Working with opto-style compression (2): mixing a song

As I promised (see my first post on the topic), I’m going to reveal some secrets about my last mix project. It’s kind of a DIY music video, made for my youtube channel. It’s an acoustic ballad, played by Julia Motz and me on two guitars. If you like our music, check out www.motzundteissen.net.

Now here’s how the recording was made: We recorded it on a 4-track basis: 2 mono guitars, 2 mono vocals. That’s it. No compression oder EQing during tracking.
While mixing the audio track for the video, I processed EVERY track as follows:

  • phase alignment between the 4 tracks – essential
  • (subtractive) dynamic EQ – extremely useful, I use it much more often than a compressor plugin
  • fader/gain automation – it’s a lot of work but worth it (again: on all tracks!), no compressor needed!
  • if necessary, some light FET-style compression, just to tame the highest peaks

Then I went out-of-the-box, sending EACH track through a IGS ONE LA500 optical compressor, then going back into the DAW again. I processed all 4 tracks with the ONE LA500 applying approx. 3-4 dB gain reduction. (Don’t forget that I did all the necessary corrections before sending the tracks to the opto comp, so I’m using the compressor for subtle compression and overall tone coloration. The tracks should not sound louder in the first place, they should sound BETTER.)

ONE LA500And though the source material was not “optimal” like a high-end studio recording (due to mic bleeding, the “live” performance and environment), the opto compressor did great on all tracks. The vocals sit great in the mix, and the sustain of some guitar notes and chords was enhanced very nicely. No wonder that for vocal tracks, optical compressors are the first choice of many engineers.

The rest was simple. After processing all tracks with a ONE LA500, I finished the mix ITB (in the box), adding a pinch of reverb, buss compression, and the usual sh**. For me, this mix sounds richer than my last one, where I was mixing without outboard gear. The IGS ONE LA500 will not only be my go-to comp on bass (as I’ve shown in my last post) but also on vocals, and probably on acoustic guitars too …

Oh, and here’s what it sounds like (don’t forget, the audio quality deteriorates due to youtube’s video encoding, but still …). I hope you like the result! Cheers, Tim

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