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Building the Perfect Portable Studio with Ultimate Ears | Ultimate Ears Stories from the Field

In the previous installment, I talked about how the UERM and the AK120 became my new tools of choice for on-the-move mixing and referencing.

These two products are a creative workhorse beyond my wildest expectations.

I stumbled into using this setup while writing, and I might never go back. While mixing, I found that the soundstage was impeccable and that I loved the clarity of the individual mix elements when pairing the UERM with AK120. But this week, I would like to focus on something that I didn’t anticipate at all; something by which I was even more pleasantly surprised.

When I began using the combo at the start of the writing process, I was able to hear in the samples to be incorporated things that I never knew were there. I could hear overtones in my kick drums needlessly eating into the upper register, strings that were spread unnecessarily wide in the soundstage, guitars that were masking other instruments, and smearing up the stereo imaging. The list just goes on and on. And in working with samples, I soon discovered that, of the available libraries, many do a poor job of simply giving you just the information that you need. I’m not pointing fingers here, but more often than not there will be some kind of digital artifacting, or extra room tone, or, in the case of some drum sounds, impertinent instruments.

In the past, I think that, even if I could have heard these rogue sounds, I would have let them go. But, having somewhat recently read Mixerman’s Zen and the Art of Mixing, a favorite lesson relearned was about the creation of space in a mix for your instruments. I’ve been mixing music for a long time, so I am aware of the power of spatial imaging. But what I hadn’t thought of is how all of those rogue frequencies can eat up parts of that precious space. And getting a handle on these “roguencies” in the writing process has made the mixing process so much easier, especially when mixing my own projects.

The ability, when writing, to get a solid handle on my sound placement  and  stereo imaging at the outset has saved me a lot of time when mixing (and some dough too!). Being able to set my panning reliably in my DAW when I am working on the bare bones of my tracks leaves great space for my collaborators and it makes my rough mixes sing like never before. This has too many benefits to list. But to bind it in a nutshell I say that, if you are going to be mixing projects yourself, you will have done a lot of the heavy lifting early. If you are making demos, your band mates/collaborators will be plenty happy as they will find more space in which to place their ideas. And if you plan to send your tracks out to another mixer, these roughs will be a great guide for them (and in my experience, something that will save you costs in studio time).


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