The 7 Bad System Dwarves

Discussion in 'Recording Studio' started by JohnP, Dec 21, 2012.

  1. JohnP

    JohnP Member

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    Seven little gremlins who like nothing more than to give your sound system their own distinctive voice. Sure, they're friendly enough when encountered as a balanced group, but hanging out with any one of them for too long can drive you to distraction - or worse. Don't be fooled by their diminutive stature and (sometimes) cute appearance - these little offenders have a long rap sheet filled with everything from simple charges of disturbing the peace to more flagrant offenses like system hijacking and mix vandalism.
    So without further ado, meet the fellas…

    [​IMG]

    Meet the 7 Bad Sound System Dwarves...
    or perhaps, you've met before
    • Tubby – Low, slow and rarely on the go, but a formidable ally for getting a house rockin - when Tubby gets out of control, he has a bad habit of rolling around the bottom of your system and squashing everything.
    • Muddy – Sure, you can hear him.. but WHAT is he saying? And while it is true that he can be warm and embracing when you first meet him, Muddy is also the Dwarf that always seems to overstay his welcome.
    • Boxy – This dwarf certainly doesn't suffer from claustrophobia. Boxy loves the congestion of enclosed spaces and is often criticized for his lack of openness. Given the chance, Boxy would remove all letters from your system's alphabet besides the vowels "a" "o" and "u".
    • Honky – A long-time supporter and admirer of Charlie Brown's teacher, this little loudmouth likes to lend even the most well behaved system that lovely “paging horn” sound. Honky's one ambition in life is to show off your system's horns - even when you would rather he didn't.
    • Barky – Never shy about giving you a piece of his mind, Barky can be aggressive about getting his point across. And mind his bite - you definitely don’t want this little guy to “sit” and “stay” in your system. (Note: not related to Rational Dog, Monk)
    • Edgy – A known associate of lead guitarists and harmonica-wielding frontmen, Edgy has been known to display some serious "anger management issues." Spend too much time with this sharp, irritable little fellow and your ears just may need a valium.
    • Sibilant - Known to frequent clubs and discos with his pal Tubby, Sibilant is a great lover of all that "sizzles". Unfortunately too much is often never enough for this high-strung dwarf. To be honest, we don’t even know if this little guy is from planet Earth. Seriously, just look at him!

    Check out Rational Acoustics
    Don't know much about them, but their dwarves are really bad :cool:
     
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  2. dbb

    dbb Well-Known Member

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    cool link and I'm always ready to learn more about EQ.
     
  3. JohnP

    JohnP Member

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    I’ve been wrestling some of these dwarves. Muddy is a mean mother. I’ve tossed him out the window but I don’t think he’s finished…Edgy is a pain too, lurking, waiting for his chance when I’m busy with Muddy…

    The balancing act is tricky. These dwarves need to be controlled, so that no one gets a chance to dominate. In theory this is easy, but it’s a challenging task that requires chops and tools.
    If I boost a certain frequency, that means I increase overall output at the same time as all the other frequencies are cut back relative to the boosted frequency, and the other way around;
    If I cut a certain frequency, I decrease overall output, but all the other frequencies (or dwarves if you like) get louder relative to the one I’m currently busting. Then when I bring the overall output back to its state, typically another dwarf has taken command. And so the dwarf tossing continues to a point we all sit down and compromise.

    The hardest challenge is that there is no simple recipe. Every mix is different from the other. If I could I would just run every mix into a JohnP-processor for a nice, consistent end result.

    Share your best tricks with a fellow dwarf tosser!

    Urban Dictionary: ”Dwarf Tosser”:
    1. One who is not genuine, is full of ****, and is generally an asshole.
    2. One who tosses dwarves
     
  4. dbb

    dbb Well-Known Member

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    I have more issues with "Barky" and "Honky".....one thing is to get used to using multiband EQ's and using them to notch the offending frequencies. It seems the best advice I get from more advanced engineers than I is to use EQ more to remove offending frequencies than to add.

    One aspect of a good mix is to let each part have a place in the frequency spectrum and not to put too many parts in the same range. Plus, the part has to fit the mix, and the EQ for that may not be the most flattering when the individual track is solo'd. The EQ has to work for the song rather than the part.
     
  5. Tony M

    Tony M Well-Known Member

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    "What's this thing with all these sliders for?" (Graphic EQ)
    "Just take the one that says 400 and push it all the way down to the bottom."
     
  6. dbb

    dbb Well-Known Member

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    Bye-bye Boxy!
     
  7. JohnP

    JohnP Member

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    Well Tony, then you get Muddy and Edgy at the same time.:ohno: Could work solo for a bit of a loudness effect, or maybe cut 400 a notch at the final stage of the mix for some sort of “Classic V” EQ.
    I would almost do it the other way around (assuming it’s a guitar track). Like David said; "the part has to fit the mix, and the EQ for that may not be the most flattering when the individual track is solo'd."

    This is the final EQ from my last mix...but it never looks the same...

    [​IMG]
     
  8. dbb

    dbb Well-Known Member

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    That curve looks familiar. The problem with these custom EQ curves is that I have a bunch of saved presets that are song-specific. At least they make good starting points.

    Do you ever use a Frequency Analyzer plug-in and see what is really there in terms of the frequencies the track produces? I find it useful at times.
     
  9. JohnP

    JohnP Member

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  10. dbb

    dbb Well-Known Member

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  11. JohnP

    JohnP Member

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    Thanks bro, I'll give it a go....
     
  12. JohnP

    JohnP Member

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    So, now I have done a mix using Blue Cat’s FreqAnalyst and here’s a quick evaluation:
    For graphical/visual analysis the FreqAnalyst is superior. I’m trying to figure out the best way to use this visual frequency information, since I can hear EQ differences much earlier than I can see it on screen, at least between 50 Hz to 10 kHz and that’s where the action is, or….wait a minute…
    Comparing my mix to a reference mix, using the FreqAnalyst, I found that I was lacking high-end beyond 10K and also (partly as a result from this) the slope of my EQ-curve was a bit to steep going from Low to High. Now, boosting the High-end at the border of the audiable range, the energy to the speakers is more evenly distributed and I get better clarity.

    The FreqAnalyst also indicates any high frequent noise, that can be cut off using a low pass filter near 20kHz.

    I have found that by tweaking the EQ-curve close to the curve of the reference mix, this is a good starting point for me to be able to reach an acceptable end result in shorter time. But at the end of the day I will still have to trust my ears working between 50Hz-10Hhz.

    Bottom line: Blue Cat’s FreqAnalyst can help me identify problems at the border of the audiable range and it’s particularly useful for sculpting the high-end.
    On the down-side: it consumes plenty of system resources.

    The FreqAnalyst also comes in a multi-track version, with a price tag. I think this would speed up my mixing even further:

    [​IMG]
     
  13. dbb

    dbb Well-Known Member

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    I told you it was a cool bit of freeware!

    I make it inactive when not actually getting readings to conserve CPU.
     
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