. Typically a gate is only used live when you do not have an ideal source, ie the kick mic is picking up sub rumble or the tom mic is picking up the snare in an unpleasant way etc.

I have not heard of a radio station using a gate. It is a true a radio station will use several layers of compression, a multiband, and a limiter; but I think it is worth exploring why they do that.

A radio station is attempting to get the signal as loud as they can for broadcast. Radiostations can only be so loud; so they take away the dynamics so they can be just a tad louder than a competing radio station; because on small and cheap speakers louder seems better; keep in mind radio sound quality is not great, so some of the artifacts of the overcompression are not as obvious.

Attempting to recreate this will not make things feel better on any decent sounding system.

For prerecorded music added compression is especially the wrong direction if you have a system which is a little larger and capable of some SPL.

Dynamics are what makes music feel good why would you want to take that away?

Do you want to feel the hit of the kick and the snare, that feels GREAT when you crank it? Or do you want a harsh and wimpy wall of noise, that sound unpleasant even when it is quiet?

When you are playing back tracks that are prerecorded they already have gone through MANY layers of compression, multiband, and a limiter. A mastering engineer spent time working on that to get the song to sound just so, you would be counter acting that. You will not make this recorded music by adding more layers of compression, you will make it sound worse.

Bottom line: If your tracks do not feel good, you should be looking into a better quality source (there is good MP3, and awful sounding MP3) or better speakers.

« Last Edit: November 12, 2020, 03:09:02 pm by Matthias McCready »
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Mike Henderson

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Re: Help me setup a "Gate" hardware piece?
« Reply #2 on: November 12, 2020, 03:11:03 pm »

I really do not see a gate helping you out at all; I have never heard of gate used in a such a matter.

A gate is a dynamic unit, think of it as the bouncer in a club, if a signal is not loud enough, it doesn't get let in.

A gate is typically used on the input side of things, and I have never heard of it being used on the output. Typically a gate is only used live when you do not have an ideal source, ie the kick mic is picking up sub rumble or the tom mic is picking up the snare in an unpleasant way etc.

I have not heard of a radio station using a gate. It is a true a radio station will use several layers of compression, a multiband, and a limiter; but I think it is worth exploring why they do that.

A radio station is attempting to get the signal as loud as they can for broadcast. Radiostations can only be so loud; so they take away the dynamics so they can be just a tad louder than a competing radio station; because on small and cheap speakers louder seems better; keep in mind radio sound quality is not great, so some of the artifacts of the overcompression are not as obvious.

Attempting to recreate this will not make things feel better on any decent sounding system.

Added compression is especially the wrong direction if you have a system which is a little largre and capable of some SPL. Dynamics are what makes music feel good why would you want to take that away?

When you are playing back tracks that are prerecorded they already have gone through MANY layers of compression, multiband, and a limiter. A mastering engineer spent time working on that to get the song to sound just so, you would be counter acting that. You will not make this recorded music by adding more layers of compression, you will make it sound worse.

Bottom line: If your tracks do not feel good, you should be looking into a better quality source (there is good MP3, and awful sounding MP3) or better speakers.

So I am wondering now why he would lead me down this path and why his system works with this?

I had looked into "software" multi band limiters but did not find one which works with my DJ software and had tried 2 of them using virtual cables but they did not work well.
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Matthias McCready

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Re: Help me setup a "Gate" hardware piece?
« Reply #3 on: November 12, 2020, 03:26:21 pm »

So I am wondering now why he would lead me down this path and why his system works with this?

I had looked into "software" multi band limiters but did not find one which works with my DJ software and had tried 2 of them using virtual cables but they did not work well.

I am also not sure why he would, however I will state most Dj's I have known (there are of course exceptions) do not have a good handle on system processing.

Your friend may have heard "radio stations use a multiband compression" so he thought he should too.

Unless making things sound worse is your goal, I am guessing it is not, I would avoid the dyamics processing.

To the point there is no magic audio device that makes sound "better."

An EQ, a compressor, a limiter, etc these are tools. Before using a tool you need to identify your problem, and then figure out what the proper tool is for the job.

Stating you want to use a compressor or gate because a friend did is a lot like stating:

"my friend said he used a sledge hammer to fix his house; so I am going to use that tool to fix my leaky faucet."


In detail what is the problem you are trying to solve?

1) Do you have good quality files? (MP3 above 128) Personally I use flac, because hard drive space is cheap and it makes me feel happy; not that it realistically makes an audible difference at that point.
2) Do you have a good speaker system? Are you using the manufacture specced processing?

If you get 1 and 2 figured it will sound good; now whether that feels great in a room is a different matter which is more complex, but I believe some others have already given you some direction there.
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Brian Jojade

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Re: Help me setup a "Gate" hardware piece?
« Reply #4 on: November 12, 2020, 05:56:50 pm »

FYI, your description of 'all frequencies being constant' describes something like pink noise.  The idea of music is NOT all frequencies are constant.  That's what you WANT to have!

The ideal audio chain has as few devices between the source and speakers as possible.  If there is something wrong with either your source or speakers, then you add stuff to fix the specific problem.  DJs tend to have a bad habit of wanting to cram more stuff in the chain because more stuff is cool, not because it's a problem that actually needs fixing, so always take any advice with a grain of salt.

Now, as far as the problem you're trying to fix.  If your music is different apparent volume between songs, it could be that the level of each song is different.  When music is recorded, how much the apparent volume changes will depend on the dynamic range of the song.  If the song starts out quiet, then gets loud part way through, that's the design of the song.  If you're choosing to change that design, you can add compression to remove the increase in volume so that the song is at a more constant volume during the entire song.  Compress enough and every song could be at the same level.  The problem is, this usually sounds like the radio, which often sounds like crap.

Now, you can do this with an overall compressor, which simply adjusts the volume of the entire piece of music, or, you can throw in a multi-band compressor into the mix where it's only compressing specific frequencies in an attempt to get rid of the beautiful dynamics.  A multiband compressor can REALLY muck with the sound of the recording.  You'll lose all character of the music, and maybe in very weird ways.  Yuck.

Generally speaking, compressors are tools to use when creating music.  Once that music is created, the only thing they do is muck stuff up.  I'm not a fan.
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Tim Halligan

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Re: Help me setup a "Gate" hardware piece?
« Reply #5 on: November 12, 2020, 09:33:20 pm »

I wonder if your dj friend was in fact referring to a Gates Sta-level?

They are a tube-based, broadcast friendly comp/limiter that initially appeared in the 50's.



Cheers,
Tim
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Mike Caldwell

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Re: Help me setup a "Gate" hardware piece?
« Reply #6 on: November 13, 2020, 12:02:32 am »

I wonder if your dj friend was in fact referring to a Gates Sta-level?

They are a tube-based, broadcast friendly comp/limiter that initially appeared in the 50's.



Cheers,
Tim

I had two Gates "Level Devils" about 30 years ago or so, weighed about 40 pounds and had a cool front panel that hinged open to get the controls and tubes.
I should have kept them about 25 years longer before selling them.

I doubt he was talking about a 65 year old piece of broadcast equipment.

Keith Broughton

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Re: Help me setup a "Gate" hardware piece?
« Reply #7 on: November 13, 2020, 07:47:31 am »

Mike, what problem have you identified that needs to be "fixed" with this hardware?
Are your clients not paying you or are people not dancing or are you not enjoying your work?
Play the (already compressed music), use your ears and forget the "magic box" !
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Mike Henderson

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Re: Help me setup a "Gate" hardware piece?
« Reply #8 on: November 13, 2020, 08:27:32 am »

Mike, what problem have you identified that needs to be "fixed" with this hardware?
Are your clients not paying you or are people not dancing or are you not enjoying your work?
Play the (already compressed music), use your ears and forget the "magic box" !

Thanks for the info guys. I am nt a DJ, I have DJ equipment and use a an mp3 automated playback software which is a hybrid of Radio and DJ features. I simply will have a playlist running while hanging out or relaxing. My software comes with a built in Compressor and Limiter so the volume of every tune is at the same level but it does not have a multi band leveler so for different tunes you will hear different instruments at different levels.

With Radio even though Brian to you it "often sounds like crap" :), this is what I would like and is how I have heard one DJ's system sound. No matter which type of different music he played every instrument played at the same level just like a radio station.

I have been trying to do some research on what exactly the Gating function does and my research is showing that is is not for multi band leveling  so I am confused?
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Tim McCulloch

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Re: Help me setup a "Gate" hardware piece?
« Reply #9 on: November 13, 2020, 09:51:55 am »

The last AM station I worked at used a chain of CBS AudiMax and Volumax.  The last FM I worked at had an 1176 that they were replacing with an Orban OptiMod.
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Re: Help me setup a "Gate" hardware piece?
« Reply #9 on: November 13, 2020, 09:51:55 am »


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