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Mixing for the Radio?
Old 12th February 2007
  #1
Here for the gear
 

Mixing for the Radio?

Kevin,

I was privileged to sit in on a mix session for a large budget project in Nashville about ten years ago. The "artist" was inexperienced and expressing displeasure with the mixes which sounded very good in my judgment, especially the instrumental tracks. When confronted with the artist's displeasure and suggestions, the mix engineer commented that he thought they were mixing for the radio. There was no further elaboration. I assume he was referring to overall tonality, perceived volume, and the impact of the music after multi-band compression. Is this ever a concern for you and has it affected your approach to mixing. If so, could you share some of those concerns and approaches?
Old 12th February 2007
  #2
Good topic.

Brian Eno has been on record to say a lot of U2's "The Unforgettable Fire" was mixed by monitoring via a "boom box" (portable cassette / radio player with line inputs). Can you confirm this?

You have said in posts here that you always use one when mixing as a reference...

Was a boom box put to a lot of use on the mix sessions of that album?

Did producers Eno and / or Lanois adopt an expirimental, self imposed discipline of ONLY listening to mixes via the boom box?

Thanks

Old 12th February 2007
  #3
Lives for gear
 
The dman's Avatar
 

Kevin, thank you for all your valuable insights.

I don't know if my memory is slipping but i think I remember reading in Mix years ago that when PG recorded So, each musician had a boom box set up to monitor from. Is this true?

Thanks
Old 12th February 2007
  #4
engineer / producer / mixer
 
Kevin Killen's Avatar
 

DSD,

I believe that was for "US" and they had a mac that would show the form in a block representational way. I have no idea what program they were running but the idea was they could quickly amend the form themselves or just suggest a change for the other band members to follow.

Kevin
Old 12th February 2007
  #5
engineer / producer / mixer
 
Kevin Killen's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jules View Post
Good topic.

Brian Eno has been on record to say a lot of U2's "The Unforgettable Fire" was mixed by monitoring via a "boom box" (portable cassette / radio player with line inputs). Can you confirm this?

You have said in posts here that you always use one when mixing as a reference...

Was a boom box put to a lot of use on the mix sessions of that album?

Did producers Eno and / or Lanois adopt an expirimental, self imposed discipline of ONLY listening to mixes via the boom box?

Thanks


Jules,

It certainly was used as a reference,but not to the exclusion of other systems. When mixing, one tries to find a balance that works the best of the majority of playback systems, which in and of itself is a connundrum. Who knows whether each system is optomized and what deficiencies are inherent. You mix in such a way that the tonal representations are modified equally. So if your studio monitors / control are inaccurate it will be revealed on other systems.

I once worked on a project where the producer kept wanting me to add high end to the mixes. It was not a case of diminshed hearing I can assure you, but each time he listened at home off a cassette , the same request would come back. The artist and I were concerned because at this stage the mix could cut your hair off from 1000 feet, so a "home visit" was in order.

In that environment , the mixes did indeed sound dull and lifeless. I checked out the wiring and speakers, everything appeared normal. So i dug a little deeper.I brought a few supplies, cotton buds, iso propyl alcohol , swipes and performed a cleaning on the cassette player. The amount of oxide that I removed from those heads would have filled a small vial. When we played the cassette again it was like, "duck" . Thankfully we were able to adjust the mix easily and move the project forward.

So I do use them, but because I am very comfortable using my own systems , I feel fairly confident that the mixes will translate That just comes from experience.

In terms of "Unforgettable Fire", it was a combo of the studio monitors, NS 10's , Auratones, a boombox and Edge and bono's car systems.

Old 12th February 2007
  #6
Rock on! Thanks!
Old 12th February 2007
  #7
engineer / producer / mixer
 
Kevin Killen's Avatar
 

Don,

That is such a good question. I recently read Geoff Emerick's biography "Here There and Everywhere" and he talks about mixing for the radio quite a bit. Its a worthy read.

When I first started making records, you had to listen to a mono compatible mix through an auratone speaker. It was not a flattering reference, but it was a real reference as to how the majority of AM stations sounded. Nowdays with FM, Satellite, public radio stations its nigh on impossible to know the "broadcast curve" of each station. Add to it the amount of broadband compression and its a minefield.

If a particular approach is requested, say "the mix should sound like Usher meets Kate Bush on steroids" then I will listen to those CD's. Then I mix the track to sound as good as I can achieve in the environment that I know best and TRUST. I will reference some additional systems to achieve conformity. When I master, I will alert Bob Ludwig to the fact that song title "X and Y" are the singles and we he will do a separate mastering curve for that purpose, which is different and more radical than the album mastering.

I truly cannot let it affect my approach otherwise I am negating my own judgement and experience which is part of the reason I was hired in the first place.

A good example is listening to XM or Sirrius Radio. It sounds like a tight delayed harmonized version of what I had done. I do not know how you factor that process into the mix environment. The only mitigating factor is that all the music sounds the same way .

Hope that helps

kevin
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