In conclusion, this has been a really good exercise in my understanding of signal flow, my gut mixing instincts and my own workflow and mixing choices. I did less processing with these mixes, both in and out of the box, but am happy with both results as they stand on their own. Hardware is great, but plugins are cheap, and while they don’t always sound uniform, you don’t need to interrupt the creative workflow to leave the sweet spot and twiddle a knob. Unsurprisingly, I think a hybrid set-up would work best for my own workflow. Great pre on the way in, some plugins to fix and treat my recordings, then a few hardware pieces to add some magic to my feature elements in the mix.
Have you ever caught yourself reaching for the same compressor plugin without thinking? Or started to EQ in a way that worked the last time you mixed? I have. Mixing out of the box helped me understand it’s best to process when you hear something that needs to be processed, not out of habit. This seems obvious - but we’ve all been caught out before. I used less EQ and more balance than ever on both of these mixes and there’s no massive build up of low or high end, and only particularly harsh stuff was treated. It’s also best to save your best hardware for special parts of the mix.
Hardware can be expensive, but can bring something that software really can’t. There’s some extra harmonic information that helps frequencies sit within a mix - albeit tenfold better when the whole mix is run through the same channels strips etc. For this reason - a summing mixer may be a great idea for your future endeavours. Whatever processing you’re using - the end product will be run through the same analogue channels. Great gear can be used on the way in, and getting sounds as close to ‘finished’ as possible at the source can be a massive help at mixing. If the sounds are great - mixing is just balance and maybe some automation. It’s important to have your mix in mind when you’re tracking.
Further to this - once the recordings have been captured there’s some out of the box tricks that I’ll be applying to future in-the-box mixes - I don’t have a console outside of uni. Something I really enjoyed was sending the entire mix to a single reverb to give it a real sense of space. Sometimes this can be created when a whole is live tracking, but this isn’t always the case. When a uniform reverb is used - the recording sounds uniform, contained and complete. It’d be great to practice mixing in the box with limitations like 4-5 plugins and DAW EQ, or vice versa, to spend a day in a world-class studio with enough inserts to mix how I would in the box and see how I go. Hardware pieces vary, even between the same models etc., and how would this affect the uniform sound I loved about my out-of-the-box mixes?
Finally, the mixes are done and being sent off to Lacquer for revision in a blind test. Oli was aware of the project, but won’t know which mixes are which. It’ll be interesting to see what he chooses - and how this might affect my mix choices in the future. I hope this has been an insightful read into how I’ve approached the recording and different limitations and shortfalls of each approach. I’ll post the mixes for comparison after approval from Lacquer and you can compare the differences for yourself and listen to some of the tricks and techniques I’ve described in the blogs.
I’d love any questions about how I went about processing the mixes - I’ll keep you updated!