Bass/low-end design in Renoise - open discussion

Hey people,

I would like to discuss about “low end” design in your song projects using Renoise. This is a topic that drives me to insanitylately, completely.

Some days ago I watched some pensado episode on youtube where he said one good sentence: If you don’t know how to do it, make it fast, leave it and come back later if you know more… Ok, I already left it and came back a bunch of times without satisfying me very much :slight_smile:

If I listen to commonestablished composers that use Renoise and sell their music, even there I would say these people often have either too much bass or a thin bass in their production. And if you compare this e.g. to Logic or Fruity Loops users, those mixes will much more often sound fat and right in the bass. Especially Fruity loops seems to have some very, very good built-in filters and compressors for that purpose. Maybe it’s just me, but almost all fruity loops productions seem to have a tight bass to me.

Some important rules for the bass low end I experienced over the last time:

1. If you want your song to sound good on all sound systems, including car sound, desktop speakers, normal/small size hifi speakers and even headphones, you simply cannot use a bass that has most energy below 60Hz! It will always sound bad on these audio systems. For example I lately made an ambient track where some people told me it sounds “so perfect”, but that only on my audio system (where I added a subwoofer lately). Later I listened to the song on a fellows’ audio system and could not believe me ears: It sounds like crap there! So I edited already lots of songs to sound good everywhere (and still failed).

A bass should range around 60-120Hz and can have also minor harmonics below 60hz to sound large on big speakers. But not too much! If your bass has most energy on 40-50 Hz, it won’t sound good on most common audio systems. So you need a combination of eq-ing, (multi-)band compression or limitation for the bass. Often you can add some minor distortion to make it more audible in the mix. You need to high pass nearly all instruments that are not meant to be played in the bass area.

The punch of a kick should range around 60-100Hz, and a snare punch around 100-200Hz. This high, yes. Ok, that’s only my two cents. If you use a zap-like kick as in genres like psytrance, making your kick good isn’t so hard, since it uses so much bandwidth and kind of cuts into the bands. But on more tone stable kicks, it’s much more difficult. So if all bass sounds compete in 60-100 hz, of course you need to use a side chain / signal follower to limit the bass summation (only for that frequency area using a side chained eq).

So how about doing this topic in Renoise? Well, if you ask me, Renoise currently lacks of three things here:

A) The frequency analyzer is kind of unprecise in the low end. Comparing it e.g. to fabfilter’s eq analyzers, you will see there a huge bass area which very very precisely shows you the curve of the fall-offs of high pass filters etc. The Renoise analyzer is more much huge but seems to be not so precise on the left.

EDIT : I have to admit that I just wrote rubbish… I now really compared Fabfilter’s analyzer to Renoise’s: Renoise’s one is actually more precise than Fabfilter’s. I think what I do miss is some zooming function in the analyzer, in X- and Y-axis. So the 16384 FFT bands could be used only for some selected bass area or the amplitude could be expanded… ! Zooming by selecting an area with the mouse! That would be a dream!

B ) I love to use filters instead of eqs. The renoise filter is imo quite good for some purposes. This “24db” filter is cool for limiting a bandwidth of an instrument in the mix, since it slightly raises the frequency before it cutoffs, even at 0 resonance and if it’s not visible in the graph. So mostly your instrument will sound as brillant or bassy, only with using less headroom. But what’s missing here for me are precise 6db/12db/36db/48db filters with resonance control just as in the logic build in eq. And on these new filters, 24db really should be 24db, no resonance should lead into a clean falloff etc.

**C)**The signal follower is a bit imprecise in a bunch of things: The first are the attack and release values. Especially small values are a pain to setup, since one pixel movement is about 40ms time (of course I know the shortcut for small steps)! A compressor’s attack normally ranges about 0-100ms, so what the heck? Also the sensitivity control is quite difficult to setup right for a side chain (at least for me) and maybe could conceptually improved. And better visualized!

2. Human ear cannot detect the direction of bass. The source of direction of everything below maybe 200Hz isn’t detectable at all. That’s why always make the low end of your basses mono! Then you can even use a chorus on the bass and since it is mono on bass afterwards, it usually will sound stable then - well, only on stereo. I commonly now use the freeware A1StereoControl for that (it’s “safe-bass” control is just awesome).

This leads me into some more restrictions in Renoise regarding mono/stereo bass:

A) A “safe bass” / mono bass control isn’t available at all neither in the stereo enhancer nor in any other fx.

**B )**A lot of fx in Renoise, especially the chorus and stereo enhancer are not mono stable in some situations. The stereo enhancer simply amplifies the sides, but gives no control to compensate this gain increase in stereo to sound the same loud in mono. If you split your bass using the multi band send to bass and high bands, making the bass then mono using the stereo enhancer, you will often result in phase problems in mono. I have seen a lot of choruses, enhancers lately where you do not have these problems. But I would like to use renoise internal fx. Kind of hate to work in a external plugin gui… The L-R eq mode is another good approach to split up bands into the stereo panning, but it’s so imprecise, the gui, the slider steps and all in the eq for that purpose! In Logic, Waves etc, I can split it into 20 different locations since they use some “sine” wave to split off the bands. That precision in control in not possible in Renoise L-R eq mode.

C) sometimes a bass or a high area seems to become mono unstable just because of the usage e.g. of the multi band send, a send channel or an eq. Maybe I am wrong here and have only minor knowledge in this area, but also the filters and eq need some attention to be phase/latency stable while designed. If they introduce some latency, it should be compensated.

So what’s your experience using Renoise for low end design? Would you like to share your thoughts about this topic? Thanks for taking part.

1 Like

On the contrary I’m loving it more and more in R3 instruments. What works really well for me is to make a bass sound first and then filter out the sub-100 hz range, add a simple sinewave, tune it, route it to a seperate clean fx track inside the instrument and GG. Filtering, chorus, distortion, you can do whatever you want on the actual bass layer and the sub will remain clean, stable and mono. You can do all kinds of note/pitch movement and the sub will follow.

And finally setting the sub level becomes a trivial thing of a-b’ing with a professional record on the spectrum analyzer and turning up/down gain on the sinewave. It’s awesome imo.

Edit: Ofc that doesn’t mean your arguments about DSP’s etc. aren’t valid 'cause they are :smiley: Just wanted to share how I work within the sub range.

And finally setting the sub level becomes a trivial thing of a-b’ing with a professional record on the spectrum analyzer and turning up/down gain on the sinewave. It’s awesome imo.

Wow, this is such a sophisticated approach to get control over the sub bass. Thanks for sharing that! I will try this. Only problem I use commonly vsts, since they have features like unison, free/unsynced osc etc, so to able to control two vsts (or vst + r3 instrument) with one note (some kind of instrument group) would be very helpful. Or to place vsts into r3 instruments :stuck_out_tongue:

You can still add a simple sinewave sub over a VSTi but that would be as far as you can go right now. So being able to place VSTi’s into R3 instruments would be nice indeed.

But for reese/wobble kind of bass things I’m getting more and more into Renoise and I can really recommend trying it out. You can get a lot of different sounds just by detuning, ringmodding (using dblue’s tuned device) or filtering a couple waveforms against each other and routing them into a distortion together with a sub reinforcement, then repeating the process while adding more movement using more filters, chorus and distortion. Only thing that’s missing here is the free running oscillators but for the kind of basses I do, I find that I don’t really need it.

Anyways it’s a great workflow imo and I hope to share some examples at some point. Built-in DSP’s aren’t always cutting it but that’s what the VST’s are for right? ^^

you mentioned the fabfilter EQ, so why not simply use that? I do the mid/side thing on bass and then low-cut the sides at roughly 200 hz cutoff freq for bass tracks… even stereo-recordings of acoustic bass etc. works well with stereo drumset recordings as well. that and when you compress, you can filter the detection circuit with e.g. the free TDR feedback compressor II, which is excellent together with renoise.

and if your bass is so much focussed one one frequency, it sounds more like a material (source) problem than a mixing problem. maybe you could find something that is more spread out and less resonant on one frequency. for example a nice source of sub-bass is when you play fender rhodes low octaves with a really low touch. you get a sort of sine-wave subbass, but with extra harmonics (which are detuned and thus bell-like).

I actually think the filter’s main strength is sharp and precise filtering in mixing situations, the butterworth types are very nice for this since they don’t add much around the cutoff and have a steep drop at the cutoff frequency.

I agree with how fiddly it can be to set up the signal follower, it seems to be the same for a lot of the fx in that very small silders represent a large range. I do think the eq could do with a major overhaul though, it’s not really good enough imo. High and low passes should be added as well as mid/side (and L/R) channel capabilities. Like you’ve requested before, mid/side on all devices would be the best approach, especially in the absence of proper parallel processing capabilities like ableton’s racks (in mean in tracks, I know you can do it in the sampler tab but what about groups or the master channel or just synths).

I would really welcome a focus on improving the mixing side of renoise, the creativity aspect is amazing already. Exporting to another daw can become really troublesome when you have groups and cross track signal follows/modulation.

I agree with how fiddly it can be to set up the signal follower, it seems to be the same for a lot of the fx in that very small silders represent a large range

Some zoom feature would be cool: you could select a range in the slider or meter using right click to zoom there in and a plain right click to zoom out … Oh, right is already taken by automation. So some control key…

To be short, i’ve just finished heavy bass EP, and the only thing i was able to count on in R3 is filter with its great 4/8 butterworth slopes (also MpReverb which i use for coloring + some my own custom doofers for fx purposes, other than that i think all other R3 fx/processing devices are crap for “big” productions).

For other bass related things i heavily relay on TDR plugs (their EQ & Compressor are brilliant), SPL for sub/harmonics, BX plugs for stereo widening/control and unbeatable Fabfilter EQ & Compressor. If you are on Windows platform start using everything from VOS whose plugins are killer and they are free, his Ferric TDS plug is doing magic on mostly everything from low end to hi top freqs. Also u can gain some weight for your tracks via master bus with Vladg Sound plugins which are hi quality and free too.

And yes, this signal follower is a nice solution, but damn when it comes to very complex arrangements its starting to drive me nuts. We need proper audio routing in R3.1 and thats it. No discussion here, we just need proper audio routing, that signal follower IS NOT A SOLUTION, but a robinround workaround. It’s a DUCKING FX and NOT A PROPER TRUE SIDECHAIN TECHNIQUE.

You can still add a simple sinewave sub over a VSTi but that would be as far as you can go right now. So being able to place VSTi’s into R3 instruments would be nice indeed.

But for reese/wobble kind of bass things I’m getting more and more into Renoise and I can really recommend trying it out. You can get a lot of different sounds just by detuning, ringmodding (using dblue’s tuned device) or filtering a couple waveforms against each other and routing them into a distortion together with a sub reinforcement, then repeating the process while adding more movement using more filters, chorus and distortion. Only thing that’s missing here is the free running oscillators but for the kind of basses I do, I find that I don’t really need it.

Anyways it’s a great workflow imo and I hope to share some examples at some point. Built-in DSP’s aren’t always cutting it but that’s what the VST’s are for right? ^^

Maybe I could use some R3 instrument sine that is controlled in volume and pitch by using a key follower on my vst bass and a signal follower to control the volume … I will try that tomorrow.

start using everything from VOS whose plugins are killer and they are free, his Ferric TDS plug is doing magic on mostly everything from low end to hi top freqs. Also u can gain some weight for your tracks via master bus with Vladg Sound plugins which are hi quality and free too.

And yes, this signal follower is a nice solution, but damn when it comes to very complex arrangements its starting to drive me nuts. We need proper audio routing in R3.1 and thats it. No discussion here, we just need proper audio routing, that signal follower IS NOT A SOLUTION, but a robinround workaround. It’s a DUCKING FX and NOT A PROPER TRUE SIDECHAIN TECHNIQUE.

VOS plugins indeed look very nice :slight_smile: What kind of beautiful skins. A pity it’s not available for OSX.

Updated first post regarding freq analyzer.

Bring this up, to find it the next days. :wink: