Using R2R programs instead of EQ for tone

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Using R2R programs instead of EQ for tone

Postby greekpeet » Fri Aug 09, 2013 11:53 pm

Many moons ago after purchasing the R2R collection I was pretty blown away at the huge variety of tone capabilities with the package. Michael and I spoke back and forth about the stuff I was writing and how I could be more effective on certain aspects for not getting balanced mixes, or good tone, but adopting a personal sonic personality.

I've also tried all of the UAD and most of the other 'tape' VST's out there, the UAD is really cool and does a great job, but its NOT as musical as their Nebula equivalents.

After a few years experimentation with the Nebula platform, a ton of so-so or lack luster mixes I've finally come across a great way to not only take the philosophy Michael instilled to me, but get big, full mixes that sound like a record. Even a few months ago I was getting kind of close, but its like that last 1% is a HUGE chasm with sound quality.

I personally use the VST versions of all of his stuff and find it suits my workflow far better than Nebula itself for this task. Also what I've found that even using the R2R and 2x TB then eqing, still left something to be desired. In fact I've tried nearly every commercial Neb Library and couldn't get the sound I wanted. Though they are very useful, HP/LP filters on the 1084, the FP115, or the HP filters in CDSM's mastering pack and about 98% of my needs when it comes to EQing. Also its totally cool to use eqing for tracking, but this takes quite a bit of experience and skill, plus a few thousand hours really understanding your 'committing' that and understanding how its going to effect you (no pun intended) down the road.

Can not discount the Pultec's (from both Alex and CDSM (both 1 and 2), and the DocFear for kik and bass.

Those are absolutely needed for every production for me. The DocF mid cut at 200hz a few db on electronic music kiks pulls out a ton of unmusical junk to let the low end come through.

This is on my stuff, so YMMV.

Keep in mind, this is a multi-stage process, and do not recommend doing this during the writing process due to the limited nature of the technology not being the best for real time operation during composition. Plus for me, in all honesty I focus 100% on the song, and sounds taking an understanding in my brain how I'm going to process it in the future.

Step one always involves getting a great song or track, doesn't matter if its folk music, classical, or techno. The elements should fit fairly well together with zero eqing (other than creative filtering, and compression to keep dynamics in place).

A great mix doesn't start with an engineer throwing compressors, eqs, and reverbs at the start, you must balance everything first. The 'pink noise' initial balance technique and a good sounding room for balancing has helped me immensely. I want to hear things from start to finish a few times before I even start to think how I'm going to approach a mix for impact.

Can not stress enough to balance things first before applying any type of stem processing.

I compose with electronic mediums and taking the time to craft the sounds to blend together at its root is absolutely paramount. Also, I think in terms of 'tracking' not mixing at this point as far as compression/eqing goes. So the traditional work flow of using a 1176 ect on an electric bass while 'recording to tape' during tracking is totally welcome.

Because once you have your stems and faders up you should be able to do a quick balance and have a listenable result, not amazing,or sounding like a record yet, but you can't have things disappear due to lack of compression and control.

Even using 100% sterile vsts, you should be at the point of taking it to the car and saying 'pretty good', but not great.

This will not fix a bad mix or sound choice.

Once your done with the production, and it sounds decent sound quality wise, commit and bounce whole stems with all your printed effects and sends. I actually like to commit, because the track is done, I'm not worrying if the bass progression is musically strong enough at this point. Spend 100% of your effort on the song and sound design.

Gain staging is super super important because if I played a finished track with the faders at 0, they shouldn't peak above -12db. If you use a non-CDSM type of library I saved the Neb presets to reduce the volume 6db, and the output to +6 for optimal quality. When I use MIchael's libraries is the opposite.

What comes into play now is essentially 'something for nothing' on the volume front using a clear musical tape of your choosing (IE Studer, AMPEX, OTR, etc). My personal favorite for the first round is the MM1100 set at 15ips. This thing is absolutely KILLER for really bringing out the low end on kik and bass, but doesn't loose clarity on percussion instruments. I put 2 TB+'s after it boosting the inputs +6 on both of them and set the fader at 0db with the rest of the track playing. I adjust the second TB+ input until its a hair under 0db. Then I put a VTMM2 with input set to 0db and reduce the output to -10, followed by the Globe console.

Put the fader back into balance in the mix and notice how much better it sits, without messing with the tone, or character of the instrument. I make sure if you bypass every one of the programs, and the fader is at 0db on the mixer, and the original unprocessed sound peaks no hotter than -12db that the processed sounds should NOT peak past that either. This will give you a 'truth' test to see if what you did actually improved the sound.

I've noticed after putting the VTMM2 vst afterwards applies a very natural 'compression' and reduces the peak a few db.

What I want to achieve is when I bypass all of the plugins, and notice a nice change in perceived volume, without 'squashing' transients or tone.

Every single sound, every single time should have a marked improvement. Spend time doing this on each sound, and render out your stems as a 2nd generation.

Might have to do some balancing, but not much.

Now listen to playback.

Yeap, getting closer, but have another check at the project unprocessed.

It should sound better, and one thing I have noticed is the wave form information is more 'smooth', and uniform. Like in terms of even if they are not compressed during tracking, they might appears as if they where.

Working on 2eps and a remixes right now and this worked on every single project. It improved the perceived volume without boosting peaks or damaging the sound.

After you have your 2nd gen stems in place, there should be no other plugins and should be another fresh slate for gen 3 to come into play.

The song should be balanced and sound even better than before.

Now here is where the real fun comes into play.

I focus on one sound at a time, and listen to it (not in solo). What does it sound like, in the mix, what is fighting for tighter clarity. If its a kik drum all you might need is another does of the MM1100 at 15ips and an ATR102 at 30ips for the final varnish. What my thinking is using the character of the individual R2R and ampex libraries tone to really change the character of a sound (or simply smooth it out a little) to have it sit in the mix. Like eqing would.

Save if I have a mid bass sound with still a bit too much low mids, even after a little HP still isn't 100% in pocket, I might through on the Laf or Wolensak to see how it sounds. It could pinch the sound and radically alter the tone in such a way where it sits perfectly. Or maybe a combonation of several libraries.

The Akai and Sony are GREAT on guitar overdubs or electronic percussion that doesn't need a ton of high end energy. They totally help in focusing a sound in the lower mid range without killing the quality or tone, leaving room for your high end to really shine.

You have to be brutal at times because in the end, its about the overall picture and how the individual parts all fit together for the whole where you can hear everything appearing to sound big, even if they are smaller.

Its kind of like a trick where you have to fit 30 people in a phone booth, mixing is ALOT like that. :D

After bouncing a 3rd generation, now you can bring in whatever eqs or what have you to put the final things in pocket. You will find you will hardly even need eqing (or in some cases at all). PeakEQ, NiceEQ, Doc fear, mammoth, whatever you want to do has so much more musical effect after all of this for really making everything big, full and powerful on the overall mix. Again its down to personal choice. I adore every single EQ library I own, and can't have a single desert island type of eq.

Heck, even bring out the Neb compressor libraries for further shaping it, the volume and tone are there, now have fun!

Also my personal thinking is, who cares if every single sound is super hi-fi, but there are clashing elements tone and frequency wise. Makes for a unfocused mix and lessens the emotional impact. I care not for individual sonic purity, but a big emotional impact of the mix.

Now after I get all of my Nebula out of the way I like to mix in H******* mixbus personally, and adopted Michael Bauer's multi bus comp style of mixing. I can't even begin to approach a big mix if its not really put through the Neb processing.

I'll have a great example in the future with some videos sooner than later really describing this in detail.

This technique has completely transformed my mixing logic, sound quality, and emotional impact of songs in a great way. The people that have heard some of the newest productions are starting to talk about it, and I've even been approached for quite a bit of mix work because of it. This isn't 'self' promotion because I want others to experiment to find their own way.

Teach a man to fish kind of deal. :mrgreen:

Using these tools can really help you define your own unique sonic personality. Lord knows the sonic landscape right now could use it.

Hope this helps some folk out there.
God Bless ya'll

ps - if you use Ableton, or a DAW that has rack saving capabilities I strongly recommend making racks for each individual R2R libraries so you can quickly go through each program and find one that makes the sound fit more in pocket. For example a rack for the Sony or OTR libraries, etc.

The key is to work very very quickly and generally go with the 1st choice you like from the get go, IE trusting your gut and ears after fully understanding the grand tonal capabilities of these libraries.

The Nebula drop down browser is a complete show stopper for quickly choosing large libraries. It should take a 30 seconds to go through a dozen or so programs, hence the strong suggestion of making racks of each library.

pps- you HAVE to listen to everything in context and maybe .01% of the time in solo.

Any questions feel free to PM me, and I'd be more than happy to process a sound or two for anyone curious.
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Re: Using R2R programs instead of EQ for tone

Postby dagovitsj » Sat Aug 10, 2013 3:00 pm

Hi, greekpeet!
Thanks for a very interesting "article" about how you use Nebula, R2R etc. I'm going to check out some of your "tricks" when I have some time. I think it's very interesting to read about how people use Nebula.

And I'm really looking forward to this:
I'll have a great example in the future with some videos sooner than later really describing this in detail.

I'm currently strugling to get a solid and tight bass, and wonder if there are some very obvious things 'nebulits' do to tighten up a bass guitar when they mix? I know there are quite a few very experienced mixers here in this community, so perhaps this is a very "newbie" question, but I'll take the chance :)

I remember there was someone mentioning an EQ before this summer, also containing some sound clips that was able to really tighten up the low end, probably together with some tape emulation - actually it was you!

Did a search and found the thread here:

Ok, so part of the answer is purchasing ARQ and test your chain regarding tighting up the low end, I reckon! Any other tips is appreciated too ;)

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Re: Using R2R programs instead of EQ for tone

Postby cehas » Sun Aug 11, 2013 4:18 pm

Wow, that's a lot of tape.. and hassle. But if you're getting good results, good for you.

I remember reading an interview with the AC/DC engineer (not that I'm a AC/DC fan or anything) and he said that he

1) Gets the source as right as possible (pres, mics)
2) Tracks to tape with very little or no processing through a N**e desk -> Protools
3) -> S*L 4000, mixing, compression
4) Mastering

I also read an article about producing the Smashing Pumpkins "If All Goes Wrong" DVD which won some award for the engineering and sound quality. It was recorded & mixed on the N**e 5088 with using the standard modules, with 5042 tape modules used only on the bass and drums and then mastered.

I'm pretty happy only using the DTE 30ips tape on the master (along with console emu & compressor), but it's a crucial part of the sound and really cannot be replaced.
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Re: Using R2R programs instead of EQ for tone

Postby botus99 » Sun Aug 11, 2013 7:56 pm

This must've taken a while to type, thanks for the effort! It's very interesting to see a different approach in using the tools that I use as well :mrgreen:

You definitely got it right on throwing guitars through the Akai and Sony tapes! Those are my instant "weight" tapes. Which tape are you refering to with the MM1100? Sorry, I just don't remember seeing that one haha
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Re: Using R2R programs instead of EQ for tone

Postby richie43 » Sun Aug 11, 2013 8:47 pm

The MM1100 is in CDSM's new Apex library.... I use that more than any other tape library anymore. Most of my R2R goes unused now, in fact.....
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Re: Using R2R programs instead of EQ for tone

Postby Definity » Sun Aug 11, 2013 9:11 pm

Thanks for writing a very interesting article! I would love to see some videos of how you use it. cant wait fro them to be released, very cool techniques!
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Re: Using R2R programs instead of EQ for tone

Postby psound » Tue Aug 13, 2013 8:28 am

Last edited by psound on Sat Aug 17, 2013 8:05 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Using R2R programs instead of EQ for tone

Postby sneaky » Tue Aug 13, 2013 8:55 am

interesting article. so much to learn...
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Re: Using R2R programs instead of EQ for tone

Postby jeffbdavis » Tue Aug 13, 2013 10:32 am

psound wrote:Not to say anything against CDSM libraries because they are high quality, but your posts seem somewhat biased and overly favourable towards that developer in particular.

Not sure what you mean? AFAIK, there are only two third-party devs making tape libraries for Nebula, right?
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Re: Using R2R programs instead of EQ for tone

Postby richie43 » Tue Aug 13, 2013 6:43 pm

psound wrote:Not to say anything against CDSM libraries because they are high quality, but your posts seem somewhat biased and overly favourable towards that developer in particular.

What is overly favorable? Maybe he is biased towards CDSM libraries, that's ok. We all make decisions about what we like more than others, we can't like everything. There is something for everyone, and his long tutorial of sorts is his methods with the tools he has chosen (for now, they can change any time). I don't see a problem with his supposed favoritism. But I am also biased towards a few developers too, and Michael Angel is one of them. He is more than a good software dev, he is also an awesome human with a huge heart and bottomless enthusiasm and instructions for this technology.
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