Critical Listening of Vertigo - U2 Feedback

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Old 10-01-2004, 07:28 PM   #1
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Critical Listening of Vertigo

I just thought I would comment on the make up of this song from a mixing standpoint. Not sure how many of you pay attention to these things, but as it is how I make my living...it kind of is a curse, listen with earphones with your eye's shut and visualize. It is ear candy my friends.

Heavily panned guitars...overdriven HEAVILY compressed guitar full left...and it stays there. Most of the audio program is from center (Bono and Adam) and the left (edge). Listen to the choruses...the reverb travels left to right...(ex:hola, donde esta?). There is a screaming long guitar right way low on the right side during the choruses as well. Then the guitar solo/bridge explodes by bringing the more "traditional" edge delay sound in from the right crushing your skull. The absolute butter is the last chorus, listen for the synth like overdriven guitar from the right. My personal favorite.

Bono is using a similar reverb scheme, but the feedback (meaning the repeats of his words) are much more present than the past as well as it pans. He has been using this delay time for his voice for years. Have you heard the alien reverb delay on the last "feel" before the guitar solo/bridge on the right?


Pay attention to the varying levels in the guitar program, they build the entire song in reference to Bono's vocals. Most of the guitar grit and crunch is actually low end from Adam.

The lights go down: can you hear him say that prior to him actually saying it in the very first verse? Reminiscent of the tape bleed on "whole lotta love" by led zepplin. In that particular case the tape was stored wound backwards instead of "tails out" and you can hear the bleed. The vocal actually "ghosts" before the real vocal. Quite a simple trick nowadays...but not done on purpose in the 70's.

How about the stick click at the end where Edge's guitar is humming. Bad edit. My thinking this is not the final version (or at least the album version). I also feel that the short strums on the first verse are bit out of time (right while bono says "stronger than", makes me think that this will sound different when we actually buy it on the album. I could be completely wrong.

The compression ratio is intense on the guitars. Compression makes it sound like your ear is against the guitar cabinent speaker by decreasing the dynamic range. Also it is close miked, not typical for edge.

Adam's bass distortion is wicked. Again wicked. I think this may be my favorite specimen of his work. God damn that man is one sick motherf**cker. Highly underrated. His tone and touch is unbelievable. Listen to the complete grit on the "all of this could be yours..." That is all bass cabinent and no DI. To me this feels so natural for him as he is picking I believe...what he does best. I mean, he may have actually invented that sound.

*Just as a side note, I work with a lot of session players here in Nashville, and I have heard on so many occasions..."play that like Adam Clayton" or "Adam Clayton tone"...etc. I always smile on the inside. I can just imagine Adam sitting in these lame demo sessions or country pop sessions wailing out. Hahahaha...*

I am curious how the Edge will pull this one off live. Lots of guitars going on below the surface and at the same time. I can't wait to see however.

One more thing...I have been told by some friends that work directly with Michael W Smith that he played some B3 Hammond organ during the sessions for this LP. I do not know which song, but we will have to see if it made the cut.
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Old 10-01-2004, 07:47 PM   #2
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Thank you very much!

I really appreciate stuff like this.
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Old 10-01-2004, 08:18 PM   #3
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Same, Thanks heaps...Feel free to do an analysis like this on any U2 song you like! Id love to read analysis of their recording technique.

Perhaps you could one once a week!?!?!?

my best friend is an audio engineer but hates U2 so I have to get him drunk before he tells me stuff like this!
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Old 10-01-2004, 08:26 PM   #4
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Re: Critical Listening of Vertigo

Quote:
Originally posted by cmb737
I just thought I would comment on the make up of this song from a mixing standpoint. Not sure how many of you pay attention to these things, but as it is how I make my living...it kind of is a curse, listen with earphones with your eye's shut and visualize. It is ear candy my friends.

Heavily panned guitars...overdriven HEAVILY compressed guitar full left...and it stays there. Most of the audio program is from center (Bono and Adam) and the left (edge). Listen to the choruses...the reverb travels left to right...(ex:hola, donde esta?). There is a screaming long guitar right way low on the right side during the choruses as well. Then the guitar solo/bridge explodes by bringing the more "traditional" edge delay sound in from the right crushing your skull. The absolute butter is the last chorus, listen for the synth like overdriven guitar from the right. My personal favorite.

Bono is using a similar reverb scheme, but the feedback (meaning the repeats of his words) are much more present than the past as well as it pans. He has been using this delay time for his voice for years. Have you heard the alien reverb delay on the last "feel" before the guitar solo/bridge on the right?


Pay attention to the varying levels in the guitar program, they build the entire song in reference to Bono's vocals. Most of the guitar grit and crunch is actually low end from Adam.

The lights go down: can you hear him say that prior to him actually saying it in the very first verse? Reminiscent of the tape bleed on "whole lotta love" by led zepplin. In that particular case the tape was stored wound backwards instead of "tails out" and you can hear the bleed. The vocal actually "ghosts" before the real vocal. Quite a simple trick nowadays...but not done on purpose in the 70's.

How about the stick click at the end where Edge's guitar is humming. Bad edit. My thinking this is not the final version (or at least the album version). I also feel that the short strums on the first verse are bit out of time (right while bono says "stronger than", makes me think that this will sound different when we actually buy it on the album. I could be completely wrong.

The compression ratio is intense on the guitars. Compression makes it sound like your ear is against the guitar cabinent speaker by decreasing the dynamic range. Also it is close miked, not typical for edge.

Adam's bass distortion is wicked. Again wicked. I think this may be my favorite specimen of his work. God damn that man is one sick motherf**cker. Highly underrated. His tone and touch is unbelievable. Listen to the complete grit on the "all of this could be yours..." That is all bass cabinent and no DI. To me this feels so natural for him as he is picking I believe...what he does best. I mean, he may have actually invented that sound.

*Just as a side note, I work with a lot of session players here in Nashville, and I have heard on so many occasions..."play that like Adam Clayton" or "Adam Clayton tone"...etc. I always smile on the inside. I can just imagine Adam sitting in these lame demo sessions or country pop sessions wailing out. Hahahaha...*

I am curious how the Edge will pull this one off live. Lots of guitars going on below the surface and at the same time. I can't wait to see however.

One more thing...I have been told by some friends that work directly with Michael W Smith that he played some B3 Hammond organ during the sessions for this LP. I do not know which song, but we will have to see if it made the cut.
Your post was very excellent and appreciated. I like reading about these little sort of details because of my being hearing impaired. Your thoughts on the new songs would be greatly welcomed too. Thanks.
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Old 10-01-2004, 08:33 PM   #5
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I wouldn't call it analysis...more like quick things that I heard in the first couple of listens.

It is hard to really break something down without listening in a correct environment and to a real format. MP3 is horrible in terms of audio quality. I (and am sure most audiophiles can as well) can hear that a song is an MP3 almost immediately.

There are tons of these tidbits or clues in U2's music and everyones...listen to Radiohead as well...wow.

U2 uses world class producers, engineers, and the spend millions on their recordings. They also use very high quality front end (which in most cases is interchangeable with vintage)...meaning pre amps, eq's, compressors, microphones. This is really where the Edge blows me away. His incredible attention to detail and sonic tone. I have no doubt after U2 decreases its work load, we will see the Edge producing.

If I had to speculate, I think U2 goes for the performance first, sonic perfection second. You can hear lots of things in their recordings like talking, stick clicks, breaths...etc. Many other bands would be tempted to edit these types of things. Listen to a recent Collective Soul album for example. It is perfect. Every edit is crisp, timing is immaculate. But is it better for it? Who's to say? Personal taste.

There is a fundamental difference in the way British engineers make albums as opposed to American engineers. Brits "print to tape" much more often, have much more high end in their eq's...and if you really listen to some recordings their right side program is bit louder than the rest. The inverse is true in America. Why? Brits drive on the right side of their cars...where the window is most often down, which can cause mild hearing loss. Americans drive on the left.

One of the most intriguing things about the Pop recording is I hear people say that it sounds unfinished. I agree, but from a songwriting standpoint mostly, production wise...I think they did a lot of things on purpose. Very dry vocals, different guitar voicings...I like it.

If you guys are interested in...listen critically to these albums:

Aimee Mann - Lost in Space
Any Fiona Apple album...
Sarah Mclachlan - Afterglow
Pearl Jam - Binaural
and this one you should all check out...
Butterfly Boucher

Get away from the Chris Lord-Alge mixes...if you can for a bit.
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Old 10-01-2004, 08:41 PM   #6
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Btw...

Biggest clue to an MP3...very little or inacurate high end. MP3's toss out this info. This certainly is true of the Vertigo MP3.

Can you really hear the cymbols, I mean...clearly? Kinda phasey...huh?
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Old 10-01-2004, 09:52 PM   #7
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Oh my goodness thanks so much for that cmb737!!!

I know so nothing about all this stuff but it's gonna be fun to try and learn via what you've posted here!

It's also a huge help to me in trying to even figure out which the hell *sounds* Adam is even making in this...I can only tell he's hugely there but I don't know how cuz I'm so stupid.
it's also so fun to get the blow-by-blow on how i'm blown away by vertigo sonically...it'll help me get off the words trip I can't end..

cheers all!
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Old 10-02-2004, 12:52 AM   #8
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informative post! I have a question: is it possible to hear that MP3 is deleting the masked (dunno if its the right term in english) tones? In theory it shouldn't be, right?
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Old 10-02-2004, 05:05 AM   #9
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what do you mean by masked tones?
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Old 10-02-2004, 06:11 AM   #10
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Hello cmb737,

Thanks for the excellent post.

Could you head on over to the post entitled Does the Vertigo MP3 sound Flat? and give us your opinions?

I'm not an audio engineer, but to me, at least the copies I have- Vertigo sounds absolutely terrible. Has Vertigo (radio-edit) fallen victim to digital distortion using the LOUDER IS BETTER technique? Or is it just an artifact of the MP3 and ACC encoding?

Thanks again, and I'll come back a bit later and comment on the mixing and production of Vertigo and some of the things I've noticed too!
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