Mix Test

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.

Two Years Ago: Listening Test

Our monsoon continues and we had another fine rain storm this afternoon.

In the morning Jon and I compared AIFF, FLAC and 320kbps mp3 files in my studio, using Stax Earspeakers and a Stax tube amp. The FLAC files had been encoded and decoded using xAct, which is a fine FLAC app for Macintosh. The 320 mp3 was made with Peak Pro, which uses a LAME encoder – the same encoder we use for the ListeningLounge.

The result was what one would expect: AIFF, followed by FLAC and mp3. What we did not expect was how very close the quality between these formats was. Unless you have a great set of headphones or speakers – and the ears and experience to process what comes through them – you will not hear a difference. Another interesting point was that the treble side of the music was indistinguishable, it was the bass where one could detect shades of difference.