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Thread: What Lynn learned from all this

  1. #1
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    What Lynn learned from all this

    Ed Dobbs asked:

    This has actually turned into a very interesting thread. Lynn, reading your website info many times I feel it's safe to assume you're a pro PTs guy. Is there anything in particular that you notice being different between the two platforms tested? I understand that this is an experiment so if you feel your answer would hinder it, disregard the question. In other words, disregard if I'm being a bonehead!LOL!
    Fair question. I've been meaning to publish my thoughts anyway since the answers are out. But first, let me clarify one thing.

    I have never considered myself a "ProTools guy." Rather, I would like to be known as a "Pro Sonic Excellence" guy. I am someone who cares deeply about making great sounding records. Through the years, I've worked on Sound Workshop, Trident, Neve and loads of other consoles. I've recorded to 1/2" 8-track, 2" 16, 2" 24, 3M Dig 32, Sony 48, ADAT, DA-XX, and most recently RADAR. The system that I am using for mixing now is PT. That may change within a year or maybe not. Pro Tools, for me at least, represented the best balance between my sonic goals and my financial goals. Would I rather have an automated 8068 for sonic reasons? You bet. Would I rather have the note on that same 8068 instead of the PT note? No thanks. For me, it was a balance between what I could afford and what I could not afford. One thing I could definitely NOT afford was to be turning out sub-standard mixes, which would in turn lead to a loss of mixing jobs and a loss of revenue. PT has allowed me to maintain high quality mixes while opening my own mix room and accomplishing other goals as well.

    So back to the original question: What did I learn. Here are the ones that I know now and I'll reveal more as I remember (or discover) them. Each will start with my original preconception (in bold letters) and what I now think.

    1) I can make a mix that sounds just like a Neve using the PT mixer.

    Rewind to 1998. When I first started mixing in PT, I had just come off several records that were tracked to ADAT and mixed from ADAT. I was mixing on a Trident A-Range (one of my favorites) and was achieving great results. What I found when I switched over to PT (and it was a fast switch-mixing on the A-Range and then two weeks later mixing on my brand new PT setup) was that the need for the "big iron" console was actually just making up for the deficiencies of the ADAT DACs. When I stepped over to PT, all of a sudden the kick sounded just like I remembered it sounding when I cut it. Where before I was using lots of EQ on the Trident, now I didn't need to use hardly any. That was a major revelation.
    The sound that I had recorded was being lost in the ADAT D-A conversion and I was having to work hard to get it back. In PT, I was not hearing the ADAT DACs and it all came back sounding as good as I remembered it. So I can do this PT mixing thing.

    Fast forward to 2002. RADAR is now the format of choice for my clients. The converters are drastically better. Can I make a mix in PT that sounds identical to the Neve/RADAR combo?

    Identical? No. What I was able to accomplish was a very similar mix, but not identical. The top end was difficult to figure out, even without any EQ involved at all. The top seemed flatter higher with the PT mix. Yet the Neve mix seemed brighter (which the opinions of others confirmed). There was a presence in the Neve mix that was not there in the PT mix. There was an extension on the top in the PT mix though that revealed the sizzle of the percussion and the rosin of the strings more than the Neve.

    The other biggest challenge was the reverb. I could NOT match the two no matter how hard I tried. This baffled me. When I would match the reverb levels for the loudest parts of the mix, then the PT mix would have too little on the softest parts. When I matched it on the soft parts, like the opening, then the loud sections of the PT Mix just seemed swimmy. I went back and forth between just right, too wet, too dry, too wet, so many times that I finally gave up. I could not match the Neve mix on the reverb.

    I don't know what to think about that fact. Is it the low level resolution in the PT mix that actually absorbs or diminishes the reverb tails when they are soft? I am baffled and want to do more research concerning this. Conclusion: I cannot make an identical mix in Neve and PT.

    2) I can make a mix that sounds "nearly identical" to the Neve using the PT mixer.

    I think the comments of the majority of the listeners confirm what I thought concerning this one. The mixes really were close. Some preferred number one, some preferred number two. Both were in the range of what I consider acceptable. Would a layperson listen to one and think it sounded great and listen to the other and think it was unacceptable? I don't think so.

    One person commented that they were closer than the same person mixing the same song on two consecutive days might have done. They both had merit. One was more digital sounding, the other more "old timey movie soundtrack." I don't think either was bad. Many people thought both sounded great with certain desirable attributes to either. I would agree with that.

    So I think great mixes can come out of either a Neve or PT, given the same skill level and familiarity on the part of the operator.

    3) Things sound different when mixed on a Neve than they do mixed in PT.

    You can't listen to these two samples side by side, with no difference in EQ, only level and panning differences, and deny that things sound different. Listen to the bass drum, the strings, the snare, the brass. Each has different qualities on the two cuts. Which is better? It depends on who you ask.

    The comments that I noticed most about the PT mix was that it sounded "closer, more intimate, up front." I agree with those comments. The thing that I noticed was that the PT mix had what I would call more "immediacy." It felt like you were there, right in front of the players, right in front of the snare. There was more definition of the individual components of the sound. The instruments seemed more discrete if you will.

    The Neve mix, by contrast, sounded more like traditional music mixes sound. There is a homogeneity, or blended quality to the mix, like everything is thrown in together, like in a stewpot, and everything simmers together and then presents itself as a unified whole, without the tomatoes tasting like tomatoes and the carrots tasting like carrots. It is an amalgamation of all the components. (Am I getting too abstract?)

    Is it the summing? Is it the math? Is it the fact that it's digital? I'll let you know when I find out.

    4) If the levels (peak and average) are absolutely matched, then the apparent level should be the same.

    This is one of the things that surprised me the most as I was trying to match the two by ear. After I had finished the mixes, I measured the Neve mix and wrote down both the average level and the peak value. When I measured the PT mix, I was surprised to find the average level was lower, not slightly but by .5 dB. I went back and listened again. Then I turned up the PT mix and matched the average level by the meters and it was wrong. The apparent level was not right. Then the PT mix was obviously louder, as much as you would expect a .5 dB increase to be. I matched up the apparent level blindly, by switching back and forth, mid song, and then tested it again. It was .5 dB off.

    Then I compared the Peak level between the mixes. Guess what? The PT mix was .5 dB louder on the peaks than the Neve mix. So with the apparent levels matched, the PT mix had more peak energy and the Neve mix had more average energy. I have theories as to why that might be, but thought it was a fascinating discovery.

    5) The difference that I noticed between the mixes in the high frequencies was close enough that I could easily compensate for it and match them with EQ.

    I firmly believed this hypothesis until I tried it. I thought the ultra high frequencies (18K and up) that seemed more pronounced in the PT mix could be rolled off and that would make the two mixes sound more similar. I determined to try using a Waves RenEQ across the stereo master in PT and roll off as little as .2 dB at 19K and thought that would make them match more closely.

    it didn't work. Try as I might, I could not match up the top end. Even as little as -.1 dB at 21K, with a medium bandwidth, yielded imperfect results. That could be the fault of the EQ, or the mixer, or who knows what. After listening to the same mixes on more revealing systems, like Bob Katz's system at Digital Domain in Orlando, I decided what I was hearing was likely digital artifacts in the audio. On Bob's system, the difference between the two mixes was immediately and drastically apparent. "This one sounds digital and this one sounds analog." He was right. No doubt about it. You could tell them apart within 10 seconds of hitting play.

    Is that due to the clocking? Both were clocked internally, so maybe so. Since both sources were the same source files, the recording medium is not suspect. Maybe the difference that I attributed to high end EQ was actually the "sound" that so many attribute to digital recordings. I found it interesting that and pointed it out to Bob, that the one he thought sounded "analog" was actually still a digital recording through an analog console. "More like analog," he corrected himself.

    6) My monitors are very good and very revealing and translate well to the outside world.

    While this is true, I was shocked by how much more I heard on Bob's monitors. Does that mean I want to hear more? Would I be able to mix better on his system than mine? I don't know the answer to these questions. I do know that I am never surprised when I take mixes out of here. Much of that is familiarity with my system. I am considering other monitoring options at the moment though as a result of what I learned.

    7) Will I run out and buy an analog console as a result of all this? Do I think less of my PT mixes?

    No and no. There are differences. That is no news flash. Some can be dealt with and some cannot. I will be doing more research in the future. Can I justify buying a $150,000 console for the differences I heard? Not now. Could my clients hear the difference and would they chip in the money for the amount that I would have to raise my rates to pay for it? I don't think so. Is the PT mixer really a horrid piece of garbage? I don't think so. Can it be improved and polished and perfected (maybe too strong a word) by careful clocking and outboard selection? Just like any other piece of gear, the answer is yes.

    There are things that I will be trying in order to eliminate the parts of the PT mix that were less than desirable to me. Many of those I have discovered already. Don't use plugin reverbs exclusively. That's a huge one. There are lots more.

    8) I can probably get really close to the sound of a 480L with my M5000, which I adore.

    Wrong. Not even close. The M5000 does many things extremely well. It's smooth and rich and even and not sproingy like some Lexicon units are. But I was naive to think I could duplicate the sound of the 480L with my M5000. It seems I need both. (Why do all these conclusions end up costing me more money?)


    I'm sure there are many more things I discovered, but these are all I can recall right now. I'll post more as I remember them.

    Also, I would be interested in hearing what you might have learned from listening or think about my observations. Agree or disagree? It's all a learning experience to me. I'd love to hear your opinions.

    I hope it is extremely obvious that this was NOT a PT cheerleading exercise. It was motivated by a desire to learn. I own PT and use it daily, but not exclusively. That doesn't mean I'll blindly proclaim it is the best for everything. I knew better already. I will continue to search for other options in my quest for sonic excellence. For now, I'll keep mixing records with the best equipment I can afford and strive to make them sound as good as possible.
    Lynn Fuston
    3D Audio

    Making beautiful music SEEM easy since 1979.

  2. #2
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    Fascinating conclusions Lynn. It is very encouraging that you can be satisfied with both options.

    On the reverb thing I would be very surprised if you HAD been able to replace your 480 with an M5000. The reasoning behind their reverbs are rather different. Lexicon research is not so much on the true nature of real reverb but the psycho-acoustics of reverb. To recreate / stimulate the results of reverb rather than try to imitate the original is a fascinating idea - and it works well

    cheers,

    Duncan
    Duncan Whitcombe
    Mirror Sounds
    Perth, Westralia
    www.mirrorsounds.com.au

  3. #3
    Kevin Perry is offline Gold Club Member (1000+ posts)
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    I think the test says a lot about quality of monitoring. You and MM are the only people's responses i have read who said they could a very apparent PT quality to #2...and both of you had access to monitoring gear of the highest caliber.

    I listened on Event 20/20's and Dynaudio BM15a's, hearing the same differences in varying degrees on both....the same differences that most of the "experimenters" seemed to hear who couldn't stop in at Dave Collins for a listen.

    Now I admit I am no golden ears...but the few times I have gotten to sit in Masterfonics or some other Hidley room, I have heard things on albums that I have never heard anywhere else.

    I also find it very interesting that alot of people seemed to indicate that the redbook versions were more telling. I didn't get these since I only beta-tested the audio files for PC use. Was there anything to this?

    People also seemed to forget this was a Neve. A big gorgeous sounding Neve.(I've heard it in person at length, and I think so.) There many sonically lesser consoles out there.
    Kevin Perry
    Chameleon Music
    Nashville, TN

  4. #4
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    I have a client (& friend) in my place now mixing similar pop classical material on my ProControl. The recordings were recorded to out remote rig, configured for this job with 1 x Apogee AD8000 & 2 x 888/24's clocked to the first Apogee unit.

    Differences from a usual 'all in PT" mixdown.

    1) we are using his & my TC M3000 reverbs (so 2 in total) sending to them digitally, the outs come out of Apogee SE converters.

    2) We are using the Dangerous 2 Buss to Sum the 16 analog Apogee SE outputs available.

    3) He is making use of my best outboard (2 x Neve 1073, Focusrite 215, Tube Tech valve EQ, SSL comp etc etc and His Avalon 737 on solo's ) on the key signals 'inserted' on his way into the D2B

    4) the mix / output of the D2B is being captured by a Cranesong Hedd and he is using some of the "Tape" and valve process knobs. This is feeding a 16 bit DAT (we ourselves make 24 bit masters...)

    5) All digital devices are clocked to Apogee word clock.

    6) He is for the first time using my ADAM S4A-C monitor's instead of his usual Dynaudio C3's and quad 404(!?)

    Report ends...
    Pro Jules

  5. #5
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    Originally posted by Kevin Perry:
    <STRONG>I think the test says a lot about quality of monitoring. You and MM are the only people's responses i have read who said they could a very apparent PT quality to #2...and both of you had access to monitoring gear of the highest caliber.

    I listened on Event 20/20's and Dynaudio BM15a's, hearing the same differences in varying degrees on both....</STRONG>

    I just had this forum software crash twice (watch the backspace key late in a post or else my computer is acting up again), so I'm going to keep this short (said to cheering in the background).

    I have no interest in being disagreeable, but just for the sake of discussion, I don't think it takes world class monitoring to tell the mixes apart. I thought it was easy to tell Mix 1 from Mix 2 on my Event 20/20bas monitors and posted my results here before Lynn announced them. I didn't say it was easy at the time because many were saying that it wasn't and I had no idea if I was right.

    Not saying that I have better ears than anyone else. And I certainly don't have better gear than some of you. Just saying that it seemed pretty easy to tell an all digital mix from a digital-analog combo.

    To put this in its proper perspective: I haven't even used a Neve console or PT. But I have compared all digital mixing through my DAW (Samplitude with Waves Ren EQ and Comp, etc.) to mixing through my analog consoles (Ramsa) and outboard gear many times. And it seemed to me that Mix 2 was all-digital all the way.

    This was very educational and I want to thank Lynn for doing it. I was leaning towards maybe going all digital as I think my current DAW sounds really nice. But now I've decided instead to continue to use a combination of analog and digital gear. And, whenever possible, will use gear that's as close as I can get to the best of both of those worlds.

    John
    www.springstonestudio.com

  6. #6
    Kevin Perry is offline Gold Club Member (1000+ posts)
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    Originally posted by JohnD:
    [QB]
    I have no interest in being disagreeable, but just for the sake of discussion, I don't think it takes world class monitoring to tell the mixes apart. I thought it was easy to tell Mix 1 from Mix 2 on my Event 20/20bas monitors and posted my results here before Lynn announced them. I didn't say it was easy at the time because many were saying that it wasn't and I had no idea if I was right.

    Not saying that I have better ears than anyone else. And I certainly don't have better gear than some of you. Just saying that it seemed pretty easy to tell an all digital mix from a digital-analog combo. [QB]

    You are right, it was easy to tell them apart....everyone's response I read said there was a difference. It was not easy(obviously from the test) for people to listen and scream "#2 is protools!" The only people I read that did that is Lynn and MM once they listened on a high end mastering systems. As Lynn put it, he "heard more."

    The real test would be if Lynn had put one track on the CD...and people had to guess on that one track....PT or Neve mix. In fact I believe Lynn did this on the mastering board with a small group...maybe he could share the results.
    Kevin Perry
    Chameleon Music
    Nashville, TN

  7. #7
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    Yeah, I could hear the difference on my Sony MDR-7506's...

    BTW: What reverb was used on this?

  8. #8
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    Kevin,

    Actually, I did post that I heard a difference that was audibly and clearly PT.

    On a less than optimal monitoring chain too.

    The difference to us, me and Julie Gardeski, who is a classical and film scoring engineer for the most part and does a lot of PT editing was the loss of detail at low levels, ambience that disappeared in the PT mix, a flatness to the sound.

    Julie helps me build the preamps, and is used to the shops' music system. First play through the CD, ten seconds into the second cut she said "That's ProTools".


    Clarity was there, but exagerated.

    An analogy would be taking a beautiful 35mm film, running it through a video editor and then making a release print of that.

  9. #9
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    Originally posted by emilano:
    <STRONG>Yeah, I could hear the difference on my Sony MDR-7506's...

    BTW: What reverb was used on this?</STRONG>
    480L.

    Really, you should go read that "Session specifics" post. It will answer lots of questions.
    Lynn Fuston
    3D Audio

    Making beautiful music SEEM easy since 1979.

  10. #10
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    Hi, Lynn,

    RE: tracks 6 and 7.

    My understanding was that one was a digital transfer of the M50 pair from RADAR and the other was a digital transfer of the same file from PT. If I recall correctly, both were into a Masterlink.

    In your post today (thanks, too, for sharing your detailed insights), you mentioned clocking issues. I have felt for a long time that this can be very important, as it can effect the tone considerably. I even drag my best clock around to sync to when I do a critical remote recording. Silly? Maybe, but I don't think so.

    After listening to tracks 6 and 7, I wondered if the RADAR and PT systems were synced to the same external clock or were they running on their own internal clocks during the transfer to the Masterlink?

    Thanks,

    John

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