Will keep this very brief as I’m unsure who has the time to read through all these posts.
I would just like to add that I’ve been mixing for more years than you could imagine and I have many reference mixes that I marvel at and have never been able to even approach (quality wise) – But it’s what keeps me growing and trying to progress and develop… they set A VERY HIGH BENCHMARK.
You try to match the general amounts of bass/mid/top and sit back and think your mix is ok because it’s in the same superficial ballpark… then realise that the reference mix is still somehow elusively more impressive. It’s tight, yet, extended, it has an expensive sheen that was most likely innate to the mix before it reached the mastering engineers ears. And you know it didn’t come from any ‘high gloss, super-sheen’ plug-in.
Then you notice that the drums have what is commonly known as ‘knock’ – the frequency which makes them pokey and upfront on a small speaker – but then when you listen on a large monitor they sound thunderous! You return to your own mix to find that you can achieve satisfactory ‘knock’ or ‘weight’ but not both with the same level of authority then you realise that it's more than simply combining the correct (knock/weight) drum samples.
Then you notice that the reference mix has absolutely no instrumentation which is competing with anything else, and you know the transparency you're hearing is more than text book ‘selective frequency’ mixing technique.
Then you notice that although the level is slamming, the reference mix doesn’t sound flat but remains completely open and three dimensional.
Then you notice the vocals are loud and proud without being detached from the track and you know it’s more than simple compression.
Then you realise that the reference mix sounds different on every playback system but somehow ‘right’ in the context of each one.. and you know it’s more than great mastering… and on and on and on and on and on….
Now when you have a long checklist and realise that the reference mix simultaneously and effortlessly ticks everything on the list with equal poise and assurance you know you are listing to something very special
that is in my opinion and example of a very high level of artistry.
Back in the day someone once told me not to even try to match those mixes because it’s impossible – But those are the mixes I aspire to…even now after years and years!
I HAVE noticed a trend of late though… mixes that have that rough and ready ‘quality’ . . . (i have some machines and i'm going to turn them on
mixes) - even i've done some of those!!!! I’ve been debating with myself for a long time – asking ‘what’s the point of aspiring to the greats when everyone is lapping up those ‘anyhow mixes’ …. Are times changing? I really don’t know to be honest.
Once Michael Angelo was considered a skilful and great artist… then a new generation came along and challenged that whole notion of definitions of ‘great’ by saying ‘look at my three lines that I’ve drawn, they are equal to Michael Angelo because I deem them to be Art and therefore can conceptualise them as being a valid Artform… and eventually what was once considered great became to be considered great no more ... (by many)
And right there I’ll stop… because this certainly is getting way too deep for GS . . . !!