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Refining my HD/Summing set up...
Old 8th February 2007
  #1
Gear Maniac
 

Refining my HD/Summing set up...

OK short history, own studio, started small and interned in bigger Neve/Studer studio, 5 years ago built my own studio and have worked up to an HD2 Accel, outboard nice pre's, 192 and Apogee Rosetta 800, Nanosync Clock, Dynaudio AIR15's, good assort of mics, and this week I added a Steve Firlot built (of Inward Connections) 14 channel summing mixer.
Ok so the details I'm trying to work out. I have these mixes, they have a lot in them (drums,bass,keys,perc,bgv's, vox) and I am subbing them out of the 192 to the summing box. (in stereo pairs) The summing box has a stereo insert as well, so I am using an Avalon 747 with just a touch of comp inserted in the summing box. Then the outs of the summing box are going in to the 192 to a channel in Protools (same session) that has my mastering plugs. (AC1, Waves Multi, Waves Ren Comp, Waves Lin EQ, to final L2) and lastly I'm using AES/EBU out the 192 to a Masterlink for cd burning.
Now I have been mixing for about 10 years and have had stuff on the radio, television, and in movies, so while I always have room to grow and do not call myself a seasoned veteran, I'm no rookie either.
BUT... for the first time with this chain of events and laying a mix/sudo-master to the ML I was A-Bing my mix with some other professionally done cd's that were like the band I recorded to kind of get my ears attuned, and thus I was really trying to push the summing box to give it an analog, console sound.
So my final mixes on cd sound a little bit over-baked if you know what I mean, they are at the level I want and the mixes seemed to be gelled all the instruments together but I feel like I'm shooting in the dark as far as gain staging all these things. I know I should probably do tests huh at the level I send stuff to the summing box and the input and output of the Avalon 747, then the level I bring the output of the summing box back into the 192 (its touching red on the led lights) and finally I'm using a couple of compressors on my mastering channel the McDSP AC1 kind of like how Charles Dye sets final buss AC1, the Waves Mastering stuff (Ren Comp, Multi-band, LinEQ, and L2) I know the whole thing is a bit overcomped cause the Choruses in the songs don't seem to pop and drive, I think there over-compressed, but again it seems like a crap-shoot getting all these gain stages correct. The summing box has a volume knob out and I have this all the way up, my avalon input is at '0' and the output +1 or +2, and then every mastering plug output is kind of bumping up the sound along the way. Nothing on these compressors is showing a lot of compression and I don't think I'm hitting the L2 that hard. Its like I'm gaining warmth but over-baking my mixes/sudo-master a bit. If the band wants to use my mastering guy, I will take the stuff off and let the ME do the dirty work and final limiting but any help just getting nice mixes to these guys? Do I have to many things going at one time here? Maybe someone is doing kind of the same thing and has some advice... :-)
thanks
sam
Old 8th February 2007
  #2
Quote:
Originally Posted by Earwitness View Post
OK short history, own studio, started small and interned in bigger Neve/Studer studio, 5 years ago built my own studio and have worked up to an HD2 Accel, outboard nice pre's, 192 and Apogee Rosetta 800, Nanosync Clock, Dynaudio AIR15's, good assort of mics, and this week I added a Steve Firlot built (of Inward Connections) 14 channel summing mixer.
Ok so the details I'm trying to work out. I have these mixes, they have a lot in them (drums,bass,keys,perc,bgv's, vox) and I am subbing them out of the 192 to the summing box. (in stereo pairs) The summing box has a stereo insert as well, so I am using an Avalon 747 with just a touch of comp inserted in the summing box. Then the outs of the summing box are going in to the 192 to a channel in Protools (same session) that has my mastering plugs. (AC1, Waves Multi, Waves Ren Comp, Waves Lin EQ, to final L2) and lastly I'm using AES/EBU out the 192 to a Masterlink for cd burning.
Now I have been mixing for about 10 years and have had stuff on the radio, television, and in movies, so while I always have room to grow and do not call myself a seasoned veteran, I'm no rookie either.
BUT... for the first time with this chain of events and laying a mix/sudo-master to the ML I was A-Bing my mix with some other professionally done cd's that were like the band I recorded to kind of get my ears attuned, and thus I was really trying to push the summing box to give it an analog, console sound.
So my final mixes on cd sound a little bit over-baked if you know what I mean, they are at the level I want and the mixes seemed to be gelled all the instruments together but I feel like I'm shooting in the dark as far as gain staging all these things. I know I should probably do tests huh at the level I send stuff to the summing box and the input and output of the Avalon 747, then the level I bring the output of the summing box back into the 192 (its touching red on the led lights) and finally I'm using a couple of compressors on my mastering channel the McDSP AC1 kind of like how Charles Dye sets final buss AC1, the Waves Mastering stuff (Ren Comp, Multi-band, LinEQ, and L2) I know the whole thing is a bit overcomped cause the Choruses in the songs don't seem to pop and drive, I think there over-compressed, but again it seems like a crap-shoot getting all these gain stages correct. The summing box has a volume knob out and I have this all the way up, my avalon input is at '0' and the output +1 or +2, and then every mastering plug output is kind of bumping up the sound along the way. Nothing on these compressors is showing a lot of compression and I don't think I'm hitting the L2 that hard. Its like I'm gaining warmth but over-baking my mixes/sudo-master a bit. If the band wants to use my mastering guy, I will take the stuff off and let the ME do the dirty work and final limiting but any help just getting nice mixes to these guys? Do I have to many things going at one time here? Maybe someone is doing kind of the same thing and has some advice... :-)
thanks
sam

It sounds like its either a:

1) Pseudo mastering issue-basically you trying to match the levels that modern released rock records have which is a thing all in it self(check the mastering forumn).

2) A mixing issue- if the choruses don't pop and drive than its more of a mixing issue. Yeah you do have a ton of stuff on the tracks(too much so if you ask me) and that can take some of the life of the mix, but under heavy duress in mastering the choruses should still stand out. This speaks of creating peaks and valleys in the mix or what we call dynamics.

3) The summing box- Yeah i know its heresy around here to claim that an analog summing box can dull your mixes and take the edge off but i've seen and heard it first hand. You say you have to drive the Inward box hard to get it to sound like an analog console? That sounds like an issue to me. When mixing on an SSL or any analog console you are constantly monitoring the output stages as its hitting the mixbuss to stay in the sweetspot. Now certain consoles deal with it differently some are more varied than others. But keep in mind you are summing up to 96 inputs at once so yeah its possible if you are not careful to overshoot it. When you overshoot it it will either collapse(get small), clip or get slightly distorted(especially in the mids). Its rare it gets bigger.

You have to ask yourself what am i going for in trying to drive this summing box so hard? Because you have to know that it has limitations and maybe what you are looking for it can't do(remember its just a summing resistive network with a custom John Hall makeup amp). That's it. So basically what i am saying is if your mix aint happening before you hit it than it won't magically get bigger,thicker, wider because you are running it through it. Now you can do your processing externally which will give you some things(less conversions) and to my ears sounds more natural. Also running the kick,bass,snare,vocals on their own can make them more clear and punchy(because they typically center the mix). But than you will quickly run out channels, have no way to automate it, need outboard gear(a good thing), you know than might as well buy a console...blah,blah,blah.

Why not try your mix without it(i know GS heresy again) and see if it gets you closer to the sound you want? Also start pulling out some of the plugs one by one and see what it does. You'd be suprised that the old adage is true...less is more.
Old 9th February 2007
  #3
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by thethrillfactor View Post
It sounds like its either a:

1) Pseudo mastering issue-basically you trying to match the levels that modern released rock records have which is a thing all in it self(check the mastering forumn).

2) A mixing issue- if the choruses don't pop and drive than its more of a mixing issue. Yeah you do have a ton of stuff on the tracks(too much so if you ask me) and that can take some of the life of the mix, but under heavy duress in mastering the choruses should still stand out. This speaks of creating peaks and valleys in the mix or what we call dynamics.

3) The summing box- Yeah i know its heresy around here to claim that an analog summing box can dull your mixes and take the edge off but i've seen and heard it first hand. You say you have to drive the Inward box hard to get it to sound like an analog console? That sounds like an issue to me. When mixing on an SSL or any analog console you are constantly monitoring the output stages as its hitting the mixbuss to stay in the sweetspot. Now certain consoles deal with it differently some are more varied than others. But keep in mind you are summing up to 96 inputs at once so yeah its possible if you are not careful to overshoot it. When you overshoot it it will either collapse(get small), clip or get slightly distorted(especially in the mids). Its rare it gets bigger.

You have to ask yourself what am i going for in trying to drive this summing box so hard? Because you have to know that it has limitations and maybe what you are looking for it can't do(remember its just a summing resistive network with a custom John Hall makeup amp). That's it. So basically what i am saying is if your mix aint happening before you hit it than it won't magically get bigger,thicker, wider because you are running it through it. Now you can do your processing externally which will give you some things(less conversions) and to my ears sounds more natural. Also running the kick,bass,snare,vocals on their own can make them more clear and punchy(because they typically center the mix). But than you will quickly run out channels, have no way to automate it, need outboard gear(a good thing), you know than might as well buy a console...blah,blah,blah.

Why not try your mix without it(i know GS heresy again) and see if it gets you closer to the sound you want? Also start pulling out some of the plugs one by one and see what it does. You'd be suprised that the old adage is true...less is more.

Agree with Thrill. You are definitely making a BIG mistake if you are comparing your mixes to great commercial stuff in the "loudness" dept. and expecting your mixes to stand up to theirs considering the chain you have mentioned.

When you hear what really great mastering can do to a simple, yet dynamic and punchy mix, it's truly mesmerizing. It's not uncommon for the the loudest of the loud commercial hardcore bands to bring mixes to a mastering engineer that have 4-8 db of headroom in them. Pre-mastered you'd have to turn them way up, but the dynamics are real intense.
Old 9th February 2007
  #4
Whaddup, Sam? I use both the Neve 8816 (at home) and John's box (at EZ's) and think you should definitely be able to get smokin' mixes out of ANY summing unit. We run racks of outboard along the way and always make sure to run tones through everything when starting out. Just so we're off on the right foot. Feel free to email or call me anytime if you want to discuss some of your issues in person.

- Long
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