All Posts by MattButler

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About the Author

Matt is a tracking and mixing engineer at Backporch Studios and Pathway Studios in Tennessee. He and his father run a music business called Butler Music Group in Nashville, TN where Backporch Studios is located. He is also a talented multi-instrumentalist who gives private lessons from home. He prides himself in being a technical geek and has a passion to help the community of MixCoach in any way he can.

Does mixing in mono really help? – 3 Reasons to Mix In Mono

      In a simple word… YES. One of the best tips I have ever recieved was to mix in mono.  I’ve come to find out that it can help you discover some real gremlins that like to hide in mixes. So here are three of the many reasons why you should be mixing in mono.

      One of the best things about mixing in mono is that if you get it sounding great in mono you know even in the worst scenario, it’s going to sound good. That means it will even sound great at the grocery store! This is one of our jobs as a mixer. To make a song soundS good in worst case scenarios. Mono mixing helps you to be sure that you’re achieving this.


Phase Issues

Another reason to mix in mono is that phase issues become exposed quickly in mono. Sometimes there are things we don’t hear in stereo, but flip to mono… Whoa! What happened? That sure sounds thin! Good thing you checked that in mono. Without fail you will always be able to tell a phase issue when summing to mono. Panning can even cause phase masking issues that aren’t as noticeable until… You guessed it.. You check it in mono. Sometimes stereo reverbs can create phase issues as well as overusing stereo widening techniques. Be mindful to listen for these issues in mono, too.

When You EQ In Mono

I have also come to notice that when you EQ in mono it forces you to really listen to what element is competing with what. At the end of the day I end up making much better decisions based on what got masked in the frequency spectrum when summed to mono. Mixes really get clearer for me after making my EQ choices in mono. Having everything summed to the center really makes you key in on the thing that really needs to be removed or added from an element in the mix.

Volume Automation

The third great advantage to mono mixing is that it helps you to achieve more accurate volume automation. I turn my monitors to a low level (I keep it marked on my volume control… I’m a firm believer in have multiple volume settings to keep my references at the same volume while mixing), and listen to what I want to ride. I get a static volume set and then if the element slightly gets buried I’ll ride it until you hear it just enough. Almost 100% of the time when I listen back in stereo the track sits exactly where I was hoping it would. This has been invaluable to achieving clarity in my mixes.


All of these great advantages of mixing in mono have helped me to develop better mixes, in a shorter amount of time. The great news is that it can for you too! We are big believers in mono mixing here at MixCoach Member. So, go and try some mono mixing!

Did it help? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below! As always, happy mixing guys!

 

PreSonus RC 500 Channel Strip Review

PreSonus, Channel Strip, RC500

PreSonus is a company becoming well known for their ability to bridge the gap between quality and affordable. I have been a fan of PreSonus products since my original investment in a Digimax D8 offering 8 quality mic pre’s via ADAT connectivity and other great features for a low $399 at the time. It’s been several products like these for the home studio owners that make achieving  great results in our project studios completely an affordable process. As of late they have came out with affordable boutique style channel strips for project studios looking to go to the next level in their audio careers. The ADL 600 and 700 have had great success so far, but still might be a little beyond the project studio’s reach. Enter the RC500 channel strip from PreSonus.

Boutique Quality For A Budget Price

When I first received the RC500 I was quite impressed with the construction quality of the unit. It has a sleek look and finish to it with smooth metal knobs that have a buttery turn to them. I do wish the metering on it was a bit larger, though. Seeing your gain reduction can be a challenge at times. The channel strip is a solid-state design featuring a transformer-coupled mic pre capable of 70dB of gain. The compressor is FET based with a variable attack and release with a fixed compression ratio of 3.0:1. It also has a 3-Band parametric EQ with a fixed Q of 0.5 while the low and high bands can be changed between peak and shelf the middle band is peak only. It is worth mentioning that the compressor and EQ sections are both exact circuit designs taken from the ADL 700 unit. The only difference being less features such as variable compression ratio.  The unit also has phantom power capabilities, a 80Hz HPF, a send and return insert for external gear processing, and a -20 dB pad while also you’re able to go in DI, line level, and mic level covering all bases of inputs. PreSonus claims that the minimal signal path design consists of high grade film capacitors, 1% tolerance resistors, and low-distortion op amps resulting in a clean signal path. Another unique feature that designer Robert Creel added was the ability to hard bypass the compressor and EQ thus creating an even shorter signal path for the mic pre. Most units just soft bypass the components to create a flat signal from the compressor and EQ, but they don’t take all the components out of the signal path. Probably the best feature of this channel strip is the ability to utilize send insert into an open line input on your interface to record an unprocessed signal while also recording a processed signal through the regular chain. This is a fantastic safety net to have a clean unprocessed channel.

The Channel Strip In Use

PreSonus specs this unit of having a frequency response ranging from 10Hz-25KHz. I believe this to be very true. Running a bass through the DI captured the low end very tightly without a floppy bottom I seem to get with a lot of DI’s. I attribute this to a well designed circuit capturing lows very flat in the sub range. On the other end of the spectrum when I first tracked acoustic guitar on it the high end had a sparkle to it that required no additional EQ. I felt the “air” range in the 15K and up region was captured exquisitely. Cutting vocals has been a delight as well. When I’m trying out mic pre’s for vocals I try to pay a great deal of attention in how it captures the midrange. The important 2-4K range on a vocal cuts through nicely on the RC500. Again overall this mic pre had a tightness to it on every source I threw it’s way that made me smile every time. The compressor is snappy as you’d expect from a FET design. The fixed ratio may seem a little unforgiving, but if you play with the input gain you can achieve some radical compression as well. Too fast of a release on low frequency information on sources like bass can cause a distortion breakup unlike an 1176 that I don’t particularly like, but I do like it on electric guitar. Getting it to pump on rhythmic electric guitar tracks sounds fantastic. The 3:0:1 ratio works great on vocals with a medium/fast attack and fast release. I can achieve very aggressive rock vocals 1176 style. Using it for tame work as well yields fairly transparent results on vocals. I still found myself using the compressor more for it’s punch factor rather than transparency. It has an addictive snap to it when dialed in right. The EQ is by no means a surgical one. It’s broad, gentle Q allows for sonic sculpting of the source. The low end is tight even with generous boosts. I was able to add bottom to anemic basses without the flab of a lot of EQ’s. I found the low mid’s easy to clear out space in a mix using the mid band. Large cuts can sound a bit much with such a broad fixed Q of 0.5, but using it for a few dB cut showed wonderful results. The high end in shelf mode was the star of the EQ for me. Anything 10K and up on sources that needed it gave absolutely superior results. High levels of boost still sounded smooth and not brittle with Pultec like quality.

Does This Rival True Boutique Channel Strips?

My answer to this is yes and no. I firmly believe the sound of the RC500 is of a high end caliber. This is where I would say yes it does rival them. On the other end of the spectrum is that it could use a little more controllability over the sound shaping of the compressor and EQ. This is where I would say not so much. This can be totally subjective, though. For a retail price of $799 I can say it’s the best channel strip made for under $1,000. I will go as far as to say it achieves better results of some of the higher end ones I’ve used in the past. PreSonus is a company pioneering some very innovative stuff in our constantly growing audio industry. I can’t wait to see what they will release next.

PreSonus, Channel Strip, RC500

What do you think about the PreSonus RC500 Channel Strip?

The Kaotica Eyeball – Now you can record great vocals in any setting

Kaotica Eyeball - for audio engineers recording vocals

This is Matt Butler with Mixcoach here to talk about a relatively new product for audio engineers.

The Kaotica Eyeball is the latest innovation for acoustic treatment for large or home studios alike. At first I thought, “Oh boy. Another acoustic treatment gimmick!”. After about 15 minutes of using the Kaotica Eyeball, I was singing brand new tune… Literally.

Before I dive into some results I achieved I want to talk a little bit about the designer. I had a phone meeting with the inventor Konrad Zukowski and found that not only is he brilliant, but he is very passionate about audio and capturing it as purely as possible.  Konrad spent 4 1/2 years on this simple yet elegant design. The foam formula alone took over 2 years to develop! So, this clearly wasn’t a piece of foam cut with a hole saw then placed in a box for sale.

Don’t just take my word for it.  Go and check out the Science behind the sound of the Kaotica Eyeball. You will find charts and graphs detailing just how much this can improve ANY vocal setup by reducing THD (Total Harmonic Distortion), improve Signal to Noise Ratio, reducing comb filtering and compensating for room nodes.

My use of the Kaotica Eyeball on Vocal Recording

Installing the Kaotica Eyeball on my vocal mic was easy.  Just slip it over the mic as you would any foam windscreen. You can mount it however you prefer because the eyeball will remain very tight and sealed around the body of the microphone.

Now for the testing on vocals! I placed my U47 right at the peak of a room mode that I traced down in a particular room I record vocals in. I found a pronounced peak at in this room at 165Hz. This is a pretty common room mode even in home studios that are treated fairly well. Having a buildup at this frequency can cause your vocal to sound very boxy.

After the first pass I noticed all the reflections that usually get from the room was gone! And so was the buildup of 165Hz leaving a very linear frequency response from my mic. I even ran the same test setting up the microphone in a corner. We all know corners are awful for bass buildup and weird reflections that impart awful room tone back into the microphone. Buildup GONE.

I was astonished at A/B’ing the sources. The Kaotica Eyeball greatly reduced standing waves and the early reflections from my room were minimal making this space completely workable. It was also wonderful at reducing comb filtering off the glass in a recording room. I truly got a pure vocal in every situation I tested it in.

Now the Kaotica Eyeball was certainly designed with vocals in mind, but I have experimented on instruments too.  Kevin used it on a recent bluegrass recording and noticed a big difference in the way his mics sounded.

Now you must be wondering what it sounds like. I hope you do because MixCoach is teaming up with Kaotica to bring you some videos showing you just how cool this thing really is.

The Kaotica Eyeball will become an essential tool in your tool belt for producing superb vocals in less than ideal situations.

Stayed tuned for exciting things from Mixcoach and the Kaotica! We may even be giving a Kaotica Eyeball (or two, or three) away soon!

Kaotica Eyeball

Exploring Reverb – Part 2

Exploring Reverb,Reverb,Blend

Size Does Matter With Reverb

Last week we talked about using reverb for blend. This week we will move on to using reverb to add size. We all know that reverb is about creating space. So, you’d think duh Matt size is a no brainer. Before you jump the gun I’d like to dive deeper into the subject of “size” reverb. After reading the article, be sure to comment and let me know what helped. I’d love the feedback!

Blend Your Size, Size Your Blend

Blend and size tend to go hand-in-hand. They’re often used synonymously. But there is one major difference between the two. Dialing in a good blend reverb comes from fine tuning your early reflections and the initial attack. On the other hand getting a good size from your reverb is all about the reverb tail. So, if you need a lush reverb with a nice long tail, it’s best to use a reverb with softer attacks. If you need a short, tight reverb with some liveliness, it’s time to use a reverb with a strong attack and tweak your early reflections until you land on perfection.

Now To Actually Blend Your Size

Blending size is for the most part a very simple procedure. The larger the reverb tail and the more you turn the return channel up, the bigger the acoustic space illusion becomes. This can give a track larger presence and a feeling of power, but it also pushes the element further and further back in the mix. Both blend and size reverbs deal with the front to back spatial depth of the mix. There isn’t a lot you can discuss about blending your size reverb. It truly is up to the best judgement with your ear.

Keep These In Mind For Size Reverbs

If you need a larger-than-life long tailed reverb don’t reach for the CPU light digital reverb of lesser quality algorithms. They tend to sound very unnatural, and bigger reverbs need to sound natural. If you can reach for a convolution reverb or higher end digital reverb such as Exponential Audio or 2CAudio. They make great algorithmic reverbs. As you increase the length of the tail, make sure to check that your stereo field is evenly spread on the reverb patch you use, and definitely be sure to check mono compatibility no matter the size. Always check mono compatibility frequently for all aspects of mixing! Once you have dialed in a sound you really like loop a section and bring the patch in and out allowing some time in between to let your ears adjust. This will help ensure this is the sound you want. On size reverbs don’t fret too much over the tonal balance, but I always recommend high pass filtering the return to help keep any additional mud entering the mix. I also recommend using only a 6db/octave high pass on longer reverb tails to help ward off any comb filtering issues.

Wrap Up

I hope you guys are enjoying this series on reverb. It took me a long time to really respect quality reverb. It’s now one of my loves. You could say I’m a reverb junky. It has so many different capabilities when you know how to use them. I just hope each week you’ll be able to add something new to your mixing arsenal. Please comment below on your thoughts, and if you aren’t a MixCoach Pro Member come try it out! We have plenty of great mixers in the community with plenty of topics like this in the forum. It’s a great chance for one-on-one interaction. I’ll be back next week to talk about using reverb as a sustain effect. See you then!

Be sure to read Exploring Reverb Part 1 as well!

Exploring Reverb – Part 1


Blend, Reverb

Hello music and mixing junkies! I’m excited to start a new series diving into the wonderful world of reverb. Reverb is a powerful tool in our mixing arsenal that often gets overused and not fully understood. We all think of reverb as a way to add space and dimension to a mix. While this is true, it can also serve many other roles in mixes. Over the course of this series, I’m going to discuss five of those many roles in separate articles:

  • Blend
  • Size
  • Sustain
  • Tone  
  • Spread


Blend:

Let’s start with Blend. “Blend” reverb can really help gel mixes together, and bring the elements into a common space. This helps to establish a cohesive sound. At the same time it helps create front-to-back depth perception. The drier (less reverb) a signal is, the closer it is perceived, and the wetter (more reverb) a signal is, the more distant or farther back it will be perceived. In modern recording many tracks for the same song are recorded in various studio and locations. The instruments are also typically recorded with close miking techniques. This calls for a good “blend” reverb to bring all of the elements into one accord. Without it, nothing will sound as if it’s in one natural environment.

Picking the “Blend” Reverb:

Because the goal is to blend the tracks naturally, the best choices for “blend” reverbs are the ones that sound like natural environments. There are some great  convolution reverbs with incredible impulse response libraries available. These have well sampled rooms, halls, and chambers that will really help out. There are also some incredible digital algorithm reverbs out there, though. So with all these choices, how do you pick? I would suggest not worrying so much about the overall frequency balance of this reverb treatment, because you can carve out resonance issues and other issues with an eq placed before the reverb. Instead, think about how the reverb fits in context to the music, and the acoustic space it belongs in. Close your eyes and ask yourself: “What type of space is this? Does it fit with the music?” When you answer yes to the second question you’re probably pretty close. Another thing to think about when choosing “blend” reverbs is the stereo image. The best “blend” verbs have a great stereo image. Some reverbs are designed to decay from one side of the stereo field to the other. These types of reverbs typically aren’t the best choice for blend reverb.

Pre-Delay Tips:

An important element to master with any reverb is pre-delay. But this is especially important with blend reverb. If there isn’t any pre-delay this can leave the mix feeling like it’s pushed as far back as the reverb tail will go (whatever reverb decay time is used). If there is to much pre-delay your reverb can end up sounding more like a delay (or like the room is way larger than you want). Starting with no pre-delay, slowly start to increase it. This will slowly pull the elements closer. Usually only 10-20ms of pre-delay is needed to help add mix clarity when needed, and create a space that sounds more realistic. Refining pre-delay settings when using short times such as 10-20ms is important. Anything under 20ms can induce some elements of comb filtering. This isn’t as much of an issue with pre-delay times higher than 20ms, but can be at the expense of audible flams from the wet delayed signal. Sometimes it’s best to find a point rhythmically where the pre-delay can be set to be in time with the song, which helps mask any issues and also avoids comb filtering. It’s also not uncommon to add a compressor to the reverb signal to catch some transients that can draw unwanted attention to the reverb.

Wrap Up:

I hope this first segment has shed some light on using reverb for “blend”. Don’t be afraid to get creative and bold with your processing choices to help make your reverb blend naturally. In the end always trust your ears over what you see on the screen. A helpful tip is to close your eyes and play the dry signal for 10 seconds and then add the reverb. Give your ears a few seconds to refresh a bit, then focus on the wet signal. Do this 2 or 3 times to really see if a reverb is helping or hurting the mix.

Got questions or comments? Tell us below! Want some hands on experience with awesome tracks and tutorials covering everything from reverb to mastering? Check out MixCoach Member. There’s a lot of great mixers over there interacting and helping each other out every day. Until next time happy mixing!

Be sure to read Exploring Reverb Part 2 as well!

 

A Quick Tip On Mixing A Stubborn Bass Line

Stubborn Bass Line, Bass, Compression

I’d like to preface this week’s post by saying I play several instruments, but I will always be first and foremost a bass player!

So, the tip I’d like to share this week holds a special place in my heart when I’m fighting with a bass part that doesn’t want to keep steady levels. How many of you have been there? I know I have. If you haven’t I want to live in your world!!! There are many factors that can cause an unstable bass part. It could be the player or maybe a cheap bass with dead spots or even dead strings. When problems occur, low frequencies stick out like a sore thumb. They aren’t tight, level, or consistent.

I have the great Andrew Scheps to thank for this great trick I am about to share. I’m a huge fan of parallel compression on bass. I still use it a lot, but I don’t always care to use it. I feel sometimes it can color the signal in a way I don’t care for. Maybe I’m just guilty of overusing this technique on bass from being a proud bass player! Ha! If you have a transient shaper this is where this tip is going to help you. Take a transient designer and side-chain to your bass track with the attack turn down all the way and the sustain turned up some, but usually not all the way. This in turn will keep the low end of the bass from neither jumping out or completely disappearing from the mix. I found this to work very well and a great alternative to overusing compression, parallel compression, and volume automation. This is a brilliantly easy and effective technique you can add to your arsenal granted you have access to a transient designer.

It’s the many small tips and tricks along the way that make the biggest difference in our mixes. Most importantly it’s how we judiciously and effectively use them. Here at MixCoach our members are learning these kinds of great concepts every month. If you haven’t checked it out I highly recommend taking it for a test drive. Come on over and join the great community forum we have. Until next time I hope you guys get to use this tip and go mix some great tracks!

How do you go about mixing a stubborn bass line!

Stubborn Bass Line, Bass, Compression

Product Review: Softube’s Summit Audio Grand Channel

Softube, Summit Audio, Grand ChannelGrand Channel, Summit Audio, Softube

    Hello MixCoachers! I’m excited to start product reviews here at MixCoach. I’ve been in contact with some companies I thoroughly enjoy to mix with, and many have been gracious to supply products for the MixCoach team to review.

I’d like to start with

Softube’s Summit Audio Grand Channel plug-in

It is an emulation of Summit Audio’s EQF-100 Full Range Equalizer and TLA-100 Compressor. Softube has made some great emulations of iconic gear such as the Trident A-Range EQ and Tube-Tech CL1B compressor, both of which I think sound incredible. Well, the Grand Channel doesn’t disappoint in the analog modeling department. I am a typical Pro Tools junkie, so I tested the plug-ins in AAX format.

– EQ

Let’s start with the EQ. I found it great for not only sweetening, but surgical cuts with excellent bandwidth control. It offers 4 bands of peak EQ (all with adjustable Q) while the low and high bands can switch between peak and shelving. The low frequencies of the EQ are excellent on sources like vocals and piano when in need of some love in the low to mid frequency range. It added that missing warmth without the mud. I found the low frequency controls also work great on brass sections as well, especially using a shelf.

As for high frequencies, I could get away with some rather heavy boosting in the ubiquitous 2-5K range on test sources without the typical added harshness.Using the high shelf in the 10-15K air band area certainly worked beautifully, as well. It added a nice sheen to acoustic guitars and vocals.

The EQ also has a high and low pass filter. The high pass is switchable between 27, 47, and 82Hz while the low pass is switchable between 8.2, 12, and 18Khz. I’m not positive of the slope of the filters, but they sound musical and gentle to my ear. There honestly wasn’t a source on which the Summit Audio EQ was not beneficial when EQ was necessary. The word sweet just comes to mind in every application that I tested the EQ. I’m in love with having a warm vintage tone capable of being surgical at the same time.

– Dynamics

The channel also contains a compressor. Again, it’s an emulation of the TLA-100 is a tube leveling compressor. It has a switchable slow, medium, and fast attack & release choice. It also has the option to run an internal or external side chain filter up to 600Hz. I use this all the time to help prevent pumping especially on a drum bus. You can use it gently or annihilate the audio signal if you wish with this compressor. Either one in the right situation sounds flat-out awesome.

I’ve been using it a lot on the drum bus if I need some glue. Just about a dB of reduction on the bus adds a warm roundness to the drums. It instantly smoothed out some issues with overly bright overheads in a very natural sounding way. With a slow attack and fast release this compressor added the right amount of punch and snap for my taste.

Using a medium attack and release on a bass yielded results close to that of an LA2A, which I love. Dialing in the right settings on vocals created very warm, tight compression without any noticeable artifacts(even while getting 3-5 dB of gain reduction). When using the same kind of reduction on acoustic guitar and piano the compression was somewhat audible, but I typically never compress acoustic sources that much.

If you are looking for a warm compressor that adds some serious punch this is the compressor for you! Softube also added their infamous saturation knob into the circuit. The more you turn it up the harder it drives the signal adding some nice harmonic interest when used to just barely clip the light. On the other hand you can also push it hard to add a nice gritty bite to something. It also has one of my favorite features… A wet/dry knob built in to parallel compress from within the plug-in. This knob alone is invaluable to me. If you haven’t had a plug-in with this, it’s time you do! I love to save time by not having to route any more aux/bussing than I need to.

– Other Features

Finally, at the end of the chain you can bypass the EQ and compressor individually and you can choose to add the compressor before or after the EQ. The CPU hit is a little higher than most standard plug-ins, but if you only need one of the modules you can just bypass one and save resources.

– Conclusion

If you haven’t tried any Softube stuff I highly suggest it. Especially their analog modeled plug-ins. Some of my favorite plug-ins are from Softube, and I am excited to add the Summit Audio Grand Channel to the collection. It hasn’t disappointed me at all on anything I’ve thrown its way. I’ll be adding a video of the Grand Channel in use on some test sessions I’ve set up. I highly recommend you head over to www.Softube.com and download the demo. Just one word of caution, though… You’ll be spending money!!! If any of the MixCoach Pro Members are using or have tried the Grand Channel please comment below. I’d love to hear what you think of this channel strip. Have a great weekend MixCoachers!

Let us know what you think about the Grand Channel plug-in!

Grand Channel, Summit Audio, Softube

“The Mixcoach Minute” Debut

Hey Mixcoachers! “The Mixcoach Minute” series is finally here! Please keep your questions coming. We are excited for this series to take off. We will have a new question answered roughly every day or two. Enjoy!

How Much Gear Do We REALLY Need?

    So you’ve been eyeballing that beautiful Neumann U87 and that killer Neve mic pre. You say, “Man that’s what I’m missing in my recordings. If I had that I’d have commercial sounding records.” Wrong! In the industry today it’s as simple as having a decent laptop, a 100 mic, pro tools express, and a 100 interface. But there’s two missing links that can make even the cheapest of situations worthy of cutting a pretty great sounding track. In this post I’d like to talk a bit about how (with some focus and effort) we can take a budget setup and make something you can (and should) be proud of in your home studio.

    We all dream of a massive mic locker and having 2352 UREI 1176’s from Chris Lord-Alge’s rack, but the fact of the matter is you don’t have to have them to cut and mix a great record. It’s utilizing what you have. There’s no replacement for taking the time to get the right mic placement. Getting it right from the source makes and breaks a well recorded track. We have all these amazing tools at our fingertips, so we get lazy & say “I’ll fix that in the mix”… Again.. Wrong! Move that mic around! Angle it.. Bring it up.. Down… Behind the player. There’s no rules! There are great guidelines that we will cover on a later post (and teach each and every week on MixCoach Member as well as a number of other great sites like this one). But the moral of this is experiment is don’t always cop out to “I’ll fix it in the mix”. Those are some famous last words. Over my time as a professional engineer I’ve had to use many 100 and 200 mic setups running into an mbox 2 and the results weren’t changing the sound of modern music, but with some extra time and care I had a happy client, despite the predicament.

    Next let’s talk a about a somewhat “mystical” subject. The art of acoustic treatment. It’s far too often overlooked. You’d simply be amazed at what a basic kit can do for a room. Now, I’m not saying go run out and buy a $1000 Auralex kit. I have Auralex, but I also have a great product you can get at www.foambymail.com. You can find very affordable kits there. The typical setup for us “common” fellas is a spare room with parallel, painted walls with flutter echoes galore. I’d gladly bet if you invested just a small amount in a basic setup with some room analysis help for free at Auralex you’d be coming and thanking me! There’s no microphone, pre, compressor, or plug-in that will make a bad room sound good. You can take that to the bank.

    With all of that said it sure would be nice to have that beautiful Neumann or Avalon tube pre, but it’s not the end all be all for magic commercial sounding success. I guarantee with a small investment of time & money working on proper mic placement coupled with some simple acoustic treatment your music will go up to the next level that you’ve been looking for.

    This post was inspired by a new MixCoach Member that had a question. Thanks to Jimmy Petterec for the great question. Never hesitate to ask us questions here at MixCoach. We absolutely love to hear from you guys! And though we didn’t cover anything earth shattering this week, sometimes it’s good to be reminded of the often overlooked fundamentals. Try not to be blinded with all the eye candy. Great recordings are more than the top level gear. It takes skill, and time, and patience to learn that skill. And that’s what we try to do here at MixCoach and in the Membership site, MixCoach Member.

What are your thoughts? Is gear a prerequisite to good sounding mixes? Or is it just a well trained ear that knows what’s important? Let us know in the comments below.

 

You Mean Loud Can Sound Good?! – Part 4

     Welcome to part 4 of the loudness series. This will probably be the final part of this series for now. I hope you guys have enjoyed reading it as much as I love sharing my love and passion for making better music. We will wrap up this series with some discussion on useful methods that aren’t widely practiced, but can be a tremendous help. Some can be the death of a mix with improper use, too. Let us begin!

     Strategic use of clipping can increase loudness due to increased average signal level and the added harmonic content. We all know digital clipping usually isn’t desirable because the aliasing distortion that is caused creates anharmonic tones. There are few exceptions to this. Anything that tends to be noisy such as a snare or cymbals they can typically blend with the noise like byproduct of digital clipping. Strong harmonically rich content such as a piano will sound terrible with the aliasing distortion. However, if you induce analog clipping, magic can occur. Since clipping of an analog circuit induces harmonic content related to the fundamental frequencies, it can be a pleasing non-linear warm result if pushed within its limits.

     Another tool we can use in mixing and mastering is parallel compression. If used right it can do wonders for filling a sound with life and added perceived volume. It often gets abused, and it ends up making the mix worse than better. Subtlety is the key to good parallel compression. Just a little bit can go a very long way. A typical setup for parallel compression is to create an aux send as you would for a reverb, etc., then feed it to the track or tracks you want to slam with the parallel compression. As a side note, at this point it’s a great idea to check and make sure your plug-in delay compensation is on. If it isn’t and there’s a delay between the channels you will get nasty comb filtering from the delayed signals. If you feel the need to EQ your parallel channel I highly suggest the use of a linear phase EQ and if you don’t have one, only apply very gentle shelves or filters to help keep phase shift to a minimum. Typical settings on your parallel channel will be a high ratio with a low threshold. This is a good starting place. I like to use a slower attack with a fairly quick release. As always listen until you hear your desired result. There are no rules here. I like to find a release time that pumps with the rhythm of the song. Don’t be afraid to hit 20-30 dB of gain reduction. Now slowly pull the fader up and listen to the magically life and fullness that gets added to the track. Remember to keep it SUBTLE! I recommend you send your parallel compressed channels pre fader to have independent control of the parallel channel’s volume. A huge advantage to proper use of parallel compression is that it can actually make the source sound less compressed overall when blended with the dry signal.

     I’ll conclude this series by saying, if you feel the need to use compression on the mixbus, please keep it to 1-2 dB at the max. And use a low threshold with a very low ratio. This always yields the smoothest results. If no pumping is desired it’s a safe bet to start with a release time of 250ms and go from there. Sometimes that magical glue is needed, but if you have the opportunity leave it to the mastering engineer to make this decision. I prefer to use multi-band compression on the mixbus to tighten the low end without affecting the low end. Sometimes I’ll touch the high end to help some stray sibilance here and there. This has the most transparent sound. Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed this series! We will have a new topic starting next week. How did you like this series? What’s your favorite way to make “Loud Sound Good”? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.