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Mix width
Old 24th January 2009
  #1
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🎧 15 years
Mix width

Why do commercial recordings have much more width than home recordings?

Suffice it to say with the advent of digital media, the tools used today in the home studio, rival the tools of yesterday in the pro studio.

So how come albums recorded 20-30 years ago sound wider and have bigger stereo imaging than today's home recordings?
Old 24th January 2009
  #2
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🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by mr. torture ➡️
Why do commercial recordings have much more width than home recordings?

Suffice it to say with the advent of digital media, the tools used today in the home studio, rival the tools of yesterday in the pro studio.

So how come albums recorded 20-30 years ago sound wider and have bigger stereo imaging than today's home recordings?
knowledge and technology. The home studio today doesn't outclass the studio of 30 years ago. Yes in digital tools, but preamps, rooms, knowledge etc etc hasn't changed at the high end. Get that bit under your belt and you can compete.... so no cheap opamps, no rubbish rooms, no "rush it because I don't know any better " knowledge. Tools are but one part of the process....
Old 24th January 2009 | Show parent
  #3
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🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by narcoman ➡️
knowledge and technology. The home studio today doesn't outclass the studio of 30 years ago. Yes in digital tools, but preamps, rooms, knowledge etc etc hasn't changed at the high end. Get that bit under your belt and you can compete.... so no cheap opamps, no rubbish rooms, no "rush it because I don't know any better " knowledge. Tools are but one part of the process....
Good post, yeah I think much of it has to do with knowledge. Considering most home studio's now have high quality gear. I personally own 2 Great River preamps and a distressor. The high quality stuff is way more accessible today than 20-30 years ago.

The internet alone opened the door to better equipment.
Old 24th January 2009 | Show parent
  #4
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🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by mr. torture ➡️
Good post, yeah I think much of it has to do with knowledge. Considering most home studio's now have high quality gear. I personally own 2 Great River preamps and a distressor. The high quality stuff is way more accessible today than 20-30 years ago.

The internet alone opened the door to better equipment.
now that part IS true. Access....
Old 24th January 2009 | Show parent
  #5
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RCM - Ronan's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
sparser arrangements and analog consoles.
Old 24th January 2009 | Show parent
  #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rcm ➡️
sparser arrangements and analog consoles.

I guess he wants to know how to get there.
It should not have to much to do with gear as with know how.
Old 24th January 2009 | Show parent
  #7
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🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr.HOLMES ➡️
I guess he wants to know how to get there.
It should not have to much to do with gear as with know how.
Unfortunately it does have something to do with the gear. Current recordings are quite a bit more compressed and limited than those of 30-40 years ago. If you want to be competitive in todays market it is just what the sound is.
You can do a great modern sounding record at home, but all of the digital tools have a cumulative effect on the image collapsing. Plug ins are wonderful but I haven't heard a compressor, limiter or reverb that doesn't collapse the image or make sounds smaller in comparison to their hardware counterpart.
I'm not saying that plug ins are bad, I find them invaluable, but if you are trying to make a recording that sounds like the records of the '60s and '70s it does have consequences.
And of course then there is technique, it takes some time to learn how to use the equipment. The nice thing there is really no right or wrong, it's just opinions and taste.

Steve McDonald
Old 24th January 2009 | Show parent
  #8
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🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by extendedplay ➡️
Unfortunately it does have something to do with the gear. Current recordings are quite a bit more compressed and limited than those of 30-40 years ago. If you want to be competitive in todays market it is just what the sound is.
You can do a great modern sounding record at home, but all of the digital tools have a cumulative effect on the image collapsing. Plug ins are wonderful but I haven't heard a compressor, limiter or reverb that doesn't collapse the image or make sounds smaller in comparison to their hardware counterpart.
I'm not saying that plug ins are bad, I find them invaluable, but if you are trying to make a recording that sounds like the records of the '60s and '70s it does have consequences.
And of course then there is technique, it takes some time to learn how to use the equipment. The nice thing there is really no right or wrong, it's just opinions and taste.

Steve McDonald
The advantages of digital audio are manifold and include affordable storage, comfortable editing, recall capabilities and automation. On the downside, digital systems still do not offer the same audio qualities and sound characteristics of high-end analog equipment. Especially digital equalizers and other aspects of the mixing domain cannot compete with the open, transparent sound of the best analog gear.
Lifeless or dynamically lacking signals are often over-processed with EQ, compression and other effects in an attempt to compensate—often an extremely tedious process in the digital domain that doesn‘t always produce the desired results.
Old 24th January 2009 | Show parent
  #9
Gear Addict
 
🎧 15 years
I find the mixes TODAY to be wider and deeper than I can do at home. I cannot get the sense of space and the definition. I spent all day mixing a track with two acousstic guitars, mandolin, upright bass, sparse piano, brushed drums, sparse tele, sparse pedal steel. Well recrded with high end gear, good mic placement, good levels, panned, compressed, rolled off low end, pulled out lower mids, boosted a bit, lively room reverb, a little plate, some slap delay, a little Dimensio D on background vocals, plenty of automation.
But it's still mashed together. Listen to Vince Gill's These Days album or 1st track on latest Crowded House. I can't get there.
Can it all be analog summing? I doubt it.
Old 25th January 2009 | Show parent
  #10
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🎧 15 years
it's not the mixing
it's the tracking
Old 25th January 2009 | Show parent
  #11
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This always comes up, and many people start talking about how you need higher end gear. But they continually ignore the the ongoing examples of really great mixes that were done with lesser gear and in the box in many cases. If it was the gear, then it would be impossible for there to be even a single such example, would it not?

It seems pretty clear that it's about experience, doing a LOT of experimentation to figure out what works with the equipment you have, and doing a good job tracking the performances, and of course good performances.

I'm not saying any of this because I'm Super-Mixer, since I'm definitely not. But you don't have to be Super-Mixer to realize that, if there are people out there doing great mixes in the box and fairly moderate outboard gear, then it is logically impossible to argue that it's the gear, right?

The most obvious reason why the mix wouldn't be as wide is that you have similar content on both sides. You can't have a wide mix unless the ear is hearing differences between the right and left. Some obvious ways to do that (in the very common l/r doubled parts scenario) are:

1. Make sure both sides of any doubled parts are complemetarily EQ'd, have different compression, and optimally are tracked with different amps, instruments, mics, mic positions, etc... It makes a huge difference relative to just tracking it again with all the same setup.
2. Delay one of the doubled parts by about 10 to 15ms, which will massively increase the apparent width even above and beyond #1.
3. Use an imager on sub-busses where such l/r doubled parts are sent, to remove some more remaining content that might have ended up being the same in both sides by accident.
4. Be sure to pan the sends of any reverb and delay type effects busses out of the center, and maybe use an imager on those busses after the reverb or delay, to reduce the centered content relative to the sides.
5. Use appropriate pre-delay on your reverbs, so that the attack is correctly separated from the reverb tails, which keeps the wash of reverb in the background (which can be nice) from lessening the apparent separation of the initial attack of the instruments.)

6. Mid-side type techniques. Not something I've tried, so I can't say much about it, but clearly it's one of the techniques often used, and is often what underlies imager tools and allows them to selectively lower the common center content. I think it's best to use such things on specific sub-busses than on the overall mix, but others may disagree.

You can create very wide sounding mixes like that, and it's nothing fancy that anyone can't do in a home studio. Maybe it'll still be somewhat less wide, since there are plenty more tricks I'm sure. But those fairly straightforward ones should get you a very long way there.
Old 25th January 2009
  #12
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🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by mr. torture ➡️

Suffice it to say with the advent of digital media, the tools used today in the home studio, rival the tools of yesterday in the pro studio.

So how come albums recorded 20-30 years ago sound wider and have bigger stereo imaging than today's home recordings?

That's a pretty broad and unfounded assumption IMO to say that today's digital media tools in home studio DAWs rival the high end analog tools of yesterday. This has decidedly NOT been my experience!

And oh, how I WISH it were really true !!!!!

It's just like Thrill said so wisely; the record business has ALWAYS been a rich man's game. Nothing much has changed today as far as I can see, except that we have DAWs.
Old 25th January 2009 | Show parent
  #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dean Roddey ➡️
This always comes up, and many people start talking about how you need higher end gear. But they continually ignore the the ongoing examples of really great mixes that were done with lesser gear and in the box in many cases. If it was the gear, then it would be impossible for there to be even a single such example, would it not?

It seems pretty clear that it's about experience, doing a LOT of experimentation to figure out what works with the equipment you have, and doing a good job tracking the performances, and of course good performances.

I'm not saying any of this because I'm Super-Mixer, since I'm definitely not. But you don't have to be Super-Mixer to realize that, if there are people out there doing great mixes in the box and fairly moderate outboard gear, then it is logically impossible to argue that it's the gear, right?

The most obvious reason why the mix wouldn't be as wide is that you have similar content on both sides. You can't have a wide mix unless the ear is hearing differences between the right and left. Some obvious ways to do that (in the very common l/r doubled parts scenario) are:

1. Make sure both sides of any doubled parts are complemetarily EQ'd, have different compression, and optimally are tracked with different amps, instruments, mics, mic positions, etc... It makes a huge difference relative to just tracking it again with all the same setup.
2. Delay one of the doubled parts by about 10 to 15ms, which will massively increase the apparent width even above and beyond #1.
3. Use an imager on sub-busses where such l/r doubled parts are sent, to remove some more remaining content that might have ended up being the same in both sides by accident.
4. Be sure to pan the sends of any reverb and delay type effects busses out of the center, and maybe use an imager on those busses after the reverb or delay, to reduce the centered content relative to the sides.
5. Use appropriate pre-delay on your reverbs, so that the attack is correctly separated from the reverb tails, which keeps the wash of reverb in the background (which can be nice) from lessening the apparent separation of the initial attack of the instruments.)

6. Mid-side type techniques. Not something I've tried, so I can't say much about it, but clearly it's one of the techniques often used, and is often what underlies imager tools and allows them to selectively lower the common center content. I think it's best to use such things on specific sub-busses than on the overall mix, but others may disagree.

You can create very wide sounding mixes like that, and it's nothing fancy that anyone can't do in a home studio. Maybe it'll still be somewhat less wide, since there are plenty more tricks I'm sure. But those fairly straightforward ones should get you a very long way there.

Thats written in better English than mine but it says all what I think.
I never had the feeling that my mixes which I have done ITB sound small.

It has a lot to do with panning using reverbs and delays EQ ing etc.

Use a Goniometer when you train to mix when it gets wide and big your mix gets wider.
Later you do not need the meter but it gives you a good feeling for wide mixes.

You also could start out with a more mono like mix and get wide when the hook line comes etc.....
Old 25th January 2009 | Show parent
  #14
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2 Reviews written
🎧 10 years
Quote:
You also could start out with a more mono like mix and get wide when the hook line comes etc.....
Yeh, contrast is always useful. There's no loud without quiet. And wide after narrow sounds even wider.
Old 25th January 2009 | Show parent
  #15
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There is the question of perceived perception... By that I mean, if you have spent years listening to typical home set up before moving into engineering your perception of what a soundfield is, is coloured by your inbuilt expectations. Those expectations have been built up based on a pretty low common denominator, via you typical home hi fi..

It's far easier to approach it knowing, from domestic listening, that the sound can reach right out of the speakers, both laterally and horizontally.

I remember a story i was told a while back by a Producer. He was working with a Bowiephile who was dead set on recreating the sort of sound and feel of Bowie circa Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders...

They are sitting listening to a mix when the client comments... 'All the drums are on the left hand side of the image, why?'

The producer simply smiled and replied 'You wanted it to sound as close to Bowie as you could'

OK, so it was the producers little joke, but it does contain an important lesson.

The stage width should be something you are aware of from the very beginning of a recording, not as an after thought...

One way of making the guitars sound wider is pull the kit in. That is narrow the stereo filed of the cymbals so the whole kit occupies a natural space... There is nothing weirder than hearing a drummer seemingly having 12 feet extendable arms every time they hit a crash or ride cymbal, cos the sound appears outside the guitar..

Try to stop thinking of stereo as 2 channels and view it as one big 3 dimensional space, within which, sits the performance... One of the most common mistakes people make , in their early days of recording and for that matter, a fair few who should know better is to make the assumption that. Stereo equals... Left and Right... The truth is, a stereo piano is still a stereo piano even if the whole of the image, of said piano, is sitting on the right hand side of the sound field.. It's just the piano, if you look at the pan controls, is now say, 3/4 of the way over to the right on one pan and a quarter of the way right on the second.. All of a sudden the piano sits in the mix far more convincingly and the ear now hears the guitar thats 85 % right as being *outside* the position of the piano...Hey presto ..more width.

I know this is stating the 'Bleeding obvious' to many on here. However, you'd be amazed how many damn good engineers, in a techy sense, have never really given a thought to the actual concept of stereo imagery...
Old 25th January 2009 | Show parent
  #16
Deleted 99dc753
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Every time I mix I see new ways of doing it.
Every mix is different every time sometimes this works or it does not and I have find a new way.

At the time I am experimenting with BUS instead of single track compression also with Outboard gear which my neighbor gave me for few weeks.

Inspired by user MHB I try to create the impression when the hook line comes that the VU meters jump to the right but actually they don't.

There are so many things we can learn to create a great mix plot.

I love reading interviews with great guys in the business every time it inspires me to try out something new. And sometimes gets me on a total different route.

And yes I think we can forget that crap ITB/OTB to the OP you can have great sound without real gear. Yes you have to learn how to do it and myslef I never stop learning it never ends.

Plug Ins do a good Job in giving you the main caracter of a unit.
And the rest is in my ears 5% of gain waht will cost you a lot off CASH.

Just start today and see waht happens if you go for extreme paning.
Listen to beatles mixes BD does not have in center go crazy pan around extreme an d look waht happens on your goniometer.
Old 25th January 2009 | Show parent
  #17
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I'd argue that everything is better: gear, tracking, skill, mixing, mastering.... often times the musicianship and songwriting, better arrangements.

Sorry to point this out, but the average home recordist is going to be outclassed by a pro album. They are using great gear, great engineers, great producers and so on. How can one person doing something part-time hope to compete with a TEAM of first rate pros? Answer: you really can't.

I'm sure I'd be stoned to death in some corners for that opinion but that's how I see it. Modern digital tools are awesome, and have opened up a lot of doors but skill and experience is what rules the music world. No one person is going to be able to top a recording done by a first rate tracking engineer, mixed by Chris Lord Alge, and mastered by Bob Ludwig. Sorry, but that's like trying to beat Dr. J, Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley at a pickup game all by yourself... NOT GOING TO HAPPEN!
Old 25th January 2009 | Show parent
  #18
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🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by joeq ➡️
it's not the mixing
it's the tracking

+3 you can say that agian...if it aint banging at tracking time forget it come mix time... microphone placement proper gain staging...mix mono then pan things at the end...youll get wider better
Old 25th January 2009 | Show parent
  #19
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🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by James Meeker ➡️
I'd argue that everything is better: gear, tracking, skill, mixing, mastering.... often times the musicianship and songwriting, better arrangements.

Sorry to point this out, but the average home recordist is going to be outclassed by a pro album. They are using great gear, great engineers, great producers and so on. How can one person doing something part-time hope to compete with a TEAM of first rate pros? Answer: you really can't.

I'm sure I'd be stoned to death in some corners for that opinion but that's how I see it. Modern digital tools are awesome, and have opened up a lot of doors but skill and experience is what rules the music world. No one person is going to be able to top a recording done by a first rate tracking engineer, mixed by Chris Lord Alge, and mastered by Bob Ludwig. Sorry, but that's like trying to beat Dr. J, Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley at a pickup game all by yourself... NOT GOING TO HAPPEN!
I'd argue that simply isn't true at all... Problem is that. The albums and music that does compete with even the maestro's is wholly in the box. That is, it comes from the techno/dance field. Of course, the moment your live musician hears that they then become aspirational within their own field which is a whole different kettle of fish...

There was an album a couple of years back, won a whole rake of plaudits for its' recording quality. It was mixed on Pro sumer live speakers in an untreated room and was totally in ITB...

The problem arises, when you then expect, as a *live musician*, to be able to compete with that, ITB, on a domestic set up...
Old 25th January 2009 | Show parent
  #20
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🎧 15 years
My guess is that the op was comparing mixes of albums ad cds with live musicians.
Old 25th January 2009 | Show parent
  #21
80425
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Quote:
Originally Posted by James Meeker ➡️

"Sorry to point this out, but the average home recordist is going to be outclassed by a pro album. They are using great gear, great engineers, great producers and so on. How can one person doing something part-time hope to compete with a TEAM of first rate pros? Answer: you really can't."




Answer: Relative

--------------------------

Disagree completely! What is the AVERAGE home recordists? Could you say that with your nose pointed any higher to the sky?! Are all home recordists and musicians "part time."

With the way things are going now, its high time that a musician has the skill,capabilities,opportunities,potential,and of course knowledge to get the job done. If a band needs to craft "better" or lets say, more refined and defined art without the support of a label, A&R,Producers, corporate studios and labels- then so be it. Their will always be music. Anyway, as of this point in the line, I would think that an educated person would know that the console is another instrument to be adored- a skill some slave their lives for and thustl should sometimes be left to the professionals for COLLABORATION, but in no ways left unexplored by the musicians.

Now don't misinterpret, and jump on the obvious bandwagon counter argument that I'm throwing all the pro's and techniques under the bus;simply not the case, much is to be learned and gained from experience.But never should the high end Pro's underestimate their metaphorical yin of rare breed musicians and the "un-professional" counter that have the ability to shift and alter the definition of what is desired or "proper/right" sound and recordings.

--------------------------------------------------

the hole has been torn so it seems some others agree.
Old 25th January 2009 | Show parent
  #22
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🎧 15 years
I was thinking maybe less overdubbing and more live tracking had something to do with it? Possible, but when I think of albums like Def Leppards Hysteria, that simply cannot be the case.

Recorded with on the fly invented drum samples and Rockman headphone amps, that album is an overdub nightmare, yet it has an open wide sound that I could never get.

Some say it's analog, analog, analog.. I don't know about that, the pro's all use Pro tools today and they still get that wide sound.
Old 25th January 2009 | Show parent
  #23
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AllAboutTone's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by joeq ➡️
it's not the mixing
it's the tracking
so correct, plus source, room, etc etc etc.
Old 25th January 2009 | Show parent
  #24
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🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by mr. torture ➡️

Some say it's analog, analog, analog.. I don't know about that, the pro's all use Pro tools today and they still get that wide sound.
It really comes down to how you hear things internally. Some people just hear wide or tall or clear or bassy/thick or dark or deep and their work reflects it.

That's really what makes up "their sound".

The gear/software are just tools one learns to use along the way in order to achieve that internal sound. That's why 2-3 guys can use the same gear and mix the same song and each mix comes out sounding differently.

The question you should be really asking yourself is not why but what is it that i really hear when i listen to other peoples work. Also relating it to how you personally hear things when they are presented in their rawest form. Experience comes into play though in that guys that have done it over and over sucessfully and hear where things can and should be right away.
Old 25th January 2009 | Show parent
  #25
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🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by thethrillfactor ➡️
Experience comes into play though in that guys that have done it over and over sucessfully and hear where things can and should be right away.
That's it in a nutshell, many times I listen to a record and get lost as to what I was supposed to be listening for. Hard to focus on techniques, when listening to a great song that has been well recorded.
Old 25th January 2009 | Show parent
  #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mr. torture ➡️
Hard to focus on techniques, when listening to a great song that has been well recorded.
Then all hats off to the engineer because this is always my ultimate goal when mixing.
Old 25th January 2009 | Show parent
  #27
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🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by thethrillfactor ➡️
It really comes down to how you hear things internally. Some people just hear wide or tall or clear or bassy/thick or dark or deep and their work reflects it.

That's really what makes up "their sound".

The gear/software are just tools one learns to use along the way in order to achieve that internal sound. That's why 2-3 guys can use the same gear and mix the same song and each mix comes out sounding differently.

The question you should be really asking yourself is not why but what is it that i really hear when i listen to other peoples work. Also relating it to how you personally hear things when they are presented in their rawest form. Experience comes into play though in that guys that have done it over and over sucessfully and hear where things can and should be right away.
.

spot on, as usual...

.
Old 25th January 2009 | Show parent
  #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by James Meeker ➡️
I'd argue that everything is better: gear, tracking, skill, mixing, mastering.... often times the musicianship and songwriting, better arrangements.

Sorry to point this out, but the average home recordist is going to be outclassed by a pro album. They are using great gear, great engineers, great producers and so on. How can one person doing something part-time hope to compete with a TEAM of first rate pros? Answer: you really can't.

I'm sure I'd be stoned to death in some corners for that opinion but that's how I see it. Modern digital tools are awesome, and have opened up a lot of doors but skill and experience is what rules the music world. No one person is going to be able to top a recording done by a first rate tracking engineer, mixed by Chris Lord Alge, and mastered by Bob Ludwig. Sorry, but that's like trying to beat Dr. J, Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley at a pickup game all by yourself... NOT GOING TO HAPPEN!
James,

did I missed something?
The opening question was about how can he get his mix wider.

And not how can I compete with a million dollar production with my home studio....we cant.... we know it but we can have great mixes anyway and FUN.
Old 25th January 2009 | Show parent
  #29
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rackdude's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Don't worry, it will get fixed in mastering
Old 25th January 2009 | Show parent
  #30
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engmix's Avatar
All of the pontification and analogies are all well and good. Killer record production aside, It comes down to Skill, and Gear.

Just talking "width" here. I personally have never been able to get the kind of width I get from a console in comparison to strictly ITB mixes. That doesn't mean the ITB mixes are bad. They are just not as wide.

I think what James brought up is really hitting the nail on the head too.
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