Mixing Secrets For The Small Studio - Additional Resources
Chapter 8: Balance
Table of Contents
Workflow Demonstration Video
(To download all WAV examples at once: 16MB ZIP)
Unwanted Subsonics: Here are two examples of real-world small-studio recordings containing high levels of unwanted extreme low-frequency energy: the vocal Ex08.01: WAV/MP3play_arrow from Mix Rescue April 2009 and the acoustic guitar Ex08.02: WAV/MP3play_arrow from Mix Rescue August 2010. In both cases this low-frequency information serves no useful tonal purpose, so is best removed with high-pass filtering in order to preserve low-end clarity and overall mix headroom.
Stereo Polarity And Phase Fixes: This audio example contains a section of a raw drum-overheads recording from Mix Rescue April 2010, in which the left and right channels are out of polarity Ex08.03: WAV/MP3play_arrow. This results in a disconcertingly wide sound in stereo and a loss of subjective low end in mono. Matching the polarity of the two mics Ex08.04: WAV/MP3play_arrow provides a much more believable stereo image and improves overall mono-compatibility. Lining up a slight timing disparity between the snare waveforms in each channel as well Ex08.05: WAV/MP3play_arrow improves the attack of this instrument in mono, as well as shifting it more towards the centre of the stereo image.
Inconsistent Phase-cancellation Between Layered Drum Samples: If you’re going to layer more than one drum sample to create a single composite sound, then it’s important that the samples are kept perfectly in sync with each other. If their relative timing shifts even slightly, then you’ll find that sporadic phase cancellation will render the tonality inconsistent, as in this example Ex08.06: WAV/MP3play_arrow from Mix Rescue March 2008, which features a pair of layered kick drum samples.
Creative Polarity Adjustment: This file Ex08.07: WAV/MP3play_arrow demonstrates the creative potential of polarity adjustment when working with multi-miked instruments – in this case a triple-miked guitar part. The four contrasting guitar tones you can hear weren’t created by EQ processing, but simply by mixing different amounts of the three mics and altering their relative polarities.
Tonal Shaping With Phase Rotation: Here is a ‘mic plus DI’ recording of an acoustic guitar Ex08.08: WAV/MP3play_arrow from Mix Rescue November 2008. By simply rotating the phase of the microphone signal using Betabugs Phasebug 32‑bit plug-in, I can significantly alter the combined tone of the two signals Ex08.09: WAV/MP3play_arrow.
Using 32-bit Plug-ins With A 64-bit Host: Although most modern software DAW systems now use 64-bit coding, there are plenty of great ‘legacy’ freeware plug-ins that are only available with 32-bit coding. If your 64-bit DAW system doesn’t automatically ‘bridge’ 32-bit plug-ins, then try using the freeware jbridge or jbridgeM utilities, DDMF’s affordable Bridgewize, or Sound Radix’s affordable 32 Lives plug-in.
Using VST Plug-ins On A Mac Or With Pro Tools: If you like the look of some of the freeware Windows VST plug-ins listed in these resource pages, but you’re working on a Mac, check out the freeware Plugwire utility, or DDMF’s affordable Metaplugin. The DDMF plug-in can also be used to ‘wrap’ VST plug-ins into AU, RTAS, and AAX formats for use with Apple Logic or Avid Pro Tools.
Affordable High-pass Filter Plug-ins: The freeware GVST GHi and Brainworx Bx Cleansweep plug-ins both feature fixed-slope high-pass filtering and gain control, while Melda’s freeware MBandPass features similar facilities but with a wider range of filter slopes – up to 128dB/octave!
Affordable Gain Plug-ins: For preliminary gain setting and general in-DAW gain management, try GVST’s freeware GFader and GGain, although Sonalksis’s freeware FreeG is another good option.
Affordable Stereo-manipulation Plug-ins: My favourite width-manipulation plug-in is Voxengo’s freeware MSED, but GVST GStereo is another freeware option. For more detailed image-manipulation facilities and vectorscope display, Flux’s freeware Stereo Tool is great.
Affordable Phase-manipulation Plug-ins: There are plenty of good freeware options here: Airwindows PhaseNudge phase rotator; Audiocation’s Phase AP1 phase rotator; Betabugs’s Phasebug 32‑bit stereo phase rotator; the all-pass filter in Cockos ReaEQ and the phase rotator module in Cockos ReaJS; Melda’s MFreeformPhase frequency-selective phase rotator; and Variety Of Sound’s Prefix. That said, I’m personally a big fan of Voxengo’s affordable PHA979, which provides an elegant combination of phase-rotation and micro-delay tools with a built-in correlometer display (as in their freeware Correlometer). SoundRadix also offer an unusual realtime multichannel phase-alignment plug-in called Pi, but I’ve been unable to get worthwhile results from it myself in practice, to be honest – you can hear my full ‘Unvarnished Review’ in the November 2018 Cambridge-MT Patrons Podcast.