Thread: Can someone clarify an input chain question?

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  1. #1
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    Default Can someone clarify an input chain question?

    I have some acquaintances arguing that the application of outboard EQ and compression on an input chain (from a mic) in the tracking stages is the same as tracking the mic and a pre, then looping to the outboard gear from the DAW. Is this correct?

    Mic -> pre -> Comp -> Eq -> i/o -> Daw

    will yield the exact same result as

    mic -> Pre -> i/o -> Daw -> Loop [i/o -> Eq -> Comp -> i/o] -> Daw

    Provided that the outboard EQ is identical.

    I was led to believe this is not true. Can someone confirm or correct? My understanding is that if certain elements such as transients/harmonics/compression etc.. are not printed to the DAW off the cuff, they can not be added later regardless of the hardware. Likewise, if a source is captured with an overload of low end, you can't just simply remove it with the same EQ you should have used on the way in. Am I wrong?
  2. #2
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    Default Re: Can someone clarify an input chain question?

    in order to be "true" the A-D convertor would have to introduce no difference at all to the sound, and the levels would need to be strictly matched both in and out of the digital domain. Plus digital recording would need to be a 'perfect" representation of the analogue signal presented to it.

    none of those things is likely to be real world true.

    does it make a BIG difference to you is the question.
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    Default Re: Can someone clarify an input chain question?

    The biggest possible difference is changing the order of the eq and compressor. Though it might not make much difference either, depending on how much eq/compression you're using.
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  4. #4
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    Default Re: Can someone clarify an input chain question?

    in order to be "true" the A-D convertor would have to introduce no difference at all to the sound, and the levels would need to be strictly matched both in and out of the digital domain. Plus digital recording would need to be a 'perfect" representation of the analogue signal presented to it.

    none of those things is likely to be real world true.

    does it make a BIG difference to you is the question.
    So when people talk about how awesome an 1167 or LA2A sound on a signal chain, is it actually more about simplifying the mix down and moving the process forward faster than it is about actual sonics?

    Is there any other way introducing more outboard gear in a signal chain actually gives you a better (or different) result than just patching it in on playback?
  5. #5
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    Default Re: Can someone clarify an input chain question?

    So when people talk about how awesome an 1167 or LA2A sound on a signal chain, is it actually more about simplifying the mix down and moving the process forward faster than it is about actual sonics?

    Is there any other way introducing more outboard gear in a signal chain actually gives you a better (or different) result than just patching it in on playback?
    Moving the process faster is a pretty awesome thing to be able to do and usually has sonic and performance benefits IME.

    It's not just about making the mix easier when you get round to it, the biggest benefit of doing processing on the way in is that you commit to processing decisions.

    Once you've committed, it means that you don't need to worry about those choices ever again - you just need to work with them. And it means that you can judge sounds in context, whereas if you're deferring processing you don't necessarily know how things are going to end up sounding and you've got a moving target for what constitutes an appropriate sound.

    Then again, it's not a great idea if you're going to commit to *bad* decisions, so people are often gentle on the way in for fear of printing a processing decision they'll later regret.


    Edit; just to add a little, if you're asking what the sound difference is between having processing in front of the A/D or the exact same processing in a D/A->outboard-> A/D loop, it's going to be the difference caused by the extra conversion and possible level/ impedance differences in how the input and output circuits of each piece of gear react. I'd imagine that sometimes you wouldn't be able to hear a difference at all and sometimes you would, it'd just depend. But the main difference will be in your mindset and how you chose to use the tools at your disposal.
    Last edited by Cirrus; May 4th, 2016 at 12:41 PM.
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    Default Re: Can someone clarify an input chain question?

    Usually when someone mentions how awesome something is, is because they auditioned it louder than the other.
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    Default Re: Can someone clarify an input chain question?

    So when people talk about how awesome an 1167 or LA2A sound on a signal chain, is it actually more about simplifying the mix down and moving the process forward faster than it is about actual sonics?
    I believe this is the idea, yep. I get pretty iffy about trusting "actual sonics" in music, because without context, they don't mean anything. But I imagine having superior sounding gear makes it easier to dial in the right sound, and more quickly.

    This makes me wonder if there should be a 'lock' button on certain plugins - once you've 'locked' your setting, you need a password or something to unlock it. This would add a little bit of pain to making tiny changes when you've already made a decision, and might discourage people from endlessly fiddling around. Come to think of it, some DAWs have a 'freeze' option, but I don't know if that's the same thing.
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    Default Re: Can someone clarify an input chain question?

    well, PART of the reason you might want a compressor in front, rather than later, is that that compressed signal presents something different to the front end of the devices following it (in this case, likely, the A-D convertor)
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    Default Re: Can someone clarify an input chain question?

    You also might want to avoid an extra instance od D/A-A/D processing...
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  10. #10
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    Default Re: Can someone clarify an input chain question?

    well, PART of the reason you might want a compressor in front, rather than later, is that that compressed signal presents something different to the front end of the devices following it (in this case, likely, the A-D convertor)
    I've heard that, that if you know you are going to use a hardware compressor on a track, record into it. I don't know how much difference that makes and it probably depends on what you're working on. I've recorded using compression only when I know I'm going to use it on the track; vocals, sometimes clean electric guitar or acoustic guitar, sometimes bass.

    The compressor certainly isn't going to get a cleaner, more direct signal than it gets directly from the source.

    I don't get carried away with it because I can add compression and/ or automate a fader later.

    The only way to do an apples to apples comparison, I think, would be to split the signal from a single mike and run one to the preamp and then to ADC and the other preamp/ compressor/ ADC, then record the two tracks. On playback, loop the uncompressed signal out to the same hardware compressor w/o changing the settings.

    And level match painstakingly
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  11. #11
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    Default Re: Can someone clarify an input chain question?

    I used two AMEK CIBs and a combination of Benchmark/Lucid converters to use as outboard EQ/Compressors at mix stage. When it sounded alright I bounced the track. Worked for me.
  12. #12
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    Default Re: Can someone clarify an input chain question?

    This makes me wonder if there should be a 'lock' button on certain plugins - once you've 'locked' your setting, you need a password or something to unlock it. This would add a little bit of pain to making tiny changes when you've already made a decision, and might discourage people from endlessly fiddling around.
    That might be an attitude thing. When I get things sounding more or less the way I want them in a mix I find myself trying to live with it for a couple of listens, or more, before I make any change. Once I do identify what's bothering me or what should be better, making the one change often precipitates a cascading array of other changes since everything else sounds different now. That's a lot of unlocking to have to do.

    Come to think of it, some DAWs have a 'freeze' option, but I don't know if that's the same thing.
    It isn't the same commitment as "printing to tape" even though that's what it emulates; it allows you to unburn your bridges.

    "Freeze" bounces to the same track and preserves any plugins or outboard. So I could patch the channel out to a distressor, freeze that track with the distressor on it and use the distressor for something else, for example.

    But you can unfreeze a track, and anyway, since it's a DAW you probably cloned the frozen track before you froze it.

    So you could endlessly elf with it
    Man! You have GOT to try a hit of this RANGE SUNSHINE!

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