How reliable are cymbal sound files/ video files?

shiek_yerbouti

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You can get a very good idea from a well recorded soundfile. I like them very much. Having said that, there are so many variables involved you have to expect that the recording is only a relative sample. Of course it’s not going to sound exactly like that when you get it home - but the basic idea should be there. Is it pingy, washy, dark, bright, thin, medium-thin, etc? You can hear all of that.

There is so much variance in the character of overhead mics alone. If I told you that I used Aston Starlights, Lewitts, or Shure mics would you really know what sort of sonic fingerprint that those mics can imprint on the sound? What kind of pre-amp was that mic plugged into? That’s huge! At this point even if you are not adding any EQ or compression, the sound has already been colored anyway because of those first two factors. And that coloring is not a deception (hopefully) - it’s the recording process itself. You have to use “something" to capture the sound. Even a transparent mic is imparting it’s own charateristics to the sound. A recording is a recording, and live - standing next to the cymbal is never going to be the same. Not to mention the recording room, sticks, touch, etc.

Also, If I hear a cell phone sound file I can’t hit stop fast enough. Honestly, cell phone files are just doing that poor cymbal a huge disservice. You are better off not providing a file at all than providing a clangy mess of a cell phone file.
 

IBitePrettyHard

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I make demo videos for 2112 Percussion:


My whole approach is to attempt to capture the way the drum feels in the room when I'm playing it, but in my case, since it's my studio and I already have everything miked up to sound the way I want it. There's some limiting on the master bus, a high shelf boost on the room mics (more on that in a moment)and a bit of 500Hz cut from the tom mics, but that's pretty much it.

A microphone will never capture sound exactly like your actual ears. Your hearing is probably different from mine anyway.

The sound also changes pretty drastically depending on where the mic is placed. My 414s can sound super glassy directly straight over a cymbal, in the middle (think Blink 182) or rather dark right over the player's head. Most mics also exhibit proximity effect, so the bottom end is not always accurate.

I give DCP a lot of credit for soloing the overheads and the room mics. That takes a not-insignificant amount of time.

I just try to get a consistent sound across all the videos I make. In total it's about fifteen mics, but they're chosen and blended with the idea that the thing being demonstrated, and include close mics, overheads, and room mics out front. Because the sound of a kit includes the room, and those reflections are important, but the bottom end is very different from when you're sitting at the kit. And my room mics are ribbons, which are super smooth and realistic, but veeery dark and need a substantial top shelf boost to sound the way the kit does at their position.

So, in the end, no, don't trust them blindly, it'll always be pretty different in your room. But usually if it sounds good, it's probably pretty good in your room, and if it sounds bad, it'll either sound bad in your room, or the recording was bad.
Your demos are phenomenal btw. Top-notch playing and top-notch sound quality all around.

For what it's worth, I think you have some of the most accurate-sounding demos possible for a close-miked setup. More realistic than any other channels that use close-miking, in fact.

Keep up the good work!
 

Jonnymac

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I use two Ksm 32s: one overhead and one in front of the kit. I blend them to get as close as I can to what I hear without the headphones. No processing
 

Seb77

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With ride cymbals, you could get totally different sounds from the same cymbal without any post-mic processing. Just remember going into a brick-and mortar store and picking up some test sticks. The tip stroke /ride sound just varies so much depending on what you use as a striker. Stick shape and wood pitch influence that sound so much. Then there is the room: I remember one shop I where I didn't seem to find one cymbal I liked, and when I brought my own cymbals, even these sounded bad - it was the room.

Many jazz drummers worship the "Nefertiti" ride sound. IMO you need a high-pithced stick to get anywhere near this sound, and a certain mic placement that's probably not the contemporary standard OH technique, not to mention a good touch. Plus a great cymbal of course, but it takes more than that.

Good point about the stick feel: no soundfile will help you with that, you might have to play it a cymbal in person or trust whatever decription you get fro, the seller.

Still, I think with a decent recording setup you will get a good idea of the basic sound, any strange tones, the general sound character.
 

cruddola

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What a bear it must be getting gear online! The Covid making things worse. I've been very fortunate to have been able to buy all my cymbals and almost every drum in person even before the restrictions. My retirement kits were online purchases only because I'd owned them three times before and knew what I was getting. My heart goes out to those who live too far from making an in-person buy on such large investments. Holy crap! Their only recourse is buying unseen and unheard. OUCH! Online videos and audio doesn't come close to what an in-person purchase will do. I have been mighty fortunate and my heart goes out to those who can't make in-person purchases on such a vital 50% element to drumming. May the best come to you! Inshalla!
 

cruddola

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With ride cymbals, you could get totally different sounds from the same cymbal without any post-mic processing. Just remember going into a brick-and mortar store and picking up some test sticks. The tip stroke /ride sound just varies so much depending on what you use as a striker. Stick shape and wood pitch influence that sound so much. Then there is the room: I remember one shop I where I didn't seem to find one cymbal I liked, and when I brought my own cymbals, even these sounded bad - it was the room.

Many jazz drummers worship the "Nefertiti" ride sound. IMO you need a high-pithced stick to get anywhere near this sound, and a certain mic placement that's probably not the contemporary standard OH technique, not to mention a good touch. Plus a great cymbal of course, but it takes more than that.

Good point about the stick feel: no soundfile will help you with that, you might have to play it a cymbal in person or trust whatever decription you get fro, the seller.

Still, I think with a decent recording setup you will get a good idea of the basic sound, any strange tones, the general sound character.
Excellent post! Now you know why I love my dad's home-turned laminated 18-inch 7B hickory sticks on my improv jazz cymbals! Got some white ash 7A too. Outstanding post, dude. The room is everything. I've gone through tons of different microphones from AKG to Sennheiser's and many in between of all budgets. Acoustic treatment mods galore. I made my bones with two decades in the TV and film-audio industry, half in the foley studio. In MY living room where I do all my recording, Audix and Rode give me closest to what I hear on my YMCAs. They reproduce the entire tuning range without going south. My final selection will suck in your place. The room decides what recipe will be used. My living room is on two complete different circuits from the rest of the house and the budget for clean juice was massive. The two Rode ribbons were a Godsend as room-mics. Added a third above the Audix ADX51 overheads, WOW!! Rode NT-5's on the snare and hats and Audix D-2 series on the rack-toms with D-4's on the floor-tom bottoms. For the non-ported bass a D-6 with a Rode NTG-4 shotgun with hi cut up front and an Audix D-4 on the reso side. You pointed on a very ignored aspect. Drum on!
 

853guy

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Every recording is defined by compromise.

How one chooses those compromises is influenced by the variables every recording involves; namely, the way the player modulates the instrument's interaction with the room.

In a perfect world, a three mic setup would be more than sufficient. This reimagining of Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough below, is, I think, a testament to how effective that approach can be. It's also testament to how many of the variables need to be in place for it to work.

Realistically, most brick and mortar stores, and for that matter, many online retailers not only lack the acoustical conditions in which to record a drum kit without significant issues, but also, the time needed to bridge the gap between the ease with which a set of mics, an interface and DAW can be purchased, and the dissonance that occurs when one hears back the results that pale in comparison to expectation. In that regard, I cut retailers a lot of slack, because I recognise the steep learning curve I negotiated over many years in moving from drummer to engineer.

I think the most one can ask for is consistency, as Masecar alludes to. At least then the consumer can evaluate individual products within the context of the retailer themselves, even if that retailer's approach differs significantly from other retailers.

As to the ethical dimension, no retailer is forcing you to buy from them. And they're certainly under no obligation to 1) reveal their methodology; nor, 2) give assurances the cymbal you hear in the video will sound exactly the same in all other possible conditions outside the one the recording was captured in. An informed consumer base armed with critical thinking and an understanding of the compromise involved in the recording process goes a long way to enabling better purchasing decisions.

 

underratedcowbell

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Mics just don't ear the same as your ears, so evaluating a cymbal by it's recording doesn't make sense to me at all. Mics don't pick up stick feel, wash, strange overtones, if a cymbal is soft or hard to the touch...
If you have experience in recording you know you can use some type of mics to color your sound, soften the edges and whatnot. If you add external processing such as eq, limiters, compression, reverb than it's is a whole different game. I can make a good sounding cymbal sound like a trash can if want to and the opposite! A store that has a guy who knows one thing or two about sound recording can make a harsh cymbal sound like butter and knows out to get rid of strange floating overtones jus by adding a touch of eq!

I don't buy cymbals based on soundfiles anymore. If I have to travel 1.000km (621 miles) to ear and try a cymbal and buy it I will do it. I had my share of duds when buying from soundfiles. But know that I know my way around recordings I don't trust my ears anymore!
 

drums1225

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I don't think anyone reasonably expects to learn everything about a cymbal from a sound file (certainly not the stick feel), but as others have stated, you can get a decent idea of the characteristics of a cymbal from a well-recorded sound file. Mics, preamps, and mixing all have an effect on what you hear, but if you compare cymbals within one retailer's recording methods, you can at least make a relatively informed choice.

About 3 or 4 years ago, I heard Chris Coleman on MyCymbal.com playing a 22" Meinl Byzance Extra Dry Thin Ride and I was sold. First of all, the joy this man exudes when he plays is infectious, so I was half-sold based on that alone, but the cymbal had the characteristics I was looking for. This is one of the most enjoyable drum videos I've ever seen. More than the cymbal itself, I wanted to hang with Chris Coleman!

After deciding I wanted to hear a Byzance EDTR in person, I spent a whole day in Manhattan cymbal shopping and was surprised and disappointed that I couldn't find a single Meinl Extra Dry Thin Ride to play. I visited Steve Maxwell's, two Guitar Centers (Union Square and Times Square), and Sam Ash. I even stopped at Guitar Center in Yonkers and Sam Ash in White Plains on the way home. Nope. Not a single one to hear for myself, and this is *NYC*, so people who live far away from brick and mortar retailers are not the only ones who are "out of luck" when hoping to evaluate a particular cymbal, in person.

Anyway, what I do on MyCymbal.com is open up the videos of several cymbals (of the same model and size) in different browser tabs. Then I compare the different weights to each other. That's as close to an apples to apples comparison as you're going to get, remotely. I usually find myself preferring the lightest weight ride cymbals of a given model, but that's obviously subjective.

If I have access to the gram weight and a sound file of a given cymbal (or cymbals) I'm interested in, I can make a somewhat informed choice. Of course, you'd rather play it in person, but failing that, a decently recorded cymbal demo is a far cry from buying "blind" online.
 

Vintage Old School

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If I have access to the gram weight and a sound file of a given cymbal (or cymbals) I'm interested in, I can make a somewhat informed choice. Of course, you'd rather play it in person, but failing that, a decently recorded cymbal demo is a far cry from buying "blind" online.
Agreed. If the sound files are quality honest capture (no EQ or compression) then it can help put you in the ballpark of what you like (especially what models and weight range you should be considering).
Of course you need to have high end monitors, high end headphones or both for playback to make a good assessment.

Nothing beats auditioning a cymbal "in person" where you not only get to play it to determine the feel, but you can also walk the room while a friend or staff member puts it through its paces.
Walking the room will give you a good idea what it will sound like to an audience member.

Unless you travel a lot, it can be difficult to find what you want locally. If you live in a remote area if can be near impossible, but the internet can be a huge asset in narrowing down your choices.
I'm fortunate to have found a dealer whose sound files are honest capture. He also speaks my language when it comes to cymbals and he has become my second set of ears. He's never steered me
wrong even though he has been brutally honest and talked me out of some of my initial choices. I've purchased the majority of my cymbals from this dealer and I've known exactly what I was getting.
The remainder of my cymbals started with an internet search and subsequently followed by a live audition for me to decide yay or nay. I have rolled the dice on several eBay purchases and come
out fine.
 

JDA

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combine sound files, in-person, recordings, reading materials, your own prior experience. little bits of gambling experience
move the eyesight over the target steady hand good eye squeeze the trigger
when you get the game home

time will decide whether you decide to keep it and for how long
the final decisions are made over time

I've made mistakes- in-person choosing- too

Only time will tell
some are quicker to love than others.

looking back and looking forward
it might come down to a matter of timing

the cymbals you keep, the ones that stay with you, seemingly come to you; appeared at a certain time; came into "sight"
as much as the other way around..
it's a very mystical project, process, life is
 
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IBitePrettyHard

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This video right here! This is a perfect example of an *accurate* recording of a cymbal. It was probably recorded with a cellphone or 1 overhead, and yet it's more accurate and reliable than anything recorded with thousands of dollars of recording equipment.

The room has acoustic treatments. Everything about this demo is perfect.

I would feel confident (as confident as can be) buying cymbals online if they were all recorded like this. It sounds like I'm in the room playing it myself, which should be the goal of every demo on Youtube IMHO.

 
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Jonnymac

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This video right here! This is a perfect example of an *accurate* recording of a cymbal. It was probably recorded with a cellphone or 1 overhead, and yet it's more accurate and reliable than anything recorded with thousands of dollars of recording equipment.

The room has acoustic treatments. Everything about this demo is perfect.

It sounds like I'm in the room playing it myself, which should be the goal of every demo on Youtube IMHO.

That sounds a LOT better than my iPhone mic.
 

shiek_yerbouti

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This video right here! This is a perfect example of an *accurate* recording of a cymbal. It was probably recorded with a cellphone or 1 overhead, and yet it's more accurate and reliable than anything recorded with thousands of dollars of recording equipment.

The room has acoustic treatments. Everything about this demo is perfect.

I would feel confident (as confident as can be) buying cymbals online if they were all recorded like this. It sounds like I'm in the room playing it myself, which should be the goal of every demo on Youtube IMHO.

That’s not recorded with a cellphone (or a cell phone either).
 

Old Drummer

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I know nothing about recording technology and therefore don't have an opinion about the benefits of "full disclosure" regulations, but I do know that I distrust all sound files.

The worst in my opinion are the cellphone recordings (frequently posted on this forum). Some are so horrible that I have to stop listening midway through to save my sanity. Yes, I suppose they give you some idea of what a cymbal sounds like, but you have to endure torture with a keen ear to discern the real sound of the cymbal.

Bad in the opposite way are the recordings on mycymbal.com. The people at the Memphis Drum Shop seem to have recording cymbals down to an art, and their sound files almost always make a cymbal sound good. After listening to them, I make a point of searching out sound files of similar cymbals posted elsewhere. Invariably, these other sound files cause me to revise my opinion of the cymbals downward.

Then there's the elephant in the room: How accurate is even a live trial when you yourself are playing the cymbal? This, of course, is the gold standard, but I'm not sure that players hear cymbals the way they're heard by the audience. Sometimes I even stand as far away from a cymbal as I can and still hit it as a way of getting a sense of what it sounds like from a distance. I think there are differences. And this is not to mention the room. Throw in sticks and touch and, well, there are more variables.

Because there are, I personally can't fault anyone's sound files for misleading me. They're all misleading! More narrowly, a private seller posting a lousy cellphone recording can't be faulted, as neither can a large seller posting sophisticated recordings. They're both doing what they can. What I therefore like (and search out) are different sound files of the similar cymbals. This way I can get a better idea about a cymbal than only one sound file provides. Unfortunately, this privileges the big manufacturers and popular cymbals. It's sometimes difficult to find any sound files for boutique cymbals. But I suppose this goes with internet sales in a global economy. The big sellers will prevail while the small sellers go under.
 

osw000

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Then you have Paiste Soundroom where "What you hear is what you get".
 

Cliff DeArment

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Another downfall of recordings is the good old MP3. Ugh. There's so much detail that's lost. It might get you close... or not. Add youtube, usually brought from iMovie (even worse if just from camera sound, or phone) which has to remix itself, then transfer stage, then yet again to you. Talk about compression!!! Compress, de-compress, re-re-compress.... Don't even get me started. At least aiff/wav gives a little more honesty, although a big slow download. But... hey!!! I can't see it!! We've become so visual for pretty much everything.

Any recording is a facsimile. Imagine a copy from a fax. Yes, it looks like crap but you know what it means. Youtube is basically a video fax.

I want a new Oboe. Let's see... what's on youtube. Hmmm... not that one.... that one sounds pretty good... oh! I like this one... Buy Now. :blink:

Just have to accept it. You'll get what you get.
 
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itsjjp

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I prefer raw files done on a phone or cheap digital recorder without enhancements. I also prefer someone to play it with a kit and at normal volume and approach angles. Too many crappy close up phone vids of people not playing the cymbal the way most people normally play one. Here's a tip, set up your phone across the room and zoom in. This will curb over-modulation. And play it freaking normally on your kit.
 

Torquey

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Though I "get it", I am often intrigued by those who would not consider a cymbal purchase without a sound file. Years ago, I attempted to purchase new cymbals from a company who I believe was trying hard to be accurate and yet, I never found a cymbal that actually sounded closer than shall we say "a distant relative" of that sound file.

Forgetting the recording equipment, the drummer's technique, and even the room itself where the recording took place, there is the question of the playback system of the prospective buyer. I get a chuckle from those who watch a video of a $100,000 audio system recorded on YouTube through typical computer speakers or cheap headphones and remark how awesome it sounds.

Finally, I am frequently amazed by the results of this test, which is aside from proving that different types of sticks make cymbals sound different:

Get a brand new matched pair of your favorite wood tipped sticks. Play a ride pattern on a cymbal that you are well acquainted with. Now, using the same technique, intensity, and ride pattern, SWITCH STICKS FROM THAT NEW, MATCHED PAIR, and see if it doesn't sound markedly different from the first stick! That should give you an idea of the vulnerability of listening to sound files from even the most sincere, knowledgeable, drummers.
 


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