Before you press the BUY button on whatever newfangled piece of signal chain you think is going to “up your mix game,” give Part 1 of this series a read. You may find the source of your woes has nothing to do with the voltage and “1’s” and “0’s” coming out of your speakers.
Does This Next Part Sound Familiar?
Let me lay out a scenario for you. You’ve reached the “consciously incompetent” phase of mixing, where you know your mixes don’t sound like whatever flavor of the month is appearing on the Youtube/podcast/plugin email newsletter circuit. Granted, all of your friends and family tell you that your mixes sound just “like what is on the radio,” but you know the truth.
You trudge down the logical path – at the beginning of your signal chain. You start posting on forums and Reddit. It probably goes a lot like this: “Hey guys, I saved up, bought a (budget interface) and (decent mic). My mixes don’t sound right. Should I get a new mic, preamp, or interface”?
After a few hours and too many opinions from “Grammy-Award Watching producers,” you are more confused than when you start. While there probably are some excellent suggestions buried in the sea of “get this $200 Neve Slayer”, you ditch all of the help and go with your heart. After too much time on YouTube and Guitarget, you spend every extra dollar you have on a boutique channel strip. You get it, and your mixes sound the same.
Five figures worth of mic, monitors, preamps, interfaces, Mix with the Masters subscriptions, and yes, cables, your mixes somehow sound worse! You finally heed the better advice you had received on the forums and plug your room dimensions into a generic calculator, and it spits out suggestions for room treatment. You drop a grand or two on a lot of foam, and your mixes improve slightly. After all of this money, you’re left dejected and to the point of quitting because you feel you’ll never like your own mixes.
How am I so sure this may sound familiar? Well, that was my path. What stage are you at right now? Have you quit yet? Before listing all of your gear on Craigslist, keep reading.
Sonics and Sanity
Whatever stage you’re at doesn’t matter. Everything you’ve bought up until this point will help. Knowledge is always power, but internet research can only go so far —especially a problem so technical and convoluted.
While production and mixing training is relatively easy to learn, acoustics can be a whole different monster. Of course, knowing the basics of how sound behaves is a must, but why not bring in a ringer when it comes to designing your room? Sure it may cost some money, but it will save you way more in the long run.
Acoustics and Accoutrements
I’ll be honest with you; I thought I could do it myself. I decided to go the “online calculator” route, and the results weren’t terrible. However, I still had a lot of trouble with my tracks not translating to any other set of speakers. So when we bought a new house, I went to a different approach.
I knew I had all of the same gear every studio this side of Nashville had. I also knew I could answer just about any technical mixing question any kid that just stumbled out of Full Sail could explain. Despite those two things, I knew my mixes were suffering, and I wanted to do things right. I contacted a trusted friend, Gregory Scott (Kush Audio, Sly-Fi, UBK Happy Funtime Hour), and asked for a referral for an acoustician. I wanted someone who had similar sensibilities to a “UBK.” Someone who doesn’t just see room treatment as complex equations and rigid rules. Enter Jeff Hedback.
Like most of you, the word acoustician harkens to the sonic equivalent of a Shaman, parting the proverbial “waves” and bending a room to his submission. We’re not entirely sure what they do, but whatever it is, it works. The art of treating a space can be intimidating for some, often feeling like an exact science (if one millimeter is not accounted for, you’ve blown the whole room). While this couldn’t be further from the truth, having someone to guide you takes the “woo” out of the entire process. An “Audio Sherpa,” if you will.
Jeff Hedback is the owner of HD Acoustics, a firm that handles everything from private listening rooms to commercial studios. Being an acoustician, Berklee trained recording engineer, and session bass player, Jeff brings a more “holistic” approach to room design, scaling the project to fit the client’s needs and limitations. Want to learn what’s going on during the entire process down to the minute detail? Jeff will show you. Want to stay back and let him do his thing? That works too. One of the most significant benefits of HD Acoustics’ services is that Jeff specializes in small room design (rooms under 10,000 cubic feet). Most of us aren’t working in ideal places, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make the best of it.
The Reputation Speaks for Itself
Obviously, this way of working has brought enormous success. His rooms have made the last eight years of Mix Magazine’s “Class of” list. He’s designed rooms for Ozzy Osbourne, Christina Aguilera, Aaron Dessner from The National, and many others. Don’t let all of this mislead you. Jeff is one of the most down-to-earth and friendly people you’ve met. This can be a little uncommon with people in this industry. Sometimes vast technical knowledge comes at the cost of interpersonal skills, but Jeff has both.
It’s this combination of know-how and sensibility that makes Jeff an ideal partner for this series. Jeff will assist us in designing the treatment for Everything Recording’s new space and explain everything along the way in terms we all can understand. We will do our absolute best in this series to help cut through the equations and break things down in a way that you can incorporate into your own spaces. Jeff will also explain his process of how he goes about treating your room remotely and the steps you would take should you decide to utilize his services.
Join us soon for part 2, where we start diving into our new space, the initial legwork for design, and Jeff’s take on some areas you may not even know are affecting your mix.