How to make tunes sound ok on Common /Basic computer setup.

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xabkr
KVRist
57 posts since 21 Apr, 2014

Post Thu May 21, 2020 4:42 pm

Hi Folks.
My question might seem very amateur to some, so I ask you kindly not to make fun of it, but explain in simple terms if you can.
A little bit of pretext on my flow and setup.
I record music for a long time (hobby, not professional) I am more interested in song writing and song form, not concentrating much on mixing. Usually I leave things in draft stage with a quick mixdown to share with family and friends. Mixing just enough so tunes sound ok. I have a decent hobbyist setup as far as interfaces go. I have a Blue Yeti PRO USB mic running 24bit on dedicated Asio driver. I use it mostly as tabletop soundcard / listening device and Arturia Audiofuse interface as main recording interface. My headphones are very "neutral" AKG702. Before I am ready to share tunes, I use old trick and listen to them in the car, to spot obvious errors. Recently, I was troubleshooting a piece of software and for the testing purposes I had to go through Wasapi onboard Realtek chip as my main sound device -the most common chip in PCs. While at it, I tried to listen to my last tune and it sounded SO different than through my ASIO interfaces. It sounded horrible and flat. At the same sitting, I tried listening to some semi-professional tune and it sounded so much better and fuller...

So finally, the question.
Seems the simplest way would be to duplicate DAW project and do a separate mix using onboard Realtek, instead of Asio device, making sure it sounds ok, playing through the most basic (onboard chip) setup. Most of my family and friends are not into music recording, so that is how they would listen to it. Am I correct on this? Or there is some other trick/method to make sure that tunes sound OK on common consumer setup?

P.S. Please note, I am not complaining about my Asio devices as I am satisfied with the quality level when recording or listening though them.

Would appreciate if somebody knowledgeable explain it in simple terms how to address common hardware "quality".
Thank you,
Mike.

GuitarPlayerinNYC
KVRist
130 posts since 23 Dec, 2019

Re: How to make tunes sound ok on Common /Basic computer setup.

Post Thu May 21, 2020 8:32 pm

I'm only going to comment, as I have no answer...

I've been recording for about 10 years- mostly my guitar through various ASIO interfaces- Focusrite, and various other guitar interfaces/amps that acted as my sound card.

A professional music producer got me started on my Windows system (he used a Mac, THE computer at the time it seems). I have a personal friend that's a semi-pro producer (he uses a Mac also) and he's given me a lot of tips, especially since I started branching out in my recording, and now recording more midi, than actual instruments.

Both told me to get one or the other or both, as far as monitoring: a decent set of monitor speakers, or a decent set of monitoring headphones. I still have the Audio-Technica ATH-M50 headphones the pro said "should be good enough."

Neither mentioned a specific DAW- Logic or Pro Tools seemed to be the DAW of choice at the time. But, it seems Ableton, FL Studios, and maybe a few others have become the DAW of choice, at least in the EDM crowd. Neither ever mentioned a soundcard. I've watched a million youtube videos, and don't recall anyone ever mentioning a soundcard either.

As you likely know, technology has made huge leaps in the past 10 years. 10 years ago, I had the latest and greatest desktop- I think it was the first Intel 4 Ghz chip, and 4 gigs of ram (32 bit couldn't handle more ram; both my friends had something like 32 gigs of ram in their $10k Macs).

I'm currently using a Dell laptop with an 8th generation i7 8 core chip, with 16 gigs of ram, and a SSD drive. This thing is FAST. Comapared to my old desktop (I built it for gaming), this laptop is a beast.

I've watched hundreds of YT tutorials on music production by now, and I'd say that 99% of the time, I could see the youtuber's laptop. Very often a Mac, but not necessarily. I've seen plenty of "How To Build a Home Studio For $1000!" vids, and sometimes, that included the cost of a laptop. Your basic setup would be a pc of some kind, a DAW, an interface, your instrument, or midi keyboard, and headphones, or monitors. I've recorded on a little Netbook, with a 1.2 Ghz atom cpu

My old gaming desktop cost me over $3k to build. My Dell cost about $1400. So I don't think cost is the determining factor anymore, and, as with my continuuing arguments with other guitar players, I personally don't believe that cost=valu. My $2k Fender guitar isn't $1900 better than my $100 Epiphone Les Paul special. Both get the job done.

For live instrument recording, I'd think you'd need a professional studio that's sound treated, and the recording engineer would have external hardware for mixing, and mic'ing, isolation rooms, etc. There's likely home producers with treated rooms to properly hear the monitor speakers.

It's just my opinion and observation, that you don't have to spend a fortune anymore on hardware. Sure, you need a computer with a decent cpu, and enough RAM so your DAW doesn't crash, but hardware is relatively affordable now. I've been spending my money on decent plugins. I probably have over $5k in software (all bought on sale; I've probably spent about $500 at most in real dollars). The plugins made a MASSIVE difference in my mixes. But prior to 5 months ago, I wasn't terribly interested in mixing/mastering. But since the shutdown, I've spent a lot of time watching tutorials, and that's where I saw the magic in decent plugins. I've started messing with recording "cinamatic scores." The Hollywood pros use software too.

I have heard that certain DAWs sound "warmer" than others, like Harrison Mixbus, and some people use one DAW for recording, then mix/master in something like Mixbus. In only the past few months, I've discovered mastering software, like Izotope Ozone for one, and all I can say is, wow, my mixes have made a quantum leap in sound quality. There's plugins to master for different listening platforms too- streaming, CD quality, home stereo, etc.

Anyway, that's my uninformed observations. But you've raised an interesting question.

xabkr
KVRist
57 posts since 21 Apr, 2014

Re: How to make tunes sound ok on Common /Basic computer setup.

Post Fri May 22, 2020 5:10 am

GuitarPlayerinNYC, interesting read, however it does not try to answer the question. Probably my initial post has too many words :)

Will try to condense.
I have a WAV file. Sounds good on ASIO dedicated devices, but sounds dull and flat when running through $3 onboard Realtek chip, which most mortals have on their laptops. How do I make the file sound OK on Realtek chip or similar?
Do I mix, using Realtek onboard chip or there is a trick to do this smarter and perhaps easier way?


Thank you.

GuitarPlayerinNYC
KVRist
130 posts since 23 Dec, 2019

Re: How to make tunes sound ok on Common /Basic computer setup.

Post Fri May 22, 2020 8:25 am

You're really asking two separate questions. The "quality" of the wav file (mixing/mastering), and the amplification of that wav file. So the short answer to make the wav sound better is the method of amplification: speakers. Whether it's headphones, or stereo speakers. There's a reason why most people don't listen to music strictly through their laptop speakers. However, the best speakers won't make a "bad" sound, sound "good" which is subjective, but I'd say if something is mixed totally flat, the best speakers won't make that flat sound, sound good. See if you have basic mixer controls on your computer system.

Realtek and asio are just drivers.

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BertKoor
KVRAF
11858 posts since 8 Mar, 2005 from Utrecht, Holland

Re: How to make tunes sound ok on Common /Basic computer setup.

Post Fri May 22, 2020 8:35 am

Realtek and asio are just drivers.
Asio has direct access to hardware.
With wasapi / wdm it goes through a mixer and thus the sampling rate might get adjusted. If your project is at 44kHz and the card happens to run at 48kHz, or vice versa, the signal gets resampled. And usually not at best quality.

This probably is just a fraction of the ultimate explanation. If the same speakers are hooked up to either realtek output or a proper interface, it should not be difference like night and day. It's often described as taking a veil off the sound.

And it's very hard to rule out there is a small volume difference. In listening tests a difference in loudness of just 1dB gets described as "richer, punchier, more dynamic, less dull, in yer face, wider".
None of the test subjects says "sounds the same, but just a bit louder".
Last edited by BertKoor on Fri May 22, 2020 8:53 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Forgotten
KVRAF
11462 posts since 15 Apr, 2019 from Nowhere

Re: How to make tunes sound ok on Common /Basic computer setup.

Post Fri May 22, 2020 8:36 am

I think there are two things here:

1. Making recorded music sound better is a skillset to be learned. Mixing is the process of getting everything to sound right before you mixdown, and mastering is taking that mixdown and 'polishing' it; getting it ready for distribution is whatever format you intend to use.

2. Being able to listen. This also is a skill that needs to be learned, but there are some tools that can help you on your way, such as spectrum analyzers. The equipment you listen on can make a difference, but I would add that in addition to getting good speakers and headphones, you should listen on as many devices as possible to figure out what is the optimal sound for many devices. Often a mix engineer will create a rough mix and listen to it for a while before committing to a final mixdown - playing it in a car, through a home sound system, on phone earbuds, etc. is a good way of hearing places for improvement.

Don't look for an answer in a single post here, take a look at some of the posts throughout this forum and others where people give advice on how to learn these things. I would also suggest taking in more than one viewpoint, as there can be many different opinions, so you need to decide what is right for you.

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thecontrolcentre
KVRAF
27490 posts since 27 Jul, 2005 from the wilds of wanny

Re: How to make tunes sound ok on Common /Basic computer setup.

Post Fri May 22, 2020 8:44 am

A good mix/master will sound good on every device ... your issue is likely to be caused by inaccurate monitoring. Using a poorer quality interface will only make things worse.

xabkr
KVRist
57 posts since 21 Apr, 2014

Re: How to make tunes sound ok on Common /Basic computer setup.

Post Fri May 22, 2020 6:08 pm

First, Thank you all for excellent points!

I must admit, I feel ashamed. I took Forgotten's advice to listen on several devices... (I usually do, but not on 2 different windows computers) and asked my wife to use her (windows) laptop to test that WAV file. It played fine!!!
She has a different (Cirrus) onboard chip, but still, quality was day and night compared to when playing through my computer on same default "Groove" windows player. It got me very confused. Then.. I looked under settings in "Groove" and there it was! My player had some funky EQ curve preset that made music sound like complete junk! I do not use that player, but it is Windows default, so that what most of my friends and family will use. I am glad that mystery is solved, however I did noticed something which caught my intention. Her laptop had EQ Profile is named "FLAT" (her default setting), mine was set at "HOME STEREO" However I did not even see "Flat" profile on my player, so I manually flattened EQ curve on it and that solved it. Perhaps our versions are different. I wonder what is the "average" preinstalled default EQ profile setting for that default Groove player?

GuitarPlayerinNYC
KVRist
130 posts since 23 Dec, 2019

Re: How to make tunes sound ok on Common /Basic computer setup.

Post Sat May 23, 2020 6:22 pm

xabkr wrote:
Fri May 22, 2020 6:08 pm
I wonder what is the "average" preinstalled default EQ profile setting for that default Groove player?
Pretty sure it's Flat. I have Groove, but never use it, and that's the setting it's at now.

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