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Recording direct - tricks?

Discussion in 'Recording Gear and Equipment [BG]' started by Funkateer, Sep 25, 2005.

  1. Funkateer


    Jul 5, 2002
    Los Gatos, CA
    I like to record bass tracks direct so I don't need to wear headphones, and I don't need to clutter up the studio with mics. However the bass tone leaves much to be desired. Generally I find it unnaturally bright.

    Any tricks with regard to:

    1) EQ,
    2) compression, or
    3) VST plugins?
  2. John C. Reilly

    John C. Reilly

    Feb 24, 2004
    I have been recording direct about half the time lately and micing and amp the other half. usually it's on a song by song basis, whatever suits the track. if your not getting the tone you want it might be worth it to clutter up the studio and mic anything up even a guitar amp.. also it would help to know what di your using. I know everyone says the avalon u5 is amazing but i find it sterile and dry. my favorite it the millennia TD-1 it has theoption of solid state or tube di and also has two fully parametric eqs sometimes i'll set a hi-freq roll off at 4k. also you might want to try flatwound strings just for recording. it can help reduce unwanted finger noise. another di that is cool but that doesn't have the lo frequency extension the TD-1 has is the TAb V-71. An empirical labs distressor is a great compressor/limiter.
  3. Funkateer


    Jul 5, 2002
    Los Gatos, CA
    I'm using the line out of my Kern IP-777 preamp.
  4. nysbob


    Sep 14, 2003
    Cincinnati OH
    In my home studio I usually run direct through a Joe Meek
    VS-1 pre with the low end kicked up & bit of compression. Even if you prefer to track through monitors, I think checking your sound through headphones is a good idea...

    I'm guessing you're playing an active bass, which can sound unnaturally bright pretty easily...just roll back the treble if it's a problem.
  5. The best sound is generally a mix of direct and a mic'd good sounding amp.
  6. I've been finding this is a great solution.

    Also, if you're recording slap bass, try mixing the DI signal and a mic where the fretboard meets the body of the bass. You can get some great tones that way.
  7. WalterBush


    Feb 27, 2005
    Yuma, Az
    Full disclosure, I'm a certified Fender technician working in a music store that carries Fender, Yamaha, and Ibanez products among others.
    After tracking through a DI, I usually end up rolling off a bit of treble (shelving filter starting at about 8 khz, roll off to taste) in a mix, and adding a bit of compression. By a bit of compression, I actually mean a lot of compression, with a slow enough attack to let the initial transient through at full volume, then compress the snot (8:1 ratio or more) out of the sustained note, with plenty of makeup gain to make sure the note doesn't vary much and is as loud as possible. I'd give specific settings, but they all change depending on the compressor, and my current favorite is an LA-2A, which only has a switch and two knobs. Crank both randomly until it sounds huge, and you're good to go!
    I haven't found any plugins that really sound great for bass, except for the plugin version of an LA-2A, which doesn't sound as huge as the real thing, but does in a pinch, and a good parametric EQ plugin, which can be found free or cheap. I use the Sonitus one bundled with Sonar 4 PE if I don't have a hardware EQ available in front of me, or to expiriment with before patching in a hardware unit to print.

    If I can't get enough "push" out a bass doing the above, I'll dial in some bass frequencies at about, oh, 125-200 hz, with a narrow Q, and notch the EQ around the bass drum. This usually does it without muddying up the mix too much.

    Notice, this is all for the DI only--as soon as I bring a mic'd amp into the picture the whole thing changes, depending on what sound I captured through the mic, and whether it actually made things sound better or not. Also, the above applies to what I like bass to sound like, in a primarily rock/metal setting, and doesn't necessarily apply to pop, super-clean smooth jazz, or accoustic music. It also doesn't take into account any EQ'ing you might do for your own bass tone--it's just what I do after recording someone else to give a raw track "life" before working with it.

    Sorry for the length, but it sounded like you were asking for specifics, and I endeavored to give you some settings, as well as the philosophy behind them.
  8. Funkateer


    Jul 5, 2002
    Los Gatos, CA
    Really helpful post. I have a UAD-1, so I'll have to try the LA-2A and 1176 plugins as you suggest. Now I'm curious about whether you have much compression in your signal chain when you play live shows.
  9. fretlessrock

    fretlessrock Supporting Member

    Aug 8, 2002
    I would completely avoid recording with plugins, and specific to the UAD-1 I have been told that it is not meant for use when tracking. There are latency issues with it in that capacity. I took it for a spin and confirmed it and was turned off by this problem.

    It isn't surprisng that the DI tracks have a lot of high end because that is probably what your bass sounds like. That is OK because the good news is that you are better off working with a full range signal in the mixdown phase than with a "wet" signal.

    I'll even say that using compression when tracking is overused. Keep the signal at the converter down where it won't clip even when you play your loudest. Now push it with the software fader so it sits right in the mix. Done. The thing about compression is that undoing it is virtually impossible. If you start using effects on mixdown, especially things like envelope filters, wahs, synth patches... the compression works against you because you have taken away the dynamics that you want to use to trigger the effect.

    So back to your original question: Work on your tone with a combination of technique and the setup on your bass. A good DI can help but not as much as you might think. I've done decent recordings with a decent DI like a SansAmp with the effect turned off. Let your mic pre do the work.
  10. WalterBush


    Feb 27, 2005
    Yuma, Az
    Full disclosure, I'm a certified Fender technician working in a music store that carries Fender, Yamaha, and Ibanez products among others.

    No, I don't. I use a limiter when tracking to avoid digital overs, compression whilst mixing, and live I like a good, solid cable going into a tube amp. I like the full dynamic range that tubes and my fingers will allow, and speaker protection be damned!!!!

    Fretless, I'm not sure where it was suggested that tracking with the UAD-1 was a good idea. I'm not sure where it was suggested that tracking with anything was a good idea, in my post at least. The very first word was, "after."
  11. fretlessrock

    fretlessrock Supporting Member

    Aug 8, 2002
    Funkateer was asking about direct recording, then he was saying that he was going to use his UAD-1... So it wasn't a huge stretch to assume that he was talking about using his UAD-1 for compression during tracking. Maybe I got that wrong. But I quoted him, not you, so I don't get the problem.
  12. Funkateer


    Jul 5, 2002
    Los Gatos, CA
    Sorry I wasn't clearer. Yes, I am talking about the mix phase. I would not be inclined to compress or EQ during tracking.
  13. Droog


    Aug 14, 2003
    I am inclined to agree with Jabberwock on all accounts, especially the LA2A, though a 160 will do just fine at a fraction of the price, but hey we are talking digital here aren't we? Keep it clean while tracking, maybe some very subtle compression. I use Waves Renaissance plugins (cuz I have them) and the R comp is pretty dang nice.

    Something to be aware of when mixing; sometimes if you can't hear the bass right don't reach for the bass channel first. I might be that the drums or possibly the guitar is making the low end all muddy. Make sure the kick is really tight and then mix the bass and kick around each other. Its amazing how much influence the kit has on how you hear the bass.

    Also, on the topic of the UAD-1. I don't think you have the option of tracking the effects. Correct me if I am wrong but I know in Pro Tools even if you have the plug ins happening when you are tracking you are still just recording the raw signal. The plug in only process what you hear not the actual digital audio, during real time use that is, rendering after the fact or bouncing is a whole different deal. If you disable the plug in after tracking you will just hear the un effected audio. Does that make sense? Maybe with different software you can track the effects.
  14. el_Kabong


    Jul 11, 2005
    I think you're right about that Droog. Even if you could use it tracking it would be useless for preventing digital overs as you posted earlier as it's post the a/d conversion. I think your point about using limiters and light compression for tracking is a good one. Besides just avoiding obvious distortion on overs their use has another not quite so obvious effect with digital. Because you can effectively raise the average input signal level you increase the bit depth of the recording. By that I mean more bits of the 16 (or 24) available are actually used to represent the sound. That's the thing about digital, it's highest resolution occurs immediately before the onset of catastrophic distortion so it's a balancing act. I spent quite some time comparing tracks recorded at lower levels with no limiters to tracks recorded at higher levels just touching the limiters. Even when played back at identical volumes I picked the version with limiters as superior every time. Listening to lower level recordings with and without limiters (ie no limiters or the limiters were in the signal path but not being driven) I couldn't tell the difference. So maybe it just means I like the sound of limiters but that's my experience.
  15. Hawk_GP


    Oct 5, 2005
    My best bass tones when tracking come from a mix of both direct and mic'd cab, something like this for instance:

    Direct into a radial J48, B-15 mic'd with a 421 with the mic'd signal going into a portico/160(2:1 medium/medium) and the direct going into the portico then to an IBPjr/160. This just does it for me.

    I also don't use headphones as the B-15 is in another room. I never EQ during tracking, get the tone with your amp/bass. There's usually not much else on the bass in the mix except maybe some LA2a. If you still want to stay with the DI approach only, maybe after tracking, EQ/Filter the track, mult to another track with compressio and add another mult with appropriate processing, what ever it needs.

    Oh and Hi all! This is my first post here.
  16. I have more of an unorthodox aproach to getting a "live" sound out of direct recording. After recording the original track and, if your recording software allows for it, compressing, EQing, and what not to get it to the saound that is almost right, do this. Copy the original track and paste it as a new track. To this new track, add some reverb, and turn the volume (Not the GAin) down to about the level of the original volume. This will give you a clean punch that will cut through the mix with the sound of a miked room. Turning the reverb down will also give you more of miked amp effect.
  17. Mojo-Man

    Mojo-Man Supporting Member

    Feb 11, 2003