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Title: Creative Distortion
Post by: Russell Ault on May 16, 2021, 05:45:25 pm
I debated whether to put this here or the Basement; my apologies if I've picked wrong.

Does anyone have any good resources or suggestions for learning about the intentional use of distortion (transformers, tube preamps, tape saturation, etc.) in live audio?

My impression is that most of the people mixing Bands You've Heard Of are employing distortion as an artistic choice (from plugins all the way up to the three large transformers that live in the doghouse of Scovill's personal S6L) and I'd like to learn more.

(Note: in an effort to head off the inevitable, I want to acknowledge up front that this sort of thing is absolutely the fondant on the icing on the cake. It will not fix a bad mix or bad P.A. or a bad room. Etc.)

Thanks!

-Russ
Title: Re: Creative Distortion
Post by: Scott Helmke on May 16, 2021, 08:03:29 pm
Well yeah.  Midas has their particular distortion, Digico has their particular distortion, Yamaha finally wised up and licensed some distortion from Rupert Neve.

If you've ever wondered why some techs absolutely must have a particular brand of console, it's often because their microphone choices are based on the kind of distortion that their preferred console imparts on the signal.
Title: Re: Creative Distortion
Post by: John Roberts {JR} on May 16, 2021, 10:29:16 pm
Slowly back away.......

JR
Title: Re: Creative Distortion
Post by: Riley Casey on May 17, 2021, 09:36:03 am
The formative years of modern pop music were the 1950s and early 60s when transformer coupled vacuum tube electronics were the rule. Over driving these devices even slightly created 2nd and 3rd order harmonic distortion which was to some extent ( to a large extent if you're talking Jimi Hendrix and a Marshall stack ) musically "simpatico" with the desired sound of the performance. Modern electronics and particularly digital processing are linear until they aren't and when they go non-linear the distortion products are anything but musically additive. Digital recreations of the harmonic distortions of early tube compressors and even the slight non-linearity of an over driven mic or line transformer simply attempts to recreate the sounds of a Memphis or London recording studio circa 1959-66 - or a complete F ing disaster when used inappropriately . 

JR's life spent building linear electronics senses a disturbance in the force.  ::)
Title: Re: Creative Distortion
Post by: Peter Morris on May 17, 2021, 09:43:52 am
The formative years of modern pop music were the 1950s and early 60s when transformer coupled vacuum tube electronics were the rule. Over driving these devices even slightly created 2nd and 3rd order harmonic distortion which was to some extent ( to a large extent if you're talking Jimi Hendrix and a Marshall stack ) musically "simpatico" with the desired sound of the performance. Modern electronics and particularly digital processing are linear until they aren't and when they go non-linear the distortion products are anything but musically additive. Digital recreations of the harmonic distortions of early tube compressors and even the slight non-linearity of an over driven mic or line transformer simply attempts to recreate the sounds of a Memphis or London recording studio circa 1959-66 - or a complete F ing disaster when used inappropriately . 

JR's life spent building linear electronics senses a disturbance in the force.  ::)

Because there was such a demand for that magic distortion A&H add a valve stage emulation to every channel ...
Title: Re: Creative Distortion
Post by: Brad Harris on May 17, 2021, 02:53:47 pm
I debated whether to put this here or the Basement; my apologies if I've picked wrong.

Does anyone have any good resources or suggestions for learning about the intentional use of distortion (transformers, tube preamps, tape saturation, etc.) in live audio?

My impression is that most of the people mixing Bands You've Heard Of are employing distortion as an artistic choice (from plugins all the way up to the three large transformers that live in the doghouse of Scovill's personal S6L) and I'd like to learn more.

(Note: in an effort to head off the inevitable, I want to acknowledge up front that this sort of thing is absolutely the fondant on the icing on the cake. It will not fix a bad mix or bad P.A. or a bad room. Etc.)

Thanks!

-Russ


Last fall on Scovills "weekly" LAB session (can be found on the AVID or Scovills YouTube channels), he went though various plugins (on the S6L ... AVID and 3rd Party) and what they do (harmonics, distortion, etc). I believe it's LAB 12 (2 parts)


Brad
Title: Re: Creative Distortion
Post by: Tim Weaver on May 17, 2021, 04:20:36 pm
Saturation, Distortion, Tape Emulation, whatever you want to call it. It's a favorite trick of the home recording crowd to make something sound bigger or louder in a mix. It is often overdone.


I use the Yamaha Tape "Open Deck" on both drums and keys. I send the drums to a stereo buss and insert open deck. Dial it up until it seems like it's doing something then back it off a tad. Send that to the mix. I often also run a light compression on the buss as a sort of "glue".

I do the same with key rigs. It helps give a hint of authenticity to digital keys by passing those "too clean and perfect" synth patches through some kind of distortion.
Title: Re: Creative Distortion
Post by: Jeremy Young on May 17, 2021, 07:56:01 pm
Not directly related to the use of distortion in Live Audio, but the London Power books are my go-to for understanding valve/amplifier circuits and might (if nothing else) create more fun questions: Link (http://"https://londonpower.com/tut-selection/")
Title: Re: Creative Distortion
Post by: Tim McCulloch on May 17, 2021, 09:50:42 pm
The formative years of modern pop music were the 1950s and early 60s when transformer coupled vacuum tube electronics were the rule. Over driving these devices even slightly created 2nd and 3rd order harmonic distortion which was to some extent ( to a large extent if you're talking Jimi Hendrix and a Marshall stack ) musically "simpatico" with the desired sound of the performance. Modern electronics and particularly digital processing are linear until they aren't and when they go non-linear the distortion products are anything but musically additive. Digital recreations of the harmonic distortions of early tube compressors and even the slight non-linearity of an over driven mic or line transformer simply attempts to recreate the sounds of a Memphis or London recording studio circa 1959-66 - or a complete F ing disaster when used inappropriately . 

JR's life spent building linear electronics senses a disturbance in the force.  ::)

^^^ more of THIS RIGHT HERE.

@Brad Harris comment about the Scovill Lab is spot on, and Robert has talked about various non-linear plugins several times.

Analog was a series of many, tiny non-linear things all going on at once in an analogue device, whether deliberate or simply the luck of component tolerances and age.  Now we spend a lot of time recreating those things because we miss them.  For whatever reasons.
Title: Re: Creative Distortion
Post by: Russell Ault on May 18, 2021, 02:02:00 am
{...} For whatever reasons.

To me, this goes back to the art/science divide.

To be clear, I'm always amazed by the truly astonishing progress that people like JR have made on the science side over the last few decades. The linearity and precision (and cost-effectiveness!) of modern digital audio devices is, frankly, staggering. To extend the usual metaphor: the canvas on which we all paint is so much blanker than it was even a decade ago. That blankness gives us all new opportunities to paint things that wouldn't have been possible before.

But art is different. Where the job of the science is to "tell it like it is", the job of the art is to communicate the expression of the artist. To extend our metaphor even further, most western paintings are far from photorealistic, and any deviation from photorealism is, effectively, a kind of distortion. Importantly, though, a painting is an intentional distortion, and the distortion serves the artist's purposes.

Of course, in audio, sometimes we want a photograph (or even security camera footage), and the wonderful progress that has been made on the science side has made the photographs clearer than they've ever been. I think it's made things better on the art side, too, but I think many of us are still trying to figure out how much of the distortion that came gratis with the older, lesser science was unwanted, and how much of it had a positive impact on the "happy accident" that is all art. The real advantage of the modern science for the artists is that, now, the distortion can be intentional.

-Russ
Title: Re: Creative Distortion
Post by: Scott Helmke on May 18, 2021, 08:44:31 am
Analog was a series of many, tiny non-linear things all going on at once in an analogue device, whether deliberate or simply the luck of component tolerances and age.  Now we spend a lot of time recreating those things because we miss them.  For whatever reasons.

Something a very wise older musician once told me:
"People know what they like, and they like what they know".
Title: Re: Creative Distortion
Post by: Matthias McCready on May 18, 2021, 11:11:47 am
There is a guitarist I really enjoy working with, who has toured with some large bands, his playing is brilliant, and I have never met another guitarist who can produce the sounds this guy can. Anyways we were talking pedals one time, specifically we were talking about an Electro Harmonix Hog, which is a harmonic synthesizer. I was expressing frustration that its tracking was not truly polyphonic and that it had weird glitches; and he turned to me and said "that is my favorite part of that pedal and why it is so fun to use."

Perspective shift.  :)

Today we have really clean sounding gear; which is incredible, and I know a lot of engineers have worked hard to make this possible, but clean is not always what is wanted for everything. We have a choice these days, for some things pristine is important, and for others it is boring.

I think there really is place for preamp emulation/distortion/drive on certain things (please note I do not understand the craze with ground hum or hiss  :o ).

As a recovering drummer, I think some level of saturation or distortion really makes a kit feel like a kit. When you are next to kit (small jazz club excluded) it is big, bombastic, and loud. If you stand next to it without earplugs (I don't recommend that!) your ears will probably be overloaded to an extent. So a little bit of dirt somewhere in a kit can help a kit feel more natural at quieter volume in a mix.

---

The best way to learn? Play with some plugins and options.

If you are on a DAW I really love the KUSH Omega series plugs (they are affordable too). In the right place(s) they can really make a mix more musical, I wish I could use these live!

In Waves land (what I assume you might have access too?) the saturation in Scheps Omni Channel can work well, or the NLS is cool. NLS has 32 channels of 3 different consoles, and it does some interesting drive, EQ, and compression.

I know Waves has a lot of newer fuzz/saturation plugs, which I own with my personal rig, but work doesn't have so I haven't dove in too much, at home I prefer the KUSH ones anyways.

---

I assume you already know this, but I will state it anyway. As almost all saturation/drive plugins add gobs of gain it is always important to trim down after the plugin so that the volumes (in/out) are the same, this way having it "IN" doesn't just sound better because it is louder.

--

Some fun places to use saturation:

Electric Guitars: Something like the scheps Omni Channel is a very effective tool. The saturation (50% odd) can add a little. The 2x Dessers are REALLY useful for grabbing those frequencies which tend to pop out on a guitars.

Bass: A drive channel can be fun. At work I have my normal bass channel (clean and good), and a drive channel which is DIRTY (in the chain it has metal zone, a guitar amp, and finally some dynamic EQ to mitigate some of the less pleasant aspects). I do not use this channel all of the time, or even a lot when I do use it. However for the right song, it adds a lot of top end detail/clarity to the bass, and that can help it to stick out in the mix better.

Drums: adding saturation to a snare, or a bit to a whole. My favorite thing for the past year has been dirty hat mic. To the point for overheads I usually use KSM-32's live. For the hit they provide plenty of sparkle/detail. If I am wanting anything more it is some body/chunk from the hats. Some drive here can thicken things up, and compress very heavily. By the time I am done it is basically a dirty room mic. It provides chunky hats and adds some feel to the kit. This is a fader that is usually not at unity, I often use it sparingly, or if a song dictates.

Rhodes/Organ: Yes :-)

---

Matthias
Title: Re: Creative Distortion
Post by: Alex Cheng on May 18, 2021, 12:59:17 pm
Today we have really clean sounding gear; which is incredible, and I know a lot of engineers have worked hard to make this possible, but clean is not always what is wanted for everything. We have a choice these days, for some things pristine is important, and for others it is boring.


IMO a clean mix can sound good, and a dirty mix can sound good. However...a mix that blends the two, or dynamically shifts from song to song (or moment to moment)? Even better. If RF has taught us anything, diversity in audio is a good thing :)
Title: Re: Creative Distortion
Post by: Matthew Knischewsky on May 19, 2021, 12:01:36 am
I debated whether to put this here or the Basement; my apologies if I've picked wrong.

Does anyone have any good resources or suggestions for learning about the intentional use of distortion (transformers, tube preamps, tape saturation, etc.) in live audio?

My impression is that most of the people mixing Bands You've Heard Of are employing distortion as an artistic choice (from plugins all the way up to the three large transformers that live in the doghouse of Scovill's personal S6L) and I'd like to learn more.

(Note: in an effort to head off the inevitable, I want to acknowledge up front that this sort of thing is absolutely the fondant on the icing on the cake. It will not fix a bad mix or bad P.A. or a bad room. Etc.)

Thanks!

-Russ

In the bad old days we were trying to reduce distortion through the audio chain from microphone to speakers. But then when enough distortion was gone it turned out that some people wanted it back. So now that we have a more linear system we have to spend more time/money to dirty it back up. Audio is such a strange business.

Title: Re: Creative Distortion
Post by: Russell Ault on May 19, 2021, 12:58:58 am
In the bad old days we were trying to reduce distortion through the audio chain from microphone to speakers. But then when enough distortion was gone it turned out that some people wanted it back. So now that we have a more linear system we have to spend more time/money to dirty it back up. Audio is such a strange business.

Strange, perhaps, but not unique. Still photography, for example, has being going through almost exactly the same process (and on a very similar timeline). At least now when we "dirty it back up" we get to choose what kind of dirt we're applying.

-Russ
Title: Re: Creative Distortion
Post by: Art Welter on May 19, 2021, 07:32:36 pm
Still photography, for example, has being going through almost exactly the same process (and on a very similar timeline). At least now when we "dirty it back up" we get to choose what kind of dirt we're applying.

-Russ
Once you have learned what the various types of dirt are:

https://reverb.com/news/what-are-the-different-types-of-distortion-basic-pro-audio-concepts

The best way to learn what they do sound like is to run various individual and collective sources through the dirt, and see how it makes them sound.
The vast increases in digital processing speed and memory have allowed (good) emulations of just about any distortion produced in "classic" devices.
Most of the favored "classics" had series combinations of many different distortions- it helps to first identify what the individual dirt does to the sound.

Using sine waves and a spectrum analyzer can help associate the sound of the dirt (getting way synesthesiac now..) with a visual representation that may make it easier to remember (or learn) what a particular type of distortion does to various waveforms at different amplitudes.

Art
 

Title: Re: Creative Distortion
Post by: John Roberts {JR} on May 19, 2021, 08:58:10 pm
It may come down to whether you are reinforcing the sound from a performance, or performing (making artistic changes to the sound).

Modern big dog digital consoles used for SR can execute many of the same studio effects, so the line may get smeared, figure out which side of the line you are on. What does the paying customer want.

JR
Title: Re: Creative Distortion
Post by: Russell Ault on May 19, 2021, 10:12:32 pm
Once you have learned what the various types of dirt are:

https://reverb.com/news/what-are-the-different-types-of-distortion-basic-pro-audio-concepts

The best way to learn what they do sound like is to run various individual and collective sources through the dirt, and see how it makes them sound.
The vast increases in digital processing speed and memory have allowed (good) emulations of just about any distortion produced in "classic" devices.
Most of the favored "classics" had series combinations of many different distortions- it helps to first identify what the individual dirt does to the sound.

Using sine waves and a spectrum analyzer can help associate the sound of the dirt (getting way synesthesiac now..) with a visual representation that may make it easier to remember (or learn) what a particular type of distortion does to various waveforms at different amplitudes.

That link is one of the best overviews of the topic I've seen, and your point about creating a visual representation makes a lot of sense. Thanks!

It may come down to whether you are reinforcing the sound from a performance, or performing (making artistic changes to the sound). {...} What does the paying customer want.

I feel like I've been in more than a few situations (typically as the house engineer) where this line was perhaps not as clear as I'd have liked it to be (and I'm guessing I'm not alone in that regard), and, to be clear, I'm well aware that this thread isn't relevant in the former of those two scenarios. In my case, my curiosity comes from two places: first, as the long-serving (as in approaching a decade) BE for a local vocal a cappella group (who sometimes ask for my opinion on their performance, let alone their sound; it's a very special working relationship indeed!), and second, as a theatrical sound designer (where such choices would be well within my jurisdiction).

I'm not going to start throwing tape emulation on a corporate presenter's lav, I promise. :)

-Russ
Title: Re: Creative Distortion for Talking Heads
Post by: Art Welter on May 19, 2021, 11:53:04 pm
I'm not going to start throwing tape emulation on a corporate presenter's lav, I promise. :)

-Russ
With a chest mounted lav, tape saturation would make the dull sound duller  :'(

Many corporate "talking heads" have little dynamic control.  As one's voice goes from normal to louder,  upper harmonics containing speech fricatives and sibilants become relatively less, reducing intelligibility further. When the compressor/limiter we engaged to "protect the innocent" reacts to the much louder shouty midband range, intelligibility may drop another 10dB.
A bit of tube type even order harmonics added side chain post compressor (of whatever flavor..) might be preferable to boosting the crap out of the high frequency for clarity.

Experiment with the combination with a live mic to insure feedback stability is not compromised, plug ins may "take off" suddenly and unpredictably at different thresholds.   

Art

Title: Re: Creative Distortion
Post by: Jim McKeveny on May 20, 2021, 07:58:11 am
Modern big dog digital consoles used for SR can execute many of the same studio effects...

Huge caveats here: "We just want it to sound like the record". In a different space with a different acoustic signature. With a different noise floor. At a different SPL level.
Title: Re: Creative Distortion
Post by: John Roberts {JR} on May 20, 2021, 09:30:58 am
Huge caveats here: "We just want it to sound like the record". In a different space with a different acoustic signature. With a different noise floor. At a different SPL level.
The features were added to big dog touring consoles so major talent can replicate effects used on their popular recordings...

The same caveat applies to sound reinforcement.

JR
Title: Re: Creative Distortion
Post by: Scott Holtzman on May 20, 2021, 06:30:30 pm
The features were added to big dog touring consoles so major talent can replicate effects used on their popular recordings...

The same caveat applies to sound reinforcement.

JR


Wasn't the Rivage the first to make "big deal" out of the tool emulation?  I am just thinking back to the advertising.  I have never even seen a Rivage, shows you what shallow waters I wade in.


I have been meaning to try the tube channel strips on the impact server (didn't I get that from you Tim) but have not yet.  So far the only plug in I use is dynamic EQ and multiband C3 compressor. 
Title: Re: Creative Distortion
Post by: Matthias McCready on May 20, 2021, 10:10:34 pm

Wasn't the Rivage the first to make "big deal" out of the tool emulation?  I am just thinking back to the advertising.  I have never even seen a Rivage, shows you what shallow waters I wade in.


I have been meaning to try the tube channel strips on the impact server (didn't I get that from you Tim) but have not yet.  So far the only plug in I use is dynamic EQ and multiband C3 compressor. 

Scott my favorite "budget" option is just throwing a metal zone on every insert  :o ;D ;D ;D ;D

You know you have everything "dialed-in" right, when the crowd is nothing but people in baggy black clothing with dreads. hahaha
Title: Re: Creative Distortion
Post by: Scott Holtzman on May 21, 2021, 03:06:08 am
Scott my favorite "budget" option is just throwing a metal zone on every insert  :o ;D ;D ;D ;D

You know you have everything "dialed-in" right, when the crowd is nothing but people in baggy black clothing with dreads. hahaha


I have seen that crowd.  Years ago I took a club gig that I had to mix monitors and FOH.  Both analog Peavey desks from the early 80's.  The lead singer kept asking for changes over the PA and I had to cross the mosh pit to get to the monitor mixer to tweak this guys settings.  This happened 3 or 4 times then I just shook my head.  The guy gets on the PA and says "it really sucks when your sound man fucks your performance up on purpose" I thought I was going to get killed.  That was a learning experience.


Your comments were funny but the real truth is I don't have any clients that have offered to pay me to bring external plug in's.  Why would I go through the trouble of possibly having a worse mix, a technical issue with something I am not super familiar with when not only is it not compensated I am sure nobody would care.  Pay me for it and I will invest in a redundant server and spend the time to learn to use the tech properly. 

Title: Re: Creative Distortion
Post by: John Roberts {JR} on May 21, 2021, 08:30:47 am

I have seen that crowd.  Years ago I took a club gig that I had to mix monitors and FOH.  Both analog Peavey desks from the early 80's.  The lead singer kept asking for changes over the PA and I had to cross the mosh pit to get to the monitor mixer to tweak this guys settings.  This happened 3 or 4 times then I just shook my head.  The guy gets on the PA and says "it really sucks when your sound man fucks your performance up on purpose" I thought I was going to get killed.  That was a learning experience.


Your comments were funny but the real truth is I don't have any clients that have offered to pay me to bring external plug in's.  Why would I go through the trouble of possibly having a worse mix, a technical issue with something I am not super familiar with when not only is it not compensated I am sure nobody would care.  Pay me for it and I will invest in a redundant server and spend the time to learn to use the tech properly.
The use of studio efx live that I was referring to would be big dog talent, that carry their own mix engineer on the road.
==
I am not describing what typically happens in your world, just talking about the technology, that I haven't been in the same room with for a couple decades.  8)

JR
Title: Re: Creative Distortion
Post by: Matthias McCready on May 21, 2021, 09:56:45 am

Your comments were funny but the real truth is I don't have any clients that have offered to pay me to bring external plug in's.  Why would I go through the trouble of possibly having a worse mix, a technical issue with something I am not super familiar with when not only is it not compensated I am sure nobody would care.  Pay me for it and I will invest in a redundant server and spend the time to learn to use the tech properly.

Absolutely agree with this.  :)

Personally I am doing almost no one off's anymore (political or other) and have settled in working as an ME at a church. They provide a DiGiCo and Waves setup; so dive I do. Not always quite as fun as road stuff; but the hours are great, the cheques are consistent, and there are very few surprises (like a Semi not showing up or something). I can't complain.   :D
Title: Re: Creative Distortion
Post by: Art Welter on May 21, 2021, 01:05:21 pm
The features were added to big dog touring consoles so major talent can replicate effects used on their popular recordings...
JR,

The features aren't limited to "big dog touring consoles", "cheap" mixers like the Midas M32r have loads of emulations inspired by analog classics.

In terms of dollars adjusted for inflation, the cost of any one of the real devices would be far more than the cost of the console.

Some of the M32r built in devices:

"Dual Fair Comp": tube compressor like the Fairchild 670.
"Dual Leisure Comp" tube compressor like the Teletronix LA-2A.
 "Dual Xtec EQ1"  transformers and tube output like the Pultec EQP-1a.
"Dual Ultimo Comp " FET compressor like the Urei 1176LN.
"Dual Tube Stage" like modern and classic tube amps.
"Dual Enhancer" "psychoacoustic" tube equalization like the SPL Vitalizer.

It's possible to get a good idea of what the classics sound like without much money spent.
If you want to smell the real tube sound, you have to pay more  8)

Art


Title: Re: Creative Distortion
Post by: John Roberts {JR} on May 21, 2021, 03:24:58 pm
JR,

The features aren't limited to "big dog touring consoles", "cheap" mixers like the Midas M32r have loads of emulations inspired by analog classics.
This is the typical evolution of big console features filtering down into cheaper consoles. They are added not because the customers really want/need them, but because they could inexpensively. More features equals more perceived value.
Quote
In terms of dollars adjusted for inflation, the cost of any one of the real devices would be far more than the cost of the console.

Some of the M32r built in devices:

"Dual Fair Comp": tube compressor like the Fairchild 670.
"Dual Leisure Comp" tube compressor like the Teletronix LA-2A.
 "Dual Xtec EQ1"  transformers and tube output like the Pultec EQP-1a.
"Dual Ultimo Comp " FET compressor like the Urei 1176LN.
"Dual Tube Stage" like modern and classic tube amps.
"Dual Enhancer" "psychoacoustic" tube equalization like the SPL Vitalizer.

It's possible to get a good idea of what the classics sound like without much money spent.
If you want to smell the real tube sound, you have to pay more  8)

Art
With a powerful enough processor that is all just software... i.e. really cheap assuming the sunk cost of development is already covered. 

I wish that stuff was this cheap back last century when I was shoehorning crude digital efx into powered mixers.

Sorry, personal whine...

JR

PS One could debate wether it gives a "good" idea of what classic tube efx sound like, or just a hint. If old (tube) stuff was good just because it's old, I'd be golden. 
Title: Re: Creative Distortion
Post by: Art Welter on May 21, 2021, 06:46:51 pm
I wish that stuff was this cheap back last century when I was shoehorning crude digital efx into powered mixers.

PS One could debate wether it gives a "good" idea of what classic tube efx sound like, or just a hint. If old (tube) stuff was good just because it's old, I'd be golden.
Having used enough of the classic tube gear, in my opinion Midas and other current emulations are certainly "close enough for rock & roll" (or jazz...) to say they give more than a "hint" of what tube stuff sounds like.

While the "face plate" settings on analog or digital emulations often won't result in the same sound, with a little twiddling you can get near the same effect.

The classic tube/transformer coupled analog devices required the correct termination to perform "properly"- the way they sound with one console/recorder was not the same as any other with different insert or output devices (or impedance), and the series chain we hear recorded is a sum of many parts. No way to even set up an A/B test to satisfy an analog purist.

Even if the A/B test could be done, variations in tubes produced over the last 64 years (my age- tubes go back a lot further) and how they have aged, along with capacitors, and individual's hearing would still make the debate endless.

Art







Title: Re: Creative Distortion
Post by: Roland Clarke on May 21, 2021, 10:35:44 pm
Saturation, Distortion, Tape Emulation, whatever you want to call it. It's a favorite trick of the home recording crowd to make something sound bigger or louder in a mix. It is often overdone.


I use the Yamaha Tape "Open Deck" on both drums and keys. I send the drums to a stereo buss and insert open deck. Dial it up until it seems like it's doing something then back it off a tad. Send that to the mix. I often also run a light compression on the buss as a sort of "glue".

I do the same with key rigs. It helps give a hint of authenticity to digital keys by passing those "too clean and perfect" synth patches through some kind of distortion.

I totally agree.  In live sound terms, I think it is often of limited practical terms.  We are often working in venues, with less than ideal acoustics, speaker systems that however good they are, have other factors such as power compressions and distortion components a magnitude higher than many of these devices produce by design.  Add in screaming fans, things become a lot more prosaic.  I always suggest that people try at a sound check, with a relatively dense mix, putting a 1.5-3 kHz mid band eq on your money channel and wind the gain back and forth a few dB and see how relatively little effect it has within the mix.

A few years ago, I heard recording tests comparing several mic pres, that ranges in cost from a few pounds a channel to several thousand,  the differences were squintingly difficult to hear, under control room monitoring conditions and better or worse was highly subjective.
Title: Re: Creative Distortion
Post by: John Roberts {JR} on May 22, 2021, 09:00:08 am
Having used enough of the classic tube gear, in my opinion Midas and other current emulations are certainly "close enough for rock & roll" (or jazz...) to say they give more than a "hint" of what tube stuff sounds like.

While the "face plate" settings on analog or digital emulations often won't result in the same sound, with a little twiddling you can get near the same effect.

The classic tube/transformer coupled analog devices required the correct termination to perform "properly"- the way they sound with one console/recorder was not the same as any other with different insert or output devices (or impedance), and the series chain we hear recorded is a sum of many parts. No way to even set up an A/B test to satisfy an analog purist.

Even if the A/B test could be done, variations in tubes produced over the last 64 years (my age- tubes go back a lot further) and how they have aged, along with capacitors, and individual's hearing would still make the debate endless.

Art

I am probably repeating myself, but just being old, or just using tubes is not some magic formula for sounding good. Of course classic efx survive because they added something useful to the sound irrespective of the technology.

JR

PS: I recall Peavey's efforts in solid state emulation of tube guitar amp saturation/overload, last century. While not identical to tubes, the sound was close enough that the vast majority of punters at a NAMM show could not identify the real tube amp from the solid state emulation in a single blind listening test. If you can do this solid state , you can do the same or better in DSP.   
Title: Re: Creative Distortion
Post by: Art Welter on May 22, 2021, 03:15:40 pm
I recall Peavey's efforts in solid state emulation of tube guitar amp saturation/overload, last century. While not identical to tubes, the sound was close enough that the vast majority of punters at a NAMM show could not identify the real tube amp from the solid state emulation in a single blind listening test. If you can do this solid state , you can do the same or better in DSP.
Absolutely.
 
Clarke's Third Law: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

Technology has sufficiently advanced that the "magic" of tubes and sound of pretty much any analog device, including instruments, can not only be replicated but subjectively improved using DSP emulation or creation without requiring use of loads of raw materials.

Technology still won't change what anyone believes to be "real" ;^)

Art


Title: Re: Creative Distortion
Post by: Russell Ault on May 24, 2021, 01:24:43 am
Thanks to everyone for their posts; this has been very informative!

I have on further question: many people have recommended certain types of distortion for certain sources, but what are people using on:

Thanks!

-Russ
Title: Re: Creative Distortion
Post by: Helge A Bentsen on May 24, 2021, 06:29:23 am
I used to have a Waves setup, sold it along with the console last year since I ended up using plugins only for verbs and vocal distortion anyway, so I could live with longer latency.
Running Liveprofessorn on my MBP with a DN9630 soundcard.
Tried a few distortion plugins for  vocals, ended up with this one:
https://www.soundtoys.com/product/decapitator/

Title: Re: Creative Distortion
Post by: Matthias McCready on May 24, 2021, 10:11:16 am
Thanks to everyone for their posts; this has been very informative!

I have on further question: many people have recommended certain types of distortion for certain sources, but what are people using on:
  • Vocals?
  • The overall mix?

Thanks!

-Russ

Distortion on vocals can be good, but IMO it depends. Sometimes saturation and distortion can sound very similar to over-compression (which means that hitting a comp harder or using a different and less transparent comp can sometimes get the same dirty sound). I don't usually find over compressed vocals to be pleasant, thereby a drive is not usually the first thing I am reaching for.  ;)

Working a Desser hard or having a comp with a very fast attack can dirty up a vocal.

That being said if the song has a dirty vibe overall, some drive on the vocal can help it match the overall feel. I would reach for something preamp based here, not over the top. Something subtle.

Beyond that there is going overboard for an FX (megaphone effect or guitar amp); which is very genre dependent. Even then wearing the ME hat I don't think I would go to far; unless that is the artist's reference for the mix, or they ask for it.

---

Especially if a channel is getting a lot of drive/saturation/harmonic distortion added I often like to put a dynamic EQ at the end of the chain to catch some of the more unpleasant aspects.

----

As far as drive on the overall mix, you can and it sometimes feels great, I would recommend going more subtle than not.

Here I would usually go for a preamp or bus emulation or a comp (some have saturation) or a tape plugin. There is often some involved color (EQ, Compression, saturation, harmonic distortion, multi band dynamic) going on in these devices, the elements going on may or may not aid your mixing goal. Potentially this might be something you don't notice that much when it is in, but you miss it when you take it out.

---

It is also very important to double check post-plugin volume. I would not recommend making a large gain change towards the output of things.

I onetime inherited a show file from a gent where all of the drum mics were digitally trimmed down about -20dB; the reason being that there was an drive inserted in the drum bus he had going, that added about 20dB. It sounded cool, but if the one insert at the end of the chain was changed, all of the mics would need to be trimmed, and than all of the various dynamic elements for each mic (gate, comp, multi band, dynamic EQ etc) would all need to have their settings adjusted. Much easier to level match the insert/plugin, and trim the output of it down. Keep practicing good gain staging.

----

Personally, there is so much processing capability these days per channel (Most big consoles + Waves gives you: Preamp Drive, 2+ Insert points, 2+ Dynamics (multi, Desser, Gate, Expander, Comp, side-chain Comp, Limiter), Parametric/Dynamic EQ, in addition to your 8 Waves plug racks (which can be increased with Scheps Omni Channel), and that each plugin rack is individually side-chainable in Superrack.

Considering this, I am more likely to do more heavy lifting on the channel side, than the on the bus or output side. Subtle things across many channels can add a vibe for a whole mix; while still allowing for certain properties of a channel/source that I might want to preserve. Bus and output stuff can be cool as well, but we are not limited to having just 2 channels of a nice compressor; we have essentially unlimited instances of them (for better or worse).

---

My favorite way to learn and grok a new tool is to limit myself when mixing for fun.

So sit down with some tracks and pick one channel strip; or a an EQ and a dynamic unit, and make everything sound the best that you can.

Or once you a very familiar with your available options limit yourself on how many instances of each things you can have.

---

While plugins are most definitely the icing on the cake and the least important aspect in the grand-scheme of mixing they are still tools, and whenever using tools it is always good to understand what they are doing, and how they will work.
Title: Re: Creative Distortion
Post by: Russell Ault on May 25, 2021, 10:25:04 am
{...} with a DN9630 soundcard. {...}

Fascinating! I've always been a little wary of USB audio interfaces in a live sound context. I take it you've had no trouble with this setup?

-Russ
Title: Re: Creative Distortion
Post by: Helge A Bentsen on May 25, 2021, 11:26:06 am
Fascinating! I've always been a little wary of USB audio interfaces in a live sound context. I take it you've had no trouble with this setup?

-Russ

No, it's been rock solid so far.
Done a few multitrack sessions with this (on Pro series) and with the USB-card in my M32, no issues to report.
I use a MBP or a Lenovo X-250 deepening on the situation.
Have a DN9650 loaded with Dante if I need more channels.
Title: Re: Creative Distortion
Post by: Matthias McCready on May 26, 2021, 02:35:22 pm
No, it's been rock solid so far.
Done a few multitrack sessions with this (on Pro series) and with the USB-card in my M32, no issues to report.
I use a MBP or a Lenovo X-250 deepening on the situation.
Have a DN9650 loaded with Dante if I need more channels.

Out of curiosity, what is the rough round trip latency (pre-plugs)?

There are some plugs outside of the Waves Ecosystem which I love  ;)
Title: Re: Creative Distortion
Post by: Helge A Bentsen on May 26, 2021, 03:09:30 pm
Out of curiosity, what is the rough round trip latency (pre-plugs)?

There are some plugs outside of the Waves Ecosystem which I love  ;)

Sorry, I havenít measured latency with these setups since I donít use them for channel insert.
Title: Re: Creative Distortion
Post by: Russell Ault on May 26, 2021, 06:22:38 pm
Sorry, I havenít measured latency with these setups since I donít use them for channel insert.

It would be highly device- and configuration-dependent, anyway. Part of the challenge of USB audio devices is the constant trade-off between latency and stability. Devices, drivers, and platforms all performer differently in this regard, so the minimum stable round-trip latency for an RME device (which are pretty uniformly excellent) plugged into an Intel-based MBP running a recent-ish (but not too recent) OSX version would be much lower than for a Behringer device plugged into an older ThinkPad running Windows 10 (ask me how I know).

-Russ