You can get a similar sound using stock plugins in your DAW. Here we discuss how.
Phosphorescent, Arcade Fire, and loads of modern acts have been using this effect that has been around for decades. Slapback delays can create space around a vocal without pushing it to the back of the mix (like a reverb) and can be used to create the psychoacoustic effect of a loud sound. Such effects trick our brains into thinking that we’re hearing a sound that was amplified and is reflecting off a hard surface.
What are those pieces of tape on my monitor controller you ask?!??!???
Well, let me explain. I spend almost all of my mix time monitoring at one volume. It’s roughly 83-84ish dB.
I don’t use the “dot” on the knob of the controller. Instead I use the right dot that is under the orange piece of tape that used to say “max” but it rubbed off a little. I have my monitor controller calibrated so that the exact middle of my controller (with the knob dot at 12:00) I’m mixing at that 84dB level and this is purely so that I have plenty of room to turn the knob left or right if I need to.
So once there, I stuck a piece of orange tape such that the left side of the piece of tape, when placed on that ‘max’ dot, sets me at that 84dB level. Since the tape goes all the way to the bottom of the knob, and that area is within clear line of site from where I sit, I can hit that mark easily. Obviously, for this to work properly, all your mixes generally need to be the same volume, but that’s easy (and good practice as well!) Now for the blue mark. When I mix, I mix about 12dB quieter than a typical mastered record. There will be some variance from record to record, depending on who did the mastering and how loud the label wanted it. I shoot for 12dB below what I think the mastered level should be – which if nothing else will be within a dB or so of just about any record out there (despite what people proclaim, there’s really not THAT much difference in volume among major label releases of the same genre).
So if I want to listen to something mastered, I just go to the blue mark,
which is 12dB below the orange mark which would give me the same volume from the speakers. Coincidentally, most of you know I’m a fan of these little tiny 2 inch speakers I have and they only spit out about 65dB max. I have the controller calibrated so that on the orange mark they are doing about 60dB. Again, switching between a mix at orange and a mastered mix at blue on the little speakers will obviously give me the same volume out of the speakers. Special note: the fact that the blue tape lines up with the “-inf” dot is PURE coincidence.
You will see lots of mix engineers do this (or some variation of it) and you’ll particularly see mastering engineers do it. There’s a reason: IT WORKS!
IK Multimedia EQ81 followed by Vladg’s Molot Compressor for some optical compression, then the IK Multimedia Black76 for a touch of FET to flatten out the peaks a little and then the old-fashioned Spitfish for de-essing.
FX3 is the vocal reverb and I’m using IK Multimedia’s CSR Plate (my favorite plate!). There’s also a LPF at 20kH on it using the DAW EQ.
FX4 is a left/right delay and in addition to its filters there is also a 16kHz LPF via the DAW EQ. This gives a little space and texture to the vocal; it’s subtle. It’s a super old plugin.
FX5 is the main delay which is Variety Of Sound Nasty DLAmkii followed by the IK Multimedia CSR Plate (note the mix knob).
There’s a delay throw in the verses that’s panned hard left which is FX8. It’s the DLAmkii getting completely crushed by the Cubase compressor and then the IK CSR Plate (again, note the mix knob).
Mistakes happen, and they can be hard to find afterwards…
I learned this lesson from my mentor, Roberto Percuoco. We had a session that we were working on for a client, and he wanted us to add in another track that he had recorded. At some point, one of us accidentally raised the send to a delay channel without realizing it, screwing up the entire mix. We listened to the exported track, noticed something was off, but couldn’t find WHAT the problem was.
Good thing we had the previous version still.
We didn’t realize what had happened until we loaded the previous version of the track. We redid the mixing session (adding just the track that he wanted) and wrapped up everything. If we didn’t have that previous track, God knows when we would have figured out what was wrong.
These things can’t handle anything, and that’s why I love them
I can hear any problems with my mix immediately when I listen to it on these puppies. They can handle only the bare minimum of bass, they accentuate any honk or boxiness that any instrument may have, and all around are great at catching problems.
This is how a lot of people are going to hear your music for the first time.
Unless you have a multimillion dollar marketing budget, a lot of people are going to hear your tracks on crappy computer speakers. Get an idea of what it will sound like to them and adjust your mix accordingly.
The first time I saw an 1176 plugin, I had no idea how to use it. Where is the threshold control? How many milliseconds is the release and attack? What about the knee? This video will get you rolling with this or any other 1176 emulation.