Some say mix with your ears. Some say drive with a car. Nothing lets me fight through audio issues like a full-featured EQ with a well-tuned RTA and stay focused on the prize.
Note: All of these assessments were done using Voxengo GlissEQ. This is not a review of Gliss EQ. I know of no other EQ with an RTA that is setup to expose problems so well although Voxformer http://www.recordingreview.com/blog/plugins/voxengo-voxformer-snags-bulletproof-award/ is close. I urge all of you to play around with the RTA in GlissEQ. Try out the demo.
#1 – The Transient Sweep Problem
There are PLENTY of freakin’ times where you hear mud in this one syllable of a vocal. That mud can’t be there when you are finished. While I use the sweep technique WAY more often than I use socks, the sweep technique doesn’t help me when the little booger I want to nuke doesn’t last long enough to do that sweep.
#2 The EQ Guessing Problem
I can use my ears and hope they are good enough to hear 5.6Khz vs 6.1Khz. Mine aren’t and that doesn’t hurt me one bit in studio land. Not anymore. If you wouldn’t bet your thumb on the difference between a 200ms transient at 5.6Hz or 6.1Khz, you are guessing. There’s no need to guess at finding a tricky wicky frequency.
#3 – The No Brainer Solution
Just look at the damn screen and see where that booger is popping up. Send full power to those things hanging off the side of your head, pinpoint when the problem occurs, and take a look at what that little RTA is telling you and then confirm it with the ears. They eyes don’t do any “mixing”. They just sometimes give your ears a clue.
I’d take an anonymous tip from Al Keida if it made my mixes better. SMILEY
#4 – Not SPAN This Time!
I’m a huge fan of Voxengo SPAN. It’s the best RTA-style meter I’ve seen for audio land and the price is wrong. (Free!). I use it any time I need to learn something. (It’s interesting that SPAN teaches humility. If you’ve used it and haven’t learned humility you are just stubborn.) Anyway, I don’t like SPAN for identifying quick problem frequencies. Why? Because I shouldn’t need to open up two plugins (the EQ plugin and SPAN) and I don’t have a lot of free time.
#5 – The “You Go, Girl” EQ Problem!
If your EQ plugin of choice does not have an RTA, they are most likely attempting to sell to you using a famous brand name from the Apollo Program era. It’s a shame that very few companies make distorted EQs with RTA’s. They all seem to insist on putting on a fashion show to get your money. Sleazy!
It’s sickening to me that they’d put their marketing over the effectiveness of the plugin and your results as a mixer.
I wish this EQ could strut on a “cat walk” with Right Said Fred blasting while an excited male with a lisp shouts: “You go girl!”. Only gay males and audio plugin GUI developers seem to know anything about fashion. Sorry my limp-wristed, but exceptionally clean friends but I came here to rock. Give me REAL tools even if they aren’t “fabulous”.
#6 Isolating Problems
A huge issue I always had when notching out a low mid problem was I was worried about sounding “too thin”. That’s a fear I’m done with, and the main reason for that is now I know if I have an excessive amount of “mud” at 234Hz, for example, now I can clearly see that in those sections where the mud is missing, there ain’t much going on at 234Hz anyway. In other words, cutting out “mud” almost never results in “thin” if I cut the right frequency. If there was something good I was missing, I’ll be able to see that on the RTA as well and adapt.
By being more aware of the EXACT problem frequencies, I don’t have to worry about cutting out good stuff.
#7 You Realize Why De-essers Suck And Certain Preamps Rule
Most de-essers are multiband compressors. When the “ess” shows up, they clamp down on that one band. Any audio outside that band doesn’t get compressed (usually under-4Khz range). That’s when you get the lisp sound, which currently I’ve decided is the worst audio artifact imaginable. Put a lisp on Eddie Vedder and he’ll beat you. I don’t blame him. It’s very easy to hear how badly most de-essers sound. It’s even easier to look at GlissEQ and know why.
Note: I’ve got Boz at Boz Digital Labs cooking up a few solutions for that which meet my standards in ways that far exceed anything else I’ve seen out there. That’s in the future, though. Anyway, the RTA on a EQ makes this painfully obvious. It makes you scratch your head and wonder what all these people making de-essers were thinking.
An RTA-equipped EQ being used in day to day travels teaches you stuff. You learn thingies that make you a lot better and a lot more aware. This leads to confidence to everything from mix decisions to realizing your aren’t an idiot for using a certain inexpensive preamp.
#8 – Identifying Perpetual Issues
You begin to see quirks in your setup. As you all have heard many times, I LOVE the ADK Vienna MK8 > Rane MS1b combo. I use it on everything I can. On vocals, it does have a few little kinks I often have to work out that are consistent from singer to singer. These quirks are super easy to see and I’ve devised ways of dealing with these issues. When I can attach actual #s in Hz to what I’m hearing, I become empowered.
#9 My Ears Improve
My ears have gotten better since I’ve gotten addicted to the RTA. Now when I hear a thing and see that thing is 1.75Khz, my brain registers that. When I heard a thing before, it was never so validated. Sometimes a hear a thing and take a wild guess before looking at the RTA. Since the RTA is built in to the EQ I immediately see if I guessed correctly. It takes no additional time to make such guesses, which persistently improve my ability to associate audio issues with a given frequency. Multiply this times every EQ instance I have and I get a whole bunch of ear training while I mix. It’s impossible to beat that.
#10 – 1,000: Your Focus Stays On Mixing
When you clearly see at exactly the right time some annoying 163Hz thingy pop up on the meter, you quickly move your EQ band to notch out the mess at 163Hz. You never have to take your eye off the ball. You don’t have to continually revisit that vocal. You can scratch that 163Hz problem off the list almost immediately and you go back to making a song completely rock, which was the whole damn point of mixing in the first place.
It’s a little odd when solving problems goes from this epic waste of time that used to take up hours on a terrible day to something that you can usually do in seconds. When you don’t lose your focus, I can’t even put into words how valuable that is.
Using all resources at your disposal to knock out problems is the only way to go. Refusing to use an RTA is flat out absurd to me now that I’ve done it for so long. I can’t imagine ever going back. Again, this is based on the Voxengo GlissEQ. I’ve never had such a positive experience with an RTA.
Look for a full review of GlissEQ soon.
If your results are perfect with no eye usage, then don’t do anything different. I’d imagine the curious are going to gravitate towards a well-tuned RTA.