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Mix Rescue | Media

Our Experts Transform Your Tracks By Mike Senior
Published September 2015

Audio files to accompany the article.

These files accompany the Mix Rescue article in the September 2015 issue of SOS

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Mix Rescue: Audio Files

The audio files available on this page accompany my Mix Rescue article in SOS September 2015 about mixing the song ‘Matterplay’ by indie-rock band Malenky Slovos. The filenames are fairly self–explanatory, but here are some additional notes to describe exactly what you’re hearing in each case. The raw multitracks from this session are available for download at www.cambridge––mtk.htm#MalenkySlovos if you fancy having a go at mixing them yourself.


This is the original mix of ‘Matterplay’ by Malenky Slovos, as submitted to Mix Rescue. It was mixed by the band’s guitarist Andrea Imberciadori using Cockos Reaper.


Here’s my remix of ‘Matterplay’ working from the same raw multitracks within my own Cockos Reaper DAW system, and using third–party plug–ins from Christian Knufinke, Cytomic, FabFilter, GVST, Mda, Melda Production, Softube, Stillwell Audio, ToneBoosters, Tweakbench, and Voxengo.


Here’s what the live drum overhead mics sounded like without any processing — all I’ve done is pan them hard left and right. As you can hear, the hi–hat dominates over both the snare and the crash cymbals in the balance.


In search of more aggression and attitude, I slammed the overheads into Stillwell Audio’s 1176–inspired compressor plug–in The Rocket, using its ‘all buttons’ ratio mode and 100 percent Impetus for maximum grime, but with the Decadence oversampling switch engaged to try to keep things as smooth–sounding as possible. Attack and release times were kept short (0.05ms and 35ms respectively) to get plenty of gain movement. Although I liked the general attitude of the result, it did add a harshness to the cymbals that I wasn’t crazy about.


To tackle the cymbal harshness you can hear in the Overheads02_Comp audio file, I applied two different plug–ins. The first was ToneBooster’s excellent TB–Ferox analogue tape emulator, where I drove the level hard into its ‘Tape Compression’ preset. This didn’t quite go far enough for me, though, so the second plug–in I applied was Reaper’s built–in ReaEQ equaliser, cutting a couple of decibels with an octave–wide peaking filter at 15kHz. While this processing solved the harshness problem, however, the level imbalance between the hi–hat and cymbals had, if anything, become worse!


In an attempt to bring out the cymbals in the overhead balance, I automated the overheads–channel fader to boost the level of each cymbal hit by around 4dB. However, the presence of hi–hat hits directly after each cymbal meant that I had to bring the fader down fairly swiftly, and this inevitably compromised the sense of crash–cymbal sustain.


To reinstate the lost cymbal sustain I ended up layering in additional cymbal samples under each cymbal hit in the live drum-kit recording — there weren’t that many, so it didn’t take long. However, in their raw form the samples emphasised the onset of each cymbal hit as much as the tail, so I heavily compressed them to focus their contribution more towards the sustain phase of each hit.


Here’s what the basic live snare close–mics sounded like without any processing — the over–snare mic is about 8dB louder than the undersnare. It’s not a bad close–mic sound, but it suffered from a couple of things that close–mics usually do: an overemphasised pitched resonance (in this case at 578Hz), and a lack of noise/complexity in the sustain phase — the tail of each hit is mostly made up of metallic–sounding resonances.


Reducing the unwanted pitched resonance you can hear in the Snare01_Raw audio file was simple: a narrow–band 6dB peaking cut at 578Hz from a ReaEQ plug–in did the trick in no time. However, the character of the drum’s sustain tail wasn’t significantly improved, so I resolved to get rid of as much of it as I could.


To remove some of the resonant nastiness from the snare–drum close–mics (as heard in the Snare02_MicsEQ audio file), I dialled in some gating from Reaper’s bundled ReaGate plug–in. I used an instantaneous attack time, 26ms of hold, and 96ms of release, which, in conjunction with the threshold setting, allowed me to shave off some of each hit’s tail without unduly compromising the section of the sound I liked at the onset of each hit. To get the triggering to be reliable, I fed the gate’s side–chain from the oversnare mic (which had less spill from the kick) and applied ReaGate’s side–chain high–pass and low–pass filters at 220Hz and 6.6kHz respectively.


Now that the tail of the close–mic snare sound had been truncated, I needed to reconstitute something a bit more suitable–sounding. I decided to do this with a short, bright impulse–response reverb running in Christian Knufinke’s SIR2 convolution plug–in. In this audio example you can hear what this reverb sounded like on its own. I used a 540Hz high–pass filter from ReaEQ to restrict the effect’s contribution to the noisier higher frequencies, and also narrowed the stereo spread of the effect to make it less obvious as an artificial addition once in the mix. To hear how this effect sound along with the dry snare close–mic signals, check out the Snare05_VerbMix file.


Here’s what the reverb effect in the Snare04_VerbSolo audio file sounds like in combination with the dry snare close–mic signals. Compare this example with the Snare02_MicsEQ and Snare03_MicsEQGate audio files to hear how much difference the reverb had to the sustain character of the drum. Although I was happy with the result, however, referencing my mix–in–progress against some of the band’s stated commercial references suggested to me that I should try to add more low–midrange attack to the sound.


In response to what I was hearing from some commercial reference tracks the band had provided, I initially tried adding low midrange to the snare close–mics with EQ, but this really didn’t provide the clean, tight sound I was after. Instead, therefore, I mixed in the snare–drum sample you can hear in this audio example. It sounds pretty uninspiring on its own, of course, but you can check out how it sounds mixed with the close mics by listening to the Snare_07_SampleMix file.


This is how the snare close–mics and their supporting sample (as heard in Snare06_SampleSolo) sounded in the final remix. Compare this to the raw close–mic mix back in the Snare01_MicsRaw audio file to hear how far my mix processing has changed the sound.


I mentioned in the main article how, once I’d processed and panned the two chorus guitar parts, the backing texture in combination with the bass guitar felt a bit ‘hollow’ in the middle of the stereo image — as you can hear in this audio example.


Part of the problem with the texture you can hear in the GuitarTexture02_BassCleanMix audio file is that the bass guitar is a much cleaner sound than the electric guitars, so it doesn’t populate the midrange with nearly as much frequency information — despite being a reasonably bright DI’d sound. I’ve soloed the bass part from that file to create this audio example, so you can hear it in isolation.


To fill out the centre of the guitars+bass stereo image, I added distortion to the bass part using FabFilter’s flexible Saturn plug–in. In this instance, the setting was based around the plug–in’s ‘Lead Amp’ algorithm with a medium drive setting, and I used the effect as a parallel process, low–pass filtering the distortion channel at around 1kHz to avoid brashness in the upper spectrum. Check out the GuitarTexture04_BassDistMix audio file to hear how this sounded in combination with the guitars.


With the added distortion, the guitars+bass texture already sounds more even across the stereo image. However, I still felt it could still do with some more help, so I hunted around the multitracks to see if there was any track that I could repurpose into a chorus–section role for this purpose.


In the end, I realised that a distorted Ukelele part that was originally destined for the song’s bridge would fit harmonically against the chorus, and with a bit of EQ that part helped fill in the remaining ‘hollowness’ in the centre image of the chorus’s guitars+bass texture. Now compare this example with the GuitarTexture01_BassCleanMix audio file to hear the combined impact of the bass distortion and Ukelele layer.


Here’s a snippet of the chorus–section lead vocal without any processing. It was recorded with an AKG Perception 120 condenser microphone, but the singer sang very close to the microphone in order to minimise recorded room ambience, and this resulted in a rather bloated tone on account of the cardioid polar pattern’s proximity–effect bass boost.


My first processing move was to apply a 365Hz high–pass filter using Reaper’s ReaEQ equaliser plug–in. The slope of the ReaEQ filter is a moderate 12dB per octave, but it’s still quite a high cutoff frequency setting, and you can hear how much it thins out the low midrange of the vocal tone compared with the LeadVox01_Raw audio file. Nonetheless, the tone is still rather soft in the true midrange region, which meant it was easily obscured within the thick chorus backing texture.


Although I tried using EQ to enhance the vocal’s midrange, there simply wasn’t enough energy in that region to work with, so I opted to use distortion to generate extra harmonics instead. The plug–in I used was again FabFilter’s Saturn, this time with the ‘Smooth Amp’ algorithm and a fairly high drive setting. Because the distortion was a bit too powerful in the 3–4kHz region, I followed Saturn with an instance of ReaEQ, cutting 6dB at 3.4kHz with an octave–wide peaking filter. You can hear the results of both these processors in this audio example.


Although I now liked the general sound of the vocal within the context of the mix, the wide level variations in the raw vocal recording meant that the distortion drive (and hence the timbre) was also undesirably variable, as you can hear in the LeadVox03_EQDistEQ audio file. To tackle this, I applied heavy compression from Stillwell Audio’s The Rocket (‘all buttons’ mode, 0.8ms attack, 175ms release) with an additional stage of brickwall limiting from ToneBoosters’ TB–Barricade plug–in. If you listen to this audio example, you can hear that the timbre is now much more consistent as a result, but there’s still one problem — the sibilance has been unduly emphasised by the heavy dynamics processing.


Applying 14dB of 8kHz EQ boost to vocal compressor’s side–chain signal proved very effective in counteracting the sibilance. Compare this audio example with the LeadVox04_EQDistEQComp audio file to appreciate the difference.


The verse arrangement of ‘Matterplay’ featured two sets of drumkit tracks: the live multi–mic recording of the band’s drummer; and a busily programmed breakbeat from Toontrack’s EZ drummer. Although the breakbeat added an appealing extra rhythmic complexity to the section, discrepancies between the timing of the two parts undermined the combined sound’s groove and punch, as you can hear in this audio example.


My workaround for the flamming problem heard in the DrumFlams01_Unedited audio file was to edit out any breakbeat hits which coincided with hits played by the band’s drummer. That way the breakbeat could add rhythmic complexity without compromising the groove of the live player.