From Good to GREAT! 5 Tips to Achieve Your Best Mix  - Eventide Audio

From Good to GREAT! 5 Tips to Achieve Your Best Mix 

Have you ever compared your mix to a professional track and wondered why it sounds weak and lackluster? As a mix engineer, you know simply cranking up the master fader isn’t the answer. To craft a mix that captivates and impresses, you need the right tools and techniques. Dive into our top tips for achieving a powerful, polished mix that stands up to industry standards. From loudness and boosting dynamics to adding warmth and ensuring punch, we’ll guide you through the process of transforming your mix from good to GREAT! 

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What to Listen For: 

  1. EQ Matching: Ensure that the lows, mids and highs in your mix are balanced similarly to the reference track. 
  2. Energy: Compare the dynamic range and ensure that your mix has the appropriate punch and energy. 
  3. Warmth & Excitement: Listen for the overall energy and engagement level of the mix. Your mix should feel lively and captivating. 
  4. Punch: Ensure that the percussive elements, especially drums, have a strong impact and clear attack. 
  5. Loudness: Compare the overall loudness of your mix to the reference track to ensure it competes well without causing distortion. 

1. EQ Matching

Referencing is essential because it provides a benchmark for your mix, helping you to gauge whether your mix stands up to professional standards. It highlights areas for improvement, such as frequency balance, dynamic range, and overall tonal quality. By comparing your mix to a reference track, you can ensure that it’ll translate well across various playback systems and environments. 

One powerful tool for referencing is EQuivocate, specifically its Match EQ feature. It allows you to feed a reference track into its sidechain input, and the plug-in will automatically adjust its filters to match the sound of the reference in real time. 

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How to Match EQ with EQuivocate: 

  • Sidechain Input: Feed your chosen reference track into the sidechain input of EQuivocate. 
  • Match the Sound: Use the Match EQ feature to adjust the filters so that your mix matches the tonal balance of the reference track.
  • Refine the Match: Adjust the level of matching to ensure a natural and transparent sound, avoiding overcorrection. 

2. Dynamics and Energy

If you’ve been referencing your mix against a professional track, you might be noticing that yours lacks the same energy. Having the right dynamics and energy in a mix is crucial for engagement and emotional impact. It prevents the mix from sounding flat, enhances clarity, and ensures each element stands out.  

Invigorate allows you to blend compression, limiting, and overdriving seamlessly, offering extensive control over your mix’s energy and dynamics. Here’s how to get started with it to enhance your tracks. 

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  • Insert Invigorate on your desired track or mix bus (ie. Drums, vocals, synths or mix bus). 
  • Use the LEARN button to match the level of the track
  • Adjust the morph on the RADAR display to experiment with the balance between compression, limiting and overdrive to find the right blend that enhances the energy.  
  • Use the Input Exciter to enhance drive the effect harder in certain frequency ranges.
  • Adjust the Output Tone to add warmth or brightness as needed, ensuring your elements cut through without becoming too harsh or overpowering.  

3. Adding Warmth and Excitement

Having warmth and excitement in a mix is crucial for creating an emotional connection with the listener, making the mix sound polished and professional. Saturation adds warmth by enhancing harmonics, and impact by controlling transients to increase perceived loudness — transforming a flat, lifeless mix into one that is vibrant and engaging. The Saturate plug-in is an excellent tool for this purpose, providing a controlled way to add harmonic distortion and enhance the overall sound of your mix. 

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How to Add Saturation

  • Insert Saturate on the tracks or buses where you want to add harmonic excitement or control transients.
  • Increase the drive to introduce harmonic distortion, adding warmth and richness to the sound. 
  • Refine Harmonics: Adjust the harmonic balance by using SHAPE and SYMMETRY controls.

Applications in your Mix

  • Drums: Adding saturation to the drum bus can make the drums sound fuller and more powerful. Experiment with different levels of drive to achieve the desired punch and presence. 
  • Bass: Apply saturation to the bass track to add harmonic content, making the bass more audible on smaller speakers without boosting the volume excessively. 
  • Vocals: Use subtle saturation on vocals to add warmth and presence, helping them stand out in the mix while maintaining clarity. 
  • Guitars: Saturate guitar tracks to add character and depth, enhancing the harmonic richness and making them more engaging. 
  • Master Bus: Applying Saturate on the master bus can glue the mix together, adding cohesion and a final layer of warmth and excitement to the overall sound. The auto-gain compensation ensures that the overall volume remains stable, preventing distortion and preserving the mix’s dynamics. 

4. Punch

Want listener engagement and to make an impact? You need to emphasize punch and power! Manipulating transients in a mix enhances punch and clarity, making each element stand out. Transients are the initial sharp bursts of sound, like a drum hit or pluck of the guitar. Shaping them is key to achieving a mix that is clear, punchy, and dynamically balanced. 

To achieve precise transient manipulation with the Punctuate plug-in, take advantage of its ability to control individual frequency transients, unlike other plug-ins that adjust the entire spectrum. This feature allows you to fine-tune specific elements in your mix, carving out and defining the punch for enhanced clarity. By targeting and enhancing the transients of key frequencies, such as the attack of a snare or the pluck of a bass, Punctuate helps each sound stand out, ensuring a clean, powerful, and professional mix. 

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When to Boost or Cut Transients

professional drum kit

Boost: 50-100 Hz (sub-bass), 2-4 kHz (click), to add thump and presence. 

Cut: 200-400 Hz to reduce boxiness and improve clarity. 

Boost: 1-2 kHz (crack), 5-10 kHz (snap), to enhance the attack and presence.

Cut: 200-500 Hz to reduce muddiness and improve definition. 

Boost: 3-6 kHz (presence), 10-12 kHz (air), to add clarity and presence. 

Cut: 200-400 Hz to reduce muddiness and improve intelligibility. 

Boost: 2-4 kHz (attack), 6-8 kHz (brightness), to add definition and brightness. 

Cut: 200-400 Hz to reduce muddiness and improve clarity. 

Boost: 500 Hz-2 kHz (body), 5-8 kHz (brightness) to add warmth and presence. 

Cut: 200-500 Hz to reduce muddiness and enhance definition. 

By selectively boosting and attenuating transients in these specific frequency ranges, you can enhance the punch, clarity, and overall quality of each element in your mix. 

5. Loudness

 To achieve a loud and polished master, you need a mastering plug-in designed for this purpose. Elevate uses adaptive technology to boost loudness while maintaining clarity and dynamic range. It enhances transients to keep punch and impact, offers advanced EQ matching for tonal consistency, and uses multiband limiting for balanced sound. Its transparency ensures a loud, natural-sounding master. 

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How to make your Master Louder

  • Insert Elevate on your Master Bus. 
  • Use the Adaptive Limiter to increase the loudness of your mix. Pay attention to the gain reduction meter to avoid excessive limiting, which can lead to artifacts. 
  • Adjust the transient emphasis to ensure that your mix retains its punch and impact. 
  • Adjust the drive to add grit and glue as desired.
  • Regularly bypass the plug-in to compare the processed and unprocessed sounds. Use Auto Output Gain to make sure the master sounds better — even with matched level.
  • Monitor the Results compared to your reference track(s) 

Now that you’ve discovered what to listen for, along with some simple techniques, it’s time to put these tips into practice and take your mix to the next level!   

Try these plug-ins by Newfangled Audio and experience the difference for yourself. Invest in your sound and let your music shine like never before.