#1
Hello Audiophiles,

I have no formal training as a recording engineer, but I did construct, and operate a recording studio for a few years, and have a musical family background. I’m also a drummer and keys man. My experience and discussions about music have led me to the following conclusions.

There are about 50 magical pieces of musical equipment that cut through the mix because of there specific harmonic qualities. This quality tend to be an emphasis on the even ordered harmonics of whatever sound one is working with. The result of this is a hire sonic density than the non-magical counterparts. By using as many of the magic gear as possible is how the big boys achieve the apparent volume required to compete in the music industry. Ever wonder why you can spend hours and days on a mix only to find out it’s only half the apparent volume of some other tune that actually registered the same levels on your system?

The solution is not only the use of these magical pieces of equipment, but the proper mix of this equipment used to blend together something that even better than the individual parts. A good mix has a balance of high and low fidelity, a balance of close and distant sounding instruments, and an easily identifiable hierarchy of loudest to softest instruments. Of course this is completely subjective, but you get the idea. If you go for everything sounding close and large and loud, the mix sounds like crap.

Here is the list of items I have found to be magical recording equipment: This list is by no means complete, and avoids touching items out of most peoples reach like an SSL mixer.

Here are some items that add “Balls” to the mix
1.) Neumann U87 (any Neumann large diaphragm tube microphone really)
2.) Coles ribbon microphones
3.) Quality Les Paul Guitar (subjective)
4.) Hammond B3 organ
5.) Steinway Piano
6.) Jupiter-8 Synth
7.) Taurus Foot pedals
8.) Apogee digital converters
9.) Optical tube compressors
10.) Rickenbacker Bass
11.) Ampeg flip top amp
12.) Marshal stack (subjective)
13.) Lexicon PCM 90 reverb
14.) TC electronics M5000 or M6000 multi band compression
15.) Focusrite Purple compressor
16.) Old analog synthesizers (subjective)

I left pre amps out if this on purpose because I don’t think of them the same way. Preamps are designed to control volume and maintain clarity, but the use of a different pre amp on each track does tend to help the mix. I think of pre amp with two different qualities. Dark vs. Bright and clear vs. muddy. The darker ones tend to be muddier. A clear dark pre amp is one of the most difficult items to find. The best example I can give is a Neve typically sold as used channel strips. The clearest pre amp I have found is the Grace series. GML is an old reference standard. Avalon 747 is a decent example of a clear bright pre amp that has some EQ and Compression built in.

Back to microphones for a second. Many engineering say that you only need 5 mics to make a good recording. This list of mics would be: Neumann U87 (dark), AKG 414 (bright), SM57 (fast), Sennheiser 421 (Thump), and I’m not quite sure what the 5th mic would classically be, but I would guess an SM 58, or/and SM 81. The Idea is that this mixture of micraphones gives the textures to put a proper mix together. Other notables are Coles ribbons (give the 40’s sound, before condenser and dynamic mics) and a groove tube md1a (A triode mic that cuts trough the mix)

Now some items don’t necessarily give balls or sonic density, but cut through the mix nicely like the MD1a. Almost any acoustic guitar and a good voice are the easiest tracks to cut through a mix. Stratocaster Guitars, FM (frequency modulation) synths (like the DX7…SY99) and a TC electronics chorus pedal all tend to cut through a mix.

There are many many other items that have the same qualities, but each must find them out for them selves as they have a chance to work with the items. I have also found that almost all Yamaha equipment is bright. If you need something bright in the mix, use a Yamaha product (Piano, Snare drum, whatever).

Please notice that at this point I have not even mentioned any digital gear other than a converter and a few synths, and TC electronics Multi band compression. Most digital gear does not have the capacity to increase sonic density. Most of this needs to be achieved during the analog portion of the production process. The front end is critical to achieving a quality product. What is the front end? 1.) The musician 2.) The instrument 3.) The Mic, 4.) The pre amp 5.) Options….EQ and compression. The importance if each item IS in that order. The front end stops when you hit the digital converter. At this point the entire game changes to one of maintaining clarity and avoiding digital jitter.

Once you have hit the digital realm, it’s all a matter of how much digital power and how steady the digital power is. Steadiness is measured in terms of digital jitter. One item that is typically overlooked is the jitter of the converters, this is one of the reasons I mentioned the Apogee converters. They tend to take less of a penalty from a slaved word clock than other converters in the $500 to $1000/converter price range.

Digital jitter defined: Jitter is the how much the digital signal is not ideal. CD’s have a sample rate of 44,100 samples per second. You expect every one of the 44,100 samples to happen in exactly 1/44,100 second. This is far from the real truth. You actually expect equipment to determine how to deal with a digital send and return and the delays associated with the tramisition, and still maintain an accuracy of 1/44100 seconds. HA. It just does not happen very easily. Digital is truly just an approximation of analog now the approximation has its own approximations. You can see how the quality can degrade every time a signal is bounced, sent, returned, mixed, or moved in any way. The early common example of this was popping in early PC recording before the CPU’s passed 1.33 MHz (the equivalent of 44.1 MHz for audio) in theory; a current PC only has enough power to handle two tracks of audio. With the use of compression, and programming tricks, they can make them do a lot more, but at a cost…..Jitter.

The big issue with digital equipment is that if everything you are doing digitally take place on a single piece of equipment, then you only have issues with the quality of that equipment. As soon as you put multiple pieces of digital equipment together, then you must sync work clocks together and the transfers of information between equipments take a penalty. The penalty is dependent of the quality of the source word clock, and the capacity of the slaved equipment to use the master clock. Then of course you have the quality of each piece of gear.

Why not use a garden variety PC….LOL. A single good reverb can take 10 PC’s worth of real time processing is why. This is the reason why people buy dedicated cards like pro tools or use large digital mixers. With dedicated hardware and software, much more processing power can be brought to bear on the musical signals. A regular PC will leave you processing each track off line to get the most out of the system. And even the penalty for converting from digital to analog back to digital is typically favorable to gain a good reverb than what can be done on a PC for practical purposes.

Of course none of this matter if you are working with a bad tune. A good song works in any format. If you are a typical band, trying to mix your way to a song with crunch, balls and a good sound, I suggest practicing the songs as a group with the drummer slapping his legs and the electric guitars not plugged in. Once the sing sounds good that way, then it’s time to light the amps up. Then the amps should be adjusted until the mix sounds good in the room. Only then do you start to record! Try it; you should see tons of improvement on what the recording engineer can come up with. The number one thing a good song does is make you move. If the song does not force your body to move in some way, adjust the tempo until it does!

Looking back at what I have seed here. Here are some cost effective ways to get a decent demo.

A Neumann 103 FET mic is one of the best bang for the buck mic on the market for use on primary vocals and drum overheads. Because this mic does not have a tube, I suggest an Art tube pre amp. The 103’s go for about $250 on ebay. The art Pre amps are under $100. The SM57 is the best mic for snare drum. A Sennhieser 421 or 441 or a Sure Beta 52 or some other large diaphragm dynamic mic is required to pick up kick drum. This large diaphragm dynamic is also useful to be mixed with the direct signal of the bass guitar. Use any of the many dedicated digital work stations preamps for the majority of the recording, but do get a good reverb that is external to the mixer. One good compressor is also a key tool.

In the end, none of this matter. What does it sound like? Does it measure up to what you want? You decide. There are no rules. Whatever sounds good sounds good!

If you spending tons of time trying to make something sound good then something is wrong. Good things happen fast. It takes forever to polish a turd.

Most common mistakes in recording & mixing.
1.) Song is too fast (sometimes too slow)
2.) The kick and Bass are not tight
3.) Vocals are not in pitch with the bass
4.) Guitar intonation is too bad/out of tune
5.) The loudest track in the mix is not clearly identifiable.
6.) To many effect making the mix sound distant

As you can see, the first mistake was made long before the first drum track was layed down because the band failed to adjust the songs tempo until it made you move. This specific skill is best exemplified by Quincy Jones, Count Basie and mutt Lange.
#2

There are about 50 magical pieces of musical equipment that cut through the mix because of there specific harmonic qualities. This quality tend to be an emphasis on the even ordered harmonics of whatever sound one is working with. The result of this is a hire sonic density than the non-magical counterparts. By using as many of the magic gear as possible is how the big boys achieve the apparent volume required to compete in the music industry. Ever wonder why you can spend hours and days on a mix only to find out it’s only half the apparent volume of some other tune that actually registered the same levels on your system?


You've used different forms of the word magic three times
and we haven't gotten past the first paragraph after your little intro.
Once would be enough for the entire article.
Twice would be pushing it.
You use it a total of five times.

Likewise, you used the term balls 3 times in the article.
A bit much, I think.

there is not used correctly. You will need to change that to their.

tend should be tends

hire should be higher


I only focused on that one paragraph.
I suggest you go over the rest of it carefully for similar errors.

To be perfectly honest, with all the magic and balls,
I couldn't take this seriously enough to spend the time proofreading the rest,
and to analyze the content to determine if you were making sense,
or just blowing smoke up my ass.
Meadows
Quote by Jackal58
I release my inner liberal every morning when I take a shit.
Quote by SK8RDUDE411
I wont be like those jerks who dedicate their beliefs to logic and reaosn.