Wednesday, January 1, 2014

24 Hours to an Album

The new year is upon us, and that means it is the final day of my "deadline". Call it a self-fulfilling prophecy, or just call it too much for one month (during the holidays). Either way, looking back, through these posts, much progress has been made since the first iteration of the mixdowns. So with 12 hours left (approximately), let's see where we stand.

The master tracks are set up with the 5 band EQ that Anthony described earlier, and a simple insert chain on the stereo out channel. The critical part of the EQ setup was where the bands crossover. I found that adjusting the crossover between all the mid bands played a big role in which aspects of the mixes stood out. Adjust the mid/mid-high crossover too wide and the crunch of the guitars disappears, too narrow and the mix gets muddy. It will still need some fine tuning.

The insert chain of the stereo out channel, consists of Slate Virtual Console, UAD Pultec EQ, Izotope Ozone 5, and Slate FG-X compressor. The Virtual Console adds nice saturation and drive to the mix. I used the Pultec EQ to add some broad EQ bumps (very minimal), and just that insert being in there with neutral EQ adds a bit of presence. The Ozone 5 plugin has a few different modules, but I only use the harmonic exciter, Post-EQ, and stereo imaging. The slate FG-X compressor / maximizer is the last plugin in the chain, and is ultimately responsible for compressing and leveling the entire mix. I really like this plugin because it lets you push the mix pretty hard without distortion or that pumping over compression sound you hear on some albums. As you can see from the picture, I have the setting pretty modest to start. I've been trying to get everything sounding loud and punchy without having to turn the big "gain" knob up past 5. After doing a few variations of the settings and EQ on the masters, I compared the mixes to other metal bands I normally listen to. If you really listen, you can hear the vast differences between all the commercial mixes out there. I could also hear, doing some quick A-B tests, where my masters fall short. It is mostly in the upper mids where there is some presence lacking. I turned to the Isotope Post EQ to take a look at where my frequency band is "lacking". On the spectrum, my mix is in light green, and the frequency band of another commercial metal band, I actually don't remember who, is in purple. The red line is the EQ curve applied. Notice at the ends there are two sharp low and high brickwall EQ cuts. These are set at 30Hz and 18Khz respectively, and this is mainly because there isn't any important musical information at these frequencies. You can see that the other mix did the same on the high side. There are two small dips where I heard some muddy sounding frequencies. For the most part, the curves are right there together, but then there is a separation around 2.5Khz through to the end. That is the upper mids that need some work. Its one thing to hear the difference, and its a beautiful thing to SEE that difference. I now know where my focus should be on these masters.
So moving forward, I found the weak spot in the masters, and identified the weakness in the mixes with the snare drum. All in all, I think it was a productive month. Hopefully this last bit doesn't take the rest of this month. Happy New Year!

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