Mix Test

02010-02-05 | Music | 15 comments

A blade of light near the studio’s entrance:

Today I walked to the studio and fired up the console to do a couple of test mixes. I remembered a bunch of albums from the Sixties, where the stereo field of a trio (((I think the Beatles might have done a few mixes that were similar, once they went stereo, but I could be wrong))) has the guitar or vocal in the middle and the drums and bass off to the sides. That sort of mix uses the width of the stereo field to create a better separation between the instruments.

There used to be severe limits to this kind of mixing, because of the nature of recording in the early days – literally cutting a groove into an acetate disc – and also because of the way vinyl worked: the groove was deepest in the center and therefore the bulk of the bass had to be delivered there. Bass over to the side did not work.

So Jon sent me a track from yesterday’s rehearsals and here is what I did. Mix1 features the bass about half-way left. The drums are half-way right and the guitar is center. Keep in mind the drums had only a stereo mike and the kick mike on it. They will sound much better once they are properly miked up.

This placement sounds great on loudspeakers, I find, and does quite well on headphones. Headphones are the biggest concern, because bass to far on one side feels weird, but this seems OK. Let me know what you think.

Here is a reference mix, where I did my usual stereo field – I usually have the bass at -14 and the kick at +14 (((the stereo field goes from -100, all the way to the left, to +100, which is all the way on the right))), to create a little bit of separation between them. The guitar is still in he middle and the stereo drums are all the way to the left and right. This field, which sounds a bit too narrow here, sounds much better with more instruments, like two or three rhythm guitars and one or more percussion tracks added, which can be pushed out to the left or right side.

Again, this is only a rehearsal, with plenty of clams… Do let me know how you feel about the two different mixes.


  1. steve

    I think I am partial to Mix_I. It really sounds nice on my big system, and I didn’t find the placement of the bass to one side distracting at all in headphones. But I may be partial to it simply because it seems a bit more unconventional. Engineering wise, I don’t have a good reason to be partial to Mix_I. Aesthetically, it seems just a bit different.

  2. Matt Callahan

    It took all of 5 seconds listening to Mix 2 to make the decision. Mix 1 has a much bigger space to slide into and has my vote. Very cool!

  3. Ottmar

    Steve – yes, the panning is the only difference between the two mixes, otherwise they are identical

    Matt – that was after headphone-listening, yes?

  4. Matt Callahan

    Yes, headphones.

  5. yumi

    That was fantastic – Mix 1.

  6. Jason

    Mix 1 for me as the second mix is a little sonically stifled, but what a fantastic lead melody! Wonderful!!

  7. Brenda

    It is upbeat, then the dead silent crisp break, and then the part where it seems that people would beginning clapping their hands and then full circle. As I switched back forth between the two, I became lost in trying to decide which one that I liked the most. As I listened to the first Mix, it was so enjoyable to be surprised with the sudden break and then for me the mood change. Thanks for sharing with us.

  8. Panj

    Love the Blade of Light and I think the first cut is my favorite…:-)

  9. dave

    Listened on ear buds & like the spaciousness of Mix 1.

  10. Gerry

    Mix 1 – Landscape. Mix 2 – Portrait.
    I prefer mix 1 – but either way, it’s a beautiful piece.

  11. Victor

    Listened to both a few time and I think both sound great especially while listing and looking out the window and seeing the snow fall in NJ. #1 is my preferred mix. I love the sound of your guitar Ottmar and John bass is great

  12. Ulrich

    I’m not sure which one to prefe, mix 1 seems as a cold night and mix 2 as a sunny day -:) sometimes i think mix 2 has more sound. Let me say some words in german (sorry to the non-German speaking): Der Hinweis von Ihnen, Ottmar, auf ältere Songs mit dieser Mischtechnik erinnert mich an Ihre Anfänge, auch der Song vom 19.1.10. Wobei, da habe ich gedacht, das ist doch etwas holprig (Entschuldigung für diesen Ausdruck), was natürlich auch mit der Besetzung (der Gruppe) zu tun hat. Da kommen mir ‘Return to Andalusia’ und ‘Under the rose’ zur Erinnerung; ist da auch, zumindest zum Teil, eine Rückkehr zu Ihren Anfängen ?
    The switching from one mix to the other is the best.
    Well, in the end, you should mix both together.

  13. Carolynn

    Are there any other musicians out there that ask for fans’ / listeners’ opinions? I don’t know of any. I feel completely priviledged to be let in on this process. It really adds to the value I place on the finished product.
    (By the way, I have no opinion on which I like better because I want to hear what the musician wants it to sound like. You know what I mean?)

  14. Ottmar

    Hm, thanks Carolynn, but to tell you the truth I already picked Mix1 as the better one and would not have changed my mind if y’all had picked Mix2, do you know what I mean?

  15. Carolynn

    See, OL, that’s what I mean! And I like that you used the word “y’all.” :-)


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