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A slight challenge to conventional wisdom

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A slight challenge to conventional wisdom

Postby Casp » Tue Nov 27, 2012 9:24 pm

Hi All,

I just thought I would post this because, while I am a year or so into my home recording adventure, there were some things I struggled with, thought I must be doing something wrong because of the information posted on the internet and in the end have personally come to a conclusion that is slightly different. I therefore thought I would post this and leave it for people way more knowledgeable than myself to comment on in the hope that it might assist someone that is starting out.

So, first the information..... Most of what I read was around the lines of "if you can't make a good sounding mix with your DAW's stock plugins, work on your mixing technique before thinking plugins will fix things for you".

Now, a bit of a caveat. I have done a fair amount of live mixing, so I don't have a totally untrained ear. However, I have Logic 9 and with the stock plugins I could not get what I wanted to hear. I however did not have loads of money to throw at plugins (and am in no way even beginning to advocate this), but tried a good number of demos, many who were indeed not better than the stock plugins and have settled on a few additions to my arsenal which I believe have made a substantial difference and that if I had not done this, I would still be a number of steps behind where I am now in my development.

My music is mainly singer-songwritery stuff that I want to be intimate and warm (a hated term I know - maybe just music to give you a nice hug while speaking in your ear).

So...here is what I bought and my reasons why:
DMG Equality - I found the high end of the Logic equalisers flat and lifeless and this to me is transparent and has energy.
Softube FET Compressor - I could just not get the transparency of compression I needed in applications like vocals from Logic's compressors. They always seemed to sound like a compressor was obviously being used. I do use them for character compressors though.
Slate Virtual Console - This was a revelation and moved the sound I had in my head and had being trying to achieve on by a leap.
Slate Tape Machine - A bit like the Virtual console, but not as big a leap.
Ignite Amps PTeq1a - a freebie in a competition where you can donate to the prize. Excellent for adding low-mid body to a vocal.

So after this long story, if you believe me to be talking nonsense, just say so. If you are in agreement, how about recommending a small, not to expensive selection of plugins that may save someone a number of months working with the stock plugins and not getting what they want.

And then a personal request, while not on the level of the issues mentioned above, I have still not got a "wow" sound out of Logic's reverbs. A lowish cost recommendation that will do that or a pointer to something that I might not have discovered in Logic would be appreciated.

Thank you
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Re: A slight challenge to conventional wisdom

Postby Jack Ruston » Tue Nov 27, 2012 9:36 pm

Try Valhalla Room.

You're not wrong. Some plug ins are better than 'stock' versions. And some stock versions are great. It's more about each individual identifying things that they're not happy with and seeking out an alternative that works for them. Just as you have done. Otherwise people feel that they have to spend vast sums just to compete. And that's not true. As you have shown.

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Re: A slight challenge to conventional wisdom

Postby The Elf » Tue Nov 27, 2012 10:04 pm

There's little doubt in my mind that the best plug-ins don't always come bundled with a DAW.

However...

The problem some beginners have is that they are immediately advised to go hunting for the 'magic plug-in' (or a bag-full of 'magic plug-ins'!) and then end up getting overwhelmed, distracted and confused, believing that they (or the computer/audio interface/mic, etc) must be at fault, because they have everything that's been recommended to them, yet still can't produce a 'professional' result.

I would suggest that third-party plug-ins can be a distraction for the beginner, and a novice's time might be better spent learning the basics of the craft, with basic tools, rather than trying to discern a good plug-in from a bad one - something for which they are, at the outset, ill-equipped. Better that they learn about the tools, decide what they may not like about the stock versions, then make their own mind up about alternatives.

And better alternatives don't always have to come at cost.

(and try SIR for an alternative reverb )
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Re: A slight challenge to conventional wisdom

Postby narcoman » Tue Nov 27, 2012 10:06 pm

Valhalla for sure.
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Re: A slight challenge to conventional wisdom

Postby shufflebeat » Tue Nov 27, 2012 10:59 pm

The Elf wrote:...rather than trying to discern a good plug-in from a bad one

Or even what it is you need, depending on the sound your setup produces


...(and try SIR for an alternative reverb )

+1. Comparing different IRs is a fantastic learning opportunity and the contrast between convolution and regular 'verbs (oh no, not the Latin, please not the Latin) is very revealing.
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Re: A slight challenge to conventional wisdom

Postby DC-Choppah » Wed Nov 28, 2012 3:01 am

I think D-Verb (Avid) is a great sounding reverb and is my go-to in Pro Tools.

I don't know if you can get a version for your DAW. Seems like that should be possible.
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Re: A slight challenge to conventional wisdom

Postby narcoman » Wed Nov 28, 2012 10:30 am

Pro-tools only.
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Re: A slight challenge to conventional wisdom

Postby Sam Inglis » Wed Nov 28, 2012 10:57 am


With reverb you can either use a convolution plug-in -- in which case the quality of the results is pretty much dependent on the quality of the impulse responses you load into it -- or an algorithmic reverb. Logic comes with Space Designer which can load third-party impulse responses, so perhaps you could look for some more IR libraries for it?

I liked some of the sounds in EastWest's Quantum Leap Spaces, especially the reverb chamber impulses.
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Re: A slight challenge to conventional wisdom

Postby daedalus » Thu Nov 29, 2012 8:40 am

Sam Inglis wrote:
With reverb you can either use a convolution plug-in -- in which case the quality of the results is pretty much dependent on the quality of the impulse responses you load into it -- or an algorithmic reverb. Logic comes with Space Designer which can load third-party impulse responses, so perhaps you could look for some more IR libraries for it?

I liked some of the sounds in EastWest's Quantum Leap Spaces, especially the reverb chamber impulses.

+1 on both of these suggestions: when I first moved to Logic I played around solidly with Space Designer, also importing 3rd party/free IRs. I find the controls in Space Designer very good at letting me manipulate the IRs. So I would start there. However, when I finally bought EWQL Spaces it was a revelation. It just sounds so good and I never have a hard time finding the right preset to use on almost anything - and it's dead easy to use.

I will have to check out Valhalla though. Can one have too many reverbs?
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Re: A slight challenge to conventional wisdom

Postby Casp » Thu Nov 29, 2012 7:57 pm

Thank you for all your input guys.

I have downloaded the demo version of Valhalla Rooms and it is sounding good. SIR2 seems to have a problem when I try to install it, so I will need to figure that out. Quantum Leap Spaces appears to be wanting my credit card details for a demo version. Is this what you experienced or am I getting something wrong? These sound really good to me on the demos on the website.

Are there any recommended IRs for Space Designer which are a class above what comes with it? I find those perfectly functional, but not inspiring. I had downloaded some Bricasti ones a while back, but to me they seemed nowhere near as three dimensional as the hardware unit which I had the pleasure of blagging the use of a couple of times, so maybe gave up prematurely on that route.

Thanks again
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Re: A slight challenge to conventional wisdom

Postby Gone To Lunch » Fri Nov 30, 2012 12:10 am

Any Valhalla gurus out there ?

I see from the Valhalla site that their Shimmer plug in advertises 'huge glacial landscapes', which I am very interested in for a particular track.

Is 'huge glacial landscapes' a particular characteristic of Valhalla Shimmer, or could I re-create it in the plug-ins I already have, some of which come with Digital Performer, my DAW :

Within DP :

MOTU ProVerb (IR)
MOTU eVerb (algorhythmic)
MOTU Reverb (algorhythmic)

additional plug-ins :

UAD EMT 140
UAD RealVerb-Pro
Lexicon LXP Native Bundle

Or in other words, If I must have 'huge glacial', do I just buy Valhalla Shimmer, or can I create it with what I already have ? Is it about the particular combination of parameters, or the reverb itself ?

Thus far, I have generally favoured the Lexicons, as they just sound 'better' regardless, tho' for some things the EMT 140 is the better...

And even if it is mostly about the parameter combinations, how else could I find the right combination ? Buying Shimmer would at least give me an example to learn from ?
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Re: A slight challenge to conventional wisdom

Postby Casp » Sat Dec 01, 2012 3:45 pm

First of all, thank you all for taking the time to offer me reverb recommendations.

I thought I would let you know how I got on and what my ears told me. So, I downloaded the demo versions of Valhalla Rooms, SIR2 and Quantum Leap Spaces.

First was Valhalla Rooms and my initial thoughts were that it was superior to what I had been working on in Logic.

SIR2 I felt was of a similar quality Valhalla and I was feeling I had taken a step forward.

I then did what I always do and in a case like this and opened an instance of the DAWs plugin (in this case Space Designer) and started to try and replicate the demo plugins. To my surprise with a severe case of mangling of the volume envelope in Space Designer as well as the eq, I came very close. This left me feeling that (a) the standard presets in Space Designer probably need a bit of work and (b) that I had been able to move forward with what I had.

I then moved on to Quantum Leap Spaces and to my ears, everything changed. This appears to be the reverb equivalent of a point and shoot camera, with the reverbs being considerably more natural sounding and three dimensional than the other three. I found I could actually use more reverb without feeling that it was starting to overwhelm the recording. While I will play a bit more, I believe this is where my pennies will vote.

There is obviously the point that people more experienced than myself will almost surely be able to coax better results from Space Designer, Valhalla Rooms and SIR2, but for me and where I am in my development, to be able to get great sounding reverb from a preset and four controls quickly was excellent. I also suspect this may work for the professional with deadline constraints.

So thank you all once again and going back to the original topic, for me with the addition of a few plugins: DMG Equality, Slate Virtual Console, Slate Virtual Tape Machine, Softube FET Compressor, Ignite Amps PTeq1a and now East West Quantum Leap Rooms, I feel I am actually in a position to start realising what I hear in my head.

Off to go and develop my tracking techniques some more so that I can exploit these.

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