Mixing in software needn’t mean that the results lack character, colour and warmth.
As a mixer, I like to deliver a big and quite hyped sound, and I am always searching for ways to capture analogue warmth. At the same time, though, I need to mix mainly ‘in the box’ to allow me to work on multiple projects at a time, and have a fairly quick turnover for mixes. To achieve this, I use a combination of hybrid hardware with saturation, distortion, harmonics and console emulation plug‑ins. The key is to add a little bit of all the elements throughout the mix, rather than relying on one plug‑in or stage of processing.
Working mainly in the box means my studio setup is fairly simple. My monitors are Ex Machina Pulsars: this is a relatively new brand of speakers, but I was sold as soon as I heard them. They give me the low end I need without a sub, along with top‑end sparkle and detail. The same goes for the McDSP Analog Processing Box system. I tried an APB8 and it integrated perfectly into my workflow and gave me the analogue sound that I was missing. A recent addition as well is the Freqport Freqtube, which is a similar concept. I also have an SSL Fusion mastering processor, and my main audio interface is a Universal Audio Apollo x6.
To illustrate how my hybrid mix approach works, I’m going to refer to the song ‘Cardboard Box’ by the amazing girl band called FLO. It was produced by MNEK and mixed and mastered by me. My aim for this record was to have sparkly vocals recalling 2000s R&B, combined with a big, round low end.
My sessions are usually organised the same way. All tracks go through their respective buses, which I will detail below, which in turn are all routed to a mix bus/master bus.
Once I have done colour‑coding, markers, bus assignments and so on, my first step is usually to put a Sonimus Britson Channel plug‑in on all my audio tracks and a Britson Bus plug‑in on all my buses. This is a console emulation plug‑in which I found gives me some warmth and opens my mixes. Each instance has high‑ and low‑pass filters, which I adjust accordingly depending on the source. I use the Fat mode on both tracks and buses, and Master Loudness on the Britson bus. You can assign multiple tracks to a group, but I don’t use this feature: I like to set it and forget it.
Once the console emulation is in place, I start carving each track with FabFilter’s Pro‑Q 3 equaliser. I also switch on my master bus plug‑ins pretty early on — usually as soon as my initial gain staging is done. This is necessary because I find that parts always come to me very...