This post focuses on an experiment with my new Focusrite Liquid Mix, with which I mixed and mastered a song of mine that was in need of polishing.
First of all, I will be out of town until the 19th… meaning that I won’t be making any posts here at TSB until then. But, I thought I’d offer you something to make up for it: free music!
I recorded this song, “But They Do” with my buddy Rich Waryan in 2006 and never got around to doing a final mix of it. Last week I picked up a Focusrite Liquid Mix and decided to put it through its paces by using it to mix and master the song. This isn’t intended to be a marketing spot for the Liquid Mix, even though I’m growing fond of it.
I recorded most of the parts either in Rich’s basement or in his living room. The microphones were my AEA R92, an M-Audio Luna, and a Rode NTK. Rich played his Kay upright bass, overdubbing a few parts. Then he played a little clarinet and I tracked a French horn part (I’m not too happy with the French horn tone, but it was the best his living room could afford). A rather jazzy set of Ludwig drums were tracked in the basement.
So, nothing too glamorous here mic-wise and space-wise.
Throughout the mix I used models of my normal favorites that I would use when renting out a well-equipped room: API 550A/B EQ, SSL G series compressors and EQ, Summit TLA-100, Avalon EQ & compression, Neve 1073 EQ.
I have never before had the opportunity to use several mastering-grade compressors simultaneously and I know that it’s a popular technique of the big boys to chain several boxes together, each with moderate amounts of compression. This produces greater overall gain reduction with fewer artifacts than a single compressor dialed with more aggressive settings.
I decided to try to see how hot I could get this song without degrading the sound beyond my quality threshold (which is pretty sensitive). It was a challenge to retain the swelling of the strings while preserving volume and transient response. It’s still not quite up to ‘commercial’ level standards, which is pretty scary but sounds pretty good.
For the test I used the Liquid Mix’s Manley Variable-Mu compressor at about 1-3db of reduction with medium-slow attack and release at around a ratio of 1/1.9. That fed into the Liquid Mix’s Tube Tech LCA-2B set to 1 ratio of 1/1.6 with about 4db down on heavy drum transients. All of this was fed into Izotope’s Ozone 3 with a gain reduction of about -3db in the mastering limiter, a bass roll off around 35hz, and a slight boost from 13khz up to compensate for the darkening of the compressors.
Here is the mastered version: Dan Connor – But They Do
UPDATE: sorry, this particular master has been lost in the shuffle so the above link doesn’t work anymore. The final master was mastered by Chris Reierson of Rare Form Mastering and can be heard here.
For now I’m releasing the song under standard copyright. I’m flirting with the idea of releasing a collection of songs under Creative Commons, so don’t redistribute this as this may not be the final master. Feel free to keep it around if you enjoy it, though.
Here is a clip from the unmastered version (volume set to -.1db before clipping): Dan Connor – But They Do (unmastered clip)
You can hear that there is a loss of ‘air’ in the mastered clip, but overall volume is much better and the transparency is impressive given the amount of compression happening. Any further and the compression starts audibly pumping. The Variable Mu model did a great job of reproducing the gentle, transparent reduction that it is known for and the LCA-2B demonstrated the transient response that I love for compressing rooms. I would feel quite comfortable releasing the master on an album in this condition.
What are your thoughts?? I’d love some feedback on this experiment.
People drive like they don’t have a soul to keep but they do. And I keep mine for you.
People live like they don’t have love in their hearts but they do. And I’m loving with you.
People sing like they don’t have a song in their throat but they do. And they’re singing with you.
People cry like they don’t have a tear in their eye but they do. And I’m crying with you.