need help in sound quality

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Member Since: Oct 11, 2011

Hi ...I use ableton for all my music composition and production...though the sound quality of files I export from ableton is good... its in no way match to the quality of the actual soundtracks..
As an example below is my track in soundcloud..

When I compare it with some pro tracks like below , the quality is no match... what am i missing...i want to learn how to get this high quality

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Since: Dec 04, 2007

Aug 03, 2012 04:38 pm

That particular question is a pretty broad topic.

Without knowing the details about that individual artist, it could be anything. Better room treatment/monitoring, better equipment, higher end software instruments, or maybe he sends his material to a studio or mastering facility once he's done arranging the music "in the box," etc.

Comparing those two tracks in particular, the piano in his has a darker, lush, full sound. Your piano is thin in comparison, in that you may have rolled off to much of the lower frequencies via EQ. That is what I hear at a glance. But, is that a result of his room allowing him to hear more accurately, or is it the result of higher quality software instruments, or a combination?

So, what do you hear in your own room on your own speakers? What are the differences? How can you fix it, or improve yourself? Do you need to improve the room acoustics via treatment so you can better hear the flaws in your mixes? Or do you need to train your ears more? If you can hear a noticeable difference, then you can work to adjust your own works, and try to get them closer to your goals. Maybe use that artist's work to calibrate your ears before you work on your own.

But, (and this is a big point) if the room is crap, the treatments are crap or lacking, and the speakers are misleading you because of a bad room, then you are not going to hear what you need to hear to fix your own work. Since your own piano sounds thin compared to the artist you are comparing against, that would suggest your room has a problem in those lower frequencies that bring out that full sound, so you would be overcompensating in the mix due to your room/monitoring situation. (most if not all typical bedrooms or rectangular-ish rooms have problems in lower frequencies)

How is your room setup? What type of panels or treatments do you have in place, and where? How is your room shaped? What monitors/speakers do you use? Chances are, if you can improve your room/treatments and, by proxy, what you hear, then you can get a better mix and a better sound.

Otherwise, you'll just have to spend time learning the weak points, and train yourself not to overcompensate. Maybe listen to some good CDs with a good mix to help calibrate your ears before working on your own stuff will help.

Since: Oct 11, 2011

Aug 04, 2012 12:38 pm

Hi JB... thanks for the reply...I actually mean the recording quality and not the sound quality...

I have used all software vst and have not used any live instrument.. even the artist i had posted had used only software vsts for all instruments. so i dont know how much of a difference a room would make if both of us are recording out of DAW using only software instruments...

Of course as you said I dont use high quality vsts as the artist had used for strings and piano...but is that the only reason for difference of recording quality or is there any major step that I am missing while recording...

Since: Dec 04, 2007

Aug 04, 2012 09:04 pm

Well, better quality software will help a little. Check out Piano One from Sound Magic. It's a pretty decent sound in my opinion, and it's free as well. I remember there was an issue with the sound of the release in the samples, but they may have fixed that in the most recent version. Of course, software isn't everything, and with some work, low end or even free software is definitely capable of some good sounds.

You are correct in saying that the room won't affect the sound of the instrument in and of itself inside the box, but the room will affect what you are hearing from a mixing perspective when playing back. So, when you make adjustments in your mix based on what you hear in the room you are in.....the room + speakers play a huge role in that decision making process.

Could you describe your room a bit? Like, the shape/dimensions, whether you have any treatment/panels up on the walls or in the corner, where your listening position is set up, etc.? Getting a better sound could be as simple as moving your position, and putting up some acoustic panels and bass traps. (which don't have to be too expensive)
Since: Nov 27, 2007

Aug 04, 2012 10:51 pm

the only real major dif i can hear in the 2 is, and fair enough too, EW software which is kick *** but also i think with a some slight compression and then a limiter to raise the level some will make a huge dif.

compression tho needs to be slow attack and fast release say 38 to 40 to attack and release 20ish or less just to stave off peaks so its not noticeable.
Im not sure how they do things with software pianos etc whether it has fairly level vol peaks in its design or if its just raw.

Maybe add some higher freq to the piano and ever so slightly trim some mud.
and try ripping out some mid freq on the backing track so its not so up front.
I tend do all that after i run it thru a limiter. having said that adding eq proly isnt necessary after you get it louder. Again im not sure how softy pianos work.

hope that helps a touch.

Uh, at least one more time . . .
Since: Feb 07, 2007

Aug 06, 2012 01:56 am

To the OP: The room you're using to monitor your recordings in is more important than any software you might be using. J-bot is right: what is your room like? Your recordings are only going to be as good as the room your mixing your stuff in. The software is secondary.

Since: Oct 11, 2011

Aug 13, 2012 02:07 pm

Hi..To answer your question. My room is about 170 sqft and its not acoustic soundproofed. I use my monitoring headphones while mastering the track and hence haven't cared much about acoustic soundproofing the room.

I hear that people send their material to studio or mastering facility after they are done arranging. I understand that mastering in studio makes a lot of difference, but not sure if it will boost the quality this higher. One of my friend in studio mentioned that even they use pro tools and other softwares for mastering.

I want to know if there is something that they do in studio that I can very well do at home?

Since: Dec 04, 2007

Aug 13, 2012 05:41 pm

Okay, that is probably about 90% of your problem right there. Also, I think you are using the term "Mastering" improperly. Mixing is getting all the tracks of a project sounding good, and getting a balanced sound that sounds good across many different speaker systems.

Mastering is taking the mixed down 2-channel wav files, bringing out that extra little bit of polish and sparkle, and adjusting all of the songs/pieces of music so they sound like they were all cut from the same cloth, arranging the order of music on the CD, and having the album sound like a cohesive whole. That every track on the CD sounds like it comes from the same project.

In mixing, you work with individual instruments. In mastering you work with the whole mixdown.

Now, to put it bluntly: You can't fix or change what you can't hear.
Sure, software plays a tiny part; better instruments, better samples, etc. The rest is what you hear in your room on your speakers or in your headphones. And if your room or headphones or speakers don't help you hear the problems, then you can't fix the problems.

The problem with mixing with headphones, is that they are usually engineered to sound "good." Often the bass is hyped at least a little bit, some more than others. But another problem is the information your ears receive about the stereo image. With speakers, your right ear hears a little bit from the left speaker, and your left ear hears a little bit from the right speaker. You don't get that information on headphones as they are totally separated by your head. So mixes done completely on headphones often come out sounding "weird" on speakers or in the car. Like "flat" or "2-Dimensional" or kinda suffocated. It's kinda hard to describe.

Now in fairness, I do tend to break that taboo, and do some mixing on my headphones, but I use my near-fields a lot too. I'll sometimes ballpark it on the headphones to get an idea, and then do the fine-tuning on the nearfields, but I also swap back and forth a lot to make sure everything sounds good on both the speakers in the room, and on my headphones. (I have like 3 sets of different headphones now, but I mainly use the Audio-Technica M40fs)

Anyway, on the room situation:

There are treatments you can put up that are simple in nature. Thick dense materials (like those dense comforter blankets) on the walls can help high-end reflections. If the material is dense enough, maybe even down in the mid-range frequencies. I would put them up to the sides of the listening position, and directly behind. Bookcases filled with books along the sidewalls can help break up reflections somewhat.

Corners are a bit more tricky, and are often about 90% of the problem with a typical rectangular room. Bass frequencies tend to collect in the corners and reflect out to re-enter the listening space. It's easy to try: turn on your speakers, listen carefully, and walk slowly towards the corner. As you get closer, the bass will get louder, and louder, and louder, until you are in the corner, and it will dominate over everything else. Putting bass traps in the corners will help prevent the bass frequencies from re-entering the listening space, and will help to tame the room, and overall tighten up what you are able to hear. This may also help to unmask problems in your mix.

Something simple that you can build yourself would be rigid mineral fiber frames. Check out some owens corning 703 or 705 mineral fiber (a.k.a. rockwool) something like 2ft. W x 4ft. H x 4in. D. You'll need to wrap them in something like burlap, or something to keep the fibers and dust from getting all over the place. Then place those on top a wooden frame to allow air space behind the panels. That would probably be a good starting point.

Otherwise, you could try to find something really really dense, but still porous, and try putting that in the corners to see if it helps the bass.

This will totally change what you hear through your speakers though (not necessarily the headphones) so I'd advise sitting down with a few favorite CDs to "relearn" the sound.

That's all just suggestion though. I know a lot of us (particularly myself, in a rented apartment that is tiny) don't have room, or can't put up a bunch of treatment because the rooms are very odd, or have a buncha doors in corners, etc. So we just try to make do the best we can with what we've got available.

Since: Oct 11, 2011

Aug 14, 2012 09:31 am

Thanks JB for the detailed reply. As you said let me look at making my room acoustic friendly first. Post that will look at other problems like quality of VST etc...
Since: Feb 07, 2005

Aug 14, 2012 05:17 pm

Let me clarify one thing about acoustic treatment as I don't think that it is the entire issue here.

If a room is treated badly or not at all, doesn't mean it will sound bad in that room. If you mix in the box and monitor in the same room you can make it sound good. Great even. The problem is that it will not sound good anywhere else.

Just throwing that out there.

Since: Dec 04, 2007

Aug 14, 2012 10:55 pm

Yep, that's very true, and kinda what I was trying to convey, but sometimes I'm guilty of getting lost in the details.

To kinda paraphrase what BH said, or maybe take the other angle/view, well, the whole point of having treatment to help control sound in the room, is so that what sounds good in that room translates well, and sounds good in other rooms in other situations, on other speakers and equipment, etc. etc.
Since: Nov 27, 2007

Aug 17, 2012 09:18 pm

nice one BH. If you make allowances for your room in yer mix and your room is crud then you are now promoting all the offs in ya room.
I like it, never really looked at it this way.

Mastering Engineer
Since: Jan 09, 2011

Sep 07, 2012 03:33 am

I think in this case it is important to have a good over view understanding of audio engineering principles. Creating good sounding recordings is a symbiosis of knowledge and experience and of course good equipment which can be built up over time. Rome was not built in a day. I recommend reading up on monitoring and acoustics in the studio environment ans this will be an efficient way of resolving problems that are fairly easily rectified. The rest will come through gaining experience as you work. It is a long and very interesting road to travel so enjoy it as much as possible.



Chief Cook and Bottle Washer
Since: May 10, 2002

Sep 06, 2014 10:16 am

Ditto per room configuration. HMO, real estate is the biggest problem for a project studio. My boogie man is bass. Made great strides over time getting it better but still have build up here and there. In my room it manifests in cancelation translating to mud and boom elsewhere. Little things help, like leaving a door open so the bass can go bounce around in another room and drive my wife nuts. I happen to have a door in one corner. Speaker placement can help in some rooms, changing how the bass folds back on itself. Experimenting can get expensive too. There's not much that's cheep and effective for bass trapping off the shelf.

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