How to achieve such a clean mix?


Good to hear from someone who seems to know their stuff!

I agree with you on the loudness wars. I’m not aiming for it to be as loud as possible. I want an organic, well rounded sound, but I also want it to be thick and full while retaining clarity.


The real revelation for me, as has been mentioned, was thinking of the mix from the first moment. What instruments/elements/samples sit in what part of the frequency spectrum. It’s a balance between what you want to achieve creatively and what “problems” you’ll be able to solve in the mix.

That being said creating something that people want to listen to where in “less is more” plays out succesfully is quite difficult : )


Been monitoring this thread… listening and learning. Just reread this quote from @TvMcC… and this really speaks to me! It’s like cooking… the secret is fresh quality ingredients and then keep it simple.

A turd flamabe with a cherry reduction sauce still tastes like a turd … and now you’ve ruined a perfectly good bowl of cherries :cherries: :cherries::cherries:

All that said… learning some great cooking (or mixing) techniques will enhance the flavor. Raw carrots and apples get a little boring after a while.

  1. Decide what you want
  2. Start with quality
  3. Mix well and serve

Voila! :notes::cherries::loud_sound:


Amen to that!


Start with quality… don’t f@#& it up. :sunglasses:
Agreed that it’s easier said than done… it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.


I think quality is a pretty murky thing when you’re talking about electronic sounds. It’s easier to define when you’re talking about recording an acoustic sound because you have something to compare it to. I guess for electronically generated sounds quality just means whatever best serves the art, or something like that.

I only mention it because I come from a background of recording traditional instruments in acoustic spaces, and quality has a much more objective meaning in that context because you have something to compare the recording to (the actual sound in the room).


Touché :microphone:… excellent point worth exploring.

A sine wave could be considered “quality” but “pure” is probably a better term.

So perhaps quality in the electronic context refers to some “richness” in the sound that is useful to the composer.

So what is “richness?” … well… acoustic sounds are “rich” in harmonics, and other aspects. So even electronic sounds would need to emulate those aspects of “quality”
Acoustic sounds in order to be of a useful quality.

There is more to this… I’m sure… it is a very intriguing question.

Looking forward to further thoughts on the subject. :eye::eye::eyes:


I think this all centers around timbre, being defined as the characteristics that allow a listener to discern one sound from another, given same pitch and volume. It’s made up of things like spectral content, ADSR, amount of tonal/atonal qualities, and how those things change over time. (I’m sure you know this - I’m just trying to make sure everybody’s talking about the same stuff, and for posterity). Harmonic content is obviously part of that, and I think that’s as good as definition of ‘richness’ as I can think of.

But even ‘dull’ tones can be interesting when paired with other sounds or when morphed between. And things like simple sine waves can serve as a counterpoint to other more complex sounds. Again, I think it’s the timbre and interaction that makes them interesting in the context of the song.

I also wonder if those rich sounds are to an extent responsible for some of the mixing issues we’ve been talking about - it’s hard work to get guitar and bass and a synth to sit in a mix, because two of the share timbrel characteristics and the synth is probably sharing harmonic/frequency content. Contrast that to mixing three sine waves…

So I keep going back to quality having to do with serving the song and being tied up with timbrel qualities that somehow relate or play off each other. If you want a sub bass, you want a sine wave and you want it simple, because anything else is low end mud. Is there a correlation between complexity and quality in the mid range, where our brains are tuned to listen? Is it better to stack simple things or have one complex sound to rule them all?

I’m with you that this is an intriguing subject. I wonder what an academic would say to it - there has to be science and research surrounding all this stuff. I’m certainly interested to hear other people’s takes on it and how they approach sound design from a mixing standpoint, and what makes a ‘quality’ sound in terms of a mix.


Sorry don’t have tons of time to get into the science behind it all, but wanted to drop in with a few thoughts to fuel the conversation, and interested mindsets.

I don’t want to stray to far from the OP’s conversation, but understanding the science behind how audio signals relate to math can be fun. This link will get further in-depth as to how audio transients become a source. Wether we are speaking of acoustically designed instruments, a signal being relayed through many buses, and so on.

The OP’s question is how to obtain a clean mix.

  1. Get your sounds right (no clipping, or over compressed/limited recorded/printed/re-sampled digital recording.)

  2. Decided Main Actor to be mixed. Turn all potentiometers (pots/knobs-bellhead/faders concerning tracks main volume) to -null (0).

  3. Bring up Faders to match reference track (if your going for industry tracks to be played by others it should match the reference of the songs it would be mixed by a deejay standards to.) or bring up main actor to be at the loudest point you determine will be the headroom you leave for mastering. (typical mastering headroom -12 -8 -6 )

  4. Listen on a wide variety of sound systems (car, phone, tape walkman, mini-DAT, jamaican festival soundsystem).

  5. Remix.

  6. Send off to get mastered.


I think everyone else has provided all excellent and pertinent information, but I’ll throw in my two cents by saying that a good compressor/limiter can do wonders for a track if you have the mixdown set up properly. Mixdown is everything.

And so is the Waves L316 plugin :slight_smile:


Oh the L3 …:drool:


Some (not really) secret weapons:

  • Trackspacer (for cleaning it up, frequency-specific sidechaining)
  • Volumeshaper/Shaperbox (for cleaning it up, multiband volume automation, not always a go-to but can be a nice addition or alternatve to sidechaining)
  • of course, dynamic EQing, maybe in combination with frequency-specific transient shaping or compression, generally can help a lot to get clean sounds - as has been noted above including specific mid-side and pan settings when helpful
  • Elevate (for making it full, crazy multiband limiter with frequency-specific transient shaping, I like it sometimes on heavy group tracks or directly before a separate mastering limiter
  • DSM-V2 (for making it full, dynamic multiband frequency-matching, or something like that, apply with caution


I’ve learned this the hard way Dont add reverb to everything and sometimes the reverb sound should be in mono


I can relate to that… reverb sounds cool on every track… but not together. Weird…


I think it depends on how you’re using the reverb. Reverb for space rather than effect is a good way to place sounds in a common place by busing them to a single reverb that’s mimicking a space, which helps ‘sell the sound’ in some cases. Of course, using a big, wet hall reverb is going to be as muddy as trying to record in a big, wet hall, so it helps to scale the size back to something reasonable. The trick is to use it sparingly on a send and dial it up slowly.


And you can run a hipass filter on the output of the send (after the reverb). That’s what I do, one reverb to rule them all.


Using different types of reverb on different stereo EQ balances can help stitch together a really nice array of sound, but I agree… it’s a fine line to walk, can lead to a lot of wash out.

Delay however… :smiling_imp::smiling_imp::smiling_imp::smiling_imp:


I find myself EQing and even carefully compressing reverb these days. I love reverb, but it is the fucking devil. Get thee behind me satan!


That’s a good point, I have switched for about 95% of my reverb needs to Pro-R (apart from some Adaptiverb and the occasional plate or IR). The substantial improvement over other reverb plugins imho is that you have two graphical parametric “EQ-type” curves in the same window: one for the real EQ and one for some frequency-specific reverb size/decay/length parameter (and a beautiful visualization of how the reverb decays for the respective frequencies…). That just works really well for all kinds of jobs, sound design and mixing imho. But not everybody likes these algorithmic reverbs.



Always filter mine, either on the in or on the out.

Otherwise, stuff can get out of control real fast.