Checking Mix on Different Sources

Discussion in 'Mixing & Song Critique' started by Jeremy Dean, Mar 10, 2017.

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    The New AT5047 Premier Studio Microphone Purity Transformed

  1. Jeremy Dean

    Jeremy Dean Active Member

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    Hi guys,
    I'm finally getting around to mixing a song written for a Christmas drama a few years back. Most of the vocals were sung live on stage and I finally had the chance to get the vocalists to record their parts. It's a 10 minute long piece so I'm not uploading the track in it's entirety, but I would love to get some feedback on the heaviest section of the song. I feel pretty solid on the other sections but this 2 minute section has a lot going on. Just need to get some different ears to check how it's translating for first-time listeners. Thanks in advance for your help!
    Jeremy

     

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  2. Jeremy Dean

    Jeremy Dean Active Member

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    Hi,
    I am working on a mix right now and have been using a pair of AKG K240s. I've been listening to music on them for a few weeks to get familiar with how these headphones respond. I can't afford a decent pair of studio monitors at the moment so I thought getting these headphones would tide me over until I can afford a nice pair of monitors. I've been mixing a song on them for a little while. I just switched over to my floor standing speakers that I've had for years to see how it's translating. It sounds SUPER tinny and thin through the speakers. I had been using professional reference tracks periodically throughout the mixing process to make sure the frequencies were playing nice with each other and matching up to the professional mix. I played a reference track over my speakers and checked my EQ to make sure my ears weren't fooling me from listening on cans for a majority of the time. Other mixs sounded a little thinner than on the cans but not bad. I also checked a pair of in ear buds that I use often and got the same tinny results.
    So, in short: What am I doing wrong here? I'm trying to reconcile why my mix sounds crisp and smooth through my cans while I'm referencing back to professional mixs but thin and tinny when playing them through anything else?
     
  3. audiokid

    audiokid Chris Staff

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    Mixing on headphone poses all sorts of problems as I'm sure you are aware but I know some people say they can learn to overcome some of that to some degree. I have heard mixes that were all done on headphones and I was impressed. I've tried and always over do it all. I use headphones for setting up, picking out details, pitch editing, stuff like that.

    Rather than going on about it, you obviously would be using better monitors if you could, (although I mix on an Auratone (cubes) that are $300.00) and love them so don't assume you can't mix on inexpensive speakers.

    That being said, ... mp3 the track, upload it here and we'll have a listen. Maybe we can help advise you.
     
  4. Jeremy Dean

    Jeremy Dean Active Member

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    Thanks, I appreciate that! I'd definitely like to learn how to effectively mix on headphones until I have a decent room with good monitors and acoustic treatment, but I'm almost at a stale mate with this mix because if I use my headphones it's not translating properly to other sources and if I start using my consumer speakers I'll be dealing with a small room with apparent issues. I'll warn you that the mix is about 10 mins long. It was written for and performed live in a drama. There are things in the mix that I am aware of that have yet to be fixed but I really need to figure out how to work this problem out before taking any further action on it. As a whole it's not giving me the warmth and crispness I'm hearing on my K240s.
    The mp3 is too large to upload to the forum so here's a link to the song with a simple audio player: http://picosong.com/GWyi/
     
  5. audiokid

    audiokid Chris Staff

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    Beautiful song, very moving.

    I would rather less reverb, especially on the vocals. I think it contributes to the coolish sound but up until 5:25 its not bad.
    From 5:25 on, it breaks up a lot, sound overly compressed, too hot, over processed. Its hard to pin whats happening in that section but its definitely slammed.

    You need to fix the mix in that section, reduce all the processing. What processing are you doing there? Sounds like the meters would be red?
     
  6. audiokid

    audiokid Chris Staff

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    I see you posted this earlier. I've merged the two threads as its all related.
     
  7. Jeremy Dean

    Jeremy Dean Active Member

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    Ok, thanks!
    Yeah, there's a lot of processing going on in that section. For the female vocals I have them both doubled. The double is super slammed with compression and turned way down in the mix. I find in some situations that will help make the vocals cut through the mix like they should. I'm using a plugin on each vocal called steady pro. It works somewhat like a compressor, keeping the level of the track around the same volume. There are EQ moves done on both female leads to help bring out their tone the best I could, cutting harsh frequencies, boosting some highs, and doing some HPF. On some vocals I'm using a de-esser to try out get some sibilance out. I'm struggling with the balance of keeping the vocal crisp and clear without any harsh sibilance on the male vocal. His part was recorded on a cheap mic without a pop filter about 4 years ago. The female vocals also have some compression being done on both of the tracks with the same parameters and also the same reverb. There are certain places where I've ramped up the reverb to extend a note, mostly at the end of verses. During the busy section I also have a side-chained delay with some highs taken out each delay, being alternated left and right when the sings stop. That could use some cleaning up for sure. As far as the instruments go there are several string sections(covering different parts of the frequency spectrum), a stand alone violin, a piano, a higher piano layered with a music box(playing a high melody that is sweeping from left to right and vise versa throughout that section), some atmospheric pads, an elec. guitar being played lap steel style, some sleigh bells drenched in reverb, several sets of orchestral cymbals(some doing hits, others playing swells), a few different kick drums Eq'd and adjusted with reverb to give what I'd call a "bomb effect", a regular drum kit with kick and a ride cymbal that comes in when the song drives for a moment, and an electric kick drum that comes in at the same point. Most of these tracks have a HPF on them unless they're covering bass frequencies. Most of them if not all of them have some kind of reverb on them as well(minus some kick drums).
    The processing done on the master fader is as follows: EQ(5db boost at 10khz) >>> Compressor(Threshold -10.8db, Ratio 2:1, Knee: soft, Attack: 0.5db, Release 0.0398 s, Reverb(Very Slight, mostly just to help glue the mix together) >>> Limiter, Threshold: somewhere between -6 and -4db I believe. I slapped it on there before uploading to give it a little more volume.
    This was mixed in 2013 I believe and I was still figuring a lot about mixing(still am of course!) and now that I've got all the vocals recorded I wanted to revise it. I almost wanted to start from scratch taking of all the processing I'd done but I like some of what was in the original mix while at the same a lot needs addressing.
    If you have any more suggestions about how to make that sections more clear and refined I'm open to it! As far as the tone, did it sound thin and tinny to you? I'm just curious on if my speakers are just giving me a bad read in this room as well as the fact that their not flat monitors. These AKGs were made more for mixing.
    Thanks for the encouragement/tips. Any advice you have would be greatly appreciated!!! I really want to learn how to clean this all up.
     
  8. Jeremy Dean

    Jeremy Dean Active Member

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    Looking at some of my meters on that steady pro plugin I think I'm maxing out the vocals in that section causing it to come out super hot and compressed. Didn't realize that before.
     
  9. audiokid

    audiokid Chris Staff

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    Headphones fool you in situations just like this. There is a scientific explanation somewhere on the forum but I'll leave that to someone else.

    Take the entire session and pull it all down 18 db. You want that much headroom at peak. That's most of your problem. Do that first, deactivate the compression and other processes and get it sounding better without the levelers first. I'd remove the double as well. Do these things first, upload it again and we can start talking tone and the mix next.
     
  10. Jeremy Dean

    Jeremy Dean Active Member

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    Ok, will do! When you talk about processing are talking about all the effects put onto individual tracks or just major things like on the master fader and the compression on the vocals?
     
  11. audiokid

    audiokid Chris Staff

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    Well, good question. I personally don't apply much for comps or dynamic reduction tools until I have a mix as close as I can get it. Because your mix is so hot, I would simply deactivate everything you can, including EQ's and start over. Getting the volumes of the tracks back to having headroom is going to be a big move. (y)

    Again, I would bypass everything that is reducing volume which includes EQ's, pull all the levels down, adjust the gains if you can to get the faders close to unision but -18 dBFS. Once you are around that, I would start remixing this.

    Tomorrow others will likely chime in and advise you as well. Between the group here, I'm sure we will get you on the right track.
     
  12. audiokid

    audiokid Chris Staff

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    I would also mix this on your speakers and put the session in mono as well. Don't put it in stereo until you are at the mastering section, sounding good.
     
  13. Jeremy Dean

    Jeremy Dean Active Member

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    Ok, thank you so much! I've taken off every effect off every channel. I have a plugin on the master fader to force everything to mono as well. I've kept my reverb settings but just switched those plugins to off. There are some instruments(the string sections, piano, and sleigh bells) that I feel the same or around the same settings will work for the reverb. The strings for example sound VERY lifeless without the verb seeing as it's a VST. But as lifeless as my mix sounds right now it'll probably help me in the long run to back track this far. I've left the automation as it was seeing as most of it was done 4 years ago. The automation should flow really well once I get a good static mix without processing. I'm not sure I remember exactly what my train of thought was for automation on every instrument, like the strings. The automation mainly was put there to help them ebb up and down as a real string section would, so I don't want to erase that. I've gotta get to bed but will be working on this as much as I can keeping the forum updated.
     
  14. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

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    Keep in mind the venue that this will ultimately be played in. If it's a space with heavy reflection - such as a church or cathedral - the reverbs you've added as effects in your mix could become buried, and it could even start to make certain instruments less defined, as a result of the natural reverberation that the song will create when played through a PA in a reflective space.

    Also, remember that -18dbfs on your DAW equates to 0 db analog, and if you are using plugs, especially those that are meant to emulate older analog pieces, then there's a better than good chance that their "sweet spot" for input gain is around that db mark, that this is where the manufacturers based their modeling on, and that this input level will result in the plugs performing at their optimum.

    Checking in mono, as Chris mentions, is crucial; even more so if the song is going to be played back on a mono PA system.
    Personally, I don't use headphones for anything more than periodic checking of imaging/panning, editing, and initial set up of the mix ( if I'm working late and don't want to wake the girlfriend), but I never use HP's to check translation.
    At least I wouldn't trust the cans I have - AKG K240 Studio models. That's not to say that professional reference grade HP's aren't out there, but they aren't cheap, some retail up around $1000, so you could spend more on a pair of those than on a decent set of powered nearfields.
    Your room is important. You could probably treat the acoustics of your room, and fairly decently, for far less than what a pair of new active nearfields would cost you, and certainly less than the boutique, reference grade headphones.

    And, well, there's always this option... although I wouldn't rely on it to work as well as it being used in a room that's already been treated to some degree:

    https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_...=mi&field-keywords=IK+Multimedia+ARC+2+System
     
  15. Jeremy Dean

    Jeremy Dean Active Member

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    At the moment my plans for this song are to upload it to my YouTube channel, website, Soundcloud, etc. Unless this drama gets performed again in the near future I'm just trying to get it to translate wherever people might be listening (Home theater system, bluetooth speaker, earbuds, car stereo, etc.). A lot of people really liked the live performance so I'm just trying to capture what happened on stage.
    I've been known to overdue reverb, less so now than when I first mixed this song, but there were certain things about the original mix that I wanted to keep and was afraid to undo everything I'd done 4 years ago. My mixs have improved over the last few years, so if I implement what I know now it will come out a lot better. I'll just have to get through the whole doing it over part.
    Like I said before, I'm not spending a lot on my studio at the moment. I have seen some videos where hanging up some thick blankets or other fabric on your walls can eliminate some nasty reflections. I may be doing that soon. But I'd rather save a little for some good monitors and acoustic treatment than use a room correction software.
     
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  16. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

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    It was just a suggestion. Sorry if I offended.
     
  17. audiokid

    audiokid Chris Staff

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    Is this related to your apology?
    @DonnyThompson
    He used the term "Drama" because the song is a live recording of a "drama" theater production.

    If not.. (I am this time the assuming) wondering why the apology?
     
  18. audiokid

    audiokid Chris Staff

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    Jeremy,

    Donny enforces what I was suggesting too ( good sign then). He also mentioned an interesting part about plugins and where their sweet spot is in relation to 0db.

    I would drop your added reverb for now, and work with the acoustic footprint that is already there (for now).
    Question... are you putting reverb on individual channels?

    I ask this because:
    If I needed to expand the acoustic space of a live performance, I would only put a reverb on the master buss, not on individual channels.

    Also, I think this will really help this track and your perspective. I would focus 100% on the vocals and mix the background music to the vocal rather than what sounds like a vocal fighting to be heard in the music.

    After the suggestions on volume and mono are done, start out with the vocals and get those clear and natural sounding. Imagine sitting in front row while this is being performed by two singers in a theater. Then go from there.

    If you need reverb, try the reverb on the master buss.
     
  19. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

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    My apologetic response was in response to his emphatic denial of using a speaker compensation system, such as ARC or Sonarworks.
    He shut the door on that idea down quickly - which is of course his prerogative,as he is the OP.
    I thought he was looking for advice in regard to his current space's acoustics, so I offered a suggestion as to what I thought might help, based on my own experience. I wasn't trying to "sell" him on the idea, I was t shilling. ( I don't work for IK )I was just thinking out loud and was proposing an idea for him to look into.
    No biggie. It's all good.
    -d.
     
  20. audiokid

    audiokid Chris Staff

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    Okay, but I don't think he was offended or you are shilling at all.

    Good advice just the same.

    @Jeremy Dean
    Related to what Donny was suggesting, https://recording.org/threads/first-mix-based-on-arc-2-correction.62302/
    and here: https://recording.org/tags/arc-2/
     

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