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"A/B-ing" your mixes to match the quality comm

Member for

21 years 2 months
OK to you play your mix then flip over to "The Next Big Thing's lastest CD or whatever you use as a bench mark...(this is caled A/Bing btw)

But the commercial CD is MASTERED! Your mix is NOT!

What if the commercial CD is WAY louder than your mix?

Is your CD player's output sound, one you can trust?

How do you attempt to 'get it' sounding in the same ballpark, or BETTER!

Methods, tips & questions please!

:)

Presently I dont trust my CD players sound that much and am scheming to get a more "accurate" reference.

I will say how I A/B & tweak later in the life of this topic...

:)

Comments

Member for

21 years 2 months

Pro Audio Guest Fri, 11/02/2001 - 07:11
Originally posted by Casey @ S C Digital Services:
Pick a couple of tunes from the same genre, extract them from CDs, import to session, match average rms levels and listen.

I do that to - on both my mix and my "do it yourself" mastering session. I know the CD has been mastered, but what else are you gonna do?

I'll import a track from a CD onto stereo track and A/B it along side of my mix. And for an added measure, (to see what I can't hear) I put the Waves Frequency Analyzer on both buses and compare those too.

Member for

21 years 2 months

Pro Audio Guest Fri, 11/02/2001 - 08:21
Originally posted by Rog:
Is this why there are so many generic, shitty mixes out there?

The A/Bing is not really to match the shit note for note, but more to help identify the problems your mix might have that the commercial one doesn't. And remember what they say about one man's shit being another man's....

;)

Member for

2 years 6 months

Wave Fri, 11/02/2001 - 14:27
compare like with like. 1. Match your levels.Try to get an average electrial level[metering] vu's and ppm.This is important as real [electrical] puts you in the reality ball park and louder always sounds better. 2. Then you can start to compare the 'percieved' volume and tone of the two mixes. 3.Try to pic similar musical genres. 4.Good monitoring[large] really helps to determine LF quality. 5.Remember that loud isn't always better
good luck paul

Member for

21 years 2 months

Pro Audio Guest Fri, 11/02/2001 - 15:26
Kick the mix engineer in the nads and tell him to work harder, while you go back to micing the session in the next room?

Oh wait, I *am* this mix engineer in this scenario...

Actually, I tend to consider the mix the mix: you make it sound good, not loud. To be honest, I A/B more when mastering. I'll listen to a few bands a lot when I'm tracking something I want to sound that way, but when I mix I more often mix just with the tune I'm working on. When I scour other mixes, I listen to this mix placement, not the entire product. Then the mastering engineer can make it glisten with lube all he wants...

A/B with "Californication" all ya wants. Just not with my CD, please.

Member for

21 years 2 months

Guest Fri, 11/02/2001 - 17:11
I tend to A/B with material that:

Cost 100 times my sessions
Was recorded & mixed in the worlds best studios
Had WAY more time than I did

I don't have perfect 'mix pitch' If I start without reference I can go off on a tangent, and say build a mix that is lacking in low mids, or high frequency.. I can 'get lost easily' That's where A/B ing comes in handy.. I don't do it nearly as much as I would like either...

I often run on pure instinct, I make stuff up as I go along v often. I don't "KNOW HOW THIS SHOULD SOUND" very often, I 'busk it' I start and follow my heart.

One description I heard recently comparing the Theatre biz with the film biz. The British director of American Beauty (his first attempt at a film) said that when starting the production of a play, the cast and director would meet in a rehearsal room, and kind of make up the plan and direction there and then in the room, the director might even say, 'what does every one feel about that' etc...

The Director then went on to say that the difference in film was If a Director admitted to not quite knowing how something was 'going to turn out' or asked someone "I dunno, what do you think?" the producers would be straight on the phone looking for a new director!

While in the overdub stage, right back from the time when I was an assistant, I always didn't dig the producers or artists, who would stress, "NO! I KNOW how this should sound!" It always seemed to shut the door on innovation and cool accidents and unexpected creation.

Anyhow, I could do with A/B ing a little more and perhaps being a little more consistent with the tone spread on my mixes.... The spectrum analizer, or visual representation idea above might help me, I will be looking into that. Because maybe, if I can't hear it, I CAN SEE IT!

:)

Member for

21 years 2 months

Guest Fri, 11/02/2001 - 22:49
Dave Moulton uses a nice descriptive phrase: "Kentucky windage". Refers to a rifle with sights that are a little off - if you know it shoots to the right, you gots to aim a little to the left. My rifle, I mean room, definitely doesn't shoot straight acoustically. (I'm working on that as we speak) But in the meantime, referencing commercial recordings for frequency content is about the best way I can compensate. If I don't, I would typically create tracks where the highs sound crisp and the bass sounds slammin' in the room, but taken outside would sound dull and would blow the windshield out of the client's car.

Member for

21 years 2 months

Pro Audio Guest Sat, 11/03/2001 - 04:54
That's why I hate these comments like "use your ears" or the above mentioned "if it sounds good, it is good"

To me, a kick drum that pounds your chest through the chair sounds good, but that doesn't make it right - in terms of translating well.

And as Jules mentioned, it's soooo easy to get lost, you need to check yourself now and again.

Isn't that why a landscape painter sets their easel up outdoors next to the lake instead of in the studio, so they can A/B their painting with the real thing, and have a constant reference of what they're striving for?

Member for

21 years 2 months

Pro Audio Guest Sat, 11/03/2001 - 15:48
I used to second for a "top" engineer and he would pop in cd when the client would leave the room just to make sure he was in the ballpark.
There where days when he was NOWHERE NEAR it!
Check a cd. start tweeking and in a few minutes all was fine.

I dont really have a problem with using great cds as a ref. even though its mastered.
We are really talking about brick wall limiting here.
I kinda just ignore it.
In fact I like my mixes more mostly because it HAS MORE DYNAMICS.
Just make sure the levels are close between your mix and the big time mix before you check cause louder always sounds better.
Just DO NOT reach for a bus eq if you can avoid it.
adress each element in the mix instead.
Jules is right to be concerned when you use the converters from a consumer cd player.
But even then referencing can be a big help.

As a side note.
every record I have worked on that the mixes where just wacked (too dull, too bright etc) were all done by engineers who refuse to reference.
comments like "I was going for MY sound". "We didnt want to sound like so and so" etc were common.

Maybe that clearmountainrange guy or maybe a nickles dude dont need to check. (but I bet they might sneak a check in here and there)

for me I A/B the shit out of my stuff.
And I love beating a mix from a cd that had 100x the budget........this make clients happy too.

Member for

20 years 1 month

Henchman Sat, 11/03/2001 - 20:05
I have stopped A/B-ing myself. Just because I know my mix hasn't been mastered yet. I noticed that when I would A/B I would tend to push the high end maybe a bit too much, as well as the compression. Now I jst make sure that what I'm hearing from the monitors, is something I'm really happy with. Then I can always add more compression and top or low-end in mastering.

As a sidenote. I just heard our first movie in a theatre. I was happy to hear that what i heard in our mix room, sounded pretty much the same in the big theatre. Just a little top end loss due to the optical frequency response.

Mark

Member for

21 years 2 months

Pro Audio Guest Sun, 11/04/2001 - 00:12
A/B-ing works well for me. I do it a lot. As a result, I find my mixes getting better and better over time. If I didn't do it, I'd feel uneasy--like I was working in a vacuum, unaware of how my work compares with other stuff out there.

It's often uncomfortable when I first compare what I'm doing with a great sounding CD. But the process ends up improving what I do. It forces me to face facts and get better.

There's so much to be learned!

Member for

21 years 2 months

Pro Audio Guest Sun, 11/04/2001 - 01:03
a/b ing works for me once i have already established a general sound of my mix. just to be sure that i am in the norms. i usually set up a live input from the mixer with a masterx and L1 set to about the seetings i would usually use to beef up a demo. frequenzy balance and stereo width change dramatically by using this kind of processing.
as a security i always record the mix back to my session unprocessed and i deliver both versions to the mastering house.
often the mastering engineer will use my main mix. and sometimes he tells me that he could do better. at least this way he has an idea of what sound i was going for and can take that in consideration.

PS: jules, great to see that you have your own forum here. your contributions to the DUC always interested me. keep it up :-)

Member for

21 years 2 months

Guest Sun, 11/04/2001 - 04:25
Thanks plenky,

Max posted:
"I remember seeing an interview with woody allen, where he said he could never watch other people's movies while he was making his own, because he would feel hopelessly inadequate"

Interesting..

Martin Scorsesi however, edits with as many as TWO other movies playing on separate monitors in THE SAME ROOM! He actually employs some 'video guys' that can hand him ANY movie he wishes to see in about 5 mins, 24 hours a day. he even knows ALL the edited for TV versions of movies and knows the difference between all of those too. He is one of those 'stimulation overload freaks' that can handle and ENJOYS multi source media stimulus.

The band Garbage are supposed to have mixed while watching movies..I have tried it, I find it messes with my concentration.

:)

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