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babiuk
Starting Member


Spain
15 Posts

Posted - 01/07/2009 :  19:41:58  Show Profile Send babiuk a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I recently bought this collection and itīs incredible, what a wonderfull sound!!
Iīm very happy with it, I still didnīt try it a lot but I applied the eqs to some files of bass and acoustic guitar and it sounded very very very nice.

Anyway Iīd like to ask you some questions about this retro analog suite, Michael, because I donīt understand it at all.


Reading your manual I can see that every preset is a chain including the main fx and tape and desk stages, and it seems to me very important in order to get a digital enviroment as close to the analog as possible.
And passing the audio several times through tape and desk it will be great, I think that you say that the audio in the analog old studios did pass even 6 times through the desk - have I understood right?

The way Iīd like to proceed is the next: Iīd like to charge nebula in cubase into channel inputs first, so the audio I record get your presets sound attached into and the tracks to mix are "ok-sounding" audio tracks. I think it is a good beginning, to begin from good analog sounding tracks. And after Iīd pass the tracks through a bus charged with your presets too, in order to avoid the cpu overload. And in the final output Iīd place another presets. How do you see that?

As I told you in the past, Iīm interested mainly in the 60s sound, so:
What chain of presets from this collection do you think it would be a good chain to get close to the 60s sound of Byrds, Phil Spector, Beach boys (well, the california 60s sound)?
And what order of the fxīs in the chain you think is the best to do it closer to this vintage analog studio behaviour?

Thanks, Michael, and congratulations again for this great web, I hope we all learn a lot with your knowledge.


Edited by - babiuk on 01/07/2009 19:43:21

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clubvst
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USA
169 Posts

Posted - 01/07/2009 :  23:15:20  Show Profile  Visit clubvst's Homepage Send clubvst a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Hi!
I still have to write you back directly regarding this and will definitely write you very in-depth to cater to the music you are after.

Your explanation of the "Retro" collection is very well stated.

This message is probably going to be very redundant and common knowledge to a large extent. But, I want to address this in length because it is the reason for the thinking behind "Retro" and the reason that the end result of mixes using these programs do sound more dimensional and natural.

Before getting directly involved with Nebula, I sought after the potential ways of getting this general concept done:
not to emulate or to sample a certain piece of gear. Rather, to create an environment where the DAW that the person used could actually sound like the analog version of the signal chain and not just work similar in structure.

For instance, in Cubase you have channels that act as monitor, record, playback/mix, cue, group, and master. All of these would traditionally be an analog desk connected to a multi-track tape, sent out to 1/4" or 1/2" master 2 track.

Cubase may have the benefits of a similar workflow, with the benefit of playback without generation loss, instant automation, etc. But, each digital stage of the concept is missing it's analog counterpart.

The channel cannot add anything aesthetically sonically pleasing on it's own (in fact, the whole job of digital is to lose as little as possible when changing volume). Playback after record on this same channel did not imprint any creative decision regarding how to hit the tape track. Cubase did implement a tape effect to try to address a certain degree of the traditional studio concept sound, but this is very one-dimensional in their thinking. Not a bad idea, or a bad sounding idea (true tape etc.). But, not a realistic resolution.

Of course, analog was not at all the apex situation for mixing. For every benefit there was loss due to noise in one direction, and distortion in the other. Every channel of the console built up tape and channel connections added to the summing amp etc. If one worked well at all stages, these artifacts could all work to the betterment of the style of the sound of the music. Creative decisions were made for the technical necessity to keep from messing up the sound as little as possible, and also for pleasant sounding decision making.

With tape, recording at lower levels sounded cleaner and in general represented sound with less change and more hiss. Hitting the tape harder helped to mask the hiss except for the quietest portions. Compression was used as part of the printed sound for the sake of keeping levels above the audible noise floor but protecting peaks from audible distortion. Much of the personality of tape was in the harmonic distortion non-linearity that was added to each track; not because it was desired, but because it was less of a perceived issue to additive hiss. DBX was a partial solution and in some cases added it's own benefits and sonic imprint, and in other instances made a noticeably audible change in the sound of one's performance at the cost of lowering hiss. There is a lot more going on here as well, but this covers the primary substance of tape in the chain.

So, out of necessity, some really nice sounding, naturally occuring results came from electronic equipment doing the best it's specifications would allow for. Tube equipment was made to recreate and amplify sound with as little noise and as much linearity as possible. Tape was made to reproduce sound with as little hiss, noise, distortion, frequency change, and as little change in dynamics
as possible. Then, various designs of solid state signals worked to solve these issues with different designs. None of them succeed at absolute perfection or clarity, but the fingerprint that each one produces is a pleasant signature, and a very musical coloring of sound.

Imagine all of these aspects of equipment working together to reproduce each segment of sound. Just like a car is made up of many parts that need each other in order for the whole to perform, the greatest engine isn't going to spin the wheels without the transmission, spark plugs, etc. Reproducing a single piece of hardware is a great thing! It is wonderful to have the technology to open up a window on a computer and load in $20k worth of rack effects that are extremely close to sounding identical to the real thing. But, even if one of these is a perfect copy of the engine in a car, it won't run like the car did without the other elements in place.

For a computer DAW to produce the results one is looking for in an all analog studio, each part of the whole needs to share attributes that make sense and additively lead to the same result on a very complex level. While doing so, it makes sense to eliminate the aspects of the all-analog studio that were not desireable.

Digital gives us virtually unlimited dynamic range and once captured, the ability to maintain 100% quality reproduction of dynamics and frequencies. So, in adding in the right analog circuitry, there is no general benefit to adding in an unwanted noise floor, or an overload that isn't desired. As volume decreases, it is wonderful sounding for it to dissipate into transparent silence. Even natural analog recordings sound the best transfered with a much full frequency bandwidth as can be translated digitally.

Since this is background and a set-up for exactly where "Retro" fits into the DAW scheme of things, I will post this and continue with a second post here.

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clubvst
Forum Admin



USA
169 Posts

Posted - 01/08/2009 :  00:28:44  Show Profile  Visit clubvst's Homepage Send clubvst a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Part 2: Making "Retro" happen in the DAW!

Getting back to a Cubase scenario, we have a general conceptual layout that harkens back to the traditional studio.
There is a channel for each separate recording element in a mix.
Each channel has console-based routing in it's design, with the ability to send to group bus with/without effects, and out to a master 2 track.

When placing a single instance of Nebula on a channel in your DAW, you can load up one of the "Retro Analog Studio Suite" eq's.
There are the following:
Retro_02_High
RetroStudioLowEQ
RetroStudioLoCut
Retro_02_Mid
RetroConsoleEQ1
RetroHi_LoBoost

All of these programs represent more than just an eq: every piece of equipement that goes to make up an analog channel. It is not solely an emulation of a console channel. It is not solely an attempt to reproduce the qualities of an analog eq. It is not solely a representation of adding the effect of tape to a channel. Each of these can have a nice sounding result, but to truly get the sound of a specific era, a specific studio, a specific set-up, you would normally be looking at an incredibly dense combination of vst effects all over the place in your DAW.

What you have with the "Retro" eq's listed above is the volume, transient length, harmonic order, and frequency change aspects of sound being measured at each state change. The important factor involved is that these changes are being implemented in the proper order! Think about it for a second: Have you ever eq'd before compression, then tried switching the order to eq after compression. Was there a different result? Most likely yes. If you compress a signal, the eq will read it differently, and sonically you may wish to make a different creative decision about what to eq because it already sounds different than the source!

I could go out and buy a single channel Neve to impart the sound of one of these consoles, and they can do great things with my sound at the source. But, this will only give me that one aspect of a '70's British studio. Until I pass that sound to a channel of tape, then send that back to the Neve channel, then to a Neve summing amplifier, and then one final time send it to a two track tape master, I will not hear what I heard on a master that was recorded on similar equipment. So, the order of placement and how it affects our creative decision making is what is required for realistic translation. This is extremely complex in digital form, but I think you hear much of these results using the "Retro" eq's.

For some, real transformers and op-amps are being implemented and others are using different vacuum tube harmonics and emulated circuitry at the same time. Tape harmonics are being placed in the chain where they would occur, as is the actual eq filtering chain.

When you turn up the gain on one of these eq's, you are activating the same chain of events that would happen with all devices plugged into each other. First, the input of the Nebula acts as an analog channel input using your input gain level sent to your channel fader. Turning this up increases the interaction of an input amp section, with/without transformers, using operation amplification or valves depending on the virtual design. These elements change just going TO the eq section.

Reducing a band frequency of an eq will reduce the eq's affect on harmonics but will not change those from the input stage ahead of it. Since this virtual eq will go to be printed on its tape track, the tape track will respond to the combination of input gain and eq gain/frequencies. If input gain is raised, but you are cutting eq frequencies, the tape based harmonics will increase slightly in response to the input's translation to tape, but also responding cleaner to the reduction that happens at the eq.

From the tape simulated stage, the console channel amplification is taken into account one more time. Stay with me here, and imagine the total of signal being reproduced here. The sound source, the consoles input-to-eq-direct out to tape. Now all of this is being played back on the same channel again. Even a perfectly clear channel at this stage would be reproducing all of the elements that have been printed thus far.

Now, plug that back in at the same gain stage as was recorded, adding a reduced version of the first stage of dynamics, transients, harmonics, and frequencies. This stage is more subtle, but is added to your settings automatically. The last phase of these programs is for them to be sent to group bus and out to tape. The character of the final summation of channels and the type of tape device on two track master are both unique from the channel and multi-track tape track. Each of these respond to the previous parts of the chain.

To make all of this happen inside of a single program and to do so with as simple control as possible, it meant having a completely firm grasp on making each of these individual elements happen believably on their own. I learned how to get the absolute sound of different set ups individually first. Then, trial and error of different effect chains and every imaginable combination of very slight alterations to levels proved to make up the right order of events (like the previous post- all of the right parts got put together to make a running car)! All of this process preceeded implementation inside Nebula. But, it was almost like beginning the testing phase all over again inside the engine. Several days alone went into studying the true sonic differences in 3 kernel odd/even distortion versus 7,9,even 10 kernels of distortion. Sometimes enough harmonic change will occur with real equipment that it actually begins changing the frequency plot: not just gain adjustments or overloading the gear, but just how much information of harmonics is being sampled. So, some of this can be even more realistically captured in fewer distortion kernels by making the frequency adjustments a part of the virtual signal chain.

Turning down your Nebula input fader/knob reduces harmonics and frequency plots of your channel console, channel tape, and return and master out. Turning it up increases all of these. Making eq changes interact with exactly the idea of it's corresponding circuitry to dynamically affect how the tape sounds, how the bus sounds, how the master tape sounds.

You can control how subtle or drastic these elements occur, and you can use settings of eq's just for the addition of the sound they add, even when not needing to change eq.

Getting comfortable with the results of adding these small changes at each stage of recording to an entire mix gives you virtually the same control and creative palette as the studio chains it is mimicking. You should be able to start gravitating towards favorites over and over after some use, and these will be the sonic imprint that you place.

I had a customer send me an example of a song they wanted the sound of. It was from a definite era, and had a definite 'this is that sound' signature to it. Normally, the concensus would probably be that unless you played like 'so and so', or unless you thought like their producer, it was impossible to lock down on really getting that sound. Others are usually disappointed when hoping to buy a single vst emulation of a piece of gear that their favorite band or producer used. Sure, it might be a part of this sound, but truly the entire studio was imparting character in the same way the musicians were. It was not transparent and uninfluential. It was a major element of how they sounded. I was able to listen to this example and come up with a combination of "Retro" settings that truly delivered the extended length of compressed-to-tape drums, fat, rounded analog synths, etc. With experimentation, I truly believe you will find these tools take you right to the sonic environment you want to be in.

The LA-2 and 1176 had a much more dramatic musical statement to be made when printing to tape and coming back from tape. Using Putnam's tube setup was more the equivalent of sending 4 610's to another set of 610's while monitoring through 610's. What we use today is a single instance printed completely clean.

So, in using "Retro" to build your sessions/mixes, and getting the exact sound not just of a generalized era, but even of a specific band in their style, in their element, truly it is much closer to possible with the right imagination and implementation of these programs as tools.

I will be the first to say it is not 100% perfect. Nebula itself is maturing, and the accuracy of actual equipment sampling will evolve for a long time. For me and my crazy concept, the limitations are mostly in the fact that some broad strokes HAD to be made, and some generalizations about what things should sound like HAD to be arrived at. Also, in certain places Nebula's excellent interpolation saved me from having to do tens of thousands of calculations where dynamic convolution would have required this, and at a less real result. I do think that the result as it stands, is in some ways better than having the set-up's it is emulating. No hiss or unwanted hum, grounding disasters, loss of generation, no print through disasters, and the ideal performance of all tubes, transistors, reels, and transformers-ah!

OK, the next post will give some specific setups for the DAW.

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clubvst
Forum Admin



USA
169 Posts

Posted - 01/08/2009 :  01:05:12  Show Profile  Visit clubvst's Homepage Send clubvst a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Part 3: Channels, Bus, Master.

If you want to add character to your tracking/mixing process, but it is not your objective to sound identical to a certain era, album, band, etc., then it is truly a matter of experimentation.

There is nothing more satisfying in working inside the box, than finding a special combination of tools that just simply make things sound great.

I highly recommend taking a good sample session of music that you would like to produce, and save it dry. Then create a backup and try loading every channel with the same program. To save on cpu, you can create a group bus in your DAW, place a Nebula "Retro" instance on the bus, and route each track indivudally to the bus, save the new rendered session, bypass the bus. Now, when you mix dry it has been passed through your virtual studio. Try this just with one particular "Retro" eq or another. Try it with the "Group_Bus" preset. Try a variation placing a clean look-ahead limiter, brickwall limiter, or complex design vst master compressor after your nebula instance. Without going into a whole different topic, you will get even more of the true effect of analog tracking and mixing when applying as little as 1-2dB of transparent limiting after your Nebula instances. The reasoning behind this is an entire different topic for another time.

Again, depending on the sound you are after and how much authenticity is desired, you may want to render all tracks a certain way that you would set up the analog equipment, and then intentionally bus them to their imaginary console groups, and the groups to master. Do so while imagining what would take place along the way.
Your rendered tracks can be sent to group bus for vocals, for drums, etc. Place items like the various preamps and/or Group_Bus programs on your bus channels and render different combinations, comparing the results. For your master, experiment with the same pre and tape programs sent to a final stage of transparent limiting. Again, experiment with what sounds best. If you have the "Producer's Pack" and/or "Mastering Suite", these can be beneficial at certain parts of the chain as well. It is nice to have the "Mastering Suite" available to insert at the master output chain in the DAW to eliminate any specific combined frequency pile-ups, or to enhance the highs of all of your tracks together, etc.

The absolute best way to get a feel for this collection is to try these combinations and experiment. Compare them to recordings that represent your goals. What do you like the most about the sound you are after. Is it the total of the writing, musicianship, and sound, or is it individual elements? What would you do differently? Do you wish you could get the feel of a record but take it further? That is the greater beauty of the "Retro" collection. You can intentionally re-create the wonderfully colorful limitations inherent in the design, or you can build on them to make your own statement.

While I have things on this topic, I want to introduce to you something that I feel is important. When I was first implementing this design concept, I watched as some similar designs surfaced from some other developers. I want to emphasize that there are some cool designs out there, some great emulations, and some brilliant coders and developers. But, when it comes to recreating the full signal path sound of analog; there is a very fundamental reason others do not sound as good as Nebula can sound. There may be a certain plug-in that emulates a 'console channel', where one can select an input type, eq type, channel comp type, and tape type. Great design, nice sound from what I've heard. But, this is a partial picture of a greater concept. If you are not trying to quantify the entire result of how analog mixing took place at the time the equipment was made to produce the sound that it was made to produce, you are not creating a relavent comparitive product! To emulate one direction of a 4-direction process is like the car analogy again: having an engine, transmission, and bucket seats does not, an automobile, make.

In conclusion, start thinking in an analog format to discover the sound you wish to achieve. Open your DAW or mix session, and set it up in a fashion that doesn't slow your cpu to a halt, and create some different mixes that use "Retro" settings redundantly on individual channels. Pass these on to group channels, and again to variations of master channels. You will definitely find yourself leaning towards a certain creative direction.

You can organize your comparitive sessions folder by folder. Name one "RetroConsoleEQ1" if you experiment on a mix rendering everything flat through this program. Save stem sections and render several group bus options, naming them the program names respectively. Take these group bus recordings and see what creative changes you make to them at the master stage. This will tell you a lot about what additive affects the programs had upon your mix.

Compare your efforts to recordings that you admire. Try doing so as you go along but also just from memory. You will learn a lot about what you instinctively do differently and perhaps what you like better about your own decisions!

I hope these thoughts are inspirational to some experimentation!

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babiuk
Starting Member



Spain
15 Posts

Posted - 01/08/2009 :  12:34:15  Show Profile Send babiuk a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Hi Michael,

thanks a lot for your soon and higly usefull answers. This kind of help and info is like gold for me. Thanks thanks and thanks.


Iīm very happy with your presets cos I think that you have developed the more interesting way to get close to the analog behaviour. I donīt know exactly how a analog studio have been working in the vintage years and you are teaching me a lot.

As you say, thereīre many plugins emulating vintage analog gear of high class, but itīs just a step in the long way to get the sound we can hear in so many excellent recordinds.
I like the analogy with the cars you talk about, itīs very very clear, itīs a complete process where every step leaves his prints and colour, and Iīm beginning to see how much steps (sometimes voluntary decisions and sometimes forced by the gear or process itself)there are into the analog studio process. Iīm sure that the chained-sampled-in-so-many-stages gear and passing the audio through them several times is in the right way to get that wonderful analog sound.
I think itīs possibly the first time someone have tried to approach this from all angles at time, not just simply emulating prefectly separates pieces of gear. It seems to me that itīs more important to get a correct digital "analog studio" to work.

We are very lucky to have you, Michael, this is the begining of something big.

I hope we keep on trying to develope the emulation of analog studio with nebula, your presets and the info that everybody could contribute. The result of that researchings will be very important to so many people and the music produced this way will be increasingly better.

Maybe Iīm a little boring with this, sorry, but Iīm so happy with this...

I have been using many vstīs for a long time and thereīre very good ones, like waves or urs, and the results are very good when applied to audio, Iīve been enjoying a lot them but now I am beginning to see the light, with nebula and that presets the sound Iīm getting is far far away from the previous one I got with the rest of plugins. It is more and more near to the vintage sound that never, at least for me.

Viva Nebula and viva Michael!!!
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angryman
Starting Member



Australia
3 Posts

Posted - 01/29/2009 :  08:21:32  Show Profile Send angryman a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by babiuk

Hi Michael,

thanks a lot for your soon and higly usefull answers. This kind of help and info is like gold for me. Thanks thanks and thanks.


Iīm very happy with your presets cos I think that you have developed the more interesting way to get close to the analog behaviour. I donīt know exactly how a analog studio have been working in the vintage years and you are teaching me a lot.

As you say, thereīre many plugins emulating vintage analog gear of high class, but itīs just a step in the long way to get the sound we can hear in so many excellent recordinds.
I like the analogy with the cars you talk about, itīs very very clear, itīs a complete process where every step leaves his prints and colour, and Iīm beginning to see how much steps (sometimes voluntary decisions and sometimes forced by the gear or process itself)there are into the analog studio process. Iīm sure that the chained-sampled-in-so-many-stages gear and passing the audio through them several times is in the right way to get that wonderful analog sound.
I think itīs possibly the first time someone have tried to approach this from all angles at time, not just simply emulating prefectly separates pieces of gear. It seems to me that itīs more important to get a correct digital "analog studio" to work.

We are very lucky to have you, Michael, this is the begining of something big.

I hope we keep on trying to develope the emulation of analog studio with nebula, your presets and the info that everybody could contribute. The result of that researchings will be very important to so many people and the music produced this way will be increasingly better.

Maybe Iīm a little boring with this, sorry, but Iīm so happy with this...

I have been using many vstīs for a long time and thereīre very good ones, like waves or urs, and the results are very good when applied to audio, Iīve been enjoying a lot them but now I am beginning to see the light, with nebula and that presets the sound Iīm getting is far far away from the previous one I got with the rest of plugins. It is more and more near to the vintage sound that never, at least for me.

Viva Nebula and viva Michael!!!



I agree , it is always an insightful and exciting read when you explain things in this way Michael, One thing i found when reading your replies is how much you can make sense when you decrease the Katzism"s and bring on the Angel i hear you loud and clear. I love katz and his honor roll but much of his technobabble throws me off. I am a muso mixing my own stuff cause it is great fun. But mastering and all aspects herewithin involved in such a delicate art, to me are ....well best left to the masterers.



Love your work mate keep it up,

Sound will save us
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MelodyMan
Starting Member



Netherlands
1 Posts

Posted - 03/05/2009 :  12:16:39  Show Profile Send MelodyMan a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Amazing stuff. I agree wholeheartedly with all the compliments. At the moment I'm using the presets on the masterbus (Silver 73 higain), the drumtrack (eqdrumslam2), my basstrack (nicebass1 and dynureibass )and my electric guitars (vint api type). You can hear the air moving now, incredible.
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Entrainer
Starting Member



11 Posts

Posted - 04/21/2009 :  17:37:18  Show Profile Send Entrainer a Private Message  Reply with Quote
What limiter do you use after your tubes/tape/preamps to give that feeling? I heard you mention that the one current draw back is the natural compression/limiting that occurs within the preamp and tubes, and that in the meantime you are experimenting with a transparent limiter while increasing saturation.
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clubvst
Forum Admin



USA
169 Posts

Posted - 04/22/2009 :  18:33:25  Show Profile  Visit clubvst's Homepage Send clubvst a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I've found that a transparent brickwall limiter set for best response to the particular material of the track being processed following all forms of amplification drive works excellent in getting the full effect. Items like Neve, API, natural tube preamp drive, all stay nice and tight and punchy while the harmonics and frequencies change as the natural levelling type characteristic ramps up, so using a very clean limiter after these programs in Nebula really does a nice job. Using something like the Voxengo Elephant in different modes specific to the material with 2-4dB is very effective. I like the Sonnox limiter a lot, and for more color the L2 is nice, but I don't consider it transparent. The absolute most effective limiting seems to be used once between two programs and once at the end of the chain. For example: Vint API > 1dB Sonnox > Group_Bus > 2dB Sonnox. Then, set the input of the first limiter to where it is barely limiting the input. Set levels to Group_Bus and then set the 2nd limiter to grab about 2dB. The final waveform should look like a bigger represenation of the same track without flat peaks. I call it the look of 'growing the signal', which is more the effect of deep leveling with as little transient change as possible.

I've done audio chain tests where I've been able to nearly zero out settings on the actual pre's sampled and tube settings as well using this approach.

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