Here's an updated critique for the huntermusic mix, which I previously felt was very bass-light. Because huntermusic was surprised at this, and was worried that I might have listened to the wrong mix by mistake, I removed the previous critique, and have now freshly re-downloaded the track and double-checked everything. The mix is indeed the same one I reviewed, but I think I may have been rather unclear what I meant, so it's as well to have revisited it. (I'm going a bit cross-eyed here listening to so many different versions of the same mix!) So let me start afresh and see if I can make it any clearer what I mean.
Comparing the mix tonality against the references there's a considerable mismatch, which makes it a little tricky to evaluate other balance/tone issues. How you look at this mismatch is a question of perspective. The way I see it is that the low end of the mix energy appears to tilt away below 1kHz, and I needed to apply about 8dB low boost at 50Hz to bring it more into line with what I would expect. What I didn't make clear in my previous critique, though, is that the kick drum is actually supplying a reasonable portion of low end in the 50-60Hz region, so the track is not without some low frequencies -- it's just that the subjective tone of everything else (which I rather too loosely referred to as 'the mix') feels like it's lacking lows.
As I said, though -- it's a question of perspective. If you turn up this mix so that the low end from the kick feels right, then it might not seem bass-light, but instead overly forward in the higher frequecies (especially around 2kHz or so). Since my original critique, huntermusic PM'ed me to say that he'd applied some mastering-style processing to the mix, specifically to boost the highs (which he felt were lacking), and he also sent me the unmastered version for comparison, which did indeed have 3dB or so less high end. (In reassessing the critique, I therefore decided to go with the unmastered version to make it a little easier to judge other aspects of the mix.) In addition, he mentioned that he'd referenced against some mainstream 'radio rock' acts, so he may well have been chasing a different goal tonally speaking. Taking all this into account, then, let me move on to the other issues in the mix.
The first thing I noticed is that there appears to be some kind of periodic audio glitching going on. Maybe the audio interface latency is set too low -- you usually want a good old buffer size for mix work, given all the processing going on. The vocal feels rather too prominent in the 5-9kHz region without enough hardness in the 1kHz zone, such that the 'f's, 'd's and 't's came across as rather 'spitty' (even though the sibilance appears well under control) and the timbre somehow spongey. When the singer's delivery changes for the choruses, however, the vocal seems to get more centre to it and becomes more appropriate to my ears, albeit with a touch too much sibilance.
It's good to hear tuning being addressed again, although I wonder whether I'm hearing some wobbly side-effects of the correction processing in the verses. It could just be the vocal's modulation effect, but it does feel like it's reducing the sincerity of the singer's delivery. The timing seems a bit tighter in this mix than some others. While I suspect he may have done some work on that, it may also simply be the nature of the balance that's making things groove better -- after all, the thinner-sounding guitars don't impact the rhythm as much, and the kick's very prominent in the balance.
In general the bass guitar feels significantly too low in the balance for me, and given the generally middly choice of guitar tones, this leads to a lack of warmth in the low mids when we hit the chorus. Come the middle sections, I really missed its input in terms of the great slides and melodic riffs it uses to drive this section along. Just lifting the bass fader would make a big difference to this mix, I reckon.
The advantage of the clear, bright guitar tones favoured in general in this mix is that they work well for pulling out all the interesting melodic fragments in the verses/choruses, but without overburdening the mix as a whole. The main disadvantage, though, is that it seems like it's heading too much in the direction of punk for this particular song, and when the overdrive really kicks in during the mid-sections a 3-4kHz peak builds up which I found quite fatiguing to listen to -- I caught myself reaching for the volume knob, which is rarely a good sign! My suggestion would be to rely more on lower frequencies to give the guitars power, rather than majoring too much on the 'bite'.
The snare tone has little difficulty in slicing through the mix, and is commendably resistant to being ducked by loudness processing too. In fact, I reckon it could actually be turned down a little (and probably dipped a touch at 6kHz too) to blend it more with the rest of the kit, and could be treated with a little extra short, narrow reverb just to glue it better with the overheads. The toms feel fairly well balanced, although the low tom's fundamental could be poked down a bit with an EQ notch at its fundamental frequency. While the overheads seem to have sensibly avoided exacerbating any harshness in the guitars unduly, the cymbal stick transients do make their presence felt in a way that somehow makes the cymbal tone appear less full-sounding. I'd usually turn to threshold-independent transient processing to tame this kind of thing, and if you don't have such a plug-in on your own system yet, then there are some affordable suggestions here
The final main area where I think this mix could be improved is in terms of its feeling of subjective 'size'. The simplest thing to do in stereo would be to widen the image a bit, as it's narrower than it need be. Clearly there are a number of inherent mono-compatibility issues lurking within the raw tracks themselves, but nonetheless I figure there's probably more scope for widening things than has currently capitalised on here. While panning is part of the recipe, there are many other stereo enhancement techniques that might be drawn on, such as those I've demonstrated here
. A decent global large-room reverb low in the mix would also help paint out to the edges of the image a bit.
Hopefully I've been a bit clearer in my comments this time. What's interesting is that this mix balance comes across much more strongly on an Auratone (where of course the low-end tonality and stereo width are less of a concern) than it does on my nearfields, so Huntermusic's aim of targeting this mix at radio has in a sense been fulfilled. It also demonstrates that there are already many sensible balance decisions at the heart of this mix, which should only increase in value as the overall mix timbre and 'size' are improved. Thanks for bearing with me!