This weekend I’ve just had my fits of the mixing woes. For the first time, I’ve played Unto The Stars on the stereo in my living room. While it sounds quite alright on the studio monitors, headphones, in the car, generally on smaller speakers, and even in mono, on my stereo, it sounded like a catastrophe of epic proportions. Well, perhaps not all epic, but at least like a sonic landslide that takes about a million people into the abyss.
The bass frequencies and lower mids were drowning everything in mud. Kick drum and bass were fighting bloodily like their lives depended on it, the snare hid anxiously behind the mid mud of the other instruments, and the overall high frequencies sounded like… just like most of them were on vacation in the bermuda triangle.
I realize that this must be a result of the linear frequency response on my studio monitors, and the lack thereof on my stereo. Plus a lack of experience on my part. I know for a fact, that most low to mid price stereoes are like that. They have an S-curve built into their frequency response in order to make hip-hop sound as if it were real music. So there… I could have expected that, had I just used the grey matter between my ears a little more right from the start (noticed how I call myself stupido?) Anyway.
Easy fixing, you say, right? I thought so, too. So I fired up Logic Audio and pulled some bass from the drumset, and saw to it that bass guitar and kick drums are not in each others way, frequency wise. I gave the vocals some more highs and even made them a little louder. I worked on the sound of the guitars, made them wider, and pulled the stereo master up against the limiter a little more. In short: I did two dozen things at once. Then I listened to the result on my stereo again.
Geezus frakking ghost! I almost puked. Yes, kick drum and bass weren’t fighting that much anymore, and some of the high frequencies were back from the bermudas. But everything sounded so disjoint, dull and very non-pro. Not even semi-pro anymore like it did before. So I went back to Logic Audio, and jumbled the knobs a little more. Then went back to the living room. It sounded even worse. The highs got nicer, the mids badder. I mean, worse.
I did that for three hours straight, bouncing about 20 versions from Logic Audio, listening, frowning, hissing, cursing, hoping my neighbours were not forming a lynch mob just yet, and doing it over again. And it would get worse all the time. Later that night, I’d eventually give up. I realised that, in order to get a mix that would play o.k. on my (and everyone elses) stereo, I’d have to start the mixdown procedure all over. Not just tweak here and there, but pull all faders and knobs to zero, erase the automation, and redo from start. Or else, just leave it to some pro mixing engineer in the distant future of humanity.
Then I poured myself a bourbon.
And that’s the morale of today’s story, dear boys, girls and aliens from outer space: No better sounding version of Unto The Stars for you and me just yet. Now sue me!
February 26th, 2007