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Mix Rescue: Stem-Mixing-Mastering | Audio Examples

Hear For Yourself By Neil Rogers
Published November 2019

Check out the audio files that accompany our SOS November 2019 Mix Rescue article about Stem-Mixing/Mastering.

Featured This Month

Derecho ( are an award-nominated, female-fronted rock band from East Anglia. They've already put out two studio albums and two EPs, and a new release is set for November 2019. The band have toured extensively and are followed by an enthusiastic international fan base. Their influences are wide-ranging: you'll hear echoes of Kate Bush, Siouxsie Sioux and Evanescence in singer/songwriter Jo Ash's vocals, and classic and heavy rock chops from the experienced backline of guitarist Mike Wheatley, bass player Steve Banks and drummer Mike Ellis.

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Download the ZIP and inside you'll find the hi-res WAV files that accompany my Mix Rescue article about Stem-Mixing-Mastering in SOS November 2019. In the article, I explain how I stem-mixed/mastered a 10-track album for rock band Derecho — and thanks to Derecho for their kind permission to share these audio clips!

I was given 4-6 stereo ‘stems’ for each song, rather than the traditional stereo mix used for mastering, or multitracks used for mixing. Typically, I had separate files for: drums, bass, guitars, keyboards and vocals. These examples, taken from the song ‘Mountains’ are of each stem and the whole mix before and after my mix processing.

01_Full Mix Before

My starting point — a bounce of the stems for ‘Mountains’ before I set to work.

02_Full Mix After

The final mix/master. As you can (hopefully!) hear, the difference is more dramatic than with typical mastering of a stereo mix.

03_Drums Before

The stereo drums stem before my processing.

04_Drums After

The drums stem result. Most work involved EQ — cutting around 390Hz combined with a generous boost around 80Hz and two different stages of brightening: a boost at 5.6kHz with the Soundtoys Sie-Q plug-in, and some high-frequency shelving on the master bus.

05_Bass Before

The original bass guitar stem.

06_Bass After

The processes bass: EQ-wise, there were small cuts at 80Hz and 281Hz to help it sit with the low end of the drums and the guitar, and a boost at 2kHz to add clarity. Pro Tools’ Sans-Amp plug-in adds a tiny bit of grit, while Waves Rbass just fills out the lower-end a touch.

07_Guitars Before

The guitar stem prior to mixing/mastering.

08_Guitars After

The guitar processing was mainly focused on making the track as a whole feel a bit wider and more expansive. As I explained in the article, this was achieved using a combination of the SoundToys Microshift and Ozone Imager plug-ins. A touch of 3.5kHz EQ also brighten things a bit.

09_Vocals Before

The original vocal stem. Notice how the effects are all very clearly defined.

10_Vocals After

Very little work was needed on the vocals other than adding a little ‘air’ EQ and some high-pass filtering around 100Hz. I did, however, use the Oeksound’s Soothe plug-in, which tries automatically to tame any harsh resonances in a user-specified range.