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mixing in mono...what do i actually do?

Postby hopscotch44 » Tue Mar 05, 2019 12:42 pm

ladies & gents, hello:)
I'm being extra civil because my question is so so basic!

After following the thread about Avontone mix cubes & revisiting Q&A's (especially about TRS/TS and what they can, can't, shouldn't do)....

I took a gamble and ordered a Mixcube.
My mixes are pretty low key but important to me and my friends who ask me to record and mix them.
It's all a bit congested and I'm hoping the mono idea will help to open things up a bit.

my very basic questions:
how do i actually configure my software and hardware properly?
How do i choose and use the correct cables etc?
does the Mixcube sit in the middle of my set up?

If you've stopped cringing, i'm eternally grateful and hopeful for some advice
thank you
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Re: mixing in mono...what do i actually do?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Tue Mar 05, 2019 12:56 pm

How you drive the mixcube will depend a lot on what equipment and software you have available. Obviously, it needs a summed-mono feed, but that can come from a hardware stereo output via a suitable mono-summing cable, or it can come from one channel of any convenient output if your hardware monitor controller or software is capable of deriving a mono sum.

As for the technique, it's just a case of listening. When listening in stereo, different source sounds are spread out in space. This allows two similar sound sources to be aurally separated and differentiated in stereo, but they can become a confusing mush when listening in mono...

So by listening to the mono sum (or with the pan-pots all in the centre) all source sound's basically sit on top of each other and can only distinguished by their differing tonalities and their relative timings. And that forces you, as the recorder/mixer, to choose sounds that don't trample all over each other by sounding too samey, and/or to arrange the music to separate things in the timeline... and the whole mix benefits as a result!

Personally, I do the basic first-pass mix with pan-pots centred, so make sure I get the tonal differences working and the basic mix balance. Second pass implements panning but that also alters the mix balance between central and wide-spaced sources so the balance needs tweaking, and then switching between the stereo monitors and the mono speaker helps fine-tune the best compromise between the two, while also revealing any midrange dominance issues...

But i'm sure far more experienced mix engineers than me will be able to throw in more good advice...

H
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Re: mixing in mono...what do i actually do?

Postby CS70 » Tue Mar 05, 2019 1:24 pm

Never anything wrong in questions!

The technicality of connecting driving the cube is the same as for any speaker - if the one you've got is "active" (i.e. has an integrated amplifier) you just have to connect the audio cables, if not you have to find a suitably powered amplifier, connect an available output of your interface to the proper amplifier input, and the amplifier outputs to the cube. I use a single Auratone and have a cheap and cheerful Cambrdige Audio Azure integrated amplifier, which does the job pretty well - its main advantage is that many integrated amp have an EQ section, which for mixing use is a nuisance, and with the CA you can take that section completely out of the audio path in hardware, so you're sure that what you hear is not colored. For what's worth, the Auratones use simple "exposed copper" cables, where you simply peel of part of the rubber and secure the copper by some kind of mechanical constraint (in both, the traditional "screws" that you loosen and tighten by hand). Keep the run as short as you can (considering you may want the cube a little around) and you'll be alright when it comes to noise. Not sure about the Avantone tough, maybe they've implemented a more modern connection way.

Depending on how many "main outs" your interface has, you may want to use a monitor controller, which usually allows fast switching the same input between at least two sets of monitors by pushing a button. I use a SM Audio MPatch 2 but the Drawmer monitor controller is considered the best here and I'd tend to agree. The MPatch works fine but if you use the switches a lot (I don't) they may fail a little (one did for me). If your interface already has multiple main outs (i.e. a built-in monitor controller section) you don't need one, obviously. You may also use "regular" line outs if your interface has them, but the downside of that is that then you have to change to channels in the DAW every time.. the advantage of a single hardware button switch is very big there.

When it comes to using the cube in mixing, you simply place it somewhere (I have it on top of the left regular monitor). No need to be in the centre as since there's no stereo image (doh!) you can simply turn your head :D, but it should be oriented towards the same listening area hit by your main monitors, since that's probably where you have optimized the acoustics already and also to avoid that completely different reflections change the timbre a lot.

Since usually you'll be connecting to a single side of the amp (which normally would expect to be connected to a stereo pair of speakers), you will need to collapse the mix to mono beforehand. Typically you can do that in the DAW (I guess all of them have a mono/stereo virtual button on every channel, including the main) or on the monitor controller (or interface). If you don't, you'll end up listening only to the left or right channel and that's not what you want.

"Mixing in mono" normally means to stay in mono all the time and take all decisions that way. Once done, you switch to stereo and pan things a little, checking again with the mono version to ensure you're not making stuff worse. It's a actually a very good way to get a good rough balance very quickly, which gives you the feel you want from the mix.

"Checking mono compatibility" means that you make your mix the usual way, by using your stereo monitors, but you use the mono speaker to either check certain balances (typically snare and vocals balance, for example, or how much reverbs keep imparting the qualities you want when the mix is listened to in mono) or as a check on how things end up sounding when everything is collapsed together - keep in mind they *will* sound different, but you want to preserve the most important parts and the overall feel of the mix.

Good luck!
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Re: mixing in mono...what do i actually do?

Postby blinddrew » Tue Mar 05, 2019 1:57 pm

On a previous thread Jack Ruston advised placing a single mono speaker anywhere-but-central, and he's a man who knows his stuff... ;)
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Re: mixing in mono...what do i actually do?

Postby Moroccomoose » Tue Mar 05, 2019 3:04 pm

So, putting aside the 'grot box' aspect of mixing through a single mix cube, In terms of value in reading your mix, is there a school, of thought on whether summing to mono in the DAW and sending the mono mix to both studio monitors vs sending both left and right channels to just one of the main monitors.

When doing mono listening, I have simply summed to mono in the DAW to achieve a 'pseudo mono' or rather 'central' mix in my pair of monitors. Reading above, suggests I might be better either sending my central mix to just one monitor or sending both left and right signals to just one monitor?

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Re: mixing in mono...what do i actually do?

Postby MOF » Tue Mar 05, 2019 3:10 pm

On a previous thread Jack Ruston advised placing a single mono speaker anywhere-but-central, and he's a man who knows his stuff...
Are you sure that was for a mono speaker and not a sub? I would have thought the best place was a central position. That way when you switch between it and the stereo speakers you can compare mixes.
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Re: mixing in mono...what do i actually do?

Postby CS70 » Tue Mar 05, 2019 3:10 pm

Moroccomoose wrote:So, putting aside the 'grot box' aspect of mixing through a single mix cube, In terms of value in reading your mix, is there a school, of thought on whether summing to mono in the DAW and sending the mono mix to both studio monitors vs sending both left and right channels to just one of the main monitors.

When doing mono listening, I have simply summed to mono in the DAW to achieve a 'pseudo mono' or rather 'central' mix in my pair of monitors. Reading above, suggests I might be better either sending my central mix to just one monitor or sending both left and right signals to just one monitor?

Stu.

A mono source is by definition one single source of sound. If you have two sources emitting the same (mono) track, you get different interference and reflection patterns (depending on the location of the two speakers and their surrounding) and thus, possibly, a different timbre. For example, since bass frequencies are heard essentially in mono anyways, you would likely increase the level of the perceived bass if you used two speakers sending out the same mono program..
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Re: mixing in mono...what do i actually do?

Postby The Elf » Tue Mar 05, 2019 4:20 pm

Some DAWs (and I know Cubase does, because it's my weapon of choice) will let you define your speaker as a designated mono monitor destination and it will take care of the summing automatically.
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Re: mixing in mono...what do i actually do?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Tue Mar 05, 2019 5:40 pm

Moroccomoose wrote:...is there a school, of thought on whether summing to mono in the DAW and sending the mono mix to both studio monitors vs sending both left and right channels to just one of the main monitors.

The perceived tonal balance (especially at the low end) is very different between 'dual mono' over two speakers, and mono over single speaker -- the latter being much more accurate and representative of other mono listening situations. The standard BBC monitor control panels always had a means of listening to summed mono on a single speaker and it was deemed an essential facility.

And I also agree with Jack (in a previous post which was mentioned above) about placing the mono check speaker somewhere away from the mains stereo pair (and definitely not central!).

H
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Re: mixing in mono...what do i actually do?

Postby Terrible.dee » Wed Mar 06, 2019 12:06 am

hopscotch44 wrote:ladies & gents, hello:)
I'm being extra civil because my question is so so basic!

After following the thread about Avontone mix cubes & revisiting Q&A's (especially about TRS/TS and what they can, can't, shouldn't do)....

I took a gamble and ordered a Mixcube.
My mixes are pretty low key but important to me and my friends who ask me to record and mix them.
It's all a bit congested and I'm hoping the mono idea will help to open things up a bit.

my very basic questions:
how do i actually configure my software and hardware properly?
How do i choose and use the correct cables etc?
does the Mixcube sit in the middle of my set up?

If you've stopped cringing, i'm eternally grateful and hopeful for some advice
thank you

If you are using a DAW your master fader should have a button on it somewhere that clicks between mono and stereo, I would think most DAWs would default to "Big Mono" and send the same single channel output to both L & R outputs, meaning you can connect the Mic Cube to either output (I don't remember if they are powered or not, this assumes they are)

Your interface may have a "Mono" option as well, but make sure you have your DAW M.F set to mono, otherwise, you'll probably be getting a summed composite of your DAW's stereo outs. This is a great way to check for phase issues, but I don't think it's what you're looking to do. You want to track in mono to make sure every element of your arrangement compliments the whole, that nothing clashes and everything serve a purpose.

I think you'll find much success when elements have nowhere to hide it is very easy to see MAJOR flaws in arrangments (Too many guitars with sounds that don't compliment one another, synth "Pads" that have the sonic effect of dumping mud in a clear glass of water, Synth parts clashing with the bass, which is not in the proper register to complement the guitars, over-layering of everything, which is a huge problem, lead vocals being stepped on by supporting instruments, instruments flat out playing in the wrong register to support the vocal) You will instantly be made aware of what is in essence a "Perspective" problem.

But don't be further mislead. The issue is unlikely to be a "Mix" problem, if you have these sorts of problems when you sit down to "Mix" then the track is not ready to mix.

It's also less likely to be a "production" issue either.

It goes back to the arranging phase.....or, and people don't like to hear this. All the way back to the songwriting (Beatmaking...whatever you call it) phase.

If you are recording your friends or yourself, take it back to the song its self, a good song just tends to "come together" when recording/mixing, bad ones never sound right.

If you're confident in your material, then be BRUTAL on the arrangement phase, make a new policy that anything in the arrangement has to EARN its way into the song. And set priorities, is the song in the vocal? Then change that guitar part and maybe the whole key of the song, Is the beat the most important thing? Then get rid of that sub bass that eats up the kick drum and makes the drums sound weak in comparison.

Working in mono will help you with everything.
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Re: mixing in mono...what do i actually do?

Postby MOF » Wed Mar 06, 2019 12:27 am

And I also agree with Jack (in a previous post which was mentioned above) about placing the mono check speaker somewhere away from the mains stereo pair (and definitely not central!).
Where do you place the mono speaker Hugh? I would have thought that potentially you are listening in a different acoustic if it's anywhere away from the wall where the stereo speakers are situated.
Also if it's on top of the left speaker, for example, you're having to keep moving your head to get the 'mono' sound in the centre of your head and not end up with a left half of a stereo sound field with the right side of this mono sound masked by your head.
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Re: mixing in mono...what do i actually do?

Postby hopscotch44 » Thu Mar 07, 2019 10:00 pm

good manners brings great rewards :thumbup:
what comprehensive and really useful advice.
great respect and thanks to all the above support.
(it) arrived today and i'm setting it up now.
(delay in reply as i work away sometimes)
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Re: mixing in mono...what do i actually do?

Postby hopscotch44 » Fri Mar 08, 2019 11:16 am

Having had time to read the replies more carefully...the thoughts of terribledee especially are lingering.
I decided on location (top of left monitor...for now)
Summed stereo to mono aux out on interface (rme totalmix)
(i will play around with the mono switch on the master fader, and the second spkr option on my mpatch, & the dual mono -too much bass etc etc)
Working on one project in particular...the groove was so enticing...my/our combined ears sort of ignored exactly some of the things Tdee highlighted..
The knowledge and mentoring combined, from all you guys (& gals?) has explained how to set up, burst a bubble, and at the same time reloaded the creative/techniquenbubble machine.
Respect!
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Re: mixing in mono...what do i actually do?

Postby Ramirez » Fri Mar 08, 2019 11:41 am

Hugh Robjohns wrote:
Moroccomoose wrote:And I also agree with Jack (in a previous post which was mentioned above) about placing the mono check speaker somewhere away from the mains stereo pair (and definitely not central!).

H

This is interesting. I get it that it would be good for a 'grotbox' type speaker(s) to be somewhere away from your usual listening position for a different perspective, but the Mixcube aren't really that kind of lo-fi cheap speaker are they? The way I see it, it's a high quality, accurate monitor within its limited frequency range, and serves a different purpose to a cheap speaker 'off to the side'. As such, I want it in my usual mixing environment and position to make critical decisions.

Mine is indeed placed central right between my main pair (where you'd probably usually have a screen), but you've made me question the placement now - should I think about moving it?
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Re: mixing in mono...what do i actually do?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Fri Mar 08, 2019 12:19 pm

MOF wrote:Where do you place the mono speaker Hugh?

Anywhere you like. I have mine off to the side of me...

I would have thought that potentially you are listening in a different acoustic if it's anywhere away from the wall where the stereo speakers are situated.

Yes, but that's no bad thing... and by it being in a different position it won't energise the same standing waves as your stereo speakers.

Also if it's on top of the left speaker, for example, you're having to keep moving your head to get the 'mono' sound in the centre of your head and not end up with a left half of a stereo sound field with the right side of this mono sound masked by your head.

It's irrelevant. Your brain processes the sound differently when it's from a mono source in space.

H
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Re: mixing in mono...what do i actually do?

Postby Ramirez » Sat Mar 16, 2019 10:45 pm

Ramirez wrote:
Hugh Robjohns wrote:
Moroccomoose wrote:And I also agree with Jack (in a previous post which was mentioned above) about placing the mono check speaker somewhere away from the mains stereo pair (and definitely not central!).

H

This is interesting. I get it that it would be good for a 'grotbox' type speaker(s) to be somewhere away from your usual listening position for a different perspective, but the Mixcube aren't really that kind of lo-fi cheap speaker are they? The way I see it, it's a high quality, accurate monitor within its limited frequency range, and serves a different purpose to a cheap speaker 'off to the side'. As such, I want it in my usual mixing environment and position to make critical decisions.

Mine is indeed placed central right between my main pair (where you'd probably usually have a screen), but you've made me question the placement now - should I think about moving it?


Sorry to bump this, but anyone have any more insight on the above? I'm curious!
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Re: mixing in mono...what do i actually do?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Sat Mar 16, 2019 11:15 pm

You can put it wherever you like.

My personal preference is to put it off to the side as it forces me to listen in a different way, not least because often I'll end up looking away from the screens so I really do listen with my ears and not my eyes!
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Re: mixing in mono...what do i actually do?

Postby blinddrew » Sat Mar 16, 2019 11:37 pm

This took surprisingly long because it was in a different thread to the one i thought it was:
https://www.soundonsound.com/forum/view ... on#p581964
I was beginning to think i'd either imagined it or got completely the wrong author.
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Re: mixing in mono...what do i actually do?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Sun Mar 17, 2019 12:09 am

The relevant contribution being:

Jack Ruston wrote:Re the mix cubes - put them together, over to the side, behind you, on a shelf somewhere, on the floor even...anywhere but front and centre. The point of them is that you get a valuable perspective shift. Use them to reference not only the small speaker, but the new perspective, the distant or suboptimal position. People don't sit in front of their radio, on axis at ear level. In the first few seconds after you switch, there's a lot of info about the translation, which you very quickly adjust to.
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Re: mixing in mono...what do i actually do?

Postby Ramirez » Sun Mar 17, 2019 12:15 am

Thanks both

Hugh Robjohns wrote:The relevant contribution being:

Jack Ruston wrote:Re the mix cubes - put them together, over to the side, behind you, on a shelf somewhere, on the floor even...anywhere but front and centre. The point of them is that you get a valuable perspective shift. Use them to reference not only the small speaker, but the new perspective, the distant or suboptimal position. People don't sit in front of their radio, on axis at ear level. In the first few seconds after you switch, there's a lot of info about the translation, which you very quickly adjust to.


Isn't this again unfairly treating the Mixcube as an inferior/low quality 'grot box' type speaker? I don't think that's what the Mixcube is - I think it is a high-quality but limited speaker. What it does, it does very well, so why compromise its positioning? Isn't it the grotboxes that should be placed William Nilliam any which way?
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