mixdown and midi questions

how can I improve the sound?

Hi everyone,
I use n-track since 2 months and I’m enough satisfied, I just would like to improve the sound of the final mixdown’s song; I try to explain: years ago I used an old tascam04 mixer to mix my songs and the sound was quite good for me, clear…
Now with n-track the final mixdown of a song it’s too poor, damped… e.g. the bass track isn’t strong enough (can you imagine what I mean? I hope…). I’ve used the n-track compressor but I think this can not help me to solve the problem; I have a generic sound blaster maybe this is the problem, I ask you if I need a more professional sound card , e.g. the sound blaster live or something like this, do you think this will be better???
I use song with midi track (already recorded) and I record the guitar and the voice with a MIC and then into an tasca04 mixer, then the LINE IN of the PC.
Another questions: I used sfz’s soundfont for MIDI tracks and it works good, but if a midi track has for example too much reverber recorded how can I lower it using sfz?
Sorry for my bad english
thank you all

It’s possible to make excellent recordings with the humble Soundblaster Live, so I don’t expect that is your problem (at least, not yet).

I suggest that you post some links to your tunes and let us hear them. That way folks can make suggestions on how to make them better.

Is the Tascam you refer to a tape based 4-Track?

It’s hard to be specific without hearing your tracks.



you’re very kind, I’ll post here tomorrow a song of red hot chili peppers (please don’t laugh…:smiley: ) where I sing and play guitar, and another song with just guitar played in fingerpicking style… I hope this will help to understand the problem.
about my tascam: yes Mark, it’s a based 4-tracks named porta04studio
thank you su much


yes Mark, it’s a based 4-tracks named porta04studio

The reason I asked is because back in the 90’s I started out on a tape based 4-track and it did seem easier (amongst all the hiss and signal degradation) to get a simple mix running.

Perhaps it was because I was less fussy, less aware, or perhaps I tried harder with the 4 tracks that I had, or perhaps the “sound” of the tape helped. Or maybe I’m looking back through “tape-tinted” glasses and the mixes were no better then. If I can find them, I’ll dig out some of those mixes and have a listen!

In the meantime, can you please list your equipment.


Even with just a soundlaster, you should be stunned by how much better mixes sound with n-Track than a cassette-based deck. With one big exception: recording hot to tape imparts a warm-toned saturation. But you say “muddy”, which is the opposite of the problem tape recordists find when they switch to digital, they generally complain of “sterility” or “coldness”, not mud.

Are you comparing old and new mixes fairly, meaning, using the same playback gear? Perhaps what you’re using to monitor isn’t as good sounding as what you used before.

As Mark says, we can get a lot clearer idea after you post some clips.

ok, tomorrow you’ll listen different song…old songs recorded years ago with tascam04 and new songs with n-track.
my equipment is a PC Pentium II 350 (I now it’s old but works great) with 512 RAM, sound blaster (I’m not sure wich one is but I think a normal soundblaster).
thank you very much

Oh, important question! Are you using the soundcard’s mike input, or its line inputs (with an outboard mike preamp or mixer)?

Mike preamps in built-in soundcards are crap and will definitely generate mud. It’s the line inputs that can serve quite well, until you’re making very good recordings and want to improve your results from “good” to “clear, open, and detailed”. When in addition to impressing the general public, you also want to impress the audiophiles. (24-bit soundcards also make the recording process a lot easier, since you don’t have to sweat peak record level nearly as much.)

Good point Jeff but he does say he’s using the Line in in his first post - using his old Tascam 4-track as a preamp/mixer. Not ideal but I certainly started with worse and got OK results.

Ah yes … perhaps that’s why I didn’t mention it the first time! (DOH!)

I’m here again, this time with some songs… just to show you what I mean, …well I as I said it before…don’t laugh too much about them :D

The first “europa” was recorded years ago just with midi files and a guitar into the tascam04, just tape mixdown, no digital or pc mixdown.
with the second “roadtrippin” I used a midifile with soundfonts and sfz, and guitar acoustic and voice (recorded with n-track obviously)
the third it’s a acoustic guitar song recorded with n-track and with reverb and compress effects.
Good listen :slight_smile: let me know if you listen the problem of this topic.
road trippin
studio 5

Well I’ve had a quick listen on small headphones at work and my first impression is that you are perhaps being too harsh on yourself. Very nice playing on Studio 5 and overall not too bad a sound.

Your n-track recordings sound quite “mono” to me though. Perhaps some stereo reverb and set the track to “convert to stereo”.

Perhaps that is why you think they don’t sound as good. ?

Also I’m not sure that you are comparing “like for like” - a “very midi” track with an acoustic guitar track is an unfair comparison. I’m not listening on speakers but I think your guitar recording isn’t too bad.

When I get home I’ll listen again. I’m sure just some compression and reverb/delay will make “OK” tracks" sound “polished”.

Anyone else?



Mark, thanks for you listening, maybe you’re right, I pretend too much or maybe I am too hursh on myself. For the mono sound: well I record the guitar mono but the final mixdown of the song it’s stereo, in fact I see two line of volume on the lineup of the wave file. Of course I don’t want to compare midi tracks and the sound of a real guitar, I just say that the general song for me isn’t strong enough… If I listen for “Europa” I can hear the bass that …“pump”(I’m not sure about the word), and the song it’s more… bright. The song with n-track is not so strong… if you understand what I mean.
So what do you suggest to improve the song, which compression and reverb do you think it’s better, I’m not too much expert with this…
have a nice day, thank you.

Here’s my 2 cents, for what it’s worth.

Liked the new recordings very much. A little too much reverb on the guitar for my taste, it also accentuates the “string squeak” a little too much. As suggested by Mark, try panning some tracks a little left and a little right. Also as suggested, in Track Properties (right click on track) click on convert to stereo.

Voxengo makes a stereo plugin that nicely fills the sound field:

Voxengo freebies

Try the Stereo Touch at different settings.

Also, what microphone are you using. This will have a huge impact on the sound you record.

Consider the the nature of the medium.

A casette 4-track automatically compresses the sound a bit and adds some saturation. The frequency range is also smaller than what is possible for digital recordings and the frequecy response is shaped so that it pleases the ear. All this results in a sound that feels louder and more robust.

To get closer to that sound, I’d begin with an analog-style compressor on the master channel in n-Track. Digitalfisphones Endorphin is a good one. For the individual tracks, Blockfish by the same developer is also a good one. There are newer plug-ins out there, but these are very nice freebies and worth a look as a starting point at least.

Also try out the multiband compressor from Fasoft. Compressing the highs, mids and lows at different rates is a powerful sound-shaping tool.

I’ve used the multiband compressor from mda on electric bass for a overdriven, compressed sound. Might not be what you are looking for, but it rocks. (Beware:It seems to only function as one instance per song)

As for EQ, n-Tracks own is OK. I use a dedicated hi-pass filter along with it, as the built-in low-pass is not steep enough for my taste.

http://www.kvraudio.com/ is a good place to find plugins.

Bye now.

All good advice so far…

Listened again in my studio, and my comments still stand; these recordings (especially “studio”) are pretty good and I think you are comparing different things.

Perhaps there is a little too much (or the wrong kind of reverb) on “Studio”, and maybe to much high end, but even with the string noise, I like it.

As for Roadtripping, I hear what you mean about the bass, but I think it is an unfair comparison with Europa which is a full midi arrangement compared to a simple arrangement in “Road”. Much of the bass sound in Europa comes from the kick drum which does not exist in Road.

Listening more closely I suggest, IMHO that the bass on “Road” is just wrong… wrong sound, wrong feel, and too high perhaps… it’s up there with the guitars in range. Try an octave lower (maybe in some places) and see how that sounds. Can you play bass? (You play guitar very sell). That might be a better approach.

I’m not familar with the song (“Road”), is this a cover?

But this stuff is actually pretty good raw material… just needs polishing.

as ever, $0.02.


I agree that Road is a very mono mix. It may be a stereo mixdown file but there’s no image there, and that causes it to sound a lot less open and clear than it should. (However, it’s a very good idea to do a lot of mixing in mono and make your mixes sound good in mono – but that’s another issue.)

Yes, it’s a stereo file, and there is a difference between left and right, but the image is very narrow and the stereo is subtle to the point of being lost.

In particular, string parts should be stereo. Rather than playing chords, play each voice in a different track and pan each track differently after rendering to wave. In addition, put n-track Reverb in an aux track, set it to Ambience 2, and feed from each string track into that aux bus, to taste. The idea here is not to add reverb to the strings as much as to put them in a room.

Feed some of the guitar into the same aux bus. (Using a stereo FX in an aux bus, you don’t have to click “expand mono track to stereo”. You do have to click that to get a stereo effect for plugins on a mono track. Clicking it doesn’t actually cause any effect, it just allows stereo effects to work in stereo on that track.)

If you get too much tails on the reverb, try increasing the “damping” control on n-Track Reverb. We’re using it for the early reflections, not the tails. Early reflections are a principal stereo imaging cue – use them wisely!

I agree that there’s too much reverb or slap-back echo (or is that double-tracking in some spots?) In tracks like this, reverb is very useful for stereo imaging (which you haven’t taken advantage of), but much in the way of tails should be avoided. I can hear a fair amount of the room you recorded it in, and it sounds like a good room so you don’t need much reverb tails. This is a great track and with better stereo imaging it’ll pop out beautifully. Try the same trick as above: Ambience 2 setting, and adjust from there. Learn to use the controls that affect setting right versus left versus both at the same time. Pay attention: it’s a little tricky at first, but simple once you get the hang of it. Notice that the difference between right and left is just room size. Try adjusting other things like early reflections (differently in left and right) and increasing damping (on both) to see what you get. I believe you can get better results using SIR reverb for this purpose, but n-Track reverb is best for learning. (Using SIR involves finding and testing lots of impulse files: it’s not configurable, you just plug in different impulse files that cause it to imitate different real rooms.)

You have a great start here and I think you just need to learn how to use the new toolkit. You’re doing a good job of composing, performing, recording, and arranging, and those are by far the most important things. I bet you’ll be doing very tasty mixes in no time. Your ear is good enough that you can tell something’s wrong here, and all you need is to learn a few techniques. I agree with Mark that the problem isn’t really tape vs. digital, and right now you’re just comparing apples and oranges. No worries, you’ll learn!

Finally: I’d love to play some Hammond on Europa! (Actually, I use Native Instrumets B4 VST.) If you’re at all interested in doing any music collaboration over the internet sign up at artistcollaboration.com. Send a private message to “Sully” and politely ask for free FTP space for posting tracks. Feel free to tell him I sent you! Don’t expect an immediate response, that site is just a hobby for Sully and he’s a busy guy. Meanwhile, introduce yourself in the “front door” and point to these tracks as examples. I’m sure someone would be happy to redo the bass track, and I’ll gladly do the Hammond (and I may not be the only one to give that a try). We’ll be happy to walk you through the paces of internet collab, which is really pretty easy.

Note: The answer here isn’t just to slap on some plugins. That may be how some suggestions above sound, but it’s not what they really mean.

You need to focus on stereo imaging and learn some techniques. Try the suggested plugins and experiment and see what they do, but mostly, think about the soundstage you’re creating, the image your making, and investigate to see what kinds of tools do the job for you. The n-Track Reverb, in Ambience 2 setting, is just about the easiest “plug and go” solution to giving a stereo image to a mono track, but it’s by no means the only or best or anything like that. I recommend it as the first tool to try, and I use it more than most others, but it’s just a tool in the box. (One of its advantages is that it doesn’t cause phase problems, which is something you’ll learn about if you dig very deeply into stereo imaging.)

After giving a few things a try, come on back and ask about more stereo imaging techniques in a new thread. There’s a nearly endless supply! It might be a good thread to save the info for posterity on our new Wiki site.

my friends, thanks for your collaboration and the detailed answers, I’ll need time to read with calm at home all that you’ve wrote, and above all to translate it :)
For now I just can say that yesterday I’ve make experiment with the road trippin song, first of all I’ve converted all the mono tracks (guitars and voicees) to stereo, but when I made the mixdown file (mixdown with playing because there are MIDI tracks together)… at the end of the mixdown the song crash… (delayed stings and so on); I think it’s a CPU problem but if I leave the tracks to mono I think it works.
Now my question is: If I work with guitar and voice mono track and then I mixdown all the tracks to a single file stereo wav, there are difference or I have to convert immediately the tracks to stereo and then make the mixdown file?
Second question is: I use MIDI tracks (already done, not by myself), and sfz with soundfonts on these tracks… if on these tracks there are effects such reverb how can I eliminate or lower these effects?
Mark, road trippin it’s a song of red hot chili peppers, not mine surely, unfortunately :)
Learjeff thank you for the many suggestions, as you can imagine I not very practic with effects,reverb,compression and so on; I don’t like particularly reverb effects on guitar but I try every time to give more power to the sound and I’m not sure wich effect to apply…
I don’t want to spend to much time to find the right effect, just to improve a little bit the sound of the acoustic guitar and the voice… so which effects do you think are better for acoustic guitar and voice…? compression delay and reverb? It’s not so easy… I know.
Learjeff, thank you for the invitation to join to artist collaboration but I am an “absolute beginner”… I just play the guitar for hobby and now I spend time to learn the fingerpicking style… I can not play bass or keyboards :slight_smile:
Now I print all yours suggestions and I try to experiment a little bit :slight_smile:
you’re very kind, thank for your patience.
keep in touch, I let you know about the next steps.
have a nice day


For now I just can say that yesterday I’ve make experiment with the road trippin song, first of all I’ve converted all the mono tracks (guitars and voicees) to stereo, but when I made the mixdown file (mixdown with playing because there are MIDI tracks together)… at the end of the mixdown the song crash… (delayed stings and so on); I think it’s a CPU problem but if I leave the tracks to mono I think it works.
Now my question is: If I work with guitar and voice mono track and then I mixdown all the tracks to a single file stereo wav, there are difference or I have to convert immediately the tracks to stereo and then make the mixdown file?
Second question is: I use MIDI tracks (already done, not by myself), and sfz with soundfonts on these tracks… if on these tracks there are effects such reverb how can I eliminate or lower these effects?

When mixing you have to create the stereo by panning mono sources left and right as the artist is you sees the song.

In a simple arrangement - say with only one guitar and voice, you can use various “tricks” to make the song stereo…

Maybe record the guitar part twice - pan one left and one right…

or maybe add a delay or reverb pan pan the “dry” signal left and the delay right…

Or send the mono signal to a stereo effect (chorus, delay, reverb). When you do this, you get a better result if you use the “Expand mono track to stereo” in the “Wave file properties” for the track… I think we confused you by talking about “converting to stereo”. There is no need to convert the raw Wave file from mono to stereo.

To make your bass track sound “tighter” you may need to compress it.