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Topic: OT: Soundcards and rendering?

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  1. #1

    Question OT: Soundcards and rendering?

    I have listened to many offerings in the Music Library here at the GPO forum and have a question concerning what I am hearing. Some examples are done in Notation programs, others are done in Sequencing programs and still others are done in a hybrid Notation to Sequencer combination. Some examples sound extremely realistic on my speaker system while others sound not so realistic (more organ-like in nature).

    My question is whether or not the soundcard makes a difference in the final rendition of a piece, given that all else is equal, i.e. good muscial writing and orchestration.

    So, when you render a piece from what ever program you have used to create the music, is the final sound of that file influenced by the type of sound card you have or is the file simply rendered in the CPU using the Garritan Samples?
    In other words, what role does the soundcard have in the sound of the final audio file?

    Please don't make this a "my soundcard is better than your soundcard" or my style of writing is better, etc."
    [Music is the Rhythm, Harmony and Breath of Life]
    "Music is music, and a note's a note" - Louis 'Satchmo' Armstrong

    Rich

  2. #2

    Re: OT: Soundcards and rendering?

    Quote Originally Posted by RichR
    In other words, what role does the soundcard have in the sound of the final audio file?
    There are a lot of articles on the Net about the importance of soundcards. At the moment I can't give you any search arguments, but I am sure you can find your own way (SoundOnSound magazine e.g.).

    It has to do with the overall quality off the components used. In particular the AD converter. Mine, which is the Audiophile 2496, doesn't have a headphone connection for technical reasons. This one belongs to the lower end of the line, but as you go from audioshop/music store to another you will find out the right one.

    The role of the soundcard is somewhat equal to the role of the monitors (another thread here). The better the output is the better your rendering.
    Think of this: you can't drive a Rolls Royce on bicycle wheels. The Rolls Royce is your composition.

    Spend some time to read, search the internet, talking to professionals, etc... and you will find the one within your budget.

    Raymond

  3. #3

    Re: OT: Soundcards and rendering?

    It is not the soundcard making some mock-ups sound like an organ.

    At best, we are listening to everyone's music posted here in the MP3 format. So, if all soundcards had a maximum sound quality of an MP3, then the soundcard can not be blamed for some good and some bad.
    I don't want to go on record as saying they are all equal, because they are not. Typically soundcards that are real expensive, do indeed have better sounding A-D D-A (analog to digital and digital to analog) converters in them.

    The fact that a brand Y soundcard does not sound as good as brand X is clearly a possibility, but re-rendering your old mockups with a new soundcard, will not take away the "organ sound" . However there are some very specific reasons why some songs don't sound as good. I will bet my life on it, that the soundcard is not responsible for making or breaking a mix, it is usually a combination of the editing, balance of instruments and overall reverb fidelity that causes things to sound like an organ.

    Poor editing and balancing of instruments is the culprit behind the "it sounds like an organ" dilema.

    When certain instruments collide with each other with near perfect tuning, and the onset of these instruments' notes are precisely in time, this too will cause this ugly very un-natural sound like a computer's version of an orchestra.

    Significant sloppiness of notes being offset from each other is a major help towards a more realistic presentation. Another problem is with long sustained chords where some of the instruments have reached their loop point and are simply repeating. This rhythm of these loop points can also contribute to noticably bad sound. There are many ways to overcome this, and they are super easy to do in a sequencer, but not in notation software. Much of the tricks or "workarounds" to this problem are fixed in the mixing portion of the project. For example, the use a modulation audio plugin to create very slight pitch fluctuation in french horns and trumpets, or any time multiple "like" single instruments are used to create a section sound.

    Many reverbs have algorithms that have a certain "wha wha" sound to them (not good). If any one of these type of reverbs are used, this aggravates or patronizes the pitch of the instruments being used, and there will be a horrible ugly resonance to the sound. Solo violins absolutely must have an excellent sounding reverb, there is no way around this bad reverb sound, short of a really good Impulse Response, or a very expensive Lexicon digital reverb. Even if you have Altiverb, the wrong choice of IR will make ugly sound.

    Dan

  4. #4

    Re: OT: Soundcards and rendering?

    Thanks for the comments Raymond. Your points are very well taken.

    My point here is not to decide on a new sound card for my system. I understand the importance of an excellent sound card and especially AD/DA converters (I have a very good one in the MotU line). I don't want to talk brands, bits and Ks. I'm just interested in how a render is actually accomplished. Is it done solely in the digital domain between the software, samples and cpu or is the rendering happening in the soundcard which would involve the use of the converters in the sound card.

    There are many good examples in the Music Library section of our forum. Just about every piece I have heard whether it is an original work or a rendered masterpiece, shows excellent compositional technique. The pieces will stand on their own merit. But, the difference I hear is the sonic result. Some sound extremely close to a real orchestra or Jazz group and some sound like synthesizers or organs (and I have nothing against those sounds if that is indeed what you are striving toward). Some are written using notation programs and some are not. Yet both ways of preparing a piece will result in either a good or not so good sounding render. The difference has to be the sound card or am I missing something? I don't know the role of the sound card in the render and just wanted to know if someone else does.

    This is probably too technically oriented to be in this area of the forum. If so, someone, let me know and I will move it to a more appropriate discussion area.
    [Music is the Rhythm, Harmony and Breath of Life]
    "Music is music, and a note's a note" - Louis 'Satchmo' Armstrong

    Rich

  5. #5

    Re: OT: Soundcards and rendering?

    Rich, I just made some corrections to my post if you want to re-read it, thanks
    Dan

  6. #6

    Re: OT: Soundcards and rendering?

    Dan, you must have been typing in your statements as I was responding to Raymond. Thanks for the excellent detailed response. I will read it over and over to absorb the points you make. It is as I thought: a learning experience to develop an approach to mixing and rendering with the knowledge of what is going on in the computer that will improve the presentation.

    Your point:
    it is usually a combination of the editing, balance of instruments and overall reverb fidelity that causes things to sound like an organ.
    Is very well taken. You further pointed out that
    Another problem is with long sustained chords where some of the instruments have reached their loop point and are simply repeating.
    So, care must be taken to insure a good result in the mix. The major problem than with sound cards is not having a good enough card to be able to hear the differences as you mix and control the sound your music will eventually render. Am I correct in that assumption?

    Thanks for the excellent infomation. It is obvious you understand what makes a good mix and what does not. Everything I have heard presented by you has been excellent and demonstrates what can be done with attention to detail.
    [Music is the Rhythm, Harmony and Breath of Life]
    "Music is music, and a note's a note" - Louis 'Satchmo' Armstrong

    Rich

  7. #7

    Re: OT: Soundcards and rendering?

    Thanks Rich, I hope I can help further.

    For my rather simple two computer setup, I use a MOTU 2408 MKIII for the Mac running DP, and I use an RME HDSP 9652 soundcard in the PC that delivers all the sounds/samples digitally via three lightpipes (fiberoptics) to the 2408 for recording in DP. Good to hear you have a Motu device too.

    Quote Originally Posted by RichR
    The major problem than with sound cards is not having a good enough card to be able to hear the differences as you mix and control the sound your music will eventually render. Am I correct in that assumption?
    I honestly believe that most any decent soundcard has sufficient quality of sound for us to make good judgements while we mix.

    There is perhaps an equal amount of good and bad music produced by notation and a DAW/sequencer on the forum. There is no reason for me to insinuate that all music produced solely from notation is not good, and that all music produced from a DAW/sequencer is great, far from it. The whole idea behind notation users being so awed at their results is understandable when you consider what these people had for sounds in the not to distant past. When an accomplished musician can create a piece of music in a notation program, and render it with the quality of sounds, and with the help of human playback, it is no wonder these folks are thrilled when they hear their result.

    I will go on record to say that most DAW/sequencing programs stink if you want to create a proper score from the project at hand. And likewise, a notation only environment is, well, OK I can't say it, stinks without the manipulation and tweaking that a DAW/sequencer can provide to make an amazingly better end result. It is unfair to compare a DAW and a notation program, because they are not made to do the same thing. In my opinion, (just mine) companies like Logic, DP, Pro-Tools, Nuendo have mostly given up on trying to incorporate the ability to create beautiful scores from their midi data. They all know that companies that specialize in notation software like Finale, Sibelius and others smoke them.

    In closing of my ramblings, those who are posting music with notation only should realize that they would have uncanny abilities to improve the audio rendering of their project. Most of them are mainly interested in a score and a halfway decent rendering.

    Some users I have spoken with that use notation and a DAW are more comfortable creating their project in notation, then they simply transfer it to the DAW for schmoozing
    This gets the best of both worlds because they end up with a better sounding mock-up and a nice score.

    If I knew more about music than I do, I too would use notation for making a nice score, but I would never transfer that midi file into the DAW. I would use the DAW to record in real time all the parts from a midi keyboard. This way, the rendered audio version would benefit from true human playback.

    .02
    Dan

  8. #8

    Re: OT: Soundcards and rendering?

    Though are abilities are worlds apart Dan, I too believe that notation programs are mainly for the published work and sequencing software is for realistic rendering. I use a combination and I try to approach each area differently. When I'm in the notation program, I don't want to be bothered with this controller or that dynamic or how many players will be included on any particular part. I simply want to compose. On the other hand. When the composition is finished then I want to don my engineers cap and become the producer, director and chief engineer of my own personal digital studio! I can then tweak and twiddle to my hearts content.

    My concern in this topic is to help myself (and others in the process) better understand what's happening and, hopefully, why. Your comments have been extremely interesting and helpful.

    Thanks again for your insight!
    [Music is the Rhythm, Harmony and Breath of Life]
    "Music is music, and a note's a note" - Louis 'Satchmo' Armstrong

    Rich

  9. #9
    Senior Member rayzalaf's Avatar
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    Re: OT: Soundcards and rendering?

    Rich,
    Dan has said it all, You only get out what you put in, the best technology can't save a bad performance but when I listen to stereo records produced in the 60's with few recording tracks and microphones and think how marvellous the finished product: eq, balance, etc., it says it all.
    My main issue with sound cards isn't the quality of output but on how low the latency on input is without glitchs. But that's another issue.

    Ray

  10. #10

    Re: OT: Soundcards and rendering?

    Hi Rich, we are both typing at the same time

    I believe you are doing it right!

    As I mentioned at the end of my last post, you are doing exactly what I recommend.

    Dan

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