Mixing on a Console for the First Time

A couple months ago Drew and I went in together on a late 1970s Soundtracs FME mixing console, based on Duane’s recommendation.  We scored a good deal on eBay, carefully dragged the 225-pound unit (console + road case) down to the basement, and this past Monday I got to work with it for the first time.

FME1

First I tested each channel with one signal, listening and compensating for any differences among them. These circuits are 35+ years old, and have drifted a bit; to get each channel to sound the same I used preamp gain settings as much as 11 dB apart, EQ adjustments of -1.5 dB to +3 dB, and levels as much 4.5 dB apart. That took all morning, and while we’ll tweak it as we continue to use the board, those settings will be a foundation we can start mixes from in the future.

FME3

Then I actually mixed a five-song project for upcoming release on MFR. I’d already gotten the mixes to a state I was happy with in ProTools, so I was just routing those tracks through the console and back into ProTools in stereo, making fine adjustments.

FME4

Mixing on the Soundtracs was brilliant; revelatory, really.  Even at levels below clipping, the preamps subtly compress and add harmonics in a beautiful way.  The EQ was the best part, though.  In ProTools, I’ll spend weeks on a mix agonizing over tiny changes in EQ, trying to get things to sound their best.  On the console it’s simple and natural to turn up the level, sweep the frequency for the range I want to affect, and bring the level back down until I’ve achieved what I want to hear.

FME2

It wasn’t cheap, but even so this piece of gear was well worth it for us, and offers good bang-for-buck in that it will substantially improve every mix we do (think: new Mars Lights LP, new Dark Satelliets LP, Cory’s solo project, and more) from now on.  And it’s fun to use.

As a bonus, here are some pics of Drew pole-dancing in Wichita Friday night, then deciding to sit on the floor and enjoy the music, at the Mars Lights / Vehicles / Admirals show.

2015-02-20Drew2 2015-02-20Drew

It’s the Time of the Season for Mars Lights & Hats

While I’m at work on mr|ten (out Friday 19 September) recording with Cory (yesterday) and mastering (today), Jill’s making hats and rocking her new Mars Lights tee pretty hard.

hat hat hat hat hat hat hat hat
hat hat hat hat hat hat hat hat

Maintain the rock and you don’t stop the rock, and I’ll keep on those hot new jams.

On My One Visit To Ventura…

Back in March 2006, Cory and I thought that we’d be recording the album soon.  We did a DIY cover photo shoot at the pier in anticipation of that.

Here’s an early version of what that cover would have looked like.  The font and general color scheme persisted to the final version, but the live shots were too old to really use eight years later.

VenturaEarlyCover

Ventura Alternate Cover

At the last minute, I pulled this guy from the cover of Ventura.  A sun wearing sunglasses seemed like enough silliness for the record, without bringing intertubes memes into the proceedings.

In case you prefer it, though, here he is:

Ventura CoveAlternate

Happy little guy.

If you switch, would you let me know in the comments?

Mars Lights Tracking Photos

I’m a bit late clearing the vault of stuff to blog, here, but these are some photos of the Mars Lights tracking sessions from July and August.  The drums were done on Drew’s kit at my old house, and the guitars are being done in the practice space at Drew’s.

Ventura Drum Photos

Some photos of my living space in its current state are below.  Ventura drums are done :-) and I’m starting on drum tracks for Cory’s new solo record today.

  • The EV RE320 on the kick is a major winner.  It sounded amazing straightaway, and I’d recommend it to anyone looking for a good kick sound.  I started with its EQ switch in the flat position and the mic about a foot off the drum, and ended up flipping the EQ to the “kick” curve and moving the mic closer.  It does capture a fair amount of bleed from the rest of the kit, so I’m pretty sure I’ll end up using a low pass EQ on it for mixing.
  • I like the Sennheiser e609 better on the snare than the classic 57, so it gets a huge thumbs-up, too.
  • I expected more room sound from my high-ceilinged, marble tile-floored downstairs, but it’s working OK.  It’s just made less of a difference than I thought it would.  I struggled for a couple days last weekend to get the snare sounding good through both the close and room mics, and ended up moving the overhead mic closer to the kit than I started with in order to put a good combination of sounds together.  A far room mic would be a nice addition, but would be barely noticeable in the mix; just a tiny touch of extra frosting on the cake.
  • As discussed previously, I have two gold sparkle Slingerland marching snares, now nicknamed the Freak (14″) and the Beast (15″).  I started with the Beast, and liked its close mic-d sound better, and it sounded great to my ears in the room, but the overhead mic didn’t like it, for some reason.  So I’ve ended up using the Beast for the record.  I think I’ll still carry the Freak to shows, though.

Congrats Jessie!

I played Bright Eyes’ “First Day of My Life” for Jessie’s first dance at her wedding the other week, and someone snapped this pic.

0813.jpg

Thanks for sending it on, Jessie, and congratulations to the happy couple! -h