Mixing in the Box
As technology evolves, so do our artistic capacities. Recording gear and methods have quickly advanced since their humble beginnings in the early 20th century. Simply as different types of art and entertainment like motion pictures, video games, and literature, music production has benefitted enormously from the digital age.
While some engineers swear by their hardware (classic or trendy), the reality remains that recording and mixing nice-sounding songs no longer requires all of the physical gear once crucial. The term, “mixing in the box” describes performing the mixing process without the usage of exterior hardware.
Selecting to mix in the box versus strictly using hardware or a mix of the two principally comes down to 2 components: choice and price. Those that grew up mixing a certain way will have a tendency to stay to what they know. So, many who began out earlier than the digital age took over nonetheless choose their trusty mixing consoles.
The upcoming era of producers and musicians will most certainly stick with mixing in the box due to how fleshed-out, efficient, and intuitive DAWs have developed. Plus, on the financial end, it’s rather a lot cheaper and space-saving to mix in the box. Sure, buying the fitting software program and finest plugins can run you a whole bunch of dollars, however, all the things will probably be right there if you want it and will be up to date at little to no cost.
In the event you decide to mix in the box, it’s good to know a couple of things beforehand. Let’s check out 4 suggestions for producing great-sounding mixes by mixing in the box.
Probably the most highly effective feature of in-the-box mixing is having a customized template. Making a template may also help speed up your workflow and solidify your sound. It could embody all your favorite effect sends, mix bus settings, instrument groups, VCA faders, parallel processors, and more. It took me a very long time to lastly set up a mixing template, however, once I did, I couldn’t think about mixing without one.
To create a template, you can begin off by creating a brand new session. Inside the new session, start creating the tracks that you usually use in each session. If you’re already doing a variety of mixes professionally, you’ll discover development in the commonest effects, mix bus settings, and parallel processors you use. In the event you work on a similar type of music on a constant basis, you’ll have a good idea of what common device groups you’re mixing.
As soon as the template is full, you’ll do a “save the session as template” which is able to let you open this configuration at any time. “Import Session Data” from this template lets you bring these tracks into no matter mix you’re working on.
2. Discover your favorite effects, plugins, and settings
Again, one of the many key benefits of mixing in the box must be the flexibility and variety of choices at your disposal. With hardware, you’re beholden to the limitations of the bodily unit. The software program, alternatively, can operate with more selection, even emulating hardware. As long as you might have sufficient RAM and CPU, the sky’s the limit.
Use this flexibility to your benefit by exploring the large vistas of plugins and effects both inside your DAW and online. From compressor plugins to graphic equalizers, tape delay emulations, and a lot more, the variety of unbelievable instruments out there can boggle the mind.
3. Do not always go to zero
This is applicable to both recording or mixing. Digital metering doesn’t essentially present the true-peak signal level, because it measures the samples themselves; interpolation might end in increased values than that of the samples themselves, resulting in what’s known as Inter-Sample Distortion.
So, leave a couple of dB of breathing room for the cleanest sound. (That is much less of an issue with increased sample rates so that you might consider “spending” the additional bandwidth to go for 96kHz—and you may also hear better sound quality with plug-ins, particularly distortion-oriented ones like amp simulators.)
Solid State Logic presents a free meter plug-in that reveals Inter-Sample Distortion, and PreSonus’s Studio One Pro 2 DAW has meters that may be switched to indicate Inter-Sample Distortion.
4. Compensate for latency
Simply because mixing in the box comes with so many advantages doesn’t exclude it from certain flaws. Latency presents the best obstacle to mixing without hardware, although it impacts the recording process more than anything. Happily, it’s a far much less onerous obstacle than it was. Right now, nearly every DAW automatically compensates for latency, meaning fewer headaches on your end.
Nonetheless, latency will happen from time to time. This will result from plenty of things, however, most frequently it derives from an overload of CPU-sucking plugins. Along with automated latency compensation, upgrading your processing speed will scale back latency issues. Moreover, utilizing extra efficient, much less taxing plugins all the time helps.
Benefits of mixing in the box
- Low price because you’ll merely have to buy a DAW software program that can be used for each recording and mixing. It’s why this has become usual for 99% of budget home recording studios.
- All settings will be preserved or saved digitally for future use. So when the mixing session ends, you’ll merely save the projects than all of the plugin settings, and so on.
- You may take the advantage of zero digital noise not unlike in analog where every outboard gear may contribute to the overall noise.
- Effect plug-ins are usually reasonably priced because it may be obtained from open source and is usually cheaper than shopping for outboard gear/hardware effects. For instance, a bundle of Waves plugins that you’ll be using in mixing inside the box may price around $600 (all plug-ins in that bundle like EQ, compressor, and so on.) However, these finances alone can only purchase one respectable piece of hardware for an analog console.
- Low price in upkeep – in case you have corrupted your DAW or plugin, you merely have to reinstall, no need to rent maintenance techs.
We hope this article helps develop your function and creativity while mixing in the box. Making a customized template can enormously improve productiveness and creativity, however, it can take a while to dial in so it really works for all the things that come throughout your desk. Remember to experiment with totally different bus compressors, EQ, stereo wideners, limiters, effects, and so on to seek out the most effective ones in your type of mixing and workflow.
The very last thing you need is for your template to sound like your mixes start sounding as if they’re coming off an assembly line. I usually change components of my mix template each month or so to maintain a fresh strategy on the projects I’m engaged in. I all the time make a copy of earlier mix templates just in case the modifications aren’t fairly working, or I would like to mix a tune that’s much like an older mix I did where the template was excellent.
No matter if you decide to go for Cubase, Pro Tools, Ableton, or any other DAW, the mixing process will be easier and you will have great-sounding mixes at the end.
Remember to all the time demo new plug-ins that come out to stay updated, virtually every manufacturer offers 14-day demo periods of their merchandise. In the event, you discover one thing that basically suits your mixing type, implements it into your template, and give it a shot in your next couple of projects.
Check our eBook on Mixing Tips! If you want to get a more in-depth breakdown of those tips we share, follow our link and get the “Ultimate Mixing Tips Booklet” and up your game quickly!