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Clashing sounds when adding distortion to mix

Postby cybercreature » Fri Jan 15, 2021 5:26 pm

Hi all,

I'm trying to buss several tracks through the same aux track(which has a distortion plugin added) to get a nice cohesive feel. However I find that it makes the instruments clash even if the instruments are occupying very different frequencies. eg a bass and a lead. What happens is that when an instrument with a low frequency is playing at the same time as one with a higher frequency ,The higher frequency instruments volume decreases (it ducks beneath the bass)

However, if I add the distortion plug in separately to each track instead, then the problem doesn't occur.

Does anyone know why this happens and what is standard practice for setting things up?

Thanks.
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Re: Clashing sounds when adding distortion to mix

Postby The Elf » Fri Jan 15, 2021 5:58 pm

Welcome! :thumbup:

This simply isn't the way to do it. Add distortion as an insert effect *separately* for each instrument that requires it.
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Re: Clashing sounds when adding distortion to mix

Postby Zukan » Sat Jan 16, 2021 10:34 am

Can you outline how your mix channels are set up please?
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Re: Clashing sounds when adding distortion to mix

Postby blinddrew » Sat Jan 16, 2021 10:39 am

It sounds like you're trying to achieve saturation effects with distortion instead. They're not quite the same thing.
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Re: Clashing sounds when adding distortion to mix

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Sat Jan 16, 2021 11:12 am

cybercreature wrote:Does anyone know why this happens and what is standard practice for setting things up?

Distortion processes add higher harmonics to the input signal, and our brains can latch on to the harmonic sequence and infer from them the fundamental.

When you process each source individually, the harmonic series generated relates to the fundamental and low harmonics of each individual source.

When you bus sources together via an aux and process them as a whole, the resulting harmonics are generated from a sum of all the source instruments as a weird ensemble instrument... and so the result is aurally confusing and instead of helping to separate the instruments, it just blobs theme altogether.

So, in short, if you want to use distortion processing, keep it as an insert on an individual instrument, rather than as a aux bus effect.
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Re: Clashing sounds when adding distortion to mix

Postby CS70 » Sat Jan 16, 2021 5:27 pm

Which also tells you why sending everything to a (very slight) form of distortion can help glue up a mix a little - a tape emulation or a console...
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