Mixing

Mixing is about making the best possible listening experience out of your recorded tracks.

“When you listen to a great musician, every nuance of what they play is important.  The lightest tap on a snare or ride cymbal, the breathiness and subtle inflection of a sax line, the woody resonance of a bass or the breadth and tone of a piano.  My  approach to mixing is to create a sonic environment where all these things can be heard with clarity.  I like to create a space for the musician to be in tailored to the particular style of the music and that brings out the best in the sound of each instrument.

Dynamics is a key component of jazz and related music so this needs to be carefully preserved while at the same time mixing in a way which allows the details and tone of each instrument to be heard even when a group improve is in full flow.”

Mark Wingfield mix and mastering engineer at Heron Island. 

Mark is an internationally renowned jazz guitarist and band leader in his own right.  This gives him a unique musician’s take on mixing.

Watch a video of Mark discussing his approach to mixing.

Creating space

Creating space in your mix so that all the instruments can be heard is one of the goals of a good mix. Another is to give your music that big, detailed sound we’ve come to expect with modern productions, while retaining warmth in the low end, sweetness in the top end and depth in the sound stage.

Protools-mixer
We use Pro Tools

Two keys to a great mix studio are a properly acoustically treated room and great reference monitors.  Our mixing room’s acoustic treatment has been designed and provided by RealTraps, who supply many of the worlds best mixing and mastering studios.  We use Adam P11 monitors which are a favourite amongst top studios, Abby Road being an example.

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We use Logic

A rich, deep, warm sound

Analog gear is great for smoothing, gelling, warming and sweetening. But it is not so good at accurately fixing a problem and it is not very good at being transparent.  Along with the nice coloration they add comes noise and unwanted distortion. This is why mixes done in the 60’s and 70’s, though they may sound “warm”, also tend to sound dense, they lack clarity, openness and 3D depth when compared to today’s big, clear, open mixes. However analog gear an colour the sound and smooth things out in a very pleasing way.

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Custom series EQ, Neve 1073, SSL G Series EQ

We feel the best mixes today combine these two approaches. We use the advances of modern state of the art technology to give you a big, clear open sound and we use the best devices of the past to sweeten and smooth selected instruments. The best of both worlds.

So you get the depth, dynamic range, spaciousness and detail only modern technology can provide. But you also retain the velvety sweetness and, low end punch those prized pieces of analog gear are famous for.

SSL 4000 bus compressor, Focusrite Red and Manley Vari-Mu/Fairchild 670 hybrid compressor
SSL 4000 bus compressor, Focusrite Red and Manley Vari-Mu/Fairchild 670 hybrid compressor, by SlateDigital

What is different today is that plugins have replaced analog hardware.  Our racks of hardware sit unused.  Why?  The answer is simple.

Many of the top (grammy award winning) engineers in the world, agree that the best plugin manufacturers, like Waves, Slate Digital, Softube and McDSP are producing plugins which sound as good or in some cases better, than the famous hardware they are re-creating. This is why at Heron Island we only use plugins created by these and other world class plugin companies.

Eiosis Air EQ
Eiosis Air EQ

This means you no longer have to make do with the few pieces of nice sounding analog gear a studio has.  Now you can have the very best sounding hardware in the world on every channel of your mix if you want.  No hardware based studio can do anything like this.

But there are other important reasons we have moved over to plugins.  Increasingly plugins are overtaking hardware.  Plugins can now exactly create the sound of the finest pieces of analog gear, but the latest plugins can actually take these very qualities even further than is possible with hardware.

Creating space

Reverb is important in a mix it puts the musician in a place together and creates space around them.  These days most musicians and labels can’t afford studios with huge great sounding million dollar rooms.

Reverbs-H-Reverb
Waves H-Reverb

The reality is most albums are recorded in small spaces and this means the drums need to be in their own separate room.  So its entirely up the mix to create a great sounding space for the music to be in.

Reverbs-Lex
Lexicon’s flagship PCM Reverb (identical to the PCM 96 hardware unit)

World class reverb is one thing you don’t want to skimp on.  Even when the use of reverb is subtle, it’s quality is one of the most important factors in the overall quality of how the mix sounds.  That’s why we use the very best reverbs in the world.  Lexicon’s flagship reverb the PCM, IRCAM’s VerbX3 and Waves H-Reverb, three of the very best reverbs in existence.

Reverbs-IRCAM
IRCAM’s VerbX3 Reverb

Work with us on your next project and we will bring  this state of the art sound to your next album along with our many years of experience and sensitivity in mixing great music from great improvising musicians.

Have a look at our client list, you’ll be in good company!