Project Studio Expo 2016 (AES 141st Convention) Supporting Resources For Download!
This page contains various additional resources to support my Project Studio Expo seminar ‘Mixing Secrets: Production Tricks To Use With Any DAW’ at the 141st AES convention in Los Angeles in September 2016. This site also hosts a huge range of free mixing and recording resources relating to my books, including the 'Mixing Secrets' Free Multitrack Download Library and the 'Recording Secrets' Library Of Mic Positions. To stay up to date with the latest uploads to this site, sign up for my monthly ‘Small-studio Secrets Mail’ mail-out - and if you have any follow-up questions about the seminar or these resources, don’t hesitate to drop me a line!
Seminar PSE10: ‘Mixing Secrets: Production Tricks To Use With Any DAW’ (Friday 30th September 2016)
Part 1: Polarity & Phase
Introduction To Polarity & Phase: Here’s a drum loop Ex01.01: WAV/MP3play_arrow. Inverting its polarity doesn’t change its tone appreciably Ex01.02: WAV/MP3play_arrow. If you mix the loop with an exact copy of itself, you just get the same sound louder Ex01.03: WAV/MP3play_arrow, whereas mixing the loop with a polarity-inverted copy of itself gives you silence. Mixing the loop with a delayed copy of itself, on the other hand, results in comb-filtering, a complex tonal effect that changes its sonic flavour depending on the exact delay time, as demonstrated in these three examples Ex01.04: WAV/MP3play_arrow; Ex01.05: WAV/MP3play_arrow; Ex01.06: WAV/MP3play_arrow. Switching the polarity of the copy doesn’t now mix to silence, but again changes the timbre, as you can hear from these two examples Ex01.07: WAV/MP3play_arrow; Ex01.08: WAV/MP3play_arrow.
Corrective & Creative Approaches To Phase: Here are the raw recordings made by two mics on a single guitar amp: a Shure SM57 dynamic mic right by the grille Ex01.01: WAV/MP3play_arrow and an AKG C414B XLS large-diaphragm condenser mic placed about a foot further away Ex01.01: WAV/MP3play_arrow. The delay between the two mics causes comb-filtering when they’re mixed together, giving a spongey and unfocused sound Ex01.01: WAV/MP3play_arrow. Shifting the C414B mic signal around 1ms earlier using a DAW’s audio-editing facilities compensates for the inter-mic delay, minimising any comb-filtering and giving a more solid and mixable timbre Ex01.01: WAV/MP3play_arrow. Alternatively, it’s also perfectly justifiable from a creative standpoint if you deliberately mismatch the relative polarity and phase of the mics to reinvent the guitar sound, as I’ve done in the following examples to give new sounds which are mellower Ex01.01: WAV/MP3play_arrow and more aggressive Ex01.01: WAV/MP3play_arrow respectively.
Phase & Panning: Here is another dual-miked guitar-amp recording, this time comprising a Shure SM57 dynamic mic Ex01.01: WAV/MP3play_arrow and an Electrovoice RE20 dynamic mic Ex01.01: WAV/MP3play_arrow. Although the mics create an impressively wide and full sound in stereo if panned to opposite image extremes Ex01.01: WAV/MP3play_arrow, their defective phase relationship is still ruthlesslessly exposed in mono Ex01.01: WAV/MP3play_arrow.
Affordable Phase Adjustment Plug-ins: Here are some freeware PC VST options that’ll work whether you’re using 32-bit or 64-bit DAW software: Audiocation’s Phase AP1 and two of the plug-ins in the Cockos ReaPlugs bundle (the all-pass filter in ReaEQ and the Phase Rotator module in ReaJS). Mac freeware is thinner on the ground, Airwindows’s 32-bit PhaseNudge being the only free plug-in I’m aware of. If you’re after something cross-platform and 64-bit, then try Voxengo’s PHA979, which is only $60.
Further Reading: You can find a more detailed and in-depth discussion of polarity and phase in the studio in this article: ‘Phase Demystified’. In addition, phase adjustment has played an important role in many of my ‘Mix Rescue’ remixes, so you can read some practical case-studies in the following columns: May 2012, October 2011, April 2010, November 2008, and March 2008. In addition, polarity adjustment plays a prominent role in this series of mixing videos.
Part 2: Single-driver Midrange Monitoring
- Phantom Image Test: Here’s the noise-burst file I used to demonstrate the instability of phantom images Ex02.01: WAV/MP3play_arrow. The real-world example I played was an excerpt from the Madonna song ‘American Life’.
Affordable Auratone Substitutes: Although my favourite project-studio substitute for the Auratone 5C Super Sound Cube is the Avantone MixCube(active or passive) which I reviewed in SOS July 2010, there are a number of alternatives available, including: the Auratone company’s reissued 5C Super Sound Cube, which I reviewed in SOS May 2016; the Triple P Designs Pyramid (passive); the Fostex 6301N Powered Loudspeaker (active); and the Behringer C5A & C50A (both active) which I reviewed in SOS Feb 2012.
Headphone-to-Auratone Adapter Cable: If you want to connect a single-driver midrange speaker to your computer DAW system, but you don’t have a dedicated monitor controller to do the necessary mono/speaker switching, then you can work around it by wiring up this adaptor cable and feeding your Auratone-substitute from the headphone output of your audio interface.
Further Reading: For general-purpose advice about setting up studio nearfield monitoring systems and acoustic treatment for mixing, check out ‘The Studio SOS Guide To Monitoring & Acoustic Treatment’.
Part 3: Effective Mix Referencing
Affordable Metering & Analysis Software: Here are links to all the software utilities I mentioned in the seminar: Brainworx’s freeware L/R/M/S switcher Bx Solo; the freeware Sonalksis FreeG peak/RMS metering plug-in; Toneboosters’s TB EBULoudness plug-in; Flux Audio’s freeware Stereo Tool; Melda’s freeware MStereoScope; the high-resolution freeware spectrum-analyser plug-ins Voxengo SPAN and Melda MAnalyzer; the EQ ripper plug-ins Voxengo CurveEQ and Melda MAutoEqualizer; and the stand-alone visual mastering software Harbal.
Further Reading: Here are a couple of articles that talk in more detail about assembling and analysing reference tracks: ‘Creating Your Own Reference CD’ and ‘Listen & Learn’. For more specific examples of commercial reference tracks I used on a day-to-day basis, check out this bonus article I wrote specially for my Cambridge-MT Patreon supporters. If you’re referencing your mixes against heavily loudness-processed commercial masters, then here’s an article which provides some suggestions for how you can increase the loudness of your own mixes for comparison purposes should you wish to do so: ‘Crafting Loud Mixes That Sound Great’.
- This library contains more than 359 free multitrack projects in a variety of different musical styles, which can be freely downloaded for mixing practice or as a basis for educational assignments. The projects can easily be imported into any DAW by copying all the WAVs to the same point in the time-line. Some of the projects have been remixed as part of the SOS ‘Mix Rescue’ columns, so you can read specific tips and tricks there if you need some pointers.