In my head while in-the-box.

Following my learnings from the in the box mix - but having access to more ‘gear’ and more possibilities for inserts and processing - I was excited to start mixing in the box. I’d really learnt to appreciate how important a solid balance is for mixing. I was excited though to have access to some extra stuff such as sync’d tempos for delays etc., and a multitude of effects like chorus that I didn’t have access to in the Audient (e.g. the units were being used for other things! #priorities). It’s important to note that I’d started ‘mixing’ while recording. Oli likes some compression and reverb on his vocals while he records, so we added that while he tracked. Similarly, we messed with stereo imaging on the single acoustic guitar and single floor tom - something we couldn’t emulate in the analogue mixes because the delays units were dedicated to other things.

Again - I started by balancing. Slowly deciding what needed focus. Oddly, I decided on snare, vocals and lead guitar - which differed from my out of the box mix. I balanced slowly and once I was happy, added some processing to the master bus: the Nomad Bus Factory and Slate’s Virtual Tape Machine). I re-balanced and could already hear some problem areas that I’d need to address. In the out-of-the-box mix - I hadn’t noticed instruments so much as ‘problems’ as just elements of the mix that I’d need to prioritise, and I achieved more of this than I expected through balancing. Was this because of the uniform summing that analogue gives? Regardless, I began at the distorted guitars and removed some of the fizz and harshness so they’d sit better in this calm mix. Further this - I was able to quick and easily send my clean guitar to a sub-group and saturate them with Slate's Virtual Saturation modules, literally a click of a button instead of patching in four seperate channels to some sort of driven preamp or saturation unit.

I’d used some Haas effect on both the tom and acoustic to give them life on the right and left sides of the stereo image. The floor tom was panned left and I created a delay at about 40 milliseconds on the left side to make the drum kit feel more balanced. Similarly, I sent the acoustic guitar to a stereo delay of 30-40 milliseconds and muted the original track - all that was left was a left and right guitar. I balanced and re-balanced, and focused on keeping my main elements front and centre and let everything else sit behind them.

One great advantage of mixing in the box is being able to ‘sync’ all your delay, reverbs and other time-based effects to tempos. This is something I’d taken for granted - after using the tap tempo for the analogue mixes. Delays sync’d to your tempo often sit better within a mix, and if you want the effects to be obvious you can give them some movement or tap them manually so they poke their heads out a bit better. I used chorus on the vocals and sync’d this to the tempo of the song, and a wide stereo delay on the solo guitar gave the solos more size and space to cut through. It struck me how easy it to ‘patch’ in and out effects such as this with a few shortcuts in ProTools.

 

“A song is never finished, only abandoned.”

- Misha Mansoor

In conclusion, mixing in the box was easier but I wasn’t as quickly satisfied as I was mixing analogue. I’m not even sure if I’m still satisfied with the in-the-box mixes, there’s something that feels complete about mixing completely analogue. Maybe it’s the gear or maybe it’s the limitations. Mixing in the box is great - because you can get effects to become mostly invisible when you need their ‘effect’ but don’t want them to be obvious. There’s countless sends and inserts you can use - which can hinder or assist - it’s up to you.