Like every beginner, i used to love my own mix until it was put on online streaming services. That was when i realised my mix sucked, a lot.
Like a lot, a lot.
In the early years, i learnt that my mix had too much low end, so i would like every beginner overly high passed every track until my mix sounded digital and lifeless.
Over time, my ears got better and i would properly balance the top and bottom ends with only minimal use of low/high pass filters. Mostly just a gentle control with low/high shelves.
And when i was happy with my mix, loud matching it with a top 10 track on online streaming services would reveal that i did crap again.
It was a never ending learning experience.
I didn’t know that online streaming services would encode my 24bit master and dilute it till it sounded thin, artificial, and very digital.
I’ve gotten a little better since. I learn that apart from balance, eq, dynamics and all the true peak ceiling etc.. my productions need tons of good, expensive sounding saturation.
Expensive sounding saturation. Maybe not in price, but you get the idea.
That what separated my mix from the top 10 chart on streaming services. They had adequate saturation that’s pleasing to my ear.
In short, over the years i learnt that for online streaming services, my mix needs:
- A good, very subtle but pleasant sounding saturation on almost every track and the master bus. Without it, it would sound thin, digital and small once it’s being encoded for online streaming. Because i mix in the box, the plugins i use commonly emulate a hardware/transformer.
- Mix with AURoundTripAAC on my master bus set to 64kbps. This way, i can hear what the encoder does to my mix and fine tune it so it wont result in thin sounding AAC/MP3.
- Used to submit my masters around 14-13 lufs thinking that it would better if they turn up my masters than turning them down. Nope, they were horrible sounding when they got turned up by online streaming services. They sound so much better when my tracks have a little 2-4db of loudness penalty.
- When my mix is balanced in the eq, dynamics and saturation, it’s loud without needing a limiter.
Of course, all these after doing all the common mixing rules of controlling the bottom end for boominess, top end for harshness, balance the mid, check the stereo image, the mono compatibility etc.
Online streaming services change our masters, they encode them and strip some of the subtleness and nuances we like in our masters.
Does anyone have any tips/tricks to share so that we would still like our own mix when it was encoded and played against the other top 10 tracks on Apple Music?
I find the right kind of saturation in the mixing process would make 64kbps AAC doesn’t sound that far from my master.