Out-of-the-box conclusions

I started my mixing session on August 11 at SAE Institute in the Big Audient studio. I loaded the session into ProTools and began laying out the tracks and laying down tape on the faders and outboard gear. I’d endeavoured to keep myself organised so patching wouldn’t affect the creative workflow too much. 

I pulled the faders up to zero and began balancing, focusing on what I wanted my main elements of the mix to be. My time at Hertz studio in Bialystok, Poland, had taught me how important initial balances are. For about an hour, I focused on balancing, re-balancing, adding the Audient’s stereo bus compression and re-balancing. I’d decided that my bass, kick and vocals were the focus and kept them in front of everything else and proceed to fill in the gaps with guitars and other drums. The limitations in compression, EQ and effects really forces you to ensure your mix is well-balanced from the get-go rather than relying on effects and processing to fit it together. Once I was balanced, I started thinking about what was fighting for space in the mix - and processed just those elements. One the snare I added attack with the SPL Transient Designer, then compressed with a Distressor using the insert on the Audience channel strip. I re-balanced and began to add reverbs as follows:

Because of the limits of the console - I’d used a few reverbs for important parts and one reverb to create space for the whole mix. Generally, in-the-box I’d use a verb for drums, guitars, vocals etc., but I controlled the amount being sent to the verb via auxiliaries and managed to create a great sounding space. I used a bit of Audient Channel EQ on the returns of the reverbs as well, exactly how I would in the box. My next point of call was the bass, as the DI’d tracks didn’t sit as I’d imagined. Similar to how I process in the box, I used a Distressor to compress followed by the Empirical Labs Fatso to add some grit and tape’ saturation. I balanced and re-balanced and printed the first mix back into ProTools via the Audient’s master section. A few tweaks between each different song, but the balances were mostly the same - besides the final song which features acoustic guitar and needed a little Audience channel strip EQ.

In conclusion, my out-of-the-box mix required more balancing than usual, which mimicked what I’d learned at Studio Hertz, because there would be less processing because of the limitations of analogue. I (happily) accidentally discovered the Vintage Phaser setting of the TC Electronic M350. I realised how reliant on Cmnd/ctrl + Z I am, especially with faders and little movements. I mixed one song and made little tweaks for the rest. The mixes still sound uniform sounds because minimal effects/using same verbs and effects within the mix itself.

Next - in-the-box!