Analog hybrid mixing in Logic Pro X
Mastering In Logic have teamed up with our friends at The Audio Hunt to bring you a special two part series on analog hybrid mixing. The World’s Your Studio explores how analog can add sound and tones colours to a mix. It’s common knowledge that analog gear does not come cheap and as desirable as it is for some it’s usually the exclusive domain of large studios or folk with very deep pockets.
That however has changed and The Audio Hunt was established to bring the world’s studios into one global offering of gear all at an affordable price at the connivence of your finger tips.
So how does the site work?
Basically it works like this gear owners create a profile advertising their equipment, a buyer comes along and rents time on the owners gear by send him/her files that they’d like to be processed. The gear owner receives the audio files be it a bass, guitar, vocal or even full track and then processes the files and send them back via the Audio Hunt to the buyer. It’s quick easy and dead simple to use.
I’ve created a two part guide showing you how I mixed a track by the very talented Jason Fichera, these videos go into some of the mix aspects and how I used my own analog gear alongside The Audio Hunt to achieve the final mix.
Watch The Video Right Here!
Analog sound and hybrid mixing is still an important part of commercial music, despite what some might say. I’m going to show you how I use The Audio Hunt to extend my own hybrid studio to find sounds and tone colours I just don’t have in my current set up.
As a musician or producer the world is not just your oyster it’s your studio and the Audio Hunt offers you easy access to the most desirable analog gear all at the click of a button. So if you’re curious as to how analog can contribute to or even improve your own mixes then this video series will answer some of your curiosity.
I’m going to share with you a mix I’ve recently been working on and demonstrate how analog and the Audio Hunt comes into my own personal workflow.
The Artist and Song
Jason Fichera, a talented and successful singer/songwriter recorded Just For A While when in Las Vegas on a US tour; the vocals and guitars were recorded in a hotel bathroom, believe or not, capturing the perfect space and vibe in that moment in time. Back in Australia the drums, bass, more guitars, keys and BV’s were recorded by session musicians and then the mix found it’s way to me here in the UK.
Let’s check out the track and look at some of the mix challenges I faced!
Processing The Drums
Kick Drum Processing
For the kick I wanted both low end thump combined with bite and punch to cut through the mix. Here’s how I achieved that.
There’s two kick tracks, the first is part of the drum bus group and the second is the kick duplicated and processed via outboard.
I focused on the low end of the kick, which is part of the drum group. A subtle lift around 60Hz using RBass from Waves and UAD’s Helios69 EQ achieves more low end thump. I’m not actually adding much in the way of a 60Hz boost on the Helios it’s more the colour of the plugin I’m after, which achieves a warm rounded low end.
Finally the Kramer Pie compressor gently provides some life to the kick pattern by grabbing and squeezing it; this plugin can be quite pumpy and I rarely use it on the master bus, which is what it was intended for but on the kick track it was ideal.
To get more from the kick I use my own personal outboard technique.
What I do is duplicate the track and place it outside the drum buss group so it doesn’t get any of the outboard buss processing. I then send it to the Chandler Little Devil EQ and Compressor and process the duplicated kick.
Adding a 1Khz boost from the chandler EQ helps it cut through the mix; the compressor has a fast attack time and slow release, which allows me to control the kick sound and keep it forward in the mix.
In your own productions you could do exactly the same without going to outboard by duplicating a track and treating it in a different way to the original. There’s so many cool Logic Pro X plugins that the world’s your oyster when it comes to enhancing and shaping the sound of a duplicated track.
Keeping the Live Drums … Alive!
Controlling drum mic bleed can often be a challenge but I wanted an organic drum sound so there’s hardly any gating apart from the mic’d snare bottom; I wanted it to poke through the mix so gating was required here to tame the ghost notes and mic bleed and push up it up in the mix.
Most of the time if I’m working with live drums I’ll gate quite a lot but you must always listen to the music and respond accordingly. For this track a lively more open sound suited the music better but if it was a tight heavy metal track you might use more in the way of gating to help keep frequencies under control. Let the style and your ear guide you to what’s best for the music.
The rest of the tracks received EQ cuts to tighten and clean up the mud, a touch of compression here and there and my favourite Logic Plugin, the Bit Crusher, which helped fatten the room mics.
Try the bit crusher yourself with a gain of around 3-6dB, resolution set to maximum and watch the part get bigger. It’s a fab Logic Pro X plugin that is much underrated but a very powerful distortion tool.
Logic’s Drum Replacement is a great tool that’s easy to use and unfairly gets a bad press from all the Ableton users. It’s quick and easy to use all you do is select Track from the main menu options and click on Replace or Double Drum track. From there a dialog window appears and you can tailor the amount of rhythm is read by using the Relative Threshold slider to determine exactly what parts are to be replaced or doubled.
In my case I focus on adding to the snare part. I wanted a slightly thicker snare and Logic’s Drum Replacement helped me achieve that. In this case I used Drummer to add more low end weight to the snare part and compressed it pretty heavily to hold it in place. I also tailored the dampen dial so the snare was in time with the music. The Dampen dial works to mute or lower the amount of ring from the drum head but I often see it similar to a release dial allowing you to control the amount of fade or ring, which in turn allows you to control the timing of the part so it sits better with the music.
The Drum Bus Processing
For the drum bus I send my drums out of Logic to two Maag EQ4s that run into the The Phoenix valve compressor by Thermionic Culture, it sounds amazing on drums.
To get the correct EQ drum sound I boosted the lows, scooped out the low mids and pushed the highs to add it bit of brightness and air it’s kinda like a smiley Bax curve. UAD have a great Maag EQ4 emulation that sound very close to the hardware.
For the compressor it’s really just keeping everything under control, compressing the kit allows me to squeeze it but the engaged side chain keeps the lows intact, this brings up the level so that I can tuck it in just behind the vocals. Sometimes compressing the drums too much simply sucks all of the life out of the drums so it’s important to be careful. It’s way a lot of engineer use parallel compression on the drums so they can compress hard without having to worry about the life being squeezed out of the kit.
The bass was recorded really well and the performance is nice and even, it’s a great starting point but I wanted to add that true authentic top of line sound that this bass deserves and the Audio Hunt allowed me to do that.
I decided that the classic Urei 1176 Rev F which is amazing on bass guitars would be a great fit.
The 1176 is a FET compressor, which basically means it’s very fast, you’d think it wouldn’t work well on bass but the saturation imparted from the FET transistors works really well; it’s a classic on bass and always a sure fire bet!
So at this point that I turned to The Audio Hunt to find the compressor I wanted for the bass guitar.
All I did was browse the site, find the compressor I wanted and made a booking simple as that. I explained how I wanted the track processed using the classic 1176 bass trick.
Classic 1176 Bass Trick
You can try out for yourself on an emulation, set Attack and Release to around 7, a ratio of 4:1, around 7dB of gain reduction and then level match with the original. Guaranteed a bass sound that’s as sweet as Apple Pie!
In my case I knew how I wanted The Audio Hunt owner to process the bass part but if you’re not sure you can try out the processing first on an emulation plugin or even just chat and talk to the gear owner on The Audio Hunt to see if they have any suggestions themselves. You can send rough mixes too so that the site member can fine tune the processing to achieve the sound you want. In my case I spoke to David the gear owner about other gear options and fine tuning the part we talked before I committed to anything.
So, once the newly compressed bass was back with me I simply dropped the track into the mix and processed the part further.
When you listen to the two parts simply A/B there’s really not a lot of difference between the plugin and the compressor. The magic happens when it’s in with the entire mix. To my ears it’s more glued to the kick and it sits much better in the track. It’s definitely interacting with the entire mix in a different way to the plugin and that’s what I want.
Adding analog isn’t about making a track sound better or bigger or whatever it’s really just about changing the sound palette of the material you’re working with. Analog will interact with the music in a slightly different way to a plugin and likewise a plugin will interact different to hardware. Analog is simply another choice that you can make and fortunately The Audio Hunt allows you to do it without breaking your bank account!
The road’s not over for the bass
Because The Audio Hunt processed the bass and I had a new bass file to work with it but didn’t mean life had ended for the original bass part. I still used it, what I did was to distort the hell out of it compress it hard and then blend it back in with the 1176 RevF hardware in Logic Pro X. This gave me the ability to parallel process the bass and add some top end harmonics to the bass line too.
For the bass there’s one last move I duplicated the track, instantiated a pitch shift plugin from waves, dropped the part an octave, added some distortion and rolled off the very low end. Even though the bottom is rolled off the bass octave drop track it still adds some low rich warmth. It’s kinda like adding a new sub to the track but by EQing with a low cut filter you’re not going to make the track muddy or cluttered.
This all runs out of Logic and through the Harrison 32EQ by Great River and the amazing sounding opto compressor the Little Brute to add some final levelling. The final mix is not just about the 1176RevF hardware that makes up the bass part. It’s all three tracks working together to create the final sound the original distorted and compressed blended with the hardware unit and then combined with a third track that’s dropped an octave to give some rich low end warmth.
In the next video we’re going to talk about how I used The Audio Hunt to create a glorious vocal sound and how analog buss processing helped add the final polish to the mix.
If you like this track please do check out more of Jason’s music he’s a great guy and talented artist, check out The Audio Hunt for yourself where you’ll discover a world of analog that you can add to your workflow.
Finally if you’re interested in learning more about Logic Pro X you check out my mastering course where my members learn all about the secret art of mastering using Logic Pro X.
Thanks for watching and don’t forget to check out part 2 here!