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Surround mixing differences.


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14 replies to this topic

#1 of 15 OFFLINE   LanceJ

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Posted May 29 2003 - 03:29 AM

In another thread I wrote "For example, "The Nightfly" dvd-audio (mix) is as conservative as I can take." I have to fix that statement. Last night I was listening to The Nightfly and realized that it actually has more going on in the rear channels than the Linkin Park dvd-audio 5.1 mix, my previous "standard" for an aggressive surround mix.

But there is a big difference between these two immersive mixes: the Linkin Park mix has a lot of movement and intermittent sounds in it, while the The Nightfly mix's sounds stay in one place, usually through the entire song. Definitely a BIG difference to me.

Anybody else have any thoughts on surround mixing differences?

LJ

#2 of 15 OFFLINE   Rachael B

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Posted May 29 2003 - 03:44 AM

I'm definitely in the camp that wants ambience in the sides except on pop and rock that's wildly produced, like, say, Pink Floyd. A 3.0 or 3.1 kinda sound, "..that's the way uuh huh I like it..." But, I can't wait for more Floyd or other very produced stuff with lots of sound effects. Wouldn't the Dukes Of The Stratosphear's (XTC's alter ego) 25 O'CLOCK be intresting in M/C...? ...with alot going on.
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#3 of 15 OFFLINE   Brian L

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Posted May 29 2003 - 08:02 AM

I am surprised that this has not generated more discussion. I guess everyone is still too involved in the pissing contests over DSOTM, and why Parson's was not onboard, and how the new 5.1 mix sucks, yada, yada, yada.

I personally don't really have a preference. I like active surround mixes, and I like ambient surround mixes. If either are well done, I am cool with it.

On Life in the Fast Lane, I like the way the intro guitars enter from the rear, and some of the guitar solos on Hotel bounce around the 4 corners. On A Night at the Opera, I like that fact that there are bits and pieces popping up all over the place.

Contrast that with DSOTM. I like the fact that there is not much discrete stuff going on in the rear (the odd disembodied voice notwithstanding!), but it wraps you in a nice bubble of sound.

By the same token, I don't really like it when a DVD-V puts me in the middle of the band. Case in point, Steely Dan Two Against Nature. The incongruity between what I am seeing on the screen and what I am hearing is very distracting. Better to listen to that one with the TV off.

But then again, its all in the ears of the beholder, right?

BGL

#4 of 15 OFFLINE   Rich Malloy

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Posted May 29 2003 - 08:27 AM

Totally depends on the music... what works in one context won't necessarily work in another. I wouldn't expect a surround remix of Bjork's music to sound anything like a surround remix of Muddy Waters, and of course a live album recording should reproduce the sound as it's heard live (multichannel SACD is so amazing at this... check out Alison Krauss+Union Station's "Live" for one excellent example). Put simply, a one-size-fits-all approach just doesn't make any sense.
Quote:
I don't really like it when a DVD-V puts me in the middle of the band. Case in point, Steely Dan Two Against Nature. The incongruity between what I am seeing on the screen and what I am hearing is very distracting.
I'm not adverse to a musically appropriate "inside the band" mix, but are you saying that the placement of instruments in the audio mix doesn't match the visual cues you're seeing on screen? As in, the guitar player is standing to the left and over to the side, but I hear him from over my right shoulder? If so, that's very surprising to me. They're asking your brain to synthesize two contradictory elements, and our brains quite simply don't like doing that... distracting is putting it mildly. I'm very surprised to hear that something like this might be occurring with a Steely Dan release.
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#5 of 15 OFFLINE   John Kotches

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Posted May 29 2003 - 08:35 AM

Lance,

I have to agree with most of what you have said. On more than one occasion, I have written that I enjoy being immersed within the performance -- the only caveat being that within a particular track consistency of placement / image is helpful.

An example of another great recording that may or may not be to your liking is Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band Swingin' for the Fences. For the most part, individuals are locked into a location within the mix however when a bandmember takes a solo, they are brought around to front and center.

The Linkin Park disc is a fun listen, however stylistically it isn't my cup of tea.

Regards,
Surround Music Enthusiast / Curmudgeon in Training
Opinions are my own, not representative of the publication I write for.

#6 of 15 OFFLINE   Rich Malloy

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Posted May 29 2003 - 08:42 AM

Quote:
Lance,

I have to agree with most of what you have said. On more than one occasion, I have written that I enjoy being immersed within the performance -- the only caveat being that within a particular track consistency of placement / image is helpful.
I get the impression that consistency of placement/image is not Lance's preference at all, but rather (as he puts it) "lots of movement and intermittent sounds in it".

Not my cup of tea either. This sounds almost exactly like those horrid "ping-pong" mixes from the early days of stereo.
"Only one is a wanderer;
Two together are always going somewhere."

#7 of 15 OFFLINE   John Kotches

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Posted May 29 2003 - 08:42 AM

Rich,

There's a definite disconnect (as there is with the Eagles' Hell Freezes Over)....

The horn section is assembled back left and appears back left in the surrounds. The "bare midriff section", aka the backup singers, are back right on stage, and appear back right in the surrounds.

Jon Harringtons guitar is left on stage, and is somewhere along the left wall in the mix. Walter Becker's guitar is just left of center, with DFs lead vocals dead center. DFs keyboard parts are just right of center. Ted Baker's piano is along the right wall in the mix. Drums and bass are front and center.

Its not as severe as HFO (to me) in terms of lack of correlation, but it is definitely not mapping exactly as the screen depicts either.

Regards,
Surround Music Enthusiast / Curmudgeon in Training
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#8 of 15 OFFLINE   John Kotches

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Posted May 29 2003 - 08:43 AM

Rich,

I got the opposite meaning from Lances post.

Oh well.

Regards,
Surround Music Enthusiast / Curmudgeon in Training
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#9 of 15 OFFLINE   Rich Malloy

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Posted May 29 2003 - 08:44 AM

Thanks for the added info on the Steely Dan DVD, John. I must say, I'm a bit dismayed that this is occurring on a Steely Dan release. I've always associated them with recording/production excellence, and something so "psychoacoustically" wrong as this (if that's the correct term) just seems so unlike them.

So, Lance, what exactly do you mean? I hope I haven't mischaracterized your preferences. :b
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#10 of 15 OFFLINE   Brian L

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Posted May 29 2003 - 09:02 AM

Rich,

I will let LanceJ speak for himself, but I think he is saying what you and I said; it all depends on the music. Both styles can be enjoyable.

I was the one that brought up Steely Dan, and what I am saying is, I like the audio mix. What I don't like is the fact that there is video to go with it, and the video and the audio do not always match up. John pretty much described it in detail (BTW, I kinda like the Bare Midrfiff Section! Don't care where they are in the mix! On my lap would be a personal preference).

Putting that aside Rich, its a pretty good recording, sonicly speaking (pretty heavy in the bass/kick drum, which is not a bad thing, IMHO).

And FWIW, Swinging for the Fences is an OUTSTANDING recording. Its probably the best that I have. I bought it before I had a DVD-A player after hearing 1 cut on a demo DVD, and even via DD, I thought it sounded wonderful.

DVD-A is just icing on the cake. And this is coming from someone who's favorite band in the whole wide world is Black Sabbath. For me to like a Big Band recording is saying something. Anyway, I don't think anyone is trying to start any sort of debate, just a general discussion on the various mixing options that might be employed.

BGL

#11 of 15 OFFLINE   LanceJ

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Posted May 29 2003 - 09:21 AM

Uh oh better clarify my hastily written post!

Last month when I last listened to The Nightfly (just listening, not analyzing) I had just finished listening to the Linkin Park disc also. So I guess I was subconciously comparing them, and I came up with the impression the Nightfly was conservative for me because it didn't really have any moving sound effects and that is why I wrote that opinion. After relistening to it last night, I realized the Nightfly is definitely an immersive mix, more so than the LP mix; it just doesn't move around like LP's does.

To sum up (whew!) I do like the Nightfly's surround mix.

What I don't like? A perfect example is the Opaline dvd-audio by Dishwalla. It sounded exactly like my receiver's "club" DSP mode--bleh. The sound itself was great, just not the 5.1 mix.

And after hearing flying instruments on the LP dvd-audio, while they are enjoyable for the brief moments they last, I can tell if they were sustained longer I would get irritated and/or dizzy (they did a good job on that mix I think without getting stupid with it).

So no, no loooooong periods of "gee-whiz" sound effects for the Lance-meister. Posted Image

LJ

#12 of 15 OFFLINE   LanceJ

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Posted May 29 2003 - 09:24 AM

Quote:
Anyway, I don't think anyone is trying to start any sort of debate, just a general discussion on the various mixing options that might be employed.

Exactly!

LJ

#13 of 15 OFFLINE   John Kotches

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Posted May 29 2003 - 09:29 AM

If you look at the 2VN concert DVD (have to differentiate from the DVD-A disc) the positions on screen do have something of a correlation to the positions in the mix.

The "front" of the band was configured (from left to right):

Harrington (Guitars)
Becker (Guitar)
Fagan (Voice / Keyboards)
Baker (Keyboards)

These are represented one for one in the mix, with Harrington and Baker extended into the room to begin the surround effect.

The bass (Barney) and drummer (Lawson) were directly behind this row and dead center, and the only logical place to locate them is across the front soundstage.

On risers, in the back left were the horn players, left to right:
Bumpus (Tenor)
Potter (Alto and Tenor)
Leonhart (Trumpet)
Pugh (Trombone)

On risers in the back right were the backing vocalists, left to right:
Cave
Leonhart
Calhoun


These were moved to their corresponding positions in the back of the soundstage (aka the surrounds).

It took my about two songs to get used to this presentation, then I was accustomed to it.

Thankfully, the location is kept consistent throughout, with only saxophone solos moved to back center. It's a very cool effect to hear Cornelius Bumpus wailing away on FM directly behind you when everything is tweaked just so.

Scheiner has mixed this way in the past for concert DVDs. Take a very close listen to Joe Walsh and Don Felder's positioning in HFO -- you will find that Walsh's guitar is in the left channel when he is left of Felder onstage. You will find Felder's guitar in the left channel when he is left of Walsh onstage.

Once again, backing percussion and instruments were largely moved to comparable positions within the back soundstage.

Then again, I'm an admitted surround enthusiast, so maybe I've simply decided to relax and enjoy the presentation, instead of worrying so much about whether it specifically correlates to what I am seeing.

Regards,
Surround Music Enthusiast / Curmudgeon in Training
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#14 of 15 OFFLINE   Mike Broadman

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Posted May 29 2003 - 09:41 AM

Here are some of examples of each:

Aggressive surround mixes with "gee-wiz" effects that I do like:

Zyphyr (acapella) from AIX- the singers stand in a circle and the disc is mixed with the idea that the listener is in the middle. It's pretty sweet.

Queen- A Night at the Opera
Dig the vocals behind you on Prophet Song.

Tacet's classical DVD-As.

Aggressive surround mixes with "gee-wiz" effects that I do not like:

SACDs:
Herbie Hancock Headhunters
Alice in Chains- Greatest Hits

I really don't understand what they were trying to achieve here.


Non-aggressive, more "immersive" with ambience type recordings:

Pretty much every classical SACD. I enjoy them so much.

Queensryche- Empire.

#15 of 15 OFFLINE   Rich Malloy

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Posted May 30 2003 - 03:51 AM

Quote:
Aggressive surround mixes with "gee-wiz" effects that I do not like:

SACDs:
Herbie Hancock Headhunters
Funny you should mention "Head Hunters", as it's one of those multichannel discs that I also have had issues with... despite the fact that it won awards at whatever conference awards such things (I kinda wonder whether those guys simply vote for whomever gets away with the most playin' around with the mix!).

At any rate, this was one of the first titles I bought when I got my SACD player. I knew this album inside and out, and so was very wedded to the two-channel mix, so factor in my familiarity with it. Sometimes, we're simply prejudiced in favor of what's familiar. Still, I was excited to hear the multichannel mix.

Ugh. I hated it. Let's talk "Watermelon Man" first. The formerly ultra-tight and funky polyrhythms were now smeared and off-kilter. It sounded like a bad marching band performance, lurching and stumbling, out-of-time and out-of-the-groove. The funkiness quotient was nil.

But, you know what? The fault was in my system, not the mix. I still have some issues with the mix, but the non-groovy, non-funky, out-of-rhythm smearing I'd experienced was the fault of my setup! Without the ability to delay the rear signals as with DTS/DD movie soundtracks, my speakers were not time-aligned for SACD/DVD-A. I realized my home theater setup simply didn't work for the new hi-res formats.

So, I immediately set about to conform my system to the ITU standard, setting all speakers equidistant from the listening position and in the proper angles. Lo and behold, the funk returned! It's still a crazy aggressive mix, but it was in time, without the smearing and warring polyrhythms that formerly made it unlistenable. Since then, whenever I read a review claiming that a particular surround mix "smears" or "loses snap", I wonder if it's the mix or the reviewer's setup?

At any rate, back to "Watermelon Man". The intro requires each rhythmic element to be perfectly in time, so this is a great way of testing your system setup. But, more than that, there's the question of musicality. Essentially, the center of the mix has been shifted to the left and spread across the rears. At times, instruments kinda float a bit too free... there's a spot near the end of "Watermelon Man" (or is it "Chameleon"?) were the sax, having migrated to the rear of the mix, sorta quickly whooshes back up-front for the finale. I don't like that, and I notice it everytime. But, all in all, I now feel that it's an interesting re-conceptualization of the album, and I listen to the multichannel mix as often as I do the stereo one. It simply depends on my mood. Actually, I often listen to "Watermelon Man" and "Chameleon" in stereo, but nearly always find myself returning to multichannel for "Vein Melter", a tune that really came alive for me in mc.

But I remain torn regarding the approach to multichannel mixes for "historic" recordings like "Head Hunters". Those I like most, say Miles Davis' "Kind Of Blue" or Dave Brubeck's "Time Out", are extremely faithful to the two-channel mix, essentially maintaining the acoustic signature and only widening and deepening the soundstage. In essence, one gets a "sweetened" version of the 2-channel mix, and I'm hardpressed to suggest that these historic recordings deserve anything less (or "more" as you may see it).

On the other hand, we have mixes like "Head Hunters". Do I like it better than the two-channel mix? No, or at least not always. Unlike the Miles and Brubeck titles, this will never essentially replace the "historic" two-channel version. But, on the other hand, am I disappointed that I have an alternate version? Not in the slightest. I enjoy many of the very compelling liberties taken with the remix. Would I prefer, rather, to have a multichannel mix that is more akin to the "sweetened" two-channel of the Miles and Brubeck? I'm not sure... such a mix might turn out to be the best of all I've heard, but I'm not sure I'd be willing to forego the otherwise compelling "re-imagined" multichannel mix we currently have.

But, again, what works in one context won't necessarily work in another. I may occasionally enjoy hearing a sax player solo behind me on a studio album that already has an essentially artificial soundstage, but I wouldn't want to hear the woodwind section of an orchestra playing Mozart to suddenly emerge five rows behind me in the auditorium. I don't want double-basses wooshing from one channel to the other. I don't want every other note of a soloist "ping-ponging" back and forth from channel to channel. In my experience, what multichannel does best of all is create a real sense of the space in which the performance was recorded, essentially recreating all the cues and reverberations and air of the hall, cathedral, club or barn where the performance originally took place. Even the best two-channel systems cannot achieve this, as the reverberations and sense of space have more to do with your own room than the room in which the music was actually played. I think some folks refer to this dismissively as "ambience", but to me it's what makes music sound real. And, on that point, multichannel delivers in spades.
"Only one is a wanderer;
Two together are always going somewhere."


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