These are a few bits of useful information relative to studio monitoring systems:
(1) T-RackS 3 Deluxe
: It is very important to use T-RackS 3 Deluxe for mixing and mastering, but more specifically to use one of the mastering suites on the Master stereo output track of your DAW, noting that the ARC System VST plug-in must be the last item in the chain, and it must be disabled before you do a "bounce to disk" . . .
The reason I included this as a possibility is that you did not mention it specifically, and if you are not using T-RackS 3 Deluxe, it is quite possible that several things are happening which can be vastly troublesome, and from your description of the problem it appears that you need to use the Brickwall Limiter on the kick drum to keep it under control but nevertheless "pumped" . . .
The Opto Compressor is another great processor for doing a bit of controlled "pumping", but it does it differently from the Brickwall limiter, and I much prefer the absolute control provided by the Brickwall Limiter for kick drum, snare drum, and other primarily percussive instruments that alternate from silence to maximum volume rapidly . . .
(2) Loudspeaker Frequency Response
: It is possible that your current loudspeaker monitors do not have the ability to reproduce low frequencies adequately. Loudspeakers and headphones typically have a specified frequency range, which is useful, but it also depends on the amplifier, which for powered-loudspeakers can be a factor, as well . . .
For example, if there is a lot of activity in the 20-Hz to 35-Hz low frequency range but your loudspeaker monitors only go as low as 40-Hz, you will not
hear it . . .
If you have T-RackS 3 Deluxe, you should be able to see this happening in the Spectrum Analyzer, although you might need to change the setting for faster updating . . .
(3) Listening Level for Mixing and Mastering
: It is very important to do loudspeaker mixing at a sound pressure level (SPL) in the range of 80 to 85 dB, since the perception of all frequencies is most equal at this sound pressure level without being so loud that it is harmful . . .
This generally is explained by the "equal loudness curve", which first was defined by Harvey Fletcher and Wilden A. Munson based on doing a series of tests with a group of typical listeners using headphones in the early-1930s . . .
Since then, the "Fletcher-Munson Curve" has been revised and updated and now is an ISO standard . . . Equal Loudness Contours
Interestingly, Harvey Fletcher invented the audio meter and hearing aid, and did pioneering research in stereo sound, as well as being the Director of Bell Laboratories and a lot of other amazing things . . . Harvey Fletcher (wikipedia)
In other words, if your loudspeaker monitors are fully capable of reproducing low-frequency tones but you are listening at a lower level, then you will tend to increase the volume level of the lower frequency instruments to compensate for lower frequencies typically being harder to hear a low listening levels . . .
In fact, this is the reason for the "Loudness" button on some home stereo amplifiers and radios, which basically is a combination of a bass boost and high-frequency boost so that it is easier to hear low notes and high notes at low listening volume . . .
For the folks who might not have had a lot of mathematics courses, decibels (dB) are logarithmic, which basically is the consequence of the general fact that for a sound to be perceived as twice as loud, the volume needs to increase 10 times, and using logarithms is a simple way to keep the various curves on diagrams from being too tall or whatever . . .
So, if you select a specific curve, where in this context "curve" will be a somewhat horizontal line, and examine it from left to right in the "equal loudness curve" diagram (see above
), then as you go from left to right the pitch or frequency goes from low to high, and what the curve shows is that for low frequencies the volume level needs to be perhaps as much as 7 to 9 times higher than the volume levels for midrange frequencies, with something similar but not quite so extreme happening for higher frequency notes . . .
However, at the sound pressure range of 80 to 85 dB, the overall curve tends to be flatter or more horizontal . . .
[NOTE: Actually, "curve" is just a fancy name for what most folks intuitively call a "line", where a perfectly horizontal line is just a "flat curve" or whatever. Normal people do not call a straight line a "curve", but mathematicians are not so normal, and they prefer to call everything "curves", although this is a bit of a generality . . .
Another useful bit of information is that normal human hearing favors the midrange, with the result that midrange sounds are very easy to hear, which has the odd consequence of making them a bit troublesome, since they can easily dominate a mix . . .
It also is important to remember that most of what happens in a typical popular song occurs below 500-Hz, where for reference the 5th fret on the high-pitch "e
" string of an electric guitar at standard tuning is 440-Hz or "Concert A", and the importance of this is that all the higher frequency stuff mostly is focused on introducing and providing clarity, crispness, and ambiance . . .
For example, you might think that Elvis Presley, John Lennon, and Paul McCartney were sopranos, but they were and are baritones or tenors . . .
The curious aspect of Paul McCartney's voice is that he can sing soprano notes without needing to switch to falsetto (or at least does it in such a way that it is not perceived as being falsetto). In contrast, it is easy to hear when Brian Wilson (Beach Boys) switches to falsetto . . .
So, the key bit of information is that most of the action for male singers happens below 500-Hz, which technically is the standard frequency in loudspeaker crossover systems that separates "bass" from "treble", such that in a loudspeaker system with a woofer and a tweeter, everything 500-Hz or lower is reproduced by the woofer (the big, typically paper cone loudspeaker), but everything higher than 500-Hz is reproduced by the tweeter, which leads to the somewhat surreal analogy, metaphor, or simile that the important stuff is like email and the less important stuff is like Twitter, except that the mirror image of the analogy, metaphor, or simile is that you want the important stuff to be perceived as if it were an highly focused Tweet . . .
Yet another aspect of all this stuff is focused on what I think is a grand delusion that occurs among composers, musicians, and singers who are proficient in their abilities, and the grand delusion is that composers, musicians, and singers tend to think that arranging, producing, mixing, and mastering should be intuitive and easy to do without any actual knowledge or skills, which certainly was the case here in the sound isolation studio until approximately two years ago when I had what I like to call "THE EPIPHANY", at which time I realized that there probably was a lot more to arranging, producing, mixing, and mastering that I was aware at the time . . .
I am making progress, but even though I completed plenty of college level Mathematics and Physics courses and know about professional studio quality loudspeaker monitors, I have avoided actually getting a set of professional studio quality loudspeaker monitors, but so what . . . So what!
The reality is that I am convinced that I should be able to create hit songs here in the sound isolation studio, but doing it requires working through a vast list of things that essentially are basic requirements, which is what I am doing, and I am making excellent progress . . .
The particular sequence for working through the list of problems and correcting them might not make a lot of sense to some folks, but it makes sense to me, and it maps to progress . . .
I devoted most of the past 15 months to becoming reasonably proficient in music notation and IK Multimedia virtual instruments in NOTION 3 (Notion Music), as well as mixing and mastering with T-RackS 3 Deluxe, which more recently included using the ARC System to calibrate the loudspeaker monitors here in the sound isolation studio, which is great, but so what . . . So what!
Yet another reality is that currently I am using a pair of Advent AV570 70-Watt 2-Way Powered Multimedia Loudspeakers, and they sound reasonably good . . . Advent AV570 70-Watt 2-Way Powered Multimedia Loudspeaker
However, in the grand scheme of everything I tend to think that they basically are a piece of junk, and while I never
would consider playing a lead guitar solo on a piece of junk electric guitar, my somewhat deluded thinking tends to suggest that mixing and mastering while listening to piece of junk loudspeakers is spanky
, so I am working through this delusion toward the practical goal of getting a good set of loudspeaker monitors, which mostly is a matter of dealing with the fact that they are expensive . . .
Explained another way using a favorite example, I have been studying the European Single for "Who Owns My Heart" (Miley Cyrus) for quite a few months, and at this point I am reasonably convinced that I hear everything that is happening in the song, which for reference is a lot of stuff and might involve as many as 100 instrument tracks and at least as many vocal tracks, and (a) I know how to do all of it and (b) I am making a bit of progress on mapping it to specific techniques, signal processor VST plug-ins, music notation, IK Multimedia virtual instruments, and so forth, but there continue to be aspects that are troublesome . . . "Who Owns My Heart" (Miley Cyrus) -- European Single -- YouTube music video
For a while, I had a bit of self-doubt which mostly was a matter of thinking that perhaps the folks who produce hit records for Miley Cyrus are smarter and more skilled than me, but after pondering this patently goofy thought for a while, I decided that it was nonsense, and if anything I am both smarter and vastly more skilled than all of them . . .
Hence, my most current realization is that "their" primary advantage is having really good professional studio-quality loudspeaker monitors, although having really good microphones probably helps . . . In other words, it is not a matter of "their" being rocket scientists while in great contrast I recently fell off a turnip truck . . .
Basically, I have an Apple supercomputer and a virtual festival of high-quality digital audio production software; I play several instruments proficiently; I have more than enough college level Mathematics and Physics training literally to be a rocket scientist (which I actually was for a while); and so forth and so on . . .
But all that stuff does not
get it if I cannot hear everything accurately, which maps to the current focus on getting a good set of loudspeaker monitors . . . Without professional studio-quality loudspeaker monitors, it is like trying to mix and master songs while wearing a motorcycle helmet . . .
I know exactly what to get, but the problem is that it costs somewhere in the range of $3,000 to $5,000, which is a lot
of money here in the sound isolation studio and is the primary reason that I have postponed it for as long as possible, but the reality at present is that this is one of just a few unresolved problems remaining on the list, so it needs to happen . . .
I might be able to devise a practical workaround, but until I get a SPL meter and determine accurately how an SPL of 80 to 85 dB sounds, all I can do is guess, really . . . Really!
P. S. This the "inspired by" song that I am developing for my pretend musical group (The Surf Whammys) is based on being a tiny bit annoyed by "Who Owns My Heart" (Miley Cyrus), which mostly is a matter of the lyrical lines (a) "Is it love, or is it art?", which makes absolutely no sense even though it is a great line, and (b) "Are you feeling me?", for sure . . .
[NOTE: I need to do the real lead guitar solos and a few other things, but so what. And for reference the original title of the song was "I'm Feeling You Feeling Me Feeling You", which is considerably more silly but a bit too long to be practical in a world where few people can focus for long enough to comprehend a Tweet . . .
]"Feel Me" (The Surf Whammys) -- July 28, 2011 -- MP3 (8MB, 300-kbps [VBR], approximately 3 minutes and 38 seconds)For sure!