Correcting the Sound: Heads or Tails: Part I

I got back from the 2014 CES Show last Friday evening. I had to stop by the studio and unload a bunch of equipment before going home to pack for my trip to Colorado. I bumped into one of my tenants, a musician/songwriter that occupies one of the smaller rooms at the front of the building. He’s got a bunch of really great outboard gear (which he is slowly selling off because the equivalent software plugins are so good), large monitor, DAW, instruments and piano keyboard in a 300 square foot space. There’s not a lot of room for anyone besides him in there.

I noticed that he had rearranged the “front” of the room 90 degrees to make room for more people but the sound had changed…for the worse. He was planning on “auto tuning” the new setup with a program that adjusts the outputs of his Pro Tools rig. The same concept is used by Bob Hodas (my go to guy for tuning) when he comes to my room studio and tweaks things.

Neil, the songwriter, purchased ARC (Advanced Room Correction) 2 from IK Multimedia. According to the website, “ARC uses Audyssey MultEQ® XT32 patented technology to improve your monitoring system so what you hear is not affected by distortions caused by room acoustics. Near field monitor systems used in studio applications are designed to deliver sound without distortion or coloration. However when they are placed in a room, surrounding walls, ceiling, furniture, and other objects reflect and absorb sounds, creating complex distortions specific to that room. This ultimately causes them to lose the accuracy they have been designed for, and you end up hearing more of the sound of the room, than the music actually being produced.”

I wasn’t aware of the “plugin” strategy used on Pro Tools but it got me thinking. How important is it to tune the production room vs. tuning the room where you experience the playback? This question has become more critical as the number of “home” studios have proliferated. All you need is a laptop (or even a tablet), a few pieces of hardware and a set of speakers or even headphones and you’re a studio.

When I first started engineering, you had to get a budget from a record company and head to a professional studio to make their record. Things changed with the introduction of inexpensive analog multitracks. Musicians and wanna be engineers recorded demos in their homes or converted garages. But they still had to go to a real studio to record the masters.

And we haven’t even talked about mastering yet.

To be continued…

Dr. AIX

Mark Waldrep, aka Dr. AIX, has been producing and engineering music for over 40 years. He learned electronics as a teenager from his HAM radio father while learning to play the guitar. Mark received the first doctorate in music composition from UCLA in 1986 for a "binaural" electronic music composition. Other advanced degrees include an MS in computer science, an MFA/MA in music, BM in music and a BA in art. As an engineer and producer, Mark has worked on projects for the Rolling Stones, 311, Tool, KISS, Blink 182, Blues Traveler, Britney Spears, the San Francisco Symphony, The Dover Quartet, Willie Nelson, Paul Williams, The Allman Brothers, Bad Company and many more. Dr. Waldrep has been an innovator when it comes to multimedia and music. He created the first enhanced CDs in the 90s, the first DVD-Videos released in the U.S., the first web-connected DVD, the first DVD-Audio title, the first music Blu-ray disc and the first 3D Music Album. Additionally, he launched the first High Definition Music Download site in 2007 called iTrax.com. A frequency speaker at audio events, author of numerous articles, Dr. Waldrep is currently writing a book on the production and reproduction of high-end music called, "High-End Audio: A Practical Guide to Production and Playback". The book should be completed in the fall of 2013.

2 thoughts on “Correcting the Sound: Heads or Tails: Part I

  • January 14, 2014 at 8:24 am
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    Hi Mark
    A bit late; The best for 2014!

    I am a reader via your daily emails and/or RSS feed via Feedly. So not leaving a reply on every posting.
    Just want let you know its always a pleasure to read your daily passionate postings!
    I am learning a lot here. A day not learned i a day not lived.

    Greetings
    Frits (from Amsterdam, NL)

    Reply
  • January 15, 2014 at 10:58 am
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    Looking forward to more on this topic. Many interested in truly high fidelity are curious how artists can improve recording, mixing and mastering so that customers hear what the artist intends, and how customers can improve their rooms and systems to reproduce what the artist intends.

    Along those lines, perhaps you saw this at CES: http://oceanwayaudio.com/owa_news/universal-audio-and-allen-sides-announce-worlds-first-dynamic-room-modeling-plug-in/

    I look forward to the time when, for example, a recording of a great church organ can be replayed at home with much of the original effect via recording space characterization and duplication of that space at home via room and speaker correction. I think the technology is here for it, but not the practices and supply chain.

    Reply

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