Fix it in pre

November 28, 2022
 by Paul McGowan

My wife Terri is working on getting a sign made for Octave Studios that reads like today’s post’s headline.

Fix it in pre: a takeoff on the infamous fix it in post.

We will clean that mess up later.

While it might work in film, it rarely applies well in high-end audio recording. I think of it as the same problem we face in the reproduction chain. If you can’t get a perfect musical signal from the source, all the EQ, and enhancement tricks aren’t going to give you what you ultimately want.

Purity.

The more time spent choosing the best microphone and placing it in the perfect spot, the better one’s chances of capturing magic.

As in many of life’s endeavors, getting it perfected in the beginning is almost always better than covering it later with a Band-Aid.

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26 comments on “Fix it in pre”

  1. Getting it ‘RIGHT from the start’, sounds a lot more positive than having to “fix it” in pre or post.

    ✨Octave Records✨
    ‘Right from the start’

      1. “Absolutely. Any sentence with ‘fix’ in implies it’s broken.“.

        How about the nefarious “the fix is in”.

        Or “we got ourselves into quite a fix”

        Target practice …”I’ve just now got a fix on the target”

        And in our modern recording chain… is auto tune a fix, an enhancement an effect!? Are overdubs fixes, improvements or just part of the art?!

        1. Ha, okay, guilty as charged. I thought I might get pulled up on that one, perhaps a slight over generalisation but, when I see the word fix (in context) my first thought is that something has been repaired and therefore it was broken. For me it’s the sentiment behind the word and probably a word to avoid if you’re trying to sell something.

  2. Well, the good or bad news is, depending how you see it, is that PURITY is a bit old-fashioned, like film. Pure digital captures (RAW files) have transformed photography, but no-one would ever publish one. You can have the world’s best lenses attached to the world’s largest sensors, but there is no guarantee you will get the best images.

    For quite some time studio photography can be done with the camera tethered to the post-production software, so the image is being post-processed in real time. It is so common and so effective, the software is now widely used in the consumer market. “Pre” and “post” have merged.

    It is not a matter of cleaning up the mess, the fact is that a better ultimate result can be achieved using these production techniques, whether using them in real time or after the event.

    I was having a most interesting discussion on the forum this weekend over the production of some Italian Baroque concerto recordings, all done using Pyramix. A studio and label (Eudora) owner in Spain tried to do one in pure DSD, with some post mixing in DSD using HQPlayer (so they said). They were new to this size of band, about 12 players, I suspect it was a bit experimental. That contrasted with a label (Naive) that specialises in recording this type of music, their recording noted in the booklet that a Pyramix plug-in called PanNoir had been used. This plug-in allows for both phase and amplitude adjustments for each microphone appropriate to their placement.

    It was an interesting learning experience in the difference between the purity from individual feeds, which you got in the Eudora recording, and the coherence of the overall mix, which you got with the Naive recording, but was completely missing from the Eudora one. The Eudora was also lacking any sense of the room, possibly because of the microphone placement, in part due to the recording location.

    It was interesting reading about the processing capabilities of Pyramix, that can be used both in real-time and in post-production. They are certainly not a Band-Aid, they are clearly fundamental to producing high quality recordings. They are easy to hear. Merging post YouTube clips with these processes switched on and off.

    We also discussed a famous Vivaldi recording by Jared Sachs, captured in DSD. He’s clearly a master at this, having been a classical musician and with 30+ years of recording experience. He was also working with the world’s leading performers of this type of music. He effectively records live, how he got the sound he did I will never know, as I know the recording venue, but he did.

    The end result was that a 16/44 file sounded better than a pure DSD because of the processing (whether live or post). The 16/44 was presumably captured in DXD. (It was released in 2011, hence no HD version, there are more recent HD files.) Of course things might be different recording a single instrument or an orchestra. There are clearly many ways of doing things and invaluable processing tools to make better sounding recordings.

    1. As “processing” (digital or analog) in general isn’t a term associated with “purity”, we should get aware that the less and the most in the know and under control, the better. I guess in digital that’s the strength of DSD (at least at the pure recording stage).

    2. Thanks, Steven. As always, informative and interesting.

      PanNoir is, as you suggest, a plugin built into the Pyramix system but available only in DXD.

      As we only capture in DSD and mix in DXD, that plugin is readily available and for a few mixes has proven valuable.

      I bring this up only to make sure people understand that these plugins only work in DXD (regardless of how the original was captured).

      1. This may interest you. Simon Eadon joined Decca even before you started in the audio business and he’s still going strong, I have hundreds of albums he’s engineered.
        https://www.gramophone.co.uk/features/article/the-art-of-the-recording-engineer-a-conversation-with-simon-eadon

        The picture of the Takacs Quartet (resident in Boulder) is taken at Wyastone Concert Hall, used by many independent labels . The picture of Alina Ibragimova with Cédric Tiberghien at Henry Wood Hall shows how few microphones he uses. I posted a picture in the forum of Jack Liebeck recording solo violin in the same venue using more microphones.
        Curiously, Wyastone is run by Nimbus, a charitable organisation that also owns several labels.
        https://www.wyastone.co.uk/nimbus-foundation/objectives-and-activities

  3. I agree that using the term “fix it” is not a could idea in a company’s slogan.

    Here are two that I like: Porsche – Excellence Is Expected and Mercedes – The Best or Nothing.

    You have got to be careful with slogans. When I was an undergrad we had a visiting professor from industry ( he was taking a sabbatical year which is unusual in industry ). He told us a story about a company whose slogan was “The Quality Goes In Before The Name Goes On”. If you are old enough you may know which company this was. The made transistors and stamped their name on the metal cases of the transistors as a final step. The problem is the stamping was cause failures in the transistors. As I said, you have to be careful with slogans.

  4. “Fix” is an interesting word…

    It can mean ‘repair’.

    Also, it can mean ‘sorted’ as in a British use.
    Then it also means ‘attach’, ‘hold down as in “affix” or “attach”

    In recording, I like the “nailed down” idea.

    My ‘70s direct to disc recordings really show this off.
    Octave are one of a few m that are coming close these days.
    Really looking forward to the latest crop of Octave recording with the latest setups and tech.

    Thank you Paul!

  5. With music, the problem is not boring the musicians while you work on perfecting the sound. I think the best way is separate sessions, one for setup and another for the actual recording.

  6. Actually, the magic *is* there … if the musicians were in the zone at the time of the recording – no matter how clumsy or flawed the recording was, if magic was being made for people who were listening at the time, in the place, then a competent replay setup will draw it out. I enjoy listening to completely zero value recordings, from artists and recording companies who have zero cred; to discover the musical magic that *was* captured – any system which will only sound good with the ‘right’ recordings, is a ‘wrong’ system …

      1. A good example … an Ike and Tina Turner compilation, on a no-name label, half the tracks recorded in a night club, on something that was available at the time. On a less than optimum setup, eardrum shredding treble that would drive anyone out of the room, as fast as their feet could carry them. Picked up for $1 in an op shop.

        Played on accurate gear, amazing drive and energy, powerhouse music; the ‘faults’ of the recording count for nothing, it’s a fabulous ride, all the way …

          1. The recording is what it is – what you don’t want is for the playback chain to exaggerate or emphasise qualities which will make for unpleasant listening. And, at least for me, the upper frequencies if done wrong are an instant turn off. Real life instruments as part of their signature can produce very high intensity treble sound – think trumpet – but I don’t have a problem with that sound, in real life and also with accurate playback. It’s poorly reproduced upper frequencies in many audio setups that make for disappointing SQ – something that can and should be fixed.

            1. “The recording is what it is” & it can screw up the sound of the whole home-audio reproduction set-up is my home-audio experience over the four decades that I have been involved in Home-audio as a pursuit & 22 years if home-audio sales.
              A few weeks ago you stated that six home-audio rigs, side by side, should all sound the same.
              Now you talk (type) about less than optimal set-ups…I say that it’s all subjective.
              You have said on a few occasions here, on Paul’s Posts, that you’re a “trouble-shooter”, well, I have news for you fas42, we are all trouble-shooters of our own home-audio rigs…you are not alone in this endeavour.

              1. Competent replay of 6 rigs, side by side, should sound the same – whether they are in the home, or being demoed in a store or at a show. IME, nearly all rigs are sub-optimal; including my own while I work towards bringing them to their best possible performance; even then, a lot of the time they slip off the plateau, and I have to work out what’s gone wrong – and then there are the moments when *all* the stars align, for some system, and you are aware that even greater potential for some album is possible.

                Yes, most troubleshoot to some degree – where I differ from most is that I take this to what would be painful levels to many audio people; I worry over things which to quite a few people would seem ridiculous. But I’ve learnt that such is absolutely essential, to “squeeze out all the juice” … the rewards for being so obsessive is peak SQ, from albums that most in the game write off as being poor.

                1. fas42,
                  Hmmm…ok, well yes, your method(s) could be described as overkill or ‘OCD’.
                  Personally, I think that I’d rather be sitting back & enjoying the music than going to such painstaking lengths to squeeze more juice out of a home-audio rig…that sort of obsession means that it’s never-ending; what a nightmare 😮
                  But having said that I will also say, “Each to their own”…especially in the subjective world of home-audio music reproduction ✌

                  Btw, six rigs side by side are never going to sound the same, since different components all add their own flavour/colouration to the resulting reproduced sound, & there’s no way around that fact.

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