If you want your album to stand up next to the competition on the world stage, you need mixing and mastering that can take the sound to that level.
These days anyone with a computer can mix and it can be tempting to let a friend who does some mixing do your album. Or it might be convenient to let the small studio where you recorded it mix your album. But it’s probably unrealistic to expect either of these scenarios to result in an album that sounds, world-class.
We are the mixing and mastering studio of choice for the Downbeat Hall of Fame nominated, NYC jazz record label MoonJune and Boston Greydisc Records (world renowned for their audiophile sound) for a reason. Making jazz records sound great is what we do and what we are known for.
You’ve put all that talent, time, sweat and inspiration into your album, why settle for less than great when it comes to the mixing and mastering?
Below are some before and after examples of what we can accomplish with mixing and mastering at Heron Island Studio.
Mixing – Hearing is believing.
Here is an audio file which switches between two versions of a piece of music, a mixed and unmixed version. Keep in mind that the panning and levels of each instrument are identical in each version. So in a sense both versions are identical “mixes”. But there is so much more to mixing than panning and levels as you’ll hear. You’ll need to use decent speakers or headphones.
Track info: Dwiki Dharmawan is one of Indonesia’s most well known and celebrated musicians. We mixed his latest album Pasar Klewer which features some of London’s best known jazz musicians. Dwiki Dharmawan – piano, Yaron Stavi – bass, Asaf Sirkis – drums.
First you’ll here a few seconds of the unmixed track then it will switch to the mixed version, then back and fourth between the two so you can clearly hear the difference.
Notice the increased clarity, richness, detail and depth of soundstage in the mixed version. Now compare it to the unmixed version, notice how closed in and distant it sounds, notice the lack of detail space and depth.
Listen agin to the mixed version notice the sonic space around each instrument and the sense of the group being in a “place”. Notice that there is enough space between the instruments that you can hear every detail, yet it still feels intimate. Notice how you can hear the detailed tone of the bass and there is a greater sense of dynamics and richness in the piano.
On the unmixed version it sounds like the instruments are on top of each other, there is no space, no sense of “place” it sounds muddy and it’s hard to hear any details. Can you hear the delicate ride cymbal work in the unmixed version? Barely. In the mixed version you can hear every subtle detail of the ride.
In the USA, preeminent Hi-Res reviews site Mediaversal describes the sound of this album as: “…taking on a open and airy feeling… shine with remarkable depth and tonal quality. An aspact that is immediately apparent in the mix is how natural sounding every part is, with plenty of space surrounding each element. The drums are subtle and pure rising and falling as called for by the dynamics”.
Get in contact and see what we can do for the sound of your next album.
Softworks featuring Elton Dean, John Marshall and Hugh Hopper.
Big Brother Calling, Beledo – electric guitar, Lincoln Goines – electric bass, Gary Husband – drums
NYC guitarist and band leader Beledo wanted a bigger sound with more depth and punch. Notice how the sound stage expands both side to side and front to back in the mastered version. Also listen to how the music sounds bigger and moves forward in the mastered version. By comparison, the unmastered version sounds distant and closed in. We also added more space between the instruments and a nice smooth top end in the mastered version.
Ligro – Agam Hamzah – guitar, Adi Darmawan – bass, Gusti Hendy – drums
It’s important to master in a way which is sympathetic to the music and we always work in consultation with our clients to find out what they are looking for in the mastered album. Notice how the mastered version of this track has significantly more power and punch. The music sounds more present and there is more depth and a sweeter top end and mid range. Another happy client.
This was not recorded at Heron Island but was given to us in 16 bit format which meant the challenge of enhancing the quality was greater than if it had been recorded in 24 bit. As you can hear despite the skill of the singer, the sound quality is dull and lifeless and details easily gets lots in the music.
Note the huge difference in sound. The voice has more presence, more power, it sounds more alive and the emotion of the singing comes to the fore. It also cuts through the fairly dense musical backing better, the details are much easier to hear even though the volume of the vocal isn’t louder than the untreated version.
This is a recording of guitar over a drum loop with no mixing or enhancement applied. The guitar was DI direct into the desk with no amp. The result is a dull raw guitar sound.
Note the huge difference in sound. What you are hearing is the exact same recording of the DI clean guitar played through a perfect recreation of a real life amp. In this case it was wo Neil Citron Marshall Plexis with two 4×12 vintage cabs placed a good distance apart and mic-ed with on axis Sennheiser 409s. One distortion pedal was used between the guitar and the amp. The second cleaner guitar sound is playing through two Carvin Legacy amps connected to two custom Neil Citron cabs with 2×12 Celestian speakers. This was all done in the box using the amazing Wave’s GTR plugins. Compare it again to the original.
This is a recording of the drums with no mixing or enhancement applied. Note the dull sound and lack of space and size. This was not recorded at Heron Island but in a studio in Switzerland.
Note the huge difference in sound. The drums now sound big and spacious, leaving more room of other instruments, they have impact and punch while remaining crisp, airy and clear. Yet it all still sounds natural. The ride cymbals are smooth and defined, the snare crisp and dynamic, the kick punchy (with soft attack as the client requested). Note the big stereo image. Compare it again to the original.
Untreated bass and drums
This is simple a mix of the two untreated examples above. Note the lack of stereo image, the dull slightly boomy sound as the bass and kick’s frequencies bump into each other.
Treated bass and drums
This is the two treated tracks above combined. Notice the big, dynamic, clear sound, the wide stereo image, the sense of space. Note the detail, the clarity and the warmth and punch in the bass and kick. Note how the bass and kick frequencies compliment each other, fitting like a glove. Note how big the sound is while leaving plenty space for other instruments.
Untreated full band
This is a mix of the untreated bass and drum tracks above with the addtion of two keyboard tracks and guitar. Notice the dull, flat, cluttered sound. There is a lack of space and frequencies from the different instruments are clouding each other in places. The overall sound is small, weak and unexciting.
Treated full band
This is a mix of the treated bass and drum tracks above with the addition of two keyboard tracks and guitar. Notice the big, dynamic, clear sound, the wide stereo image, the sense of space. Note the detail, the clarity and the warmth and punch. The space created in the treated drums and bass leave room for the other instruments. Two big, sustaining keyboard sounds normally spell disaster for acoustic bass. But notice how you can still hear the bass clearly, including the details of the characteristic string noise of acoustic bass. Even with all these instruments playing there’s still a space created for the guitar.