SH Spotlight Distortion free trumpets in the 20s-40s. But BLUE NOTE? WHAT HAPPENED? RVG Evil Neumann mics?

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Steve Hoffman, Feb 9, 2017.

  1. 56GoldTop

    56GoldTop Unapologetic Music Ho

    What a refreshing post!

    sounds good in a vaccuum. Without a point of reference, there is no point. It's so nice to read a post where the OP isn't just arguing from buying preference, which is why so many discussions on audio forums aren't worth a flip. If someone wants to shout me down about how "correct" strings and brass and horns and cymbals and snares and such sound on a recording (tape vs. CD vs. vinyl vs. high res vs. this or that pressing/release, tubes, solid state, whatever), they better have spent enough time in a practice room with the instrument, actually playing it and/or in the studio listening to/recording these instruments... at least more than me. I don't have that kind of time in with vintage ribbon mics; but, I have that kind of time in with the actual instruments. But, as soon as you say something like this, along comes the tag of arrogance and the need to duck because someone's gonna throw a theorem at you, again. Sheesh. I'll stop there.

    Bravo, Steve! Bravo! Bravo! Bravo! Tell it like it is.
    NorthNY Mark likes this.
  2. McLover

    McLover Forum Resident

    East TN
    This kind of distortion Steve is discussing is baked in, it is very overloaded microphone preamplifier distortion. And Izotope might help a little, but the damage is done, it is baked in. And also on the Altec monitors, likely couldn't be very audible. Only so much you can do after the fact. Buzzsaw it once, clip it once, game over. Garbage in, Garbage out. And those Neumann mics aren't the issue, it is the preamplifiers which couldn't handle their hot signal.
  3. Malcolm Crowne

    Malcolm Crowne Forum Habitue

    Portland OR
    I have been getting into Miles Davis and the Prestige records especially, but have wondered if the recordings made a little later at Columbia would be more hi-fi in some way. I assume it was way more pro than Rudy Van Gelder -- that's the studio with all the photos in the huge thread that was on this site a few months ago, right? Well I do remember a picture of their stash of Neumanns, a good million worth I'm sure.
    Personally I never knew the horns were recorded harshly on the RVG recordings but I tend to dig the records with the mute more than the others. Relaxin' I think was it?
  4. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Mastering Engineer Your Host Thread Starter

    Thanks. Just remember, all, the music is so good we ignore the distortion. Sadly, the better our systems get the more it's noticeable. Such is life!
  5. 56GoldTop

    56GoldTop Unapologetic Music Ho

    True. So many great performances... but, that RVG piano sound... "Classic" now because of the truly outstanding musical achievements; but sonically... :hurl:
    MDW likes this.
  6. Hamhead

    Hamhead Sinatra promo specialist

    I've been listening to a lot of Hugh Masekela in the last month, I was always a fan of his music.
    Sometimes his horn was well recorded, and sometimes like this:

    I know he can blow hard at times but there's times where the engineer needs to turn down the level.
    MDW likes this.
  7. MDW

    MDW Howard The Duck's Biggest Fan

    True! Even though I love ‘Bustin’ Out’, the horiffic sound of that mix can be heard through a boom box. :shake:
  8. Joe P.

    Joe P. Forum Resident

    Hi Steve,

    Does Kenny Dorhams 'Quiet Kenny' also suffer from this RVG-trompetitis, or did it dodge the bullet?

    My question arose when I read this thread and your other about the XRCD of Quiet Kenny.
    For all readers, I quote:

    Thanks! :)
  9. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Mastering Engineer Your Host Thread Starter

    As long as Kenny remains quiet, he’s okay.
    Mugrug12 and jfeldt like this.
  10. Joe P.

    Joe P. Forum Resident

    'nuff said. :)
  11. William Bryant

    William Bryant Forum Resident

    Meridian, ID
    Asking this again. Today, does something like a Royer SF-24 properly tame a trumpet's fury?
  12. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Mastering Engineer Your Host Thread Starter

    I've not personally heard it, but it should, paired with the correct mic pre, of course...
  13. Lownotes

    Lownotes Forum Resident

    Denver, CO
    It will perfectly reproduce the original distortion forever.

  14. I'm thinking that the factors you mention account for a lot of the problem. Although if a high-volume signal through a hot mike is feeding more signal energy into a preamp than it's designed to handle, that overload is bound to lead to audible distortion as well.

    There's something about the physics of musical notes transmitted by brass instruments that makes them very problematic to record. I remember reading a discussion from the 1980s or early 90s in one of the flagship audiophile magazines of the era- I think it was The Abso!ute Sound, or maybe it was Stereophile. Might have featured mastering engineers Doug Sax and Lincolon Mayorga? ragging on the problems of digital recording, and it was brought up that brass instruments like trumpets generate a lot of half-waves in peculiar ways that make them prone to distortion. A recollection that led me to hunt up these discussions on the physics of musical instrument sound transmission, and the characteristics of various wind instruments Lesson 51: Closed & Open Ended Pipes
    Brass instrument (lip reed) acoustics: an introduction
    Brass tubes and standing waves
    I don't pretend to be able to decode most of that technical information. But I do notice some hints as to how the upper midrange emphasis, tendency to generate standing waves, and inherently powerful dynamics of trumpets could lead to problems for microphone diaphragms, particularly if Jamie's assertion is accurate- that condenser mics are inclined to ring in the upper midrange and treble, rather than the 100 Hz resonance of ribbon mics, in the upper bass range.

    Trumpets seem to want to be about fortes and crescendos as their intrinsic function- I remember talking to a trumpet player's jocular lamenting that unlike a guitarist, he could never hope to invite a lady upstairs to his apartment to serenade her by soloing quietly on a trumpet. Brass instruments are boisterous- even with a mute, they can't be but so quiet and still work to produce music. It takes a lot of kinetic energy for them to resound, and a mute isn't much of a power soak. Once the vibrations are out of the bell, dialing them back is not an option.

    So they peg meters. I was a college radio DJ for a little while, and I once invited a band in to sing and play a tune or two informally, in the confined space of the DJ studio. They had a trumpet player, and even at the far end of the room from 20 feet back he was still overpowering everyone else and pegging the meters on the tape monitor. But putting him out of the room playing through the open doorway was not the answer, either- at that point, the sound energy simply radiated elsewhere or reflected back in his direction, outside the room. I think he ended up playing at the back of the room with his back turned, so the sound was partially reflected by the rear wall and partially absorbed by the distance, with the remainder of the sound energy diffusing haphazardly. Not the makings of an audiophile recording, but it was at least possible to hear vocals, acoustic guitar, percussion, and trumpet instead of trumpet trumpet and more trumpet.
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2018
  15. Kavorka

    Kavorka Chief Bottle Washer

    North America
    I agree, and thanks for highlighting this (finally someone put my mind at ease :)

    This was bothering me on and off, always thinking that something's wrong with my turntable. I don't mind horns recorded 'hot', but the almost systemic trumpet distortion is a mood killer.
    NorthNY Mark likes this.
  16. William Bryant

    William Bryant Forum Resident

    Meridian, ID
    There are two sides to a trumpet player's personality: there is the one that lives only to lay waste to the woodwinds and strings, leaving them lying blue and lifeless along the swath of destruction that is a trumpeter's fury. . . then there's the dark side.
    GeraldB, basie-fan, kronning and 2 others like this.
  17. yeah. normal people view the condition of hyperventilation as a sign of stress, and take it as a warning. instead of an aphrodisiac, a facilitator of extroversion, and an invitation to megalomania.

    don't get me wrong. many of us have learned to obtain considerable entertainment value from the side effects of the exertions of the brass sect, as long as they keep a reasonable distance.

    I have heard rumors of a camp-following fringe that throws all caution to the wind, but rational and respectable souls know to dismiss such tales as mere folklore.
  18. Vaughan

    Vaughan Forum Resident

    In his (excellent) book, How Music Works, David Byrne (Talking Heads) talks about the progression of music stylings from the 15th century to modern times. The book opens with a discussion of how venue has changed the way music is written and performed. In precis: Jazz solo's developed because musicians needed a way to repeat melodic elements, because people wanted to dance, and just playing the melody over and over made songs repetitive and short; Frank Sinatra could never have happened without the invention of amplification, because prior to that you needed to project into theaters in a theatrical manner, speaking or whispering wasn't possible - no crooning! Music was written, specifically, to fit the location in which it was performed. Hence, 15th century music isn't very complex, and it doesn't have the beats and rhythms we know today. This was because the venue for the music were stone buildings - mainly churches and the like - where reverberation was extreme, and notes hung around for up to 4 seconds. If you didn't account for that time in the writing you ended up with dissonance, and what followed clashed. Similar considerations affected Jazz, Rock, Country.

    He extends this thought into the home, and how we listen to recorded music. We started with scratchy cylinders and 78's, on to Vinyl, CD, and many digital formats. We went from mono to stereo. We went from a hi-fi that sat in the corner of the living room to small portable units we could take everywhere. We then progressed to multi-functional devices that weren't for music par se, but fulfilled many roles. There was also a divergence of what we heard live against what we could hear on a recording. It was now perfectly possible to record something that could never be performed live - and extreme example is Tubular Bells by Mike Oldfield, Mike needed additional help to perform it live.

    The point being - I'm not sure it's reasonable to say there's an "overload distortion". It may well be that any perceived "overload" is simply comparing apples and oranges. Music of the 1920's could not be successful now (I'm talking overall, and in a wider context) because it no longer accounts for all the changes that have happened over time. What is the "natural sound" of an instrument? My favorite trumpet player is probably Herb Robertson, and he's pushed the instrument in all kinds of new directions. He's not alone. We also have the development of instruments - Cello's for example have changed over time to better suit location.

    Is it possible that arguing about "distortion" is akin to someone saying: "Times were better when communication was handwritten, and not typed"? It's a false positive? It's just different - more suited to modern times. Taking an instrument in isolation and saying "that's needlessly distorted" is missing the big picture?
  19. Mugrug12

    Mugrug12 nothing gold can stay

  20. It depends on the rest of that aural picture, so to speak. Drawing on Byrne, you've made some quite reasonable points of inarguable merit. The history of the electric guitar bears witness to many of them. The introduction of electronic microphone, recording, amplification, and sound reinforcement tech bears witness to many of them.

    But "high fidelity" still counts. Intended results still count, ultimately. I realize that the electrically amplified guitar sound effect known as "fuzz-tone" was originally an unintended consequence generated by a torn speaker cone. But someone had to make up their mind to view it as serendipitous- to enjoy the sonic result enough to want to keep it around and employ it. And the fact that "You Really Got Me", "Cinnamon Girl", etc. sound pretty boss doesn't mean that it's the only electric guitar sound worth achieving. I don't want to hear a busted speaker cone or overdriven output tubes breaking up the guitar tone of Charlie Christian or Herb Ellis, or someone playing like them. In that context, it means something has gone wrong.

    And when it comes to attempts to record the sound of unamplified acoustic instruments playing in a resonant acoustic space, I don't think that errors of mic or recording technique are to be written off as merely relative- that, as you've posited "there's no such thing as overload." There is. The relevant question has to do with whether the result has qualities that a listener can reasonably interpret as euphonic. I'm just getting back into listening intently to audio in a home environment; I'll need to refresh my memory about the particular qualities of brass instruments recorded on Blue Note vinyl LPs by Van Gelder, etc. I may find that I don't mind the result- or even appreciate it, the way that I enjoy the way Charlie Watts' drum kit is recorded on Rolling Stones records- meters pegged, tape saturated to the point of compression. But I also realize that's an intended effect, and not a natural reproduction of a well-miked trap set. High fidelity recording/reproduction are a real thing. Even if someone has been conditioned to enjoy- or even prefer (?)- Autotune vocals, they still have to admit that considerable alteration has been induced between the input and the output. And I refuse to accede to the view that those of us who find Autotune to be awful- or at best, tolerable in modest amounts- are anachronisms resisting the latest transvaluation of values, for continuing to exhibit a preference for vocal stylings that more closely resemble a natural unamplified voice doing its thing the best it can. Yes, I know: compression, delay, mic rolloff, etc. have been used to enhance recorded singing for decades. Judiciously. Enough is enough. There's at least some reference to the subtleties of the unadorned original source. As opposed to Autotune, which treats it as silly putty.

    More to the point, sometimes mic and amp overload and distortion is just wrong. No one will ever talk me into the position that the recordings I've heard of Eric Dolphy and Booker Little at the Five Spot were simply capturing the music "differently." It was done wrong. Wrong the way that there's a difference between the skilled use of open tunings, quarter tones, or microtones, vs. being just plain grossly out of tune. Undeniably, objectively subpar.
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2018
    NorthNY Mark likes this.
  21. Forum Resident

    New York
  22. Vaughan

    Vaughan Forum Resident

    My main issue with autotune is simply that people get credit for doing something they actually can't do. I have several recordings of old 70's music that used the then new Vocoder, for example. The vocoder sounds horribly dated now, but at the time it was shiny and new, and its strangeness made it interesting and even fresh. But the purveyors weren't pretending to be good singers, they were experimenting. Autotune, unless I'm mistaken, exists to make poor singers sound like reasonably good singers - it's a lie. That bothers me.

    I do appreciate high-fidelity recordings. I also have issue with the idea that released recordings are necessarily intended to sound like raw instruments playing. Meaning, what was heard at the time of the performance was necessarily what the Artist/Producer/Engineer intended us to get on whatever recorded medium we favor. You mention examples yourself of how the studio experience was used to create a deliberate level of artifice. When it comes to the recordings in question several things come to mind. 1) It might be a flat out mistake; 2) It might have been a reflection of what was favored at the time, sound-wise (be thinking the Loudness Wars, which are marketing to a very specific demographic- more on this later); 3) It might have been an artistic choice. 4) It may have been a consequence of the pressing plant used. And so on.

    I've previously read discussions on this site that talked about recordings trying to reproduce the performance "as it was", or even "as it is". I find the argument specious. Pretty soon after recorded music took a foothold, we started to hear various degrees of artifice enter the arena. As you state, different microphones have different properties (for example, the documentary American Epic has two sets of CD's available, one set contains music from the documentary, the other is a set of modern artists recording songs using the same equipment that would have been used back in the day, so you get a feel for the sheen imbued by the equipment used), Producers have different ideals, even some artists do. And of course, as soon as multi-track came about, that was pretty much the end of a live studio performance as any kind of absolute (overstated - but I don't think by much). So much of what we hear today was never actually performed, as such. We know, for example, track sequencing on Vinyl isn't just a matter of deciding what works well creatively, it's a balance between run time, and bass response as the stylus moves toward the center of the vinyl - etc.

    All that said, perhaps the recordings were simply badly made. I really don't know. Maybe the mics were bad, the tape used applied it's own bias, the mastering of the recordings were poor etc. I'd only be guessing. Classic Blue Note recordings are, generally, well considered as far as I know. Blue Note certainly was in the right place at the right time, and they created an oeuvre of their own in many ways. Plenty of people love that Blue Note sound.

    Addendum: Earlier I mentioned the Loudness Wars. I've always been bothered by a couple things. If we can hear a problem with a compressed release - why can't those people making it? And if it kills the performance, why do they persist with it? We all know it "makes it sound louder on the radio" - but that never had been a wholly convincing argument to me. I suspected something else was going on, but had no idea what it was. David Byrne touches on this subject when he's talking about the changes in sound as venues altered. For example, Jazz was born in houses of disrepute, or in bars. It had to be loud enough to be heard over people talking, drinking, and eating. It also had to carry through people dancing, often at the same level (ie. no stage) as the musicians themselves. When Jazz moved to theaters, that whole dynamic changed, andso did the sound of Jazz.

    But back to the Loudness Wars - Byrne talks about the effect various venues have on not only how the music is performed and sounds, but how it was written and conceived. So for example, once you were no longer allowed to eat, drink, and chat during performances of Classical music, then music was written with greater dynamics, especially very quiet passages, which would never have been written before because no-one would have heard it - the change in the audience had an impact on composition. With regards the Loudness Wars (which he doesn't mention by name, but simply refers to Dyanamic Range) he writes about MP3 players, and personal stereos (anything you take out on the road with you, and plug into your ear). He talks about how large variation of Dynamic Range can be a real problem - that such an experience doesn't really work for music with large swings of dynamics. Either quiet is too quiet, or loud is too loud. So, the dynamics are leveled (or crushed, or just plain destroyed. :D) to give a more consistent experience. Given how many people download and stream, you can see how we got into the current mess. Don't know - I found it interesting, and it puts a little more flesh on to the mystery of why the music we love is getting destroyed, and not enough people are upset about it (incidentally, I wish more people would take the time to check - and POST - the DR values on CD at Album list - Dynamic Range Database ).
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  23. Mr Bass

    Mr Bass Chevelle Ma Belle

    Mid Atlantic
    Can't disagree with the OP on the technicals, but I think the immediacy and performance excitement overcome that for most people. Somehow RVG was able to elicit lively exciting jazz playing in the studio. Most studio jazz sounds dead compared to hearing it in a club but the RVG BNs jump and not just due to the hot mic'ing of the lead instruments. I don't know what RVG did to elicit such motivated performances but he was more successful than others. The Contemporarys are better recorded but while they sound excellent they do have a studio reserve to the playing.

    BTW if RVG didn't use a ribbon mic then at least play these albums back with a ribbon tweeter. :)
  24. Mugrug12

    Mugrug12 nothing gold can stay

    These men are asking to see you: :cop::cop:
  25. To my ears, most of the compromises made in order to convey the energy of rock songs in the analog era 1950s-1970s did what they were supposed to do, without corroding the core sound quality. So if the Who or the Stones or Led Zep or the Faces and their emulators exaggerated their drum sound and got big midrangey guitar notes by adding distortion or effects boxes, the music itself wasn't damaged. To the contrary; it was effectively augmented. Rock bands circa 1970 faced the opposite situation from their studio record-making efforts- their live performance PA and stage sound was various sorts of bad, crude, or unbalanced, a situation that was often "remedied" by resort to horrendous volume. The studio was the contained environment that they could control, and one where they could experiment with recording, mixing, and mastering techniques to get to a desirable outcome. With analogue tape, which can ride into +10 harmonic distortion, and the only result will be a slightly altered harmonic spectrum, tilted upward. For an instrumental sound that often tops out at around 4kHz, at that. Charlie Watts hits a snare drum with the mics turned way up high, and the meters peg for a fraction of a second- so what? It actually sounds <i>better</i>.

    Then the digital/CD era arrived. Whoopee- "dynamic range"! Except that too much dynamic range is a detriment in most pop and rock music- the quiet parts get lost in the wind-scream in a car with the windows open, or a restaurant with people talking, etc. So compression returned, increasingly. Along with that imo annoying clattery '80s sound, with lots of percussive attack. Because CD could handle passages that would make a stylus jump out of a groove, if mastered on an LP. That's when the mixes- and the notes- began sounding damaged, to me. Unsurprisingly, digital keyboards became the new aural flavor of the decade to propel hits, instead of guitars. Tones and timbres emphasizing 1-4kHz, the most sensitive range of human hearing. To grab you from across the room. Often at the expense of subtlety.

    Late 1980s- RAP. Hip-hop. Miami Bass. Dance Hall. House music, proto-EDM. A musical style based on groove musics that had always emphasized the role of the bass, particularly in live performance= funk, reggae, R&B, disco, North American "dance music." But CD technology enabled bass at live volumes hitherto unknown in the vinyl era. While also taking ample advantage of "dynamic range"- because most hip-hop beats are dropped in and out of total silence, or something approximating it.

    For music at high volumes, I much prefer a bass-heavy beat to loud midrange and treble. For one thing, low frequencies aren't nearly as likely to cause ear damage; for another, I just like bass notes. I like the tectonic, tidal room loading and impact. Up to a point. A point that was surpassed some time ago, what with the ubiquitous 10-20dB boosting of the 30-120Hz band in the bass beats of so much of hip-hop, dancehall, and EDM. It isn't nearly as liable to leave the audience with tinnitus and inner ear damage. But it has little or no use for subtlety. Certainly not in the realm of dynamics. There are no crescendos, decrescendos, or diminuendos in hip-hop, other than those provided as spoken rhyme by the narrator. Those dynamics are especially lacking in hip-hop dance beats and EDM tracks. Never mind pianissimo; there's precious little room for mezzoforte elements. Everything is jacked, boosted, over the top, and simple. Music as simple as a video game soundtrack, if not simpler. But it doesn't sound very appealing at low or moderate volumes, because without the physical drive of the volume and the rhythmic driving effect, there isn't much left to listen to. And also because low-resolution formats suck at reproducing traditional attributes of music like rich harmonic content and low-level detail. Much of today's massmarket musical product is meant to be listened to at high volume with a lot of bass impact, or nothing. That's how Dre came up with his Beats headphones. A brilliant solution that enables listening to these high-volume genres in environments other than dance clubs and concerts: headphones engineered to provide a massive bass boost, designed to match with the ability of digital music sources like portable CDs and MP3s to deliver bass frequencies with ease at levels practically unthinkable for home listeners in the analog era. So it's now possible to funnel more bass energy directly into one's ears while walking down a street wearing a pair of Beats headphones plugged into iTunes or an MP3 disc player than the low frequency impact found in an LP of a Brahms symphony played at top volume over a pair of Klipsch corner horns in a stone-walled castle. Or at least it sounds that way, psychoacoustically.

    Hence, Loudness Wars. It's a matter of meeting consumer demand, listener priorities- delivering bass impact with the intensity that hip-hop and EDM fans have learned to like, first and foremost. After that, sufficient fidelity to convey coherent speech, so that the fans can learn the words spoken by the actor/orator/soliloquist rapper after repeated listening. Which is about the same level of musical detail required to purvey the sort of melodic or harmonic backdrop that doesn't make a fetish of subtlety, or the more obvious harmonic content of a heavily distorted guitar tone. Etc.

    As for the other possibilities for structuring musical sound- what? They can't hear you. Not loud enough to get their attention.

    I have to admit, there's something to be said for volume. Most classical music fanciers learn over time to become so familiar with their favorite works that they can obtain enjoyment from them even when listening to them quietly, in miniature, with their memories and imagination supplying the detail and coherence that is typically lost as a result of low volume. Newcomers to classical music aren't likely to find that presentation to be a very effective initiation. Concert volume is much more impressive. Inherently powerful.

    But- a steady and unending thump of bass beats delivered at >100dB, with the 40-80Hz octave artificially boosted to quadruple volume? That's cartoonish.

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