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Topic: Do Sample Libs sound better in Pro Studios?

  1. #1

    Do Sample Libs sound better in Pro Studios?

    Somebody here recently suggested a poster take their sample instrument audio file to a large pro studio for some punching-up. Is there a significant difference between what a well-stocked home-based studio and pro studio can do with sample libs? If so, what pro gear makes the most difference and why? Maybe it's the people (more than the equipment) at the pro studios - engineers/mixing artists, etc. that adds to the attraction.


  2. #2

    Re: Do Sample Libs sound better in Pro Studios?

    Well, most of these libraries have sounds that are really terrific out of the box- no EQ or other processing necessary. The problems begin to occur when you hear things in context with each other and find that effects and other tweaks are needed to make a mix work. The line between what "Pro" studios and home/project studios is blurring all the time. Big studios have an advantage sometimes by offerring very high-end monitor systems, and also well designed environments to hear them in. They can provide a lot of outboard gear, especially analog tuff like tube pres and EQ units that many project studios can't afford. BUT, what can be acheived these days with (relatively) inexpensive near-field monitors and computers running plug-in software is nothing short of amazing.

    The bottom line for me is generally that unless I have to have something that I just don't at home (say, access to a great tube-mic collection or a 100 square foot room) my project studio always gives better results because I can take as much time as I need to get things right.

  3. #3

    Re: Do Sample Libs sound better in Pro Studios?

    The only reason as to why I would go to a pro studio is to track or mixdown. A good "room" for both recording and mixing is something that is hard to accomplish in a home studio. Usually great care must be taken in the construction of an accurate sounding control room. This can result in expenses that the average home studio owner is not willing to spend. Plus is can be physically impossible for someone to alter their home studio (if they are renting for example). In this case (and for the right project) it makes total sense to hire a good studio and go do the mix there. Plus if a good engineer is part of the package that is a good incentive as well.

    Other than that, the need to track in a good recording space or if a larger ensemble is needed will necessitate going to a recording studio, but if we're talking sample based music, then the former reason is more applicable.
    Music Composition for Feature Films, Television and Interactive Entertainment

  4. #4

    Re: Do Sample Libs sound better in Pro Studios?

    If you are doing orchestral music, wouldn't that mean that for a really pro mix, you need to go a studio where the regularly record and mix orchestra's? Or could you just hire an "orchestrally" experienced engineer and hire "any" pro studio?
    It will probably never become relevant for myself, but I'm just interested in learning about what pro studios can add to the end-products we refer to as "midi-mockups"... I guess it's mostly in the EQ, balancing and ambience department (this based on real pro monitoring and acoustics).

  5. #5
    Senior Member Bruce A. Richardson's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 1999
    Dallas, Texas

    Re: Do Sample Libs sound better in Pro Studios?

    I would concur wholeheartedly with Kays.

    You would primarily benefit from a pro studio's well tuned mix environment. It makes a big difference. Gear wise, not so much difference if you're working with top-shelf DSP at home. Likely, they'll have the same basic stuff.

    To give you a reference, I had a basically treated room at home for several years. It sounded very good, but it was much harder to do mixes here than at a studio. I decided to do a no-holds-barred acoustic retrofit at home so that room would be equivalent to a good control room. In materials alone, it took about $3500, and the "tuning process" overall took us about four months of experimentation...including a few wrong turns which were subsequently rethought.

    But after all that, when the engineer who designed the treatments (Jeff Szymanski of Auralex, a very nice man and talented acoustician) ran the final tests, the room passed with flying colors, and I finally have a studio-quality mix environment.

    I've been working in it for about a year in its final state. What strikes me most is how subtle mix adjustments make such a huge difference. In having some time to reflect on mixing now, versus mixing in my "good sounding" but not "studio quality" environment, I have come to the conclusion that what is possible for me now is to put things in "focus," mix wise, very quickly.

    I would call it analagous to focusing a camera. Before, I'd overshoot the focus--that sensation of twisting the focus ring back and forth on either side of the correct place. Mixes would be not quite right, so I'd make an adjustment I thought would fix things, and listen, and think I'd fixed the problem--only to do more listening and realize I'd overcorrected, and needed to back away.

    Now, it's as if I just "turn the ring" right to the correct focus, and it's right.

    I also went back to listen to a lot of my earlier mixes once the room was really tuned, and I could immediately diagnose problems with them that would have been easy fixes.

    That is the difference in a mix environment. Now, in general, nearfields are designed to somewhat mitigate that difficulty. But that is somewhat of a delusion. What nearfields mitigate most are bass problems, because they don't engage the room enough (at sane volume levels) to "ring" the room and reveal the modes and nodes which alter your perception.

    However, my lingering problems were in the mid-bass and midrange, and those frequencies are just as easily excited by nearfields.

    The other advantage, mix-wise, of a studio (or studio-tuned) room is the ability to use a mid-field monitoring position. Especially when mixing large-soundstage productions, it is really nice to be able to get some distance, size, and width in the monitoring situation. But this engages a lot of room air, and is all but impossible in untreated spaces.

    It is easy to think, "Heck, my huge stereo sounds great in my living room, so why would this be true?"

    The key is portability of mixes, as always. Sounds good versus truth.

    Well, I need to shut up and get back to work. But that's the skinny. Sample libraries don't necessarily "sound better" in a professional mixing situation. You will just hear the truth of how you are combining and affecting them in your mix, and will get a more subtle and dependable mix when you are hearing the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth--so to speak.

  6. #6

    Thumbs up Re: Do Sample Libs sound better in Pro Studios?

    Yup - you guys nailed it - It's the room, and the ears doing the interpretation and translation.
    Houston Haynes - Titan Line Music

  7. #7

    Re: Do Sample Libs sound better in Pro Studios?

    Hi Guys,

    The ROOM? I get the importance of mixing with good studio monitors. No bass, no treble, just flat and true But why couldn't you put those great flat, monitors on either side of you in a small (not acoustically correct) room and get just as good reference as placing them in a big acoustically correct room isn't intuitive to me. I'll read beyond what's already been stated here, and thanks again. Also, Nearfield.... I'll google that.

    Fred, I relate to your "more time to get it right at home" comment. The times I've been in a studio - which isn't much, it was rushed, on the clock.

  8. #8

    Re: Do Sample Libs sound better in Pro Studios?

    Hi Joanne, when we think of having balanced studio monitors that dont colour the sound the same thing goes for a room really.

    Depending on the acoustics of the room, it will exaggerate or dampen certain frequencies in a mix.

    So even if you did spend top dollar on good speakers, if the room seriously colours the sound in some way, you will mix to what you hear (or more accurately, perceive.) For example, if your room is bass heavy, you'll probably be cutting the bass in your mix a lot. Play it on another system and you may suddenly wonder where the bass has gone.

    I remember an old story about some studio guys having a party on the roof of the building. They grabbed some old crap monitors from somewhere and set them up on the roof. They were amazed at how fantastic the speakers suddenly sounded. It probably had to do with the fact that the monitors had room to breathe in the outdoors and werent fighting with bad reflections.
    - SCA - Sound Studios -

  9. #9

    Re: Do Sample Libs sound better in Pro Studios?

    Quote Originally Posted by Joanne Babunovic
    Hi Guys,

    The ROOM? I get the importance of mixing with good studio monitors. No bass, no treble, just flat and true But why couldn't you put those great flat, monitors on either side of you in a small (not acoustically correct) room and get just as good reference as placing them in a big acoustically correct room isn't intuitive to me. .
    Well, that's the concept behind a near-field monitor. You set them close to you, hopefully in a biggish room away from the walls and you hear them and not the room acoustics- sort of. You can't truly isolate the room out of the equation, you can only minimize it (with luck) That setup works fairly well in many circumstances but that's no match for the kind of profesionally tuned room that Bruce is talking about. Remember we're talking about the difference between "pretty good" and "top flight" here.
    The monitors in the big acoustically correct room probably aren't near fields at all. Back in the day they were big custom built affairs set into the walls, and in the big studios they could take advantage of the room acoustics- because the room is properly set up. Make sense??

  10. #10

    Re: Do Sample Libs sound better in Pro Studios?

    Thanks Scott and Fred,

    It's making more sense - and I appreciate all the replies pounding away at the same concept. Amazing that other than a good acoustic room and maybe specialized engineering pro studio staff, pro studio gear no longer matters. I thought there would be talk about $15K sound cards, "special compressors" , huge mixing boards etc.

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