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what does WARM officially mean?!

Discussion in 'Recordings [BG]' started by hateater, Mar 27, 2006.


  1. hateater

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    May 4, 2001
    Eugene, OR
    After a brief discussion with a fellow robot, robot told me he thinks that warm is a malarky term. Let me go back a little and tell you how we came upon this.

    Some of my metalhead buddies say that they only record analog to tape- citing that there is a certain warmth that cannot be achieved with computers. Now, robot says... thats BS, because what does warm mean? I must admit, i have heard the term used over and over again, but I am still unclear on the exact definition.
     
  2. Trevorus

    Trevorus

    Oct 18, 2002
    Urbana, IL
    It's just a character of analog devices. The capacitance of cable, and inductance of tape heads, and all the other circuitry just give a certain character. It's some of the same reason I use tubes when I play guitar. Just has that certain sound.
     
  3. That certain sound has to do with two things:

    1. Compression;
    2. Even-order harmonic distortion.

    The natural compression applied by magnetic tape is very pleasing to the ear. Even-order harmonic distortion is as well. There are psychoacoustic reasons for this that I am far too unqualified to explain.
     
  4. bannedwit

    bannedwit

    May 9, 2005
    Buffalo, NY
    Think of music as a feeling...

    Now take a shot of Absolut and then one of water... The analog "warm" feeling would be the Vodka shot and the solid state would be the water... Makes you feel all warm and tingly inside. That is the best i can explain it
     
  5. fretless Bob

    fretless Bob If you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail.

    Nov 27, 2005
    Harrow, London, U.K

    you my friend are very strange! :D :bag:
     
  6. Baryonyx

    Baryonyx Banned

    Jul 11, 2005
    Marathon Man
    But it's a good way to describe it, that character that analogue recording has..
     
  7. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    Warm = muddy and indistinct!! ;)
     
  8. elros

    elros

    Apr 24, 2004
    Norway
    Proprietor, Helland Musikk Teknologi
    Warm.
    Frank Zappa, he says: Talking about music is like fishing about architecture.
     
  9. hateater

    hateater snatch canadian cream

    May 4, 2001
    Eugene, OR

    Well, Frank Zappa also named one of his sons "moon unit", and he never took drugs (or so I am to believe). So, thanks for letting me know that it is a waste of time to talk about tone... now back to the thread.


    OK- so am i to belive that warmth comes from tubes? I have heard people say warm tone about acoustic instruments... i think?

    Also, i didn's ask for the definition of warm. I know what the word means. I also know that muddy means to have mud on you, and crisp means pleasingly firm and fresh (I actually had to look at one up to get an exact definition ;) )
     
  10. Baryonyx

    Baryonyx Banned

    Jul 11, 2005
    Marathon Man
    I thought Moon Unit was his daughter since Dweezil is his son...
     
  11. To a certain degree WARM is in the ears of the listener, but I'll take a stab at explaining it.

    There has been a constant refinement of the audio recording process to get a more "natural" sound. i.e. Closer to what you would hear in a live performance in a good sounding room.

    Starting with Edison, you started with very limited frequency response, and as technology improved it got better and better, but wider response didn't mean more even. And the way the different methods handled overtones differed. Those old acetates had bad low end response, and uneven midrange response. EQ was designed to make up for that uneven response.

    Analog tape (thanks to Les Paul vis Bing Crosby) was the big breakthrough in technology for both editing and convenience. It also sounded very good. The frequency response of the tape system was a lot better and more even than vinyl/acetate lathe cutters. That technology basically ruled, uncontested, for 40 years. By the late 1960's it was a forgone conclusion that you could get broad, even, frequency response out of a well maintained tape deck, and engineers learned to creatively use the limitations of tape, and the frequency response loss when bouncing tracks. Not everything was recorded with 100% frequency response (a great lesson regardless of your recording medium).

    When digital came out it showed the potential for another major advance in editing and convenience. But just like analog the initial devices had a different frequency response than the established technology (tape). They had incredible resolution into the high frequencies, reproducing overtones that were buried on a conventional tape/vinyl recording. This really overwhelmed some of the engineering community, basically everyone who dealt with digital. Engineers were infatuated with the sound.

    The result was that the early wave of digital recordings were marred by unnatural high-end emphasis and the reproduction of annoying overtones. The "mosquito" sound was a real phenomenon. I had been working in a mid-high end home audio shop for about a year when CD first came out. We got a dozen Technics players, two Harmon-Kardon players, and a small selection of CDs. The first thing we did was connect it into our listening room matrix and A/B vs Vinyl (and Cassette! ) that we knew we liked the sound of. I'll admit it, there was a real excitement over hearing a lot of high end detail. But as a musician I didn't find it terribly... musical. In fact, it sounded like ass.

    To me, that short period created this analog/digital division, and the fascination with "warm". Warm really does exist. And a lot of the early digital recordings were anti-warm. IMO, digital got tagged with a "cold" or "sterile" tag because the technology was in its infancy and engineers weren't trying to make digital sound like tape. In an A/B situation I don't think that engineers were willing to knock back the highs on thdigital stuff at all. Also, a lot of digital "remasters" were, and continue to be, hack jobs that ruin the feel of the original recording. That didn't help the image of digital either.

    long post.. sorry....

    If you are getting a well balanced final product, that doesn't emphasize highs at the expense of other information, then you are on your way to "warm".

    Keep in mind that your common $20 SoundBlaster has better specs than the digital converters in use back when this Analog-v-Digital war broke out. Give a good engineer a modern prosumer interface (Motu 828, Presonuc Firebox, MAudio...) and they can make warm recordings until the cows come home.
     
  12. hateater

    hateater snatch canadian cream

    May 4, 2001
    Eugene, OR
    I thought he had a few sons.... anyways... i suppose moon unit can be used for male or female!
     
  13. hateater

    hateater snatch canadian cream

    May 4, 2001
    Eugene, OR
    VERY informative (and interesting)! I rented a movie about Tom Dowds (SP?), and they talked with Les for quite a while about mixing and such... but not so much about the TONE. IT was more about the conversion from knobs to faders... i think?!
     
  14. Yeah, the Tom Dowd movie is a great piece of film. I really enjoyed watching it, and still pull it out occasionally. Tom was a real pioneer. It is funny that Zappa came up because there is a very clear cut case that Frank was on the bleeding edge of multitrack for his entire career. Folks who don't know might be surprised that he was a monster in the studio. He was working in 5-track when everyone else was in stereo or mono, and working in 8 track when everyone else was in 4-track... And he was pushing digital when it was in its infancy.

    The search has always been about "fidelity". Tom Dowd was 'Mr. Fidelity", and got great results on all kinds of sessions. What I have a problem with is the concept that analog always equals warm. There were a lot of recordings done on analog systems that don't sound warm. Some of the 70's ECM Jazz stuff comes to mind, as does some rock from that same era. But fidelity has more recently been defined by guys using spectrum analyzers and not their ears, and they see super flat response and say "ultimate fidelity". The human ear isn't linear. We have this big sensitivity spike at about 2khz, the frequency of a crying baby BTW, and the sensitivity falls off from there going both ways. So to me, warm is a balance of audio information that doesn't stress one part of the spectrum over the other. Following that, Un-warm would be bass boosted, or smiley face, or extra high freq definition, or a big eq notch/spike popped into the eq curve. etc...
     
  15. elros

    elros

    Apr 24, 2004
    Norway
    Proprietor, Helland Musikk Teknologi
    Good posts, fretlessrock.

    I've been listening to some radio programs about Jan Erik Kongshaug, a Norwegian guitarist / sound engineer (master of the legendary Rainbow Studio). He's been in the studio recording business for quite a while now, starting out with the analog 2-track systems and tube mixers. He said that only recently has the digital recording technology caught up with the sound quality of the good old analog tapes. Recently being the last couple of years, when 24-bit 96kHz sampling has taken over.
    I thought that was a bit interesting. Jan Erik Kongshaug has, BTW, been working with ECM since the 70's.

    As to the official meaning of "warm" - I don't think there is one that is very strictly defined. The one thing I think most people can agree on, is that "warm" is mostly positive. Using words such as "warm", "lifeless", "sharp", "heavy" etc. when trying to describe a sound, is IME communication based on association. And also people may hear things differently, and like different qualities in a sound. So "warm" might have quite different meanings to different people.
    Hence my Zappa quote.
     
  16. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    ..like "muddy" and "indistinct"......;)
     
  17. hateater

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    May 4, 2001
    Eugene, OR
    Well, your Zappa quote isnt saying that different folks have different meanings for one word, what he was basically saying is that tags (descriptive words) cannot be used to describe a sound you are hearing. If that quote wasn't taken out of context, then I don't agree with that statement, no matter how witty it may be. I can tell people they are muddy, and they know what they need to do to change their tone... so I guess it IS ok to use words to describe tone.... right?
     
  18. hateater

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    May 4, 2001
    Eugene, OR
    everyone can agree on muddy... more or less.

    if you hear a clear mix with smiley face eq, you wouldn't call that muddy right? If your eq was flat and you had no treble or bass brilliance, then you are muddy- or am I completely wrong?
     
  19. Matthew Bryson

    Matthew Bryson Guest

    Jul 30, 2001
    Dancing. Talking about music is like dancing about architecture. There seems to be some debate as to who actually said that first. Possibly Zappa, or Elvis Costello, or Steve Martin. There is a whole web page devoted to this great debate.
    http://www.pacifier.com/~ascott/they/tamildaa.htm

    ...now back to your regularly scheduled thread.
     
  20. hateater

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    May 4, 2001
    Eugene, OR

    haha, great link!
     

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