Sound Engineers
Things that piss us off.
Category: Sound Engineers

7 Things That Piss Off Sound Engineers The Most (From A Hollywood FOH)



The following comes from Joel Eckels who is the house engineer at the respected Hollywood music venue, The Hotel Cafe.The Hotel Cafe has been a home and incubator for singer/songwriters like Joshua Radin, Ingrid Michaelson, Sara Bareilles, Meiko, Anna Nalick, Katy Perry, Cary Brothers, The Milk Carton Kids, and Adele, to name a few. It is a 175 cap venue (it also recently opened up a smaller, second stage with a capacity of 80). Often, it is a space where superstars feel comfortable organizing impromptu sets and jams. John Mayer, Chris Martin, Ed Sheeran, John Legend, Tori Kelly, Andra Day, Lenny Kravitz and The Roots have all graced the stage in the past couple years. 

On a personal note, the Hotel Cafe has become my performance home and where I have played most of my shows in LA over the past 6 years. When I was living in Minneapolis, it was one of those dream venues that all of my favorite artists seemed to always be playing or hanging out at. 

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20 tips to achieving a great mix
Category: Sound Engineers
Tags: audio mixing mastering levels fader patchbay eq compression

Hey Sound Lovers,

Check out this great article by ADSRSOUNDS.COM. This is a good read if you are looking to tighten up your mixing approach on any DAW.

Mixing is an essential process to a great song. Expanding your mixing skills takes time and patience, and we have compiled 20 tips to help you along your way.

1. Subtractive EQ

Often times, certain tracks will contain harsh frequencies, hurting your ears when played at loud volumes. Find these frequencies by taking a narrow EQ band and sweeping it across the spectrum. Narrow in on these frequencies and drop the gain, making sure to keep the bandwidth small.

2. Avoiding Competing Frequencies

With any tracks that are competing for presence, choose the most important of these tracks and identify the frequencies that give track its character. Then, find its competing tracks and apply a gentle EQ dip to these same frequencies. You’ll notice an immediate difference, perhaps deciding to get rid of these rival tracks altogether.

3. Use EQ Sparingly

Don’t turn your EQ into an art masterpiece. If you must EQ a track, do it with purpose, keeping in mind its relationship to the entire song. In theory, as many will agree, you really shouldn’t need to equalize anything if you choose the right sounds from the beginning.

4. Sidechain Compression

Side-chain compression spans much further than pumping your tracks to a kick drum. Take a lead synth and lead vocal for example. If you side-chain the synth track to the vocal, the synth will step back whenever the vocal plays. This is just one example of side-chain compression being used to maintain a balanced mix.

5. Compressor Attack/Release Times

These two parameter will either make or break the transient energy of a track. To help understand this, picture an ADSR envelope for the volume output of your to-be compressed track. Translate this visualization into the attack and release times on your compressor, and adjust accordingly. Use your ears and do what sounds right.

This is a great tool for gluing together sounds into a cohesive element. Take, for instance, your drum bus. Your kick sounds great and your hi-hats are crisp, however, your snare doesn’t cut through the mix. Compressing your drum bus can mitigate this issue, breathing life into the snare while retaining the original dynamics of the drums.

Read more by clicking the link below.

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Microphones For The Home Studio
Category: Sound Engineers
Tags: Microphones Home Studio Acoustics Sampling Recording

Microphones For The Home Studio

Mar 27 — By The TweakContents ↓


Welcome to Tweak's class on Microphones! Will the newbies please sit up in the front few rows? Sorry dudes, only the pros can sit in the back. They already know this stuff. None of it is rocket science, even those sweaty drummers can figure it out. Any drummers here? A few ape-like figures make a displeased grunt. "Oops!" But you'll be glad you came, there's a section on basics for miking drums.

Okay! Now that you are up close, this Mic here can pick up any sound you make. By getting close to the Mic more of the direct sound is recorded and less of the reflected "hall tone" or room tone. Do rooms make a sound? Yep! Once you start using a quality microphone, you won't believe how noisy your home studio room is. So tip #1 is always to get as close to the source as you can and do your best to remove unwanted sounds from creeping in. The best condenser mics in the world can't help--they can actually make it worse because they are so sensitive, they pick up everything, even the sound of "air". You can improve the sound of any microphone by proper placement and reducing environmental noises.

With all the modern marvels that have been introduced in the last decade for our studios it may seem strange that the microphone has changed the least. A quick peek to the high end shows that some microphone designs used today were formulated in the late 60's, that's forty years ago! Since then countless models have been introduced, copied, resurrected and repackaged with small refinements. Few areas of the recording studio have been as hotly debated as to which is "best" for a particularly recording application. Some of this is hype and some of this is not and it can be difficult to sort through the mazes of issues. What I hope to do here is to give you some common references so you can at least talk about mics and their differences, and give you a useable roadmap for making decisions for your studio.

Like any other piece of gear, the same microphone can give tremendously different results depending on how it is used. There is a bit of expertise and experimentation that needs to happen when placing the microphone to capture a source. Even the best mics in the world will sound boomy and unusable if the vocalist gets too close. This same mic might fail miserably if recording an acoustic guitar if placed too far away, or off axis (angled away from the source). An inexpensive mic, placed optimally for the task at hand can capture exceptional nuances, and once a track is treated with EQs, compressors and plugins, the results can be outstanding. Yet a great mic. with an excellent preamp, given the same care during setup and post-treatment can be absolutely stellar.

Like anything worth doing, getting the best results takes a bit of practice, experimentation and work. Yet the chances of getting a great take are consistently better with a high quality microphone. Yet price and quality do not always match. Moreso in the area of microphones than any other piece of gear, you can spend a lot of money and get something that you don't like, or spend a modest amount to get something you like a lot. What are the duds? Which are the truly great finds? None of the mics listed to the left are duds, though the prices vary from under $100 to over $2000. Note that I have not listed low-priced "value" mics. If you are tempted to go to the sub $50 range of mic, I highly recommend saving up and going for an SM57, Here's a page listing all the mics under $100


Basics of a Home Studio Mic Cabinet

First of all, lets get real. Your home or project studio is not a pro studio. You probably don't have to be ready for any recording situation that comes up. Face it, your studio is probably not in competition with the Record Plant or Abbey Road. You probably record the same instruments over an over. Probably vocals, guitars, drums, amp cabinets and perhaps a few unique instruments you have. Point #1: Make a list of the things you record. At the TweakLab, for example, I record male and female vocalists, my acoustic guitars, amps, lots of hand drums, various world percussion and some exotic flutes and strings. For my needs, a large condenser and a dynamic for vocals, flutes, a small condenser for acoustic strings, drums and delicate things, a dynamic for general purpose stuff and miking amps, and an omnidirectional stereo mic for location and sampling. That is my list. Yours is going to vary, of course.

I started my mic cabinet with the legendary workhorse, the all-purpose stage hammer, yes, the Shure SM57. If it's all you have, you can use it to record everything, though for vocals and acoustic guitars, it is happiest with a good preamp. For recording your amp or really loud stuff, it will resist breakup even under extreme pressure. For vocals my first condenser was a Rode NT1, which is now replaced by the NT1-A. Once you have both a dynamic and a large condenser working for you, you have a lot of recording ground covered well. Condensers shine on vocals, acoustic stuff--anything that has lots of high crystalline frequencies. A third mic for me was a small condenser--the Shure SM81. More expensive than many, but I wanted high quality acoustic guitar recordings. Those 3 mics make a great basic mic cabinet for a home studio.

Of course, you can go farther into this, with better and more specialized mics. Two dynamic mics that I love are the ElectroVoice RE20 and the Sennheiser MD421II. These are often used as broadcast mics but do well for strong vocalists and other instruments that blat and blast.

As you start moving towards professional studio sound, you may move towards professional mics as well. Here we are talking about the Neumann line, with their least expensive, but great, TLM 103, the pro pop vocal standard U87Ai, and others. Another vocal standard among pros, the AKG C414XLII. And then there are ribbon microphones, which add yet another sonic signature, Of course there are many others, and pro studios may have 20 mics in this caliber. But for the home studio, I think it is a good idea to aspire to at least one of these. Call it your crown jewel, take care of it and it will last a long time.

I should point out that microphones sound better with excellent preamps. To get the realize the full subtlety and nuance that a fine mic provides, it needs clean, quiet, gain, or amplification. But you will hear a huge difference between condensers and dynamics even with the cheaper preamps tacked on to audio interfaces.


Setting up Microphones

Is this an art or a science? A little of both, but often, just a matter of experimenting till something grabs you. I've done extensive mic placement when sampling instruments for my sample cd roms and recording vocalists. For every sample that makes the final cut on one of my cd roms, I will have over 100 source samples recorded. Consider the microphone to be an ear. To hear the finest nuances of any instrument, you have to point the ear in a way that the sound vibrations "hit" the diaphragm of the mic jus right. So I put my wave recorder in record and go to the instrument, play some hits, move the mic, play some hits, move the mic, play some hits---get the idea. When I get back to the waveform editor, I will find that one position sounded better than all the rest and within that position there is one sample that rings clear and true with unmistakable quality.


Ambient and Close Mics

With drums in particular, having 2 mics set up is ideal. Recording in stereo, the close mic, which captures all the nuances close to the instrument, may be set up within 6 inches of the source, depending how loud it is. The Room Mic might be a few feet back and pointed anywhere. The farther away it is, the "longer" the sound becomes. If you are trying to get killer snares and rock toms, for example, you want to move these out quite a bit. This will give you a natural sounding reverb that only expensive effects boxes and plugins can deliver.


Matching the Microphone to the job.

Vocals The human voice evokes our attention like no other sounds. Are ears are acutely sensitive to very tiny inflections in the air around the vocalist. The goal of the microphone is to capture the innermost soul of the vocal. Our ears are conditioned to want to hear a slight treble presence coloration on a typical voice. So accuracy alone is really not the name of the game hear. Its accuracy plus good sounding coloration with high definition presence that is not bright, but warm. Large capsule condenser microphones often get the call for their clean and aggressive high frequencies. So do dynamic microphones, especially with vocalists that have strong powerful voices. Condensers can distort if a loud vocalist gets too close. Dynamics are also a good choice for rooms with a lot of ambient noise. In fact, if you are recording in an ugly sounding reflective room, you have a good argument for choosing a quality dynamic mic to minimize interaction with the room. There are also ribbon microphones, which may also be used for vocals when you need a rounded "natural" sound. Ribbon mics require stronger preamps like the dynamics and benefit from variable impedance (a high end feature) on preamps. Ribbons are also more delicate and require more handling care. They can sound "dark" on "average" preamps. They are also expensive. As you start your mic collection focus on dynamics and condensers, save the ribbons for later in the game when you have a great preamp.


What you need to watch out for when buying your first Mic

Assuming you understand the basic mic differences, make sure of two things before you buy.

1. If buying a condenser mic, be sure you have +48v phantom power on your preamp.
2. If buying a dynamic mic, you don't need phantom power, you need gain on your preamp. The SM57 and other dynamic mics need plenty of gain to get a good level, about 55-60 db. Some of the newer inexpensive audio interfaces are designed for condensers which need about 40-45db. Most mixers can handle the SM57. A typical preamp with 60db of gain is fine. If all you have are the preamps on your gain-challenged audio interface, and you can only pop for one mic, make is a large condenser. On a budget around $100 smackers, the Studio Projects B1 is perhaps the best game in town.
3. Avoid buying used microphones if you can but in particular avoid buying a used ribbon mic as these are susceptible to damage due to misuse more than a dynamic.


Acoustic instruments

I can talk about acoustic guitars best as I have been recording them a long time with numerous techniques and types of microphones. I shoot for 3 things when recording acoustic guitar. The sound of the pick hitting the strings, the "wooden" sound of the body and a sense of pressure and movement coming from the strumming hand. Though it breaks with studio wisdom, I have found awesome results mixing and matching different mics, such as PZM with dynamics, condensers with electrets when trying to capture a stereo image of the acoustic, taking time to experiment and place the mics to get the most out of them. And it pays to try the traditional techniques such as the X-Y technique, where two mics have their capsules very close (without touching) pointing to the instrument at a 90 degree angle from each other. There is also the ORTF technique, where the mics cross each other ay a 110 degree angle, (instead of pointing at each other at a 90 degree angle like XY) which is good for recording at a greater distance, like in front of a stage. I've also realized great results with a single condenser.


Sampling and "On Location" Recording

Samplists need a stereo Mic. Or need to set up 2 mics to capture what the are sampling. Back in the studio, when editing samples, you might decide that either the left side or the right side or both are keepers. But you do want to have the option to 2 takes per sample. Your odds of getting a better sample are increased. For sampling I favor condenser mics, unless the environment is noisy. Then the dynamic will work. For samples you have to have high frequencies intact and in abundance, but it does no good if the high frequencies are imbued with environmental noise. Recording ambient environments is also a job for stereo. Here a matched stereo pair or a stereo mic is important because you know you want to preserve the stereo image in the final sample. I've tried many techniques with great results.

Old School: One favorite, though hard to do, is with 2 PZM mics taped to opposite sides of a big piece of plywood. That's separation! For outdoor ambience, try placing mics as far apart as your cables will let you. Objects in the stereo field appear extremely wide due to the delay from one source to another. Finally, you don't always want people to know you are recording. For stealth mode sampling I've attached ie clip mics to my trouser pockets, stuck stereo condenser mics in backpacks with the head sticking out a little, and used minidisk recorders and cassette recorders with small cheap mics.

New School: The new generation of portable recorders like a Zoom H4n are great for recording environments. If you can get one that has XLR inputs as well as an onboard pair of XY Condensers, all the better, That way you can substitute some dynamic mics when the need arises.


Recording drums

Here's the basics in 3 paragraphs. I'll cover as much as possible, but note this is just a primer. Opinion varies widely on the best way to do this. How many mics? What gets its own mic? You might be surprised to find out if you could poll some top engineers that some famous rock songs have been recorded with as few as three mics, one directly in front of the kick drum and two overheads panned hard left and right to capture a natural stereo image. However, if you plan to do extensive processing of kiks, snares and toms, you may need to have a mic for each. Also, note that you don't have to capture the drums all at once. You can overdub the snare later.

In general, you need a mics that, above all, can handle a high SPL (sound pressure level). The loud dynamic hits will cause distortion at the output. This is really the case with sampling drums, where you want to stick the mic as close as possible to get the high frequencies of the "Thwack". Some mics come with a -10 pad. This may be in the form of a switch or an additional capsule you screw in to the housing. Either way, the pad will filter down the input into a more reasonable useful signal.

The Kik Mic has to be able to handle hi SPL and low frequencies. Many a condenser will distort like madness here, so dynamic mics get the call. Popular Kickin' mics are the AKG D112Shure SM57 and Beyer M88. It can be placed a few inches away from the front kick drum head or sometimes engineers place them inside the drum. The Snare mic too has to handle hi demand, SPL wise. And it should be rugged. Drummers pack a real wallop into their hits and many times they will accidentally slam right into the mic, if placed anywhere near the snare (a good argument for placing the mic under the snare). The SM57 is a great mic for this. Other fine mics for snares are the AKG 414eb and the Sennheiser MD421.Overhead mics need to pick up the whole kit from a greater distance, so they can be more sensitive, but it still helps to have one with a pad. Condenser mics usually get the call. Small condensers are a good choice. For Toms, the Sennheiser 421 is usually a top recommend. Miking cymbals can be done with condenser mics to capture the hi frequency shimmer, but again be advised to get one with a -10 pad and cymbals have a lot of sustained sound energy.

You might be wondering how studio keep the hi hat sound out of the snare mic, something called "bleed". The mics directional pattern comes in here. You want your close drum mics to reject all sounds except the drum its pointed to. There will always be some bleed, but you work to minimize it when you set up the mics. That is the art and science of drum mic placement made simple. Some producers usenoise gates after the Mic preamp. The gate can be set to cut out all of the signal unless it get a really loud burst. That takes a bit of trial and error to set up, but if done well it can improve the separation at the board. That way you can, for example, add a big sounding reverb to just the snare as many 70's rock ballads did, or further process your snare with lower mid frequency eq for a contemporary trash sound.



All these choices! The difficulty for may startup home studios is deciding whether to go with just one super quality microphone or getting several less expensive mics. If your option #1 was to get the Neumann U87, for the same money you could get a CAD e200, Sennheiser MD421II, a Shure SM81 LC, an AT 822 stereo, and half a dozen SM57s, enough to get a pro studio off the ground. But a home studio doesn't need lots of mics, particularly if you are not recording drums. In that case, maybe just a couple of good ones will make on happiest in the long run. Another buying issue is going with a lower cost large condenser, say, the Rode NT1a. If you one day decide to get a better large condenser, the Rode may become unused or a dead investment. Fortunately, mics, unlike synths, samplers and computers, retain their resale value quite well, especially on the higher end. Some solid advice for a newbie is to get a Shure SM57 first. It will do it all. Then as funds permit, get a large condenser for vocals, a small condenser for delicate instruments. You will have the majority of recording situations covered and you will appreciate how each different mic contributes its own signature to the final mix.

Do Mics really sound different?
Yes. Every mic "colors" the sound in one way or another, much like the way speakers color the sound of your home stereo. Some mics try to be "transparent" but this is not always desirable. With vocals and many instruments, for example, you want a mic with some presence boost for that pro-sounding "sheen".

What is this directional pattern nonsense?
What are you? a Drummer? Then you above all need a uni-directional mic so when close miking they pick of what it is pointing at, not everything in the room, like an omni directional mic does. Cardioidmics are directional because they pick up everything in the heart-shaped pattern in front of the mic. A Bi-directional pattern is also called a "figure 8" pattern cause that is how it looks on a graph. You can record from the front and back but not the sides.

What is Phantom Power?
Condenser mics output a weak signal that must be boosted so the mixer's preamp can boost it further into a useable signal. Some condenser mics use batteries to do this. Other's rely on getting this power from the mixing board. Boards that feature phantom power send a voltage down the mic cable to the mic which is used to amplify the signal there. The signal then arrives at the preamp and is further amped. Dynamic mics do not need phantom power. You can read more in the forums about it and in this article by Shure

What's a -10 pad?
A Pad refers to attenuation, or a lowering of volume, output or loudness. A -10 pad reduces the sensitivity of the microphone by 10 decibels so it can withstand louder sounds like drums, cymbals, screaming vocalists and other awfully loud things. Some mics may have -20 pads or -15 pads. You normally cannot adjust this--its on or off.

What's Bass Roll-off?
Some mics have a switch that cuts the lower bass frequencies that the mic pics up. Why? When you record with a quality microphone you will find there is more bass in your environment than you thought. If you are recording close to an ventilation system vent you will find that even a normal rush of air coming out is enough to make a thundering wind boom. Traffic, railroads, airplanes even if far away can be picked up. Finally, a big problem in the mix is getting rid of unwanted bass. it sometimes makes sense to get rid of it at the source. Many mixers have bass rolloff switches on preamps, so if the mic does not have it it is usually no big deal.

Curse Your Branches: Mixing & Mastering Notes
Category: Sound Engineers
Tags: TW Walsh David Bazan Curse Your Branches

Curse Your Branches: Mixing & Mastering Notes

BAZAN Curse Your Branches
Mixing & Mastering Notes
As recalled by Timothy William Walsh, several months after the fact.


Dave recorded most of this stuff at his house in the finished basement. It’s got drywall and carpet. I haven’t been there in a while, so I don’t know what it’s looking like now, but the drum recordings were pretty “live” in that you can hear the reflections off the walls and ceilings.

I think he came out to my house in Massachusetts twice towards the end of 2008. My mixing/mastering room is in my mostly unfinished basement with some acoustic treatment. He would be finishing edits on his iMac while I was mixing. We did some of the vocals at my house too. My main lead vocal sound approach on the entire record was EQ & compression with single “slapback” analog style delay. The primary vocal delay is a plugin by Audio Damage called Dubstation.

I remember the process being really fun and relaxed. Dave and I got along well and we were really in our element. Way moreso than I ever felt when I was in his band, in fact. It was a good time and I think the record reflects that we were unified in trying to make this thing great.

1. Hard To Be
If I remember correctly, this was one of the toughest songs to get the drums right on. The part is syncopated and the performance was a bit loose. There’s no eighth note ride mechanism…so the drums needed to carry through every measure without the natural momentum of the high hat.

There are also a lot of dense, atmospheric elements which all needed their own space in the mix. So I carefully EQ’d and panned each track, just trying to create a complete picture. I also applied just enough reverb and delay to give the song depth. It’s always a challenge to make a song exciting without loud guitars, so I needed to use compression to add that dimension. The acoustic guitar and piano are compressed just enough to sound exciting and cut through the mix, but not too much as to lose their dynamics.

2. Bless This Mess
This song is pretty bombastic, and again, it’s lacking loud electric guitars. Dave really wanted the organ-ish synths in the intro really loud (what we call an “Achtung Baby” mix approach, where a single instrument is louder than the rest of the mix combined), and it was challenging to get it just right. The EQ needed to be such that those would cut and rise above the mix, but wouldn’t get painfully harsh.

Originally, a lot of the tracks in this song were run through some wacky pedal Dave had borrowed from John Roderick (The Electro-Harmonix POG?), but we decided that the cumulative effect of that used repeatedly was ruining the mix, so we went back to the original, or “natural” sounds.

I remember that Dave wanted the gang vocals all shimmery and bright, but I thought that they should be a bit more dull and “bandpassy” and Dave went along with me. I think that Roderick’s pedal may have ended up on some of those vocal tracks.

There are handclaps throughout this entire song – an interesting aesthetic choice. I think I bussed them in with the drums so the drum compression would bring the claps up in volume during gaps in the drum pattern.

Synth bass has a lot of subharmonic content, so you have to be careful. I think there were several versions of the bass with various overtones and I chose different ones for different sections of the song.

3. Please, Baby Please
I remember the vocals being problematic on this one. Dave had recorded them with a mic I had recommended (Joly Oktavamod MK-219), but he had compressed them to “tape” with a Distressor and there was something funny about the dynamics. He also seemed to have moved around a lot during the performance, so the EQ on the track was all over the place. I had to work hard to whip them into shape with lots of EQ, compression, and automation.

The doubled nylon string guitars propel the song nicely. Josh Ottum’s little punctuated guitar parts are great. I used a stereo delay on Josh’s tracks and panned those pretty wide. Great backing vocals by Dave on this song.

4. Curse Your Branches
This might be my favorite song on the record. There are a lot of cool details…originally, it featured acoustic drums, and during the beginning of the song you can still hear an “echo” of these in the background, in the left ear. The guitar tones are awesome and the parts are really well written. Little things swelling up here and there, and there are weird delay noises that come and go. Dave recorded all those – they weren’t really mix introductions. I love how the drums drop out for the first chorus. It sounds majestic.

Again, I just tried to create space for each element in the song through EQ, panning and ambience. The drum machine needed to be dry and punchy, and a bit squishy.

5. Harmless Sparks
The intro of this song was kind of a nightmare. We had a couple takes of it…but I think they were both single tracks with both guitar and vocals together through the same microphone. Once again, Dave had compressed it as he was recording and something just didn’t jibe, so I had to sculpt it quite a bit to make it work. It still sounds a little janky to me.

It was also difficult to get the relative volume and sound of the intro to work with the rest of the song. The intro had to be audible, but the song had to get huge after the intro, and it all had to flow together. This especially became an issue during mastering, because you have tracks on either side of this song and you can’t have people adjusting their volume over and over again. I remember that the floor tom/kick drum sounded pretty bad too, so that took a while to figure out.

I’m pleased with the stereo imaging on this one. I was able to pan the acoustic guitar pretty far left for the whole song and it doesn’t sound asymmetrical. Great steel guitar by Casey Foubert.

6. When We Fell
My other favorite on the record. I played bass. I don’t think Dave gave me any comments or feedback as I was doing it – it just seemed like the natural thing to play, and I guess he liked it. My bass is a Kay hollow body from the 60’s. I played with an orange Dunlop Tortex medium pick, and I went direct through the Radial J48 direct box into the OSA preamp. Hopefully my part fits the song and propels the thing forward.

I think the drums are a combination of James McAlister playing a floor tom and a drum machine on the kick and snare. Anyway, this song has a great White Album vibe, and I’m glad Dave got to finally express his love of that record through a song of his own. There’s a little bit at the end of the second chorus where we added some reverse reverb on the snare. I was skeptical about the idea, but Dave persevered and in the end it sounded cool.

7. Lost My Shape
I think this was one of the first mixes I finished. I drenched everything in reverb, and I remember thinking it sounded awesome until I came back to it later after several more mixes. I still kept it pretty close but maybe just tightened it up a bit. I wanted it to sound like Mazzy Star, or what I imagined Mazzy Star to sound like, because I’ve only heard one song of theirs. Dave likes his vocals very loud, and I remember this song seeming problematic in mastering because it feels like the whole song gets a lot louder when the vocals come in. Again, awesome lap steel from Foubert.

I think it was my idea to mute the band at the beginning of the second verse, and fade in the acoustic guitar. It just seemed like the song needed a dynamic shift there.

First time I’ve ever mixed a song with triangle in it.

8. Bearing Witness
Very well-written song, but a nightmare to mix. The drums were recorded with one microphone, and without much thought. Dave ended up liking the performance, though, and wanted to keep them. We did a LOT of work on the drums, and they sound fine, but the song does not rock nearly as much as it could have.

The approach we took in the end was a kind of a “Beatles” mix with panning the drums to the left. It was difficult to get the balance of the instruments right with the drums panned, but when I had them in the middle, the mix got way too cluttered and the drums competed with the vocals. Ultimately, after many iterations of the mix, I got it right.

I like the little piano trill at the beginning of the second verse. Dave had me adjust the volume of that 1 second piano part at least 5 times. I like the guitar lead in the intro sections. I think Dave wrote that part several years ago.

9. Heavy Breath
This song went through a couple different versions. At one point I actually thought it would get scrapped because it wasn’t working. The original arrangement was kind of a Pedro the Lion thing with electric guitars and acoustic drums, but it sounded uninspired and sonically crusty. Things started to click when Dave decided to go with electronic drums, strummed acoustic guitar and synth strings. When he added the lead guitar licks it really came together.

I really like the Space Echo reverb on the snare. During mixing, Dave changed a couple chords in the bridge and I remember objecting to it. This song reminds me of Starflyer – especially the bass intro with the strings and tamborine.

10. In Stitches
This song is special to me because Dave’s dad plays piano. Big Dave hunching over the keys with his gigantic hands gently pounding out the chords…that’s an evocative image.

There isn’t really anything unusual about this mix, except I was careful and deliberate about getting the right drum mix and the correct piano sound, since it’s so central to the arrangement. I think it was my idea to mute the acoustic guitar in the first verse and have it come in part of the way through the song. It’s nice when you can make arrangement changes during mixing and preserve the illusion that it was performed that way.

I love the piano outro. It’s so well composed and beautifully performed. The final chord…the lifting of the pedal…the breathing. Heavy.

There are actually three versions of this master. I did the first CD master in January with plugin/digital EQ and a Crane Song STC-8 mastering compressor. This master was used for the promotional press copies, and is probably what most reviews are based upon. This master sounds good. It’s dynamic and warm, but a little dark. It’s also kind of on the quiet side. It might be interesting for superfans and collectors to check out if they can find it.

Some time after I made this master, I traded the STC-8 for an API 2500 and I also picked up 2 API 550m mastering EQs. I checked with Dave, Bob and Barsuk, and there was time to revise the master before the retail manufacturing started, so I went ahead and did it again with my new setup. I basically replicated the EQ from the first master with the analog EQs, and just went with my gut on the compressor. The transformers on the API added a nice creaminess to the low mids, and preserved the high end better. I love the coloration. I also took a different approach to the final brickwall limiting on this version. Initially I experimented with clipping the inputs of my Lavry Blue converters, but ultimately I used Voxengo Elephant 3.0. I did want the record to be accessible from a loudness standpoint, so I tried to bring up the level without compromising the transients too much. There is a dimension of “squishiness” to the sound introduced at this point in the process, but I preferred it to the distortion or clipping of other approaches I tried. Dave liked it better too. This is the version in retail stores and being distributed digitally.

My favorite master is the one I prepared for vinyl. I delivered something very close to the second CD master – API EQ and compression – but with almost no limiting. It’s a very open and dynamic sound. These files are also 24 bit as opposed to the CD-quality 16 bit files, and contain 50% more information. There’s so much depth there. I’m looking forward to hearing the record on a turntable.

The record was mixed “in the box”, but we did occasionally run tracks out to effects and re-record the return signal. During mixing, we were monitoring through a MOTU 896 with a Black Lion Audio Micro Clock. But by the time I was mastering CYB, my converters had been upgraded to Lavry Blues and a Benchmark DAC-1. My speakers are B&W Matrix 805’s. My amp is an old Bryston 2B. Stereo EQ: API 550m’s. Stereo compression: API 2500.

Overall this was a fun project and I’m very pleased with how it turned out. It was also nice to come full circle in my working relationship with Dave.

You can read more about my studio, my work and how to contact me at

Apollo Twin. High-Resolution Desktop Music Production with Classic Analog Sound.
Category: Sound Engineers
Apollo Twin. High-Resolution Desktop Music Production with Classic Analog Sound.
With its class-leading resolution and Realtime UAD Processing, Apollo Twin sets a new standard for desktop music production. This 2x6 Mac Thunderbolt interface allows you to record with near-zero latency through the full range of UAD Powered Plug-Ins — ingeniously merging classic analog tones with cutting-edge features.
Key Features
  • World-class 24-bit/192 kHz audio conversion
  • Realtime UAD Processing — track through vintage Compressors, EQs, Tape Machines, and Guitar Amp plug-ins with near-zero latency*
  • Cascade up to four Thunderbolt-equipped Apollos and six total UAD-2 devices — adding I/O and DSP as needed
  • Unison™ technology for stunning models of classic mic preamps**
  • Available with either UAD-2 SOLO or UAD-2 DUO DSP Processing onboard
  • Thunderbolt connection for blazing-fast PCIe speed on modern Macs
  • 2 premium mic/line preamps; 2 line outs; front-panel Hi-Z instrument input and headphone output
  • Digitally controlled analog monitor outputs for full resolution at all listening levels
  • Uncompromising analog design, superior components, and premium build quality throughout 
  • Includes "Realtime Analog Classics" UAD plug-in bundle
Record and Mix with Stunning
24-bit/192 kHz Sound Quality
With the highest dynamic range and lowest noise of any desktop interface, Apollo Twin gives you stellar 24-bit/192 kHz sound and breathtaking clarity.
Its premium mic preamps, input stage, and audio conversion are identical to the famed Apollo series, translating into rich three-dimensional recordings with exceptional depth and punch. Digitally controlled analog monitor outputs provide full resolution audio (without digital scaling) at all listening levels — letting you create better mixes in real-world environments.
A Complete Analog Studio with
Realtime UAD Plug-In Processing
Imagine having access to a classic analog recording studio, right on your desktop. Apollo Twin lets you record and mix through the full range of UAD Powered Plug-Ins — including vintage EQs, compressors, reverbs, tape machines and more — at near-zero latency, regardless of your audio software buffer size. With award-winning UAD plug-ins from Ampex, Lexicon, Neve, Moog, Roland, SSL, Studer, and more,* Apollo Twin serves up authentic analog tone and warmth. 
The key to its analog magic is onboard UAD-2 SOLO or DUO DSP Processing, which powers the UAD plug-ins while reducing the strain on your host CPU. Apollo Twin includes the "Realtime Analog Classics" plug-in bundle, featuring a choice selection of vintage compressors, EQs and reverb, plus guitar amps and tube mic preamp emulation. From there, you can choose from a vast and expanding collection of plug-ins in the UA Online Store.

Track Through Classic Mic Preamps Using Unison™ Technology
High-speed Thunderbolt Connection to
your Mac
Unison technology allows Apollo Twin’s mic preamps to sound and behave like the world's most sought-after tube and solid state preamps — including their all-important impedance, gain stage “sweet spots,” and circuit behaviors. Based on breakthrough integration between Apollo’s digitally controlled analog mic preamps and its onboard UAD processing, Unison lets you track through colorful preamp emulations like the bundled UA 610-B Tube Preamp plug-in, with more emulations coming soon.
Apollo Twin’s Thunderbolt connection features ultra-fast PCIe audio drivers for high-bandwidth, low-latency performance on all Thunderbolt-equipped Macs. Because Thunderbolt offers 12x the bandwidth of FireWire 800, you can connect numerous devices in line with Apollo Twin — including hard drives and HDMI/USB3 hubs — all with fast, flawless performance.

Professional I/O Connections
Apollo Twin is a 2-in/6-out interface with two class-leading mic/line preamps, two analog line outputs, two digitally controlled analog monitor outputs, and up to eight additional channels of digital inputs via Optical connection. Its conveniently located Hi-Z instrument input and headphone jack allow you to capture inspiration the moment it strikes.
Console Application and Console Recall Plug-In
The Console application is Apollo Twin’s software control interface. Its intuitive, analog console-style design provides “realtime” tracking and monitoring with UAD Powered Plug-Ins — a feature not found in any other interface. Complete Apollo Twin Console setups can be saved as presets, or even saved within your sessions using the Console Recall plug-in (VST/AU/RTAS/AAX 64). This enables hardware recall of all Apollo Twin settings, even months and years after you last opened your session.
36 Audio Interfaces Under $1000
Category: Sound Engineers
Tags: Audio Interfaces Low-Cost

36 Audio Interfaces Under $1000

Most home studios today are centered around a personal computer. (And yes - despite what the ad says, a Mac is a personal computer too.) An audio interface is the audio gateway from the outside world into your computer.

Most computers come with a sound card with line and mic inputs, and many people use these when starting out with audio recording. But if you are serious about the quality of your work, you should avoid them. They have inferior audio to digital converters, and often produce a good deal of noise. You need to choose a professional audio interface that allows you to plug in your mics and instruments, and connects to your computer through a USB, Firewire, PCI or PCMCIA interface.

Most of the links in this article are to Amazon’s online store, which gives you access to pricing, features and specifications, and user reviews for most products. You can support Audiotuts by making a purchase using one of these links. Here are the links to the manufacturer’s audio interface page for the major brands:

When choosing your audio interface, there are several things you need to keep in mind:

The first question that normally comes up when buying something new is how much you are willing or able to spend. With audio equipment, the upper limit is always higher than you can afford. In this article we’ll try to keep the price below USD$1000, and cover the more expensive options in a future article. Setting the bottom limit can be tricky - there is always cheap gear out there that isn’t worth buying.

I’m in the market for an inexpensive audio interface at the moment. The advice I’ve received from everyone I’ve spoken to is to avoid the bottom range of interfaces entirely - they sacrifice quality to save you money. However, if you are after something supremely portable, or you have severely limited cash, you might want to consider them. The cheap units tend to be very small and portable, and they are certainly much better than your computer’s built-in sound card.

If you’ve decided to ignore conventional wisdom and get one of these units, Behringer, M-Audio and Edirol have small and cheap audio interfaces:

Edirol UA-1EX USB Audio Interface
One of My favorite programs
Category: Sound Engineers
Published on Mar 13, 2013

Part 5: Working in Session View

See the whole series:

Beats down to a science
Category: Sound Engineers

Back in the 1960s and early 1970s, when custom hotrods were at the apex of trendiness, every would-be motorhead wanted a hood scoop on his ride, even if he didn't actually have a clue how it would make the car go faster. Today, if you're a teen or twenty-something and into hip-hop music, the equivalent of the hood scoop is Beats Audio, a sound-reproduction technology that's as mysteriously amorphous as it is pricey.

Also known as Beats by Dr. Dre, the monster-selling hip-hop artist-turned-producer who ostensibly developed it in the mid-2000s, the Beats brand includes a variety of gadgets -- headphones, earbuds, laptop computers and phones -- that are touted as having the capability to reproduce the full spectrum of sound that musical artists and producers hear in professional recording studios [source:].

"People aren't hearing all the music," Dr. Dre explains on the Web site for Beats Electronics LLC, the Santa Monica, Calif.-based company that he cofounded with Jimmy Iovine, chairman of Interscope Geffen A&M Records, in 2006. "Artists and producers work hard in the studio perfecting their sound. But people can't really hear it with normal headphones. Most headphones can't handle the bass, the detail, the dynamics. Bottom line, the music doesn't move you. With Beats, people are going to hear what the artists hear, and listen to the music the way they should: the way I do" [source:].

Eager to experience that aural nirvana, plenty of music lovers have been willing to plunk down as much as $300 for a pair of Beats by Dr. Dre headphones, or to choose an HP laptop or an HTC phone equipped with Beats technology. The brand captured 53 percent of the $1 billion headphone market in 2011, according to market researcher NPD Group [source: Edwards].

But how Beats Audio actually achieves superior sound -- or whether it does so at all -- are questions that work some Web writer audiophiles into a lather. "Besides a bunch of hype and a red 'b' sticker, what (if anything) is Beats Audio?" a reviewer for Tunelab once groused, after puzzling over the terse, cryptic descriptions on manufacturers' Web sites [source: Tunelab]. "Not even Dre can explain his own product," a British audio reviewer sneers [source:].

Actually, there's a little more to Beats Audio than that.


Universal Audio Annouce Apollo Expanded Software
Category: Sound Engineers
Tags: UA Universal Audio Apollo SOLO DUO

Universal Audio announce Apollo Expanded software

Mix and match Apollos, Console 2.0 & new plug-ins announced

Apollo Console 2.0Due for release in Spring 2015, the UAD Software v8.0 update will introduce exciting new features for the Apollo range of audio interfaces from Universal Audio. The included Apollo Expanded software will allow up to four equipped Apollo units to be cascaded off a single Thunderbolt port, running up to six simultaneous UAD2 devices.

Meanwhile, the new Console 2.0 software is a Retina display-compatible update to the Apollo control panel, boasting 25 new features including channel strip presets that let you save and recall chains of UAD plug-ins, advanced monitoring and headphone cue control features, multi-level undo/redo and plug-in preset auditioning and drag-and-drop functionality.

You can now mix and match up to four Apollo interfacesUAD v8.0 will also add two new effects to the Powered Plug-in library. Antares Auto-Tune Live offers ultra-low latency and real-time pitch correction, while Distortion Essentials emulates three classic pedals: the Ibanez Tube Screamer, ProCo Rat and Electro-Harmonix Big Muff. There's also a new effect called Sound Machine Wood Works ($299) that makes acoustic guitar piezo pickups sound like a studio-miked acoustic. And, on top of that, there's a new Friedman Amplifiers Plug-In Collection by Brainworx ($249) offering emulations of two of the world’s best boutique high-gain amps (BE100 and DS40).


How To Sell Beats Online Like A Pro

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