Bloody sound levels!

Why the difference?

Hi,

I jammed over a track with my guitar. It took 3 attempts that I spliced together and then I cloned each track to enhance the thickness of the sound.

Also, as the track faded, I had to manually draw the volume pans of the tracks to try and mirror the fade out. Side note here, holding the caps lock key and drawing volume pans didn’t affect all tracks as supposed to.

Main issue is that when playing back via N Track, it sounded perfect but when mixed down to wav/mp3 and then played bymy mp3 player, the levels are all different.

Eg: On the mixdown version, my guitar is too loud overall and you can hear a volume jump when the 2nd section of the solo starts. It isn’t seamless like it is in N Track playback.

So, what is the point in going to all this trouble (and I haven’t even attempted to master the tracks) when what is produced at the end is not what you were producing in N Track?
Why is this happening?

It shouldn’t sound that different. There will be some differences between auditioning the mix in N Track and an actual mixdown, but not the sort of obvious things you are talking about.

Firstly, simply cloning a guitar track will not ‘thicken’ the sound. It will just make the overall level of that source higher as the sources are identical. If you want a thicker sound you will have to alter one or both of the tracks eg with EQ, delay or whatever, but whenever I want thicker sound with guitars I usually record the same part again and pan, it gives much better results. Apologies of this is obvious, but you do not mention altering the clones in any way

Bearing in mind this, I am wondering if your cloning is responsible for the jump in levels somewhere?

Check also your overall volume evolutions on all tracks so you can see at a glance what is happening and spot anything weird. You can do this by clicking on the button on the toolbar - it lights up a volume evolution for all the tracks.

Check also your master channel volume on the main mixer before you mixdown.

I am a bit thrown by the fact that it all sounds fine when you audition the mix before mixdown though…

Whenever I get a problem that makes no immediate sense I try to trouble shoot it. One trouble shooting approach would be to try different mixdowns, muting a different track each time to eliminate it from the mix so you can see identify which track(s) are causing the problems.

HTH.

Hi Ice 9. In “Settings”, “options” there is a lttle check box for “Automatically decrease volume as tracks are added”. This is supposed to compensate for the increased output level as more tracks are added. If this is checked it might explain the difference in levels between playback in n and the mixed version.

Another thought - with cloned tracks, they are identical so any difference of alignment will cause adding and subtracting between them that might be come out differently in playback and in mixdown. You need a good long time misalignment between identical (cloned) tracks before they sound doubled; small differences can cause a comb filter effect.
As usual, experimentation is the way forward.

I hope you get sorted.

Cheers
TusterBuster

Are you listening to your mixed-down version at the same volume you are listening to the n-track version?

I used to mix at a considerably louder volume than I listen to the rest of my music, thinking this would be better for picking out all of the nuances of my tracks. Also, I would fight to get my mix to the level of -1 or -2 dB on the master fader. And when I would listen to the final mixdown, something would always sound rediculously out of place. Usually the bass would be WAY TOO LOUD. But the point is, when you mix at a louder volume, everything sounds, well, louder, and you might not realize when something is way too loud in comparison to the rest of the track. Now I listen to my mixes at the same volume i use when I am just casually listening to music while surfing the web or something, and everything is alot easier. It makes it alot easier to see the big picture(whole song).

This very well could be your problem. And even if it isn’t, I would give it a shot anyway.

Good post, Mutley.

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There will be some differences between auditioning the mix in N Track and an actual mixdown

Actually, there shouldn’t be any difference at all (when mixing to wave), unless you choose options different than the defaults. Mixing to MP3 obviously causes differences, as any MP3 conversion causes differences – but not the kind you’re talking about. For now, forget about MP3 and stick to wave mixdowns, until you have it sorted out.

You’re right that holding caps-lock doesn’t affect the volume envelopes for all tracks, or even adjust the master track volume envelope. (I just tried this in V3, anyway, and that’s what I found. I don’t normally use this, but it seems that it did work that way at some time.)

To control the overall volume, click on the little black downward-pointing triangle next to the volume envelopes tool, and select “Master Volume”. I generally don’t do this, though, and do fade-outs in the mastering stage.

Thx for comments.
I will heed all.

Abnout cloning tracks, I thought clning them was the same as multi tracking. Rather than re record, I thought it would be easier to just clone.

I tend to record one rhythm track and clone until I have 4. 2 are panned hard left and right and the other two panned about 3/5 of the way

Is this not the case then to thickening the sound?

when you playback in N you have to make sure that all the tracks are set to the same output channels - if not set correctly you will not hear some tracks on playback - this is hard to spot using identical cloned tracks -

when you mixdown to wave/mp3 using the mix to one stereo track option, N will mix in the tracks that you could not hear during playback - if there is a snag in the volume line (which you could not hear before) you will hear it now -

Dr J

Ice, yep you are doing the right thing with “thick-a -track”, by doubling it (reproducing it on the timeline)…and then panning to get more stuff… but what you have to watch out for is phase differntial…

Your output should exacty match with what you hear on mixdown… then into any conversion to mp3 etc…


BUT, it will not match (flipping from Ntrack to Win Media) exactly: dont expect that volume wise… it will match your EQ adjustments.
…but will not alllow for vollume.

you can thicken the sound on any track by using the AUX sends - use the aux send(s) below channel fader on mixer, then by using the aux return faders (on top section of mixer) you add the same track twice to the master out - as there is a very slight processing delay involved here the resulting output will sound thicker without adding any echo or artifacts to the track - the aux sends can be panned independantly as well -

Dr J

Just something else to consider… (and it’s probably not the case here), but you should expect your mixes to sound different on different playback systems.

That’s the “difficulty” of what we do… to make music that has to be played on a variety of systems, from mono TVs to full blown hifi systems and everything in between and beyond. Sometimes that means the bass is too loud on one system and two quiet on another etc.

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I tend to record one rhythm track and clone until I have 4. 2 are panned hard left and right and the other two panned about 3/5 of the way

Is this not the case then to thickening the sound?

No, not quite. You have to do something different to the tracks other than merely adjusting the fader and pan. Otherwise, you could do the same thing with one track and fader & pan adjustments.

However, if you do something different to a cloned track, like dragging it a little to the right to create a delay, then you are doing something to thicken. Note, however, that this technique can cause a mix to sound bad in mono, so be sure to test the mix in mono (click the interlocking ovals near the master fader knob in the mixer view to switch between mono and stereo).

You may wonder why you want a mix to sound good in mono, since almost everyone listens in stereo. Good question. The answers are:

- mixes that sound bad in mono will also sound bad in stereo, in certain locations in the room
- if you go far enough away from a stereo, it’s nearly mono and will have problems
- if you walk through the door, you’re hearing the mix in mono, and will have problems

I’m NOT recommending against the technique, just be sure to cross check it in mono. If it doesn’t sound nearly as good, but is still OK, then you’re good. If it gets thin and ugly, then change the delay.

Finally, the only difference between doing a delay by cloning and dragging a track, versus using a delay plugin, is that you can pan the original and delayed track wherever you want. If you hard-pan them, you’d be better off using a plugin (along with “Expand mono track to stereo” in track properties, which doesn’t change the sound by itself, but allows stereo effects).

LearJeff,
Thx for the Master Volume advice. It works a treat.
You also mentioned dragging a track slightly to produce a delay effect to thicken the sound. Is this what the pros do then? I just assumed that stacking tracks is what they did to create a wall of sound – much like thousands clapping their hands is a crescendo as opposed to just one guy clapping.

As for your comments about mono, I bought the 24 bit version of N Track but it won’t let me record in stereo. Mono is my only option (and I wasted my money it seems on the 24 bit version).

Dr JackRabbit,
I looked at sending to AUX on the mixer but there are a number of options. Any advice on this?

MarkA, Yes, I know to expect differences but this is on the same system – my PC. Funny about allowing for differences though. I burnt a track to CD and the difference in quality on different systems was far greater than a standard pro audio CD. I assume that is the difference in N Track and what the pros use?

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You also mentioned dragging a track slightly to produce a delay effect to thicken the sound. Is this what the pros do then? I just assumed that stacking tracks is what they did to create a wall of sound – much like thousands clapping their hands is a crescendo as opposed to just one guy clapping.

I don’t like simply cloning and delaying a tracks because it doesn’t thicken the sound in a way that doesn’t bug the heck out of me. To my ears it skews the imaging. I hear the phase differences and it throws the sound to one side. It sounds very unnatural and can make the sound feel like it’s pulling your head apart when listening with headphones sometimes. The pros don’t do this. They avoid this kind of stuff like the plague (not that cloning and sliding isn’t a way to start the the thickening - it’s one step but it doesn’t do it by itself).

Look at it this way, using the example of thousands clapping compared to one clapping, cloning tracks will simply give you copies of one guy clapping. Eventually it will sound like a guy clapping while standing between two parallel walls with the sound bouncing back and forth. That, no matter how you spin it, doesn’t sound like a crowd clapping.

The pros will double the sound by playing it again (usually) or using a pitch shifter that has minimial delay. The will do something that alters the harmonics so it sounds like a truly different sound, not a copy of the original.

I suggest you clone tracks, hard pan them away from each other, then add a flanger or phase shifter to one or both tracks, but set them to different speeds of you put them in both tracks. Don’t delay (slide) either track at first, but listen to what happens when the two sides are effected drastically different. THEN click the mono button and see how it sounds. While the mono button is clicked experiment and listen to the sound, then unclick it to see how it changes. Clone and pan but do ANYTHING to one or the other so the harmonincs are altered.

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As for your comments about mono, I bought the 24 bit version of N Track but it won’t let me record in stereo. Mono is my only option (and I wasted my money it seems on the 24 bit version).

Select mono or stereo recording by clicking on the little hammer at the bottom of the recording meter. There are selections for mono, stereo, and stereo to two mono tracks. Not being able to record in stereo isn’t an attribute of the 24 version of n-Tracks but could be show a problem with you sound card or driver, assuming it’s not a simple recording setting in the wrong place. I believe that if you are using ASIO drivers you are limited to the number of inputs you have, which may be stereo only, or some number of stereo pairs. I’ve never seen ASIO do mono only.

I agree 100% with phoo here. Lots of folks like doubling a tack and delaying it, but I don’t do it myself. However, I tend to do natural sounding music (e.g., acoustic, blues) and effects like this might be more useful for someone doing edgier stuff.

Also, there’s a huge difference between recording in mono and mixing in mono. While I’ve done a lot of recording stereo tracks, in the last few years I find I get better results recording in mono and using a variety of methods for creating a stereo image – most notably, subtle stereo reverb, where the emphasis is on early reflections rather than tails. (To hear what I’m talking about, click “Expand mono track to stere” on a mono track, and then plug in n-Track Reverb, using Ambience 2 setting. Then increase damping to help reduce the tails. Turn the effect on & off and compare the results – it’s dramatic even though subtle.)

The reason I haven’t been recording in stereo is that with the mikes I was using (SM57) I had to mike very close (2"-4") to get the sound I wanted, and stereo was impractical because small movements of my guitar caused huge image swings. Once I have a pair of large diaphram condensor mikes, where I could mike from a more comfortable distance, I might try stereo again.

Quote (Ice 9 @ May 20 2005,17:39)
You also mentioned dragging a track slightly to produce a delay effect to thicken the sound. Is this what the pros do then?

Well I'm a pro, and I don't :)

Its a 'cheap' and very quick way to thicken a track but has problems as already indicated (Phoo is spot on in his analysis).

The better way, as I said at the beginning, is to record the part again and pan. This is how Metallica (and a zillion other metal/grunge rockers) record their rhythm guitar parts, for example, to get that tight thick sound (although sampling would be used to layer the parts too.)

Some guitarists will do this with all their lead parts as well eg. Nuno Bettencourt on Extreme's Pornograffiti. Scary when you consider what he plays.

Obviously your timing has to be very good to do this - if you are way out and you pan the parts to thicken, you will get a nasty bouncing effect.

Absolutely right, Mutley. Works great for acoustic instruments too.

If I have time (I only ever record to do quick demos for the band to learn from these days) I will record my acoustic guitar part twice and hard pan left and right. Simple and effective.

However, another variation on that theme that I really like is to clone the track, apply chorus to one side and leave the other dry, panning one left and one right - not necessarily all the way, just using whatever setting seems to sound right in the mix.

n-Track’s built-in chorus is fine for this.