Old 06-23-2018, 02:22 PM   #1
mschnell
Human being with feelings
 
mschnell's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2013
Location: Germany
Posts: 5,467
Default Sound Shaping Tool Box

I just read an article in a German Audio magazine, in which the author described "his mastering tools".

He said that when mastering, he uses a set of exquisite plugins that produce a sophisticated kind of distortion to create "magic Moments" and "Mojo" within his mixes.

Of course it is true that certain distortions do improve the sound impression of the audience, but here he described the effects in a sloppy, non-technical (I would say esoteric) way. This suggests that a plugin using the name of some high priced legacy hardware as a would-be model and sold by a high price itself, automatically sounds great, especially in the ear of the person who payed for it.

Of course I do know that there was legacy hardware that without any doubt could improve the sound of certain material. E.g. the "Exiter" that is said to have been so expensive that it was only hired per hour at that time. But same is just some kind of multi-band expender, adding some specific distortion to certain bands, and nowadays available in multiple versions of plugins for a low price.

In fact I suppose that technically these exquisite plugins use some rather "simple" algorithms that can be tweaked by certain parameters, and the "magic" offered by the suppliers for high cost is mostly a way do easily select a suitable set of parameter values (maybe copied from the legacy hardware device doing this implicitly by physics and/or explicitly by design).

So it might be a nice idea to build a tool-box for creating such plugins by a set of JSFX plugins providing a huge list of appropriate parameters.

Here is a set of some of such "distortion" algorithms that might be appropriate to create an effect that "improves" the sound in a similar direction like (but does not try to exactly copy the "sound" of) things like Tape-saturation, Tube preamps, etc.


1) Wave Shaping:

use a nonlinear amplification curve on either of the positive and negative half of the signal
- at either end of that curve (high amplitude / near zero) the amplification can be either exaggerated or reduced (supposedly best in an exponential way without edges)
- the signal can be split to pass through the higher frequencies to reduce too nasty distortion effects
- the distorted signal runs through a filter that might be a high-pass or low-pass and can produce "ringing" by resonance.


2) Intermodulation:

The signal is split in a high and a low band. The high band can be modulated by either of Amplitude- or Frequency/Phase Modulation
- the modulator can be either the LF signal directly or the rectified LF signal or the rectified LF signal run through a Low pass filter
- the modulator signal an be delayed by a positive or negative amount (obviously this plugin produces some latency)

- Motivation: the amplitude modulation corresponds to certain kinds of nonlinearity of electronic devices. The Frequency/Phase modulation corresponds to "Shock Waves" by non-linear behavior of e.g. air: different speed of sound waves with different pressure.

(I already did a Frequency/Phase modulator JSFX that can be used here. See ReaPack.)

The tons of parameters hat could be provided is rather obvious. Maybe finally a "morphing" tool to provide user friendly parameters might be done.

- I could imagine that something similar already exists. Does anybody know about such a beast ?

- Any additional suggestions for such distortion algorithms that are able to be used in a subtle way ?

- Anybody interested in creating a group of designers for this Tool Box (programming and/or parameter tweaking to create "good sounding" setups (with additional help of other free plugins such as EQ compressor, delay, ... if appropriate) ?

-Michael
__________________
www.boa-sorte.de

Last edited by mschnell; 06-23-2018 at 02:38 PM.
mschnell is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-24-2018, 03:01 AM   #2
sonicowl
Human being with feelings
 
sonicowl's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2015
Posts: 275
Default

IMO, the largest change to a song happens in process of songwriting. If song is well written and produced, mixing is simple and doesn't change much. And if song is good, and mix is good, mastering is nothing but setting final level.

But magazine advertising and education goes the other way. Songwriting is just whatever, throw something together and you have a song. And then comes mixing, which is a complicated process and does wonders to a song. And after that comes mastering, which is pure magic, and only proper mastering is difference between home demo and worldwide hit.

Why they advertise like that? Probably because they cannot sell a plugin that will make a song. But they can sell plugin packs for mixing, even semi-automated mixing. And they surely can sell one-in-all 1click prest plugins for mastering.


In reality, comparing to songwriting, very little is done to a song in mixing, and almost nothing is done to a song in mastering.

Just see some big pros in their Masterclasses. I'm always amazed at how little they do to a song while mixing. Watch Pensado's Place, how he ads 1dB of EQ, and to him it is like night/day. Damn, I hardly hear a difference. And that is in mixing.
And when it comes to mastering, EQ by 0.1 dB.... whatever. Sure he can hear the difference, but I don't, and most people don't hear it too. Magic? Maybe to some, not to me. Often with pro mixers (Scheps says for himself), mastering is just setting final level into limiter, there is no need to do anything else.
The PRO changes in mastering, and even mixing, are so subtle, that song changes almost nothing from songwriting stage, it just gets louder and more compact and rounded up.

Sure, when song is written so so, then mixing is big deal. And when mix is done so so, then mastering hopes to save it....

But if song is well produced, mixing is quite subtle, and mastering is just setting level.
sonicowl is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-24-2018, 05:39 AM   #3
Eliseat
Human being with feelings
 
Join Date: Mar 2018
Location: Cologne
Posts: 278
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by mschnell
2) Intermodulation:

The signal is split in a high and a low band. The high band can be modulated by either of Amplitude- or Frequency/Phase Modulation
- the modulator can be either the LF signal directly or the rectified LF signal or the rectified LF signal run through a Low pass filter
- the modulator signal an be delayed by a positive or negative amount (obviously this plugin produces some latency)

- Motivation: the amplitude modulation corresponds to certain kinds of nonlinearity of electronic devices. The Frequency/Phase modulation corresponds to "Shock Waves" by non-linear behavior of e.g. air: different speed of sound waves with different pressure.

(I already did a Frequency/Phase modulator JSFX that can be used here. See ReaPack.)
Hi,

I don't get it. Does it add imperfections? I loaded 10 of your delay modulators to a track and i noticed nothing.

Of course there are many influences of hardware devices that really just add a little bit of inaccuracies and sum up to a more "printed" sound. I often noticed how my own DAT recordings from the 90ies sound wonderful crisp and warm while the mixes weren't as good as today. The fun thing is, back then everybody wanted digital clearness but just to realize how cold and soulless it finally sounded.
Eliseat is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-24-2018, 05:54 AM   #4
mschnell
Human being with feelings
 
mschnell's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2013
Location: Germany
Posts: 5,467
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Eliseat View Post
I loaded 10 of your delay modulators to a track and i noticed nothing.
The delay modulator needs two input signals otherwise no modulation at all "Side chain": see the ReaPack "about" description.

(What is discussed here is intermodulation: creating the second signal by signal splitting. I mentioned the delay modulator only as a prototype of the algorithm not as already usable for this kind of processing.)

-Michal
__________________
www.boa-sorte.de

Last edited by mschnell; 06-24-2018 at 06:07 AM.
mschnell is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-24-2018, 05:59 AM   #5
mschnell
Human being with feelings
 
mschnell's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2013
Location: Germany
Posts: 5,467
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Eliseat View Post
Of course there are many influences of hardware devices that really just add a little bit of inaccuracies and sum up to a more "printed" sound.
This is exactly the kind of "esoteric" in no way describing the "algorithm" that is performed by the "little bit of inaccuracies" nor describing the technical meaning of more "printed" sound.

I don't deny the existence and viability of such processing, but there is no decent way to discuss it.

-Michael
__________________
www.boa-sorte.de
mschnell is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-24-2018, 06:20 AM   #6
Eliseat
Human being with feelings
 
Join Date: Mar 2018
Location: Cologne
Posts: 278
Default

Please don't talk about "esoteric" in this manner. I worked in a completely analog studio with tape machine and only hardware instruments. If you don't hear a difference in sound between signals which got sent thru cables and electronic devices vs. signals only routed within a DAW you should make a hearing test. It has nothing to do with esoteric. Its a fact.
Eliseat is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-24-2018, 06:25 AM   #7
Eliseat
Human being with feelings
 
Join Date: Mar 2018
Location: Cologne
Posts: 278
Default

I tested you plugin again with a frequency splitter. It adds glitches and i still don't get it. How does this add something useful?
Eliseat is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-24-2018, 10:07 AM   #8
BenK-msx
Human being with feelings
 
BenK-msx's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2008
Location: uk
Posts: 4,380
Default

I'd say the airwindows stuff is in that ballpark of adding subtle types of mojo/analogifying or 3Dness - the console serious and the Acceleration and couple of others spring to mind.
BenK-msx is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-24-2018, 10:52 AM   #9
JamesPeters
Human being with feelings
 
JamesPeters's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: Near a big lake
Posts: 1,627
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by BenK-msx View Post
I'd say the airwindows stuff is in that ballpark of adding subtle types of mojo/analogifying or 3Dness - the console serious and the Acceleration and couple of others spring to mind.
+1

IronOxide5
FromTape
BussColors4
Righteous4
__________________
http://petersamplification.com
JamesPeters is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-24-2018, 01:53 PM   #10
mschnell
Human being with feelings
 
mschnell's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2013
Location: Germany
Posts: 5,467
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Eliseat View Post
I tested you plugin again with a frequency splitter. It adds glitches and i still don't get it. How does this add something useful?
As said, this thing is not at all done to fit this purpose out of the box. I did it as a proof of concept because someone requested a frequency modulator for audio signals. When doing it I was convinced (and wanted to proof) that only very nasty sounds would be produced, and I was astonished to fined that in certain circumstances it was able to do something useful as a kind of synthesizer element.

Here the suggestion is simply that it might be viable to test this kind of algorithm to "add a little bit of inaccuracies" that in combination with other elements perhaps might be able to create a pleasant experience.

-Michael
__________________
www.boa-sorte.de

Last edited by mschnell; 06-24-2018 at 02:09 PM.
mschnell is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-24-2018, 01:58 PM   #11
geraintluff
Human being with feelings
 
geraintluff's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2009
Location: mostly inside my own head
Posts: 251
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by mschnell View Post
- Any additional suggestions for such distortion algorithms that are able to be used in a subtle way ?
It's sort of half-way between the two cases you mentioned, but (AFAIU) some analogue kit works on physical properties that take some small amount of time to build-up or release (e.g. temperature of some filament). So, I would expect that a sample-by-sample waveshaping distortion would generally end up with a harsher sound, but you might get some warmer-sounding results by using techniques that don't consider samples individually.

Have you tried using ReaComp with extremely fast parameters? I use it for distortion sometimes. If you set attack/release to 0 and RMS to 0, then it's essentially a sample-by-sample waveshaping distortion - and you can specify the ratio and knee to get a soft-clip. However, if you leave RMS as non-zero, it doesn't clip sample-by-sample, because it's basing its calculations on the RMS which is averaged over 5ms or whatever, and I like the sound that gives.

I've found the lowpass filter interesting for this too (because it also limits how fast the correction can change), or I guess we could try other weirder modifications sent to the side-chain input. For example: what happens if you use a "normal" compressor sent to the side-chain of your super-fast-paced "distortion" compressor? I haven't tried it, but my guess is you'd end up distorting transients more than sustains (because the side-chain signal will have the sustains pulled down below the threshhold, but transients will still peek out).

Geraint
__________________
JSFX set | Bandcamp | say thanks (donations)

Last edited by geraintluff; 06-24-2018 at 02:13 PM.
geraintluff is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-24-2018, 01:59 PM   #12
mschnell
Human being with feelings
 
mschnell's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2013
Location: Germany
Posts: 5,467
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by BenK-msx View Post
I'd say the airwindows stuff is in that ballpark of adding subtle types of mojo/analogifying or 3Dness - the console serious and the Acceleration and couple of others spring to mind.
Thanks for the pointers !

It would be nice to have stuff like this as JSFX and with that (rather) easily doable / tweakable avoiding the intellectual overhead necessary with native plugins.

-Michael
__________________
www.boa-sorte.de
mschnell is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-24-2018, 02:07 PM   #13
mschnell
Human being with feelings
 
mschnell's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2013
Location: Germany
Posts: 5,467
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by geraintluff View Post
Have you tried using ReaComp with extremely fast parameters?
I did not test anything yet. It's just a conceptional brain storming phase, triggered by the said article in the magazine. And I doubt that I will start programming/testing/parameter tweaking just on my own.

And yep, a compressor performs amplitude modulation and hence does do "distortion", that gets more audible as an intermodulation with faster setting. Supposedly variations of this is the technical way the "sound" of vitnage hardware compressors is produced.

-Michael
__________________
www.boa-sorte.de
mschnell is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-24-2018, 07:37 PM   #14
junh1024
Human being with feelings
 
Join Date: Feb 2014
Posts: 106
Default

If you want aliasing distortion use TB timemachine

If you want band exciting use LOSER's exciter
junh1024 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-24-2018, 10:06 PM   #15
mschnell
Human being with feelings
 
mschnell's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2013
Location: Germany
Posts: 5,467
Default

In fact I don't "want" anything dedicated. But of course it does make sense to take a look at plugins dedicated for such purpose.

The intention here is more "scientific", trying to find out more about psycho-acoustic effects that mostly are (rather pointlessly) discussed in a kind of "esoteric" language, but - as obviously the signal is somehow different from what a perfect implementation of the original intent (e.g. EQing or compression) - are triggered by some kind of signal handling "algorithm" (implemented in software or hardware).

Just stating a "little bit of inaccuracies" does not help, as this might describe the signal is different on Tuesdays than it is on Mondays, which obviously is not what anybody would prefer.

In fact this friendly discussion here already triggered a thought that did not occur to me up till now, regarding the (for me especially hard to sort out) "quality" of different compressor software and hardware devices:

The ear contains a mechanical compressor. There is a muscle that modifies the energy transmission ratio in the construct of these tiny bones. As always, biological sensors are very imperfect but the imperfection is balanced out by appropriate "calculation" in the brain.

Hence it seems likely that a compressor that works kind of similar to what that ear-mechanics do, might sounds more "natural" than a straight forward "perfect" algorithm.

This said, in this case, simply applying some dedicated "imperfection" to the signal itself does not seem very helpful, but it might be viable to take the current compression ratio into account, e.g. by modify the difference between the original and the compressed signal and subtract this from the original to get the result.

This is what I meant by using such a tool box together with other plugins.

-Michael
__________________
www.boa-sorte.de
mschnell is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-24-2018, 10:48 PM   #16
JamesPeters
Human being with feelings
 
JamesPeters's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: Near a big lake
Posts: 1,627
Default

Perhaps try those Airwindows plugins. If you like what they do, you can examine it since the plugins are open source.
__________________
http://petersamplification.com
JamesPeters is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-25-2018, 06:30 AM   #17
mschnell
Human being with feelings
 
mschnell's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2013
Location: Germany
Posts: 5,467
Default

I don't even know what kind of sound (modification) I would like to hear.

I am not even greatly interested in hearing the output of the plugins that might be created.

In fact my intend is to test/evaluate the possible algorithms. Regarding parameter tweaking and evaluating the audio result, I'd like to rely on hopefully non biased experts with more experience in listening.

-Michael
__________________
www.boa-sorte.de
mschnell is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-25-2018, 11:40 AM   #18
JamesPeters
Human being with feelings
 
JamesPeters's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: Near a big lake
Posts: 1,627
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by mschnell View Post
I don't even know what kind of sound (modification) I would like to hear.

I am not even greatly interested in hearing the output of the plugins that might be created.

In fact my intend is to test/evaluate the possible algorithms. Regarding parameter tweaking and evaluating the audio result, I'd like to rely on hopefully non biased experts with more experience in listening.

-Michael
You're not interested in hearing the results of any such plugins, but you want to test the algorithms based on what "non-biased experts" say? I'm not even sure where you'd begin trying to find a "non-biased" "expert".
__________________
http://petersamplification.com
JamesPeters is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-25-2018, 12:54 PM   #19
mschnell
Human being with feelings
 
mschnell's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2013
Location: Germany
Posts: 5,467
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by JamesPeters View Post
I'm not even sure where you'd begin trying to find a "non-biased" "expert".
With "biased" I mean, not publishing the results of their hearing but promoting prejudiced about certain equipment.

I trust you are one of those non biased ones ...

-Michael
__________________
www.boa-sorte.de
mschnell is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-25-2018, 01:30 PM   #20
JamesPeters
Human being with feelings
 
JamesPeters's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: Near a big lake
Posts: 1,627
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by mschnell View Post
With "biased" I mean, not publishing the results of their hearing but promoting prejudiced about certain equipment.

I trust you are one of those non biased ones ...

-Michael
I have as many biases as any other, although I do try to keep them in check. I don't consider myself an expert on this subject though.
__________________
http://petersamplification.com
JamesPeters is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-27-2018, 07:13 PM   #21
ashcat_lt
Human being with feelings
 
Join Date: Dec 2012
Posts: 3,290
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by geraintluff View Post
Have you tried using ReaComp with extremely fast parameters? I use it for distortion sometimes. If you set attack/release to 0 and RMS to 0, then it's essentially a sample-by-sample waveshaping distortion - and you can specify the ratio and knee to get a soft-clip.
Well, except for the fact that it folds over because of the way the knee spreads around the threshold. I really wish they would fix that. Probably have to be an optional mode so as not to change old projects.

I've been messing around with different kinds of "stateful" saturations and other things a bit lately.

Slew Rate Limiting - essentially limiting how much the signal can change between samples - was one of the first things I built in JS. I have since made one where the limiting is curvy rather than just a hard clip. At reasonable settings, it's a real nice subtle way to "round off" super spikey transients especially in drums/cymbals and voices.

I made a Sidechain Saturator where the gain reduction is dependent on the level of the sidechain signal. This can do all kinds of things, but the main reason I built it was so that I could lowpass the sidechain to get something like transformer saturation. Another way to try to get something similar is to low pass, saturate, then high pass and add make up gain as necessary, but the sidechain thing also allows all kinds of less conventional things.

I have a new thing that I'm trying to hack together where the limit of the saturation curve moves depending on a sidechain signal. The impetus here being to mimic that thing we hear about sometimes in guitar amps called "sag". Basically, at higher output levels, the power supply cap can discharge, causing the supply voltage to drop, and the saturation ceiling comes down with it. So, like, you can feed a low-passed or RMS integrated signal into the sidechain, and get something similar. Again, it has plenty of far less "natural" uses as well, but it can be cool.


Edit - Oh, and on a slightly different tack from all that, there's some room to explore in the area of crossover distortion - both the typical "gap" style and "overlap" style. I have a plug for this, too.

Last edited by ashcat_lt; 06-27-2018 at 07:19 PM.
ashcat_lt is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-27-2018, 11:43 PM   #22
ashcat_lt
Human being with feelings
 
Join Date: Dec 2012
Posts: 3,290
Default

New post to more directly address the OP. All analog electronics can be modeled as some combination of filters and nonlinearities in series and/or parallel. But it's kind of a fractal situation. Each component in the circuit is itself some combination of filters and nonlinearities in series and/or parallel. The "accuracy" of any simulation is going to depend most on exactly how many filters and nonliearities in series and parallel that you want to code into your plugin. The "esoterica" I think comes in getting more of them into fewer CPU ticks and less RAM while also making the controls relatively intuitive. Then they have to make it look nice and advertise and charge us to convince us that we should buy it.

Edit - Oh and then there's noise! Like in everything. Any/all of your variables are subject to random variation at all times. If you want to be super cool, you make your installer randomise everything by some amount so that nobody's instance of your plugin sounds exactly the same. But then they have to drift depending on temperature...

And the fun part is that the guys designing these things were often drawing up models based on ideal components and shooting for something as close to what you can get in digital as possible, but they found they couldn't get a filter without a non-linearity or even like gain or attenuation without a change in frequency response. They cursed the limitations of their technology. Now everybody covets them for how they failed at their initial purposes.

Last edited by ashcat_lt; 06-27-2018 at 11:53 PM.
ashcat_lt is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-28-2018, 12:23 PM   #23
mschnell
Human being with feelings
 
mschnell's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2013
Location: Germany
Posts: 5,467
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by ashcat_lt View Post
Now everybody covets them for how they failed at their initial purposes.
When God designed the world, he totally failed.
But who makes such mistakes, must be a genius.

-Michael
__________________
www.boa-sorte.de

Last edited by mschnell; 06-28-2018 at 10:08 PM.
mschnell is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-28-2018, 02:25 PM   #24
ashcat_lt
Human being with feelings
 
Join Date: Dec 2012
Posts: 3,290
Default

I try not to post about religion or politics around here. Unfortunately, discussions about analog gear often end up sounding a lot like both.
ashcat_lt is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 07-02-2018, 12:08 AM   #25
kamalmanzkie
Human being with feelings
 
kamalmanzkie's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2012
Location: inside a man
Posts: 84
Default

amazing thread. one plugin that is always in my chain, often throught and on master mix is 'slick HDR' by variety of sound. have you ever seen an 'hdr' image?

its like looking at a backlit cityscape with your eyes vs a photograph, the photograph is a pale comparison. well, sometimes these hdr images make what you see with your eyes look more like the drab photograph

they do this by combing exposures taken at different gain settings and using elements of all three. actually, the 'high dynamic range' image is actually 'super squashed dynamic range' but it does this in a way that deals with large signal changes but doesn't lose the little details either. it seems to bring down loud stuff and raise up little stuff in a psychoacoustically pleasing way.

basically it is some combination of three compression stages (slow, middling, fast) and he mentions something about saturation and feedback to introduce non linearity

also, about phase modulation. i have just today been experimenting on a phase distortion that uses a waveshaped version of the signal to self modulate a first order allpass filter. it directly modulates not the cutoff but something more like what would be the dispersion if the allpass was a diffusion delay. it sounds outrageous!
__________________
get a grip, play my tracks : https://soundcloud.com/an-colonel-aronson
kamalmanzkie is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -7. The time now is 06:01 PM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.11
Copyright ©2000 - 2018, vBulletin Solutions Inc.