Controlling harsh treble
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Old 16-06-2015, 01:37 AM   #1
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Controlling harsh treble

Something I have been thinking about this week (and something I'm struggling with right now). How do you guys deal with harsh-sounding treble ITB?

A lot of people seem to have the automatic go-to of "just EQ it out" or "Low pass that shit" which doesn't really gel with my thinking too well. If you go back to old school analogue recordings done to tape you can hear smooth treble in all it's glory when it is probably recorded to tape and though a nice desk and other hardware.

You Ableton users are probably wondering what the hell I'm going on about - I've noticed that the stock plugs in Ableton (compressors, EQs etc) all have an inherent quality to them where the treble comes out having quite a 'matt' finish to it, removing alot of the harshness. I'm using Reaper though, and have tried all sorts of saturations and EQs to try and get things to sound 'right' in the high end. FM synths can be a hard one to get smooth.

Just wondering if anyone has any tips and tricks that they use for this in the software world?

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Old 16-06-2015, 01:51 AM   #2
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Re: Controlling harsh treble

Hmmm...

Well my first response would be EQ as you said; if you don't want to low pass it cause that's very audible, you could use a shelf or bell instead and just dampen it a little.

Aside from that, my other thoughts would be to use a multiband compressor or even a de-esser, and use to control the dynamics of the sharp treble so it's still there but doesn't get out of control. Or for a more sonically pleasing alternative, there's an assbasket of plugins that mimic analog gear, a lot of which will color the sound and make things warmer / less harsh. Kramer Master Tape from Waves comes to mind.

I would still reach for an EQ as your main tool though. It may be true that they wouldn't use it in old school analog recording, but I would also assume that modern FM synths and distortion plugins are going to produce a lot more harmonics that are going to quickly sound harsh if you don't EQ them out. Even just removing the 10k+ "air" can remove a lot of harshness without drastically affecting the character of the sound.

Time is also a factor to consider too; your treble might not be too harsh, there might just be too much of it for too long which wears quickly on your ears.
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Old 16-06-2015, 02:04 AM   #3
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Re: Controlling harsh treble

are you confirming this treble harshness on multiple playback systems? a lot of budget monitors have fatiguing highs

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Old 16-06-2015, 02:30 AM   #4
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Re: Controlling harsh treble

Keep learning the characteristics of FM Synthesis. Usually within the synth algorithm is the place to reduce the harshness and the number of harmonics. I don't know the exact terminology for this and it depends upon the algorithm, but sometimes you can reduce the amount of specific operators and the shrill treble will go down.

Also, high hats and other cymbals are notorious for being too trebley. Don't use them if you don't have to, and if you do, just keep them barely in the mix. All they really do is help keep time anyway.

Aside from that, EQ filtering or maybe de-essing. But it sounds like you need to deal with individual instruments, so do it there. Peace and good luck.

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Old 16-06-2015, 02:46 AM   #5
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Re: Controlling harsh treble

I'm listening on M-audio bx5 mk IIs (they are known to be a tiny bit harsh) and HD 280 headphones.

I guess it's just an area that I've identified I need to work on, and I should just try all manner of things to make it work. I think software instruments is what I am noticing it most on.

Last edited by badmotor; 16-06-2015 at 02:47 AM.. Reason: Spelling.

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Old 16-06-2015, 03:03 AM   #6
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Re: Controlling harsh treble

you could try sweeping a notch or look for errant peaks...watch distortion and bit rushing too

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Old 16-06-2015, 02:04 PM   #7
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Re: Controlling harsh treble

De-essers can work, particularly on renegade hi-hats. Surprisingly, some saturation can also help. Subtle slew limiting can work wonders in getting a more tolerable sound. A lot of analog emulations utilize that trick, since some form is naturally present in physical mediums such as tapes, which cannot move instantenously. Sometimes allpass filters on specific elements of the mix is just the thing.

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Old 17-06-2015, 04:16 AM   #8
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Re: Controlling harsh treble

Sweep notch to find resonant freqs.....a resonant shelf....a tweak on any FX returns on said offensive sound....tape sat...what you are hearing on those old recording are the tape formulas..most tape has a issue with the high end and will naturally attenuate it..older tape especially..you can "fake: this ITB by using saturation or by a tape emu using with tape formula choices..usually a notch or reso filter can find the beast.Takes a bit of time if you are not used to doing it that way..high end was one things we did not have to worry about too much back int ape days..it was the mids and lows that where beasts. cheers

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Old 17-06-2015, 09:42 PM   #9
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Re: Controlling harsh treble

^^^ What he said. I was just rewatching a course I took a few months ago and the instructor was showing how the resonance slider can amplify the brassy offensive sounds that are at the cut off point of a low pass filter for example.
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Old 18-06-2015, 02:06 PM   #10
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Re: Controlling harsh treble

Quote:
Originally Posted by badmotor View Post
Something I have been thinking about this week (and something I'm struggling with right now). How do you guys deal with harsh-sounding treble ITB?

A lot of people seem to have the automatic go-to of "just EQ it out" or "Low pass that shit" which doesn't really gel with my thinking too well. If you go back to old school analogue recordings done to tape you can hear smooth treble in all it's glory when it is probably recorded to tape and though a nice desk and other hardware.

You Ableton users are probably wondering what the hell I'm going on about - I've noticed that the stock plugs in Ableton (compressors, EQs etc) all have an inherent quality to them where the treble comes out having quite a 'matt' finish to it, removing alot of the harshness. I'm using Reaper though, and have tried all sorts of saturations and EQs to try and get things to sound 'right' in the high end. FM synths can be a hard one to get smooth.

Just wondering if anyone has any tips and tricks that they use for this in the software world?
You're instinct is right I think, it's not just EQ.

In the analogue world, a waveform which is low passed can still be saturated (depending on the chain), which means it might still have some nice high harmonics, and these almost imperceptibly add to its "warmth." So, if you're ITB, you really want to find plugins which simulate analogue, so that it's not just a matter of rolling off. I really like Fabfilter Saturn. Beyond that, try a little OTB with some old gear. . . maybe just an old tape deck, or an old mixer. No harm in trying . . .

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Old 19-06-2015, 04:34 AM   #11
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Re: Controlling harsh treble

seriously guys, FM Synthesis basics...

the more modulated a signal gets, the harsher it is in the treble. That's just how FM synthesis works. The more complex the algorithm, the more shrill it will be. So that's where it should be fixed; at the VSTi level not later on in the chain.

Last edited by Nystagmus; 19-06-2015 at 03:35 PM..

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Old 19-06-2015, 01:26 PM   #12
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Re: Controlling harsh treble

^Depends on the situation, imo. Overdriving FM or distortion and then removing the harsh high end sounds different than just not overdriving it in the first place. Adding more FM / distortion still adds to the mid range harmonics to, so you can get a different sound by going too far and then pulling it back with EQ. Just depends on what kind of sound you need.
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Old 19-06-2015, 03:36 PM   #13
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Re: Controlling harsh treble

I'm aware that my highend is one of my weaker spots in my mixes.

However.

I like to to EQ -> tube dist -> EQ.

1st EQ boosts the upper mid range, lower high range, make sure it goes near "red" into the dist, boost volume before dist if needed and reduce it after. Go pretty hard with the EQ boost, +6-10db can be ok. Control signal with EQ after cut away the nasty parts. The idea here is not to boost the 12-16khz area (it can work ofc) before the dist, but the area under it where the meat of the hihats for example are, this makes them more present in the highs (12-16khz area), more "sizzling" and present without directly boosting that content. It also makes them more present in the upper mid range which can be nice cause then you have audible high freq instruments that are not as harsh. Note that a dip in the range you boosted might be needed after the dist. The point with boost dist is mainly to lift out harmonics for you to work with.

Next thing I believe is important is to compress the highs, even with just a lazy multiband comp on the master you can make the high band much more nice sitting. In my experience you need to squash the highs pretty much to get a more "not harsh" sound.

Last edited by Crude_beats; 19-06-2015 at 03:45 PM..
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Old 27-06-2015, 01:01 PM   #14
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Re: Controlling harsh treble

Baxandall EQ curve is very nice and smooth on the highs. You can kind of emulate the effect with any parametric EQ. Instead of using a high shelf, use a bell with Q = 1 and freq = 20kHz.

Yes, this is one of those rare times when a specific EQ setting has a very universal use

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Old 27-06-2015, 08:59 PM   #15
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Re: Controlling harsh treble

Add more bottom end.rather,bottom/low mid harmonic elements in your arrangement to take away from the perception of the tops being "harsh" when they appear in the arrangement (time and frequency range aka octave/interval).

limit the amount of sounds that actually provide top end.

work from the ground up so you don't have weird harsh treble build up from the get go ( correct sound design,sound selection for the arrangement)
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Old 27-06-2015, 10:43 PM   #16
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Re: Controlling harsh treble

Quote:
Originally Posted by TIMT View Post
Add more bottom end.rather,bottom/low mid harmonic elements in your arrangement to take away from the perception of the tops being "harsh" when they appear in the arrangement (time and frequency range aka octave/interval).

limit the amount of sounds that actually provide top end.

work from the ground up so you don't have weird harsh treble build up from the get go ( correct sound design,sound selection for the arrangement)
This ^^^ TIMT really has the right idea.

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