Help!!!: cymbal distortion when mixing/mastering

n8dogstrum6

Member
Messages
213
I'm recorded our band and mixed and mastered all the tracks myself. I can't, for the life of me, figure out why there is such a difference in speakers. I listened mixed and mastered our tracks using studio monitors. Tracks sound fine there. I listened to the mastered tracks through the studio monitors, computer speakers, 3 different types of headphones, and our PA system. Tracks sound completely fine.

However, when I get in the car and listened to the tracks there, you can hear the each crash cymbal hit distort. Only the crash cymbals. I went back to the mixing phase and lowered the volume and decreased the compressor. I still heard it. Went over the mastering side and eq'd the high end and adjusted the high band on the multipressor. I still heard it. What am I doing wrong that the cymbals only distort in the car? I've adjusted the stereo spread on the tracks. Haven't tried with it off yet, but I'm afraid that it does take away something from the tracks when I listened to it without on the studio monitors.

I like to note that when I listened to the radio, CD, or spotify, none of the crash cymbals from those tracks distort.

Has anyone experienced this before? How did you resolve it? Or if you haven't had this experience, but have some suggestions, please share. I'm going crazy over this.....
 

Rex Anderson

Member
Messages
5,314
Are you listening to a CD in the car?

When you master your CD's, don't go to 0 dB full scale. Set the limiter to peak at -0.2 (2 tenths of a dB lower than 0).

Some bad D/A converters in CD players clip if you hit 0.
 

thewestwon

Member
Messages
552
Being that they're car speakers, are you sure they aren't blown (surrounds torn). I know it may sound dumb, but in my younger days I was all into putting stereos in my crappy cars and on multiple occasions had door and dash speakers that sounded fine most of the time but had like 2 frequencies that would be distorted because the surrounds were torn and vibrating against each other.
 

n8dogstrum6

Member
Messages
213
Are you listening to a CD in the car?

When you master your CD's, don't go to 0 dB full scale. Set the limiter to peak at -0.2 (2 tenths of a dB lower than 0).

Some bad D/A converters in CD players clip if you hit 0.

No. Mp3 format and I played the tracks on my iPhone. I even plugged my laptop in the car aux to make sure I'm not crazy.



Being that they're car speakers, are you sure they aren't blown (surrounds torn). I know it may sound dumb, but in my younger days I was all into putting stereos in my crappy cars and on multiple occasions had door and dash speakers that sounded fine most of the time but had like 2 frequencies that would be distorted because the surrounds were torn and vibrating against each other.

Unfortunately no. Stock speakers. Good ones too. Jbl with a stock sub in the trunk.
 

Flogger59

Member
Messages
12,065
How hot did you record the cymbal ( or overhead) mics? High frequency content tends not to move the meters as much as bass content does. It may be that your track is overloaded.
 

The Funk

Member
Messages
4,608
This is the "mastered for Itunes" problem.

Converting to MP3 can add a couple of DB to the levels. This can make transients peak when they weren't peaking on the mastered version.

Take the mastered version, and bring it down a couple of DB (like put it in you DAW and bring down the volume, then export.

Convert to mp3 from the quieter file, and it should be fine.
 

GibEpi89

Member
Messages
570
i see you are listening in the car with your iphone..

When playing the song check your volume on your phone.. my car likes -3 notches down from full volume. If the volume of your phone is up all the way, you will hear that nasty distortion.

maybe that?
 

Rex Anderson

Member
Messages
5,314
Yeah, the analog output off iPhones, iPods etc is pretty crappy.

mp3's are pretty crappy. Burn a CD and see how it sounds. Create mp3's that are 320kbps.

And, TheFunk had a good point.
 

n8dogstrum6

Member
Messages
213
OK SO!!!...... I've narrowed down the problem. wrong sends.... Vox was going to drums send, drums going to vox send. Cymbals sound good. Whoops.

HOWEVER!!!! Now the box is distorting. So I thought, just remix the vox. I did and I still hear it distort in the mastering product. So I listened to each individual vox track and isolated where the hum is actually coming from. Vocal condenser mic. yep....in all the vocals. In the recording session, if I turn the volume up all the way, I can hear a little rustling. I guess the mastering really brings that out. It's still the same issue. Only hear it in the car stereo at normal levels. But I can also hear it in all the speakers if I crank them (before the speakers itself starts distorting everything). It does, however, gets "lighter" when I turn box down, but then it sounds like I just have a bad mix. Here's what's weird, it's only in 2 of the songs and the last song. Out of the bad 2, one is worse than the other and we recorded that song last. So that might mean the mic just broke by the end....

What should I do? We're supposed to put our ep up in local radio, iTunes, Spotify, etc. so most people will hear it in their car. Especially if the speaker system in their car is good. Average car speakers sound passable. Just bite the bullet and hope that the average ear won't notice too much? Is there any ay I can maybe EQ this out? I'm using logic x and I've tried cutting frequencies, de-essers, and lowering the volume. Has anyone experienced this and solved it in the DAW? I really don't want to re-record.
 

Multicellular

Member
Messages
8,262
Id start with making sure the peaks are not over -.5 ish on the mp3 version and looking to see if there are any frequencies on the vox that are strange, often really high or low, e.g. under 30hz, or excessive over 3k.
 

jmoose

Member
Messages
5,120
Aside from obvious things like blown speakers in the car and crunky connections, making sure its nothing torn up that sort of distortion... excessive treble & spitty distortion on cymbals & vocals is unfortantly, most commonly the ultimate culmination of many rookie "pilot error" bits of bad engineering and/or poor monitoring environment finally showing up.

Like, you can't hear or don't know what you've really got on the raw tracks otherwise the distortion... the sibilance on vocals would be pretty upfront and noticeable.

Its hard to pinpoint exactly where it all comes from since its typically not one sole thing... can start with microphones that are too bright/hot for the source - given vocalist or what have you. Clipping converters and/or gain staging between plugins is another source of ugly bits.

Compression & limiting with super fast attack and/or release times can bring out all kinds of wonky stuff and be another cause of distortion. For example use slower release times on bass & program material... if its too fast they'll crumble and distort. Doesn't matter if they're analog hardware or digital dynamics processing, same rules apply.

If the damage was done on the raw tracks themselves... recorded too hot, bad mic placement and so on then they can sometimes (often?) be fixed with a really good deesser first in line before any other processing.

Things like stereo width enhancers and even quite a few of those multiband limiters can do a lot more harm then good in this sort of thing... being a cause of distortion and general phase wonkyness. Generally people turn to them, not always but because something sounds "small" - but its circular. Tracks are clipped & pumping so put some life into it with this... but it only gets a bit more twisted, like a funhouse mirror.

Yes its all cumulative... If it sounds awesome from basic tracking then its going to mix itself. If the mix sounds great then mastering shouldn't be much more then level adjustment.

Its also a cumulative result the other way too... sometimes things that happened earlier in the project won't reveal themselves until later on. Could be some headphone click track leakage that escaped notice until mastering... or a bad edit that now pops after applying 10dB of brickwall digital limiting... stuff like that.


Monitoring environment can't be overlooked...

Sometimes, even often... and far too often in "pro" studios I'll encounter rooms with an overall "unbalanced" equalization. Too much trapping and it sucks all the top end, or low end out of the room and you end up with tracks that are unbalanced. The environment is telling us to make bad decisions with regards to equalization... keep in mind that microphone choice and placement is another form of EQ!

The only fix I have for that, when its happened to me is to strap an equalizer across the 2-mix and use it as either a treble bass tilt, or a surgical strike to correct some funky midrange anomaly. Problem is that I never know while in the moment and can only apply that fix once I become aware of the problem...
 

straticus

Member
Messages
3,101
So it sounds like there's something wrong with your mic and it was making a humming / rustling noise? And when you compress it the noise floor gets brought up.

Try download the RX3 demo from Izotope and see if that works for you. It should be able to clean up the existing tracks. There's not much that it can't do.
 

n8dogstrum6

Member
Messages
213
Aside from obvious things like blown speakers in the car and crunky connections, making sure its nothing torn up that sort of distortion... excessive treble & spitty distortion on cymbals & vocals is unfortantly, most commonly the ultimate culmination of many rookie "pilot error" bits of bad engineering and/or poor monitoring environment finally showing up.

Like, you can't hear or don't know what you've really got on the raw tracks otherwise the distortion... the sibilance on vocals would be pretty upfront and noticeable.

Its hard to pinpoint exactly where it all comes from since its typically not one sole thing... can start with microphones that are too bright/hot for the source - given vocalist or what have you. Clipping converters and/or gain staging between plugins is another source of ugly bits.

Compression & limiting with super fast attack and/or release times can bring out all kinds of wonky stuff and be another cause of distortion. For example use slower release times on bass & program material... if its too fast they'll crumble and distort. Doesn't matter if they're analog hardware or digital dynamics processing, same rules apply.

If the damage was done on the raw tracks themselves... recorded too hot, bad mic placement and so on then they can sometimes (often?) be fixed with a really good deesser first in line before any other processing.

Things like stereo width enhancers and even quite a few of those multiband limiters can do a lot more harm then good in this sort of thing... being a cause of distortion and general phase wonkyness. Generally people turn to them, not always but because something sounds "small" - but its circular. Tracks are clipped & pumping so put some life into it with this... but it only gets a bit more twisted, like a funhouse mirror.

Yes its all cumulative... If it sounds awesome from basic tracking then its going to mix itself. If the mix sounds great then mastering shouldn't be much more then level adjustment.

Its also a cumulative result the other way too... sometimes things that happened earlier in the project won't reveal themselves until later on. Could be some headphone click track leakage that escaped notice until mastering... or a bad edit that now pops after applying 10dB of brickwall digital limiting... stuff like that.


Monitoring environment can't be overlooked...

Sometimes, even often... and far too often in "pro" studios I'll encounter rooms with an overall "unbalanced" equalization. Too much trapping and it sucks all the top end, or low end out of the room and you end up with tracks that are unbalanced. The environment is telling us to make bad decisions with regards to equalization... keep in mind that microphone choice and placement is another form of EQ!

The only fix I have for that, when its happened to me is to strap an equalizer across the 2-mix and use it as either a treble bass tilt, or a surgical strike to correct some funky midrange anomaly. Problem is that I never know while in the moment and can only apply that fix once I become aware of the problem...

Yeah I'm a newb. I've only recorded my band and side project stuff with my drummer through garageband until I sprung for Logic Pro X last fall. All my knowledge comes from how to's from Google search or YouTube. No formal training, unfortunately, so my product is usually the outcome of the sum of numerous trial and error scenarios.

But I plugged the mic back in, set it from low gain, medium, and hot, and I heard the noise. So I guess it was just a busted condenser mic. It was the last song that I recorded, so it would make sense that the other tracks sound okay. I only had a minor noise in the penultimate track and huge noise in the last track.

Time for a new mic....

So it sounds like there's something wrong with your mic and it was making a humming / rustling noise? And when you compress it the noise floor gets brought up.

Try download the RX3 demo from Izotope and see if that works for you. It should be able to clean up the existing tracks. There's not much that it can't do.

I'll give it a try. But I don't have too much hope. It's more a rustling/cracking noise than a hum... Will update the post.
 

n8dogstrum6

Member
Messages
213
So it sounds like there's something wrong with your mic and it was making a humming / rustling noise? And when you compress it the noise floor gets brought up.

Try download the RX3 demo from Izotope and see if that works for you. It should be able to clean up the existing tracks. There's not much that it can't do.

So I got the demo and I was shocked. It worked for the second to last song, and it actually sounds good. However, with the last song, which is the song I've been having problems with, I'm kind of at a midpoint where I am only able to take so much out before the quality becomes too compromised. It does make it sound better though. Thanks for the advice straticus! Wish I had the cash to buy the whole software and dive into it more.
 

J-west

Member
Messages
1
I know it's very late for you, N8. But, this thread is still active so I figured this could be useful to future readers ... http://www.sonicstudio.com/sonic/ice.php
That new tool allows you to target distortion and inject some technical wizardry to suppress the distortion to a comfortable level. Be careful, it's very easy to start breaking your mix (like any high detail audio tool like izotope's and stuff), but it's handy in a pinch.
 
Messages
1,984
i see you are listening in the car with your iphone..

When playing the song check your volume on your phone.. my car likes -3 notches down from full volume. If the volume of your phone is up all the way, you will hear that nasty distortion.

maybe that?

The worse the stereo, the lower the phone volume needs to be. My Mazda 3's stereo is HORRIBLE and I need to turn my phone at least 2/3rds down in order for it not to distort.

And it distorts something awful if I don't.
 




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