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how to control the low-end in a mix
Old 7th August 2008
  #1
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greatgreatriver's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
how to control the low-end in a mix

Hi guys!

I have a problem with all of my mixes - I always have too much low end and too little information in the midrange/high-end. You can say that my mixes are muddy and bass heavy. I've tried EQ on the bass track and kick etc to even out the low-end so it matches the midrange etc but I always feel unhappy and my mixes sounds too thin and boring when I EQ the kick and bass. The more I think of it it seems like I need a limiter to control the low-end stuff so I can even out the peaks that are too prominent in the low-end/mix. I don't want to lose the fat because I like dark, warm mixes.

Right now I'm mixing in the box - and I feel lost!

Here is a cover song me and a friend recorded. I haven't mixed it yet so this version is raw. I tried to make a better mix yesterday but I lost the mojo and the mix sounded thin and lifeless... I decided to post the early mix before I started to EQ the instruments because I think this version sounds better but still too muddy.

I could really use some help so I can improve my mixes.

Thanks a lot!

http://www.evileyedcherry.com/music/jealous-guy.mp3
Old 7th August 2008
  #2
Gear Maniac
 
alexkemp's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
do your speakers have any low frequency controls? my guess is your hearing too little bass when you're mixing, so you add more to compensate... then you go out into the real world and - surprise - too much low end. so try tweaking your speakers so they reproduce more lows while your working....

also, when it comes to muddiness, make sure your cutting out as much low-mids as you can on individual tracks-- like the 250-450 Hz range.

And also try using a high pass to get rid of low end information that doesn't avctually need to be there-- guitars, vocals, hi hats, they don't need info at 20 Hz and it just muddies stuff up.

good luck!
Old 7th August 2008 | Show parent
  #3
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greatgreatriver's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Hi alexkemp!

I didn't boost anything on this song - it's the raw tracks. I only used compression ITB to get some mojo on the drums.

I'm using my cheaper speakers right now "krk rokit5" - I have the krk v4's as well but I have a hard time hearing the low end on them. I have absorbers and bass traps where I sit and mix but yeah you are probably right about the low end. I just don't know how to improve my room I already done a lot to fix all problems around 80 - 200hz that I had before. The ceiling is also treated with absorbers. My room isn't that big either and the ceiling is pretty low.

I used a software spectrum analyzer on the master buss and I could see that some freq in the low end was more prominent and I tried EQ but then I lost the magic and the mix started to sound thin and lifeless.

Did you check out my song? Would be interesting how it sounds on your system etc.

Thanks a lot!
Old 7th August 2008 | Show parent
  #4
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alexkemp's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
oh you're the artist, right? With the musical drawing?

I'll check it out at the studio tomorrow, fo shizzle.

A
Old 7th August 2008 | Show parent
  #5
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greatgreatriver's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Ha! Yeah that's me and me and my friend decided to do a Lennon cover. Thanks a lot bro!
Old 7th August 2008 | Show parent
  #6
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engmix's Avatar
Sounds like you are not getting a real sense of the lo end from your monitors. If you don't have big bucks to get a set of expensive studio monitors. Try picking up a pair of decent home stereo speakers. You might be amazed at how useful they will be in terms of balancing your mixes.

Also, try a multiband compressor across the 2-bus. Sometimes throwing a heavy handed mix into a multiband can sound quite punchy and aggressive in a good way.
Old 7th August 2008 | Show parent
  #7
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🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by greatgreatriver ➑️
Hi alexkemp!

I didn't boost anything on this song - it's the raw tracks. I only used compression ITB to get some mojo on the drums.

I'm using my cheaper speakers right now "krk rokit5" - I have the krk v4's as well but I have a hard time hearing the low end on them. I have absorbers and bass traps where I sit and mix but yeah you are probably right about the low end. I just don't know how to improve my room I already done a lot to fix all problems around 80 - 200hz that I had before. The ceiling is also treated with absorbers. My room isn't that big either and the ceiling is pretty low.

I used a software spectrum analyzer on the master buss and I could see that some freq in the low end was more prominent and I tried EQ but then I lost the magic and the mix started to sound thin and lifeless.

Did you check out my song? Would be interesting how it sounds on your system etc.

Thanks a lot!

While your 5 inch speakers aren't bad, you really need to get some monitors with a better low end response. Or at the very least look for a decent sub to go along with what you already have. I had the same problem for the first year or so when I was just getting started. I quickly upgraded to 8" higher wattage monitors and my low end problems cleared up. In fact my mixes sounded much better overall with only a trip or two to the car, on the 5 inchers I'd have to go out 5-10 times before I got a decent mix. Just couldn't make out enough of the frequencies.
Old 7th August 2008 | Show parent
  #8
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narcoman's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Is your room treated enough? Is there enough bass trapping? This isnt something you can do yourself - ask a specialist.

FAR more important than what monitors you have. Room first - then monitors.
Old 7th August 2008 | Show parent
  #9
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🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by narcoman ➑️
Is your room treated enough? Is there enough bass trapping? This isnt something you can do yourself - ask a specialist.

FAR more important than what monitors you have. Room first - then monitors.

While the room is very important, good monitors will make mixing easier. I have zero room treatment and my mixes instantly got better when I upgraded.
Old 7th August 2008 | Show parent
  #10
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beingmf's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Apart from other really good advice like room acoustics improvement, i would say: try to think "conservative". In the studio, your music doesn't have to sound as big as you think it should sound on a club PA.
And don't ever start to think about the low end. It's gotta be "just there". By doing so, you'll start listening to the whole balance and not just to the low end. try to make a really bright mix. balance everything by changes in volume, and if you feel like you have to eq, try to do it with low and high shelves only. This really is fun!
Old 7th August 2008 | Show parent
  #11
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🎧 15 years
Nice vibey song version :-)

I like the ATH-M50 for checking the lowend and subs. It has a kind of focus in this frequency range.

Andreas
Old 7th August 2008 | Show parent
  #12
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dbjp's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Hmm. I've heard far, far more boomy, bassy mixes (rough mixes, whatever) than what you just posted. Bass guitar was way too weak and if anything (my taste, of course) the guitars were way too trebly.
I think you're perhaps worrying too much about one particular area. Just go one step at a time via instrument groups (stems) and listen to the overall feel. If you've got CDs of what you consider would be the ultimate mix, listen to them several times as reference and see how your sounds may differ from the point of tracking, rather than when you finally go and mix your sessions.
Try to listen from a third person perspective rather than as an engineer/analyzer. Well that's what I keep on telling myself anyway!

Just my opinion, you may have other ideas.
Old 7th August 2008 | Show parent
  #13
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greatgreatriver's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Thanks guys for all replies!

I know that the room is important. I have consultet a pro to measure my room and I bought both traps and absorbers from him. I have also added my own absorbers and installed corner traps etc and I think my room sounds pretty good for a home studio. Of course there always room for improvement but for now I pretty happy how my room sound.

I'm just a simple guy with too little time to make music and I don't want to swim too deep into the waves of acoustics because I've already been there and done that for a long time and at some point you have to stop because it's easy to get lost in the search for the holy grail of room acoustics... I've reached the point where I need to break free and accept the fact that I'm recording in a basement not in a big fancy live room with high ceiling etc.

My problem is the mix and how I want the mix to sound. I'm fine cutting out some 20 - 30hz in the low end on the kick, bass etc and remove low end on stuff that doesn't need low end to begin with. The problem is when I check my mix with a spectrum analyzer on the master buss and start to do more extensive EQ work and when I cut out annoying freq in the low end that muddies up the mix it starts to sound thin and I lose the mix glue. I can do a mix where the kick cuts out in the mix and everything sounds more clear but the mix then starts lose the mojo, glue that I hear on the raw tracks.

What I want to do is to make the midrange more busy and match the midrange to the low end but I don't know how to get there. Soon as I start to cut the low end and lower the volume on the bass heavy instruments the mix collapse into a thin, stubby boring mix.

I really want the low end to feel solid but still be nice and controlled and more even with the mindrange.

Would be nice if you could listen to my raw mixdown and point out what's wrong and needs to be fixed and how it translates on your speakers.

Hope my post make sense - it's hard to explain in English and it feels like I need somekind of answer/tip how to take the mix to the next level.

The kick drum was recorded with a D112 and the bass is my Fender Jazz through a Twin Reverb mic'd with a AEA R84.

Thanks a lot!
Old 7th August 2008 | Show parent
  #14
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greatgreatriver's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by dbjp ➑️
Hmm. I've heard far, far more boomy, bassy mixes (rough mixes, whatever) than what you just posted. Bass guitar was way too weak and if anything (my taste, of course) the guitars were way too trebly.
I think you're perhaps worrying too much about one particular area. Just go one step at a time via instrument groups (stems) and listen to the overall feel. If you've got CDs of what you consider would be the ultimate mix, listen to them several times as reference and see how your sounds may differ from the point of tracking, rather than when you finally go and mix your sessions.
Try to listen from a third person perspective rather than as an engineer/analyzer. Well that's what I keep on telling myself anyway!

Just my opinion, you may have other ideas.
Thanks man - I know what you mean. I never tried that trick to listen to a commercial CD before I mix - I think it's time to try that! Thanks bro!
Old 7th August 2008 | Show parent
  #15
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Rappy's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Hi there. I listened to your rough mix. The sounds aren't bad overall. You are really close to being able to achieve what you set out to do.

One thing you might want to look at is mic placement. I am not a big fan of the proximity effect that comes from cardioid mics. I occaisionally use it to fatten up instruments that are a little thin sounding on their own, but in general I like a flatter, more natural response when I use a cardioid mic, so I move it a little farther back and away from the sound hole (if it is an acoustic guitar). If you record in a less than perfect room, acoustically, this will pick up more room sound (rarely desirable in a basement), so you might try placing movable baffles around the instrument or the mic. Or, if you really need to close mic, try using an omni pattern. It will pick up more room sound than a cardioid, but not so much if you mic really close, and you won't get any proximity effect. if you look at the frequency response patterns on a cardioid mic (look at the chart that comes with the mic), notice the huge boosts in the 40-250 Hz range as you move to within a few inches of a source. These boosts can be 10 or 15 dB or more. Then notice how the low end response flattens out as you move farther away. I know this is all text book stuff, but people don't pay enough attention to it. I made the mistake of mic'ing too close for years. At least be aware of what you are doing to the sound when you add proximity effect, and put it there because you made the choice that you want it, rather than simply placing the mic where you think it should go. I find that the low and low-mid boost you get from proximity effect is difficult to shape effectively with a parametric EQ and HPF without loosing some of the punch you are talking about. You need a really good EQ that doesn't cause a lot of phase shift and you have to adjust the the Q bandwidth very carefully (I like McDSP Filterbank) to do this, or use a multi-band compressor like someone mentioned. That said, you are still using the EQ as a corrective measure if you didn't place your mics optimally in the first place, and the EQ will feel much more powerful if you "capture the flame" of the sound source to begin with. The part in Michael Stavrou's book, "Mixing With You Mind" about "capturing the flame" is a huge help in this department.

Finally, people have already mentioned in this thread the importance of monitoring and room treatment. You won't be able to make any of these decisions about the low end unless you can hear it accurately. It sounds like you've already treated the room and spent time learning your monitors and working with what you have. However, you didn't mention what D/A converter you are using. When I upgraded my D/A I couldn't believe how much more accurately I was hearing my mixes, and making decisions much more confidently.

Sorry for the long rant.

Good luck, Rappy
Old 7th August 2008 | Show parent
  #16
Gear Addict
 
🎧 10 years
The vocals having more presence would make a huge difference already.
Old 7th August 2008 | Show parent
  #17
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andychamp's Avatar
 
1 Review written
🎧 15 years
Listen to some "pro" material that you know well over your monitors / in your room. Pay attention to how it translates there. That'll give you an indication of their character.
As was said in another thread, small monitors like Auratones/Avantones, possibly in mono, help uncluttering the mids; because you have to work hard on the mix to make it fit through those limited-bandwidth speakers.
Also, at the risk of stating the obvious: are you sure your speakers are in phase?
Old 7th August 2008 | Show parent
  #18
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steelyfan's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Other than the monitor suggestions and using reference material (which is a very good idea, I'd be lost without my handful of reference songs I consider to be on target!), another thing to try is: AND THIS IS GOING TO SOUND BACKWARD ASS; but... try mixing without the kick drum and the bass at ALL!! concentrate on getting the high fi quality in the midrange, making sure the're not screamin at ya, mixing the few guitars parts , cymbals, snare, and hats, get those to gel ,keys or watnot, and when these are sounding good too you, maybe real close to your reference material, then bringin the bass> WOWW.. It sounds HUGE now in comparison probably to what you had before, once you get the bass sounding nice, mix kick to taste. Kick and bass can sometimes glue the mix together (for me at least), and are the hardest parts for me to get right because they're just harder to hear right. I've noticed that when I work this way, because the mids are not alot tighter sounding, the bass and kick APPEAR to sound bigger than they really are, and usually I end up with a cleaner sounding mix this way. It's like mixing paint(sorry for the cliche'), but other colors can seem brighter or duller ONLY when surrounded by other colors. Hope this helps.
Old 7th August 2008 | Show parent
  #19
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greatgreatriver's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rappy ➑️
Hi there. I listened to your rough mix. The sounds aren't bad overall. You are really close to being able to achieve what you set out to do.

One thing you might want to look at is mic placement. I am not a big fan of the proximity effect that comes from cardioid mics. I occaisionally use it to fatten up instruments that are a little thin sounding on their own, but in general I like a flatter, more natural response when I use a cardioid mic, so I move it a little farther back and away from the sound hole (if it is an acoustic guitar). If you record in a less than perfect room, acoustically, this will pick up more room sound (rarely desirable in a basement), so you might try placing movable baffles around the instrument or the mic. Or, if you really need to close mic, try using an omni pattern. It will pick up more room sound than a cardioid, but not so much if you mic really close, and you won't get any proximity effect. if you look at the frequency response patterns on a cardioid mic (look at the chart that comes with the mic), notice the huge boosts in the 40-250 Hz range as you move to within a few inches of a source. These boosts can be 10 or 15 dB or more. Then notice how the low end response flattens out as you move farther away. I know this is all text book stuff, but people don't pay enough attention to it. I made the mistake of mic'ing too close for years. At least be aware of what you are doing to the sound when you add proximity effect, and put it there because you made the choice that you want it, rather than simply placing the mic where you think it should go. I find that the low and low-mid boost you get from proximity effect is difficult to shape effectively with a parametric EQ and HPF without loosing some of the punch you are talking about. You need a really good EQ that doesn't cause a lot of phase shift and you have to adjust the the Q bandwidth very carefully (I like McDSP Filterbank) to do this, or use a multi-band compressor like someone mentioned. That said, you are still using the EQ as a corrective measure if you didn't place your mics optimally in the first place, and the EQ will feel much more powerful if you "capture the flame" of the sound source to begin with. The part in Michael Stavrou's book, "Mixing With You Mind" about "capturing the flame" is a huge help in this department.

Finally, people have already mentioned in this thread the importance of monitoring and room treatment. You won't be able to make any of these decisions about the low end unless you can hear it accurately. It sounds like you've already treated the room and spent time learning your monitors and working with what you have. However, you didn't mention what D/A converter you are using. When I upgraded my D/A I couldn't believe how much more accurately I was hearing my mixes, and making decisions much more confidently.

Sorry for the long rant.

Good luck, Rappy
Brother what a great post - you really got me inspired to try new stuff. Yeah the mic is probably to upfront on the vocals. The guitar was recorded with my AEA R84 not so close to the guitar but I think we boosted the high end to brighten up the sound a bit. The pre I used was a Mindprint DTC.

I'm gonna buy new AD/DA - Seems like the SSL (24 I/O) is a lot of bang for the buck. What converters are you using?

Great post man - thanks a lot!
Old 7th August 2008 | Show parent
  #20
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greatgreatriver's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by andychamp ➑️
Listen to some "pro" material that you know well over your monitors / in your room. Pay attention to how it translates there. That'll give you an indication of their character.
As was said in another thread, small monitors like Auratones/Avantones, possibly in mono, help uncluttering the mids; because you have to work hard on the mix to make it fit through those limited-bandwidth speakers.
Also, at the risk of stating the obvious: are you sure your speakers are in phase?
I'm pretty sure my speakers are in phase - Otherwise I would have notice that a long time ago. Why? Did you hear anything weird in the mix? I phase reversed the OH when we tracked the drums. It sounded better. Let me know if you hear anything weird.

Thanks man!
Old 7th August 2008 | Show parent
  #21
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greatgreatriver's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by steelyfan ➑️
Other than the monitor suggestions and using reference material (which is a very good idea, I'd be lost without my handful of reference songs I consider to be on target!), another thing to try is: AND THIS IS GOING TO SOUND BACKWARD ASS; but... try mixing without the kick drum and the bass at ALL!! concentrate on getting the high fi quality in the midrange, making sure the're not screamin at ya, mixing the few guitars parts , cymbals, snare, and hats, get those to gel ,keys or watnot, and when these are sounding good too you, maybe real close to your reference material, then bringin the bass> WOWW.. It sounds HUGE now in comparison probably to what you had before, once you get the bass sounding nice, mix kick to taste. Kick and bass can sometimes glue the mix together (for me at least), and are the hardest parts for me to get right because they're just harder to hear right. I've noticed that when I work this way, because the mids are not alot tighter sounding, the bass and kick APPEAR to sound bigger than they really are, and usually I end up with a cleaner sounding mix this way. It's like mixing paint(sorry for the cliche'), but other colors can seem brighter or duller ONLY when surrounded by other colors. Hope this helps.
Great stuff man - gonna try that for sure! I always start with the low end because I really low dark/fat sounding mixes. Thank!
Old 7th August 2008
  #22
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Beardhead's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Some things I try to get on with the low end (which I find difficult to control as well).

The low end must be heard, the speakers must be able to represent it. I have those old passive Urei things, standing free. So they do not have a lot of low end and I get around using Ultrasone headphones. This may not seem professional in any way but it works well. I switch between monitors and three different headphones all the time.

I use a lot of low cuts. Also on bass and bassdrum.

If the overall mix has a problem (like boomy bass) I try to track down exactly what is disturbing and what's causing it. Two instruments competing against each other? One instrument being to prominent in one frequency area? Stuff like that.

Muddyness seems to live around 250Hz, try cutting there.

Dont know if this makes sense, just my humble two cents.
Old 7th August 2008 | Show parent
  #23
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greatgreatriver's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Thanks man!

I guess next buy will be a good set of headphones.

I didn't understand the Urei thing? What is it and what do you use it for?
Old 7th August 2008 | Show parent
  #24
Gear Addict
 
Rappy's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by greatgreatriver ➑️
Brother what a great post - you really got me inspired to try new stuff. Yeah the mic is probably to upfront on the vocals. The guitar was recorded with my AEA R84 not so close to the guitar but I think we boosted the high end to brighten up the sound a bit. The pre I used was a Mindprint DTC.

I'm gonna buy new AD/DA - Seems like the SSL (24 I/O) is a lot of bang for the buck. What converters are you using?

Great post man - thanks a lot!
Glad I could help. I've heard good things about the SSL unit. I am using an Apogee AD-16x on the way in and an RME ADI-8-AE for D/A to my monitors. My RME is a few years old and I bought it used for a very nice price. I'm sure I could do better if I spent a lot more money, but I get professional results with it and am happy. Before that, I was using the 2 channel D/A built into my M-Audio Profire Lightbridge (and sometimes my Motu 828mk2) and the difference between those units and the RME was like night and day. One of the biggest sonic improvements I have EVER made to my studio. I clock everything off my Apogee too, which helps.

You don't have to spend 3 grand on a D/A, if you are on a budget, to get good results. Just spend as much as you can and get something quality. The D/A in a stock Digi 002 won't cut it for important mix and tracking decisions, for example.

A friend of mine has the Lavry Black DA-10 and swears by it.

Peace,

Rappy
Old 7th August 2008 | Show parent
  #25
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steelyfan's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
I've got some friends who try to track as loud as they can, getting the highest signal they can before clipping, getting all that information through the mic..... and then spend days trying to hide it! I defiantely try to get it right going in, mixing the song as it's tracked (as much as possible). Since I've gotten better at this, I now track my drums with 4 mics, and send that through the board through 1 aux, that's 1 track for drums into my software, if it not right goin in , there's NO fixin it later, no individual kick or snare or hat track, they come as a group and a team together into my software. This might seem dangerous, but it has forced me to work on my sounds up front, and forces thepeople performing to not have the (well they'll fix it later in the mix) attitude. The performer MUST hit the kick right, finessse the snare, charm the hats, it's really helped the vibe of my tunes doing this!It really makesyou step up your game, and confirms that e.q was designed for corrective purposes.But i realize they are many creative e.q. ideas too. Mic placement is everything for me.
Old 7th August 2008 | Show parent
  #26
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greatgreatriver's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Rappy - I forgot to mention what AD/DA I'm using - I have a Apogee MiniME and one RME ADI8 Pro. I use the Minime as master.

The 16X I like a lot but it's too much money for me. The SSL gives me 24 I/O and it's what I need to hook up everything in the studio.

I have a Big Ben laying around to...
Old 7th August 2008 | Show parent
  #27
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greatgreatriver's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Steelyfan - I like your approach a lot! I often record the effect and stuff live instead of adding later. Great stuff man!
Old 7th August 2008 | Show parent
  #28
Gear Addict
 
Rappy's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by greatgreatriver ➑️
Rappy - I forgot to mention what AD/DA I'm using - I have a Apogee MiniME and one RME ADI8 Pro. I use the Minime as master.

The 16X I like a lot but it's too much money for me. The SSL gives me 24 I/O and it's what I need to hook up everything in the studio.

I have a Big Ben laying around to...
That's cool. You have some better gear there than I thought. The D/A in the RME ADI-8 Pro might be the same as the one in my RME ADI-8-AE, or mine might be better. I can't remember. An upgrade wouldn't hurt you, though, and it sounds like you want more channels and the flexibility of the SSL. I hear that is a good unit and it definitely wouldn't be a mistake to buy it.

If I were you, I would sell your Big Ben (especially if you aren't using it) and use the money to buy some better monitors. The only KRKs I've heard which I liked are the V6s. I have a pair and use them, but they are very scooped. I can't get good mixes out of them alone. I need to keep referencing my NS-10s and my mono Avantone Mix Cube (and headphones), and comparing those mixes to what I hear on the KRKs. I find the KRKs useful in that setup, but I don't think there are many KRK models out there, if any, that are great go-to monitors. The Rokit series are prosumer level at best. Even some Mackie HR824s would be a big improvement (a lot of pros use them, despite all the people bashing Mackie), or do a search for the many powered monitor recommendations on this site.

Good luck, Rappy
Old 7th August 2008 | Show parent
  #29
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andychamp's Avatar
 
1 Review written
🎧 15 years
I just listened to that mix (my previous post was more of a "general approach" thing), and the low end doesn't sound that muddy to me. I think it's more a compression than an EQ issue.
Are you using 1 (stereo)compressor for the whole mix?
Sounds to me like the release may be too fast and that may be what's giving that fluttering decay to the cymbal hits, as it tries to follow the bass.
At the same time, the bass seems to drift in and out of the mix, depending on what else is playing at the time.

Try compressing the bass on its own and then adding it to the rest of the mix. Either way, make the decay long enough, so that it follows the notes' decay, instead of the lower notes' periodic vibrations (am I explaining this right?)

Re: phase: if the bassdrum and bass were tracked at the same time and there is some spill from one instrument into the other mic, then you have to make sure that the two signals add up and don't cancel each other out.
But so far the bassdrum sounds ok to me, so that's probably not an issue.
Old 7th August 2008 | Show parent
  #30
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🎧 10 years
take some time and listen to your favorite albums through your studio monitors. You need to make sure you know how the low end SHOULD sound on your speakers.
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