"...Wiktor's a Jekyll-Hyde personality..." - Lycos Music
I was turned on to Har-Bal by Randy Bowser, a moderator of these boards. It really helped me learn quickly how to EQ my stuff. I immediately saw and heard the differences. In conjunction with Sound Forge Har-Bal helped me to greatly improve my mixing and mastering - especially with large ensembles. I agree - highly recommended!
In answer to the question raised, I would not call a product like HAR-BAL (there are similar products - the original I know about was Steinberg's FreeFilter) "rendering perfection" though. Also Harbal is not that new - I tried it about 4-5 years ago!
The flaw with all 'mastering EQ' solutions that use a template or 'learn' facility is the same. The EQ curve applied to your music to 'make' it sound like the template or 'learnt filter' applies equally to the whole mix. In many rendering situations, to get GPO to 'sound like' say film music can sometimes need quite a bit of EQ, but the EQ is only really needed on certain instruments, at certain frequencies and shapes for individual instruments and even perhaps only at certain times. If you need to apply EQ, then the EQ you might like to apply to a harp (perhaps cut the bass a bit and boost high frequencies if you want a 'cutthrough' harp) will almost certainly not be the same as the one you want to apply to Pizz. Basses (perhaps to bring out the 'pluck').
Once Har-bal and other similar product analyse your piece and compare it to a reference mix, it applies a global EQ curve to correct or bring your EQ curve closer to the reference piece. So if your render is overall a bit short of top end and bass (typically this might be the case), then the whole mix gets a top and bass boost. This can therefore add unwanted EQ artefacts so eg, in an orchestral setting, might make a harp or harpsichord pick up an unwanted bass 'boom' along with the instruments (eg bass pizz) that really did need bass boost.
If used carefully, Har-bal and other products (like FreeFilter) can certainly help improve an overall sound and very quickly make dull sounding renders more vivid and alive, can certainly help identify EQ problems in your own mix and help train the ear to listen out for these, but for 'rendering perfection' - the quest of Michael's original question, I would stick to EQing the individual instruments.
Producer ~ Sound Engineer ~ Musician
A cool tool for sure. I have had the free-filter from Steinberg, now it`s name has changed. (because their own company)
But, as longer I have had it, as rarely I have used it. Now I use it never.
Because, I trust my ears and do equing in all the audio-channels. In my master-track there is an eq too, but this is for the last fine tweaking.
The graphics of the eq, opps, there is a tool in Cubase where you can see all that.
"Music is the shorthand of emotion." Leo Tolstoy
Listen to me, tuning my triangle http://www.box.net/shared/ae822u6r3i
I thought Har-Bal was what a cat coughed up.
But serially, I will check out this product. Thanks.
Larry G. Alexander
When I am completely wrong about this, or you don't agree with me, just shoot me. I had a serious look at that Har-Bal and rejected it immmediately. Somebody replied that it is just a templated wave form to follow, I agree. I also read that list of frequencies and what it does to ear-perception.
For the sake of comparison I ripped the following CD's onto my system:
- Symphony fantastique, Simon Rattle, recorded 2008, Berliner Philharmoniker
- Rachmaninov, Symphonie 1 & 2, Mariss Jansons, recorded 1998, St. Petersburg Philharminc Orchestra
- Rachmaninov, Isle of the Death, same orchestra
Adobe Audition has a frequency analysis tool with different settings possible to show the curve as mentioned in the description of Har-Bal. Looking at those, they all have their own peaks and valleys on the wrong spots, according to Har-Bal. Still those recordings are great and quite recent to have modern recording techniques on board (digital, I mean).
Then I submitted my own symphony to that same frequency analysis and again I found some peaks and valleys on wrong spots. To overcome those I applied a parametric equalizer on the various bands and got nearly to the graph presented in one of the tutorials of Har-Bal. The result was dramatic, muddy, not clearly accentuated strings, oboes sounded reasonable, but the rest was just an old fashioned heavely loudnessed piece of music, basses high, higher frequencies dead and not sparkling, the middle section nasal. The sound was bad but the graph looked good.
The last thing I did was comparing the non-edited first part of my symphony - the graph - with those from the CD's I mentioned above. They were almost alike. Yet they are completely different pieces of music.
And still, my own music is/was artificial and all I can say is that nothing compares a real orchestra, whatever you do to get it "so-called" better sounding.
Besides that, assuming that all recordings where the highest possible quality, they showed some differences in the graph. My conclusion is simple: other pieces of music, other orchestration, other orchestras, other ambiences.
I am afraid that when we use Har-Bal all music will sound the same, according to their templated graph. Sometimes high voices need to scream, sometimes lower voices really picture an upcoming disaster/drama.
No Har-Bal. I do the equalizing on Sonar, not to bend the tone, but to rule out that typical "sample-lib" sound (mainly the strings), without making it too smoothly sounding.
- If you want more highs, just raise the input level of the flutes/violins;
- If you want more mid freqs, raise the input of those voices in your orchestration;
- More bass, doesn't mean equalize them, but raise the volume of the celli, contrabasses, etc.
In Sonar, Cubase and maybe other programs as well, one can automate almost everything. As DPDAN once said: "don't be lazy and go to work".
My thoughts about this, - and my ears and my equipment dictate the result,
No shooting here. Some are gunshy on these boards (me included!) because of some history - but whatever, here we are!
Har-Bal was advantageous for me because it taught me what waveforms and frequencies to look for and adjust - especially in my large ensemble files. I was completely lost and Har-Bal gave me an excellent starting point.
I now hardly use it at all - I do my mastering in Sound Forge alone and the Mastering EQ, Compressor and Limiting tools work fine. But...NOW I know how to use them. Pre Har-Bal I couldn't get a starting point (just dumb I guess).
The only reason I use it now is to check how to balance (EQ etc) ensemble forms (banjos, ukeles, rainsticks, steel guitars, percussion ensembles, etc) that I am not familiar with. After getting the basic idea from Har-Bal I then have a starting point and can develop things on my own in Sound Forge - leaving Hard-Bal behind on subsequent projects.
So...Raymond ain't wrong, but Har-Bal can be a valuable tool.
Michael, That chart's a great resource, especially the bottom part! Thanks for posting it!