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How to Use Visual Audio Analyzers and Scopes

This post focuses on ways to use visual audio scopes to gain more understanding about what’s going on in your audio.

It’s important to state right off the bat that working with audio should primarily be an auditory experience.  In general people won’t be looking at visual representations of audio as much as they will be listening to the audio.  And ears are more accurate than eyes.  There are lots of situations where audio looks awful on a scope but sounds incredible.  Scopes can, however, be very useful for gaining a different perspective on your material.  Sometimes the speakers available don’t reveal as much of the lows or highs as is needed for the material, for instance.  Using scopes to dissect phasing, frequency response, and peak levels can further inform the impressions your ears are giving you.

A general rule of thumb is… if it sounds fine, it’s probably fine.  If your ears hear a problem, an analyzer can help identify what that problem might be.  Don’t reach for visual analysis unless you have reason to because what you see might not be what you expect.

Analyzing Frequency Response

Taking a look at frequency analyzers can be really deceptive.  Our ears hear sounds in relation to other sounds, just as our eyes see color in relation to other colors.  Rather than simply aim for a mix that is ruler flat, take a look at the analysis of a similar, professional mix that you really enjoy.  Take a look at how the frequency bands pump with certain instruments.  Make note of where the peaks of the kick and snare are and how extended the bass frequencies go.

Frequency Analysis

In the image to the right you can see the kick clearly around 100hz, the snare around 1.5k, and some frequency buildup around 300hz.  The mix is also a dark mix, but not unusually so.  Looks like some of the lows could safely be rolled off under 30hz or so.

Visual frequency analysis can tell us some specific types of information:

  1.  In which ranges the body of certain instruments lie, evidenced by movement when they sound.
  2. How low the mix goes.
  3. How bright the mix is (but it won’t tell us whether the highs were boosted or the lows/mids were cut).
  4. It can help inform us as to whether there are a lot of frequencies stacked on top of each other, evidenced by a consistently big bulge in the response.  Again, if your ears say it sounds good across several speakers, it sounds good.

Analyzing Phase

The traditional way to tell if your audio is out of phase (at least across the stereo field) is to condense the output to mono and see if things drop in volume or out entirely.  Phase meters can be useful for verifying that phase is indeed the problem.  They also give you a chance to determine the relative balance of the material or whether you’re really overdoing stereo widening effects.

Phase Analysis

There’s nothing particularly over the top happening here, but you can see that there’s some phasing happening, probably a result of a synth that appears in the mix delayed hard left/right.

5 Responses to :
How to Use Visual Audio Analyzers and Scopes

  1. Joga Luce says:

    As some what of a training, but more toy than anything else, I often listen to music with g-force or whitecap running. The cross sensory analysis of data allows a more organic perception of it, which usually makes for better results.

    If you can understand how things work, you can build them better.

  2. Dan Connor says:

    Joga – I love g-force. I don’t use my computer as my primary audio source anymore, but I used to do the same thing. Interestingly, non-audio screensavers such as Electric Sheep ‘seem’ to be interacting with the music when you’re in a suggestive mood, even though they aren’t.

  3. papeCarie says:

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    I know this might be a bit off topic but seeing that a bunch of you own websites, where would the best place be to host. Someone recommended I use Blue Host for $6.95 a month which seems like a great deal. Anyone here on thestereobus.com using them?

  4. Dan Connor says:

    I actually hosted TSB on Hostmonster for a good while. Hostmonster is BlueHost, essentially. It was pretty good, overall, especially for the price. But one of my accounts got compromised and I felt increasingly uncomfortable with shared hosting. So now I run TSB and several other sites off of a virtual Linux server over at fivebean.com. Running your own VPS isn’t for the faint of heart, though. FiveBean does, however, offer some shared hosting which I’ve heard good things about.

  5. rMarco2004 says:

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Comments are closed.