The Best Studio Investments I Ever Made. . .
Spending a fair bit of money on an Apple mac is essential considering these days one needs the processing power in order run plugins, and sure, this is a great investment but its not the only one I’m thinking about. . .
When working in bigger studios, I always noticed that whoever the producer or engineer, there would always be a pair of speakers that looked a little, lets say amateur. I never bothered asking what they were as a lot of the time I thought they were just for decoration - and my gosh was I wrong! I like to read a lot about other peoples methods and I stumbled upon an interview with Derek Ali in Sound on Sound. For those of you who don’t know, he is Kendrick Lamar’s main engineer; should say enough really. He was trained by Dr. Dre, and one of the first things he was taught was to mix through a single Auratone in mono. I’m not sure if you any of you have seen or heard an Auratone 5C, but to put in context, they’re better known as the horror-tones.
I decided to spend some time researching why this method was being used and noticing that all the those speakers I thought were for decoration were actually the engineers go-to for mixing down. After an adequate amount of research time on www.gearslutz.com I bought an Avantone Mixcube, similar to the Auratone but a little more modern.
I broke them in by playing D’Angelo’s Voodoo album through them for 100 hours - I basically just left them on in the studio and went to work elsewhere. A lot of people don’t know this but when you get a pair of speakers, you have to loosen the cones. It can take around 100 hours to burn them in, this helps the movement and the natural tone of the speaker be projected.
When I have clients round and I switch to the Avantone to mix, they always give me a weird look, but I reassure them with “don’t be fooled, everything is about to sound amazing”. The beauty mixing on the Avantone is that if you can get it to sound good on here, you can get it to sound good anywhere. Its a single tweeter/cone which means there is no crossover with the frequencies. Therefore you’re getting a strong direct signal without any phasing. It also focuses a lot on the mids which is what we’re really after nailing when mixing the majority of music because thats what people hear. And lastly, when you’re mixing on one, its in mono which means that you can check for anything disappearing into the sides when applying stereo or modulating effects.
So you’ve got this speaker which is basically a check box sitting in front of you but how does one use it correctly? Initially, its great for checking levels. If anything is too loud or unglued from the mix you’ll notice immediately. You’ll even be able to hear where the kick and bass is sitting. Despite the fact that you may make music for the club, a lot of people will be listening through either their phone, laptop or bluetooth speakers. None of these produce sub unless big and expensive, so you’ve got a speaker that can relate to the masses.
Secondly, when you’re sweeping through your frequencies with your EQ ,looking for that harsh or muddy sound, it will pin point it for you effortlessly. I never second guess what the Avantone is telling me, I just believe in it! If its harsh in the cube, you know you gotta take it out!
Thirdly, its sounds rubbish. No matter how good your mix is, it still won’t be that enjoyable to listen to. But… if its grooving and feels great you’ve nailed it. When all the parts are playing and you find yourself nodding as suppose to questioning, then the Avantone has served you well. Your ability to mix and balance should increase two fold when doing it on one of these, just because it simplifies how we think and approach mixing.
They retail at around £250; make sure you get the Active one otherwise you will need an amplifier for the Passive version! It may seem like a lot but if you’re the type of person who struggles with mixing like I used to, then this could be your answer!