New Dither Examples

A few years ago I produced some audio examples of different types of dither, so that people could more easily hear what dither does and what a couple of different dithering options sound like.   As there are even more options for dithering algorithms these days, I figured it was time to update my examples and talk a little bit about what seems to be one of the more confusing aspects of music production for people.  You can download all of the audio examples and graphs I’ll be talking about here:

http://innerportalstudio.com/files/DitherExamples.zip

For these examples, I used a 24bit sample of a ride cymbal with some reverb applied.  I then converted this to 16bit wav files in various DAWs using the dithering options they offer.  Specifically:

– Rectangular, Triangular, POW-r1, POW-r2, POW-r3 from Ableton Live 9.

– The only dithering option in Presonus Studio One.

– UV22HR from Apple Logic Pro X, though it also offers the same POW-r options that Live does.

– Goodhertz dithering from Audiofile Engineering Triumph.

In addition, I also created a 16bit wav file version using no dithering at all, this is called truncating.

The next step was to cut off the all but the very end of the reverb tails of these files, and normalize the remaining portion to -0.5dBFS.  This was done because dither noise is extremely quiet, with all but it’s very peaks around -96dBFS, well below the noise floor of most playback equipment.  Boosting only the tails of the audio files allowed me to raise the overall level of the files to make the dither noise itself audible at normal listening volumes.  These files are located in the folder called “Dithered Ride Tails”.

I recommend listening to the truncated version first, so you can hear what it is we’re trying to achieve with dithering in the first place.  At the very end of the truncated sample, you can hear what sounds like digital noise as the least significant bit toggles on and off trying to replicate the very quiet end of the reverb fading out to silence.  By adding dither noise, we make this last little bit of fade out much smoother and more natural sounding, at the expense of a very tiny bit of noise.

Remember, in these examples I’ve boosted this noise A LOT just to make it audible, in normal use, it’s so quiet as to be almost completely inaudible.  Plus there’s some tricks with dithering to reduce how much of it we hear even more, which I’ll talk about shortly.

I included the full length ride samples without trimming or normalizing as well, in case anyone wants them to hear how dither sounds in more real world situation.  You’ll find them in the folder called “Original Rides”.  Though I highly doubt that many people will be able to hear the dither at all, even on what is arguably one of these best examples for demonstrating it’s purpose.  It’s just extremely quiet, just imagine trying to hear it on a full mix!

In addition to the ride cymbal sample, I also created a 24bit sample of nothing but silence.  This was also converted to 16bit using the above dithering options, but in this case it was so I could provide FFT analyzer images of just the dithering noise itself for visual comparison.  I used DMG Audio’s Dualism plug-in for the FFT analysis.  The scale was set from 20Hz to 20kHz, and from 0 to -144dBFS (effectively 24bits) to make the shape of the dithering algorithms easier to see.  Keep in mind that a 16bit file has only a range to -96dBFS when you look at the graphs, so anything below that will be discarded.  All the graphs are unsurprisingly located in the folder labeled “Graphs”, and you can see them below too (click each for full-sized versions):

UV22HRUV22HR

Studio One Dither
Studio One

Live TriangularAbleton Live Triangular

Live RectangularAbleton Live Rectangular

GoodhertzGoodheartz

POW-r 1POW-r1

POW-r 2POW-r2

POW-r 3POW-r3

Why are they shaped differently?  That’s one of the tricks I mentioned earlier.  Since our ear is most sensitive around the 2kHz range, the dither noise in the various algorithms is created to be stronger in the frequencies away from this sensitive area.  Most of the time it’s boosted way up by 20kHz, beyond the range of most human hearing, but the actual shape and slope of the boost varies depending the algorithm.

Each manufacturer has what they consider the ideal way of doing this, sometimes, in the case of POW-r, with different options for different kinds of music. You can hear this in the subtle tonality of the noise in some of the different dither examples, as well as seeing the exact shape in the graphs I provided.  Some of the options like Ableton’s Triangular and Rectangular dithers are almost perfectly flat, however that doesn’t mean they are less effective.

Ideally this gives the producer the flexibility to choose the dithering that best suits their material on a song by song basis.  But again, this noise is so incredibly quiet that for most music, you’ll never hear it.  Which is ideal anyway, as dither was created to be as inaudible as possible in the first place.  I’ll admit that as a mastering engineer, even I rarely audition different dithers, since with most material there’s no audible difference anyway.

Once in awhile I’ll get a very dynamic song with lots of quiet passages, certain ambient or even orchestral songs fit this category.  In those cases I might try out a few different dithering options, though even then the differences can be almost impossible to hear, even in my studio.

The point of all this is make you realize that while dithering does fulfill a useful role in the audio production process, it’s arguably the least important aspect and isn’t something people should worry too much about.  Certainly add dither if you can when you’re rendering your mixdown or master to a 16bit file at the end of the writing process, but don’t lose sleep over which dithering option is the best.  The differences are incredibly subtle, even to those people with well-trained hearing, and in almost all cases the dither is so far below the noise floor of any playback chain that no one will hear what dither you used, or even if you used it at all.

I hope this helped you not only understand why we use dither, but also highlight some of the differences in the various options available to us.

Peace and beats,
Tarekith

Emotional Triggers

IMG_0037

One of the upsides of moving to Europe, was that I finally got a chance to upgrade my battered iPhone5.  It had been having increasing issues after 2 and half years of constant use and abuse, but with an overseas trip coming up, it didn’t make sense for me to sign a new 2-year carrier contract in the US in order to get a new phone.  So, at long last I was finally able to get an iPhone6, something an iOS musician like myself can appreciate for numerous reasons.

One of the more unexpected reasons I’ve discovered, is just how much better the camera is on the iPhone6 compared to my iPhone5.  Given that I’m in a brand new country for only a few weeks now, I’ve of course been out walking and taking a lot of pictures.  It surprised me how great they look once I get back to the computer to look at them.  (this blog post pertains to music, bear with me)

In fact I was discussing this with a friend of mine who’s into photography, and I mentioned I doubt I’ll ever buy a point and shoot camera again. How I think for my needs, the iPhone6 camera is all I’ll likely need ever again.  Convenient since it’s almost always with me too.

Of course my photography friend was aghast.

He sent me numerous links to articles pointing out the flaws in the sensor, the lack of details compared to higher end cameras, endless comparisons with “real” cameras, etc.  I replied that none of that mattered to me, I just like looking at pictures to remind me of certain times in my life, as a way of triggering a memory.  Of course, he then reminded me that this is why the majority of people are ok with low quality MP3s when it comes to listening to music.  Even though it might make a mastering engineer like myself cringe to read that people are tossing their CDs after ripping them to 128kbps MP3s.

Obviously, the analogy is spot on, and we agreed to disagree having reminded ourselves that not everyone needs accuracy or the best available detail to get enjoyment out of different forms of media.  It’s a good reminder that often the people most wrapped up in the creation of an artform are the only ones who really care about details of the medium used.  So while musicians might debate ad naseum the best algorithm for dithering, or photographers might debate…. well whatever it is they debate, it’s important to remember yet again that it’s the message that truly matters.

Of course we should take pride in capturing our message as clearly and transparently as possible, so the medium doesn’t detract from it. But at the end of the day that aspect of our craft pales in significance to how well we actual convey emotion or express an idea.  As always, it’s those things that trigger the greatest emotions in most people, not how well it was actually recorded.

A good reminder for us all I think.

————————-

LuxLook

Speaking of my move to Luxembourg, it’s been a few weeks since my last update so I figured another one was due.  We got word last week that our sea shipment (which has all my studio gear) would arrive in European customs on March 10th, which meant another 3-7 days until it was delivered to our new home.  Woo hoo, great news, as this was some what earlier than we had expected.  Unfortunately, yesterday they revised that date to be March 26th at the earliest.  My 40th birthday is March 29th, and I was really hoping that we could be done with all the move stuff by then.

Drat.

Oh well, not much I can do about it, so I just remind myself that at least I still have the laptop, my iPad, and the electribe.  Once we get out of this noisy hotel and into our new quiet apartment, I can finally dive in and get some proper music making done.  Good thing too, as I’ve been asked if I would be interested in doing a live set in a few months, opening for one of my mastering clients who’ll be on tour in Europe then.  Should be fun and at the very least now I have proper incentive to dig in and get the new electribe set done.  I’ll of course post more details once I get them.

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with a fun Luxembourg fact.  Did you know that clothes dryers in Europe don’t actually dry your clothes?  In the interest of energy savings, they use less heat and don’t use forced air to dry your clothes in 30 minutes or less like we’re used to in the states.  That means you can literally run them with the motor spinning for 5 or 6 hours, and your clothes will still be wet.  Energy saving at it’s finest  😉

Hopefully in a couple weeks I’ll have more positive news about the studio opening, and maybe, just maybe by then my underwear will be dry too.

Until then, peace and beats,
Tarekith

We’ve Arrived

10636451_1601153680120474_2127048591425804432_o

It took 4 days of driving across the US, 1 record snow storm in Chicago, 2 flight delays, 14 hours stuck on a plane, 3 hours of hair-raising driving in Germany, along with whole bunch of other adventures, but at long last we have arrived in Luxembourg!

The journey has been tiring more than anything, long days learning to adapt in a country where you don’t speak the language(s) combined with jet lag will do that though.  This first week has been mainly getting ourselves integrated into a new government, learning new rules of the road, trying to find places to get food, and working on getting the last of my business change completed.

Oh yeah, the week before we left Seattle I converted my Inner Portal Studio business from a sole-proprietor based company to an LLC corporation.  I mean, why do things the easy way?  🙂  Mainly on the advice of other business owners I talked to who moved overseas, hopefully it means less issues with the Luxembourg government when it’s tax time.  It was something I was planning on doing in 2015 anyway before we decided to move, so other than the stress of trying to get it all done before we headed overseas, no surprises there.

SeattleToLux2015-39

At the moment we’re in temporary housing in a hotel until our apartment is ready at the beginning of March.  The good news is that it took us less than a week to find a place to live for the next two years, and it’s a brand new building with incredibly thick walls so I can still work from “home” for my mastering business.  Well, once all my gear arrives sometime in April anyway.  The bad news is that I’m finding it really hard to make any music or be creative in a location like this.  Lots of noise from other people in the hotel, and there’s a TON of construction in Luxembourg during the day near where we are staying.

A least I have the electribe with me though, and since it’s battery powered, I’ll be able to take it just about anywhere once I find some good places to get away for a bit.  Plus it provides hours of childish fun when I get bored.  🙂

Sux

Aside from trying to get a new live set written, I’m hoping to finally make some more progress on my audio production book.  Hopefully when we move into the new apartment in 3 weeks, things will be quieter and more conducive to creative writing.  I was never one of those people who could zone out in a busy coffee shop for instance.

Well, that’s about it for now.  Just wanted to give everyone a quick update on my move!

De paix et battements,
Tarekith

We’re Off!

Well, the movers came on Friday and packed up the house and my studio, and luckily it went very well.  I felt bad for the guy assigned to my room though, it by far had the heaviest items, oops.  🙂

10750384_1595871007315408_7286354906175525289_o

Of course, I couldn’t stop working until the very end, but at least I had a guard dog to keep the movers away until the very end.  Definitely a bit sad to leave the room I’ve come to know so well behind, but I’m hopeful the next space will be even better.

A few last things to take care of in Seattle, then we start our journey to Chicago, and finally to Luxembourg.  The weather in Seattle is unseasonably warm, mid-60’s (15C) in January.  At least with the house all packed, we have a little bit of free time.  It was nice getting to sit outside and jam with the new electribe a couple times over the last few days.  Really enjoying this little box, some of the sounds I’m getting are amazing.

Outdoor Studio 08

At this rate I’ll have enough patterns written by the time we get to Luxembourg that I’ll have both a more uptempo set ready to go, as well as a more chill downtempo set.  Good stuff, now I have to figure out how I’ll do transitions, hmm…

Until next time, peace and beats.
Tarekith

And That’s A Wrap!

InnerPortalStudio2014-03

Well, it was a bit of a marathon session this week trying to get everyone’s projects wrapped up before the shut down, but I’m happy to say everything is done and it’s time to start packing.  Well, I’m not happy about having to pack up the studio, but it’ll be nice to have one less thing to worry about before the movers come on Friday.

So, as of now, Inner Portal Studio is officially closed for approximately 8 weeks.  I’ll be sure to post when I’m ready to start accepting tracks for mastering again.  In the meantime you can follow me on Facebook if you want to keep up with the move, and setting up a studio in a new country:

https://www.facebook.com/ErikMagrini.Tarekith

I want to thank everyone who offered good wishes with the move, it’s been great working with you all over the last few years!

Peace and beats,
Erik

Electribe Video Review

Screen Shot 2015-01-05 at 7.07.54 PM

Finally got a chance to record my video review and walkthrough of the new electribe, hope some people find this useful!

http://youtu.be/KF9DK2eQOdw

Hopefully over the coming weeks I can do a few more indepth videos on different aspects of the electribe.  This should give people a decent overview of how it works and what it can do sound-wise.

Peace and beats,
Tarekith

2 For 1 Mastering

EuropeTrip2014-06

At long last we finally have a date for our move to Luxembourg, which means only a few short weeks to keep the studio up and running.  The last day I will be able to accept any mastering jobs will be January 21th, any mixdowns I will need to have by January 16th to make sure I can complete them in time.  If all goes well I’ll back up and running roughly 6-8 weeks after that, though I’ve been warned by the moving company it could take up to 3 months.

I know for some of my regular clients this is an inconvenience, so in order to help you get as many of your tracks as possible mastered before I leave, I’m going to be offering 2 for 1 mastering until the 21st.  This applies to regular mastering only, stem-mastering and mixdowns are still the normal rate.  Hopefully this helps make up for any hassles with your release schedules in the coming weeks.

Just select the normal 1 track mastering payment option when you send me your 2 tracks via the links here:

http://innerportalstudio.com/mastering/

Thanks everyone, looking forward to working on your tracks one last time while still officially a Seattleite!

Erik

Electribe 5 Days In

image

Well, it’s been a busy week getting everything prepped for the big move still, but I’ve been trying to get as much time on the Electribe as possible. Overall it’s been a super fun experience, and I’m really starting to feel like the new Electribe could be my new main instrument for some time to come. Given all the gear I’ve been through this year trying to find “the one”, that’s a great feeling.

Now that I’ve had more time to get deeper into the synthesis options, I’m getting more and more confident that there’s a lot of sound design capabilities. The Mod section in particular really adds a lot of animation to your sounds, especially when you start adding in motion sequencing too. One of the few downsides of the Mod section is that a lot of the BPM synced LFO are also key sync so the cycle starts with each note on. Not a huge deal since there’s unsynced LFOs that can run freely, and happily the rate on these goes super low for really long evolving sounds.

One of the few frustrations I’ve been having is with editing my sequences after I’ve recorded something. The Electribe has a Step Editor for this exact task, which allows you to change a note’s pitch, velocity, or the gate time (note length). Unfortunately it seems that because you can’t have a note longer than one step, really long chords and the like are recorded as tied notes. This makes it hard to see which step has the actual note trigger, and which ones are tied. I still need to dive into this a little more, but for now it’s just been easier to delete the part and just record it again. More to come on this.

I’m still exploring the basics of Pattern creation at the moment, so I haven’t had a chance to do much from a live performance standpoint. I’ve been experimenting a little with how to do transitions from one pattern to the next, mainly using master effect delays. If you set a really long decay time for the delays (and use the same delay for both patterns), you can do a decent bit of blending to smooth out the transitions. Unfortunately the Hold button on the Touch Pad doesn’t seem to work when you switch patterns, so you need to keep your finger on the trackpad to keep the delay effect on and at the same level. Still, better than nothing and at least it’s s starting point.

In happier news, it was recently discovered that you can connect an iPad or iPhone to the Electribe via the camera connection kit, and the Electribe will show up on the iPad and a MIDI source and destination. This means you can sequence your iPad apps from the Electribe, or use an iOS MIDI app to enter notes on the Electribe instead of the Trigger Pad. ThumbJam and Genome users should be happy with this!

Especially when you realize you can then route the audio from the iPad into the Electribe, either directly through untouched, or to be effected by the Electribe effects. Since each part on the Electribe can host its own Audio Input OSC, that means in theory you could have 16 different effects processing the audio input signal in parallel, all at once. Sweet. I starting to think the Electribe and my iPad running Gadget could be a pretty awesome live combo!

I’m still trying to get a video review and some audio examples done asap, so hopefully I’ll have some more info soon. Stay tuned!

Tarekith

A Better electribe Default Pattern

I felt some of the settings in the stock Korg electribe default patterns (upper 200’s of the Pattern list) were a bit odd, so I made a new default of my own. Thought some people might want it, feel free to use it or modify it as you want.

To use it, place the file in the “KORG -> electribe” folder on your SD card. Then in the Data Utility menu, select Import Pattern, choose the card as the source, and then use the data encoder and Enter button to navigate to where the Pattern File is. By default it’s set to load into Pattern location 001, just change the file name to the correct number if you want it somewhere else. Here’s the file:

http://innerportalstudio.com/files/ElectribeInit.zip

A few of the things I changed:

– Length set to 4.
– Pattern Level set to 100.
– Chord Set changed to 4 for all Parts
– Gate Arp set to pattern 28 for all Parts.
– Groove Type changed to laidback for all Parts.
– The lower row of Trigger Pads are set up with the first drum type from each category, and all Voice Assigns set to Mono2.
– The upper row of Trigger Pads are set up with a mix of the different OSC types, and all Voice Assigns are set to Poly2.
– Trigger Pad Velocity and Scale Mode turned on for all Parts.

In addition, I set up all Parts to have a default Level of 64 to give some more headroom. I also switched the Insert Effect to the “Delay 1/4” effect for all parts, I just personally reach for distortions very infrequently.

Anyway, fixes some of the obvious ones like Trigger Pad Velocity and it also gives you more headroom to play with. Hope it helps.