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TorchForge

My ears are bleeding so I need a fresh set of ears to critique my work

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Some tracks (21 total!) for a platformer puzzle game I'm working on. I made extensive use of Famisynth for the main leads and occasional support in most tracks for a variety of reasons.

Any honest critique is good!

 

Thank you!!

 

Edited by TorchForge

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That's another effect, what compression in audio projects and listening to tracks at higher volumes over a longer period of time do to your ears - it will literally make them bleed and you as a composer kinda deaf.

It's much easier to listen to dynamic and fully uncompressed soundtracks for a longer time withing getting temporarily deaf.
So, the original soundtracks from the 80s (not the annoying and often also highly compressed remasters) are much more pleasing to listen to than many modern electronic, pop or metal productions which are often heavily compressed.

I'd also train your ears to listen to your tracks at lower volumes to make mixing decisions, switch between headphones and studio monitors sometimes - and just for the final check you may listen to your track on a slightly higher volume.

-----------------------------

So, for the tracks...

I'd say that they are already pretty well mixed (except the compression I generelly don't like very much - but by listening to your tracks an a lower volume I can bear the compression effects more easily).
From the view of the composition I'd say that "voidSearch" and SendingHelp" in their momentary state have the greatest potencial to become great soundtracks.

But you should compose a few breaks, build-ups and more alternations to draw the attention of the listeners through the whole soundtrack - like if they were thrown into a magic audio river with lots of different exciting passages and say things like : "Alright, here comes the big one" several times.
 

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10 hours ago, Master Mi said:

That's another effect, what compression in audio projects and listening to tracks at higher volumes over a longer period of time do to your ears - it will literally make them bleed and you as a composer kinda deaf.

It's much easier to listen to dynamic and fully uncompressed soundtracks for a longer time withing getting temporarily deaf.
So, the original soundtracks from the 80s (not the annoying and often also highly compressed remasters) are much more pleasing to listen to than many modern electronic, pop or metal productions which are often heavily compressed.

I'd also train your ears to listen to your tracks at lower volumes to make mixing decisions, switch between headphones and studio monitors sometimes - and just for the final check you may listen to your track on a slightly higher volume.

-----------------------------

So, for the tracks...

I'd say that they are already pretty well mixed (except the compression I generelly don't like very much - but by listening to your tracks an a lower volume I can bear the compression effects more easily).
From the view of the composition I'd say that "voidSearch" and SendingHelp" in their momentary state have the greatest potencial to become great soundtracks.

But you should compose a few breaks, build-ups and more alternations to draw the attention of the listeners through the whole soundtrack - like if they were thrown into a magic audio river with lots of different exciting passages and say things like : "Alright, here comes the big one" several times.
 

Thank you for your helpful input and advice. If you don't mind me asking, what are the biggest advantages and disadvantages of using compression in tracks? I've found that without using compression I can't identify all of the sounds of my arrangement but with using it I do feel a fatigue when listening for long periods of time.

 

EDIT: I remixed all of the tracks I'm working on to eliminate the use of compression. I see what you mean now, it's a big difference and a GOOD difference.

 

If you get a chance:

 

 

Edited by TorchForge

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That's it, dude...

... far more pleasing to listen to the new mixings of the tracks.
The soundtracks sound much more organic and "breathing" now - so, radically keep it this way. ))

Keep in mind, that - if you turn off all the compressor/limiter plugins of your single tracks and your master track - you have to set up a new mixing in most cases (since the compression effects like the perceived loudness of an instrument or synth can be quite different, depending on the level of compression for each track and - of course - depending on the instrument, VSTi or synth you used compressors/limiters on).

Using compressors will also modify the sound (frequencies) of an instrument/synth a little bit.
So, if want to get back the old sound of the compressed instrument or synth (related to the frequency spectrum of the perceived sound), but without the lowered dynamics, the annoying pressure on your ears and without the less defined "compression mud" caused by using compressors, you might have to use a good equalizer plugin on that instrument/synth and modify the frequency curve a little bit until it sounds similar like before.
But to me, the new sound of the synths without the compressor plugins is really nice - nothing to change there from my point of perception.

What I'm really interested in is the question how your track with the accordion will sound like without any compression effects (if you have even used a compressor on this soundtrack) - because using compressors on dynamic acoustic instruments (in my opinion) is an even greater sin than using it on electronic synths.



Besides, how is that track connected to Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind ('cause you used the same track with a picture of the anime) - was there an original melody of you accordion version?

 

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4 hours ago, Master Mi said:

That's it, dude...

... far more pleasing to listen to the new mixings of the tracks.
The soundtracks sound much more organic and "breathing" now - so, radically keep it this way. ))

Keep in mind, that - if you turn off all the compressor/limiter plugins of your single tracks and your master track - you have to set up a new mixing in most cases (since the compression effects like the perceived loudness of an instrument or synth can be quite different, depending on the level of compression for each track and - of course - depending on the instrument, VSTi or synth you used compressors/limiters on).

Using compressors will also modify the sound (frequencies) of an instrument/synth a little bit.
So, if want to get back the old sound of the compressed instrument or synth (related to the frequency spectrum of the perceived sound), but without the lowered dynamics, the annoying pressure on your ears and without the less defined "compression mud" caused by using compressors, you might have to use a good equalizer plugin on that instrument/synth and modify the frequency curve a little bit until it sounds similar like before.
But to me, the new sound of the synths without the compressor plugins is really nice - nothing to change there from my point of perception.

What I'm really interested in is the question how your track with the accordion will sound like without any compression effects (if you have even used a compressor on this soundtrack) - because using compressors on dynamic acoustic instruments (in my opinion) is an even greater sin than using it on electronic synths.



Besides, how is that track connected to Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind ('cause you used the same track with a picture of the anime) - was there an original melody of you accordion version?

 

 

So for RECCORDION I just got an accordion from a coworker, spent a few hours figuring out how to make it work, and then made that recording in one take.

I used three effects on the master after splitting the mics into left and right channels with a little cross-panning. The three effects I used were Parametric EQ, Soundgoodizer (which is a type of compressor), and Reverb.

I found that without using the compression on that track the accordion didn't sound even and there were a number of "hiccups" due to my inexperience in smoothly pumping the bellows. Compression seemed to fix those discrepancies and make the track sound much more "grand" overall but I also hit my limiter a lot. My recording levels and mixer gain were a little low as well so as to reduce the sound of the mechanics of the accordion operating so compression helped to bring those levels up but then again... I keep hitting the limiter. I went ahead and removed compression from the track and remixed it to see how it sounded and personally I felt it sounded more amateurish although the sounds were clearer in parts (which is true as I am a total amateur with the accordion, lol).

The Naussicaa track was based on the theme from the movie, there is a track with children singing that it was based on although I just played it by ear as best as I could.

I'm really happy with how the tracks sound now though, removing compression and remixing was definitely the ticket - thank you for your help!!

 

EDIT: Here is the uncompressed version of RECCORDION:

https://soundcloud.com/100_percent_roemer/reccordion-1

 

 

Edited by TorchForge

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Also, if using ambient pads, watch out for that god-damn 125HZ area.  It used to always trip me up and i had no idea it was even a thing.

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9 hours ago, HoboKa said:

Also, if using ambient pads, watch out for that god-damn 125HZ area.  It used to always trip me up and i had no idea it was even a thing.

Is this where you end up with muddy sounding mixes? I've been running into the problem a lot and have relied on EQ to alleviate it as best as I can although I can still sense it in my work.

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3 hours ago, TorchForge said:

Is this where you end up with muddy sounding mixes? I've been running into the problem a lot and have relied on EQ to alleviate it as best as I can although I can still sense it in my work.

Often, yeah.  Also depends on the quality of the E/Q filter.  Some cause phasing issues.

But yeah, a 12-band E/Q seems to be the best way to go, unless you're working with top-notch samples that are already pre-recorded near-perfectly (even then, that's subjective).  7-band and below just don't cut it for me. 

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2 minutes ago, HoboKa said:

Often, yeah.  Also depends on the quality of the E/Q filter.  Some cause phasing issues.

But yeah, a 12-band E/Q seems to be the best way to go, unless you're working with top-notch samples that are already pre-recorded near-perfectly (even then, that's subjective).  7-band and below just don't cut it for me. 

I'm still rocking FLstudio10 so it looks like I'll have to make do with 7 band EQ tools for the time being.

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On 1/16/2020 at 10:36 AM, HoboKa said:

Also, if using ambient pads, watch out for that god-damn 125HZ area.  It used to always trip me up and i had no idea it was even a thing.

Yeah, I'd always try to keep greater amounts of reverb in the lower frequency section (caused by ambienth synths or melodic acoustic instruments) on a lower level, especially if you already have some reverb in this frequency area 'cause of drums or maybe bass reverb (I mostly try to avoid bass reverb if I already use drums with a mighty reverb).

So, you really need to perceive it as clearly as possible.
Without good ears (remember my hint to train your ears to listen to soundtracks on lower volumes for most of the time) and - of course - good studio equipment, you'll have kinda unlucky cards.
Your studio equipment should reproduce the sound on a high audio resolution (rich in detail) and as flat and truthful as possible (no sticking out frequencies that might overshadow the impression of the other frequencies - so, kinda balanced and linear reproducing studio equipment).

But with good big 3-way studio monitors alone - in a room that is not fully treated with bass traps - you won't have big chances, because the roamning/reflecting bass waves will completely overshadow your impression of the rest of the track, especially the lovely mids and airy high frequencies... and even the bass you can't mix correctly, 'cause the most things you will hear, are just the layered reflections of the bass.
So, you might get even better results with smaller studio monitors and a separately adjustable sub woofer in this case of an untreated room.

The better (additional) solution in this case might be:
You save some money for good pretty linear responding high-end studio headphones like the Beyerdynamic DT 880 Pro... and a great headphone amp which can drive such high impedance headphones properly (amps like Lake People G109-P, for example).
In this case, you will be much more able to listen to the things which are really going on in the lower frequency sections, as well as in all other sections.

The good thing with good headphones is the fact that you won't get trouble with the nasty effects of room reflections.

If the track sounds good on your headphones, your studio monitor system, your ordinary radio and your MP3 player, it shoud be fine.
...

And just one more thing.
Before you might go into the EQ correction too fast and maybe overdo it without noticing it - 'cause of the pretty strong phenomenon of inurement - try to set up a greater stereo panorama before and separate instruments/synths with a similar frequency range by a better placement of those instruments/synths in the room.

It can already make the mix much clearer if you put some of those instruments/synths more on the left side and the other ones more to the right side and save greater amounts of reverb for only one or two instruments in the high-mid or higher frequency section of the mix.

And - if you have those options an your VSTi and synths, try to separate some instruments/synths with different settings or automations of color/timbre (which is similar like EQ-ing, but a more natural/harmonic way of doing it) or use much more different MIDI velocity dynamic settings to make some instruments more soft/mellow/submissive and others more hard/sharp/assertive in their individual sound.

If the soundtrack is still muddy after this, you should start think about your compostion in general (... about things like: How would sound experts set up the whole instrumentation and surroundings in a live orchestra?).
And if even this can't solve the problems with the soundscape in your mix, then it's finally the point at which I would start thinking about EQ-ing some elements of your track.

Edited by Master Mi

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Right now I'm rocking a super budget pair of Samson SR850s, although lots of people swear that they are the best bang for the buck for mixing on a budget.

I have a great set of M-audio studio monitors but I can't use them currently... Oh well.

Anyway, here's a playlist of all of the tracks I've finished up for the game - they don't have to be great, they just have to be good enough to get the point across... At least that's what I keep telling myself ;-)

 

Edited by TorchForge

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Since the Samson SR850 seem to be a not too bad clone of the AKG studio headphones series and the customer feedbacks are kinda positive on these headphones, I guess you can't go too wrong with these.

Although, I didn't find a real frequency response measurement of the SR850, I've still found something for the SR950 which are considered to be a bit more bass-heavy than the SR850.
http://www.samsontech.com/site_media/support/manuals/SR950_OM_EN_1.2.pdf

So, if you keep in mind that the SR850 might have a little less dominant bass, they might be really good - especially if they have a similar sound definition like the AKG studio headphone series.

The frequency range from 10 Hz to 30000 Hz is also very good.
http://www.samsontech.com/site_media/legacy_docs/SR850_OM_v1.pdf

The only bigger thing that might bother you in the long term could be the headband which looks to be rather uncomfortable.
But don't forget to give a little feeback of these headphones and how you like them in general.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Coming the studio monitors...

If you got the bigger M-Audio BX8-D3, you 've made a pretty well choice for mixing (even more if your room is prepared for the full spectrum of frequencies with some bass traps - if not, smaller studio monitors might be a better fitting option).

It's because I've tested the M-Audio BX8-D3 and many other famous studio monitor models in the store, and - according to my own listening experience - they made some of the best results (in things like balanced/flat frequency response, definition and clearness of the reproduced sound, staging/panorama reproduction) together with the Yamaha HS8 und the smaller Presonus Eris 3.5.

The studio monitor models I've tested intensely around 3 hours were the following ones:

- Adam T5V (far too bass-heavy and too much/too sharp trebles)

- Adam T7V (similar like T5V, but a bit more relaxed and balanced sound)

- Adam A3X (were standing too close together to evaluate them properly, similar like Adam T7V, but with a slightly better sound definition)

- Focal Shape studio monitors (guess these were the smaller Focal Shape 40 - nothing special about them, kinda average sound in contrast to the big opinions of the customers - I also remember that I didn't like something about the sound of these monitors compared to the sound of all other studio monitors there)

- Presonus Eris E4.5 (really good, clean and balanced sounding studio monitors - just the bass seems to interfere a little bit too much with the lower mids, but they have some acoustic tuning options on the backside where you can shut down the bass a little bit)

... and here are my absolute winners of this contest:
-----------------------------------------------------------------

- M-Audio BX8 D3 (I guess these were the new D3 generation and not the former D2 - despite the big size with the fuller bass range they still sounded very clean, rich in detailed, pretty relaxed, very balanced and with a pretty nice separation of bass, mid and higher frequencies)

- Yamaha HS8 (excellent large-sized studio monitors with a quite perfect frequency balance and a high sound definition, despite the full bass you can also perceive the mids and trebles really well)

- Presonus Eris 3.5 (not only some of the best smaller studio monitors in general, they can also keep up with the other bigger studio monitors pretty easily and sound as big like these, very clean/crystal clear high definition sound - you might fall in love with the very well-presented mids and trebles, very low level of inherent noises - only perceivable if you go with your ears pretty close to the tweeters, also excellent for listening at low volumes from a closer distance below 1 m, pretty nice acoustic tuning for trebles and bass, just for the lacking sub bass I'd recommend to add a little, separately controllable subwoofer like the Japanese Fostex PM-SUBmini 2 to the system to get at least from the moderate 80 Hz bass right down into the 40 Hz sub bass frequency range, kinda nothing will beat the price of around 100 bucks for both monitor speakers, the radically awesome design, the rather small weight or very low power usage of around 50 W for both studio monitors altogether, safe choice for untreated rooms)
-------------------------------------------------------

So, if you have a special producer room which is treated with enough bass traps or things with good absorber materials (like a couch, wall units, a punching bag, thick wallpaper, carpets and/or floor covering), you should keep the bigger M-Audio studio monitors.

If not, try out my mentioned Presonus Eris E3.5 studio monitors + Fostex PMSUBmini 2 subwoofer combo.

Edited by Master Mi

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