Steve Lagudi Blog Series: Channel Delay, Part 1

This is the ninth installment in guest blogger Steve Lagudi’s series on miking drums – today, Part 1 of a two-part post about channel delay. If you missed his latest post on cymbals, hi-hats and rides, you can read it here.

As I mentioned earlier, I want to discuss using channel delay on digital consoles to help time align tracks. Even if you’re new to the world of audio and just do it for fun and you’re not touring, this is very easy to understand and harness the power of. Even you studio guys and girls can apply this, instead of using channel delay, you can manually move your tracks around in your DAW to align them and get the phase accuracy.

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Photo: Steve Lagudi/Facebook

So what is channel delay? Well it’s not the type of delay one would imagine, like on a guitar track or vocal track. The best way to explain it is this: you can slow down the time a specific channel reaches the master fader. Why would you want to do this? Very simple, I will use a very basic and common example before we go into using it on drums. On bass guitar, most folks use a DI signal and a mic on the amp. When you look on the screen when you record these 2 signals, you will notice that the DI arrives slightly ahead of the miked signal. The DI being a direct signal has less distance to travel, whereas with the mic, the signal has to leave the bass, go through the amplifier and those components such as the EQ, compressor (if it has one), then into the amplifier section, out of the head, through the cable, then into the cabinet, the speakers need to produce the sound, then out into the mic and travel down the line to meet up at the console. So you will always see the miked signal is slightly behind in time.

Because those sign waves are slightly off, you’re going to have phase cancellation. Well an old trick is to flip the phase 180 degrees. Now you might get an improvement, but it’s still not 100% accurate. One way would be instead of the mic, use the DI out from the head and have that with the DI from the bass to blend, which I do live almost all the time. Now with channel delay, you can go ahead and delay the DI signal ‘til it lines up with the miked signal. Now, how do you know how much time to add? Well, I cheat. Fortunately I can record my shows into Protools, so I can just look on the screen and see how far apart they are. If you do not have that luxury of being able to record, well you have an even better tool to utilize – your ears! Keep adding delay while the person is playing the bass and you will start to notice the bass getting thicker and deeper sounding in the lows. Keep adding until the bass starts to thin back out, then bring the level back a bit. It’s that simple!

Check back Wednesday for the conclusion to Steve’s guest blog on miking drum kits…he’ll be finishing this post with more info on channel delay!

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