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Westlake Pro Nashville – Now Open!

Westlake Pro is growing with a new brick-and-mortar storefront in Nashville, TN. This storefront is in addition to Westlake Pro’s iconic Los Angeles location.

Located in Berry Hill, our neighbors include House of Blues Studios, Addiction Sound, The Trace Horse, Blackbird Studios, and Sputnik Sound.

Stop by and check out our showroom, where everything you’ll see is indicative of what you’d find in a studio designed by Westlake Pro—from the furniture to the recording equipment, to the instruments, to the room acoustics and wiring integration.

Also keep an eye out for our proSESSIONS and SOUNDBITES events series, showcasing the newest tech from top audio brands and presented by award-winning industry giants and product experts. To get an idea of what some of these highly-acclaimed events look like, take a look at some of our recent proSESSIONS in Los Angeles—like our recent event with Genelec and Sylvia Massy. Each proSESSIONS and SOUNDBITES has gear giveaways, exclusive discounts, plus you’ll get to chat one-on-one with some of the biggest names in the industry.

From massive post-production studios to music recording studios, to everyday audio gear, Westlake Pro has Nashville covered.

Chad Evans, executive account manager at Westlake Pro Nashville, has this to say:

“Nashville’s music community has been in need of a full-service pro audio retailer for many years. This is why I’m excited to be a part of the team at Westlake Pro and help bring them into the Nashville market. Westlake’s 50-year history of designing studios and selling equipment is exactly the kind of experience the professionals in Music City deserve.”

Give Chad a call at 615-806-7556 or swing by the store.

Westlake Pro Nashville
515 East Iris Drive

Nashville, TN 37204

Located in the iconic Berry Hill neighborhood.

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Supercharge Your Synths with XLN’s RC-20 Retro Color

The XLN RC-20 Retro Color analog tape saturation plugin is well known for its handiness on the master bus, but have you tried using it on individual instruments?

Today I’m going to walk you through a short demonstration on how you can use this inexpensive and eclectic plugin to breathe life into dull tracks.

Before We Start, Let’s Hear It In Action!

Here’s a Bass sample with and without RC-20 enabled. The first part is with the plugin bypassed. It will be hard to miss when RC-20 kicks in! Afterwards it’s bypassed again, and then enabled again.

Hear how it suddenly becomes more gritty, full, and colorful? That’s the magic of great analog tape saturation! The real benefit of carefully bringing this bass track to life comes when it’s living with a host of other instruments in a master mix. It’s easy for bass tone to get buried; some colorful presence can go a long way in bringing the underlying cadence of your song to life.

Now let’s dive into the specific steps it takes to add this kind of colorful saturation with RC-20:

Give Your Bass Some Gusto

I like to start by choosing a preset, something that’s close to the desired sound. Don’t worry, this isn’t “cheating”! Even many of the pros use presets to get started on an effect. For this synth bass track, I chose “Too Bright?” within RC-20‘s list of presets.

Well to answer XLN’s question, in this case, yes, “Too Bright?” is just a tad too bright for bass. So here’s where a few alterations come into play. You’ll notice in the bottom of the screenshot below that I’ve turned the high-pass filter down a bit to let a lot more low end come through, and added a mild low-pass filter. I’ve also turned down “Distort” and brought up “Space” to give the signal a little movement and some gritty reverb. Lastly I turned “Tone” down just a touch:

Now, in the end, I might listen to this track within the full mix and think it’s a little too lively, in which case I can adjust the wet/dry mix using the “Magnitude” bar at the top right of the plugin. But for now, I’m loving all of that added punchiness!

Bolster Your Brass Pads

Bass is one thing, but something like a brass pad—which sits relatively close to the font of the mix—needs some careful attention. There’s a fine like to walk between a flat, dull horn section or a tinny row of trumpets piercing your eardrums. When hearing the former, one might be tempted to throw on an EQ plug and start dragging up around 2K-10K. And sure, it might be a decent band-aid. But is it really the best tool for the job?

Take a listen to this brass pad track. My use of XLN RC-20 is a tad more subtle here, but you can really hear the track come to life when I flip off the bypass switch around 6 seconds in and again around 15 seconds:

For this effect, I started with the preset “Pad Magic” and made quite a few small adjustments. I turned “Noise” most of the way off (it’s just a white-noise generator simulating tape hiss), I turned “Wobble” off completely, “Distortion” up to around 25%, “Digital” completely off, and “Space” and “Magnetic” I turned up to 35%. I also turned up “Tone” and “Width” and lowered the overall gain just a touch.

“Space” and “Distort” are the two tools here which really liven up this brass pad the most. I want to bring up the highs with saturation (“Distort”) and then turn around and “muddy” up some of the tinny, unpleasant highs that come with it and spread them out in the mix so they aren’t, for lack of a better wording, stabbing our eardrums.

I even ended up putting a separate reverb plugin directly on this track later in the mix to exacerbate that “spreading it out” effect. If you go that route, just make sure to drag your wet/dry controls mostly to the drier side or you’ll end up drowning it in reverb!

Don’t Be Afraid To Experiment

These are just two examples of the many cases in which colorful saturation can bring a track to life. Some other interesting examples I’ve seen include using RC-20 to create parallel saturation on a doubled vocal or even using it to add grittiness or modulation on a reverb or delay send. As with anything else in audio production, anything is possible. So go on and give it a try!

 

Products in this blog post:

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The Closest You Can Get to Analog Recording Without Winding Tape

The Closest You Can Get to Analog Recording Without Winding Tape

If you made it to NAMM 2018, you probably saw Universal Audio’s Analog vs Digital shootout. Audiophiles donned a pair of headphones and pressed a button to listen to an analog compressor or EQ unit, then another button to hear the UAD-2 digital emulation of them with the same settings and source audio. Then you’d press a third “mystery button” and guess which one you were hearing. Each person would hear four different pieces of equipment and their digital counterparts and write down four “mystery button” guesses.

I went through each one and listened carefully before writing down my best guess. I was surprised to find that most of them completely stumped me. I’d listen to all three buttons again. And again—am I hearing an original piece of analog equipment or an imposter?

It turns out I wasn’t the only one feeling a little less confident with my ears than usual. A Universal Audio rep kept a going tally of responses vs. correct answers from the scorecards and the ratio of those told me that, for all intents and purposes, we listeners were practically screaming “WE HAVE NO IDEA!” as we filled out the scorecards.

Now if UA had set up a booth in the mall, I wouldn’t have been as surprised by that result. But there we were, in the biggest pro audio event in the country! Practically everyone in attendance was an audio professional in some capacity. And most of us were stumped. Audio engineers are not typically humble or shy about their opinions of audio quality.

To put it into perspective, this would be like putting a bunch of car guys in a room with a genuine, all-original 1969 Camaro SS and some kind of newly-manufactured clone that costs less than 1/10th of the price. Most would scoff that you’d even think they wouldn’t be able to spot the real thing! But then when you ask them to tell you which is which, some head-scratching begins and there are quite a few wounded egos.

It was quite a clever and convincing hands-on demonstration—and one that worked beautifully. I ordered a Universal Audio Apollo 8p the next week!

Once I sat down with my newly-acquired piece of UA hardware, was blown away all over again when I tried out some of the Unison preamp emulations. Using the same ingenuity that created the UAD-2 signal processing plugins, Universal Audio’s Unison technology manipulates the gain structure, harmonics, and characteristics of the preamps in the actual hardware to emulate vintage microphone preamps with stunning accuracy.

Controllable within the UAD Console, you can set up a Neve 1073, Bill Putnam’s 610A, or a number of other iconic vintage mic preamps, and capture the harmonic qualities that propelled their names into the audio history books. Heck, throw one on each track of your stereo guitar, or different ones for each signal of your drum tracks! Just like any other UAD-2 plugins, you quickly realize the expanded capabilities of your rig when all of the processing power is handled within the interface or other external DSP processor rather than bogging down your computer.

I thought of all these possibilities, and suddenly dropped or reprioritized thousands of dollars on my “must-have” list of studio hardware.

Maybe you’ve already known about all of this for a while, but the barrier-to-entry has remained just outside of reach for your ever-growing audio career.

Well, as they say—the times, they are changing.

With the release of the Universal Audio Arrow, entry into the world of UAD-2 plugins is more affordable than ever.

At just $499, you can get an Arrow interface and 14 incredible UAD-2 plugins!

The Arrow is UA’s newest interface, designed for musicians and engineers on the go, home studios or anywhere you need top-quality audio recordings. It uses the same Unison preamps as its big brother Apollo and features an ultra-fast Thunderbolt 3 connection to your computer. (Note that it requires native Thunderbolt 3 connections, so adapters won’t do the trick).

For 14 UAD-2 plugins—nevermind the Unison preamps and legendary Universal Audio AD/DA conversion in the hardware—well this is a deal that just can’t be beaten

You Get Even More UAD-2 Plugins When You Bundle

With each purchase of an Apollo Thunderbolt Interface, Arrow Thunderbolt Interface, or Satellite DSP Processor, you can bundle more UAD-2 plugins at the time of purchase and choose which ones you want later on. 

With a new Universal Audio user account, you’ll get a 14-day demo of each and every UAD-2 plugin in their entire collection. Since you have 45 days to choose which plugins you want to grab in your bundle, you’ll have plenty of time to try out a bunch of them and find the ones that work best in your own DAW setup.

It can get a little overwhelming (there are tons of awesome plugins in their library!), so we recommend trying them out in groups rather than unlocking 14-day demos for all of them at once.

Below are the UAD-2 plugin bundles that are available for purchase with any Apollo Thunderbolt Interface, Arrow Thunderbolt Interface, or Satellite DSP Processor. Remember, these additional plugins are on top of the plugin bundles that are already included!

 

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Westlake Pro named Avid Audio Dealer of the Year: Worldwide + Americas, 2017

Westlake Pro was just named Avid Audio Dealer of the Year for the third year in a row, so we want to thank you for making this possible.

We take pride in providing our customers with the expert technical support, solution-driven customer service, and absolute best prices on all of the tools they depend on.

Westlake Pro has sold and installed more Avid systems around the world than any other dealer. Our expert staff and superior service, along with absolute best prices, make Westlake Pro the place to go for all of your Avid needs.

If you haven’t considered buying from Westlake Pro, give us a call and see why the industry turns to us for their pro audio equipment needs. We look forward to speaking with you!

323-845-1145
[email protected]
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Congrats to Tracy B. on winning our December Sennheiser MD421-II Giveaway!

Tracy entered our December giveaway contest via the Westlake Pro Facebook page and won a Sennheiser MD421-II Microphone.

Tracy says: 

“Thank you, this is a huge win for me. I appreciate you and your company.” 

Want to win some gear of your own? Make sure to like and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and keep an eye out for our monthly giveaways!

 

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Congrats to Paul D. on winning our November Mackie CR5 Studio Monitors Giveaway!

Paul entered our November giveaway contest via the Westlake Pro Facebook page and won a pair of Mackie CR5BT 5″ Studio Monitors.

Paul says: 

You got to be kidding me!!!! Man I have never won anything. I’m stoked!” 

We’re stoked too, Paul! Enjoy your new speakers.

Want to win some gear of your own? Make sure to like and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and keep an eye out for our monthly giveaways!

 

 

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Avid Releases Pro Tools 2018 Update

At NAMM this week, Avid released its newest iteration of Pro Tools software. Let’s dive in a take a look at some of the new features.

MIDI in Pro Tools Gets an Overhaul

This update will be especially useful for songwriters and producers. It includes retrospective MIDI recording, easier transposing/trimming/velocity changes, and useful shortcuts. Learn more from Avid here:

 

Track Presets Will Be a HUGE Time Saver

My personal favorite addition to Pro Tools with this update is their Track Presets feature. This allows you to save tracks (their settings, plugin chains, even sends) as presets to be recalled in a variety of different ways. You can even create folders to store these presets in for better organization. This could be something like “Vocals Presets, Guitars Presets, Delays Presets, etc.” for example.

Imagine creating a reverb send just by clicking “new send” from the source track, and then choosing one of your reverb track presets to instantly create your favorite reverb chain, including the reverb plugin, EQs, and compressors. Well now you can! How cool is that?! Watch Avid’s Pro Tools Track Presets in action on Avid’s YouTube channel:

 

Updates to Mix View Will Save Space and Enhance User Experience

Avid made some major changes to mix view. The first I’ll cover has to do with playlists and comping. New shortcuts for comping playlists allow us to select one “primary” playlist to send our comps to, which means we can now comp takes in waveform view, quite a space saver when you’re comping takes with multiple tracks such as drums.

Secondly, Avid has added an EQ window similar to Logic’s, with the exception that Avid’s EQ window works with third-party plugins! As someone who bounces back and forth between Avid and Logic, this one jumped out at me. I’ve always thought Logic’s EQ window was a neat feature but that it’s sort-of wasted by its limitation to Logic’s native EQ. Avid did this one right! On top of providing support for third-party plugins, the EQ window in Pro Tools shows all the EQ plugins on the track, combined. So you’re seeing a culmination of your entire signal chain in visual format. Pretty useful stuff. Learn more from Avid:

 

No More iLok! Well… Sort of.

As has been rumored for several months, Pro Tools 2018.1 included support for iLok’s new iLok Cloud. This means Pro Tools 12 and Pro Tools HD no longer require a physical iLok dongle to be present in order to work. As someone who has lamented the loss of a USB port since, well, always, I’m not over-the-moon about iLok Cloud… yet. This was a huge step and we should be thanking Avid for including this capability with Pro Tools moving forward, but unfortunately, we’ll probably be waiting for many of our third-party plugins manufacturers to come around for a while longer. So alas! Depending on the third-party plugins you use, you might be stuck with the iLok dongle a little while longer. That being said, this is certainly still cause for celebration. And on that note and all of the above, thanks to Avid for listening to your user base and working hard to implement all of these incredible new features!

The Big Question: When can we get the new Pro Tools 2018?

Now! As of today you can download the newest version of Pro Tools 12 or Pro Tools HD as part of your Annual Upgrade Subscription or purchase and download it as a new copy:

Avid Pro Tools 12

Avid Pro Tools HD

Need to renew your Pro Tools 12 or Pro Tools HD subscription? Grab them by clicking one of the links below:

Avid Pro Tools 12 Annual Subscription Reinstatement

Avid Pro Tools HD Annual Subscription Reinstatement

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Coming to NAMM 2018? Visit Us at the LaCie Booth for a Special Discount!

If you’re heading to NAMM this week, make sure to stop by and see us at the LaCie booth (Level 2,
Booth #17905). We’ll be hanging out there throughout the week, answering questions and such. We’re offering a special discount on LaCie products if you swing by and ask!

Check out our LaCie products:

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Tube vs Solid State: Battle of the Buzz

 

Guitar Amps: Tu-be Or Not Tu-be

 

“Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to gig with a tube amp or a solid-state guitar amp and suffer the slings and arrows of capacitor-sniffing tone snobs”

 

It’s pretty much a given that your more militant guitar tonemeisters prefer tube amps to solid state. According to Professor Alexander Dumble of Dumble* amps fame, “The fragile harmonics live better in tubes than the crystal lattice of transistors.”

To us mere mortals, the simple truth is that the main difference between tubes and transistors lies in their behavior as amplitude increases. Tubes distort gradually with volume exhibiting a natural compression, whereas transistors perform consistently at increasing volume until they go into distortion. When a transistor clips, it chops off the top of the wave (and throws it to the floor rather harshly), which is very unpleasant sounding. Of the two, tube distortion is much more natural and pleasing to our ears. Tubes distort in much the same way our voices do when we go from talking loudly, to a yell, to a scream. Solid-state amps can scream without distorting, but when they do distort, they lose their voice, in a manner of speaking.

 

Warmest Regards

Perhaps the biggest misconception in analog circuit design is that tubes sound inherently warmer than solid state. In truth, transformers are more responsible for the warmth of a sound than tubes. In fact, solid-state devices can sound quite warm, depending on the circuit topology surrounding them (think Neve 1073). However, when it comes to distortion, cranking a tube amp gives us the “right” sound for guitars. Tube designs sound better to us because there are fewer components in the signal path than solid state. Of course, the number of components in the signal path is more important when using a solid-state device for recording as opposed to instrument amplification. A transformerless solid-state preamp is as transparent as it gets. Transformerless tube designs are expensive and very hard to do.

 

The Right Amp for the Job

The type of amp you prefer has a lot to do with your style of music. Certain types of metal and thrash, particularly fast playing, seem to do better with tube amps, where high volume is the order of the day, and distortion comes from the tubes themselves. On the other side of the musical spectrum, jazz works well with solid-state amps, especially if you want your clean tones to stay clean regardless of how much harder you may attack the strings (tubes will distort with heavier attacks). The solid-state Roland JC-120 Jazz Chorus became the de facto jazz amp starting in the mid ’70s. Again, it’s a point of personal preference.

In a choice between a tube and solid-state guitar amp, apart from the style of music you play, the major consideration is whether you’re gigging or recording. The harmonic richness of tube amps is generally preferred in the studio, where the goal is the illusion of larger-than-life sound. The advantage of solid-state amps rests mainly in live performance. They’re lighter in weight (easier to carry to a gig) and not subject to vibration damage in transport the way that tube amps are. They also don’t require any warm-up time, so if you’re late to a gig, you can just plug in and play. This is of particular note if you’re gigging in the winter and your tube amp is in the back of a pickup, or left in a van overnight. Tubes respond poorly to having their heaters lit when they’re freezing cold.

 

FX Math: Analog Plus Digital Effects, Carry the One, Cancel the Tubes

Unless your effects setup is all analog, or a pricey rack unit (such as Eventide’s Eclipse) patched in through an effects loop, playing a gig with a tube amp can be an exercise in diminishing returns if you’re using one of the prosumer digital multi-effects pedals between your guitar and the amp’s input. Apart from the digital processor taking all the depth out of your tube amp (try an A/B comparison if you don’t believe it), you’d be better off with the high-gain-before-clipping response of solid state. Besides, why go through the care and feeding hassles of gigging with a tube amp only to make it sound solid state?

On the other hand, if you’re a purist playing blues, blues-rock, and certain styles of classic rock, the response of a tube amp and pure analog effects pedals will offer the preferred sound. It’s simply a matter of picking your battles. That is to say, if it’s a high-profile gig, then you’ll want your best gear. If it’s a roadside bar where people will be doing their damnedest to talk over you, you may want to go lightweight and solid state.

 

 

* Dumble amps were made by H. Alexander Dumble in the late ’70s to ’80s. The preferred amp of guitarists such as Eric Johnson, Robben Ford, Carlos Santana and Larry Carlton, each Dumble was hand-built and voiced to the playing style of its eventual owner, who waited three to five years for their amp. Only 300 made, Dumbles sell on the vintage market for anywhere from $25,000 – $50,000, and as high as $160,000.

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Oxygen Not Included – Are Oxygen-Free Cables Worth the Added Cost?

Cables pretty much don’t do anything but pass signal. As a result, the materials and properties of those materials are turned into features, and subsequently the subject of marketing-speak and endless screeds of pros and cons. For example, oxygen-free copper (OFC) is supposed to have better conductivity, and therefore “sound” better than standard copper wire. The problem is, that’s kind of hard to prove unequivocally.

According to Roger Russell (former director of acoustic research at the McIntosh Laboratory) who is quoted often in online debates regarding the benefits of oxygen-free copper, better sound through increased conductivity is not a feature of OFC. According to Russell, “Highly refined copper (C10100 Oxygen Free Electronic or OFE) with silver impurities removed and oxygen reduced to 0.0005%, has only one-percent higher conductivity than C10200, known as Oxygen-Free (OF). Its conductivity rating is no better than the more common C11000 grade. However, C10200 has a 0.001% oxygen content, 99.95% purity and minimum 100% IACS* conductivity.” He further states that C10100’s improved conductivity is insignificant in audio applications.

 

You’ll never take me alive, coppers

Naturally, such a statement causes manufacturers of audiophile cables to foam at the contacts. One opposing argument is that Russell only mentions two types of copper, and there are more types of OFC. Beyond that, there isn’t a specific, universally agreed-upon set of manufacturing specs and processes to make OFC, and nothing quantified for audio applications.

So, when manufacturers tout OFC, are they taking you for a ride? Not really. Keep in mind that Russell was attempting to debunk the notion that OFC speaker wire did nothing to enhance sound quality in home stereo systems other than separate audiophiles from their trust funds. However, his main thrust was conductivity alone. Perhaps there’s more to the story than a simple conductivity rating? Some cable designers say you need to look at the atomic level.

One possible explanation for the perceived improvement of sound with oxygen-free copper cables is the fact that copper is crystalline in nature, with each crystal being a boundary that electrons have to cross. Typical high-purity electrical grade copper has approximately 1500 crystals per foot, which must be crossed by signal being transmitted through the cable. Now, think of the impurities in copper wire like knots in a rope, around which electrons have to navigate. Travelling around these impurities can cause phase shift and distortion that degrades sound quality. OFC is like pulling the knots tighter, which reduces the hurdles electrons must travel through, thus reducing distortion and phase shift. Another take on OFC is that the process of electrolytic refining also removes other impurities, most notably, iron, which can cause resistance. Be advised that the length of cable for these effects to be noticeable is up for grabs—some say over 50 feet—which for the home stereo is not an issue, but if you’re wiring a recording studio, oh yes it is.

Another perceived benefit of oxygen-free copper is due to the susceptibility of copper to corrosion when exposed to air. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of removing an old car battery, you know that copper exposed to oxygen corrodes battery cables, and stops conductivity dead in its tracks (electrons go in, but they don’t come out). According to tests, oxygen-free copper also runs cooler than other conductors. It’s more resistant to shorts, more durable and long-lasting, and is far less likely to corrode, due to the reduced oxygen content—at least, that’s the common wisdom.

 

Oxymoron no more

In light of all this, it becomes clear that the reason for OFC is due to consistent signal transfer in precision applications, longer life, greater reliability, and better performance over long cable runs. As such, if you’ve just installed a Rupert Neve Designs 5088 console in your studio to the tune of six figures, you’re going to want your cables to carry that tune all the way to number one on the Billboard charts. And, as Mogami states, there is no single magic bullet to creating superior cables. Rather, a combination of several factors, of which their years of research has determined that OFC copper is one. That, and the fact that cable is not meant to modify or alter signal in any way. Its job is to pass audio as transparently as the laws of physics will allow.

Finally, if you’re one of those engineers who likes to tweeze every microgram of sound out of your equipment, oxygen-free cable certainly isn’t going to hurt.

 

 

* IACS: International Annealed Copper Standard

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How To Set Up An Analog-Style Mix Bus With Plug-ins

Now that more mixers are moving inside the box, we’re going to focus on a mix-bus plug-in setup that will give you excellent results. Since plug-ins now model the behavior of analog equipment, a good starting point would be to set up a mix bus the way you would work in a studio with a large-format console going to tape. If you have console and tape emulation plug-ins, you can set up a mix bus to model a widely used studio setup that spawned a thousand hits.

 

Start with a Clean Slate

In our example, we’re going to use the Slate Virtual Mix Rack with a console mix bus module (the gray one that says “MIXBUSS”). You can set the console model to one of 6 emulations, including two famous SSL desks, an API console, the legendary Trident A-Range console, or a custom RCA tube console. Next, pull up a UAD model of an SSL 4K bus compressor. From there, insert a tape emulation plug-in, from either Slate or UAD, depending on which you have or prefer. The settings are those that would normally be used for a 2-track master. For example, the Slate tape emulation plug-in gives you the option of choosing between 16-track and 2-track machines, two models of tape; Ampex 456 (FG456) and Quantegy GP9 (FG9), and 15ips or 30ips tape speed. For a master mix, select 2-track, FG9 tape for more clarity and punch, and 30ips tape speed to preserve transients. Set your console emulation and tape emulation to operate at nominal levels (0dB UV average).

 

Master and Compressor

Now that we have our large-format console mixdown emulation, how do we set the SSL bus compressor? The trick is to barely touch the compressor. Set the ratio at 4:1, slowest attack (30ms), fastest release (.1s), and set the threshold so that the needle just wavers slightly. Gain makeup should be around 1dB. You can stop there, or you can make things more interesting by adding other compressor plug-ins for their tonal quality. Here is where you can begin to craft your own final mix sound. For example, after the tape emulation, you might choose to use the Slate FG Red, which emulates the Focusrite Red 3, or perhaps a Sonnox Inflator. In either case, you’ll hear another increase in body.

The one recurring theme is to barely hit the compressor. The advantage of this approach is that you can boost your level one or two dB at a time with each instantiation and not overload the mix bus.

If you hear a resonance you’d like to tame, or a magical frequency you want to bring out, you can insert an EQ after the compressors, such as the UAD Manley Massive Passive. Just make sure it’s a high-quality EQ plug-in.

 

Expanding Your Horizons

The last component in the signal chain is a limiter, which is where you get your biggest volume boost. Some excellent choices would be the FabFilter Pro L, UAD Precision Limiter (if you’re looking for very transparent gain), and the McDSP ML4000 multiband limiter. While McDSP now has an 8-band limiter, the beauty of the ML4000 is that it’s now much more affordable and enables you to shape the tone of the entire mix via its expander modules. The expanders push more signal into the peak limiter section, filling out your mix in ways that the compressors don’t. (It’s actually quite surprising.) The ML4000 will give your mix a competitive level in relation to commercial releases, enabling you or your clients to hear what the mix will sound like after mastering—or, you just may wish to leave it that way and send it off to mastering.

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The Abbey Road Reverb Trick

 

One of the techniques that make up the “Abbey Road Sound” is referred to, colloquially, as the “Abbey Road Reverb Trick.” Before we discuss the how-to, let’s talk about the results. If you listen to plate or chamber reverbs in their natural state, there’s a lot of information going on throughout the frequency spectrum. In short, the lows make mud in a mix, while the highs can result in oddly distracting, unnatural reverb tails (think ’80s-style ballad reverbs). In reality space, we don’t often hear such reverb decays, and certainly not as distinctly as when exclusively assigned to a particular sound in a loudspeaker mix.

 

You Do You, Glue

The Abbey Road reverb EQ technique not only prevents a track from swimming in reverb and thereby losing intelligibility, it also offers a means of gluing instruments and vocals together in a mix. It eliminates annoying high-frequency tails, increases clarity, yet still provides the sheen and size that reverb can impart to a sound. The trick is actually quite simple and works with any and every reverb unit; hardware or software. If you’re working with plug-ins, insert an EQ with high and low shelving filters ahead of the reverb unit. Position is important. EQ placed ahead of the reverb results in a smoother sound, since you’re equalizing the frequencies that are activating the reverb’s reflection algorithms. Since reverbs often accentuate certain frequencies, placing EQ after the reverb doesn’t have the same effect as taming the frequencies before they come in to the unit.

 

Hard Pass

The essential part of this technique is to set the equalizer’s high-pass filter to a 12 or 18dB/octave slope and cut everything below 600Hz (that’s right, 600Hz). Set the low-pass filter with the same slope and cut everything above 10kHz. There you have it, the reverb EQ that Abbey Road has been using since the ’60s. However, you don’t have to stick with the high-frequency setting (the low frequency is not negotiable). You may find that cutting the highs down to 8kHz or 7kHz (or lower) works better on certain vocals or instruments in context. The idea is to reduce the highs until you can hear the vocal without the obvious high-frequency reverb tail. Another useful variation of the Abbey Road reverb EQ, in the case of vocals, is to notch out a tiny amount around 2kHz-4kHz, which will reduce possible harshness in the presence range. In the case of drums, you can cut highs further, even down to around 2.5kHz. It’s a very narrow frequency band, but it still offers all the benefits that reverb provides without adding high-frequency harshness (especially when there’s a lot of “metal-work” going on).

 

’Ear Now, What’s All This Then?

Unless you’re going for a special effect, such as the ’80s pre-delay followed by a high-frequency-rich tail (used most notably on percussion and snare), you can use the Abbey Road reverb technique on every instrument and vocal in your mix to achieve size, dimension, and blend. Above all, don’t be afraid to experiment. Start with the standard Abbey Road EQ settings at 600Hz and 10kHz and see where your ears take you.