In Part One of Demagnetizing The Mix we noted that most mixes begin ‘stuck’ inside an imaginary box between the speakers. We described this phenomenon as the ‘Magnetized Mix’. One of the first tasks of an engineer is to take concrete steps to ‘demagnetize’ the mix, or ‘unpack the box’, so it can have a dimension, clarity, and warmth appropriate for the emotion of the song.
Demagnetizing the mix
Demagnetizing the mix unglues and separates each instrument from every other instrument in the mix, creating the sense of openness, groove and vibe essential to a great mix. Failure to do this at the beginning of a mix will result in a mix that will never sound big and open no matter what you do to it.
Three Strategies For Demagnetization
When in comes to demagnetizing a mix the first three weapons in your arsenal are the following:
- Faders and Panpots
- Phase Coherence
- Subtractive EQ & Filtering
Now while this may come as no revelation to many the secret to demagnetizing a mix is found in the following:
- The order in which these steps are applied
- Knowing exactly what to listen for as you make adjustments
- Understanding that small and seemingly insignificant adjustments at this stage yield big results later in the mix
- A/Bing your ‘demagnetized’ mix with your ‘magnetized’ mix to compare, appreciate and build on the results
Bearing these points in mind as you begin any mix will pay huge dividends when you get to applying compression, additive EQ and FX processing to further solidify and ‘inflate’ your mix.
All You Need To Know About Creating An Initial Mix Balance Inside the Imaginary Box
Before reaching for a fader it is important to understand that generally speaking:
- Faders move sounds front to back ‘inside the imaginary box’
- Panpots move sounds left to right ‘inside the imaginary box’
Because of this the majority of your initial fader and panning decisions will still only move your sound around ‘inside the imaginary box’. This is in reality a good thing as you will want some instruments to stay inside the box (i.e. parts of the snare, kick and vocals) otherwise there would be a big whole in your mix!
However while initial fader and panpot settings may not appear to do much to demagnetize your mix at first, this couldn’t be further from the truth! Whilst seemingly insignificant, the initial separation achieved with faders and panpots will be magnified later with phase coherence, subtractive EQ, filtering and eventually compression and FX processing.
The results of effective fader and panning levels will be subtle, but absolutely critical for the success of your mix!
Your Personal Guide To Setting Levels
To help in your quest to demagnetize your mix we’ve put together a free download called The Mixcoach Guide To Setting Levels. It should get you well on your way to demagnetizing any mix!
In the final two parts of this article series we will look at the powerful role phase plays in demagnetizing a mix, as well as how the deliberate use of subtractive EQ and filtering completes the demagnetization process. In fact after phase has been checked and subtractive EQ and filtering have been applied to the initial separation and openness achieved with faders and panning, your mix will for all intents and purposes be ‘demagnetized’!
Next Week, we’ll discuss more ways to mix inside the imaginary box.