I was doing some mixing over the weekend and, due to seeing one of Waves’s often sales, I thought I’d give the Waves Aphex Vintage Aural Exciter a shot at it’s bargain price. (I may have also bought a couple of more toys in the sale!).
Here’s the Waves blurb about the AVA Exciter
When it was originally introduced in the mid-1970s, the Aphex Aural Exciter® brought its distinctive sound to select sessions by leading recording artists, traveling from studio to studio as an exclusive (and expensive) rental unit.
A true groundbreaker, the original Aural Exciter was highly regarded for its ability to increase and enhance presence, brightness, and detail on vocal tracks and masters alike. It was even credited as a “session player” on popular albums by the likes of Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt, and James Taylor.
Modeled on one of only a few tube-powered units ever made, the new Waves Aphex Vintage Aural Exciter plugin delivers all the unique character of the rare original hardware unit, with all the advantages of software.
Out of 38 tracks in the mix I was working on I used the Exciter on 5 as an insert on each track. I really love the simplicity of throwing an effect like this into play and, after a few tweaks, create a sound that I’m happy with.
You can add a little sparkle to the part or completely change the sonic character and crafting the sound to fit best in the mix.
I definitely would recommend this plugin to add some polish and character to your mixes.
I’m also liking the Waves Licence Centre that authorises the plugins on your computer. My studio Mac Pro is running Waves Mercury on an iLok (which I’ve never had an issue with) but I like that I don’t need an iLok on my Macbook Pro.
Once you’ve bought, downloaded and installed the plugin(s) you open up the WLC and say which computer to authorise et voila!
Yesterday, I had a quick chat on Twitter with Andy Wilson, mixing & mastering engineer at Masterdisk in NYC, about how I’d asked for new mixes for a Latin album I was to be mastering today as the original mixes were too hot.
With the much discussed loudness wars that we’re aware of now it is very tempting to grab a limiter and liberally use it over the stereo buss of the mix just to make it louder, which is what had happened with these tracks.
Once those transients, dynamics, and punch have been guillotined by a limiter, and your waveforms look like a freshly cut flat top haircut, it cannot be recovered. Having discussed this with my client, they were more than happy to redo the mixes with good headroom and 24bit files. With our modern computer setups this will only take about an hour or two for music that may last for years.
So, when you’re preparing your tracks for mastering, remember that mastering engineers can do wonderful work for you but we can’t do much with a hot limited mix. One of the worst things a mastering engineer wants to be presented with is a brick and asked to make it sound great!
Most importantly, if you have any questions about mastering for your project then contact the M.E. of your choice and ask. Any good M.E. will be happy to talk with you as they want you to provide them with the best mixes so they can deliver the best masters to you.
I’ve had an excellent week with having Ant in the studio for his work experience. We’ve been able to do a variety of jobs to give him an idea of what music studio work can involve.
Ant has had a full introduction to the studio environment, the room treatment, and the gear. We’ve mastered an album, which meant he had to listen to the sound rather than the music, which he found tricky at first but soon got the hang of. He also got to grips with editing audio and learning about the different effects and processors.
As Ant is a keen guitarist I wanted to give him the chance to record himself performing a track to give the experience of studio recording and having to work under the pressure of delivering a great performance on demand.
I think he did an fantastic job as you’ll hear by listening to the track above. Sunlight is the track we’ve been working on over the last couple of days and involves Ant performing on both of his acoustic guitars and electric bass.
We wanted to do as much recording as possible so, instead of using percussion samples, we recorded tambourine, egg shaker, layered us clapping four times to give the impression of eight people, and I used his acoustic guitar body as a hand drum.
It’s been a pleasure having Ant in the studio for the week because he’s been keen to learn, has shown good musicianship on his guitars and bass, and really put a lot of effort in as you’ll hear in the track.
The rooms we perform, record, mix, and master in, should be the best they can be for the required role to help us achieve a great sound and performance.
I was accompanying Trinity Guildhall exams today at St.George’s Church in Worcester and it reminded me of how important our surroundings are. I have accompanied a lot of performers over the years in a variety of settings and it is obvious that, in the case of live performances such as these exams, the room has a huge impact on the soloists and how they perform.
In small rooms you can hear a good player perform the piece brilliantly but it doesn’t always sparkle. Pop that same musician into a setting like the church today and I hear the performances come alive, plus the performers also enjoy the experience more. From my perspective it also helps that the church has a lovely grand piano that adds to the overall performance!
Linking this to our studio work, have you listened to the sound of the room where you record or mix and how it affects what we do? I am as guilty as the next musician and admit that I too suffer from G.A.S. (Gear Acquisition Syndrome), a terrible affliction that must be endured daily. However, it’s no good suffering like this and using high spec studio equipment and instruments if the room we use to record and mix in isn’t treated to give the best results.
There are now plenty of resources available to us to either take a DIY route, or to buy ready made solutions to fit our budgets. A few places to start looking:
The list of places to read up on acoustics, how to treat a room, and what to buy, can be endless but hopefully these links, and this post, will kick-start your journey into thinking about the rooms we work and perform in.
Do you have a favourite acoustic treatment brand? Have you made your own treatment?
As for all the talented performers who I accompanied in their exams today at St.Georges – good luck!
There is a dream that many people share for an end to the mental loudness war that still continues after many years.
One man who champions the idea of putting dynamic range back into music is mastering engineer Ian Shepherd (@ianshepherd) and he has come up with an excellent idea of Dynamic Range Day (#DYNAMICRANGEDAY).
When is this Dynamic Range Day?
Tomorrow! Saturday 20th March 2010.
What can you do to join in? Here’s what Ian says on his website:
“Just SHOUT ALL DAY !
“(For non-nerds, typing in ALL CAPITALs is know on the internet as “shouting”)
“Why SHOUT all day ? Because over-compressed, distorted, unnecessarily high-level Loudness-War-Casualty music sounds as if it’s shouting at you, all the time. IT’S LOUD AND IT STAYS LOUD AND IT’s ONLY LOUD AND VERY SOON IT WEARS YOU OUT. AND GETS BORING !
“So if we SHOUT all day on March 20th – on Twitter, on Facebook, in our emails – everywhere – if we shout and explain why we’re doing it when people ask, by linking to this post, or TurnMeUp.org, or the Dynamic Range Foundation, then hopefully we’ll spread the message far and wide.“
Here’s his perfect description of what Kutiman does:
“What he has done is use Youtube as a stonking great big sample library, of sorts. And he’s not using just the audio, but the video as well. So, a video DJ perhaps, only much more so.
“It’s not an entirely new idea. I’ve seen vaguely similar things done before, but nothing on this level.
“The sources are almost entirely taken from amateur musicians who were none the wiser that the humble sonic doodles they put on Youtube would amount to anything. Much less be hijacked in this creative & impressive way.
“From this semi random chaos, one man has made brilliance that is much more than the sum of its parts. I’ve not been this impressed in… a long time!?”
Kutiman must have put a huge amount of time into creating these videos from the raw ‘samples’ of these gifted YouTubers.