revised: The NEW SumTest with NLS and VCC

with industry Pro, Nick Batzdorf

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Russell Landwehr
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revised: The NEW SumTest with NLS and VCC

Post by Russell Landwehr » Fri Dec 14, 2012 8:10 am

I have a few different ways I can sum in my studio. I would like input on which sounds better.

I threw together a 1 minute song that is 4 bars looped. There are 12 stereo tracks that I set up in such a way that I would be summing 24 tracks. (I did this by reducing the stereo field on all 12 stereo tracks thereby sending some right signal to the left and some left signal to the right. I used the Flux Stereo Tool on all 12 tracks to do this.) I recorded/rendered this result in three different summing manners.

In an editor, I trimmed and normalized the 3 tracks, compiled them, and then master compressed/limited the compilation.

What I would like to know is which of the 3 versions sounds better or worse to you and why? Please ignore the composition and mix, and concentrate on over-all sound quality between the 3 versions.

Here is a link to the wav file. If you want to transport this file to a non-internet playback platform, you may right-click the link and "save-as."

http://www.sensawehr.com/wav/Summing%20Test%20v3.4a.wav

If you are a member of another forum that would be willing to help with this test, please re-post this there and provide a link in this thread so that I can follow the results.

After getting feedback on this I will post info on how I summed the tracks.

Remember, there is no right or wrong answer, just personal preference.

Thanks

Russell
Last edited by Russell Landwehr on Sat Dec 22, 2012 5:46 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: A Summing Test that needs your evaluation

Post by Russell Landwehr » Fri Dec 14, 2012 8:38 am

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Re: A Summing Test that needs your evaluation

Post by andygabrys » Fri Dec 14, 2012 9:50 am

Hi Russell,

not sure how scientific this is, perhaps it would have been better to post the unmastered files. And not sure what you are meaning about the stereo tricks you did. why not just sum 12 stereo tracks without the Flux plug?

anyways....

I like 1, 3, 2. purely on how it strikes me as an event. not commenting on the composition, or the sounds.

1 - has about the same feeling in bass and rhythm to me as the rest but I like hearing the bigger stereo spectrum. A little more depth. Sounds like the entire composition fills a soundstage front to back.

2 - feels kinda lifeless. very dull on top (synths, drums don't necessarily sound dull). Synths sound really back, drums really upfront. Doesn't sound like a mix that is "glued" IMO.

3 - midway between 1 and 2 but closer to 2.

So these are three of the exact same mixes right? They are so disparate......its hard to discern what you are wanting to hear quality wise.



do tell......

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Re: A Summing Test that needs your evaluation

Post by TechNoiZ » Fri Dec 14, 2012 10:40 am

Hi Russell,

Definitely 1,3,2, as Andy says above. 1 has more clarity, depth and presence in all parts, which is a lot easier to attentuate than add.

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Re: A Summing Test that needs your evaluation

Post by eeoo » Fri Dec 14, 2012 2:04 pm

Listening in headphones straight into my laptop i found #1 to be loud and fatiguing. #3 was the most pleasant. #2 perhaps a bit muddy. I'm with Andy though, why mess with the stereo spread (especially with a plug-in) and normalize and limit?

eo

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Re: A Summing Test that needs your evaluation

Post by andygabrys » Fri Dec 14, 2012 3:02 pm

eeoo wrote:Listening in headphones straight into my laptop i found #1 to be loud and fatiguing. #3 was the most pleasant. #2 perhaps a bit muddy.
I listened through my studio monitors. maybe that points to something with my usual listening environment too! :)

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Re: A Summing Test that needs your evaluation

Post by Russell Landwehr » Fri Dec 14, 2012 4:52 pm

eeoo wrote: why mess with the stereo spread (especially with a plug-in) and normalize and limit?

eo
The experiment is about summing, so I narrowed the stereo spread to force more summing. This way I get 24 summed channels instead of 2 sets of 12 summed channels. (oh crap! I just realized that since I narrowed pre-sum I still got 2 sets of 12 summed channels... oh well) I did normalizing and compressing/limiting to try to get the three examples closer in apparent "loudness" so that the focus could be on the result of the summing and not on the wow factor of RMS.
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Re: A Summing Test that needs your evaluation

Post by andygabrys » Fri Dec 14, 2012 5:05 pm

Kinda lost in that. Draw a picture? What are the three ways of summing. All in the box?

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Re: A Summing Test that needs your evaluation

Post by Russell Landwehr » Fri Dec 14, 2012 5:19 pm

After doing these summing tests, I couldn't find any differences beyond what can be explained by the signal path that I will detail below.

My experiment was inspired by the difference between digital summing and analog summing.I wondered if all of my digital summing paths would produce the same result or if any would create something "better" sounding like analog summing will do.

The twelve tracks are:
1-Kick 1
2-Kick 2
3-Snare 1
4-Snare 2
5-HH
6-Bass 1
7-Bass 2
8-Electric Piano
9-Sampled string section
10-Synth
11-Reverb FX for drums
12-Reverb FX for instruments as needed.

I used Ableton as the Primary DAW.

Example 1 was summed in Ableton.

Example 2 was summed externally in a separate machine running Software Audio Console (SAC). Both machines using MOTU interfaces.
signal path=
stereo tracks 1-8 = Ableton MOTU optical out to SAC MOTU optical in
stereo tracks 9-12 = Ableton MOTU analog out to SAC MOTU analog in
summed stereo track = SAC MOTU optical out to Ableton MOTU optical in.

Example 3 was summed externally using the CueMix function of the second MOTU interface with the same signal path as Example 2 (except summing was done by the MOTU Cue Mix DSP chip instead of software on the PC.)

The tracks on analog ( 9-12 ) were probably slightly under 0.25 db less hot than the In-The-Box summing. As my calibration would not go any finer than 0.25 db. This would explain why the synth sounds seemed further back in the mix on 2 and 3. Also since tracks 8-12 were in the analog realm and also probably delayed by a couple milliseconds. (the MOTU optical is sample accurate) example 1 would seem brighter. (and possibly more fatiguing?) (I also thought tracks 3 and 2 were easier to listen to)

My conclusion (after listening to them and reading what you guys had to say) is that summing outside the box in another digital realm didn't improve the tracks enough beyond what could be done with normal EQing inside the box. So I will keep it simple and just sum in the box until I can afford $2k for an analog summing box.


Thanks for the ears.

Russell
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Re: A Summing Test that needs your evaluation

Post by cardell » Fri Dec 14, 2012 6:26 pm

They all sound kinda harsh/digital to me man, sorry. However, I liked them in this order: 2,3,1.
Russell Landwehr wrote:So I will keep it simple and just sum in the box until I can afford $2k for an analog summing box.
I'd enjoy having a go at mixing (then summing) these through Waves NLS (Non-Linear Summing) (it's only around $250).
If your interested in one more test, just PM me. :)

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