Best Analog Synth Plugins

Best Analog Synth Plugins

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These are the plugins I like the most,  my personal favorites. 
Hey everybody, Avi here. This is one of my favorite subjects to talk about.

I have been a synth collector since childhood. I’ve had synths from Yamaha, Korg, Roland, Nord, Access Virus, and even a custom made 303 style synth which I loved and shouldn’t have sold. 

In the last few years soft synths are getting SO MUCH BETTER. That’s not an easy decision to just sell all the hardware and join the future. I was heartbroken for a while, I’m not going to lie, but just like with love, you are most likely to find a new one eventually. 

In this article I’m not going to get too much into technical details, because you can get them wherever you want on the web. So expect only my own personal take on this subject.

MS20 by Korg

So this is one of my first eye openers and it’s the Korg MS20 Plugin. This guy had me sitting for hours and hours listening to every little knob and patch. It is simple and complicated all together. First, I used it for all kinds of analog parts, and then it was my go to bass synth. I love the rawness of it. I’m also a big fan of design, and the Korg MS20 had always been a great looking beast.

After I realized the power of this synth for bass parts, I could do anything I wanted with this, and I always ended up with a big psychotic smile on my face. I must admit that I never thought it sounded even remotely close to the hardware version, it was pretty small sounding. But I could get it to sound very good and crazy big with EQ, Compression and stereo tricks. One thing this synth did amazingly well is to get me deep in the creating zone. It is very inspirational, and this is one of the most important factors about synths. 

I think not enough people are talking about this. This synth has the ability to get your creative juices flowing, especially if you’re a real synth head like me 🙂 Korg’s analog synth bundle is pretty much amazing. I loved all their stuff back at the time and use them to this day. I think it’s ok to say that these are the real first “vintage soft synths” of our time.

In the meantime, I got my hands dirty with some cool sounding synth plugins like: Vanguard, FabFilter one, Synth1 (NOT Sylenth1), Reason synths, and more,  then I stumbled upon this.

Zebra by u-he

This amazing synth plugin had introduced me to a whole new generation of audio engines. It sounded so good that I could swear it almost sounded better, fuller, and richer then my friend’s virus C at the time. 

At first glance, this modular synth looks very intimidating and complicated. I started only with presets and downloaded a bunch of them. This was enough for couple cool parts in few of my tracks. Then I started learning this synth, and it was amazing. 

The only problem I had with it on my mac was that it wasn’t too stable. It crashed too many times in the middle of projects, and that made me really angry until eventually I dropped it. I must say that this was an original version, not cracked. But anyway, times were changing for me and I needed faster simpler synths that I could just twist two knobs and create magic.

Sylenth1 by LennarDigital

OK,  Everyone knows this guy and I can’t add anything to it. I was in love with this synth. I did almost everything with it. I filled a whole external drive with demos of this synth. So much inspiration, so many sounds, banks, presets… literally endless. 

I once compared it with Virus Snow and the snow killed it 🙂 But it wasn’t enough for me to drop it and get the Snow,  Nope. The Sylenth1 opened me to a new EDM genres. These were the years of Avicii, David Guetta, Zedd, big dance hits, catchy euro drops, and but choruses,  I was hooked. 

Remember I talked about synths that spark creativity? The Sylenth1 was the soft synth that got the most amount ideas for songs out of my head at the time. I still have demos that I’m in love with today. Don’t ask me why it’s not out. Most of the songs I produced were for other people. 

The only song I ever produced for myself with mostly Sylenth1 was this. I was very influenced by Zedd back then 😉 This wasn’t promoted or signed anywhere. I just released it for my own fun.

With the Sylenth1, I started also playing with Massive, which was very special sounding but very weird for me to work with. I couldn’t fall in love with the interface, and you already know how much it’s important for my creative juices. But one thing I have to say about Massive, it is the most natural sounding beast. 

It always sounded like a quality hardware synth to me. I also played a lot with the big Romplers like Nexus & Omnisphere. In between, I had small romances with Rob Papen’s synths which I really like.

Spire by Reveal Sound

Spire is my 3rd synth plugin love. Now, this is a synth that can get my creative juices flowing so easily. 

BEST leads, CRAZY PADS, Amazing BASSES, and all this yummy stuff under a super friendly and beautiful interface?? 
GIVE ME MORE! I spent too many nights with headphones going thru the amazing preset banks I had. My girlfriend, who was sleeping in the other room sometimes asked me to turn my headphones level down!

After some time in this new age EDM of tomorrow land 2016, I felt like it’s getting too boring, too much like everybody else. I stopped trying to create the next mega hit and turned to little productions that I like to do. 

I wasn’t trying to impress anybody. I didn’t have to have the best, sharpest mix in the market, I just wanted to go back to the simple analog minimal, but emotional productions. So I started looking for new emulations of old synths. So I found this:

Diva by u-he

This gave me a few synthesis colors under one beautiful interface. This synth is, without a doubt, the most heavy on the CPU synth. It has few resolution modes so you don’t have to work with the highest one, but while offline exporting a song it is very recommended to put it on the highest quality mode. This is a very impressive sounding synth, and I remember the first time playing with this and comparing it to other synths on my system, it sounded otherworldly.

TAL V2 U-NO-LX

Now, this is a weird one. At first, I didn’t realize how good it sounded until I watched a video that compared it to the real synth that it is modeled after, the Roland Juno 60. It is very minimalistic like the original. It has a small polyphony, so it requires you to be very selective with the part you’re playing. 

I like that, especially in my minimalistic age. If I remember correctly, there’s a controller that works perfect with this synth. Sounds amazing.  It has round analog bases, lush old synth strings, and a lot of very cool and usable sounds to work with.

ImpOscar 2 by Gforce

This beautiful synth is also based on an analog hardware synth that had found itself in almost every production I’ve ever done,  even if it wasn’t electronic by nature. This synth made itself right at home next to electric guitars, bass, and live drums. It was a bit unstable on my specific system, but it was worth every little crash I’ve had with it. This also has very warm and deep pads, beautiful stereo basses, really amazing cutoff filter, and very good effects section. I just wish they did the interface a little bit bigger.

Mini V by Arturia

Ok, I feel like when I speak about this company, I have to bow down like a kung fu student. Since the first Mini Moog emulation, I was fascinated by the sound engine and the designs they were able to create. The hardware, Moog, was a legend I always wanted to own, and I could never really get to buying this expensive synth. This is where Arturia worked their magic on me. Every time I’ve played with this synth and closed my eyes, I could smell its wood and old plastic knobs under my fingers. It’s just beautiful.

Modular V by Arturia


This one has always got me a little scared. No, let me rephrase it, I was SHIT SCARED to even look at it. To me an A modular synth is the most terrifying creature out there, and Arturia made it even scarier. So, I must admit I almost never changed the existing presets. Maybe only a little bit with the filter and that’s it. But this synth has the most beautiful synth bass sound I’ve ever heard! And conveniently, it is the default preset that opens with the first loading of the plugin. It is pure magic. Go try it.

Prophet V by Arturia

I don’t have a lot to say about this synth other than AMAZING. I really love it. A pure classic; beautiful, simple, and inspiring. It sounds magical. I would go there and say that it sounds very close to the original hardware version.

Kick by Sonic Academy & Nicky Romero

This one is a kick synth. After getting to know this weird, hybrid, sample based synth, I stopped wasting my life searching for the right kick sound in my never, ending sample libraries. This is a life saver. I stopped looking for kick sounds. In 95% of my EDM productions and demos, I just use this plugin, change the presets a bit, and BOOM. A great sounding kick that JUST WORKS.

Lounge Lizard EP-4 by A.A.S

Yeah I know this one is not a traditional synth really, but it’s a tool I use in so many of my productions. I love the unique fusion of synth sounds and electric piano. So, this one has really cool sounds and colors that can give you the fullness and emotions of a big and warm chord wall that is not too heavy on the mid and high range section of your production. It is warm, authentic, and natural. So, if I want to create a “Chords Hug” as I call it, I just play the chords on the Lounge Lizard EP-4 and I’m all set.

That’s it for now guys. In the future I will give you more articles with more synth love stories 🙂 Thanks for reading.

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Audio Streets

5 Best Delay Plugins For Vocals (Videos Included)

AUDIO STREETS

5 Best Delay Plugins For Vocals

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The delay is the ultimate tool for creating space, depth and excitement to any music production. It helps you create dimension around any element in your mix. It does it by repeating the signal one or many times, along with manipulating the repeats in various and unique ways.

One of the best things about delay plugins is that they work in perfect sync with your DAW. There are a lot of delay plugins today and some of them are truly incredible.

Types Of Delay

Tape Delay – The history of delay effects started with the invention of the tape. The signal is being sent to the output and to the recording head of the tape inside the delay box. It is then being reproduced by the playing head a short time after the original signal has been played, which creates the delay effect. The number of recording heads inside the delay box will determine the number of repeats.

Analog/Digital Delay – The first digital delay unit started with a chip called BBD (Bucket Brigade Delay IC). It was originally created to delay signals in the old telephone technology. Over the years the technology got better and found its way to the music world. Years after that, the delay finally arrived to the computer-based music production and it is getting better and better ever since.

The Delay Based Effects Family

There are more effects you can achieve with a delay that does not fall under the definition of “delay”. These effects result from the delay effect playing the repeats a lot closer to the source, few milliseconds, and these are the Chorus, Flanger, and Phaser.

Using Delay To Create A Reverb Effect

A Reverb is practically a delay only with bigger repeats number. Sometimes when using a Reverb on very busy mixes, it creates information overload and gives the feeling of a crowded mix. Here we can achieve the same effect with a delay. The delay is much less dense because the repeats number is a lot smaller. So using a delay instead of Reverb will help you create dimension and space around the mix without overloading it with information.

I found that the most common delay setup is 1/4 note with approximately 5 repeats. It fits most 4/4 productions and it’s always a good starting point. There are absolutely no rules and you should do whatever sounds best to you.

Interface

A good plugin is one that’s been designed with a good interface in mind. The interaction with the plugin, ease of use and intuitive layout are very important factors. A good delay plugin is one you’ll find yourself using for years. My favorite delay plugin is the Waves H-Delay. It’s simple to use, looks great and sounds amazing. Works great for me.

Sometimes you would want to have a fancier delay plugin that will allow you to get much more advanced effects. 

The List

This is my list of the best delay plugins for vocals. I’m not going to give you all the technical information about these plugins, only my opinion, and feeling about them. That’s because all of them are doing pretty much the same thing with each one of them having its own twist. So it’s all about the feeling they give.

Waves H-Delay

I will open the list with my favorite delay plugin the great H-Delay. This is a cool hybrid of digital and analog delay. You can get a variety of different sounds and flavors out of it. The most important thing for me is the interface. It‘s very simple and easy to understand. It comes with a lot of nice presets and it works great on most genres. The H-Delay won’t give you the crazy delay effects that you sometimes here in heavy electronic music, it is more suitable for use in traditional genres like Rock, Pop, Hip Hop, and other simple applications.

Sound Toys EchoBoy
This delay plugin is also a classic in the plugin world, you can hear it on countless productions. What I like the most about it is the interface. It’s simple, very well designed and nice to look at. You don’t have to look so hard for every little feature. EchoBoy also sounds great and it gives you both digital and analog flavors.

McDSP EC-300
Now, this is a special one. If you read my blog you know I have a soft spot for McDSP plugins and the EC-300 is no different. It has the best tape delay I’ve ever heard, It actually sounds like tape and you can’t really say that about all the tape delay plugins. The design is kinda retro and based on an old tape delay machine from the 70s. The saturation knob gives a sweet and musical distortion you can probably hear on other McDSP plugins, although I’m not sure about it and it could be specific for this plugin. Either way, it’ll be a great addition to your spatial effects library.

FabFilter Timeless 2
I can’t tell you I’m dying for FabFilter’s graphic designs but I sure have a lot of respect for them, these guys know their craft. Timeless 2 is their take on quality delay plugins. The best thing about FabFilter’s plugins is that they are very detailed, crazy flexible and sound absolutely amazing. With Timeless 2 you can achieve almost any delay effect you can think of, and I can’t say this about all of the plugins on my list.

Slate Digital & D16 – Repeater
This delay plugin is an absolute beast! not only that it is a very flexible and detailed plugin, but it is also everything you can ask in a delay. The guys at Slate Digital and D16 had modeled 23 delay models to give us every style we can possibly think of. From classic tape machines to oil cans and digital delays. One of my favorite features in Repeater is the Analog modeled feedback circuit which sends all the repeats through a sweet analog algorithm. It sounds like the delay repeats are “melting” into the mix. It‘s incredible on vocals.

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Best Drum Plugin

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Best Drum Plugin

Best Drum Plugins

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Hey everybody, Avi here. FOR YEARS, I was looking for the best drum plugin, not an easy task, let me tell you that. I’m one of those producers who really prefer doing everything by themselves. I play the guitars, bass, keyboards, and yes, DRUMS! This is my favorite part of the whole production process. In this article, I’m going to show you the best drum plugins, in my opinion. These must sound amazing, authentic, and be easy to use. This is, of course, based on my own personal taste and preference. So, keep an open mind and look for what you think is the best sounding plugin out there.

First, I have to tell you that this is not a replacement for a human drummer, maybe only for acoustic drums. For me, personally, it’s way more than enough, and I even prefer it to a real drum recording in a studio. There’s nothing like the feeling of finishing a good drum track, built on a click and a guide track. It feels like going on a new adventure. So, whether you’re a keyboard drummer, as I used to be for years, or a V-Drums fighter, this is for you.

In a chronological order.

Addictive drums – Check out the latest version

This was the first plugin that made me go “mm, maybe I don’t really have to record drums in a studio”. In 2008, I started working on an Israeli, punk rock album by an artist called “Amir Lazarov”. This was a head-first jump to the sampled based drums and drum plugins. This was an 8-song album, in which I played all the drum parts on a Yamaha DD65, electronic drums pad, which is practically a toy. It started with saving money and turned into falling in love with this workflow.

Addictive drums 1.0 was my first option because it was easy to use, it had a great collection of great recorded sets, which I could mix and match between, and I was able to mix everything inside the plugin, which I loved back then.

You know what they say about almost any tool, It is only good until it’s not enough. After this album, I went on a crazy ride looking for drum samples and plugins. It was the start of an everlasting search for the best recorded sets and the best snare and bass drum samples. Back in 2008, my mix abilities weren’t the best, but I absolutely love the production to this day.

Studio Drummer (Kontakt) –  Check out the latest version

I was jumping for joy in my home studio when I first found out about Studio Drummer back in 2011. This was the start of a whole, new era; Non-stop rock productions, demos, and amazing sounds. This one is a Kontakt library, and it offered 3 main kits, recorded at Teldex Studio in Berlin. Out of the three kits, my favorite, and most used, was the Session Kit. I also used the studio kit in one of the Israeli songs I produced.

The Studio Drummer Library also came with a lot of Midi parts, played by a real drummer on an electronic drum set. I’ve never used the recorded midi drum parts included in most of the plugins. I knew how to think like a drummer, and always preferred my drum parts tailor-made for my productions. There were other drum libraries I tried back then, but they were not good enough for what I was looking for. Among them were libraries like Abbey Road, 70’s Drummer, Modern Drummer, and such. This was played on a keyboard with the Stadium Kit. Again, an Israeli song, written in Hebrew. Listen to the dynamics when the drum part is starting to play. It’s beautifully recorded.

EZ Drummer 2.0 – Check out the latest version

Although I’ve heard a lot about EZ Drummer 1.x, and even demoed it a few times, it never felt like a good enough tool for me. But then version 2 came along and changed the whole drums-in-the-box game for me. For months, I was trying every possible setup I used against EZD2, and nothing could beat it. It was the new, undisputed champion of my box. It offered a crazy good collection of toms, cymbals, hi-hats, and bass drums. But most of all, it gave me the best snare samples I’ve ever heard. At this point, I’ve already worked with V-Drums, an old TD9 that felt like everything I need to suit my purposes.

EZD2 also gave me the option to mix inside the plugin’s interface and gave me an amazing output. I actually feel like this plugin’s audio engine is on another level. Much more than Kontakt’s, Addictive Drums, or any other plugin sampler I’ve tried, and trust me, I have tried all of them. The big ones that I don’t mention in this article are the ones I’ve tried and never liked. EZD2 is definitely the Best Drum Plugin I’ve ever used.

And for those who are die-hard believers of recording drums in a big studio with a recording drummer, it is amazing, yes. I’m not taking anything away from it, but I love the choices given to me by the digital option. I can change everything whenever I need, and I never get stuck with one sound and one recording per song. This alone is a good enough reason to love these plugins and the endless possibilities they introduce. Of course, at the end, it is everybody’s own opinion about how it sounds, and whether or not it’s good enough for them. Also, not having to deal with bit detection and aligning those audio recorded channels to the grid is a big deal for me. I promise you that you have heard amazing drum productions on the radio before, that were produced completely in the box with plugins and samples, NO DOUBT.

So, since then, Toontrack brought us EZ Drummer 3, which is a dream for producers like me. I highly recommend that you try it for yourself and let me know what you think 😉

Drum Kit Designer
I can’t close the Best Drum Plugin list without this beast. This is a special one. Every time I wasn’t happy with some of the snares or bass drums on the other Plugins I used, I immediately opened another channel with Drum Kit Designer, and it totally saved my ass. I was using this, mostly, to replace drums in an existing set or add to it as an added layer.

This plugin is my go-to drum sampler for demos. It is very simple, quick, and sounds amazing!
I must add that this one is exclusive to Apple Logic, so you can’t use it on any other DAW, but it is a good enough reason to move over to mac and Logic, my friends 🙂

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Best Drum Plugin

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Best EQ Plugin For Vocals + Tips & Videos

Best EQ Plugins For Vocals + Tips & Videos

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So you’re looking for the best EQ plugin, the one that does everything better than all the others? 
The simple answer is: There is no such thing as one EQ plugin that does everything best. The perfect EQ consists of a few different types of EQ plugins that complement each other. Here you will learn everything there is to learn about EQ plugins, which to choose, in which situation, how to work with them the right way.

I know you came here to learn about software so I will not talk about hardware EQs at all.

This article is going to give you an overview of the world of EQ plugins. We base this knowledge on our 20 years of mixing and mastering experience. Which plugins are amazingly useful, which have the coolest colors and tones and what plugin to choose in each situation.

The Basics – How Does It Work 

In simple words, two of the biggest factors in the world of sound are Frequency & Amplitude. You can control both of them with an EQ. A boost in a certain frequency will enlarge the amplitude creating a level increase. A cut in a certain frequency will make the amplitude smaller, meaning, the level will decrease. Before you make a cut or a boost, you need to choose the frequency and the Q that you want to work on.

EQ Basic Parameters

  • Boost – Increasing the level of a selected frequency.
  • Cut – Decreasing the level of a selected frequency.
  • Frequency – Choosing which frequency to work on.
  • Q (Bell Width) – How wide or narrow will the selected frequency range be.

Types of EQ

In general, there are three types of EQs. Every type serves a different purpose or a different style of EQing. You would want to have each of every type in your arsenal. That way you’d have maximum flexibility while working on a mix.

Graphic EQ

This type of EQ is divided into different fixed frequencies in fixed ranges with fixed Q’s. Not all graphic EQ’s are born the same. Some have more slides, which means more control, and some have less. Either way, you have only those fixed parameters to work with. 

Parametric EQ

These types of EQs let you choose the frequency that you want to work on and manipulate it in a more specific manner. In most cases, the parametric EQs will come with three bands to work with. On the parametric EQ, each band has a frequency knob and a Boost/Cut knob. Some of them will also have a Q control to control the bell width. This way you can be very specific and “surgical” with your process.

Paragraphic EQ

This idea was brought to us with the digital era. This means that the EQ controls are made with sliders while also having a graphic representation of each band. Practically they are combined and working simultaneously. Plus there are more parameters that can be set.

Filters

Most of the EQ plugins will have Filters. This means that you can cut the higher or the lower part of the frequency spectrum. If you don’t want the bottom range (Basses) of your channel you use the Low-cut, and if you don’t want the higher range you use the high-cut filter. Low-cut is also called “High-Pass” and high-cut is also called “Low-Pass”. 

Two Groups Of EQ Plugins

Digital EQs – Transparent, functional, surgical and accurate. In this group, you will find all the plugins that are usually not based on any hardware replications. These are Paragraphic EQs in most cases. You would use them in situations where you don’t need the extra character to your sound and only want to fix or shape a source. 

Analog EQs – Colorful, minimalistic, gives character and mostly modeled after old known hardware. Every modeled EQ in this group has a different style and a different character. Most engineers use them as artistic tools. Each has their own “thing”. A good plugin company not only models the output stage but every component inside the box to create an indistinguishable replication from the real thing.

Before using any EQ, you must make sure that you’ve recorded the source the right way. In many cases, the best way to EQ a source is just to record it better. Each recording method sounds a little different. The recording process has a few main critical factors. Learn more about recordings here: 

How to make your voice sound better when recording.

Main Factors That Will Affect Your Frequency Response Before The EQ

  • The type of microphone.
  • The microphone placement.
  • The type of preamp.
  • The space in which the recording takes place.
  • Proximity, how close are we to the microphone.

Best Condenser Mic For Vocals (On a Budget)

Gain Staging

This is an important factor in audio production and in the plugins world in particularYou should be aware of the input levels that you’re getting into the plugin. If the levels are too “hot”, meaning too high in level, this will distort the algorithm and prevent the plugin from performing at it’s best. 

Every plugin has a slightly different sweet spot in which it sounds the best, but all the plugins have a distortion point. I shouldn’t tell you how horrible digital distortion sounds.

Best Digital EQs – Group one

These are the sharpest tools in our toolbox. We use them in every production and almost on every channel. These plugins algorithms are mostly based on precision and functionality. Their goal is not to sound like any other EQ, but to be as accurate as it can be.

Best Emulations Of Old EQs – Group Two

It’s warm, It’s tasty, It’s smooth and it’s analog! So these are the best emulations that we believe are really great for coloring your channels with the sweet colors of classic analog gear. These are emulations of old analog EQs. They are built to give you the exact experience of using a real outboard classic EQ. Each emulation’s algorithm is based on a different circuit design and is unique by itself. That’s what gives the plugin its character and “coloration”. Some of those EQs are so authentic that just opening them on the channel without changing any parameter gives a nice subtle effect.

Here’s a list of my favorite vocal plugins. Remember, these are not full reviews, I will not get into all the technical details here. This is only a brief description and my personal experience with these beautiful pieces of software.

7 Best Analog EQ For Vocals

1. Waves Kramer HLS



I found out about this EQ long after I had it installed on my system. I remember opening it for the first time on an acoustic guitar channel. I played with it for a good hour, trying it on several sources like acoustic guitars, electric guitars, bass and vocals. I fell in love with it. First, I have to say that the waves version of it is much more special sounding than the UA version which I also like but never owned it. It gives the vocal channel a rich and sheen quality without distorting or making it harsh. It does add a little noise but I believe it’s a part of its magic. I wouldn’t use it on drums but it is way too good to not include it on my list. So for coloration and adding an analog sweetness and 3Dness to a vocal track, it’s truly amazing.

2. T-Racks EQ 73

This is the T-Racks take on the legendary Neve 1073 console EQ. This is such a beautiful plugin! I almost want to shout it to my screen. It has a place in every production I do. It is brilliant on everything I use it on. Drums, guitars, bass and any other musical instrument and vocals. The T-racks EQ73 is a very musical sounding plugin that adds magic to everything that goes thru it. It is not a surgical tool, it won’t give you that super narrow Q for fixing stuff in your source. I use it mostly for coloration, small boosts, and wide subtle curving out of frequencies. This EQ can give your vocal channel that thumping quality in the lower range, and that edgy high end that will cut thru any mix without even trying, while still sounding extraordinarily musical and expensive.

3. Softube Trident A

Now, this is a weird one. At first, I didn’t know how to look at it, and it always felt a little off to me. The Trident A is considered by many engineers to be a “guitar eq” but allow me to respectfully disagree. This EQ is just amazing on vocals, it is subtle, aggressive and accurate all at the same time. the Softube Trident A is based on the unique Trident A Range console that was first introduced in the early 1970s. Many great albums ware recorded and mixed with that console, quite a few of them are in the rock genre. That’s why this EQ earned its respect among rock producers and engineers around the world. On vocals, it gives a very unique tone, much different from all the others that are more popular. It reminds me a little bit of the API style of coloration and vibe. I get this punchy midrange and “tasty” low end. You can really crank up the low-end slider and it still sounds right and not boomy as expected from extreme settings. The saturation knob gives a smooth and subtle effect, I find myself cranking it all the way up to really enjoy it.

 

4. Waves API 500 Series

This is a whole series of 3 EQs and one compressor. I want to start from the most obvious thing and it’s THE SOUND. These EQs sound like an API! I’m saying “Like an API” because I have experience with the real thing and I know it quite well. If you ask me, the Waves API 500 series is as close as you can get to the real thing. It’s punchy, smooth sounding and it brings things to life. I especially love it on vocal channels. Somehow it brings out all the beautiful tones and qualities in the human voice without making them harsh or two dimensional. It is a parametric EQ so the frequencies are fixed but the 500 give you so many options that you don’t feel the need to ask for more. The algorithm has nonlinear qualities that make you feel like you’re working with the real thing. I also think that Waves had done a wonderful job with the design, which is also very important in my opinion. Although the 550A and the 550B are the more widely used API EQs, I personally find myself using the 560 a lot more. I love how it shines on vocals and lets me color any vocal with those sweet API colors.

5. Waves VEQ4

This is also a part of the V-Series consist of three different plugins, two EQs and a bus compressor. The VEQ4 is based on the Neve 1073. For a long time, I was ignoring this plugin although I had it on my waves bungle. I was using the UAD Neve 1073 and didn’t really pay attention to the Waves version. One day I gave it a chance and everything changed in my little Neve emulations world. I started using the Waves version and never looked back. The VEQ4 is one of the best vocal plugins out there without a shadow of a doubt. I use it on every production on many channels and especially on vocals. It sounds like a Neve yes, but the thing I like the most about it is that it is very smooth. It does not sound like a plugin at all. I love how it handles the high-frequency boosts. Sweet and musical.

6. Plugin Alliance Maag EQ4

This is without a doubt one of the best EQ plugins for vocals on this list. A lot of engineers swear by this EQ. It earned its good name first with the hardware version which came out on the 500 series. This is a very aggressive sounding EQ. I use it every time I want to give something grit and teeth. Especially when it comes to the “Air Gain” knob which is pretty harsh but in a good way. I love to use this plugin for boosting the midrange in vocals. It has very little phase shift, so it’s considered to be a lot more accurate than most EQs out there. Its low and high ends are also aggressive and it is not suitable for all vocal types but when it fits the application, it’s right on the money. In my opinion, the Maag EQ4 is one of the closest replications to its original hardware version. The thing that I love about Maag company is it’s a small family business who manifested its vision and made a very big name for itself. I love how it sounds on vocals that were recorded with dynamic microphones.

7. Waves Scheps 73

Yes I know, another Neve 1073 emulation? Well, this one is special. Not to take from the other 1073 EQ plugins on my list, Waves are getting better and better every year in hardware modeling. The first thing I’ve noticed about the Scheps 73 was that it sounds VERY 3D. I remember thinking to myself “This is on a whole different level!” I would even go there and say; it does not sound like a plugin. It’s totally alive. The most unique feature in the Scheps 73 other than its sound, is the ability to work in M\S on the stereo version. Like all the other analog emulations on that list, the 73 EQ is not built for surgical uses. It’s here to give its brilliant Neve colors, musical midrange, silky highs, and perfect low-end section. The VU meter is also a nice little feature. It’s a known fact that not all the hardware 1073 EQs are born the same. So this leaves a lot of room for the others on the list, but this one is the new cool kid on the block. 

7 Best Digital EQ For Vocals

1. Cambridge EQ UAD

The Cambridge EQ is considered to be a classic EQ in the plugin world. I can’t even count the number of productions I’ve used it on. From drums to guitars, acoustics, synths and of course, vocals. It is a very clean and sharp sounding EQ with great precision and the ability to dig deeper into any problem. It is the perfect sculpting tool. The Cambridge EQ is one of the first plugins on the first UAD card that came out back in the early 2000s. The Cambridge EQ is not just a digital EQ, it also has an analog emulation algorithm. So whether you need to sculpt a source or to give it an analog deliciousness, the Cambridge EQ will do it, no problem, even in today’s high standards.

2. Waves HEQ

If you take away all of my EQ plugins and leave me with only one, it better be the Waves H-EQ. It does it all. It gives you two different analog algorithms, (American and British) and it also gives you one of the most impressive digital EQ algorithm out there. The asymmetrical bell filter is a feature we hadn’t seen yet on other EQs and I already found great uses for it. The Waves H-EQ also features M\S which gives you the option to apply different EQs to mid and side content when working on stereo sources. You also get a great real-time frequency spectrum analyzer with multiple display options.

3. FabFilter Pro-Q2

I always felt that there’s something special about FabFilter products and this EQ is one of the greatest reasons for that. It is the successor to the already amazing Pro-Q. My favorite feature on the Pro-Q2 is not even one you can hear, it’s the frequency spectrum analyzer. It just looks so smooth and nice that It almost makes this plugin sound even better! But in all seriousness, this is a very powerful tool with a really great design. It quickly became my first-choice EQ plugin for acoustic guitars, don’t know why, it just sounds the best on my Yamaha guitar but we are talking about EQs for vocals here, and the FabFilter Pro-Q2 is the perfect vocals EQ. It has a great big design that allows you to easily make the smallest adjustment. The natural phase processing mode lets you make big narrow cuts and boosts without that weird phase shifting effect that you sometimes get on other digital EQs. This sweet EQ is packed with many more great features. The Pro-Q2 and I are going to be friends for many productions to come.

4. Eiosis AirEQ

This piece of great software was designed by Fabrice Gabriel who also wrote the algorithms for many of Slate Digital’s greatest plugins. My first try with the AirEQ wasn’t too successful, I couldn’t get it to work on my system without crashing every 10 minutes so I gave up on the first version and promised myself that we are going to meet again in the future. The most unique feature in this EQ is the names of the frequency bands. The names are a bit tricky to understand, “Earth”, “LoClean”, “Clarity” and such. But Eiosis also gave us the option to name the bands ourselves, which is quite cool. Now, to my ears, the AirEQ has a “smooth” and “deep” sound. It feels as if it’s got more resolution, maybe even an internal higher frequency rate. This, of course, is just my own feeling about it. It has a “Character” slide, the upper end is named “Fire” and the lower “Water”. It controls a few features for all the EQ bands all at the same time; Q width, bell size, bell shape, and gain. It changes the whole character of the EQ in one slide movement which is quite cool. Give it a try.

5. DMG Audio EQuality

This was my main EQ for a very long time. Yes it’s OLD and there are new and better EQ’s coming from DMG today and still, I like the EQuality and I used it on everything. It sounds natural, it looks great and it’s very simple to use. It offers analog algorithm along with a digital one. The DMG Audio EQuality is very light on the CPU when using the digital algorithm. When moving to the analog algorithm it makes the CPU work a little harder and you can feel it on some systems. I like the design and the blue interface is easy on the eye. It always looked to me like the successor of the Cambridge EQ. Other than that, let your ears decide. 

6. Waves F6

Ok another weird and beautiful beast, the F6 combines dynamic abilities along with the static regular EQ behavior. It’s pretty much like a super smart Multiband de-esser which is a great idea. You can activate or deactivate the dynamic properties of this EQ based on where you want it on the timeline. This EQ is not only for vocal, of course, any other source will also greatly benefit from it. In addition to that, the Waves F6 EQ sounds absolutely brilliant and it if you’re open to the new age of plugins and not only looking back, this is definitely one of them.

7. Waves Renaissance EQ

If we’re talking about the new age plugins of today, I want to remind you where it all started. The Waves Renaissance EQ is definitely considered to be a new classic. It was and still is, a basic tool in the toolbox of great engineers all around the world. Although being old and classic, the Waves Renaissance EQ performs better than most of all the new digital EQs out there, and you can test it yourself. This baby has stood the test of time and is still being massively used to this day. The Waves Renaissance EQ is solid, CPU efficient and most of all, it sounds amazing.

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MIXING

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MASTERING

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What Is Mastering

What Is Mastring

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So to master a song means to get it from the mixed stage to the final result that we hear at the end.
In simple words, it is the final process that creates an audio file after it’s been mixed and bounced, whether it’s aimed to be played on the radio or TV or YouTube or any other medium. A good master will sound great in every audio system and at the end, this is what we want.

Hi everybody Avi here, a music producer, mix and mastering engineer. In order to understand and fully grasp the concept of mastering a song we first need to get familiar with the entire process of producing a song. Oh and by the way,  In the picture, is my good friend Maor Applebaum, a well known mastering engineer.

Any song production is made up of three main stages.

1. Recording
2. Mixing
3. Mastering

Recording

In the Recording stage, we do everything that is music production related. We practically design and shape the song as far as it’s stylistic path. This consists of laying down the beat, chords, melodies, lyrics or any other thing that takes part in the production.
Usually mastering engineers come from a rich musical, recording and mixing background. It helps them get a good overview of a lot of things that are taking place in the macro of the music industry.

Mixing

The mixing stage is one of the best moments of any production, it means that you finished banging your head against the wall about what instruments to use, what parts to play and what shape and feel will the song get. Sometimes it’s a wild race that you never know how it’s going to end.
It is so much fun to zoom out on a project in your DAW and take the first look on your finished project in one frame.
This is the time to start playing with the recorded channels and find a good place in the mix for every component.

Mastering

So after you have a finished mix you end up with one stereo file (most of the time).
This file consists of all the channels, music parts, vocals, chords and melodies glued together in one file on which we start the mastering process.
Some engineers like to get the vocals on a separate channel so they can mix the vocals with the playback in the mastering stage.
In the old world mastering was a very technical thing they did to get the song or album on a record.

Back then there were rules for how to print the song or album on a record, physical limitations. Funny things like hard panning the drums. for example, a bass drum on the hard left side, snare on the right. This was a good technique that helped to avoid the jumping of the needle out of its rail.
Today there are no rules what so ever because there are no physical limitations.
Today you can do whatever you want as long as you’re doing it as an artistic choice and you know exactly what you’re doing.

It’s not rare to hear an exaggerated kick and bass section. The effect of a speaker not handling the load is a common thing these days. Especially for Hip-Hop and other urban genres.
So over the years, Mastering has become a technical task full of artistic choices.

Mastering Studios

Usually mastering facilities are very special environments. These studios are built with a very personal approach.
Every mastering engineer like to master in a different room. I’ve seen mastering engineers that work in rooms very similar to an acoustic treated living room. Other engineers, I’ve had the pleasure to work with, feel right at home in an underground dark submarine with weird looking speakers and plenty of knobs on the walls.

Mastering is usually done on very expensive high end, sometimes custom-made outboard gear. Today a lot of the mastering tasks are made in conjunction with high-end plugins. Some of them are made completely in the box and there’s nothing wrong with that. today’s software is on a whole different level then it was 10 years ago. But I have to admit that my own personal preference is to go hybrid and master a song or an album on a bunch of sexy outboard gear with a couple of sexy plugins. When you carefully listen to the end result you understand exactly how important any component is to the final result.
So in the end, it comes down to choosing the right engineer for the genre.

What Is Mastering A Song

Work With A Master.

The most important thing for me is a different opinion, the other angle, the added value that comes with mastering engineers that have a lot of experience in how things should sound. Sometimes a good tip from a mastering engineer can upgrade the mix and production greatly.

Do It Alone vs Working With Pro

OK, this is a tricky one, I’ve had mixes that I had sent out to great mastering engineers and didn’t like their results. I felt like they didn’t get the song and the feel it has to have so I used to master my own productions all the time. I love it, even more than mastering a client’s song. I even remember one song that was mastered by 6 different engineers and everybody preferred my personal version of it so we put my version out.
Some producers are sharp enough to produce the song, mix and master it all together especially in the EDM genre.

Super producers like Martin Garrix are mastering their own songs themselves and not even bouncing the project to a stereo file, no. They do it inside the project on the master channel. It works for them.
But others like Zedd for example, send their songs to serious mastering engineers in big and expensive mastering facilities and it also works, obviously, I personally love Zedd’s sound. It is amazing in my opinion.

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Speakers For Music Production

Speakers For Music Production

Speakers For Music Production

Speakers For Music Production

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Hey, everybody, I’m Avi from AudioStreets and I have been a music producer for the last 15 years. This is my take on speakers for music production. First I have to say that when I’m buying speakers I’m not buying them for mixing as a first goal. For me, the main purpose of a good speaker is that it will be fun to produce music on. That is why I think that any studio, small or big should have a few pairs of monitors but this is all pointing out the obvious of course, let’s get to the good stuff!

In today’s world of music production there is no shortage in good monitors
But it’s important to know that most of all, choosing the right monitor is based on personal taste. YEP.
Because we all hear a little different so it’s only natural that we’d have different preferences.

Every time I go to a music store I go directly to the monitors room to hear their speakers.
And almost every time I listen to speakers the best sounding speakers for me are not the most expensive ones. Before you choose the right speaker for yourself, you have to ask yourself a few questions:

1. What are the dimensions of your room, is it big? medium? or a small room?
2. What is your main reason for buying the speakers?
3. How far do you want to sit from the speakers?
4. what genre of music are you planning to produce?

I assume most of you have small rooms and you’re going to need a near field monitor.
But if it’s not the case, I’ll write a post about bigger setups in the near future.

So I’ll quickly go over the answers:

1. As I said I write this post assuming that you are sitting in a relatively small room, 10fit X 13fit more or less.
in this case, we are talking only on near-field monitors or smaller. any monitor bigger then that will not have the proper space to develop the right sound at the sweet spot.

2. The reason should be based on music producing needs but almost any studio monitor is good enough for mixing & mastering.

3. When we are talking about near field monitors and getting the best out of the speaker in the sweet spot, the sitting distance from the speakers should be approximately 4 to 6 fit away. Any other distance and you will not get the optimal performance out of the speaker.

4. This one is based only on personal opinion, I believe that genre is a very important factor when looking for the right monitor. There are a few studio speaker companies that are known to be preferred by different artists in different genres. This should not be a real factor unless it gives you another good reference point, and it does. When you’re using a monitor that a lot of artists in your genre use, it gets you even closer.

I know that not everybody is going to agree with me on this, and that’s why I said, this is a personal opinion.
Do what’s best for you. Now the list for my favorite Speakers For Music Production.

This list is not taking the budget factor into consideration.

Best Speakers For Music Production

Yamaha HS8

I was never a Yamaha fanboy when it comes to speakers, wasn’t on the NS10 train also… but this monitor is really special, it is just so much fun to work with. It would not be my first or even my 4th choice for mixing and mastering because It sounds so big and crazy fun!
But “FUN” is exactly why it would be my first choice for music production. It is built in a traditional way in an MDF box with simple controls on the back. The best thing about this speaker is the amount of level you can get out of it without distorting the signal. It also feels like it wants you to crank up the levels to a proper working level to really get the best out of it. This monitor is a little bigger then the others, it has an 8″ woofer and a dome tweeter. This woofer size can really make you feel the bass thump in your chest and this is why I chose it over its little brothers. It looks kinda like the NS10 which I like, It is a good look for the studio in my opinion. The HS8 range goes down to 35hz which will rattle all your doors and will open all the screws in your house. The HS8 is significantly cheaper than the others on this list but it is like the underground opponent that came in from nowhere and gained a lot of respect just for being that good.
I must say that I loved on most genres although it sounded a bit too aggressive for acoustic stuff. Just my opinion.
In the end, this is a really great monitor to produce music on or just listen to music. It’s going to be so much fun! YEAHHH!

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Dynaudio BM5 MKIII

I have an Israeli friend who is making trance music. Israel is considered to be one of the biggest exporters of trance music.
Every trance guy I ever knew is working with the Dynaudios and swear by it like it’s the holy grail of all studio monitors.
After a few years of knowing that, I had to test it for myself. I went to the store and got a pair of BM5 MKIII for a week of testing before buying. After one week with this speaker, I’ve come to the conclusion that the hype was true! I absolutely loved it. At first, it sounded a little two dimensional and flat but in time I’ve learned to work with it and couldn’t let go.
It has a great filtering system on the back panel, great sounding tweeter, very punchy bass and clear mid range.
I did not have the need to use my sub with this monitor because it feels like it gets low enough.
I could work for hours without getting that familiar ear fatigue that I was getting with a lot of other speakers.
I didn’t end up buying it but I wouldn’t hesitate the next time I have the opportunity. You can also check out the Dynaudio BM6A on Amazon.

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Adam A7x

This one is a little different. Usually, I don’t go for the flat sounding monitor and I don’t really care for accuracy once I get to know the speaker and my room better. Adam A7x was my main monitor for a few years and I had a weird relationship with it. I didn’t automatically like it, it was a little painful on the high end and weak on the low end. Adam’s tweeters are known to be crazy hard to a degree that a lot of times I used to put a little filter on the tweeter to soften them a bit. Also the bass does not go low enough and it is not that punchy. But boy, did I produce the best sounding mixes ever on them! it is so accurate and clear, I could hear long reverb tails even under a whole pumping mix.
I’m able to hear even the slightest EQ compression changes. The whole midsection from 500hz up to 6K is so on point that I didn’t want to replace it even tho I didn’t really like it. But I have to say that in my electronic music era I really needed a sub along with the A7x cause I wanted to feel that satisfying “thump” in the chest. I just needed more bass to help me feel and enjoy the music while producing it. Bottom line, the Adam A7x is amazing but It would not be my first speaker for music production. It will be my absolute first choice for checking my mixes tho 🙂

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Genelec 8040B

Now, this speaker is amazing, I fell in love with the Genelec company when I first heard them in the store next to all the others. I started with their little model, the 8020A and I swear it sounded “bigger” then the other physically bigger speakers around it. It a was clean, sharp and a beautiful sounding speaker. I was listening to a movie score that I liked. You could hear the orchestra and the huge recording spaces, everything was 3D in the most impressive way possible from a speaker this size. Then I switched to some EDM and although it still sounded amazing for its size, the kicks and basses had almost zero balls. So I switched to it’s bigger brother, The 8030A and WOW! This is without a doubt the most impressive monitor I’ve listened to inside this store that day. So I decided to stretch my budget a little more and got the 8040B. This is a real piece of art in my humble opinion. A proper studio reference monitor. Like it’s little brothers it is made out of aluminium and is designed so well that if you closed your eyes you would never believe it’s that small. It was punchy with a clear midsection and brilliant highs. I can work for days on this beast and never get tired. This is definitely my first choice for music production purposes. Also, it does not fall short in the mix department. If I could pick only one speaker this is the one.

That’s it for now, guys, thanks for reading.

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How To Use a Multiband Compressor Like A Ninja – 9 Tips

How to use a multiband compressor like a ninja

How To Use a Multiband Compressor Like A Ninja - 9 Tips

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Everybody knows what is a Multiband Compressor so I’m not going to get too deep on what it is, but I am going to help you use it like a pro.

The thing about Multiband Compressor (MBC) is that it’s like a ninja sword. It’s not the smartest move to start using it until you’ve mastered the wooden sword first.

In this post, you will learn everything there is to know about the MBC- how to use it on vocals, different instruments, and more. It is the perfect tool for controlling and even somewhat automatically mastering a lot of different sources. That’s why it has taken its first steps at radio stations.

Real Quick – What Is A Multiband Compressor?

AudioStreetsYeah, I know I said I’m not going to teach you what it is, but this is only a short section for the new guys. Basically, a Multiband Compressor is a 3 or 4 (or more) compressors in one plugin, spread over the whole frequency spectrum.

Each compressor is working at a different frequency range, giving you the ultimate dynamic control over the channel. You can also think about it as a type of dynamic EQ that allows you to separately compress each and every frequency range.

It’s all About Control

The Multiband Compressor is a great tool for controlling and shaping a simple or complicated source with one tool. For example, if you want to shape and control a vocal channel and you want to surgically compress every frequency band while getting a very specific result, the MBC is the best tool to do it with.

Think about compressing a single vocal channel; You can compress the low range in 5 db to get a very controlled low end while leaving the mid and high bands a little bit more loose. 
It’s an express lane straight to dynamic heaven.

Getting Your Channel Ready For Process

I always suggest starting with leveling the dynamics for the whole channel. Sometimes it takes a little pre-fader automation work or changing the levels for each event on your channel, which is my preferred method.

The goal is to create a stable RMS level for the whole channel and work your way up from there.

After that, I add a regular digital and transparent compressor for a little more control over the dynamic range. This compressor is shaving the top 2 or 3 db- that’s it. Only do that if you feel like the raw vocal is all over the place dynamically.

The Channel Is Now Balanced – Great!

This is the part where you throw in your favorite MBC on the chain. Keep in mind, I don’t suggest going with “The best sounding Multiband Compressor” but with the one that you are most familiar with. This is important.

First, try looking for problems. If you need to, you can open an EQ plugin before the MBC just so you can find problems by easily swiping across the frequency range.

For example, if you find a harsh high mid frequency, you can immediately set up one of the high-frequency bands on the MBC to shave 2 or 3 db’s off of it.
Remember, everything we do with a Multiband Compressor should be done in a corrective manner and very subtly, unless we’re looking for something else other than control.

After that, you can put a regular LA2A or a 1176 style compressor and get an overall processed and controlled vocal. I think I did that on almost every vocal I’ve ever mixed in the last few years.

For me, the trick with multiband compressing is not to overdo it.
It’s best if you use it only to dynamically shape your source and, only then, maybe do some heavy lifting with a regular compressor and a limiter after that if you feel the need for it. When you’re done processing your vocal channel, bypass only the MBC, does it sound like you lost some of its magic? Great, you did a good job.

In some cases, it’ll sound better without the MBC, even after hours of fiddling with it. In this case, turn off your ego and the MBC and move on to the next channel in your mix.

In most cases, a regular good compressor would be just fine.

Color


Now that you have control over the different frequency bands across the whole range, you can use it to shape and create a certain color for your channel. It’s very similar to an EQ shaping of the source but it is more dynamic and alive.

You can create a bottom-heavy guitar sound without crowding the entire low range, or a vocal sound with a nice bright character that cuts through the mix without it being too harsh. You can add in the pretty stuff and cut out the ugly and unnecessary garbage.

Do I Have To Use All The Bands All The Time?

Of course not. As a matter of fact, in most cases, you won’t have to use all the bands because you’d only need to shape and control one or two areas. Let’s say you want the mid-range section to breathe and be free while you do want the low and high ends to be tighter. Easy- go for it.

Multiband Expander

AudioStreetsAs we all know, in most Multiband Compressors you can also expand certain frequency ranges. 

In short, an expander will expand the dynamic range of a source once it goes above the threshold. 

Let’s say you want the high band to be compressed and controlled, the midrange to bite and be more aggressive, while the low mid is compressed and the low end is pumping and kicking you in the stomach- You can do that. It works beautifully with bass guitars, different synth sounds, and with almost any other source, really.

The real secret in expanding is finding the sweet spot for the attack and release. 

Every source needs its own settings and, once you find it, you can make an electric guitar or bass much punchier and help them jump to the front of the mix more easily. On vocals, you can really affect the performance and give it more bite and aggression with the right settings.

It’s important to know that there are no specific settings for each source, you just need to tweak and find it for yourself.

Tip #1 – Multiband Sidechain

This is a cool one- I call this “compressing without compressing”. Meaning, the processed channel will not get affected unless something else covers it. Let’s say you have a cool electric guitar riff that holds the song and you want it in the middle of the song together with the vocal but they are both sitting on the same frequency range and you don’t want them to clash for the whole song, this is what you do.

Step 1
Send the vocal to a parallel bus and the bus to trigger the sidechain in the MBC on the guitar channel, it’s easy to set it up. It’s a little different on each digital audio workstation application but the idea is pretty much the same.

Step 2
Look for the frequency range where most of the vocal sits and set the sidechain on the guitar’s channel right on that same range. Now, every time the vocal plays, it triggers the compressor for that same frequency range on the guitar channel and compresses the guitar without losing it in the parts where there’s no vocal. Lovely.

Tip #2 – Adding Punch To A VocalMultiband Compressor

I can only tell you how I personally do it, Here it is. First, you have to get the overall dynamic of the vocal settled. You don’t want the RMS to get too crazy because you need a steady level going into your Multiband Compressor. So you do a basic compression on the vocal before it goes to the MBC.

Make sure to keep it loose, meaning slow Attack and fast Release. After that, you need to set the bands to expand instead of compress. Usually it’s only changing the Ratio parameter to a positive value. This tells the band compressors to create a boost every time the signal’s going above the threshold.

You don’t have to engage all the bands. You only need one or two, sometimes three.

If you use more than that, the source might break and not be as powerful, if that makes any sense. Most of the “punch” power is located in two ranges: it’s the low mid and high mid. I don’t usually touch the middle of the range, because that is where the natural fundamental is living and I don’t like changing it.

So if it’s a deep male voice, the “low punch” is between 80hz and 300hz and the “high punch” is around 2k to 5k.

Try these ranges as a starting point for every male voice. If it’s a girl, the highs are pretty much the same and the lows are a bit higher- let’s say from 150hz to 350hz. Turn off all the other bands. Now, solo the low band and set the ratio to an exaggerated value like +6db, the Attack on 30 milliseconds, and the Release on 70. This is just to put you in the ballpark.

These parameters will probably change along the way as you’re searching for the sweet spot. Let the vocal play and start lowering the threshold. At some point you will start to hit the point and the meter will show a few db’s of gain each time the threshold is being crossed. It will sound like the peaks are jumping out of the monitors- this is what we’re looking for.

When you finally find the exact timing for the Attack and Release, set the threshold to be a bit higher, and set the Ratio to 2-3 db max, depending on how aggressive you want it to be. Do the same for the High section.

Usually the Attack and Release will have to be shorter because the higher frequencies are faster. This also works great on synth channels, basses, and guitars. I don’t recommend doing it on acoustic guitars, although I’m learning new things every once in a while so never say never.

Tip #3 – Balance A Drums Overhead Stereo Channel

When you record drums, the overhead microphones will pick up more highs than lows. To me, the idea is to get the overhead channel to sound almost like a full range drum set. Yes you can do it with an EQ and leave it there, and you can also use the MBC for a little more dynamic result that sounds a bit more “Alive”. This is how I do it.

I don’t compress before the compressor. I just do a high cut and low cut with an EQ before I send it to the MBC. Now you start with “EQing” with the Multiband Compressor. Yes, you heard right. You can shape the channel’s EQ curve with the gain feature on every band. After you do that, you start compressing a few db’s on every band. Play with the Attack and Release until you like how it sounds. Remember, these are fast sounds, so shorter Attack and Release will get you there more easily.

Make sure to work in solo mode on each band and take your time with it. Remember to be gentle, we are not trying to break the source, only to make it sound a little bit more alive. After you finish processing, try to switch the MBC in and out and look for what it does against just doing the same with an EQ. If you like what you hear better with the MBC, we did good 🙂 Next.

Tip #4 – Shapeing A Rhythm Acoustic Guitar

You’d be surprised to know that acoustic guitar is one of the hardest instruments to mix, let alone record. Of course, you can use an EQ and compressor to process an acoustic guitar, but how about having both of them in the same plugin and work their magic in a much more intelligent and dynamic way? Ok, the truth is that a rhythm acoustic guitar channel is made up of few different processors so the MBC is just a small part of it but still, it really helps the guitar to find its place in the mix.

This is how I do it- I start with an EQ to give it a basic shape and high and low cuts. Then, throw in the Multiband Compressor and start working on the “dynamic shape” of the guitar. You can make an acoustic guitar breathe and move naturally on the spectrum with no sudden peaks or crazy holes in the frequency range.

Let’s take a rhythm acoustic guitar for example. With the right process, you can make it sound like a steady warm acoustic wall of chords that wraps the whole song in sweet harmony. So we use all the bands and we start with the ratio for all the bands on 5db. From there, we start lowering the threshold until we see some compression. At this stage, we can already hear what the MBC is doing to the guitar.

Now, this is a big one for me- although we compress each band separately, I still find it very important to keep the same Attack and Release values on all the bands. If we don’t do that, in some cases the guitar might break and lose it’s energy and drive because we messed with its internal dynamic properties, which we don’t want.

We only want the whole frequency range to be consistent and balanced. With a rhythm acoustic guitar, you’d generally want to have a fast attack and a slow release, Play with it until you find the right timing for your acoustic guitar part. You don’t have to work on each band in solo mode. Remember, the goal is just to have balanced rhythm acoustic guitar across the whole song. When done the right way, it can make a world of difference in the final result.

Tip #5 – Compressing A Ballad Piano

In cases like this, where the piano takes a really big place inside the song, it’s very important to control its dynamics and use it as an emotional ground for the whole song. This is the perfect scenario for using a Multiband Compressor. Again, we are using all the bands here and we start with the main section for the piano which is the low mid to mid frequencies. Most of the energy in pianos is living between 150hz to 2Khz, so we can start there.

As a starting point, we set the Ratio to 5db on all the bands and lower the threshold to see some compression. If the part is consisting of long chords, you want the Attack to be around 50ms+- and the Release to be around 200ms+-.

You should always play with these parameters and not take these numbers as gospel. The reason for that is that every piano has it’s character and unique properties. The main goal here is to find the right inner groove for the instrument and the way it plays. It’s very important to set the Release to the right value. You don’t want the piano to “Pump” out of rhythm or be too lose. You have to look for the right timing.

When working with Multiband Compressor on a piano, you don’t want to stay in solo mode all the time, because you’re EQing and compressing at the same time, so you want to know exactly what you’re getting out of your speakers. Also, make sure that you keep the same Attack value for all bands so you won’t “break” the energy of the piano. As for the Release, here, you have much more freedom because of the nature of the piano.

The lower notes tend to sustain longer and have more energy, so you can try and set the release for higher values.

After you find the right timing for the Attack and Release, make sure to find the right Ratio. I, personally, don’t like to squash the piano too much, so, for me, it’s between 2 to 3db of gain reduction on each band. It is very subtle, but inside the mix it makes all the difference.

Tip #6 – Reduce Bad Frequencies On Acoustic Guitar

As I said in the last acoustic guitar tip, it is one of the hardest instruments to mix, and even the most experienced audio engineers and producers will sometimes struggle with that. Sometimes acoustic guitars can have unpleasant and shrieking high content frequencies, especially when the strings are new. You can fix that with an EQ, but when you just create a hole in the guitar’s natural frequency response you might just lose good information. You want to fix that in an automatic and intelligent way. Of course, the MBC to the rescue.

Usually, these shrieking frequencies are between 2Khz to 8Khz.

Tip #7 – Adding Energy To A Mix

So, it’s going to be very simple. First, yes, this is a mastering tip, but you shouldn’t be afraid of it if you’re not yet at that level. Assuming that you have healthy levels and good balance across your mix: no distortions, no clipping and you’re entering the final stage of the mixing process, throw in your favorite MBC on the mix bus and start here. It might change from genre to genre, but it’ll give you a good starting point. E

ngage only 2 bands, the lowest frequency range and the highest frequency range. Bypass all the others.

Low Band
Set the Cross-over point to 150hz. Set the Ratio to 3db, Attack around 50ms, and the Release at around 120ms. Now, start lowering the threshold in solo mode. Now you see and hear a little compression. If you feel that it’s not enough for you, try increasing the Ratio. Remember, don’t get the threshold too low or compress more than 2 or 3db’s, because you might break the energy for the whole mix. After you get the required compression, increase the gain for the low band in 2db. That should make your lows more collected and controlled.

High Band
This band should range from 2k to 10k. Set the Ratio to 3db. Attack – 3ms, Release 6ms, and start lowering the threshold to see some compression. Once you have reduction, increase the gain in 2 to 3db to compensate. Again, try to play a little bit with the parameters to get the timing right. Remember, it should be very subtle. Bypass the MBC on and off to hear the changes. If you like it, we did good.

Techniques for Mixing with Multiband Compression

Tip #8 – Controlling An Audio Channel From A Video Shoot

Yeah, it’s not a music production tip, but we all do everything these days, and it’s a pretty amazing tip, so I’m not going to leave it out. It’s simple, assuming that you have healthy levels, no distortions, no clipping, and you’re entering the final stage of the mixing process, throw your favorite Multiband Compressor on the channel and engage all the bands. Now, look for the busiest part in your signal and set the ratios on all the bands to 8db. Next, look for the right threshold level for your signal until you start seeing some compression. Do it on all the bands and let it go.

Try to look for unpleasant peaks in the signal and work from there. This is not a steady and repetitive audio source, like music, so it’s all over the place. But it’s enough to have 8db of gain reduction on all the bands, and you already have good dynamic control over the signal. Some MBC’s have an automatic Attack and Release control. This will be the perfect application for that.

Tip #9 – Getting Rid Of Painful Frequencies In Female Voices

It’s a little funny, but some female singers have some kind of an annoying high frequency that makes them unpleasant to listen to, and it might ruin the whole performance. I don’t like to name names, but I think one very good singer that has an annoying high-frequency thing in her voice is Jorja Smith. She is a great singer, but if you listen to her natural voice on her show in Tiny Desk Concert, I couldn’t take more than 2 minutes. It’s just painful.

So what do we do?? Easy! We drop an MBC on that joint 🙂 Usually, the annoying range is right between 3k to 7k.

How do we find it? We first open an EQ on the channel and create a narrow band with a boost of 10db. Then, we sweep across that range to find the painful spot. Once we’ve found it, we set one of the high-frequency bands to live right on this area with a narrow band if possible. This is a good starting point:

  • Ratio – 4db
  • Attack – 50ms
  • Release – 100ms
  • Gain compensation – Increase accordingly

Again, start lowering the threshold to see some compression and go from there. Make sure you’re not overdoing it, because you don’t wanna kill the natural character of the vocalist. It is important to understand that every MBC is working a little differently, so you might get different results on different MBC’s. That is why you should play with the parameters around those starting points to find the sweet spot for your source and your Multiband Compressor.

Fix Muddy Guitars – Great Tips

Always Be Comparing

Don’t forget to compare your work with the work of others from the same genre. It makes a world of difference if you’re aiming to the level of other professionals.

Switch It On & Off

Remember! Always switch the MBC on and off when you finish editing, it’ll give you an overview and let you know if you like the result or not. There will be some cases where it’ll not work, don’t fight it. Switch it off and go on with your mix.

Let’s Wrap It Up

Play with it, have fun with it, tweak for hours until you’re able to use the MBC like playing an instrument. As a matter of fact, this should be your way of thinking throughout your whole musical journey.

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Hey everybody, Avi here. I freaking LOVE preamps, don’t you? Back in the early 2000’s, when I’d just started recording music in a professional way, I was using the onboard preamps on my RME Fireface 400 interface. It was nice, until I started using REAL preamps. And this is what we are talking about in this post.

Disclaimer:

I’m not going to get too technical here, just share my own personal experience with these sweet devices. If you need more technical details, look at the links under every preamp section. Enjoy.

What Is A Preamp?

A preamp, in simple words, is an amplifier for a microphone. The microphone output is called “Mic Level”, and it is considered to be a very low level signal. The microphone voltage range is between -60dbv to -40dbv. It is, of course, a very low voltage level, and you have to amplify it in order to get it up to “Line level” (-10dbv). Most audio devices are accepting “Line level” signals. This is the most basic and first reason to use a preamp.

Phantom Power

This is the second reason for using a preamp. When you are using a condenser microphone that needs a phantom power to work, a preamp is the device that sends this power over to the microphone. A phantom power is not needed when connecting a dynamic microphone. In most cases, if you send a phantom power to a dynamic microphone, nothing will happen unless you’re using a ribbon microphone, I don’t recommend that.

Sound Character

Different preamps have different “colors”. Much like microphones, you can choose your preamp according to the signal you’re about to record. For example, certain preamps will sound better on acoustic guitars, while others will be great for vocals.

Which Preamp

Most audio interfaces today have at least one microphone preamp. Are they good enough?

They are good enough, without a doubt. For most purposes, and especially for home recording, when you don’t have to meet the highest industry standard. Also, most people would not be able to tell what kind of preamp you used. Especially under all these different processes.

However, after using this simple onboard, transparent, and characterless preamp, you will start to have dreams about those nicer sounding preamps. This is where you would want to see our list.

Higher Level Preamps

Those are built for much higher demands and possess all kinds of sonic qualities. Preamps are divided by classes and different technologies.

Vacuum Tube Preamp

For these preamps, the amplification is done with Tubes. These will have more emphasis on the low end frequencies, and also tend to have softer highs. These will work great on vocals, electric guitars, amps, basses, and basically every instrument that you want to sound warmer, rounder, and with softer high frequencies.

Discrete Preamp

These are built with different electronic components like transistors, resistors, and capacitors. Transistor based preamps are more fast and punchy sounding. They are very good for recording instruments and vocals, with emphasis on the midrange and higher frequencies.

For example, acoustic guitars, aggressive guitar amps, drums, vocals with more sharp and aggressive characteristics, and practically every source that you would want to have “that” character.

IC Preamp

It is very similar to discrete preamps, but is made with small chips planted on a board. Naturally, it will put out a more clean sound with a low noise floor. A lot of audio interfaces are using this technology, but in most cases, it’s not considered to be high end.

Cables

It doesn’t matter what preamp you’re using. It’s highly recommended to use high quality mic cables for the microphone and from the preamp output signal going to the audio interface. It makes a big difference, trust me.

Our Favorite Preamps:

This is a list of preamps that I liked using in the past and that I’m still using today. Price is not a factor for now, only personal taste. This list includes only products by known companies and which you can get in stores. I’ve used amazing preamps before that were built by private individuals that no one knows and that you can’t get in the store, but this I will leave to another post.

Golden Age Pre 73 MKIII

I first started with the first version of the Pre 73 in 2011. This was the first class A preamp that brought that expensive sound to the home recording producers. It had the Neve 73 style circuit; all discrete components and no IC at all. With 80db of input gain and a great output control knob, I could get all the colors I wanted. Everybody had this preamp, so I had to try it and see If I fall for the hype. I did. It was really amazing for it’s price. It had one significant drawback: high noise floor. It was a noisy preamp, no doubt. After piling some tracks on top of each other, you can definitely hear this noise. It was nice for loud rock productions, but when I needed a cleaner signal, this preamp was not the one to use. After that, came the MKII, and the noise was gone. It was amazing on almost every source. The only thing I didn’t record with it was strumming acoustic guitars. With the MKIII, they made it even better and added more features such as:

  • High pass filter with two positions, to cut the low end. 
  • Air boost EQ’s, two positions.
  • Renewed input gain knob.

This preamp has one of the best instrument input I have ever used. I absolutely love how it sounds on direct bass guitar. I also had a few songs where I didn’t even record an amp, just my clean G&L Custom straight to the instrument input and to logic with a little EQ and compression, and that’s it, sounds amazing. This pre does everything with remarkable results.

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Universal Audio Solo 610

This preamp is so much fun! I love it’s design; it looks like a piece of console taken from a Russian submarine from the 40’s. It is based on the original Putnam 610 console, which had a classic tube sound and was used in a lot of studios by a lot of famous artists. This preamp is equipped with a 12AX7 tube and a 12AT7 tube. Even though it has a very simple design, and very few controls, it is very easy to achieve a wide range of beautiful tones and colors with it. By using a low input gain setting, you can get a clean and almost transparent tone. As you increase the input gain and drive the tube, you add more beautiful and sweet sounding harmonic distortion to your source.

Vocals I’ve recorded with it came out very smooth and creamy, if I’m allowed to use these terms. It sounds relatively soft and very musical. I loved it on male vocals, electric guitars, bass, brasses, and pretty much any source in general. What about acoustic guitars, you ask? It’s pretty much the same as the Pre 73, I like it very much on finger picking acoustic guitar. It has a warm sound; full, and overall, very rich sound. I wish I had a whole console of these pre’s…

I also recommend trying the Universal Audio 710 Twin-Finity preamp which has a discrete circuit in addition to the classic tube one, and you can mix between them with a mix knob. It also offers a lot of colors, features, and flexibility.

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API 512c

This beautiful beast came in an API Lunchbox. This preamp is a classic with origins back in the 60’s and 70’s. When I first started using this preamp, I was already using a bunch of other great preamps, so it was kinda hard to sweep me off my feet. But the API 512c brought a new era of sound to my recordings. Vocals sounded more punchy and clear in the midrange section, but still with a lot of low end body and high end precision. The 512c has a tendency to push every single detail to the front of the mix so it is perfect for pop vocals, rock, and any punchy sounding source.

It is great on electric guitars, bass, vocals, of course, and I also really like it on acoustic guitars. They sound clean, bright, and shiny, exactly how I like my acoustic guitars to sound. The 512c brings an old and classic flavor to the table. It is built exactly like the original ones, designed by Soul Walker. It is very musical and flexible. You can hear and see it in big production studios and in home recording studios as well. It is hand-assembled, very reliable, and built for years of hard work in the studio. I only wish it came with an output control and an independent box, but other than that, it is just perfect.

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OK, honestly, I didn’t expect this preamp to surprise me and sound that good, but it does! It is like everything that I ran through just came alive. It has a slightly compressed character; a little boost in the lows and highs, and every source that is going through it comes out a little processed. I usually don’t like a processed sound out of something that should give me a raw output, but in this case it is just magic! This unit sounds very special, and I use it anytime I need something to have a special place in a mix, or to cut through some production layers in a natural way. This one is also a 500 series, which I also liked to have in a half rack unit size. I’m a sucker for independent units, I admit it.

I first heard this preamp back in 2013. The Chandler Little Devil offers a lot of flexibility and tons of character to work with. I really like it on female vocals. It gives the ladies a brilliant shine and great breathy voice that throws me straight to Mariah Carey’s sound from the 90’s, but it might be just my own personal thing.

In the feature section, it is like all the others, but with the Little Devil, they add a little bright switch, which I like very much. It adds that cool boost in the highs, which gives a little air to the overall signal.

There is something very special that happens with the feedback knob, I won’t try to explain it here, because I don’t want to get it wrong, but I strongly recommend to read about it in the company’s website.

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This is a pricy one, but who thinks about money when you’re falling in love! The 737 is a big unit and, usually, I get scared when I work with big machines, after being used to working with small units. This one has a lot of knobs and lights and meters and weird symbols… it’s not for me,  I’m a simple dude! These were my first thoughts about this preamp. But, then I relaxed and gave it a listen. First, I need to say that this is not only a preamp, by definition, because it also has a compressor section and an EQ section. So, practically, it is a whole “Channel Strip”. I have a soft spot for real outboard compressors, so this was the first thing I started with.

The 737’s opto-compressor is really special. It resembles the classic LA2A compressor. It’s not the most aggressive compressor, which I like, and it has a cool behavior while it’s riding the peaks of an acoustic guitar or slap bass. The EQ is also on the sweet side. It’s highs are pretty soft, and it is quite easy to get a great, processed vocal right out of the box. Usually, I don’t recommend recording post process, because then you’re stuck with it. But if you’re experienced enough, and you know exactly what you’re after, it can help you achieve these very high end results. I know not everybody can afford this channel strip, and not everybody needs it, but if you, somehow, find it for a good price in second hand, snatch it, because it sounds beautiful, and you’re gonna love it! For sure.

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Hey everybody, these tips are personal lessons that I’ve learned over the years and I’m sharing them here with you. You don’t have to follow all of the tips but if you implement only a few of them your mixes will already get so much better. In general, mixing is a skill that takes a lot of time to develop but with patience and perseverance, you can get to a very high level in a relatively short time. Mixing is a long and complicated process, it’s good to have a plan that’ll help you to get the mix down in just a few hours. Get ready to be a much better mixing engineer! 1. Use Groups, Busses, And Folders Prepare your mix before you start working on it. If you have a visually nice and clean project, it’ll make it a lot easier to make it sound good. In most DAW’s you have the option to arrange your project in track folders. For example, all the drums channels in one folder. Guitars, vocals and synths, each group of channels get a folder of its own. This way every time you work on a certain group you keep the others closed. If you can keep yourself and your project organized you’ve already done better then most people. Make sure to send similar content channels to groups and busses on the mixer. It helps you to control their level, automation, and plugins much more easily and it helps you save CPU power. 2. Scenes clapperMost songs, especially pop songs are divided into parts. I call them “Scenes”. Verse, Chorus, B part, Bridge are all different scenes in one song. It’s a lot easier to work on each scene separately. This is how you get stuff done faster and you don’t get lost or overwhelmed by the project. Divide the song to different scenes with colors and markers. When you treat every part of your song as if it is its own little project it’ll be more organized and you will get to the finish line much faster. 3. Start With The Busiest Part Of The Song If you can get this part to sound the way you want it, it’s much easier to get the other parts to sound good. Do This and your mix is at least 60% done. 4. Gain Staging If you make sure to mix in the right levels, you’ve already done a big percentage of the work. Gain staging starts at the recording stage. Make sure your levels are right. That means you have to look for unity gain in every device or outboard equipment you have in your recording chain. Every device, hardware or software, has its unity gain which is a sweet spot in which the device sounds best. It’ll not change the source that much and will sound clean and detailed. Sometimes like with preamps, you would want to stress the device and get it out of its comfort zone. This will give you different sound characters to work with. My recommendation is to only do it if you know exactly what you’re doing and looking for. It’s important to know, as, with hardware, unity gain and sound sweet spots are things you can also find in software. With plugins, never go beyond the digital 0db point, Input and output. Some plugins, usually those which are emulation based will give you interesting sound character if you get them to work in higher levels above their sweet spot. You should try everything, but at this stage, I would recommend going for the cleanest sound you can possibly get. Sometimes you look for coloration in every channel in your mix and you end up losing the focal point of the mix because everything is “colored”, so start clean and simple and go on from there.
 5. Filters Filters are like club bouncers, If you’re problematic, look like trouble, too ugly, too unnecessary, you’re out! Yeah, I know it’s a bad analogy but it makes me laugh and it actually works here. In fact, think about your song as a small club for VIP members only. The more we let in, the more quality we lose. This tip is more for the production stage but it’s definitely true for the mixing stage too. Most channels and sources will come with a lot more details and information that you actually need. For example, if we have a full range stereo piano channel, this channel will take most of the frequency spectrum. It won’t leave a lot of room for vocals, guitars, strings and practically anything that sits on the same frequency range. Again this is also a production thing because it’s important to build the piano part around or with the other parts working with it. Harmonic content can be very domineering and take a lot of important space in the mix. The more you filter out information, the more space you’d have for other elements in the mix. The critical filtering is done in the lower frequency range but the more you high cut unnecessary higher frequency content, the more clean and clear your mix get. 6. Make Room For Air Air is a very important factor in good mixes. Sometimes the more we add to the mix, the more cluttered it becomes. Examples for “Air hogging elements”: Piano, strings, pads, long full range Reverb, and practically any legato or long notes instrument parts. The shorter notes you have in your production, the more space you’ll be able to work with. This depends on the genre. Sometimes you just have to have all those long note harmonic parts in order to achieve the right emotional impact. The thing I love the most about airy productions is that in the mastering stage the air becomes a critical factor for the overall sound and the levels we will achieve. The airy productions are usually sound more punchy, more detailed, higher in levels and more impressive in general.
 7. EQ Curving Things Out As I wrote in the air paragraph, the more you take out, the more space you have for air. It’s the same with EQ. The thing is trying to understand where you want every instrument on the frequency spectrum and curving out or lowering the things you don’t want clashing with other elements in the mix. For example, If your piano plays on the higher register (higher octaves) you can peacefully take out its lower end frequencies. Say if the majority of the piano part is between 600hz and 4k you can lower the level for 500hz to 150hz and make space for the male vocals, electric guitars and whatever you have on that exact frequency range. I will suggest not to cut stuff but only to lower in level. At first, cutting out information from the source will feel like the wrong thing to do, trust me, I’ve been there. Once you click out of solo mode, you hear how clear things become.
 8. Lower The Levels In general, If you don’t get your signal too compressed and too close to the ceiling it’ll be able to “breathe” and be more dynamic. If your channels are not too squashy it’ll automatically breathe new life in your mix. Sometimes you don’t have to do so much, a little filter and eq and that’s it. Trust the process and don’t try too hard to perfect every channel. Keep the peaks of each channel at around -14db more or less and make sure your whole mix peaks at around -10db on the master bus, that’s a good start. 9. Start The Mix On Headphones Yeah, this is a little too out there I know, but keep going. I usually start the mix on my headphones, looking for a place for the different elements in the production. After a quick fiddling with the song and about half an hour of coffee in front of my computer, I see the direction my subconscious is taking me. If you’re using a good per of mixing headphones, you won’t be too far from liking what you hear on your speakers. When you start on headphones, you can easily find the direction you want for the song. It’s just like that somehow, try it. 10. Room Correction With EQ There are two ways to correct or at least try to balance a room with an EQ. There is the new way, using systems like the IK Multimedia Arc System with a special microphone and plugins you put on the master bus and everything goes thru it. The second way is the old school way, this is how I used to do it back in the day. I will tell you here only about the second way of the old school me. Today I use tools to do that and I get much more accurate results but you can still get a pretty good result with the old school way. The Old School Tip:
 So it’s like that, You find a few reference songs that are commercially and professionally mixed, mastered and released, and that are ON THE SAME KEY as the song you’re working on, preferably in the same genre also. You put them on your DAW, put a real transparent EQ on the master channel, hit play and listen to the songs while trying to understand what’s missing from all of them. For example, if you hear any overload in the low midrange in all the songs, it means that you have an acoustic problem in your room in that area on the spectrum. Now you can just take it down a notch on the master EQ. So basically you play with the EQ until all these songs sound good to you. What you did is you adjusted the listening sweet spot to sound like it should for you to get a good result. shouldn’t take more than 3 minutes. Do the same thing with the other songs. Again, a song in the same key and same genre. There will be a little bit of back and forth between the songs to get the exact EQ curve that minimizes the acoustic problems in your room. Eventually, you’ll get there. Switch the EQ On and Off a few times and you’ll understand the effect. Although it is not the most accurate method out there, it’ll get you right in the ballpark. 
11. Listening Modes Ok, this tip originally comes from professional mastering engineers. Look for a plugin that will let you hear your mix in different listening modes. The one FREE plugin I can think of now is Braiworx bx_solo. This is a sweet little plugin you put on the master bus and it lets you hear your mix in the following modes: 
Mono - Left and right channels are mixed into the middle. Sides - Only left and right information, with no center. L&R Switch - Flips the left and right channels. Solo L - Plays only left channel Solo R - Plays only right channel Stereo Width Knob - Widening/Narrowing the stereo image. Listening to the mix in different listening modes can point out problems in the mix, little things you want to change and you had a real hard time finding inside the full stereo mix. It’s like looking at a picture from different angles. It makes it a lot easier to “see” the problems. 
12. Reference Songs This is basic common sense in the world of mixing and mastering but you’d be surprised to know how easy it to overlook this important method. You can work for hours on a mix and after you think it’s finished, you listen to a reference track and you find out you’ve made a lot of progress in the wrong direction. Happened too many times. Every professional mastering engineer will listen to reference songs before and during the process of mastering. A good mix engineer will do the same. This is because our memory is very short when it comes to audio and we can’t really trust it to point us in the right direction. So as I said earlier on this post, you should pick the right reference track for your current project. One of the most important factors for a good reference track is for it to be on the same key as the song you’re working on. Sometimes this is the only reason why you can’t get your mix to sound as good as your reference track. The write reference tracks are on the same key. The same genre, and the same production or at least the same general artistic direction.
 13. Focal Point This is a very known term in the mixing world. Every song has its focal point. This means that there are a few elements in the song that gives it its character. The regular human brain can’t concentrate on more than 2 main musical elements simultaneously. A good producer knows and will work around it. A focal point is usually two or three elements in the song that are making the most impact. Usually, it’s vocals, beat, and harmony. The beat is the groove element of the song and harmony can be anything that plays the chords around the main melody, which is the vocal. Every other element that is not in the focal point you can put farther back in the mix or throw it to the sides. Every good mixing engineer will know to recognize the song’s focal point and make sure it’ll stay in its safe place. Sometimes a producer will give you a rough mix of the song. This is his take on the mix. This rough mix is very important because it gives you a critical glance into his mind. You should take that rough mix seriously if you want to keep him happy. Of course, you can take it farther and make it even better, and that’s your job. But if you already have a rough mix and the producer loves it, this is your bible. 
 14. Take A Break My personal suggestion is to take a break from mixing every 25 minutes even if you don’t feel like it. Just set up an alarm clock on your phone and make yourself take a break. Go out, breathe, restart and come back in. This will keep you mentally sharp and prevent ear fatigue which will allow you to work and stay fresh for literally hours. If you don’t do it, you lose focus, you become tired and your mix will suffer. The tricky thing about is that you don’t really feel tired, it sneaks up on you and you suddenly find yourself with a bad mix. 15. Export This is one of the best things you can do to find things to fix in your mix. I don’t know how it happens but for some reason we are able to hear new things to fix in our mix after we export a file. So you take the file and you listen to it over and over again and you make a list. After you do that, you go back to your project and you do the whole list. Trust me, do this a couple of times during the finishing process. This will save you literally hours. 16. Mix Into A Limiter This one is a personal preference. In my opinion, when you do that you get a sense of how your mix will sound after the mastering process. This changes the whole dynamic behavior of your mix and pushes you to make different and better decisions during the session. Just put a simple limiter on your master bus, L1 style, compress about 3 to 8db and try it. Be careful not to overdo it because you might lose your sense of what’s right for the mix. Every once in a while bypass the limiter and work without it, then come back to working with it. 17. Professional Mastering What Is Mastering A SongSend your mix to a professional mastering engineer with a real mastering studio and a lot of experience and resume. Not only it’ll give you another layer of supervising, but it’ll also take your mix to the best place it can go to after it finishes. Don’t trust yourself with the mastering, it takes years to get good results. Mastering is not that expensive, so most people can afford it, especially if the song is important to you and it has professional requirements and goals. 18. Ask For Opinions Send your mix to other people and ask them for their opinion. Even if it’s not a professional opinion it still has a lot of value. When I was younger, I used to ask my mom what she thinks about my mix and most of the times she gave me real good advises just out of intuition. Try it. 19. Come Back Tomorrow Last but not least... actually this is a very important tip. Usually, when you finish working on a mix you’re so tired, way too deep in the process and had lost almost all of your objectivity. If you leave it today and open it tomorrow with fresh ears, you’d find a lot of small and even big things you’d want to change and improve. Let's be honest, a mix is never finished, especially if you’re a crazy perfectionist like me. But you can definitely make it a lot better if you use the “Come back tomorrow” tip. That’s it. Good luck and happy mixing!

19 Mixing Tips That Will Make Your Mixes Sound Better Today!

19 Mixing Tips That Will Make Your Mixes Sound Better Today!​

19 Mixing Tips That Will Make Your Mixes Sound Better Today!

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Hey everybody, these tips are personal lessons that I’ve learned over the years and I’m sharing them here with you. You don’t have to follow all of the tips but if you implement only a few of them your mixes will already get so much better. In general, mixing is a skill that takes a lot of time to develop but with patience and perseverance, you can get to a very high level in a relatively short time. Mixing is a long and complicated process, it’s good to have a plan that’ll help you to get the mix down in just a few hours. It’s never too late to be a better mixing engineer. 

1. Use Groups, Busses, And Folders

Prepare your mix before you start working on it.

If you have a visually nice and clean project, it’ll make it a lot easier to make it sound good. In most DAW’s you have the option to arrange your project in track folders. For example, all the drums channels in one folder. Guitars, vocals and synths, each group of channels get a folder of its own.

This way every time you work on a certain group you keep the others closed. 

If you can keep yourself and your project organized you’ve already done better then most people. 

Make sure to send similar content channels to groups and busses on the mixer. It helps you to control their level, automation, and plugins much more easily and it helps you save CPU power.

2. Scenes

clapper
Most songs, especially pop songs are divided into parts. I call them “Scenes”. Verse, Chorus, B part, Bridge are all different scenes in one song. It’s a lot easier to work on each scene separately. This is how you get stuff done faster and you don’t get lost or overwhelmed by the project.

Divide the song into different scenes with colors and markers. When you treat every part of your song as if it is its own little project it’ll be more organized and you will get to the finish line much faster.

3. Start With The Busiest Part Of The Song

If you can get this part to sound the way you want it, it’s much easier to get the other parts to sound good. Do This and your mix is at least 60% done.

4. Gain Staging

If you make sure to mix in the right levels, you’ve already done a big percentage of the work. Gain staging starts at the recording stage. Make sure your levels are right.

That means you have to look for unity gain in every device or outboard equipment you have in your recording chain.

Every device, hardware or software, has its unity gain which is a sweet spot in which the device sounds best. It’ll not change the source that much and will sound clean and detailed. Sometimes like with preamps, you would want to stress the device and get it out of its comfort zone. This will give you different sound characters to work with. My recommendation is to only do it if you know exactly what you’re doing and looking for.

“Sweet spot” is a thing you can also find in software. With plugins, never go beyond the digital 0db point. Some plugins, usually those which are emulation based will give you interesting sound character if you get them to work in higher levels above their sweet spot. You should try everything, but at this stage, I would recommend going for the cleanest sound you can possibly get.

Sometimes you look for coloration in every channel in your mix and you end up losing the focal point of the mix because everything is “colored”, so start clean and simple and go on from there.


5. Filters

Filters are like club bouncers, If you’re problematic, look like trouble, too ugly, too unnecessary, you’re out! Yeah, I know it’s a bad analogy but it makes me laugh and it actually works here.

In fact, think about your song as a small club for VIP members only. The more we let in, the more quality we lose. This tip is more for the production stage but it’s definitely true for the mixing stage too. 

Most sources will come with a lot more details than you actually need.

For example, if we have a full range stereo piano channel, it won’t leave a lot of room for vocals, guitars, strings and practically anything that sits on the same frequency range. The more information you filter out, the more space you’d have for other elements in the mix.


6. Make Room For “Air”

“Air” is a very important factor. Sometimes the more we add to the production, the more quality we lose. Examples for “Air hogging elements”: Piano, strings, pads, long Reverb tails and such.

The thing I love the most about “Airy productions” is that in the mastering stage the air becomes a critical factor.  “Airy productions” usually sound more punchy, more detailed, higher in levels and more impressive in general.


7. EQ – Take Things Out


If your piano is playing on the higher octaves, you can peacefully take out its lower end frequencies. I will suggest not to completely cut frequencies out but only lower the level. In general, cutting out information from the source will feel like the wrong thing to do but once you click out of solo mode, you hear how clear things become.


8. Lower The Levels

If your channels are not too “hot” or too high in level it’ll automatically help to keep your sound clean. Sometimes you don’t have to do so much, a little filter, a little EQ and that’s it. Make sure your whole mix peaks at around -10db on the master bus. Leave some room for the mastering process.

9. Start The Mix On Headphones

Yeah, this is a little too out there I know, but keep going. I usually start the mix on my headphones, looking for a place for the different elements in the production. After a quick fiddling with the song and about half an hour of coffee and crazy cats on Youtube my subconscious starts to point me in the right direction.

If you’re using a good pair of mixing headphones and you like what you hear, you won’t be too far from liking it on your speakers, try it. These are some of my favorite headphones for mixing.

10. Room Correction With EQ

There are two ways to correct or at least try to balance a room with an EQ. There is the new way, using systems like the IK Multimedia Arc System with a special microphone or the Sonarworks Refrence 4 with dedicated plugins to put on the master bus.

The second way is the old school way, this is how I used to do it back in the day.
You need two things: A transparent EQ plugin on the master and your ears.

Room Correction With EQ – No Special Tools, Only Your Ears

This method is not for everybody, you have to really trust your ears and have some experience with these things but it worked PERFECT for me so just try it yourself, it’s ok, no one is going to die.

You start with finding a few reference songs that are professionally mixed and mastered, preferably in the same key. Put them on your DAW, throw an EQ on the master channel, hit play and listen to the songs while trying to understand what’s missing from all of them.

For example, if you hear any overload in the low midrange in all of the songs, it means that you have an acoustic problem in your room. Now you can just fix it with the EQ. So basically you play with the EQ until you get a balanced result.

What you did is you adjusted the listening sweet spot to sound like it should. It shouldn’t take more than a few minutes. Do the same thing with the other songs. I have to say, this is not the most accurate method out there, but it’ll provide a quick little solution for now.


11. Listening Modes

This tip originally comes from professional mastering engineers. Look for a plugin that will let you hear your mix in different listening modes. The one FREE plugin that comes to mind is Braiworx bx_solo. This is a sweet little plugin you put on the master bus and it lets you hear your mix in the following modes:

  • 
Mono – Left and right channels are mixed into the middle.
  • Sides – Only left and right information, with no center.
  • L&R Switch – Flips the left and right channels.
  • Solo L – Plays only left channel
  • Solo R – Plays only right channel
  • Stereo Width Knob – Widening/Narrowing the stereo image.


Listening to the mix in different modes might help finding little problems in the mix. It’s like looking at a picture thru different filters. It makes it a lot easier to “see” the problems.


12. Reference Songs

This is common sense, yeah, but you’d be surprised to know how easy it to overlook it. You can work for hours and hours on a mix only to find out you’ve made a lot of progress in the wrong direction. Happened too many times…

Every professional mastering engineer will listen to reference songs before and during the process of mastering. A good mix engineer will do the same. This is because our memory is very short when it comes to audio and we can’t really trust it to point us in the right direction.

So as I said earlier, you should pick the right reference track for your current project. One of the most important factors for a good reference track is for it to be on the same key as the song you’re working on. Sometimes this is the only reason why you can’t get your mix to sound as good as your reference track.

The right reference tracks are on the same key, the same genre and with the same production or at least the same general artistic direction.


13. Focal Point

Every song has what I like to call a “focal point”. There are a few elements in every song that define the whole production. The human brain can’t concentrate on too many musical elements simultaneously. 

A “focal point” is usually two or three elements in the song that are making the most impact. 
Most of the time it’ll be vocals, drums and harmony. The beat is the groove element of the song and harmony can be anything that plays the chords around the main melody, which is usually the vocal.

Every good mixing engineer will know how to recognize the song’s focal point and make sure it’ll stay in its safe place. Sometimes a producer will give you a rough mix of the song. This is his take on the mix. This rough mix is very important because it gives you a critical glance into his mind. You should take that rough mix very seriously if you want to keep him happy.

Of course, you can take it farther and make it even better, and that’s your job. But if you already have a rough mix and the producer loves it, this is your guide.


14. Take A Break


My personal suggestion is to take a break every 25 minutes even if you don’t feel like it. Just set up an alarm clock on your phone and make yourself take a break. Go out, breathe, restart and come back in. This will keep you mentally sharp and prevent ear fatigue which will allow you to work and stay fresh for literally hours.

If you don’t do it, you lose focus, you become tired and your mix will suffer. The tricky thing about is that you don’t really feel tired, it sneaks up on you and you suddenly find yourself with a bad mix.

15. Export

This is one of the best tips that will help you reveal little flaws in your mix. I don’t know how it happens but for some reason we are able to hear new things to fix in our mix after we create a mixdown.

So you take the file and you listen to it over and over again and you make a list. After that, you go back to your project and fix everything. Do this a couple of times during the finishing process. This will save you literally hours.

16. Mix Into A Limiter


This one is a personal preference. In my opinion, when you mix into a Limiter, you get a sense of how your mix will sound after the mastering process. It changes the whole dynamic behavior of your mix and pushes you to make different and better decisions during the session.

Just put a simple limiter on your master bus, L1 style, compress about 3 to 8db and try it. Be careful not to overdo it because you might lose your sense of what’s right for the mix. Every once in awhile bypass the limiter and work without it, then come back to working with it. Learn more about compression and multiband compressors. 

How to use a multiband compressor like a ninja – 9 tips

17. Professional Mastering

What Is Mastering A Song
Send your mix to a professional mastering engineer with a real mastering studio and a lot of experience. In addition to another point of view, it’ll also take your mix to a better place.

Don’t trust yourself with the mastering, it takes years to get good results. Mastering is not that expensive, most people can afford it, especially if the song is important to you. 
If not, you can skip this one. If you’re new to mastering you can start learning about it here.

>> Best Mastering Plugins

18. Ask For Opinions 

Send your mix to other people and ask them for their opinion. Even if it’s not a professional opinion it still has a lot of value. When I was younger, I used to let my mom listen to my mixes and most of the times she was giving me incredible ideas that didn’t even cross my mind! Just out of pure intuition. It’s cool, try it.

19. Come Back Tomorrow

Last but not least… actually, this is a very important tip. Usually, when you finish working on a mix, you’re so tired, way too deep in the process and had lost almost all of your objectivity.

If you leave it today and open it tomorrow with fresh ears, you’d find a lot of small and even big things you’d want to change and improve. Let’s be honest, a mix is never finished, especially if you’re a crazy perfectionist like me. But you can definitely make it a lot better if you use the “Come back tomorrow” tip. 

That’s it.

Good luck and happy mixing!
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Best Condenser Mic For Vocals – On a Budget

Best Condenser Mic For Vocals - On a Budget

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MICROPHONES EVERYBODY! You know what, I really think that this subject is a bit overrated. I mean, yeah, microphones are super big deal of course, but today there are so many good ones, that it almost doesn’t matter which microphone to use as long as it is the right type of microphone for the current task.

Hey everybody, Avi here. I’m a music producer and sound engineer for more than 15 years.
In this post, I’ll write everything I know about condenser microphones that is actually important, and I’m also going to give you my list of the Best Condenser Microphones For Vocals.

Disclaimer:

The microphones on this list are considered to be affordable and not on the hyper expensive scale. I believe that above a certain price threshold the money is way above the value. But I’ll have another post about the very expensive elite microphones.

A Little History

The first condenser microphone was built in the early 1920’s. This microphone was huge in size and it’s goal was to pick up and record an entire orchestra. Condenser microphones use a vibrating diaphragm as a capacitor plate that converts acoustic movements to electrical information via preamplifier. This information is then transformed back to an acoustic information that we can hear via speakers.

Types Of Condenser Microphones & 48v Phantom Power

Condenser microphones are usually divided into two groups, small diaphragm and large diaphragm.
The small diaphragm microphones have a single pickup pattern that’s usually used for recording high frequency sources by nature, like acoustic guitars, hi-hats, percussions, etc.
The large diaphragm microphones come with larger variety of pick up patterns,
like cardioid directional, Omni directional, figure eight, and such.
The more popular one out of the two is the large diaphragm type condensers, and these are the ones we are talking about here.
Condenser microphones are electronic by nature, so they require either internal or external power to operate. Of course, most preamps these days come with a 48v phantom power for condenser microphones, so no problem there.

Pros & Cons Of A Large Diaphragm Condenser Microphone

Cons
I will start with the cons first. So a condenser microphone is very delicate because of the way it’s built. Usually you need to handle them with care. Most of the time, you won’t find large diaphragm condenser microphone on the stage because of it’s high sensitivity. Not only it is highly sensitive to humidity and temperature changes, it will also pick up the entire acoustic information on the stage and all around it in a great radius. This means a lot of unwanted noises on the channel, less control over the signal, and mostly feedback, as it is picking up it’s own signal coming from the monitors and PA speakers. So a large diaphragm condenser microphone does not belong on the stage in most cases.

Pros
On the other side, the recording studio is the natural home of the large diaphragm condenser microphone. An acoustic treated and isolated studio is the best environment for a condenser microphone, this is where it shines. Because of it’s very high sensitivity, the microphone picks up a beautiful range of frequencies on the human hearing spectrum and beyond. This works amazing with high frequency content sources and full range sources in general. Drums and cymbals, acoustic guitars, vocals, and pretty much any source you want to record in the studio.

Best Condenser Mic For Vocals

Here is my list: These are microphones that I’m personally using and have first-hand experience with them.

Neuman TLM 103
Neuman TLM 103
This is the first affordable, large condenser microphone made by Neuman. It is considered to be a work horse and it surely is. If I needed a “do it all” microphone on a budget, this would be the one, although I wouldn’t recommend using it with the wrong preamps. In my personal experience, it is very sensitive to different preamps and can sound harsh and even cheap when connected to the wrong preamp. Usually it is onboard preamps that you can find on cheap audio interfaces. In this case, the preamp will be the weak link and will determine the quality of the whole signal chain.
However, when paired with a good preamp, the TLM 103 truly shines!
It is amazingly capable of picking every type of instrument, vocal, drums, or percussions, and it does it in the most beautiful and professional manner.
So how is the TLM 103 as a vocal mic? I’m glad you asked. It is simply amazing just as expected from a company like Neuman. The TLM feels right at home in home production studios and in the professional studio environment. Some even use it for recording instruments on stage in live concerts. But what the 103 does best is picking up vocals, and especially female vocals. It adds a special bright magic to all the female vocalists I’ve ever recorded. After you’re done with the recording session and start with the mixing, the TLM 103 handles high and low boosts, compression, and other post recording processes like a real champ. 

Audio Technica AT2035

Audio Technica AT2035
I know, this one is not even in the right price range, it is cheap and too affordable, yes, but listen to me, guys. It is a brilliant condenser microphone that will not disappoint even the top productions in town. I always say that I don’t care about how much things cost, that I care only about their performance, and the Audio Technica AT2035 is a great example for that.
For years, I was using this microphone as a second microphone for all kinds of sessions.
It is truly amazing on male vocals, and again, breathtaking on female vocals. I actually had a female vocalist who preferred it over other much more expensive condenser microphones from different and much bigger companies.
One of the coolest things about this microphone is that it is not as finicky as the more expensive ones. It will sound good with any preamp. I used to record a lot of sources with the AT2035 going to the Apogee Duet 1 preamp and got a few of my best acoustic guitars of all time. I also love it on saxophone, amps, and of course vocals.
It gives me a lot of yummy details, punchy and clear midrange, soft highs, and very nice lows. Of course, it is not a Neuman u87, and you should not expect it to be, but when working with a limited budget, look no further than the Audio Tecnicha AT2035. It will last for years in and will always sound like it just got out of the box.
And if you’re looking for a cheaper version of this mic, please check out it’s little brother, the AT2020 which comes in a USB version also.

Shure SM27-LC


I first heard about the original SM27 from a friend at his studio. I think it was one of the first condenser microphones made by Shure. And, since I already LOVE Shure’s dynamic microphones, I had to give this baby a try. Listen, guys, it is a very special microphone with a very special sound. I can only give you my personal take on it, and you can decide whether it’s right or not for you. So after hearing so many condensers, cheap and not so cheap, and even “very not so cheap” I think the SM27,LC, next generation, sounds amazing for vocals. It has this soft character in it’s overall sound. It’s a bit hard to describe but I’ll try. Have you ever listened to a snare drum with a thin blanket over it? It becomes a little more soft-sounding. This is exactly what I experience with this microphone but without the drop in high frequencies. Harsh vocals suddenly become softer and round. I felt like it has that dynamic Shure signature sound. I hope you know what I’m trying to say here.
I loved the SM27-LC on acoustic guitars very much. It is one of the hardest sources to pick up, and this Shure beast does it great, too easily. With great presence, clear highs, and clear midrange, everything you record with it gets punchy, and cuts through a mix with ease. But I like it the most on male vocals.
Especially vocals that do not have a lot of mid,range and highs. It suddenly gives them the power they were missing, but in a very natural way. No need for EQ, just a low cut filter and you’re good to go. This is a really sweet microphone. You also need to check out the Shure KSM44. It is much more expensive, and I assume it will get it’s own review very soon.

AKG c214


I always liked AKG microphones but never owned them. The c214 is my first AKG.
This microphone reminded me of the older AKG’s like c3000 and such. They always sounded round and bassy to me but their highs weren’t that smooth. With the AKG c214, it’s almost the same, only the highs are more buttery smooth, and the overall sound is more accurate. This microphone handles high and low boosts in a beautiful way, which I can’t say that of a lot of condenser microphones in this price range.
The c214 is an amazing vocal condenser microphone, and it easily can be picked over all of the microphones in my list on certain vocals, especially deep male vocals. It has a very controlled low range to my ear, and it compliments deep voices. I also like it very much on acoustic and classic guitars. The c214 is very much an affordable version of the classic 414, although the 414 is more of a darker microphone. Unlike the 414, the c214 only has one pick up pattern, cardioid polar pattern. Most recording applications need only the cardioid pattern, especially vocals. So, it’s the perfect budget solution for those who like AKG’s sonic world. The c214 will also give you 414’s tone on drums. It is particularly amazing on snares. So I think the AKG c214 is a great compliment to any other microphone. It is a studio work horse and at this price, it’s a no brainer.

Audio Technica AT4040


The AT4040 is not a new microphone and is definitely my favorite Audio Technica condenser microphone. There is one word that describes this microphone the best, and it’s “Natural”. It is a very natural sounding microphone, which means, it’s great for absolutely everything. It doesn’t have hyped up high frequencies like some of the others on this list, it is not too punchy in the mid-range and fairly balanced in the low range. Maybe we can call it “Flat”. Almost boring, but this is where the fun begins. The AT4040 will sound very good on literately every vocalist.
It will pick up acoustic guitars in a very natural way and would also be very happy to accept your ״over the top״ EQ boosts. It is great on guitar amps, and especially clean electric guitar sounds. I also recorded an upright piano with it as well as brass instruments.
It is a sweet microphone, without a doubt. It doesn’t have a lot of features and options, quite the same as the AKG c412, except the little low cut switch, which is very usable in cases of proximity effect.

Best Condenser Mic For Vocals

That’s about it for this post, guys. I may add more microphones in the future.
Thank you for reading.

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