Production

I like to see music, Spectrum Analysers and Mixdowns

I like to see music, Spectrum Analysers and Mixdowns

TC

October 30th, 2015

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A geeky look at the Spectrum Analyser in my DnB Production.

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For a good few years now I have been using a spectrum analyser every day in the studio. I have tried out every kind I can get my hands on like standalone software running on separate computers and Plugins, and DAW built in analysers. I have spent a lot of money on things that turn out to be just well… not great… I have finally settled on a discontinued product called IXL by RNDigital. which is 32bit only and not available any more. (Not quite sure what the ethics of using discontinued software could be but its just so good) Chase and Status got me on to the IXL after an appeal on twitter for a spectrum that actually works. I don’t want to go to much into why I like it so much but the flexibility of all the parameters and the accuracy of the display really works for me. The only analyser that I loved more was the one from Sound Fourge 5 or some early version of Sound Fourge but now they have colabourated with isotope for the plugins and that incredible analyser is gone forever I think.

I have good hearing, I get tested every time I loose a pair of fitted earplugs that cost a fortune and last time I got checked I was doing good despite having battered my ears for years in clubs (GET SOME EARPLUGS IF YOU ARE IN NOISY ENVIRONMENTS ALOT) sorry to shout but if you want to produce you have to protect your ears! I can make a perfectly good tune to play out with no spectrum analyser that sounds balanced and nice by trusting my ears and knowing my monitors. But then I get a spectrum on it and start seeing things that I would never have heard, Like the Level of the sub in relation to the kick or a dip at 500hz cause I got all excited making the thing too bright, it could be many things. I am the same as anyone. I think things are better when they are louder and brighter but thats just the nature of most peoples ears. Mixing a DnB tune is a delicate balance and any thing thats going to give you that 2% over the next guy is gonna get your tunes played.

I think what I am trying to say is that my ears are not digital meters they are very relative and music and DnB in particular have constraints that really have they’re roots in the medium of vinyl. When your bass hits a point in the analyser that you know is right and the tops hit a point on the analyser that you know is not too bright and your mids hit a point that you know is right then you know its right its as simple as that as long as you can trust the analyser you are looking at. I am not saying that you can’t bend the rules and have a couple more db of bass or whatever but there are some physics you just can’t fight.

When you cut music to vinyl because of the physical constraints of the medium you have to cut out all the stereo in the music below 300hz and the top end has to be at particular levels because of the physical width of the needle on the cartridge is wider than the 16k wavelength. Nowadays with digital music the Tops can be as bright as you like so its up to you how bright you wanna be.

A lot of producers use A/B reference when making tunes, Listening to tunes that they are trying to match or better when they come to mix a track. I think having a spectrum negates that part of the process, I still think its a good idea to check your mix against other tunes with your ears but the spectrum gives you the tools to make the choices about what kind of mix you are looking for.

For new producers I think learning a spectrum is such a great skill when I was starting out I never had access to good monitors or good rooms and the spectrum gave me the chance of nailing a great mix down with out being able to judge the balance subjectively. I have small monitors in my small studio and definitely can’t hear any sub lets say if a dune is in D or D# there is no real weight but the spectrum showing me a nice peak at

I use the spectrum in conjunction with a level meter most of the time. I am kinda into the K12 scale when it comes to level meters. Its just what I know and its a good indicator of relative loudness.

Also along with looking at every tune that comes my way on a spectrum analyser I also look at plugins. I will run some White or Pink noise through lets say the latest EQ and see what makes it tick and what its will do to a sound when I come to use it. I have on the flip side done the same with some of the outboard gear i have to see if there are any tonal characteristics that I like, I can then have them in my mind when I am Eqing sounds in a mix to flavour them just right.

I am not saying that the way I do things is the only way and I know some people who achieve mix downs that are just insane and awesome without spectrum analysers and there is a whole school of thought that says that using a spectrum could make things generic if you always go for the same match and not all tunes are made the same so sometimes the rules do not apply at all and you just have to be like well there is a fuck tonne of sub in this beat but I kinda like that, but at least you know that and its your choice and not the choice of the monitors you have or the room your working in.

Good luck with your beats all you producers!!

If you make sick beats send them to me 🙂

Bigup!

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