Thread: Have mix cake and eat it 2

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  1. #1
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    Default Have mix cake and eat it 2

    Got a PM in another forum about ONE single factor which will most improve one's mixing(kinda).

    I'm gonna snip it up so it's not something where the sender can be recognized, but I spent a few minutes responding and I think it was a good question.

    God knows I don't have time to get back to that ESX clusterfuck I started. HOHOHO.

    I WILL!!

    I WILL!!

    I PROMISE!!!

    I'm going to chip away at it every day like a good boy in early September.

    I really am. I will finish the fucking thing before everybody "guilts me to death"


    Anyhoo.

    Here we go:

    Where I sit at this point in my life, I don't have a bankroll for some of the tools I know will help me maximize what i record I can't afford a great desk, 1176's, 550a's, tape, or studio rental. I have what I have some decent pres and converters, some totally usable mics, some acoustic treatment, Logic, some fairly nice monitors, great instruments, and what I think are killer songs (yeah yeah, don't we all have killer songs). That's all I have.

    Now, I know that as far as a rock recording (possibly any recording) is concerned, what we're trying to do is manipulate and exploit varying levels of distortion tape, tubes, transformers, eq, comp... it's all gain stages and distortion management.

    My question is, since I'm only able to work ITB, do you have any suggestions on how I can maximize the musicality of an ITB mix scenario? I'm not asking about how to create size in a mix, or how to make things sound "like tape," but simply, if it were you, would there be any general approaches you might take to keep ITB work as musical and toneful as possible?

    I'm not asking for secrets and if you can't help, hey, I'm just thankful you took the time to read my PM.

    Keep on keeping on! Thanks Slip.
    Hey Dude.

    I've never worked anywhere, ITB or OTB, where ANYTHING meant MORE than a prudent and vigilant understanding and exploitation of gain scheduling.

    The least glamourous, least noticed, least celebrated of all the "audio causes".

    If I could offer you ANYTHING that is a bulletproof "WILL make ALL things better" MINDSET that is it.

    In short:

    Get fanatical about the discovery and optimization of EVERYTHING you "do and use" with respect to nominal gain structuring. In short: Where things "sound best" on a individual and aggregate basis. HOW POWER is DISTRIBUTED and controlled in a SYSTEM both BEFORE and AFTER the use of processing tools.

    It will quietly move you past the vast majority of your peers in the long run.

    I shit ya not.

    It only sounds easy.

    In the end it's a LOT harder to hear and employ gain nominals in "whole or partial scenarios" than learning how to smash something with a compressor, or beat something to death with and Eq.(both of which, ironically are... in and of themselves... OTHER TYPES of gain scheduling).

    A simple example would be to REALLY examine the effect of eq. and compression to a signal by spending the time to ABSOLUTELY INSURE a "unity gain" monitoring scenario for "pre and post" A/Bing both in solo and in the fray.

    You may be AMAZED at how many SHIT DECISIONS you are making from a "sonic integrity" standpoint if you force yourself to do this EVERY TIME you SUBSTANTIALLY change ANYTHING in a mix.

    INSURE THAT IT HAS THE SAME "APPARENT VOLUME" in the mix.

    It's "too stupid to be true" right?

    Guess what?

    It's TIME CONSUMING as all fuck.

    It's HARD TO HEAR at first.

    It's ALSO CRUCIAL ACROSS an ENTIRE MIX, as all the "little randomly unimpressive disasters" turn into ONE BIG CLUSTERFUCK of phase-smeared shit-storm and musliny fuzziness.

    It will take you MUCH LONGER to learn how to mix with as much "smoke and mirrors" impact as your peers who choose to eschew this stuff in the short game.

    However.

    If you DO IT, you will learn how to take things to a place they CANNOT GO TO FOR LOVE OR MONEY in the long game. And NOTHING that FOLKS WHO HAVE NOT GONE THRU THIS PROCESS have "learned" about making mixes SLAM and all those other cheapo whizz-bang tricks will get them the last 10%... The 10% which involves "Long game perceptions of sonic integrity/purity which is ALL THAT IS LEFT when you get to the point where you can truly "do this".

    Short story: Learn a form(PURE MIX BALANCE) before you attempt to abstract it(EVERY FUCKING THING YOU READ ON THE INTERNOT REGARDING{SUPPOSEDLY} MAKING MIXES HAPPEN).

    Best regards and best of luck with everything,

    SM.

    PS. If weedywet comes on here and disagrees with this post I'm going to cross the river and hack off his balls with a noseclipper. Think of how LONG THAT WILL TAKE.


    WEEKS.





    No....








    wait.
    Kill me. No really. Just fucking kill me.
  2. #2
    Valerie Plame's peroxide Hank William's Chauffeur
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    Default Re: Have mix cake and eat it 2

    So what you are saying is, technically you should be aiming to not damage your average volume levels through the stages. Get the volume to flow through the signal chain without being destroyed and just control the average volume via the use of dynamics and shape the sound via eq and compressors or whatever and make sure you havent killed of the sound?
  3. #3
    And Then there Were Three Dog Night Group sex therapist
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    Default Re: Have mix cake and eat it 2

    So what you are saying is, technically you should be aiming to not damage your average volume levels through the stages. Get the volume to flow through the signal chain without being destroyed and just control the average volume via the use of dynamics and shape the sound via eq and compressors or whatever and make sure you havent killed of the sound?
    Nonononono
    He means operating various devices in your disposal at their BEST ranges and making sure that optimal operation is maintained in the chain.
    When in doubt, mumble!

    EVERYTHING SOUNDS LIKE SHIT IF YA LISTEN LONG AND HARD ENOUGH.
  4. #4
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    Default Re: Have mix cake and eat it 2

    Get the volume to flow through the signal chain without being destroyed and just control the average volume via the use of dynamics and shape the sound via eq and compressors or whatever....?
    Ok. SM is saying that you should make everything sound as good as it can in stead of messing with it with dynamics, compressors or whatever. And, that is is not easy to do, because you need to experiment.

    Also what meLoCo_go said.
  5. #5
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    Default Re: Have mix cake and eat it 2

    I think the Slipperyfish is also hinting at the not-so-obvious by products of processing shit.

    Like, you boost some shit in an EQ. Wow, now it sits in the mix/sounds better. But guess what? You just made it louder. It MAY have sounded better if you'd reached for the fader before diving blindly into the EQ...or maybe not, but now you might need to gain schedule the little fucker back down so it's the same apparent loudness...

    All those blindingly-obvious-when-pointed-out things that aren't necessarily obvious to the n00b.

    Plus the other stuff mentioned so far. Gain scheduling encompasses a whole world of carnage.
    I'm probably talking shit.

    "Mixing most 'heavy' records is like trying to find order and lucidity in a recording of a Cathedral Pipe Organ, all stops out, randomly veering between Handel's Messiah, Ginestera's 2nd and a coupla Bach Fugues, in a Titanium kitchenware foundry, while a gaggle of enraged PCP snorting gorillas with bullhorns conduct a demolition derby with cement mixers against the soothing cacophony of a nearby landslide/tsunami/heavy artillery exchange."- Slipperman
  6. #6
    Valerie Plame's peroxide Hank William's Chauffeur
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    Default Re: Have mix cake and eat it 2

    ok ... uh how?

    I mean maybe its a stupid question, are they blindngly obvious to the pro (i presume so)
  7. #7
    Astrological sign is "Feces"! Wants to be Alec Baldwin's daughter
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    Default Re: Have mix cake and eat it 2

    Killer answer. One of the single best things I've read in terms of mix advice.

    This sums it up for me:

    A simple example would be to REALLY examine the effect of eq. and compression to a signal by spending the time to ABSOLUTELY INSURE a "unity gain" monitoring scenario for "pre and post" A/Bing both in solo and in the fray.

    You may be AMAZED at how many SHIT DECISIONS you are making from a "sonic integrity" standpoint if you force yourself to do this EVERY TIME you SUBSTANTIALLY change ANYTHING in a mix.

    It's TIME CONSUMING as all ****.

    It's HARD TO HEAR at first.

    It's ALSO CRUCIAL ACROSS an ENTIRE MIX, as all the "little unimpressive disasters" turn into ONE BIG CLUSTER**** of phase-smeared shit-storm and musliny fuzziness.


    Brilliant.
  8. #8
    just a minute...where's that damn capo? Better off without a wife
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    Default Re: Have mix cake and eat it 2

    So, what you guys mean is that say I make an EQ change that affects the apparent loudness of a track in the mix, I would adjust the fader to regain the mix balance I had before. Correct?

    I already do this but want to check that it is what you mean.
    ...Mike.
  9. #9
    Astrological sign is "Feces"! Wants to be Alec Baldwin's daughter
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    Default Re: Have mix cake and eat it 2

    It's that but also knowing what the optimal gain settings are for all the gear you're using, AND, knowing how these "gain stages" cascade into one another.
  10. #10
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    Default Re: Have mix cake and eat it 2

    So, what you guys mean is that say I make an EQ change that affects the apparent loudness of a track in the mix, I would adjust the fader to regain the mix balance I had before. Correct?

    I already do this but want to check that it is what you mean.
    If you are using plug-ins, there is an output fader for most eq's and comps. Adjust the output so that when you bypass the plug it sounds as close as possible volume wise to as when its not bypassed.
  11. #11
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    Default Re: Have mix cake and eat it 2

    If you are using plug-ins, there is an output fader for most eq's and comps. Adjust the output so that when you bypass the plug it sounds as close as possible volume wise to as when its not bypassed.
    Same goes for any hardware that has a gain knob on the output.

    Imagine you have, for example, an EQ and then a compressor inserted on a given channel. If you then boost something in the EQ, obviously the output from the EQ is then gonna be higher than the input.

    Thus, you will be hitting the compressor after it harder. Maybe you want that, maybe you don't. If you don't, you'd need to attenuate the signal coming out of the EQ by using the EQ's output gain pot/fader. Doing it on the channel's fader would just change the level of the now over-compressed sound, rather than reducing the level that the comp is seeing.

    Basically, if you can, always adjust the output loudness to match the input loudness WITHIN THE PLUG/PIECE OF GEAR.

    Oh and for those who may not know, loudness is how loud it sounds to your EARS, not how loud the meter(s) show it to be.

    The two are not always the same. E.g. increasing the level by 6dB means that you get twice the output...but the human ear percieves it as less than that. The human ear on average thinks that around 10dB is twice as loud (although this varies according to frequency content and SPL involved).

    Thus, gain scheduling and use of your ears rather than your eyes are immensely important and inextricably linked.

    And I'll reiterate what others have said - most bits of analogue gear and (arguably) plugins have an area where they sound best - i.e. a certain compressor might sound best when you're absolutely raping the input to it (so you would boost the level before the comp and reduce the level after the comp). Another compressor might sound like shit when it's ragged, and thus you might want to just tickle it with some level so it sounds nicer there and boost the output back up to whatever nominal level you're working at.

    I would venture that all this stuff becomes even MORE important in the analogue domain where everything is dependent on the quality and type of electronic components involved, where there are finite limits.

    ITB these limits are somewhat blurred by the use of stuff like floating point code. Or so I'm told. A lot of this still holds true though - I mostly mix ITB, but in terms of gain scheduling I treat it like I am mixing analogue, apart from the odd moment where I 'break the rules' for a specific purpose.


    Rambling...
    I'm probably talking shit.

    "Mixing most 'heavy' records is like trying to find order and lucidity in a recording of a Cathedral Pipe Organ, all stops out, randomly veering between Handel's Messiah, Ginestera's 2nd and a coupla Bach Fugues, in a Titanium kitchenware foundry, while a gaggle of enraged PCP snorting gorillas with bullhorns conduct a demolition derby with cement mixers against the soothing cacophony of a nearby landslide/tsunami/heavy artillery exchange."- Slipperman
  12. #12
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    Default Re: Have mix cake and eat it 2

    HAha!

    Slippy, the Oracle of HiFi speaks, the world tries to interpret.


    Look for these key phrases:

    Get fanatical about the discovery and optimization of EVERYTHING you "do and use"
    Everything affects everything
    PS. If weedywet comes on here and disagrees with this post I'm going to cross the river and hack off his balls with a noseclipper. Think of how LONG THAT WILL TAKE.

    There ya go.

    A two layer cake WITH icing.

    Bon Apetit.


    Here's something else.

    I was at the farm store the other day to pick up fertilizer for the East 40. I was looking for bullshit but all they had was chicken shit and bat shit.

    There's a mixing metaphor hidden in that little gem too.
  13. #13
    just a minute...where's that damn capo? Better off without a wife
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    Default Re: Have mix cake and eat it 2

    Imagine you have, for example, an EQ and then a compressor inserted on a given channel. If you then boost something in the EQ, obviously the output from the EQ is then gonna be higher than the input.

    Thus, you will be hitting the compressor after it harder. Maybe you want that, maybe you don't. If you don't, you'd need to attenuate the signal coming out of the EQ by using the EQ's output gain pot/fader. Doing it on the channel's fader would just change the level of the now over-compressed sound, rather than reducing the level that the comp is seeing.
    Thanks guys. I thought that's what you meant. I was thinking mixer EQ rather than plug-in.

    Axe: That is a very good point about being careful when chaining devices into a compressor - easily missed!
    ...Mike.
  14. #14
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    Default Re: Have mix cake and eat it 2

    Thanks Slippy, this post is in the top 5 this year. I've been trying to say it repeatedly but I muster only a fraction of your eloquence on the subject.

    The truth is, the importance of this concept is almost impossible to overstate. Yet people gloss it over.

    I was thinking mixer EQ rather than plug-in.
    Doesn't matter. The gain staging principles apply the exact same way nonetheless. Back in the console/tape machine days, there was more focus on it because EQ and compression affected strongly how the tape behaved. ITB, things would appear to be more forgiving, but the principles of gain staging still apply.

    So, what you guys mean is that say I make an EQ change that affects the apparent loudness of a track in the mix, I would adjust the fader to regain the mix balance I had before. Correct?
    Close, and this actually makes my point for me in a way.

    On a console, you would adjust the mic gain, not the fader, because no consoles I know of have an output/makeup gain knob post EQ. If you simply adjusted the fader, there would be nothing to keep the EQ from bombing the next gain stage.

    And if you'd inserted a compressor pre-EQ, you would have adjusted its output/makeup gain to compensate for the EQ, since adjusting the mic gain would have changed the behavior of the compression.

    And so on.

    In a DAW, this whole game becomes less obvious, in part because plugins don't respond to gain changes the same way hardware does, and in part because the DAW invites looking at your mix rather than listening to it.


    otek
    "Tube color is not the 'thing'. Why would the most linear amplifying device have a color?" - Jonte Knif
  15. #15
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    Default Re: Have mix cake and eat it 2

    In a DAW, this whole game becomes less obvious, in part because plugins don't respond to gain changes the same way hardware does, and in part because the DAW invites looking at your mix rather than listening to it.


    otek
    100% agree. In some cases DAWs (with floating point math) are easier and gain-staging is of little importance. However with hardware emulations this is totally different as they have some analog drive/saturation built in. And here goes tricky part - at what volume you really start to drive a sertain plugin? It is totally up to developer to decide and plugins are wildly different in that respect.
    When in doubt, mumble!

    EVERYTHING SOUNDS LIKE SHIT IF YA LISTEN LONG AND HARD ENOUGH.
  16. #16
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    Default Re: Have mix cake and eat it 2

    That's it!

    A couple supplementary things to think about:

    1. All signal processing changes the gain as does every different load on any given piece of analog gear. A tenth of a dB louder will always sound better but it's real easy for something to actually be making things sound lots worse after you turn it back down to the same apparent level. The fader has always been the most powerful piece of gear in the room.

    2. I've never found anything analog or digital that didn't have a sweet spot including floating point and the entire monitor path including the D to A.. This is why you'll often hear such wildly divergent opinions about every piece of gear. Great gear has a huge sweet spot. Crappy gear has a minuscule sweet spot. It's all amazingly unrelated to price!
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  17. #17
    Astrological sign is "Feces"! Wants to be Alec Baldwin's daughter
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    Default Re: Have mix cake and eat it 2

    Great gear has a huge sweet spot. Crappy gear has a minuscule sweet spot. It's all amazingly unrelated to price!
    The thing that's daunting about this fact, is that it would probably take months years to determine what those sweet spots are, on a given source, and in a given chain. I mean, consider you're recording an electric guitar. Say the signal is hitting a mic, going into a pre, into a compressor, into an eq, and into a DAW.

    On the pre, comp, and eq, there could be two gain controls (in/out).

    Let's assume they each are detented with 12 positions.

    That means all possible gain configurations is 12^6 or, 2985984 possible combinations and that's just gain, paying no attention to how the mic is loading the chain, how the DAC's are receiving the signal at a given volume, and whether the gain scheduling suits that particular song/instrument/style on that given day!

    Obviously it's just organic and there are other limiting factors that make the choice easier (wanting as low a noise floor as possible, etc), and I realize it's an organic process...

    But in the end, is the best approach just to sweet knobs until things sound killer, take mental notes each time you do it, and hope to learn as time goes on?
  18. #18
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    Default Re: Have mix cake and eat it 2

    There's no substitute for really knowing your signal path. This is a very legitimate reason for not using the mike pre of the month.

    The other thing is running tones and listening for distortion with different settings.
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  19. #19
    And Then there Were Three Dog Night Group sex therapist
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    Default Re: Have mix cake and eat it 2

    The other thing is running tones and listening for distortion with different settings.
    Does this really have a practical sense in analog? I mean, I always test "analog" plugins with sweeping tones to know if there's alasing etc. But if I'd like to know where a particular pre starts to really distort I'd run a vocal. Another thing is if I thought the unit was broken, but then i'd maybe reach for oscilloscope or something.
    When in doubt, mumble!

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  20. #20
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    Default Re: Have mix cake and eat it 2

    You always want your average signal to be 20 dB. down from the peaks or, if you want that "vintage tube sound," more like 26 to 35 dB. down from the peaks as a starting point. That's the level the gear was designed to operate at. The exception is the crappy early transistor stuff that only had 14 dB. of headroom.
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