Unless you’ve had many years of experience mixing, it’s pretty easy to be befuddled by a mix. Instruments or vocals that are too loud or quiet, harsh midrange, and low frequencies that are out of whack are just some of the continual problems that mixers continually battle against. The new Soundways Core Production Bundle goes a long way to alleviating those problems, with a trio of plugins designed to make your mixing chores easier. The plugins are the brainchild of Memphis mastering engineer Gebre Waddell, so they’re coming from a place of heightened attention to mix consistency that only a mastering engineer can bring.
The Soundways Core Production Bundle consists of three plugins: Reveal, which is a listening aid to help you zero in on problem areas, LowLeveler, which helps to balance the frequencies of bass instruments so they fit better in the mix, and AFMonitor, which tracks the time you spend listening to help avoid ear fatigue and the flawed decisions that come from it.
Reveal consists of two rows of listening presets coupled with a display that shows bass, RMS, Peak, Mid and Side levels that’s useful for spotting a problem visually, but the real beauty of the plug comes primarily from the top row. There you’ll find 3 presets. The first is Critical Listening, which places a filter in the signal path so that only the upper mids and high frequencies are heard. This allows you to hear any problems in that area, so you can set the track levels, EQ and compression with more precision.
The next is Passive Listening, which uses a different filter that’s shaped around how we listen to music in the background. This makes level or EQ issues jump out where they might ordinarily be overlooked because you’re concentrating on other parts of the mix instead. Harshness Listening filters out everything except the 2k to 8kHz frequency range to isolate any problems with sibilance.
The second row provides short term preview modes to hear how your mix will sound in different environments. Quality Review simulates the response of a small home playback system, while FM Curve simulates what happens to your mix when broadcast by an FM radio station. Device Mode simulates the sound of a mobile phone, and Vehicle Analysis provides the frequency curve of a typical car stereo. There are also a couple of utility tools. Mono Elements folds the stereo mix down to mono, while Distortion Listening allows only the side mix elements to play, which is a classic way mastering engineers find distortion in a mix coming from too much compression.
The LowLeveler plugin is meant to be used on any instrument in the mix centered around low frequencies, like kick, bass and floor tom. It consists of two controls, Upper Bass and Low Bass, and display that shows the level of each. There are also three EQ modes: Organic, Flat and Accurate, which tilts the EQ crossover point a bit to better zero in on what works best for a mix. This is highly effective in balancing out the response of a bass instrument so it works on all types of playback systems, especially small ones.
The final plugin is AFMonitor, which automatically counts the time you spend listening and the time you spend resting your ears. When you’ve reached ear fatigue territory, it will alert you so you can rest for a few minutes and pick it up in a bit with fresh ears.
After using the Core Production Bundle for a while I can attest to its usefulness. It’s one of those packages that after you live with it for a short while you’ll decide you can’t live without it, especially after your mixes improve.
The Soundways Core Production Bundle costs $249, is available for Mac or PC, and has a 14 day free trial available. For more info, go to the dedicated site or check out the video below.