I frequently read many, many threads on this forum where the praises of Nebula are sung. A great amount of praise for a number of 3rd party libraries as well.
Yet, when I come to use Nebula, I simply can't hear the difference that it is supposedly making - the superlatives that you guys adorn it with seem missing with me.
Take an example. I record a guitar track via DI through my audio interface. I then put on three instances of Nebula 2 Reverb as inserts in Reaper on the track. I apply two of AITB's Tube Console presets, and I apply the Analog Channel preset that comes with Nebula. I use 5 kernels and I render the track so I can A/B.
The resultant tracks have such a minor difference to me that I really can't see how this is a level above other things.
My setup is decent enough that I should be able to notice, previous mixes are fair enough etc.
Am I missing the point? Am I using it correctly?
I am dearly wanting to feel the same way that many of you guys do towards this undoubtedly powerful piece of software! Help me understand how to best use it!
You'll probably hear from others with different perspectives, but here is my take on Nebula; I don't really hear much if I A/B a single "Nebulized" track against the same track that has not been processed with Nebula. But Nebula is not an effect, it's really all about hardware emulation. And in that vein, if I process all of the tracks in a project, through various console inputs, preamps, tapes, tubes, color-eq's, etc, and A/B THAT against the same project not Nebulized..... I definitely hear, and even feel, the major differences. The magic happens after the signals have all passed through the virtualized analog signal chain. I spent many years in the all analog audio world, and when I first started my move to digital, I was very disappointed and discouraged with what I was hearing. That is, until I started really digging into Nebula. I suggest taking a multi-track project and try emulating a full (or as much as you can) signal chain, and A/B that with the unprocessed project. Try a smaller project so it doesn't take too terribly long. My biggest problem with Nebula now is that I somehow have so many libraries that I have a hard time deciding which awesome tool to use! Lol, for sure.
I suspected as much....the cumulative benefits are really what are gained here. My only experience if mixing is digital ITB stuff like most home hobbyists and I don't know a huge amount about analog signal chains. As a result I'm not sure how to emulate them.
Could somebody provide a basic setup of a signal chain that would typically be replicated by Nebula?
I'm a bit unsure about what I should put on individual tracks in terms of console emulation, tape emulation, compressors and EQ (if required of course). What do your individual track signal chains look like?
Also some advice on 2-bus chains for mixing would be appreciated. I realise we will all have individual preferences, but a general steer in the right direction would be fantastic.
if I process all of the tracks in a project, through various console inputs, preamps, tapes, tubes, color-eq's, etc, and A/B THAT against the same project not Nebulized..... I definitely hear, and even feel, the major differences.
same here. and it's only coming together in the last weeks . keep in mind it takes some effort though to LEARN what each program does. as in real life some instruments shine if you put them through some driven tubes, some completely lose their edge.
i have been painstakingly finding out when to use which programs and i tell you my mixes that come together now are much much better. A/B-ing on track level gets easier as you get more into it, if you now where to listen for.
it's just not that simple listening for slight compression, tape(saturation), tube(saturation0, console emulation and preamps if you don't know what it will do with your sound.
keep in mind i come from the digital age , so these slight cumulative upgrades for sound are a bit of an eye opener to me. don't worry, you'll get it ...
first i wouldn't agree with richie saying nebula is not an effect. i mean, technically anything that changes a sound can be said to have an effect on it, and so you could arguably call it 'an effect'. but that does boil down to mincing words, and it doesn't really matter what you call it. it is what it is.
basically though, the sentiment in saying 'nebula isn't an effect' is that it's always subtle. not the case. sure, the consoles, preamps, and things along those lines are subtle. some other things aren't.
second, i think the 'analog channel' preset you mentioned either doesn't have any dynamics sampled, or it has few harmonics, or both. i may be wrong as it's been a while but i remember noticing it (maybe it was another preset?). having no dynamics is, in my opinion, going to take away a LOT of the analog effect.
3rd, nebula 2 is not going to sound as good as nebula 3 pro or server, and things like compressors are basically just not going to even work right with 2. the difference between 2 and 3 may be minimal with things like preamps, so i'm not trying to talk you into spending more on something you aren't feeling 100% content with yet. i never personally made direct comparisons closely, between the different versions, but i do recall thinking everything seemed to sound a little better when i moved from 2 to 3, and 3 pro to server. couldve been placebo, i dunno. i don't know what all was really done sound-wise. probably most people you see raving about nebula are using 3 pro or server, so it's not fair to compare your 2 against their 3 is all i'm saying.
4th, you don't really need to know anything about analog signal chains to use nebula, or even to use it in the way richie is describing. try processing all the tracks in a mix with a console channel program before mixing, then sending the tracks to groups and using group console programs there, then a master program on the master out. everywhere in between you can use any number of preamps, compressors (again you'll need 3 there), tape emus, if you are going to use eq, try using a nebula eq, etc etc etc.
when using the more subtle things like preamp, consoles, eqs etc, the overall analog feel comes out more when you use many many instances of them all across a track. i agree with richie on pretty much all points, just not some of the wording i guess. it's an effect, it's just subtle, and it builds up. the less subtle things like tapes and other odds and ends can help it build up faster..
Cupwise wrote:first i wouldn't agree with richie saying nebula is not an effect. i mean, technically anything that changes a sound can be said to have an effect on it, and so you could arguably call it 'an effect'. but that does boil down to mincing words, and it doesn't really matter what you call it. it is what it is.
I stand corrected for bad wording. (And like you not seeing a thumbs up emoticon when you wanted it, I can't find the sticking-out-tongue emoticon right now. lol). And you of all people Cupwise would know how much of a not subtle effect Nebula can be, since you are a developer of some of the more radical and sound altering nebula presets (great stuff by the way!). I wasn't careful in my wording because I was trying to encourage the OP to dig into their Nebula libraries and lay them on thick, like you also suggested. But for the record; yes it is an effect, and yes, it can be very subtle OR very radically noticeable. My main point was to learn about how it works and use many!
Many, many thanks for your thoughts on this guys, it's enlightened me and I've started to try to take on board the layering concept. The article posted really helped me to understand how the signal picks up various nuances from the equipment along the way, and how we should use Nebula to emulate that to some extent.
I've done two mixes of a song that I've recently written and recorded.
Mix 1 is without Nebula (except for guitar cabs)
Mix 2 is using some of the approach explained to me in this thread.
They aren't the greatest mixes in the world, but I wonder if you guys can hear a difference being made? The second mix is limited to a lower level that the previous mix one (think I got it to peak at about -6 on Reaper's VU meters)
my first thought was that the guitars, especially electric, were more 'focused' (clearly defined, easier to pick out, etc) in the 'analog' one. and that the drums were softer in it.
but then i re-listened to the first one, and i'm pretty sure the balance between the drums vs the rest of the track is different in the two, so it's kind of hard to compare what nebula might have done. drums seem way louder in the 1st one.