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Different results after applying the same FX chain

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Different results after applying the same FX chain

Post: # 403Post MarcoM
Mon Dec 17, 2018 9:53 am

Hi everyone,
As you know Dana I just started reading a book for an organization here in Italy that provides audiobooks for blind and partially sighted people.
As you might remember they are very keen on quality and they ask for a very solid consistency throughout chapters (as it is supposed to be) and a very good sound quality.
Average RMS loudness for them should be around -18db and true peaks under -1dB.
I just wanted to share my workflow with you and all the forum because a strange stuff happened to me.
I recorded a couple of tracks in the same environment, in two different days naturally, but the results in one of the two tracks seems “overprocessed”, even if I applied the exact same FX chain.
Sound of my voice seems “metallic”, more rumbling. That’s what their engineer told me. And in fact, listening again to the two different tracks, the second one seems different and more metallic.
I cannot understand what might have happened.
My chain is very simple:
1) Light, smooth gate in order to get rid of any sort or background noise.
2) A very transparent compression (2:1 / 3:1 ratio, 3/5ms attack, around 250ms release, playing with threshold in order to process just the most evident peaks)
3) Then I process the recording with a plugin in Adobe Audition that renders the file at-18LUFS and applies a true peak limit of (in my case) -1,4dB.

What’s wrong with my chain? What might have happened?
Is it possible I wrongly applied a double compression effect, without remembering that?

Thank you all.

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Post: # 405Post Dana
Tue Dec 18, 2018 5:54 am

I do not have any experience using Adobe Addition so I will use my experience with Reaper to talk about your workflow. The first thing I want to point out is when you record speech, it is in a field of its own. What I mean by that is, there is nothing to help mask any background noise. In music for example, when a singer may pause for a few seconds, you have the sound of the instruments that will always be louder then any noise floor that may be present. If you are going to use compression, then you must make sure that you are recording in a extremely quite environment.

When I record in Reaper and I know there will be several recording secession's, I make sure that my mic is in the proper place compared to where it was the last time I recorded for the same book. Being off by one or two inches will have a huge impact on each recording. This is what Sweetwater states:
It doesn’t matter how great your microphone is, if you don’t use it properly, then your results will fall short of your expectations. Here at Sweetwater, we’ve used just about every mic on the planet in multiple applications. Through trial and error (and a bit of good old-fashioned know-how), we’ve learned what works and what doesn’t. Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your mics. You can read the full article here.

I make sure that my input level is as close to a -18dbs as I can get. You need to understand that it is very hard to use compression and keep your compressor settings consistent. When you use compression for a song, it is just one recording you are working with. When you do a audio book, you could be dealing with 5 to 20 chapters which means you will have 5 to 20 different recordings. The key to consistency is to use plugins that will give you the same result every time they are used, without changing their settings to much.

My plugin chain goes something like this and once I set them, they will remain the same till I am finished with the entire book except for the volume adjustment plugin. The volume may need to be adjusted slightly, but the limiter will never change. Once I record the chapter, I will bring it up to the proper level using a "volume adjustment with a built in limiter", on the master channel. Then I will place a EQ plugin on the track set to a 80HZ High Pass Filter. Then I will go to the head of the file and capture a noise profile and place the Reafir Noise Reduction plugin under the EQ plugin.

At this time I will go back to the master track and place a gate set to a -40dbs. That it. That is all I do. I do not use compression as it has to be set differently for each recording. I do not try and EQ my voice as it is not needed. When you feel the need to EQ your voice, it is probably due to how you think your voice needs to sound. That is incorrect. Honestly, 9 times out of 10, people will EQ their voice to try and remove room effects, as they did not record in a proper environment to begin with.

If you use a noise reduction tool due to recording in a noisy environment, then it will make your audio sound metallic. The same effect will happen if you apply to much of it as well. Now, when you use a compressor, it will amplify all the problems you may have in your audio to begin with. That is what compressors do. It does not matter what ratio you use, as anything past the 1:1 ration, will bring up the softer sounds while compressing the peaks of your audio. So, did you use any plugin to remove any background noise? If so, start there. If not, try leaving the compression alone. Let me know if you try this.
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