Is the car test still relevant?

“My first mix sounds awesome in my car!”

Said no producer ever…

Every producer and mixer knows the struggle; the infamous car test. You know the drill. You print a near-perfect mix in your home studio and then bounce it with the label, “FINAL MIX_wav”  and send it to your phone. You can feel the excitement, energy and anticipation of releasing your masterpiece into the world…and then you step into your car.

The nervous sweat drips down your back and your ears are clogged from hours of non-stop mixing. You press play and immediately regret not going to law school. OK…maybe it’s not that bad but straight from the bat you know your mix isn’t translating well in your car stereo or even the cheap earbuds that came with your phone. You are not alone.

Why does my mix sounds so terrible in my car? Continue reading Is the car test still relevant?

The Miracle of Mid-Side EQ: Rock Your Mixes and Masters

by Craig Anderton

Sure, the LP EQ is a great linear-phase, stereo EQ. But it was designed for mid-side processing as well as conventional stereo, so let’s explore what mid-side processing is about, and why it’s so important.

LP EQ BASICS 

You can add up to 20 nodes, and each can have one of the following responses:

  • Low shelf
  • High shelf
  • High pass
  • Low pass
  • Peak boost/cut

 

The LP EQ allows up to 20 nodes
The LP EQ allows up to 20 nodes, which can choose from five responses.

However, there’s some intelligence when adding nodes; for example if you double-click to enter a node close to the highest possible frequency, the LP EQ will insert a lowpass filter. At a somewhat lower frequency, there’s a shelving response (although you can of course change these default responses to whatever you like). Drag nodes horizontally to change the frequency or up/down to vary amplitude; a right-click + drag on a node alters the width, as does using the mouse scroll wheel on a selected node.

You can ctrl+click, or draw a marquee around, multiple nodes to select them, but there’s an interesting twist. Suppose a node is set to boost, and another to cut. If you select both, then click on the one that boosts and drag it downward, the amount of boost will decrease. However the one that’s cut will start boosting. This complementary motion allows increasing or decreasing the overall emphasis easily; for example, if you think you went too far with the amount of EQ and want to pull it back, this reduces all aspects equally.

If all the selected nodes either boost or cut, then their amplitudes vary together.

These basics give a flavor of the features, but there’s much more—so click on the UI to give the LP EQ the focus, then press F1 to call up the comprehensive documentation.

MID-SIDE EQ PROCESSING

Mid-side processing encodes a stereo track into two separate components: the center becomes the “mid” component in the left channel, while the stereo track’s right and left elements become the “side” component in the right channel. You can then process these components individually, with automatic decoding back into stereo.

To get started with mid-side processing, click on the LP 64’s Expert button and under Mode, choose Mid/Side. For best results, set the precision to High. This results in the most latency but the highest accuracy, which is important because with mid-side processing, you don’t want any phase shift or sample misalignment—that will interfere with the decoded stereo imaging.

the LP EQ's Expert Mode access Mid-Side processing
The LP EQ’s Expert Mode is the key to doing mid-side processing with EQ. Also note the Mix control for parallel processing.

Processing can be independent for the mid and side components (as it is for the left and right channels in conventional stereo applications). You assign a node to the appropriate component by clicking on the node, and then clicking on M or S (toward the LP EQ’s upper right corner). Here are a few possible applications.

  • With mastering, you can get “inside the file” to do pseudo-remixing on a stereo track. One typical application is giving a slight boost to the higher-frequency side components to provide a bit more “air” and a wider stereo image.
  • If you’ve been seduced by vinyl’s comeback, remember that it’s crucial to center the bass and minimize bass excursions in the sides. With mid-side EQ processing, you can reduce the bass in the sides, and if needed, increase bass a bit in the center. Even if you’re not mastering for vinyl, taking this technique further can give a super-anchored, “center-channel” bass sound.
  • Drums with lots of room ambience can benefit from a bit of upper mids in the sides for extra definition, and a little bit of lower mids in the center to accent the kick.
  • If a synth bass has a wide image that “steps on” other instruments, you can bring down the bass in the sides.
  • For taming reverb, set a node to Mid, select the high pass curve, and slide it all the way to the right to take out essentially everything. Then you can shape the remaining reverb with the side EQ, while chasing the away from the center, where it can muddy the bass and kick.

THE VALUE OF THE MIX CONTROL 

But…how do you know whether you’re really making an improvement to the sound or not? The LP EQ includes a Mix control (accessed in the Expert section) so you can vary the mix from full EQ to no EQ. Yes, parallel processing for EQ…very handy, and even better, the Mix control can be automated (like virtually all other parameters, including display characteristics and bypass).

You can also switch quickly between two different EQ settings with the A/B comparison function.

Granted, there’s no shortage of EQ plug-ins, but the LP EQ truly brings something new to the party. If you’re not familiar what mid-side processing can do with EQ, there’s no better way to find out than with the LP EQ.

Reader’s Choice: The most popular mixing articles of 2014

by Dan Gonzalez
Mixing is and always will be one of the core elements of each and every DAW. Here at Cakewalk, SONAR features hundreds of a ways to mix and process your tracks for personal and commercial use. Here are some of the most popular articles we have featured in 2014.

How to use Reverb to create depth

Mix engineers that have had their time behind a board can pick out the misuse of Reverb when they hear it. Just like with anything, applying the proper Reverb requires more time than just scrolling through the presets of the basic Hall, Room, and Plate algorithms. Music tends to have a significant three-dimensional experience to it. This concept requires the understanding of width, height, and depth. Check out this article on how to use reverb in your mix.

Subtractive EQ Parts 1-5

Equalization is one of the most powerful tools that an audio engineer can get their hands on. Live engineers, post-production engineers, and recording engineers all have their specific uses for it. It’s so powerful that some beginner engineers habitually reach for it without understanding what it can ultimately do to a mix. Check out this 5 part series about how to properly apply EQ

6 creative ways to use the VKFX-Delay

Overloud’s VKFX Delay Module is a rendition of a classic tape delay with an incredible set of parameters that virtually allows you to get just about any sound you please. Check out this frequently read article about how to use this powerful ProChannel module.

Know Your Signal Flow in SONAR

Signal Flow is an important concept to understand, and it may be easier to think about when presented with a diagram of how audio is passes through SONAR. Read the article here.

Ten Nasty Mix Mistakes

Mixing is tough enough as is, but avoiding the following mistakes just might help the process go a little more smoothly—and give you audibly better results. Check out this awesome article by Craig Anderton.

Thanks for reading!

 

Reader’s Choice: Most Popular Guitar Production Articles in 2014

by Dan Gonzalez

14 Tips for Guitars Before Entering the Studio

Entering the studio can be a stressful task if it is your first time. Here at Cakewalk we’ve outlined a few things that every guitarist should know before walking into a tracking session. This article has been brought to you by the our reader’s community as one of the most-read articles, so enjoy! You can check out the article here.

Guitar Month Bonus Pack (Free Downloads)

Cakewalk vetern Craig Andertons brings you some of the top guitar-related content that he has in his vast collection of creations. Check out Continue reading Reader’s Choice: Most Popular Guitar Production Articles in 2014

Reader’s Choice: Most Popular Drum Production articles in 2014

by Dan Gonzalez

Free Quick Kit Project Templates for SONAR X3 Users

 

Yes, we’re bringing back the freebie post from last December. Our Free Quick Kit Project Templates made a big splash with the community as one of our top posts over the last 12 months. These pre-mixed project templates load right from quick start menu in all three versions of SONAR X3 without any assembly required. Open a quick kit, drop in your sequence, and you’re ready to rock with great sounding drums. Now we’re opening it up to anyone who has Session Drummer 3 in their arsenal.  Download the free pack here.

9 Microphone Techniques for Recording a Snare Drum

Ever wanted to know how to mic up a snare drum? Well we wrote a comprehensive article about 9 different ways to do it. This article is brought to you by the community of Cakewalk readers that follow the blog and read it regularly. Check out the article here.

What’s New in Addictive Drums 2?

2014 brought us more than just content, it brought us Addictive Drums 2. Ever since we’ve posted our extensive video about XLN Audio’s new instrument we’ve heard nothing but great reviews. Here’s our most popular video chosen by the readers of The Cakewalk Blog. Check it out here.

Subtractive EQ Part 1: Snare Drum

Here’s one of our most popular posts this past year in case you missed it the first time around. There are a ton parts to this series, but the first part has seemed to win over the rest. Here’s a nice thick article about how to apply subtractive EQ to a snare drum. Check it out here.

Setting up your Addictive Drums

Check out how you can easily setup Addictive Drums (1 & 2) to accommodate multiple different working environments within SONAR X3 Studio and Producer. This one of kind drum synth is the best of the best. Check out the article here.

How to use Compression on Snare Drum in SONAR X3

Using compression is one of those tools that is tricky to understand if you’re not familiar with how the different audio signals in your mix. Check out our most viewed video from the extensive video series about using the CA-2A Leveling Amp on snare drum. Check out the video here.

How to Compress Drum Reverb in SONAR X3

Another popular drum related video from the Compression video series is #6 where I give some tips on using compression on drum reverb. You can see the video here.

Producing Drum Samples in SONAR X3

Last but not least we’ve seen that our community has really enjoyed our Producing Drum Samples video series. This video series is available to watch here and guides you through some awesome ways to mix and EQ drum samples to your liking.

If you’re looking for more Drum Production tips check out the tag for this on our blog here.

How to EQ: Carving Out The Right Sound For Your Mix

Sometimes EQ is more about “sonic sculpture” than anything else

by Craig Anderton

One of the most important aspects of mixing is using EQ to “carve out” a specific frequency range for instruments so they don’t conflict with each other. If instruments have their own sonic space, it’s easier to hear each instrument’s unique contribution, which increases the mix’s clarity.

Dan Gonzalez did a great series for the Cakewalk blog on subtractive EQ, and how cutting frequencies can help create a better a mix; this is more of a complementary article about how I carved out EQ for various instruments in a cover version of the song “Black Market Daydreams” (by UK songwriter Mark Longworth). All the displays are set for +/-6dB.

Choirs: Using a low-shelf response to cut starting at the midrange gives the choir more brightness and “air.” This way it sort of floats over the mix. The same approach works well for ethereal pads, and lets you mix them a little lower to make space for other sounds. Also note that I couldn’t resist throwing a little Gloss in there…

Try the QuadCurve EQ in the SONAR X3 Producer Free Trial

Guitar power chord: Enabling the high pass and low pass filters creates a broad bandpass in the midrange area where there’s not a lot of energy Continue reading How to EQ: Carving Out The Right Sound For Your Mix

Subtractive EQ Part 5: When Should I Boost EQ?

Missed Part 1? Read it here.

When should I boost?
Some of you may read this and field this very question.  Boosting is something that you can do any time you want with any given instrument.  Obviously it is your own choice in the matter but if you find yourself constantly pulling your faders up and down because your master level is clipping then you may want to apply these EQ techniques to your workflow. In my world it is always a matter of reducing first and then boosting later.

Conclusion
Mixing is as much of an art as it is understanding the logical ways that instruments interact with one another. Continue reading Subtractive EQ Part 5: When Should I Boost EQ?

Subtractive EQ Part 4: Bass

Miss part 1? Read Subtractive EQ – Snare Drum.

Bass
The bass in this track caters to fans of the early Metallica era.  Bassist Cliff Burton popularized this distorted sound on such tracks as (Anesthesia) Pulling Teeth.  It’s important to blend this type of bass tone into the bottom of the guitars.  In this mix the guitars and the bass become a single unit ebbing and flowing with one another at certain points through the song.

Understandably one can assume that there was much processing done to this track before it’s transfer into SONAR.  It’s important to capture the sound before you start mixing so that your mixing process is not a patch-job.

This tone is aggressive and piercing to the ear.  A significant way to know that this instrument needs attention is by the aural fatigue that you may experience while soloing this track and listening to it rather loudly for more than 10 seconds.  I aimed to adjust the bass track to fit like a glove under the mix by applying a HPF at 78Hz with a steep bandwidth setting.  The amount of bass here needs control. Using a compressor to control the sound would be redundant because of how much overdrive was applied to this track.  The overdrive has ultimately eliminated any trace of strong transients.

Lastly, there is another dip in the EQ around 2.2kHz.  This adjustment reduces some of the aforementioned piercing sound. Any harsh tones in this register will be too overbearing in the mix.

Subtractive EQ Part 2: Heavy Rhythm and Lead Guitars

Did you miss Part 1? Read Subtractive EQ for Snare Drum.

Guitars
Your guitar tone can change significantly by carving out the correct frequencies and reducing those that introduce unwanted noise. Distorted electric guitars tend to occupy most of the mid-range based on their nature of their sound. This mix was tricky because the band is instrumental and their music relies heavily on the layering of multiple guitar tones.

Rhythm Guitar 1

Here I have chosen to attenuate the unwanted rumbling of the of the low end of the rhythm guitars using the supplied HPF. The bass guitar is rather guitar-like in this song therefore it is important to make room for that. The HPF for Guitar 1 was applied at 50Hz and similarly to Guitar 2 at 47Hz. Why not the exact same frequency you ask? Having the slightest Continue reading Subtractive EQ Part 2: Heavy Rhythm and Lead Guitars

Subtractive EQ Part 1: Snare Drum

Introduction
Equalization is one of the most powerful tools that an audio engineer can get their hands on. Live engineers, post-production engineers, and recording engineers all have their specific uses for it. It’s so powerful that some beginner engineers habitually reach for it without understanding what it can ultimately do to a mix.

Overview
Let’s resonate on the concept of volume momentarily. It is in our human nature to enjoy music at high volume levels. Concerts are a great examples of this. Outdoor festivals and the like tend to blast our eardrums with massive amounts of volume that we cannot experience in any other format. To most, increasing volume directly correlates to better sound. In a mix setting, dramatically boosting various frequencies can be a crutch for inexperienced mix engineers. By increasing the gain of a specified frequency band on an EQ one can subsequently add unwanted gain to the overall mix. Typically the problem that follows is a battle to keep your master fader from clipping and you all of sudden feel stuck in a gain-staging paradox. This can happen to best of us.

In Use
Apply subtractive EQ techniques to your instruments. Instead of boosting your favourite signals try limiting yourself to cutting. We can call this concept “carving”. Let’s take a look at a musical example. This series of articles will demonstrate some key elements of a typical Rock Mix.

Snare
Generally the snare is the focal point of a typical rock oriented mix. I’ve started with all my faders down and raised the snare to a suitable level: 0dBu. This recording was tracked with two snare microphones. The bottom snare microphone captured the sizzle of the snare and the top microphone captured much of the attack.

Snare Bottom EQ

The first drawbacks I noticed when isolating the snare recordings Continue reading Subtractive EQ Part 1: Snare Drum