The 7 Bad Frequency Gremlins You Should Watch For

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There are certain frequencies that can definitely ruin the sound of a mix. Get too much of one of them and the result is some unpleasantness that is difficult to describe, but engineers try anyway. We’ve come up with a lingo that should identify a certain frequency band, but since the names aren’t truly universal, sometimes there’s some confusion anyway. Enter the 7 Bad Frequency Gremlins.

This was actually inspired by a graphic by Rational Acoustics, the company that brought you the SMAART system for room tuning of live venues. The original name was The 7 Bad System Dwarves, referring the live sound system in a venue, but I’ve actually taken some liberties by renaming our gremlins so they apply more for recording that live sound.

Those frequency ranges are quite adaptable to the studio though and can readily apply to your next mix. Let’s take a look at them.

Tubby – 20Hz to 120Hz – It’s not uncommon to add too much of this band, especially below 60Hz in order to get more girth and power in a mix. Too much and you get a tubby gremlin instead.

Muddy – 200Hz to 350Hz – Muffled low end? Chances are it’s from too much of this frequency range supplied by the muddy gremlin.

Boxy – 400Hz to 500Hz – If your kick drum sounds like the beater is hitting a cardboard box, the Boxy gremlin is your culprit.

Honky – 650Hz to 750Hz – Is your mix sounding too much like a car horn? You’ve got an instrument or two with too much of this gremlin.

Barky – 900Hz to 1.2kHz – This is the sound of your mix sounding too much like it’s coming out of an old-fashioned megaphone like carnival barkers used to use. Silence this gremlin for sure.

Edgy – 2kHz to 4kHz – Getting ear fatigue from listening to your mix? You’ve got to put this gremlin in his place to take the edge off a bit.

Sibilant – 6.5kHz to 10kHz – Are the S’s of a vocal pinning your ears back? It’s time to teach this gremlin to tame down.

All of these frequency ranges have a certain amount of overlap, so don’t go by the exact frequencies mentioned. It’s just a ballpark range that will give you the sound that you really don’t want.

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