OT-ish - Could You Sound-Check This Music Track?

Soniclight wrote on 3/22/2012, 5:14 AM
I'm in the latter phases of creating one of my new artsy videos and more or less have the music that runs through it -- essentially four pieces or movements from older compositions of mine.

I am asking for your help to listen to this 8:18 min. MP3 for I cannot afford to get my table-top professional near-field mixing speakers fixed. Without good speakers, it can be tricky to get the final mix-down to sound as it should for others to hear as intended.

But in the end, it is the listener and their devices that are the best form of sound-check. The page I created comes down to two questions for you to answer if you decide to do this. This page is temporary as is this test, so please consider doing this within a week or two from the date of this post (March 21, 2012). The page link may no longer be valid after that time.

As happens, I feel I've gotten too close to the work and am getting tunnel vision on all of its faults, etc.

Please Note:

Since many of you are pros, you may have high-end devices, computers and sound systems. So think general consumer and use non high-end platforms for the video will be online at a page at my site and perhaps elsewhere, YouTube, etc..

“So, what kind of music is this?”

Instrumental old-school Vangelis/Pink-Floyd genre.
Melodic, slow-groove, kinda sorta film soundtrack-ish in places.

Not your cup of music?
No problem, just ignore this request.

But if you have the time, it would be appreciated. I'm not asking you if you like the music per se -- music is a very personal matter.
This is essentially a sound-check, not a music review request :)



farss wrote on 3/22/2012, 8:11 AM
On my very run of the mill office PC speakers:

The cymbals had too much presences which pushed them to the front of the mix which of course in turn pushed everything else back. Less presence and more air in the cymbals might improve that.

Beyind that as it's intended to go with vision it's hard to say anything else until we see how it works with the vision. I did feel overall it didn't go anywhere though. It perhaps could have used some bottom end to add a bit of drama as appropriate, depends on the vision of course.

Jay Gladwell wrote on 3/22/2012, 9:16 AM

Perhaps I listened to a different track than Bob. I didn't hear any cymbals (oh my!).

DISCLAIMER: Audio is not my area of expertise.

Generally speaking, it sounded a bit too "hot" for me. When the track is put on the timeline and enlarged, you'll see some clipping throughout. It is my understanding that 0 in digital audio is not the same as 0 in analog audio. It was suggested to me to have the sound peak at around -2 or -3 dB, maybe more (or less?).

You might want to try this. Best of luck with your project!

Opampman wrote on 3/22/2012, 9:37 AM
Agree with Jay that there are places that are a little too hot such as the peaks at 02:09.008 and 02:09.009. These both show flattened wavetops and it is noticable when you listen regardless of what type speaker system is used. Overall, I found it very full, lot of depth, and a really good recording but the clipping detracted from an otherwise techinally outstanding mix.

larry-peter wrote on 3/22/2012, 2:44 PM
A very nice track, for that style of music. Other than the clipped peaks mentioned earlier, the bass - either the sound used itself or compression applied makes a very rich bass track sound squashed. I felt it on the desktop speakers, and when I listened in the control room it was very obvious. With such a nice bass I'd like to hear a bit more dynamics or at least a bit of "bloom" on the longer notes. You've handled the 400Hz region, where a lot of mud tends to build up, perhaps a bit too well. You might want to bring just a tiny bit of low mid back. There's a lot happening in the 1K range too, but you did a very nice job of separating the individual instrument sounds.
I like it overall, and if you did a "blind" mix on this as you described, you either know your speakers well or have very good instincts.
Soniclight wrote on 3/22/2012, 3:59 PM
Thanks to ALL for feedback.

Part of the clipping problem in places is that the original multitrack Cubase files which are the core musical engine of the music iare one sense unusable due to problems with upgrade and other stuff. In short, I used older (as in 2002 or so) single stereo mixdown .wav files for the bulk of it. It had been created in Cubase SX-1, then I upgraded to SX-3, now I have Cubase 6.

I tried to fine-tune those .wav mixdowns a bit with EQ -- did try to fix or boost the base, bring down the highs in Vegas first and had some small improvement. But once in Cubase, I tried a bit more fine-tuning and it sounded like crapiola when I played it on my basic MP3 player (cheap Coby -- but other stuff, i.e. purchased songs on it sounds decent). Sonic mud. Which is why I freaked a bit and so muted all EQs on those core .wav files. Compression attempts didn't help either - lost richness.

The draft output wave was normalized before I created the .mp3 you heard and since the loudest parts are the finale, that is its top baseline. Fortunately I can still tweak that part (last 4 long bars) for there is a couple of layers of additional arrangement (horns, keyboard). And I'm not satisfied with the melody overlay there yet on the last two bars of it..

But as most of you pointed out, it is the clipping that mars this the most in places.
And so...

Any suggestions on how or if I could fix the clipped parts -- or at least remove the "scratch" or distortion from it without some other frequency band dropping out too much?
paul_w wrote on 3/22/2012, 4:22 PM
I remember upgrading from SX1 to SX5, and i too had problems with audio levels being different. I'm not sure why but the import conversion messed with the track and main out levels. Later, when i re-mixed some work, i had to manually re-mix the tracks by selecting all tracks - then just bring the whole lot down to a proper level. You get the same problem if you pull SX projects into Nuendo apparently. Too hot after import.
So i would be checking track levels and ultimately the main out level for proper adjustment. Hope that helps.

EDIT: nevermind, just read again and you are using export WAVS from the older version not the project files. Disregard.

Opampman wrote on 3/22/2012, 6:14 PM
The clipping is pretty much cleaned up going through Enchanced Audio's forensic de-clipper after first reducing the level a few dB's. If you'd like to email me through the forum I can attach a small snip to see what you think.

Soniclight wrote on 3/22/2012, 10:50 PM
Thanks for further feedback.


Yes, I took the easy way out by using the then-created .wav files for I don't want to spend too much time on the music for the video parts are challenging enough. Part of the upgrade problem was that older basics such as reverb and delays, etc. got nixed due to new-fangled versions in v.6. = many tracks with "!!!! Missing plugin..." and the like. Too much of a hassle, let old projects R.I.P so I'm trying to make the best of the wav files.

As those who know me here, this video-making is a serious hobby of mine, not a career or business and I'm no pro -- just some self-taught guy; but it's still hard not to obsess about stuff the general viewer or listener wouldn't and doesn't notice.

By the way, since you have Cubase 5, I'd like to ask you a question about routing -- I can't seem to make my Group tracks work (no channel activity when tracks are routed to them, i.e. Guitar 1 and 2 > GUITAR (Group) > Out -- which is on part of the problem in this overall mix. I've put a the conundrum question at Cubase.Net official forum, no-one has answered in days.

So I have to do all this stuff in each track and then "lasso" all events concerned and bring them up or down. Not the most efficient way to go.

Let me know If you could perhaps help me with this.
Never had a problem in older versions of Cubase :(


I appreciate the offer and may follow up on it if I run into a wall with this (send you the final mix wav or just portion that needs some surgery. On the other hand, I'd like to be able to do that myself -- I Googled Enhanced Audio and sounds like great stuff, but I can't afford it. Is there anything in Cubase or some freeware prog or plugin that I could use to do what you did?

By the way, I didn't find anything too off at the timecode you specified, but there are are a couple of others that are way off (crackly) that I'd like to fix. I've tried in both Vegas and Cubase to noodle with EQ, including 30-band; all I end up doing is dumbing down the overall presence. So hopefully I can find something like what you used.

However, worst case scenario, I can send you the whole soundtrack or just the screwed up parts, let you do your couple of minutes of sonic surgery and then I can edit them into Cubase.
craftech wrote on 3/23/2012, 7:45 AM
In addition to the suggestions already made there is a more fundamental issue for me. I am guessing that the track has lost some dynamics because it is an mp3, but moreover it sounds too synthesized for what I was expecting.

The track definitely has a Pink Floyd sound to it. So I was expecting to hear something resembling intricately assembled multitrack recordings. And of course the synthesizers were in addition to the conventional instruments not instead of them.
The Big Muff "Ram's Head" and analog chorus/flanger "Electric Mistress" on David Gilmour's guitar created a lot of the sound associated with that type of music

Is mp3 your only choice?

EDIT: The first link doesn't work because the word M_U_F_F triggered the SCS censorship filters on both the word itself and the word in the URL.

Opampman wrote on 3/23/2012, 9:05 AM
Philip - FYI, for this kind of thing you can get by with the $159 version of DC Eight and don't need the whole forsensic package. I'm pretty sure the declippers are the same in both versions.

Soniclight wrote on 3/23/2012, 2:10 PM

Sorry to seemingly disappoint you, but I didn't say it was of Pink Floyd class but genre. Gilmour has a very specific and expensive guitar set up. I did this all the old fashioned way -- all instruments played by me on an old 1993 Korg Trinity and most drum tracks tweaked in MIDI.

Production facilities and budget? One-bedroom apartment and a fixed Social Security disability income with about a USD $400-$1000 total net worth and a monthly income of about $850.** I rarely have time to do either music or video for my condition is a daily challenge.

And as alluded to, most of the stuff in this thing is old stuff done 10 years ago when I was less experienced and just started on playing on a keyboard; used to play on 6 and 12-string guitar, write songs, sing (kinda sorta Gilmour-ish :) -- but it never went anywhere due life, so to speak.

So yes, it's all "fake" in that it's all done with one old keyboard and one piece of software.
And I'm far from satisfied with either the guitar sound and a lot of other things.
I just do the best I can with what I got in both time and equipment..

In short, as I've said so over the years, I have no pretenses or ambitions to be a "pro" be it in video or music.
It's simply a serious and fulfilling hobby when I can get to it.

So I come here to learn from those who know more than I do.
And you have been one of them :)

(** There may be one or two people at this board that know me best that may find my occasionally bringing these life-parameters up redundant or tedious. But I can't expect 99% of other member here to know me -- most of you are pros and hence may assume that I have either the budget or experience at your levels. Hence I feel the need to clarify at times.)


Thanks for DC referral but as I said, I can't afford it and my response to craftech kinda sorta 'splains why :) Eventually I'll find some way to either remove or mask the problem areas. Since I have yet to include the "story" background sound FX a la Pink Floyd, I may just sneak one over these areas to distract the listener - lol.
paul_w wrote on 3/23/2012, 3:23 PM
"By the way, since you have Cubase 5, I'd like to ask you a question about routing -- I can't seem to make my Group tracks work (no channel activity when tracks are routed to them"...

ha, i have been mixing for years, writing my own material as a song writer too, and produced songs in various studios for other artists over the years - and i have to admit - i never use grouping for anything! not even drums! I'm old school, never used grouping in Cubase :) i find it natural to just select tracks (like a group of tracks) and fade away... Its the digital equivalent of fingers on faders with chinagraph pencil marks and adjust carefully :)
However saying that - i am aware Cubase (and just about any other DAW these days) does allow group channels. I just never needed to use them. But its there. If you want to do this, it must be in the manual.. its gotta be. Sorry i cant help!

Soniclight wrote on 3/23/2012, 4:32 PM
craftech - You wrote, "Is mp3 your only choice?"

Perhaps my ignorance, but I thought it was. I export from Cubase at the highest bit rate it allows -- 320 kBit. Now, once I finish the video, I'll most likely be using Handbrake to do an mp4 to find the best balance between viewer load and image/sound quality, and as far as I know, mp3 is the only standard, all-platform choice. Correct me if I'm wrong.
larry-peter wrote on 3/23/2012, 6:20 PM
Soniclight, I completely understand your predicament re expensive plugins. I do this for a living and still struggle with that part of it. You've got a piece of music there that you can be proud of. Izotope RX has a decent clip repair process, and if at some point you would like to post a link to your original .wav mix, I'll be happy to run it through RX and see if I can improve the clipped peaks. I'll keep an eye on this thread for a while, but the offer is there.

Soniclight wrote on 3/23/2012, 8:16 PM

Thanks for your offer. I'll definitely keep it in mind if/when. It'll give me a fallback position in case I just can't seem to do it myself. So far, nothing I've tried in Cubase has worked without there being hit on overall texture. As I said in an earlier post, I may also just "cheat" and have some of the "story" background effects that will be sprinkled through the video to distract the listener and partially mask the few boo-boo areas. Producer's prerogative - lol.

But right now I've got other stuff going on so the video project is on temporary hold.
Soniclight wrote on 3/23/2012, 10:09 PM

Pardon late reply to your posting. You wrote:

Thanks for pointing out the cymbals thing, one those forest-for-the-trees things. I labored manually on minute details such as grace-notes and subtle "human touch" stuff, including cymbal rides and so perhaps unconsciously made them a bit too forefront.

As to it all not seemingly "not going anywhere,"-- true in one sense since some of the parts are variations of the same verse with melodic overlay differences. I don't have any climaxes/coda that stand out in this potpourri. What parts do have such pay-off don't fit into the video segment or "map".

Ideally, I should scrap everything and just score it from scratch -- I have some decent older work of which I only have a digitized .wav from a cassette recording that is more standard structure including bridge and finale or coda.

It's just a huge amount of work since I play every instrument myself and I'm rather rusty. Composing music is in great part an emotional thing and can't be forced -- and I'm not a pro or studio musician, never have been.

So, yes, there are limitations to this patchwork. I just have to gauge whether this particular video is really worth all that. Though again, perhaps forcing myself to get back into full composition and arrangement would be good. I haven't really done any for years -- I've been in essence recycling stuff using only a few bars, not full compositions, hence no "crescendo" or "going somewhere"-ness so to speak.

My first job is my state of mind and health (what can I really handle and commit to).
If up to it, I do it. If not, not.

(Now all that said to put things into perspective, considering my brain just can't handle reading or writing music and that all I had was some fairly decent rhythm guitar, songwriting and passable vocal abilities in my 20s and 30s, the discovery that I could play, compose and arrange all these instruments on this one musistation/synth (old Korg Trinity) still sort of amazes me. I still have those "
craftech wrote on 3/23/2012, 10:55 PM
craftech - You wrote, "Is mp3 your only choice?"
Try this:

Leave it as wav audio and let Flash handle the MP3 compression instead of doing it before importing the sound into Flash.

Soniclight wrote on 3/24/2012, 1:34 AM

"Leave it as wav audio and let Flash handle the MP3 compression instead of doing it before importing the sound into Flash."

I feel like my brain and/or memory is a bit like Swiss Cheese these days.. indeed, totally spot-on.
That said, doesn't Handbrake then turn the wav into a mp3 or derivative thereof embedded into the mp4 file?
paul_w wrote on 3/24/2012, 8:01 AM
I felt i didnt really help enough with my last post, it bugged me a bit so here is some more info which i hope helps further .

If you wanted to use the legacy plugins from the old SX version in a newer version, you could. As long as you have a 32 bit version of SX installed.
You can download the legacy plugins (from SX1) into any newer version. This is indeed what i have done because i like the legacy plugins so much compaired to the new ones. Get them here:

That is of course assuming you feel like re-visiting the old projects and fix at source. Which could be a lot of work.

The other point you asked me about grouping, ok i looked at this further and i managed to group tracks easily.
1. right click on the mixer panel, blank area..
2. select 'Add track'
3. select 'Group track'
4. select mono or stereo as the group type.

Then from the mixer channel of a track you wish to add to the group, at the top of the fader area, select buss to ' Group track' instead of Stereo Buss (main outs).
At this point you can then control the overall group level of all the tracks added to the group.

The other way to do it is the the way i tend to use is by linking channels (faders) so one movement of one fader changes them all. (and its tracked as actual volume not just a linear up/down).
1. select (highlight) the channels to link together using shift or crtl keys
2. right click and select 'Link Channels'


Both ways are effective for different reasons.

craftech wrote on 3/24/2012, 8:10 AM

The only tutorials that I have seen on this forum and on You Tube regarding Handbrake have dealt with improving VIDEO quality so I am not sure how the audio quality of the mp3 using that method you describe would compare.
The people who wrote the tutorials appeared to be more concerned with how to get the best video quality only.

But maybe Jerry (amendegw) would know or perhaps Nick Hope.

Soniclight wrote on 3/24/2012, 6:48 PM

Thanks for response.

On old plugins:

I have already tried to install my old ones but so far haven't succeed -- gets a bit thorny for the old Windows Applications folder is Apps now and in a somewhat different location. I may try again at some point. In the mean time, I'll go visit the ftp directory you provided and download those too.

On group tracks:

I feel bad having you take the time to respond for I finally got a response at the Steinberg forum and while it was not a direct instruction, it finally jogged my memory on how to do this -- which is one way you pointed out -- where I put the red arrow in pic below posted over there. I was looking in the wrong place (Track Controls). In this old .cpr project, the selected group track is "CITY SGTR" and the track routed to it "C-GTRg".

I've never used linked channels, but sounds like a good idea too - I may try it.

Soniclight wrote on 3/24/2012, 6:59 PM

Thanks for the response on the Handbrake and on most tutorials/info emphasizing video, not audio. True. I'll just pay close attention to the options in Handbrake when I get to that point for as I recall (correctly or incorrectly), it does give some latitude on audio quality settings for mp4.

A tad OT but since you brought up David Gimour's rigs.
Check -- the guy practically wrote a thesis on them with pedal pics, settings, etc some by song or period - lol.

The only pedals I had in the old days of my playing (mostly rhythm-not lead) guitar was Boss and DOD Chorus, Flanger, Stereo Delay -- a mere milli-micron set up compared to his. And that's not including the amps and other custom made goodies he co-engineered over the many years...

And now my, uh, rig is what's in the pic below. MSRP when released in 1993: USD $3000, I bought one second hand in 2000 or so. An 20 year old keyboard - and of course Cubase.
In short, David Gilmour I ain't.

But with some time and focus, I know I'll come up with a better sound sculpting and then play-phrasing that will at least be some respectable off-shoot of the undisputed mastery of his -- particularly the more slow-groove work. Yet still my own too.

I also have more editing and mixing capability in my single computer "studio" than Alan Parsons and PF had for Dark Side of the Moon or maybe even Wish You Were Here. But even so, I'll never be that good, but I can at least learn from them.

craftech wrote on 3/25/2012, 10:00 AM
Wow Phil,

That has to be the most incredible article I have ever read on Gilmour and his pedals. I loved the comparative clips. I couldn't decide whether I liked the Big M_U_F_F or the G-2 better. I loved them both. Talk about a person being inspired and motivated Kit Rae puts us all to shame. That was great.

I don't think anyone will duplicate what I heard live at the two Pink Floyd concerts I have attended in my lifetime. I asked one of the tech crew at the last one how long they had spent setting up the sound for the stadium. They said, "an entire week" !!
Those sounds just filled the air and sang throughout the stadium. Everything, every nuance, was crystal clear. I'll never forget it.

Thanks again for the link to that article Phil. I loved it.

Soniclight wrote on 3/25/2012, 9:18 PM

You're welcome -- I didn't know you'd get such a kick out of it - lol.
Speaking of kick and PF concerts attended...

My interest in Floyd started just around when Umma Gumma was released. I was born and raised in Europe and being about 30 miles from Montreux, Switzerland, I saw their Meddle concert there. This was way before their global success. It was a kind large auditiorium hall and I was right up front, the stage being about the same height as a school auditorium. During one of the songs, Mason's kick drum mic fell over. I gingerly reached over, set up upright (yeah, those were the real old days - lol).

When DSOTM came out, I was a kind of unofficial DJ at parties and I was a DSOTM "pusher" - proudly so. I saw that tour in 1972 in Zurich and I wasn't exactly totally, uh, sober there. Or at the Led Zepplin III tour, or the Deep Purple a couple of years earlier.

Then of course, some guy in Frank Zappa's audience lit a flare and burned the Montreux halls down. "Smoke on the Water" (Deep Purple) is of course about that.

I was going to a strict Benedictine school in Lausanne then, When the rector (head poubha of the school) heard about the burn-down, he gleefully told us at a monthly auditorium gathering that he was pleased, "I felt like Nero watching Rome burn." Actually, it wasn't Nero who is the one who did that that, but that's besides the point.

I was really into the then called "progressive rock" stuff, from Floyd, Genesis,(until it went mostly pop after Winds and Wuthering), King Crimson, the German synthesists Klaus Schulze, Tangerine Dream, etc.etc.

That kind of stuff inspired me to pick up my first guitar and so some songwriting-singing of my own at age 17 (I figured since Hendrix had done the same at the same age, I could too -lol). For the next almost 20 years, wherever I went, so went my guitar. In fact, I arrived in Los Angeles in 1984 and slept under one of the main freeway overpasses here with only two things to my name: my 12-string and my huge expedition backpack.

Ah, memory lane...
(And, man, have we gone OT here - lol -- but hey, it's good fun.)