Low frequencies anyone?

Low frequencies anyone?
0

#1

Hi guys and girls,

I just wanted to get your opinions on this. I have my own feelings towards it, but was just curious as to how you feel. These questions are more for the experienced audio engineers (that’s not a bust on you guys that are still learning. You too can add your input of course if you have been faced with this.)

I’ve noticed lots of low end frequencies now being used all over the place in current mixes. Sometimes I think I really like it, other times I hate it so bad that I could choke someone. LOL! It’s almost like the mixes were made for earbuds with that much low end because on tuned monitors in a good room, it all sounds horendous to me. Now that said, there are a few exceptions, but again, even on good monitors, things sort of get a bit low endy for my tastes.

Quite a lot of modern country music seems to be going this route. If it’s not low tuned guitars (Jason Aldeen “She’s Country” type stuff) they too seem to be going down low with the bass. Songs like say, an old Creed tune “Overcome” is a VERY good example of excessive low end that’s way down, yet doesn’t seem to get nasty. Halestorm’s " I Get Off" is another good use of some sub low, 35hz stuff that just sounds cool and very controlled.

My questions are:

  1. What do you think of this low end?
  2. Do you like it enough to gravitate towards it more, or do you stay away from it?
  3. Where do you usually high pass (remove your low end) your entire mixes, those of you that do little m mastering or even serious mastering?
  4. What tricks have you come up with that controls this sub low stuff to where it doesn’t distort or sound like mud?
  5. Have you been successful with it to where it sounds good through earbuds as well as in your vehicle and on real monitors or even a boom box?

I have my own answers to these questions, but was really curious as to how some of you may be handling this, which I will share in case it may help anyone. But I’m more curious to hear what your take on this is.

  1. What do I think of this low end?

I can take it or leave it. I prefer to leave it out because I really don’t like to feel bass unless it’s something rap or hip hop. For rock and all other instrumentally focused music, a happy medium that accentuates where it needs to be is fine with me.

  1. Do you like it enough to gravitate towards it more, or do you stay away from it?

As much as I try to stay away from it, clients like it. I’ve even experimented with my own stuff a little and for some things, it’s kinda cool. For others, it’s just not right for my hard rock/metal style.

  1. Where do you usually high pass (remove your low end) your entire mixes, those of you that do little m mastering or even serious mastering?

I’ve always high-passed the majority of my jobs according to the material that was presented as well as how the impact plays a role. But most of the time, I’m removing 40hz on down to keep things tight. Sometimes even 45hz on down. It depends on what is presented and how much control I need. I did one today that was 35hz on down. It varies from project to project.

  1. What tricks have you come up with that controls this sub low stuff to where it doesn’t distort or sound like mud?

I think multi-band compressors/limiters are awesome for this sort of thing because they literally control how hard the frequencies you select, hit with impact. That said, you have to be super careful with these things or you can ruin a mix way too fast.

Another really cool trick I use is to add in sub lows with a really tight Q on the frequency(s) of choice. This allows you to only add elements of that frequency without adding in everything before and after it, which can mud things up way too fast. A nice tight Q with a boost of 0.50 to 1.50dB usually works wonders for stuff like this. Sometimes, you can hit it even harder with an even tighter Q. It depends on what you want to hear as well as what’s needed.

  1. Have you been successful with it to where it sounds good through earbuds as well as in your vehicle and on real monitors or even a boom box?

I actually have, thankfully. I think a lot of this is due to my monitor environment being so accurate due to that freakin’ ARC plugin. My only failures (if you want to call them that) have been listening to something and feeling an instrument can be a little louder. Sometimes I tend to keep my personal guitar solo’s a little lower in the mix because I guess I know how they “go”. I have to put myself on the other side of the fence and think “you’re hearing this for the first time, can you actually hear everything?” Whenever you’re in doubt, mix it +0.5 to 1.0dB hotter than what you think, especially for us vocalists that sort of have a complex on how loud our lead vocal should be.

Anyway, curious to hear your take on this. I hope we can engage in some great conversation. Thanks for reading. :slight_smile:

-Danny


#2

Great thread Danny! Your post will get me to think more about this the next few days.

I think I have noticed this too, but I’ll have to focus and listen a bit more to speak to it in terms of ‘song’ mixes. What happens for me is I use a pretty decent 2:1 speaker system on my PC, so it’s my go-to listening environment for all kinds of stuff. But my studio monitors (KRK V6) with ARC 2 is what I use for mixing. I’ll use both systems for self-critiquing mix progress at times as well. The 2:1 lets me have the ‘sub’ experience. I haven’t tried a sub on the studio monitors, and I don’t think I want to, though if I could switch it on and off easily its probably something I would consider.

So since I hear all kinds of songs and video backing tracks, theme songs, ads, podcast intro’s and outro’s etc, on the sub system I have a certain exposure and viewpoint on this where I’d generally agree that the low end is being pushed as much as possible on a lot of things. My only gripe is a lot of things I click on the web like to ‘explode’ with sudden loudness when they come on, which can be jarring when you’re not expecting it.

Yes, I like that. Sounds like a low note on a 5-string bass. Overall I tend to love as much low end and bass thump as possible on anything, as long it sounds pretty ‘clean’ and not terribly overdone.

Absolutely, but as you say it’s something you have to learn well and be careful with.


#3

I don’t mind it, but it has to be done right. Anything mixed by Tchad Blake and mastered by Brian Lucey tends to have very fulsome low end. Perhaps they’ve been trendsetters in that regard. I have the latest U2 album “Songs of Experience”. I put it up on the freq analyser and it has a bag of sub lows that just don’t exist in many other mixes. It still sounds good pretty much everywhere and killer on my car system (the acid test).

I’d gravitate toward it for the right mix, but not all the time

That depends on the song - between 30 & 40hz most of the time.

Multiband comp on the low end and in the low mids on the master bus to really tighten and compress that stuff hard.

Reasonably happy with translation across systems. I find earbuds and computer speakers are more about how you treat the low mids than the subs. Too little low mids on those systems will punish you.

Cars are the acid test for balanced/punchy low end and low mids. The car test is the hardest to get perfect if I’m mastering stuff myself. This is where I’d prefer to send it out to a big M mastering engineer if there is the money. I’m getting more confident with it as time goes on, though.


#4
  • What do you think of this low end?

It depends on the song/arrangement/performances/feel, really. If it’s a song with a cool sounding low end, absolutely make it a feature, I say. Maybe the Kick/ Bass lock or intertwine in a way that’s really catchy. You want people to enjoy that. Maybe the arrangement is such that pushing the low end would just = constant mud. That’s less good. Maybe the kick is really tight and puncy at 45hz but a bit resonant at 80hz, or maybe it’s a ringing, rumbling mess down below 50 and sounds tighter at 80. Point is, it depends. Sometimes pushing the deep subs sounds great, sometimes it sounds messy.

  • Do you like it enough to gravitate towards it more, or do you stay away from it?

As above, it just depends on the production. But all else being equal, I do like nice full lows. It’s funny that @ColdRoomStudio mentioned the new U2 album. An educational experience for me was when I took my ipad into my car which has a decent sub, and loaded a song from their previous album, Songs of Innocent, into a DAW app. I swept an EQ down in the low end to see what was happening, and I discovered that the kick had real energy in the 40Hz range. The toms also had sub energy, and the bass guitar was mixed to match. Until then, I tended to think of low end weight being in the 60-100hz area and didn’t think much of the subs, but that experience taught me how important they are to a sense of depth and power. What’s more, because they’re further sonically from the low mids, an area that easily fills up and gets murky, you can push them more without associated frequency masking extending up into the difficult 150-300hz area.

  • Where do you usually high pass (remove your low end) your entire mixes, those of you that do little m mastering or even serious mastering?

I don’t high pass my mixes. Individual tracks get high passed where appropriate, or not, and that includes kick and bass - eg sometimes I might high pass bass at 50hz but then push up a low shelf at 80, and the high pass is an easy way to stop that low shelf boost bringing up subsonic stuff I don’t want. If there’s a problem with rumble at the end of the process, I’ll go and find the individual tracks that are the issue.

  • What tricks have you come up with that controls this sub low stuff to where it doesn’t distort or sound like mud?

In the old days, when it was boom boxes, cheap Hi-Fi, radios, bad car stereos, and a medium (vinyl/ Cassette) that had lower dynamic range and limited bass handling, low end was a potential problem. I think it’s much less so now, to the point that mixers don’t need to worry about the physical limitations of the distribution medium and the end listener’s setup to the same degree. That is what has allowed mixers to start cranking up the low end in the first place, and it means that if you want to chase more lows for artistic reasons, you can. There’s no reason it’ll distort unless you want it to, and you can’t account for someone listening on a system that can’t handle the low end. As for mud… it’s like any other frequency range in the mix. You mix it to sound as clear or murky as you see fit. If it sounds like mud, clear it up. If it sounds clear and you want more, boost it and smile!

  • Have you been successful with it to where it sounds good through earbuds as well as in your vehicle and on real monitors or even a boom box?

Earbuds are all over the map. Are they £3 bargain basement ones? The ones that came bundled with the lister’s phone? £150 after market goodies? Honestly, this might be a dereliction of duty but if the mix sounds good on my monitors, in my car which I know well, and my little PC desktop speakers… the only other system I care about might be my Shure over-ear headphones, just to see what happens.


#5

Excellent thread guys :+1:


#6

Great replies so far, everyone. Thanks for taking part. :slight_smile:


#7

Yes, I think this is definitely contributing to the “mo’ subs” scenario. Another aspect maybe that, with volume normalisation on many platforms, and with it less necessity to squeeze every last skerrick of dB-age out of a master, engineers are freer to use the full frequency range without a volume penalty.

Another angle is musical style. The current popularity of styles that feature slow tempos tends to allow for greater prominence of the slow-moving low frequency waves.


#8

Actually, that’s a good point - most integrated volume measurements have a degree of frequency weighting involved in arriving at a figure. Wouldn’t it be funny if this was just another aspect of the volume war - push the subs that don’t contribute as much to the measured LUFS loudness, and your song sounds bigger than other songs of the same LUFS value that don’t have as much subs?


#9

My answers would be very similar to yours Danny.

In terms of mastering, as you say the main problem is not the existence of the subs themselves, but their tendancy to overload the crap out of everything.

The other problem is that their massive energy takes up an abnormally large proportion of any loudness measurement. If you have a target loudness, and you also have unusually low subs, then the track is potentially not going to sound as loud as other mainstream tracks of the same loudness measurement - despite the measurement being one of actual loudness. That’s my experience, I guess it’s a deficiency in the BS 1770 algorithm.

So my first - and primary - strategy is to talk to the client to explain the disadvantages, and to give them some options.

In terms of method - a sneaky tweak of the HPF and some stealth EQ can go a long way towards mediating the problems, while still retaining the essence of what the client wants to hear. But it really depends on the client - each case is unique.


#10

So here’s something I came across that may be an example. It was recently published on YouTube, though I don’t know when it was recorded. The subs punch out more than just about anything I have come across. I do like it, though it immediately made me think of this thread. I’d guess they may be too much, but then again I don’t know that I’d change it. I’d have to scope it and listen on other platforms to see what is actually happening. The kick and bass are really punchy, yet reasonably clean I think. A quick LUFS check looks like 11. And yes, I believe this is the same Hyapatia Lee who was a porn star back in the 80’s. :grin: However, now she’s a strong advocate of Native American wisdom teachings. Mni Wiconi (Water is Life).


#11

Here’s another one perhaps. Just found it. I have liked Maria Brink from In This Moment quite a bit, but teamed up with Rob Halford it’s like “super hell yeah”. :beerbanger:

Subs seem pretty strong on this one too.


#12

Fuck me that is smashed to pieces. Underlines what Bob Ludwig was saying in the other thread I posted recently I guess. There is literally no room for the drums in the choruses.


#13

The In This Moment song? It sounds that way, but it’s like 11-12 LUFS (on Orban), yet that’s on YouTube so it may be pulled down.


#14

I’ll take your word for it. YT’s own stats say it is reduced by 7db which indicates that the track is about -7 LUFS.

Did you normalise it before measuring it?

Edit: -5.5 LUFS. Ridiculous.

On a side note, this suggests that YT’s target loudness has shifted to -12 LUFS. Interesting.


#15

No, that was just the streaming measurement. Pulled in and normalized, yes it looks more like -7 LUFS at least. The drums still hit hard. You can tell from the sound and the waveform that it’s smashed, but it seems listenable to me. Not ideal, but ‘normal’ for metal? Maybe the Loudness Wars have just turned me into a zombie. :zombie:


#16

It sounds dreadful to my ears. Just an all-out assault on the ears with no respite.


#17

Ha, over 9 million views on YouTube. I guess very few care what we think. :wink: The drums in the verse sound more dynamic, and the tom fills even in the chorus pop out. I’d guess they had somebody behind the controls with some idea what they were doing, even if quite aggressively. :thinking:


#18

Well that might be due to the performance and the song. YT has dropped the loudness by nearly 7db so there is literally no advantage to its inherent loudness - yet it has all the disadvantages. Maybe if it had been mastered at a less ear-battering loudness it would have had 18m views.


#19

That’s possible, but once people click on the link it’s probably recorded the ‘view’. I don’t think you can click a button that says “too smashed, remove my view”. :wink: It’s kind of the P.T. Barnum thing of “A sucker is born every minute”. Once people click it’s recorded. And as I’d like to point out, less than 1% of the population is thinking the way we do … maybe much less. They don’t care. If they rock it out and move their bodies, that’s all they need. Music is much more than specs … it’s the emotion most people relate to. Rap music has demonstrated that ad nauseum. :face_vomiting:


#20

It doesn’t register as a view until a certain percentage of the video has ben viewed, with a minimum of 60 seconds I believe. In any case, most of those views will be repeat viewings from playlists etc., they are no. of views, not no. of individual viewers.