Returning to mixing, as we enter the end of the year, the studio I run has been full of new and old bands looking to move forward on the other side of lockdown now a slow, but noticeable movement has been made in the arts industry with some shows returning - even if smaller and socially distanced (it’s something!).
With this in mind, I realized the benefits of my mixing process and how I've managed to streamline it over the years and wanted to share this with you all to help you mix faster, work more clinically, and make some get music at a good pace to help speed the return to ‘The New Normal’.
Let's dive in.
It seems like a small gesture in the grand scheme of mixing, but recording with channel strips and mixing with them can help bring some much more life to your mixes and teach you a new method (especially useful if you move studios).
There are many channel strips to record with nowadays. Some of my favorites in the studio are my trusted dbx 676 Tube preamp/channel strip and my lesser known Joe Meek ProQ2.
Both have a great EQ and VCA and Optical Compressors (respectively).
These are not modeled in the digital domain, but add a massive amount of dynamic and harmonic content when pushed with the addition of tubs in the 676 and an iron input transformer in the ProQ2 - especially nice on bass DI and Kick drum.
In the box, there's an untamed and very saturated market of channel strips. Everything from SSL, all the way to Neve variations and desk emulations - Plugin Alliance being quite notable for their TMT technology that allows crosstalk between the 96 available channels that gives you a bit more of a ‘desk mix’ feel that we all desire.
These also have a simple desk GUI that forces you to use your ears and train yourself to hear the EQ curves available in the different available versions of channels. Just make sure you don’t fall into the trap of using presets as a one stop way to mix - they can be good to get you in the ballpark, but I recommend spending some time watching some mixing masterclasses or better yet, trying them yourself to get a real idea of how they all work and refer to the manual if you get stuck!
Staying with the idea of moving studios or entering into that medium in general, training your ears and educating yourself in why different real world EQ’s Channel strips sound like they do is as important as doing so with compressors, but slightly harder with EQ’s.
There is very rarely a spectral graph to show you what is happening, and unlike a compressor with it’s VU meter, you can’t see the input and output values, and you cant see much at all really.
This is why I prefer the use of these emulations in the digital domain as well - sure, an EQ like Fabfilter ProQ2 is great for more surgical applications, but the SSL 9000E channel strip (above) also has a bell curve as tight as 2.5, the Neve VXS Hybrid Console (also pictured above) as tight as 9 if I recall correctly, so there are alternatives that make you trust your ears. If it sounds good, it's good.