Academy Dashboard Forum Studio DAWs Reaper Dolby A Trick - Adaptable for most DAWs

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    Mark Warner

      While watching Warren's interview with Christopher Thorn, it was very interesting to see the section on the use or misuse of the Dolby A rack unit as a vocal enhancer. I wanted to find out some more about this so I found Sound on Sound's May 2013 article on doing this in Cubase and Adapted it for Reaper, although I think it could be done in most DAWs quite easily.

      What is Dolby A and the Dolby A trick - Originally is was a device for removing tape hiss on playback developed in the mid '60s. It did this by compressing the signal while recording onto the tape and then expanding it again on playback. The Dolby A trick was to use the device in parallel one way only such as on a vocal or other track and then sum the original and the Dolby A output back together. It is generally described as adding "air" but I think it might do more than this so try it for yourself and see.
      In Reaper create 6 new tracks and label them something like DBA In, DA Lo, DA Band, DA Hi1, DA Hi2 and DBA Out

      Routing - From your chosen track (vocal etc) click on Master Send to open the Send/Receive window. Click add send and select DBA In. You will want to come back here later to adjust the send level to your own personal taste.
      On the DBA In track click on Master Send and add 4 sends to DA Lo, DA Band, DA Hi1 and DA Hi2. It is essential to also uncheck the Master/Parent Send check box at the top left as we want to route the signal onward and not send it back the master bus unprocessed.

      In each of the 4 tracks DA Lo, DA Band, DA Hi1 and DA Hi2 add sends to DBA Out and also unckeck the Master/Parent Send check box.
      DBA Out will automatically send back to the Master Bus so nothing is needed on this other than to set the slider at +5db.
      The EQ bands - In DA Lo use ReaEQ to create an 80Hz low pass filter with a 12db slope. As far as I can find out, leave the Q setting at 2.00 as this is equivalent to 12db/Oct in ReaEQ.
      In DA Band add ReaEQ and set it to high pass above 80Hz and low pass at 3kHz again with 12db/oct slopes
      In DA Hi1 set ReaEQ to hi pass above 3KHz and in DA Hi2 set ReaEQ to hi pass above 9KHz also with 12db/oct slopes. This is the filters completed.
      Compression - Next add 3 compressors however DA Lo does not need one. Add the ReaComp compressor after the ReaEQ plugin in the FX chain. The settings for DA Band and DA Hi1 are the same. Set the Gain (Wet fader to +10db with no auto make and no dry signall). Set the attack to 1ms and release to 10ms and the ratio to 2:1 (I will comeback to the threshold value later)
      In DA Hi2 attack, release are the same but set the ratio to 1.5:1 and gain to +5db

      Threshold - In this area it is a little unclear to me but as far as I can work out threshold seems to be your gain staging plus -40 db. In the SOS article they say -20 plus -40 = setting of -60db. It might be that this could or should be set differently for a hotter signal such is if it were being applied to a master bus. However what does seem clear is that the widely stated value of -40db as a setting is incorrect and that starting around -60db is closer to was the unit does, so I have gone with -60dbeven though my headroomn is typically -18 to -15db.

      That's it! Use the send slider in the vocal send to balance the mix between the original signal and the processed one, this way you don't alter the characteristics of the Dolby A recreation. The results sound very pleasing to my ears.
      Any questions please ask 🙂
      Cheers - Mark

      • This topic was modified 8 years ago by Mark Warner.
      • This topic was modified 8 years ago by Mark Warner. Reason: Typos
      • This topic was modified 8 years ago by Mark Warner. Reason: Typos
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