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In Soundbooth CS5 Essential Training, author Jeff Sengstack demonstrates how to record, edit, optimize, and enhance audio using the professional tools in Adobe Soundbooth CS5. This course covers basic audio edits, such as trimming, fading, and panning clips, removing unwanted noise, enhancing audio with special effects, and creating stereo blends from multiple tracks. An overview of recording hardware and a detailed explanation of core audio concepts are included as well. Exercise files accompany the course.
I want to talk about two effects that really are categories unto themselves, but I've lumped them into a category that I call Special Effects and no two effects could be further apart in terms of what they do to audio than these two: Distortion and Vocal Enhancer. Vocal Enhancer basically enhances - improves the quality of voices, be they vocalists singing or speaking and can enhance the music as well, but I prefer not to use it there, whereas distortion can be excruciating, depending on how you apply it. So, we'll start with the stuff that's not excruciating.
We'll start with the Vocal Enhancer, and I'll apply it to this narration of the declaration. Let me just go down here. I have got the declaration selected. I'll go to Effects and if I go to Advanced, you will see Vocal Enhancer is not in the Advanced group. It's only a standard effect that has only a couple of parameters. So, I'll just click on that. Click on Settings, and you see it has these four parameters. Off is default, Male, Female or Music. Since it's a male speaking here, I'll click on Male, and I'll close this. So, now it's on. What I'm going to do is I'll play this for a little while, and then I turn it off, and you could hear the difference.
(Male Speaker: That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers) (Male Speaker: from the consent of the governed. That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive) We can hear that it sort of expands the presence of the male voice and just a nice thing to apply to a speaker or to a vocalist. Let me go over to the Female vocalist and do the same thing with her. Again, this supposed to be subtle, and it's good that's it's subtle. You don't want people to go, 'Oh! He applied an effect there.' So we just want him to just say, improve the overall quality without the sort of jumping out on people's faces. We'll apply the Vocal Enhancer here.
Click on the Female version of it. Now again, I'll play her for a while, and then I'll turn it off. (Woman singing: When the sun sets on the water's edge, a sky of yellow, blue and red. I think of the things you said) I think you can hear that her voice just sort of gets wider and fuller and just a more present kind of sound. We're going to apply it to Music, and I think you'll hear that actually it sort of de-enhances it, if you want to call that way. It doesn't really, I think, make it better. It kind of softens the edges of it, and I don't really want to softens the edges of this particular music. But I'll show you, at least, that is an option here, and you can at least try it out.
But I don't really suggest that you use it very often. There it is on. I will turn it off for a second. (Music playing.) It kind of deadens the sound of the music, in my point of view. I'd rather have that sort of rich edge to the music than have that kind of squished soft edge to it. I am not really a fan of using Vocal Enhancer on music, and I don't think it's really intended to be used for music, but it does have that darned option for Music, which might make think you want to use it for music.
So, my suggestion is - don't. Now let's go over to Distortion. And I'll apply Distortion to only this bass guitar, which is kind of like what you'd expect to hear somebody playing at a concert. They might have a little switch on their guitar to turn on a distortion effect, and there are all kinds of distortion effects. You may see a guitarist playing upon the stage, and you see them suddenly click a little button with their foot or do some other kind of adjustment. They are turning on some kind of effect, and many times that's the distortion effect. Let me just give you a sense of what I have done here. I've turn the volume way, way, way down on this little bass track.
It's called bass-reduced if you want to try this one out. If I have the volume turned up at all on this thing, it'll blow out my headset, blow out your speakers, and so my suggestion to you is that when you apply the distortion effect, you turn your speakers down, you turn your headset down and also you start in the default setting, which is no application of the distortion at all, and then open up the Settings so you can see these graphs. Let me explain how this works as a positive and a negative, and if you remember how waveform looks, there is the positive side that's the high pressure side and than the negative side, the bottom of the wave.
That's the low-pressure side and if you increase the dynamics range on just the positive side, you will start to distort the quality of the sound. And if you then decrease the amplitude on the negative side, you could actually kind of even things out if you have done both of them. The way you create distortion is to offset one side versus the other in some fashion, be it extreme or it slight. And then you can control what's called the Smoothing down here in terms of how much distortion you're applying, from none to a lot. So let me just give you an example of how that sounds.
I've got this bass here. The volume is way down. It's not going to blow your speakers out yet, but just so you know, you might want to just kind of ease back a little bit from your speakers. Now there is bass plate way down. If I just grab this graph by clicking on it, when I click on it, it will put a little spot there. (Bass playing.) So, you can see what I've done. I've taken the high amplitude part of the sound wave and increased just the high end - the bottom end of this thing same - and that distorts the sound.
I'll add a few more points on the graph. I'll adjust these guys a little bit, and I won't talk what I am doing taht because I don't want my voice to be stepping on top of the music. So, let's just try out a couple things and watch how I manipulate stuff, and you get a sense of how this works. (Bass playing.) So you can see you can add points to the graph.
You can manipulate them and kind of adjust the sound to suit your purposes. This little smoothing thing adjusts the overall mix, from no distortion to full distortion. We'll play it a little more so you can get a sense of how that works. (Bass playing.) The dB Range changes the amplitude range of the graphs. So, it limits the distortion to just the area that's visible. (Bass playing.) Here you go.
And if you change to Linear Scale versus the Logarithmic Scale that can change how the sound is effected as well. It tends to soften it up a bit. (Bass playing.) I'll turn that back off because I really want the distorted effect. This Post-filter DC Offset has to do with direct current, which is how computers run. And so if you click that, which is really by default, then it should be always on, it avoids little clicks that suddenly start showing up in your audio when you use the distortion effect. It's not like a click is going to be horrible when using distortion, but you do want to just have the distortion, not these extra clicks sort of extraneously being thrown in there.
One other thing, the Curve Smoothing. I'll show you, just physically, how that works. Instead of having these abrupt changes, you can kind of smooth the changes, which mellows the distortion, if you really want to refer to it as being mellow. Let me play that a little bit and show you how that works. (Bass playing.) It's just fun to look for the sound that works for you, but if you do want to use a preset, this is what I'm going to say, really, really be careful, because almost all of these guys will just blow things out.
Maximum Pain, for example. If I click that, watch the changes here. These guys are like full volume level right now. If I click this thing, now this thing we go red, all the way across your speakers would get really scratchy, and I won't do that to you. But I'm telling you if you select some of these guys, be aware that you probably want to step away from your speakers, turn down the volume, take your headset off, maybe drag these things down a little bit before you actually start playing something to avoid getting totally blasted out of your chair. And be aware that when you use distortion, the volume level is going to go up. You see that guy.
Imagine if I had these guys in the corner, you would just see the solid red across the end there. So, that's distortion, certainly a little bit different than Vocal Enhancer.
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