Hi everyone! I hope you had a nice weekend!
Here’s an update on the Dark Waters album. It’s coming along very nicely. I printed a cd for the car last week and have been listening to a preliminary mix (not mastered yet) as I drive around town in my 2012 Ford Mustang Convertible… oh, I never showed you a picture of it, did I? check it out. 304 HP V6 that gets 29 MPG on the highway! It really does, too. I drove from FL to CT and back and reset the mpg tracker for the trip and when I returned, I got an average of 29.3 mpg for the whole trip. This thing has a fair amount of power (nothing like the 500+ HP of the GT but enough for me) and is a ton of fun to have here in Florida where the roads are like runways and the winter is like Spring and Summer in the Northeast:
I love this car.
Oh, sorry, I digressed again
Anyway, I was talking about Dark Waters. Yes. I burned the preliminary mix CD and the same thing happened again to me that always happens when I take something out of the studio and into the car… it was totally different! Yes, of course I know that it’s going to be different from one set of speakers to another. Hell, it’s the biggest challenge of any mixing or mastering engineer. But relying on equipment in the studio to get it close, I would expect it to sound pretty good no matter where you play it, right?
Well, actually it does. But not good enough for me. The volume is too low for a modern recording (don’t worry I can fix that with Izotope Ozone 5 for the most part) but the mix was just bland. And then I realized exactly what was wrong, and what I needed to do to fix it.
Back in the old days (a few months ago) before I learned a thing or two about mixing (I had to stop recording and go on a learning spree for a while so I could get better at it – another reason this album is taking so long to come out), I had way too much low end in the mix on every source. The mix got real bass-y and muddy, so I would cut back on the guitars and keyboards so I could get somewhat of a clean drums/bass/vocal mix. This was a big problem for me for a long time, and shows on some of my earlier recordings. I became mid-range shy. I realized that there was no “brightness” or “musicality” in the mix.
Don’t get me wrong – the mix was much better than previous work, just not good enough. In fact I listened to it just this morning on my way to work and it sounded great. Just not good enough.
I went back to the drawing board Monday and continued last evening, pushing up the guitars, pianos, and synths and backing off the vocals ever so slightly. Because I have put limiters on all of the busses to prevent transient peaks over 0db on my master buss, and because I used EQ to cut off unnecessary low frequencies on every single instrument except the bass and kick drum, I was able to set the master buss to just barely breaching 0db with a transient here and there. Even though the group busses are all limited, they all feed into the master buss and so I can still get transients over 0db, but they’re much more controlled now. I’m getting a bright, musical, airy mix with more separation and up front mid-range instruments like guitars and keyboards.
The average signal is low, around –2 or –3 db, so I have quite a bit of dynamic range in the music. The master buss is fed into the master out, which is limited at 0db, and this mix is exported to a 48khz 32-bit float WAV file into a mastering project, one for each song.
I tested one of the songs with Ozone 5 and a rock preset and it sounded awesome in the studio. I can’t wait to finish (two more songs left) the mixing and start the mastering process so I can burn another test CD. If all goes well, I’ll be stress testing it in the office next week in MONO (important – if your mix doesn’t sound good in mono something is not right) and Stereo on the Alesis Prolinear monitors, and then on a pair of Bose computer speakers, a pair of Logitech computer speakers with a subwoofer, and a cheap $30 set of computer speakers also with a crappy little subwoofer.
I’m no mastering expert, but Ozone seems to do a pretty good job of crystalizing a recording and pumping up the volume while maintaining a 0db limit on peaks. The result is less dynamics, so I cut the overall intensity down to –4 or so on the Ozone 5 setting. Doing an A-B comparison between the original mix and the Ozone 5 treated signal reveals an incredible difference. I can’t wait for you all to hear the album.
OK, back to work for me.
Love and Prosperity to you ALL! Have an AWESOME Day!