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Mixes: pro setup v what you know

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Mixes: pro setup v what you know

Postby saltybrian » Wed Nov 14, 2012 10:35 am

My band have been working with an engineer on tracks for our new album. We’ve been along to his studio and spent a few days knocking tracks into shape, and left him to tidy things up and check things over. We were pretty happy with what it was all sounding like in his brand new all singing all dancing control room –acoustically treated / barefoot monitors (mm27?) / protools control panel. I was slightly concerned that the mix sounded different in various parts of the room – the bass was overwhelming towards the back wall – but trusted that he knew the room, at least at the mixing point.
We got first mixes back yesterday, and having listened to the mixes on their own stereos / ipods / car systems the rest of the band assembled at my place to have a listen through and make some notes. At this point, the others were generally pleased with what they’d heard ( I hadn’t checked it on anything else before we met).
My system is somewhat more modest – focal cms40 monitors, some acoustic treatment – I have rockwool bass traps bought from a studio clearance in each corner, but they’re not of uniform size and depth so probably not 100% as true as it could be, and a few panels of foam behind the control desk. It’s my sitting room so it’s carpeted and there’s a sofa in the corner too. It’s pretty dead, but not very scientifically set up.
Anyway, to the point of my enquiry – the mixes that we’d been generally pleased were taking shape on the high end stuff sound muddy and not very well defined on my set up. We compared this to several other tracks that we knew and that comparison supported the feeling that the elements within the mix just weren’t sitting very well.
I’m still quite new to this – I wouldn’t profess to knowing my own set up inside out as yet, but I’m left wondering what to think / believe. If a mix is good on a high end system I would have hoped that it would be so on my own set up too?
Any thoughts, as always, much appreciated.
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Re: Mixes: pro setup v what you know

Postby jrbcm » Wed Nov 14, 2012 10:49 am

I have CMS40s as well as various other monitors and have found that (great as they are) they can be very boomy. My other Adam p22s and Avantones don't suffer the same boominess and I have found having the -4db setting to reduce the bass on the CMS40s is essential (in my pretty well treated room at least). And I believe the manual states that you can place them near to walls, which I would take with a pinch of salt as each room varies. Listen to some reference tracks on the CMS40s and get a feel for what the bass does - it's far from precise imo.
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Re: Mixes: pro setup v what you know

Postby saltybrian » Wed Nov 14, 2012 11:09 am

Thanks. We were referencing other material- mastered and unmastered - and individual elements were generally much better defined than in our mix.

This would rule out the monitors as sole cause of the inconsistency would it not?
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Re: Mixes: pro setup v what you know

Postby adrian_k » Wed Nov 14, 2012 1:11 pm

Hi,

You say these were the first mixes from the engineer, so it would not be unusual for him to have not yet checked how they translate. Since you have referenced other material on your system and are happy, that does point to there being a bit more work to do on the mixes. Have you listened to them on different systems yourself so that you can compare your room to say the car/ipod etc? I know the band haven't noticed any issues but that doesn't really mean a lot - I've had bands say they were blown away by a recording when all I'd done was a quick level and pan mix for them to check the arrangements.

If it was me mixing I would be disappointed if you didn't come back with an honest opinion - just check it on a few systems first?

cheers
A
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Re: Mixes: pro setup v what you know

Postby Mike Senior » Wed Nov 14, 2012 8:48 pm

saltybrian wrote:Thanks. We were referencing other material- mastered and unmastered - and individual elements were generally much better defined than in our mix.

This would rule out the monitors as sole cause of the inconsistency would it not?

I'd think so personally, from what you've said so far.

adrian_k wrote:You say these were the first mixes from the engineer, so it would not be unusual for him to have not yet checked how they translate.

Really? Personally, I'd consider that tantamount to commercial suicide, especially with a new client. Each to their own...

If you'd like a quick second opinion, PM me with one of the mixes and the names of the reference tracks you're using and I can have a listen if you like.
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Re: Mixes: pro setup v what you know

Postby jrbcm » Wed Nov 14, 2012 9:16 pm

Mike Senior wrote:
If you'd like a quick second opinion, PM me with one of the mixes and the names of the reference tracks you're using and I can have a listen if you like.

There's an offer you can't refuse!
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Re: Mixes: pro setup v what you know

Postby Jack Ruston » Wed Nov 14, 2012 9:27 pm

There is a reason why many mixers don't work on these sorts of speakers. I know we're always being told that X or Y latest greatest 5k mega nearfield is perfect because its flat from 2hz to 50k and reveals everything etc, and that having the most information possible is the key to the best mix...but in reality the vast majority of high end mixers rely heavily on NS10s or similar, small, sealed, often passive two ways. They force you to mix the midrange. With bigger speakers its very hard not to start mixing the sub and the air, which is a route to muddy, unexciting results.

It's also possible that they're not really used to the Barefoots, or that they're too close to the project, or that they're just not great mixers.

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Re: Mixes: pro setup v what you know

Postby saltybrian » Thu Nov 15, 2012 12:44 am

Thanks to all for your thoughts. Mike - thanks for the kind offer. I've sent you a pm
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Re: Mixes: pro setup v what you know

Postby Mike Senior » Thu Nov 15, 2012 8:31 am

Had a gander at those tracks you sent over this morning. A good listen -- well done on the music! :) Anyway...

First things first, based on the mastered mix you originally had as an example from the same engineer, I think you've got pretty much what I'd have expected you'd get, if you see what I mean. In other words, your mix is very much in the same ballpark as that one, give or take a bit of top-octave air, some extra loudness, and a different choice of bass instrument.

However, comparing with the 'Trip To Glenfinnan' reference, I can see what you mean when you mention the difference in instrument definition and the sense that the lead instruments in the mix you have seem a bit muddy at the moment. However, the good news is that I don't think this would be too tough for the engineer to fix for you with a few mix revisions.

The main issue as I hear it is actually the drums, in that these feel closer, clearer, and (particularly) more transient than the rest of the ensemble, such that they make the other instruments inevitably feel a bit muffled by comparison, no matter what you may try to do at the mastering stage. I'd ask the engineer to round the drums off a bit, perhaps pull them down a dB or so, and maybe give them a touch more short reverb as well to push them back a notch in the depth perspective -- although in the latter case it might actually be better instead just to pull a bit of the ambience off the lead instruments if possible, as they're a little too wet, I think, if you're after more of a 'Trip To Glenfinnan' sound.

Other than that, the biggest issue for me is the overall mix tonality, and although this is something you could tackle in mastering too, I think it'd be better to bring this up with the mix engineer, because I reckon you'll get better results by targeting specific channels than by processing the whole mix at once. Your current mixes have quite a smoothly balanced spectrum, but if you want the slightly more rootsy and forward sound that your reference track has, then I'd lean more heavily on the 500Hz-3kHz region -- just mucking around with EQ on the 'RTHJ' track, for instance, I ended up with a 4dB boost at 1.5kHz with Q=0.6. The lower mid-range might also be thinned out a decibel or two at around 200-300Hz. Both of these EQ moves apply more to the lead instruments and guitars than to the bass or drums, though, I reckon.

One last thing to bear in mind is that the layered/double-tracked fiddle textures you're using will almost inevitably sound less 'present' and 'forward' than the single-instrument lines of 'Trip To Glenfinnan', so if that's an important part of your band sound, then you have to be realistic about your expectations in that regard. Although that reference track does layer instruments, they're different instruments, which doesn't have nearly the same homogenising and distancing effect as double-tracking and layering the same instrument.

So, overall, I'd say you're pretty close to where you want to be already, and probably not more than a couple of rounds of revisions away from the kind of result you're looking for.

(One further thing, though -- Syradale's vocal sound feels inappropriate to me. It seems quite toppy and aggressive, which doesn't really do the rest of the track any favours, I think. A less heavily processed sound would probably be more in keeping with the rest of the production.)

Hope some of that makes sense!
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Re: Mixes: pro setup v what you know

Postby adrian_k » Thu Nov 15, 2012 9:21 am

Mike Senior wrote:
adrian_k wrote:You say these were the first mixes from the engineer, so it would not be unusual for him to have not yet checked how they translate.

Really? Personally, I'd consider that tantamount to commercial suicide, especially with a new client. Each to their own...

Yes my statement was too black and white wasn't it - but I have received, and sent out mixes that were not fully cross checked depending on what stage of the project we are at and what kind of relationship we have, with the obvious caveats. If the mixes in question were meant to be close to finals then I agree.. especially your point about this being a new client.
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Re: Mixes: pro setup v what you know

Postby saltybrian » Sun Nov 18, 2012 6:06 pm

Hi Mike,

Thanks very much for your perceptive and considered thoughts on the mix. We've actually swapped to a different engineer now to finish the mix due to unforeseen time constraints, and I've passed your comments on to him.

I'll send a copy of the finished album so you can see how we got on.

Brian
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