If there truly is one “right” way to get killer sounding (and Grammy winning) mixes then why do two of the top guys in the world completely disagree?

A couple of weeks ago I was speaking at the Audio Bloggers Live event in LA and we had a guest panel with Bob Clearmountain (Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen) and Dylan “3D” Dresdow (Black Eyed Peas, Rihanna).

During that session we learned that one mixes on an SSL console while the other mixes completely in the box. Hmmm. Guess the whole ITB vs OTB is not nearly as big of a difference maker as we thought.

Bob+Dylan

Photo by Tony Villaflor

He Kinda Hates Plugins

I have so much respect for Bob Clearmountain. He’s truly one of the legends in our business (he trained Chris Lord Alge for goodness sake). But he’s an analog console guy through and through.

His SSL is still running on software from 1995. That’s how legit he is.

And it’s funny because you could tell during his interview that he kinda hates plugins. To him they seemed like a cheap substitute for the “real thing”.

And that makes sense. Why use an emulation when you have (and enjoy using) the real thing? If the workflow of analog doesn’t bother him, then more power to him for working the way he likes to work.

His results speak for themselves.

He’s All Up In The Box

On the flip side was Dylan Dresdow. He is having chart topping success and he mixes completely in the box.

I think this quote from an interview he did with Sound On Sound a few years back (2009 to be exact!) sums his thoughts up perfectly:

At this point I believe that any mixer out there should competently be able to do a mix in the box or on a desk, and be able to get a great‑sounding record either way. I learned that you need to really focus on getting your digital gain structure right if you want things to sound really good. Plug‑ins also have a sweet spot. But when you know what you’re doing, I don’t think it really matters whether you are mixing in the box or on a console, you simply need to find a way to make it work. If you listened to a bunch of records that I mixed in the last couple of years, I defy you to tell me which ones were done in the box and which ones on a console. – Dylan Dresdow (Usher, Michael Jackson)

Yeah. What he said.

Results Matter. Not Methods.

It’s funny, because even the panel of mastering engineers at the event disagreed with each other.

One mastering engineer said that mixers should always take off all buss processing before sending in their mixes to be mastered. Another on the panel said the opposite – leave all your plugins on the mix buss.

Some engineers throughout the day said you can have mix buss processing, just not a limiter. Then along comes Mick Guzauzki (11 Grammy wins) who casually mentions that he has a limiter on the mix buss all the time.

What?!

So everyone basically disagreed with everyone else – on method. Not on results. On method.

The point I’m getting at (and what was reinforced in my mind during the day) is that everyone is going to approach music making differently. Everyone is going to mix differently, master differently, song write and record differently. And that’s OK!

No one cares HOW you get there, just get there.

If the pros can’t seem to agree on the “best way” to mix then why should we worry about it?

Now, please carry on with whatever weird method you have for mixing. Just make sure it sounds good!