Random compression or limiting on tracks in recordings

I have encountered what appears to be another problem with my Prime 4. Lately (I’m guessing since upgrading to firmware 1.5.2 but not positive as I haven’t tried recording in a long time) my mix recordings are coming out randomly bricked, like there is heavy compression or limiting being applied, even though I never record loud or get anywhere close to clipping. It has nothing to do with channel gain or fader levels, and the master limiter - which shouldn’t affect recordings anyways - is turned off.

Strangely, when I start mixing between two tracks, that combined audio from both decks does get recorded with the normal loudness and peaks/valleys you’d expect in an uncompressed recording. But as soon as the blend is over and I cut over to one track again, it’s back to the compression/bricking.

Even stranger, if I power cycle the unit enough times, no compression is applied to my recordings and everything records normally as you’d expect. Literally no rhyme or reason to this that I can find.

To demonstrate the issue visually for ya’ll, here’s a section of a DJ mix I recorded a few days ago and then again today after I became aware of this problem. Open these screenshots side by side and you’ll see it’s exactly the same mix, just with totally different results:

Recording #1 (all seems normal)

Recording #2 (individual track compression, no compression on blends)

To be clear, it’s not the source material as it’s the same DJ mix with the same tracks recorded on two different days, and it’s not me (lol… I’ve been doing this a long time, and haven’t changed anything in my setup or process since getting the P4 back in July of 19), so I’m guessing it’s yet another firmware issue, or worse, possible lemon.

Has anyone else experienced this with their recordings and did you ever find a solution?

Don’t know about Prime4, but being internally like an X18x0 mixer, I can elaborate a bit.

Recording #2 is exactly like on an X18x0 mixer when SC’s connected and recorded digitally. It is linked to the source material btw. Nearly all tracks for the last decades have a hard limit for maximum loudness. When all knobs are at center position, the mixer tries to produce a bit-perfect digital signal (squared waveform as per source material). Only during blending the mixer applies a non-limiting “dynamic”.

My explanation for recording #1 is the result of above explanation that probably a filter/EQ/FX was active anywhere on Prime4 (so non-centered).

So, it is really the other way around. The compression/limiting you see is in reality the untouched/unprocessed source signal coming through the mixer bit-by-bit.

Feel free to test/check this. Would like to know more on this. I presume all was recorded internally on the drive as the unit does not have a digital out.

See a mix of mine on the X1800. You’ll see exactly when I blend and the mixer goes into dynamic processing mode :wink: :

I just apply the same maximizer (as they do to our music, for the last decades) after recording the mix :innocent: :

I’ve found that too. Most of my recordings are fine, then with the only thing changing being the song or songs, things are different.

If I try the “same” mix twice, it’s ok to get different results. I’d be amazed if I got the same results to be honest as things like gain, fader positions, crossfade curve, fader curve, fx wetness and other variables are, well, variable.

This is probably nothing more than headroom or proximity to “the red”

To be clear:

The mixer only goes into “dynamic” processing mode when a filter, EQ or FX is active (non-centered).

The gain and fader positions have no influence and the mixer will keep it like the digital source.

I may be wrong, but I was thinking of one thing: could this be the cause that FX effects on Prime 4 sometimes have volume boosts? It often happens with echo, but other guys have problems on other FX effects as well.

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Could be. Don’t know.

Reese, thank you for the super insightful and helpful reply, and you may be entirely correct. The only thing that is giving me pause right now is that this is oldschool (early 80s-early 90s) synthpop mix, so that kind of max loudness limiting was not a thing then. However there are some newer or remastered versions of those old tracks in the mix too, which would make sense why they are bricked compared to original masters.

I will be opening a few of these files in Sound Forge this morning to see what the original waveforms look like and if that’s consistent with your response. If there is any room for doubt, I’m going to make several recordings with those tracks in the P4 with no EQ adjustments, and then again with EQ adjustments. I have a feeling you’re 100% correct on this but obviously I’d like to make sure.

Great! I want to know as well. It was something I noticed when I recorded my first set on the Primes. I was like: “Okay, that’s how the digital mixer processes digital sources…it uses a 18dB headroom to not go over 0dBFS”

OK so I feel like a complete idiot - it was definitely the original mastering/limiting on some tracks and not others, combined with EQ adjustments at that point of time in the two DJ recordings. I can confirm that if I turn an EQ up just a notch on a more recent, maxed/limited track, the ensuing recording shows the peaks and valleys. Keep the EQs centered, and it’s the original bricked waveform. Damn, I can’t believe I didn’t recognize that before, as I spent much of my young adult life as a producer and sound designer and have lots of experience with mastering practices and plugins. Just shows how long I’ve been out of the game :stuck_out_tongue:

Reese, thank you again for the super helpful info and for putting my mind to ease. It’s still a little annoying in the visual result of these kinds of mixes because I will manipulate EQ a lot for some material (i.e. early 80s stuff that was poorly mastered) and not at all in others (recent material). So that final waveform - which will be viewable on Souncloud/Mixcloud/etc. will look weird, but that’s just my OCD nature kicking in. The fact that the P4 isn’t actually doing any processing to the original tracks is the big win here and I shouldn’t have been so hasty assuming that.

I can completely relate to this!! Otherwise I probably wouldn’t understand your topic in the first place. LOL

(SoundForge and Waves FTW) :partying_face:

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Haha totally. What threw me off here is that all recordings on my previous rigs - most recently a Denon DN-X1600, two Traktor Kontrol D2’s and a laptop running Traktor Pro 2 - would show that peak & valley waveform for the entire mix, regardless of me using EQ or not. In that setup I used the X1600’s soundcard for the record out, and mapped that to a deck (7/8) in Traktor to record to the internal laptop drive. That should be purely digital just like the Prime 4’s internal recording, but for whatever reason it appeared more “analog” visually, at least. Ah whatever, just a different quirk I’ll have to get used to with the P4.

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