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Low end: what is the secret

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My system is a TubeCube 7 with RP160M speakers. I don'use a sub.

No equaliser either. So it pretty much plays the music as it was recorded.

From time to time I come across recordings with remarkable, pleasant low end quality.

Neil Young's This note 's for you, for example. Especialy the tracks Coupe de ville, Can't believe your lyin' and One thing have formidable bass. On vinyl it is even better.

Keb' Mo' his That hot pink blues album - live also sounds really good in the lows. My favourite song is More than one way home. 

Being non-tech, I wonder what magic was used here...

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No secret or magic. You like the way some recordings are recorded and mastered.  Others not so much.  You will discover there are differences in the mid and treble, too.  Some recordings just stink and there is little to be done. 

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also depends on the media. Many record companies cut off the low end to fit tracks on LPs, and the last track is notorious for poor bass. A clean rehost on CD, even from just the original 2 track mix down, usually solves that unless the mastering person decides to monkey with the original tonal balance.

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Unfortunately, it seems that much of music history is recorded poorly or mastered poorly or maybe both.

Some of it is thin, some has the bass rolled off, some is compressed all to hell. Mark Waldrep addresses this repeatedly.

Our own Chris A (if I remember correctly) restores some tracks one-at-a-time with carefully chosen EQ adjustments.

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    This is one of the reasons why I like having the volume of my sub easily accessible (i.e. not on the back of a plate amp).  Sure, you can measure it and adjust the level and EQ until it is flat, but ultimately, some recordings just need more bass than flat can provide.  It is nice to be able to jack up the bass to get a better balanced sound.

       Some recordings just leave you scratching your head wondering "what was the mastering engineer thinking?"  In reality, a lot of music was mastered with the knowledge that it would likely be played on a small transistor radio, or a car system, or an MP3 player with earbuds and not a Hi-Fi system.  As stated above, if you read some of Chris A's posts about "de-mastering" his recordings, it is for this same reason.  While his approach takes some technical know-how and is pretty labor intensive, I imagine the results are quite satisfying.  The rest of us just have to make do with the music as it was recorded.

 

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2 hours ago, Tarheel TJ said:

    This is one of the reasons why I like having the volume of my sub easily accessible (i.e. not on the back of a plate amp).  Sure, you can measure it and adjust the level and EQ until it is flat, but ultimately, some recordings just need more bass than flat can provide.  It is nice to be able to jack up the bass to get a better balanced sound.

       Some recordings just leave you scratching your head wondering "what was the mastering engineer thinking?"  In reality, a lot of music was mastered with the knowledge that it would likely be played on a small transistor radio, or a car system, or an MP3 player with earbuds and not a Hi-Fi system.  As stated above, if you read some of Chris A's posts about "de-mastering" his recordings, it is for this same reason.  While his approach takes some technical know-how and is pretty labor intensive, I imagine the results are quite satisfying.  The rest of us just have to make do with the music as it was recorded.

 

In photography - hence my name - there's a saying: you can't make a silk purse out of a pig's ears... Which basically means you can't turn a bad raw picture into a good one by applying lot's of effects and photoshop. A picture that is already good you can make a bit better, though.

I guess it is  the same with records. Conversely, a well recorded, well mixed and well mastered song will sound amazing, even on a humble sound system, and it will shine on higher-end gear.

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That's pretty much it.  That terminology is in the computer world, music world, etc.  "Trash in, trash out"....in most cases.

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On 4/3/2019 at 11:04 AM, LeftEyeShooter said:

Neil Young's This note 's for you, for example. Especially the tracks Coupe de ville...have formidable bass.

Here is the demastering curve that I'd use for your first track--Neil Young's Coupe de Ville:

 

666252193_CoupeDeVille-NeilYoungdemasteringcurve.JPG.0d400700f93c6d48edd99ed331e3b775.JPG

 

This track is one of the least altered (from a mastering equalization perspective) of any track that I've seen from a popular musician's repertoire.  The advantage of this particular track is that if you use an "bass tone control" that's found on preamplifiers from 30 years ago, they have a 400 Hz turnover frequency, and if you add a little bass, it will be pretty much "right on" (assuming that you've taken the time to EQ your system frequency response flat to start with...as I have done for my system).  I can see some sibilance around 4 kHz and 8 kHz where it's clear that Mr. Young was not using an effective blast filter in front of the microphone, but you can leave that in or EQ it out as you please (about -3 dB at both high frequency points).

 

After putting that little EQ back in the track, it sounds like it has a bottom end.  Otherwise, this track has what 'd call "very sparse bass".  The the OP:  If you're currently hearing solid bass as is, you probably have your loudspeakers in boundary effect (quarter space--against or very near a wall/floor boundary) so that they're picking up about 7 to 9 db of bass SPL at 40 Hz over how Klipsch set their overall frequency response (i.e., they probably rated the RP160Ms in half space--so to get 9 dB more gain, you'll need to have them very close to the room's corners). 

 

Chris

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3 hours ago, Chris A said:

 this track has what 'd call "very sparse bass".  The the OP:  If you're currently hearing solid bass as is, you probably have your loudspeakers in boundary effect (quarter space--against or very near a wall/floor boundary) so that they're picking up about 7 to 9 db of bass SPL at 40 Hz over how Klipsch set their overall frequency response (i.e., they probably rated the RP160Ms in half space--so to get 9 dB more gain, you'll need to have them very close to the room's corners). 

 

Chris

 

@Chris A: Thank you so much for taking a look a this. Although some of it is way beyond me technically, it is nice that your analysis confirms what my ears are hearing...

 

Just to clarify for those who are not familiar with 'Coupe de Ville': it is a slow, fusion-jazzy blues song with a very slow bass line. So few low notes, but they are so noticeable because they are so very low. I guess the song makes the RP160Ms to produce the lowest notes they can generate, at least that's how it sounds to me. I've heard them before, but then they were synth generated. On 'Coupe de Ville', it is bassist Rick Rosas, of course.

 

If you listen to this youtube vid on laptop speakers, like I'm doing right now, of course, the bass line is totally gone and absent. Many people consider this album to be far underrated and especially on vinyl, one of the best recorded Neil Young albums. It was a flop at the box office, though. I have had a European first pressing since it came out in 1988. It is in mint condition. I thought I had a real money maker in my collection... but then I discovered that it can easily be bought in mint condition for less than €20... pfffft.

 

As it happens, today a package arrived with better tubes for my TubeCube 7 amp. So I replaced its standard Chinese tubes with Russian tubes:  a Sovtek 12AX7LPS (longer plates) pre-amp tube, and a pair of matched Sovtek EL84Ms (M stands for military grade). The impact of these tubes is rather great. The stereo effect is much more pronounced. And, more relevant here, the bass notes are much more refined. I find it difficult to put into words, but with these tubes I can hear the timbre of the instrument, while this is less so with the standard tubes. I have been listening all evening to a whole variety of music (Toots Thielemans' harmonica playing,  Missing...Presumed Having a Good Time by The Nothing Hillbillies - which also has a very present bass, Neil Young, of course, Marvin Gay's What's going on, The Last Samurai Soundtrack etc). And the listening experience has dramatically improved and I have discovered all kinds of new details. I know, it is a cliché, but it is true. The only reason I quit listening is because the wife and kids wanted to go to bed...

 

One final thought: it is often the fault of the mixing, or mastering, when a recording is 'bad', some of you have pointed out. I can only agree with that. However, it can also be a deliberate choice of the artist mix the bass away to the background. I know from a documentary that this was the case for David Bowie's The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. They explain Bowie wanted all the attention of the public focused on himself and lead-guitar player Mick Ronson. He didn't care very much for the base line, so it was barely heard.

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