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Hey everyone -

I just am finishing an EP with my band, and we just went to a very nice, well repsected studio in my area to do the overdubs and mixing. We recorded the basic tracks at our well outfitted home studio.

Overdubs went great, and it was on to mixing. All the basic tracks sound stellar.

At the mix (I was there at the session) the mix engineer, and owner of the studio, and well respected analog guru, well, didnt do a very good mix. He put a lot of digital effects on our sound that I was somewhat oppossed to but sounded ok at the time - I figured this guy is a professional, he knows what he's doing, I am going to let him do it. This is his thing.

The end result is the mixes don't transfer exceptionally well on any system, except the $5000 Adam monitors he mixed it on in his well acoustically treated room. The mix straight off of my computer (we recorded all of the basic tracks at our home studio) only panned and volume adjusted sounds better to me and my band (no effects compression reverb etc.)

So what do I do? Whats the best way to tell him I'm unhappy? Do I mix them on my KRK V6's at home and bring them to him and say 'do this, just on your nicer gear'? Do I take the time, scrap whats been done so far (and $$) and just mix it myself?

I was really hoping to get a really professional quality mix out of this. I can get 90-95% of the way there myself, and I was looking for the final 5% from this engineer (as I said, well respected and experienced) and his wonderful studio gear.

Any advice?


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LittleDogAudio Tue, 01/25/2005 - 07:27

Well you hit upon a couple things that are self-evident.

1. Never rely on $5K monitors as your only source. I use at least 3 different monitor sources to check my mixes as I progress. If you go back to him, either take your monitors into the studio or, if they have a boombox or NS-10's, use em'. Every studio should have a $30 shitty boombox to cross-reference mixes on.

2. Communicate YOUR wishes clearly to the engineer. Everyone has thier own opinion as to what sounds right, there was obviously a gap in this situation. You could take him some reference CD's that you like the production on, and just sit/listen and talk.

3. See if you can cut a deal with him on the money thing. If you go in with guns blazing he will probably tell you to take a walk. But, if you approach him with your honest concerns and give him the opportunity to make it right, things "should" come to middle-ground, at least money-wise.

If the engineer cops an attitude, then just walk away and either diy it or find a better engineer. Since you say that you obtained 90-95% of the quality that you want, maybe the final 5-10% should be spent on a really good mastering engineer.

Good luck,


anonymous Tue, 01/25/2005 - 08:30

Thanks for the replies -

We are paying $55us an hour total for a 24-track RADAR project in the B-room of this particular studio. A lot of nice outboard tube gear (all the big names, and some great sounding not so big names), driven by a nice Sony automated console.

We cross referenced on an Aiwa boombox in the control at the time - I think that particular boombox is part of his problem, it didn't expose any of the high end problems becuase it was so bad. I will certainly bring in my monitors next time.

I don't think this guy will have an attitude.

My next question: If I mixed everything 95% of the way there on my monitors at home, and the only major problems were small global EQ adjustments, would a really good mastering engineer get me to where I want to be?

anonymous Tue, 01/25/2005 - 15:50

Re: I'm not happy with my professionally done mix...what now

mikezfx wrote: He put a lot of digital effects on our sound that I was somewhat oppossed to but sounded ok at the time - I figured this guy is a professional, he knows what he's doing, I am going to let him do it.

If you go back to remix with him see how he feels about doing it sort of stripped down. A lot of engineers (guru or not) like to show off their gear and sometimes lose sight of the original intention of the piece. I only use effects if it needs it. Digital effects especially need to be used sparingly. If the basic tracks sound good like you said you shouldn't have to do very much to them. Bringing your monitors with you as you suggested is a great idea.

wwittman Tue, 02/01/2005 - 12:10

If you were the producer, and he was the mixer, only, then it was up to you to tell him a) what you wanted and b) when he was done.

Essentially you 'signed off' on the mix by "going along"..that was the mistake.

One of the reasons big name mixers get paid by the song, and not by the hour, is because it takes as long as it takes to make the client happy.
You don't want a mixer who can do it in 3 hours taking 8 hours just to pad the bill.

A good mixer, who knows his room, should certainly be able to make a record that "translates" from his 5000 dollar monitors.
making the guy listen on other speakers isn't going to solve the problem of "too many" effects.
This is a producer decision.

But it doesn't seem that the issue, as you describe it, is one of TRANSLATION (as in, there is plenty of bass at his place but none on my car speakers... and so on) but rather one of TASTE.
His versus yours; and your hesitance to stand up for what you thought at the time due to his alleged status.

You could go back and say you voiced your nervousness at the time (you DID, right?) but now you REALLY know you are not happy with all the effects, and you'd like to go back and make it right.
And "I'm SURE you want an example of your work to be as good as it can be and for your clients to be happy..."
but, in a by-the-hour situation, I suspect he's unikely to volunteer his time, for free, to fix it.
How forceful can you be?

Otherwise, cut your losses and find someone who understands YOUR vision for the record to mix it.
I also think a mixer should NOT be making money on hourly studio time... it's a conflict of interest.

Jeemy Tue, 02/01/2005 - 17:35

This comes down to negotiation my friend - unless he is a crook, he wants you to be happy, and you want to be happy - you are both signing off the same hymn sheet.

But he has constraints to work against financially and with his time.

He will want to make it right if you approach him directly and correctly. Think about if you dropped the ball in your field of expertise but didn't realize it - his pride is going to conflict with his better nature.

Make a plan that results in you walking out with what you wanted with NO extra outlay - and work with him to get there.

You will need to take responsibility if you unintentionally misled him.


anonymous Tue, 02/01/2005 - 17:46

This exact thing happened with me recently. It was unfortunate too because the raw material was stellar. Unmixed it sounded far better than mixed. What we did was tell the guy we weren't quite happy with it. I offered to sit in with him and produce it, just have him move the faders and do what i said. Luckily me and the guy have a pretty good working relationship, and he respects my abilities in the studio. It just sucks being an engineer and in a band because you always end up doing both. I just wanted to sit back this time and play my parts, but i'm betting it'll end up with me taking the raw files into my studio and mixing it myself. Oh well. Thats what i did though

anonymous Wed, 02/02/2005 - 10:31


Thanks for all of the replies -

Just to clarify - the maint thing that didnt translate well was the effects. In other words, they sounded good at the studio, but not on other systems. I don't know if this is his room or just ear fatigue on my part for not recognizing it at the date.

I however take full responsobility for the mix since I was there, and I would not feel right asking for anything for free - especially since this is someone who I really respect as a studio owner and a person, and have had a fantastic time recording parts at his facility. What it comes down to is that I don't think we share a creative vision - his natural inclination was not what I wanted to do.

This has been a great learning experience for me and the band, and showed me that I am a better mix engineer than I I guess thats good.

Currently I am mixing the tracks at home, either as a final project or to to show anyone who works on it approximately what we want. We are unfortunately out of money, and can't afford right now to go through any other bumps in the road at all.

One music industry veteran put it to me like this - "If you had plastic surgery and it didn't come out right, would you go back to the same doctor, no matter how well known he or she is?".

Essentially I'm torn and just awaiting what to do next. There is a happy ending in the works that I will update if it happens.

anonymous Fri, 02/11/2005 - 07:16

Are you sure your session with this guy is really 'done'? It's very common for folks to walk away for a couple days, then come back and work on the mix some more. I'd say that, if you haven't sent it out for mastering yet, it's not done, and should be just viewed as a work-in-progress. Even at the mastering level, my (perhaps idiosyncratic) experience is that 2 or 3 re-starts isn't unusual.

It sounds like your main complaint is effects, by which I'm guessing you mean stuff like odd delays and filters and tricks and crap, not general compression and EQ, right? In my very modest way, I do that to artists all the time -- try some crazy treatment that I like, see if they might like it too. Especially if there's no producer, and the band might not know everything there is to know about what's possible. I'm always careful to say, hey, I'm just doing this for ideas, so there's no hard feelings if they think it sucks. Not every band wants an overlay of weird studio tricks . . . which is too bad . . . but I certainly don't fault them for it.

Go back to the guy, is my advice. We all make guesses, and sometimes those guesses are wrong -- doesn't mean we're not capable of executing once we understand what we're aiming for.

And, more often than not, there's no way to know what we're aiming for until we try something. So, no fault on anybody for trying one thing on the way to getting to another.


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