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Greetings all,

I finished recording 5 solo vibraphone pieces in a studio in Florida a couple of weeks ago.  Since then we had a mix session and the engineer sent me what he believed to be the final mixes.

Before I go on let me say straight up that I don't expect great vibraphone sound from my 2019 iMac or any other computer due to the small speakers.

That said, I listened to the finals on my computer using my stereo for output as I usually do.  The sound is beautiful.  So I put it on my iPad and took it out to the big stereo in the front room. Same thing - sounded great.

The question is about the sound of the instrument on a computer.  I think it's safe to assume that most people who are using their computers to view youtube or other video music sites are doing so on a computer that is not connected to a stereo.

My beautiful sounding recordings have annoying distortion when played on my iMac. Also, the videographer put up sample camera angle videos for me for 3 of the pieces and they also sound distorted.  I didn't expect the same quality of sound but there is a lot of distortion and it is principally from the low end of the instrument and especially when playing chords on the low end.

As a consequence I spent about 10 hours yesterday going all over the web, Apple Music, Vimeo, etc. listening to solo vibraphone recordings/videos, playing them on both my stereo and my iMac.  I was really surprised how many vibraphone recordings have varying levels of distortion in them - although not as bad as that which I am experiencing.  But I did find many that sounded great and had either no distortion or a very minimal amount.

Is there a technique that anyone has used to EQ or compress (or something, I'm not technical) their vibraphone recordings such that they do not distort so much when played on the web on a computer?

My intent all along is to make videos for the web so I'm not sure what needs to be done to fix them up.

Long winded - I am - as usual, but hoping someone has some suggestions.



Randy_Sutin Thu, 02/22/2024 - 16:36

What you are describing is what the art of mastering an audio recording is all about.

It is important to master in a way that respects the listener and their listening environment. Not everyone has a great playback system.

That said, “final mixes” of a solo vibes recording should be processed in a way that does much of what is done on mastering. From your description, there are issues with transients and harmonic content creating some signal that exceeds what you computer’s sound system can handle.

Bottom line, you may have an excellent recording and only need to get it mastered… or maybe a mastering engineer would tell you that it needs to return for a different mix. My bet is that it is fine.

Randy_Sutin Thu, 02/22/2024 - 16:42

Most internet or steaming services have specs that must also be considered. A mastered recording should have peaks no greater than -1.0 db. Their loudness should be no greater than -14 db LUFS.

A normal dynamic range for a solo vibes recording would be 8-10 db…. So, your recoding may have a wide dynamic range and wind up with a -16 db LUFS rating or even lower.

If I can help you with any of this, feel free to ask.

Jerry Weir Thu, 02/22/2024 - 21:43

Randy, thanks a lot for that info. I can share that with the engineer who admits that he hasn't work with vibes before. I've never recorded vibes solos in a studio so I'm clueless about what may be different about vibes from any other instrument.

I recorded these solely to be used on the internet on youtube and any retailer that might have video demos of music from books that they publish. So, I did not intend for these to be on a CD or record.

What's really causing the distortion from a vibraphone stand point is small intervals on the bottom end of the instrument, it sounds like they are being run through a grinder! For instance F# and A as slow quarter note diads, F# and B as the same. If you have the time and can check out one of the tunes beginnings I can send you a URL to a sample that is online from the videographer. That is a great ask I know so if you cannot that's cool. If you agree to you can email me at

Thanks, Jerry

Randy_Sutin Fri, 02/23/2024 - 20:07

What you are describing is what often happens when the subtones (which are generated as differential frequencies) are acting up. Really depends on how you mix it whether that happens or not.

Jerry Weir Mon, 03/04/2024 - 20:39

I was able to speak with Randy at length on the phone one day and wow I learned a lot about the vibraphone sound. So thank you Randy.

What I said above is true - that some vibes videos sound very nice and others possess the problems Randy describes above - like transients, incorrect recording levels, subtones, etc. We also talked a lot about mic placement, resonator tube stopper angles, types of mics, etc. and there's always the buzzes or rattles that we experience in both live and recorded performances.

My take on it - and this is not definitive in any way - is that to sound good on your friends laptop or your dads PC takes a different mastering or handling that is technically different from what will sound great on the stereo. Also, and much to my surprise, my recordings sounded better or worse on my iMac depending on if I was playing the file through QuickTime, Apple Music, or viewing it in a browser in the video samples the videographer made. I couldn't find my password to my daughters PC so I can't attest to that!

Last thing - the engineer who did the recording just sent me a much better version of 1 of the pieces so we are exploring the time needed to go through and determine if the same technique needs/can to be applied to the other 4 recordings.

I hope this is helpful.


tonymiceli Thu, 03/07/2024 - 16:10

what a great discussion! recording is hard and yes randy is amazing. i should get him over and we should make some videos on recording the vibes. he's something else!