The No.1 Website for Pro Audio
 Search This Thread  Search This Forum  Search Reviews  Search Gear Database  Search Synths for sale  Search Gearslutz Go Advanced
Synths cut through too much alongside my 12bit samplers. How to fix mix? Compressors? Keyboard Synthesizers
Old 26th April 2012
Lives for gear

Thread Starter
Synths cut through too much alongside my 12bit samplers. How to fix mix? Compressors?

I am 100% hardware. Also record mix buss to Otari 2-track. I am pretty new at production. Main seq is mpc60. Main and only samplers are the mpc60 and s950; which I use all the time, for everything from drums, percs, sound fx, vox samples, loops, etc., etc.

My synths are M1000, TX81Z, Juno 60 and ESQ1; all pretty much considered "dirty". But, I still think they all "pop" and cut through waaay too much in the mix, when being used with so much tracks/layers from my mpc60/s950. I like the sound of the mpc60/s950, it's perfect to me, so I have no complaints there.

And yes, I know I can sample the synths into my 12bit samplers too, to make them mix and match better with the 12bit drums/percs/samples; which I Already do a lot. But, I would like to actually feel the freedom of using my synths more without worrying about them cutting through much and standing out too much. The only thing I probably use them midi'd/seq'ed up in the mix is for bass duties and occasional sound fx (IF I find a patch dirty/rough enough); but my main problem is that strings, pads, keyboard sounds, or almost anything else from my synths just plain pop and cut through waay too much...mainly on patches and sounds in the mid and high frequency registers.

What would solve this?

EQ'ing I already do, and I think it is a crappy solution, but helps a little.

Analog filter? I have an FF, and I honestly think this is a so-so solution as well, as it just subtracts frequencies, similar to EQ.

Compressor? Bingo? Is the Best solution a compressor? I would think so, no? Unless you think otherwise. Right now I have a cheapy 3630; but it is already being strictly/primarily used on a sub-buss to duck bassy things to my kick drum; and is decent at it, since one can hardly hear the quick attack/release duck of a compressor anyways and can hardly hear the quality of the compressor during that super short/quick compress duck/time.

So...if a compressor is the Best solution... then what do you guys recommend/suggest for a compressor to compress the sh*t outta my synths and match my M1000/J60/TX81Z/ESQ1 doing pads/strings/piano/brass/winds/kybds/etc duties, to the many drum/loop/perc/vox/vinyl sampled-tracks/layers of my mpc60/s950???

Sub $400 please. I think I would prefer colored compressors, yeah? Since the mpc60/s950 is very colored, I assume the best choice is a nice colored compressor too.

DBX 160a/x, RNC, other???

Old 26th April 2012
Gear interested

I have a sort of similar setup, I use an E-Mu SP-1200 alongside a TX81Z, MKS-50, and an SH-101.

I find that I am actually spending more time working on the drum sounds to work with the synths instead of what you are suggesting.

I am using the following techniques to get my drums to cut through:
- Running drum sounds (kick and hats specifically) through my mixing board preamp (an old Mackie) a little hot, to get them a tiny bit crispy.
- EQing and adding a significant amount of highs (especially in hats/snares/percussion). The SP-1200 cuts a lot of highs even with no filter, especially if you do the sample pitched up, then pitched down thing.
- Liberal amounts of compression, for shaping the sounds, and punch

Hope this is helpful.
Old 26th April 2012
Lives for gear

Thread Starter
Thanks for the tips.

I run Everything through my mackie as well, both synths and samplers.

I also add a little hot gain on some things to give more punch too, like the kicks and mid/low percs.

Good idea/thinking, in making the 12bit samples cut through, instead of the other way around like in my op. I'll try EQing up the mids and highs of those 12bit samples more in my next jam, to see if I can match the power of the synths.
Old 26th April 2012
Gear addict
modularjack's Avatar

I don't think a compressor is some magic solution to your problems here. Sure you could compress the MPC parts and bring em up hotter, but the real problem is the sheer bandwidth of frequencies being belted out by those sexy analogs. If you run a simple juno note into a spectrum analyzer you'll see what I mean. It's not just a note, it's a wall of sound. EQ is definitely your main tool to hack those synths down a bit and put some space around them. Also I know it may sound obvious but for some reason a lot of people don't seem to do it enough... turn DOWN that overpowering synth. Mix it further back. Unless it's the bass drum or the bass line it's usually preferred to have it mixed back down a bit for dance music.

And then the other way to approach this (which I am learning is about the best way) is to factor it in from the beginnining when you are still writing and arranging the track and designing your sounds. If it's a lead or pad part in the higher frequencies, make sure you're using a highpass filter in the synth and use it to keep the sound in the highs-- carve out the lows and yes even the mids. If it's a bass sound, use a low pass filter and don't forget to *turn the cutoff down* so that the "bass" isn't actually filling up the spectrum and bleeding into your highs and mids. For a real bass sound yes you do want a bit of midrange to make sure something is there for people listening on junk headphones/soundsystems but too much mid in a grindey analog bassline will push your melody/vocals right out of the way and muddy the whole thing up.

Essentially it does come down more to volume levels and EQ than anything else, and bear in mind that a synth filter is an EQ. So you can get even better results if you are thinking of the 3 tiers of soud while you're writing the song and making the synth patches. Then you don't have to do so much emergency surgery with an EQ which is just not as neat and tidy and does tend to give you some odd side effects/artefacts if you are using just EQ and trying to carve chunks out of the spectrum.
Old 26th April 2012
Gear Maniac
Dudley's Avatar


A compressor certainly isn't the answer. the problem you are complaining about is frequency related ; the synths are too bright, or full, or thick. EQ IS a good answer to this problem, not sure why you think it is 'crappy'.

However, it probably has more to do with sound selection. your samplers could have ANY sound in them, so it's hard to judge. But production has got more to do with picking sounds that you feel sit together than it does about trying to hammer square pegs into round holes.

It's the same old G.S. request : " i don't really know how to produce my track so that it sounds good ; can you tell me the magic piece of gear that will make it all better?"

as was said above, there's no magic bullet - just keep learning, and practicing. Compression is almost never the answer to any problem, a lesson I myself took longer to learn than i should have done.Your tracks don't sound great yet because you aren't great yet. Give it a few years, and maybe it will come.
Old 26th April 2012
Lives for gear

Thread Starter
Thx for the tips. Yes, I've heard compressors aren't the answer many times and that even many good producers never even use them while writing. I guess they should be left to the mastering houses post-production.

So I guess the best answer is more emphasis on EQ and mixing than anything, and also as the above stated, sound selections while in the writing stage that sit together better. I notice I am getting better at choosing sounds that sit together more nicely, much more than a year ago.

I am getting better at sound selections and mixing down I noticed, and my EQing is improving. Even though I do scooping, EQing, and giving room/space for each sound, I don't think I do it I will def focus more on it and try to improve more and more.

Thanks for the tips.... saves me money too and I don't need to buy anything
Old 26th April 2012
Lives for gear
It's also a question of what kind of eq are you using. Does your mackie even have a sweepable mids? Clever use of a decent parametric can really do wonders.
Old 26th April 2012
Lives for gear
xanax's Avatar
i can relate using mainly analog synths & 12-bit samplers but also VAs & VIs, it's often times tricky to get em all to sit well in the mix and sound cohesive. i think compression/tape can sometime help glue things but i really must agree with the others that sound selection, EQ & mixing is the first and foremost step. i also run everything through an old mackie but i rely a lot on SSL parametric EQ once i got things tracked in Pro Tools
Old 26th April 2012
Gear Guru
What's the filter on your synths there for? Try using it. With massive tone shaping options in the synth engine itself, i'm not sure why you are thinking external processing is your first call solution. And midi note data can be compressed - a compressor isn't my first call if synth dynamics are out of control.

EQ isn't a "crappy solution" unless you only have crappy EQ.

A lot of classic synth stuff was recorded via amp & microphone ... if you need to make your sound smaller, dirtier and more real that's a good option. Or an amp substitute - Sansamp stuff has been the secret weapon of many big name producers (not just for guitars).

A digital FX processor might work wonders for you. FX usually make a sound smaller and more distant. [irony]It would certainly take the "analog edge" off and make them sound more like your digital stuff[irony/].
Old 26th April 2012
Lives for gear
Ossicle's Avatar
I have a very similar vibe setup: SP1200, mpc3000, roland analogues, analogue mixer.
Glueing the samplers and analogues is often a great challenge. My broadcast mixer helps somewhat. I d agree that the problem might be best solved with eq'ling and arrangement.

The problem i'm often facing is that i don't want to eq much - the jp8, the moog source sound so great raw that it feels nasty to cut them smaller or put them in the back of the mix. Same thing with the sp, it sounds best raw with just a hint of buss compression.

However you might have to accept that a mix might simply not have enough room for both SP beats and analogue synths in their fullest form.

For these reasons I often make very minimalist tunes with just sp beats and one big sounding analogue synth.

Goos analogue eq's might help but your budget should probably be doubled for that.
Old 26th April 2012
Lives for gear
lowkey's Avatar

If you run the synths and sample through the same fx that might help. I also think a nice 2 buss compressor will help glue the elements. Maybe an Overstayer Stereo compressor is just in your budget. You will still need to Eq those synths, but the comp and maybe even a preamp or something on the master outs will help bring all the elements together.
Old 27th April 2012
Lives for gear
xanax's Avatar
on a related note, here is a nice RBMA session with Philippe Zdar (Cassius) a lot cheeky talk and his attitude towards most of this is kinda idgaf but he knows his ish and there are a few good points to take from it, but u can also skip to the quick jam with the SP1200/Juno60/MS10/Live Bass at the end (1:10:00)

Old 27th April 2012
Lives for gear

Amp them.
Old 27th April 2012
many different ways
some distortion can help from different pieces you run it through.
this can be crappy gear or highend (but slammed)
what kind of character is up to you to find out; your own "sound"

compression can help too, especially dirty compression
Old 27th April 2012
nice one.
the interviewer is anoying though
it seems Red Bull has a crate full of those
posted earlier but I don't think you'd mind - if so, please excuse the OT!
Old 27th April 2012
Gear Head

Turn down your synth output and eq a little? (not being an ass

Sorry if I'm not too helpful, but this is the first thing that springs to mind with this hardware set up.
Old 27th April 2012
Registered User

maybe not the only answer.. but a tool that helps.. but needs to be one that kicks and dont weakens the signal..
Thats actually the reason why we use sum compressors.. you dont need to compress electronic tracks.. you can program the levels as you like.. we use the compressor to glue the signals..and we have arteficial rooms to make them bigger and separated within that glue...

some outboard helps..especially on a rather naked mixer like the mackies..

but most definitely you dont weaken your synths. you pump up the other stuff.. or a balance inbetween..

an overdrive fx on one aux send you mix a little in can help to dirten up the signals to give them a shared sonic signature.
Old 27th April 2012
Gear Nut

Use the low-pass filter on your synths and cut as much as you feel comfortable cutting. It will make them fit well with the lo-fi samples. Of course by this I mean using the synth's native filter where possible.
If that isn't enough - some distortion on your 12 bit drums can help too since it will add some brilliance and punch to bring them forward. Also try adding some slight reverb effect to them too.

If you will check out the records from late 80s / early 90s from musicians using old samplers you will often notice that these are common tricks.
Old 27th April 2012
Gear Head

i typed a long reply and session timed out's a short reply

i listened to some of your tracks, all sounds pretty good to me. i have some of the same instruments and i agree with the others that the most important thing is to get it right at the arrangement stage. then levels...ideally you wont need to EQ much. if you don't already, make an effort to mix at a quiet volume sometimes as well. like, uncomfortably quiet. your kick sounds great but think it is too loud. bring the synths UP!
Old 27th April 2012
Gear maniac

^ this.

turn that **** down.
Old 29th April 2012
A compressor can help smash the drums (mpc) to get them louder and beefier. That is what compressors do. Unless you are using modern sample library stuff in the mpc because I have found that all the modern samples are already slammed in level. You may make it worse by adding compression (especially an alesis 3630)
I'm not familiar with the settings of all your synths, but could it be that the synths have no velocity sensitivity so they are playing full blast all the time and the mpc has dynamics which makes the mpc mix sometimes pop out and other times get drowned? I'm pretty sure the Juno 60 has no velocity.
Old 7th May 2012
Gear Head
MarkhamCornoit's Avatar

Wow.....Great tips I have came to know here. I was really in need of such information. Thanks a lot.
Old 7th May 2012
Karloff70's Avatar

Since no one has said it I thought I'd add that another thing to consider is to actually view the sounds of your different sources/synths/samplers being in different spaces as being a good thing, an advantage not a problem. It is much easier to create a good mix with various differing sound sources and doing a little of what you need to, to make it all a one-ness, than trying to spread a load of very similar sources ( like a bunch of soft synths) into anything spatially/ musically interesting.

Other than that I'd go with the comments pointing at trying to do all you can INSIDE each box, like use the internal filters and envelopes and whatever in there to get the sound as much into pocket as possible before grabbing for the eq or comp or whatever to finish it off. Design the sound for the pocket. Then use whatever you still need to bring it home. Often it goes a long way towards home if you tweak your sounds right, but sometimes you just do need eq or other stuff. Oh, and distortion of all types and amounts is always your friend.
Old 7th May 2012
op i have a hunch that what you're doing wrong is simply not having your musical elements in tune with one another.
Old 7th May 2012
This interviewer shows what's the problem with a lot of today's music: obsession with irrelevant details and technical minutia and a lack of fundamental knowledge before tackling on a task. This interviewer is clearly clueless about who he is interviewing. A missed opportunity..
Old 7th May 2012
Gear Addict
Lumin One's Avatar
something like this may help you out. ive seen a better one that includes the drum elements and where they fit in.
Old 7th May 2012
Lives for gear

Old 7th May 2012
Lives for gear

Thread Starter
Very nice link. Thanks much! Perfect for EQ reference :D
Post Reply

Welcome to the Gearslutz Pro Audio Community!

Registration benefits include:
  • The ability to reply to and create new discussions
  • Access to members-only giveaways & competitions
  • Interact with VIP industry experts in our guest Q&As
  • Access to members-only sub forum discussions
  • Access to members-only Chat Room
  • Get INSTANT ACCESS to the world's best private pro audio Classifieds for only USD $20/year
  • Promote your eBay auctions and listings for free
  • Remove this message!
You need an account to post a reply. Create a username and password below and an account will be created and your post entered.

Slide to join now Processing…
Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Similar Threads
Thread Starter / Forum
Rokus666 / So much gear, so little time
SoniqKwality / So much gear, so little time
James Lugo / So much gear, so little time
Dog_Chao_Chao / So much gear, so little time
kurtr2 / Remote Possibilities in Acoustic Music and Location Recording

Forum Jump
Forum Jump