Posts Tagged ‘mixing’

I know it’s been a long time, but I FINALLY got around to completing this whole mix test.  Luckily, things have been really busy at work.  I’ve been working pretty much non-stop since early December.

To use a phrase from the broadcast field – ‘if you’re just now joining us’ I’m testing the workflow and sonic tradeoffs of mixing ITB vs. OTB vs. summing and using different types of plugins.   If you would like the history of this test, please visit my previous post here.

So, without further ado, here are the results.  (all files are 16bit 44.1kHz stereo WAV)

All the tracks have the EXACT same start and end point.   The levels are somewhat matched, but not EXACTLY.  When you pull these up in your DAW, you may have to move faders just a tiny bit to match.  (I know, I’m a slacker)

Take a listen and see which one YOU think sounds the best.  I’d love to hear from you.  Of course this isn’t ALL about sound, it’s about the tradeoff between sound and workflow.   I’ll explain my opinions further down.

1. McDSP ITB mix
2. McDSP analog summed
3. McDSP analog summed through Vintech
4. Waves SSL ITB mix
5. Waves SSL analog summed
6. Waves SSL analog summed through Vintech
7. SSL Duality LFAC mix

So, this whole exercise was definitely an experience that both reinforced some existing perceptions and helped me to realize a few others. In past “shootouts” I usually leave my opinions out of it and let the reader/listener make up their own mind.  This time around I think my opinion is critical to this post.

Now, one of the biggest surprises that I has was the fact that  I was able to get the mixes so close to each other  for starting from scratch each time.  All in all, there isn’t a lot of difference between these.  I think this speaks to the fact that the tools used to mix are pretty inconsequential compared to the engineer him/herself and the tracking process.  Most bands these days want to rush through tracking and “fix it in the mix”.  That is the biggest mistake you can make as a band.  The SOUND of the record comes from getting the right sounds in the room at the microphone.

The band and I both liked the Waves SSL ITB mix summed through the Vintech (1073  clone) the best as far as pure sonics were concerned.  This mix was by far the most impactful, spacious, and slick in my opinion.  The standard summed mixes ran through the internal stereo mix bus of the Speck X-Sum.  The Vintech mix replaces the 2 bus mix stage of the Speck summing mixer with the line input of the Vintech preamp.  I found that the summing mixer had a much more desirable character when going through the Vintech.

The console mix turned out pretty good I thought.   I was a bit concerned going in that this one would be a disaster.  I haven’t mixed on a console in a long time and I was not completely familiar with the room/speakers.  Surprisingly I was making pretty much the same sonic moves as the other mixes.  I did have to do some submixing due to only have 24 Pro Tools outputs.  I was surprised by how compressed it was compared to the others, but I guess that makes sense (many more amps, electronics, and the 2 bus mix compressor in the actual console is much more forgiving and therefore you can push it more).  The stereo image was definitely the widest on this mix.  As far as workflow is concerned, this reinforced  that I love the sound of analog consoles, but I don’t really think it’s worth the hassle.  It took a long time to get everything running, there’s always the whole session recall issue, and there were maintenance issues while mixing.  Two channels were not working which meant I went from 22 channels down to 20.  The dynamic IN buttons on nearly every channel had to be exercised profusely before the signal stopped cutting out.  HOWEVER, once I was setup on the board, I didn’t get a good mix going in a much shorter time than the other ITB mixes.  I did do the SSL Duality mix last though, so that could have something to do with it.  By that time I kind of knew what needed to be done.

I kind of have the same thoughts about the summing mixer.  Unless you have something like a Dangerous 2 Bus with no pan/volume pot and one that is normalled to the patchbay, it’s kind of pain to deal with the setup and patching of an analog summing mixer.  I think it made a significant improvement in the sound, but is it enough to justify the cost of a nice summing mixer and all the setup time and lack of recall?  I’m not sure.  Depends on the project and my workload that week I guess.

All of these are totally usable mixes.  There aren’t significant enough differences in any one of them for me to say, oh I don’t like that.  I was assuming the Waves SSL mix would take more time because I’ve been mixing so long with EQ that has a graphic display.  I was wrong.  I love the SSL “sound” for rock and using those plugins helped me achieve the desired effect more quickly. I do also like the idea of using the same plugin on each channel just like a console to get a more glued sound.  In the McDSP mix I was also using a few random plugins like the Waves RenEQ.

I would like to thank all the guys in Highway Headline for lending their awesome musical talents for this project.  If you like the song, please check on their webpage.  It should be available for download shortly.  I’d also like to thank Colson Wilhoit for assisting on the console mix at Webster University.  This test was very insightful for me and I hope you benefit from it as well!  Talk to  you soon!

Speck Analog Summing Mixer

Speck Analog Summing Mixer

SSL Duality Analog Console

SSL Duality Analog Console at Webster University


I haven’t posted in a little while.  I’ve been SUPER busy with sessions, and my son has been in the hospital. I just got a new RNC compressor that i may review soon. But for now, I’ll keep it short and make a small announcement.  I am now the new Vice Chair or the St. Louis Regional Audio Engineering Society.  I will also be hosting a panel at the Webster University AES Student Summit on Summing, Saturation, and Hybrid Mixing.  The Student Summit isn’t just for students.  It’s like a mini AES convention with major vendors and lot so panels.  SO, if you are in the area March 22nd – 24th, you should definitely try your best to attend!

See you soon!

I don’t do this ever, but I thought…it’s about time!  Shameless self promotion day!

SmithLee  just finished a project for John Deere through our client Schwartz and Associates.  It’s a truly well shot video showing our needs for the future in regards to food production and all that John Deere has to offer in that regard.

Gary Sinise is the voice talent, Sandy Smith (of SmithLee) did the score and I mixed the music and the whole program.  Most of the instruments are sample libraries but there are a few instruments in there that I recorded.

Take a look!


(there are reference hyperlinks throughout this article.  I highly suggest you follow them because they are reference and very relevant)

I’m sure many of you will be surprised to learn that I listened to Metallica’s “Death Magnetic” for this first time yesterday. Honestly I never really WANTED to listen to it for two reasons.  First, Metallica hasn’t really written good songs in a while, and second, if FANS (not engineers) are complaining about the quality of the record….that’s proof enough for me.  I don’t need to listen to it.

But yesterday I thought I’d give it a try….




It was worse that I ever could have imagined.  Worse as in, “who in their right mind would EVER put out a record that sounds this bad”.  It’s compounded by the fact that they have the money to make a great sounding record AND they should know what a good sounding record sounds like after all this time!

Well, maybe not necessarily the last comment.  I mean Metallica records  have never really sounded GOOD per se. (St. Anger anyone?)

So, what’s so bad about it you might ask?  The real question should be, “what ISN’T bad about it?”

Basically take every word you can think of that describes a bad audio recording and Death Magnetic fits that description.
It is all of the below and probably a bunch more words that I can’t think of right now….


It’s just plain hard to listen to. I honestly didn’t pay any attention to the quality of the songs themselves because I was so distracted by the crappy sound.  I can describe the quality of the record to you all day, but you really have to experience how bad it is and make “that face” while you are listening before you can fully comprehend its horrendousness.  WHY WOULD YOU PUT OUT A RECORD THAT SOUNDS LIKE THIS?!??!?!?!

The best part about the whole situation is Lars Ulrich going on record saying that they LIKE the sound of it, it was meant to be that way and fans are wining to much!  I think someone is in denial.  He even dismissed a petition with 13,000 signatures (that has now reached 22,000) asking to remix/remaster the record!

The ONE saving grace of this record is that it really opened a lot of fans’ eyes to the loudness war. MP3 compression is one thing.  I can understand people not being able to tell the difference.  But you can’t dismiss flat out distortion.  People hear that and realize it’s NOT pleasant and they don’t want to listen to it because it’s fatiguing.  Fans heard the UNmastered version in the game Guitar Hero and realized how much BETTER it sounded!

This whole thing made me think. Remember that feeling you get when you first put in a cd and you start to crank that volume knob way up so that you can rock out? Or when you’re watching a movie and the character reaches over with a swift and determined motion to crank it up?

That simply doesn’t happen anymore.  In fact, most of the time I end up turning my stereo DOWN to listen to music because it’s already loud!!!  That’s psychologically bass ackwards!

Well, I for one still like to crank up the volume knob.  Who’s with me?

For further reading, please visit:

If you’re stuck on a mix…….

Throw ALL the faders down, start over and do the opposite of what you did the first time, and do it QUICKLY acting on instinct only. I guarantee THIS 10 minute mix will be better than the one you agonized over for 5 hours.