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Surround mix style - what do you prefer?

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fthesoundguy

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I'll just add one more thing to what people have said here. It really depends on what kind of music that you are mixing. If its just a standard rock band, a more immersive 5.1 mix will sound better. If there are a lot of sound effects or synthesizers and you are not making that stuff fly around the room, then shame on the engineer. Don't do a bunch of panning if the music does not suit it.

Also, I will just make a point to echo what was said above. Do NOT cater to the LCD. A great mix in your studio is a great mix anywhere. Some engineers use airpods, their car or avantone/auratone small reference speakers to listen to their mixes to make sure that it correlates properly. It's a little harder to do with surround mixes, but I would take your them to a couple different places if you can just to hear it in environments that you are not familiar with. Something might pop out to you during those listens that needs to get fixed. I'm sure plenty of people here would be willing to give some feedback on your mixes if you want.
 
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What style of music does your band play; maybe we can suggest specific titles to check out?
The band itself has influences from Genesis, Marillion, Pink Floyd ...that kind of thing. We're working on a concept album as our initial offering - so plenty of scope to do something really creative from a mix point of view.
 
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The Misplaced Childhood Blu-Ray only includes SW's 5.1 mix and the original stereo mix. In this case, he felt that his stereo remix did not improve upon the original and chose not to have it released. Same deal with his remixes of Rush's A Farewell To Kings and Tears For Fears' The Seeds Of Love.
Yes, you are right - It was just Brave that had a new stereo mix.
I didn't like it - Marillion are a kind-of 'equal' band ...the keyboards are as important as the vocals as are the drums etc - I felt that the SW mix played down the instrumentation and focused on the vocal so you got more of a 'War of the Worlds' type thing where you have a prominent vocal over an anonymous backing band.
Of course the stereo mix was a down mix of the 5.1 so it may be that it lost something in the process - I'll re-asses it when I listen to the 5.1.
 
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I'll just add one more thing to what people have said here. It really depends on what kind of music that you are mixing. If its just a standard rock band, a more immersive 5.1 mix will sound better. If there are a lot of sound effects or synthesizers and you are not making that stuff fly around the room, then shame on the engineer. Don't do a bunch of panning if the music does not suit it.

Also, I will just make a point to echo what was said above. Do NOT cater to the LCD. A great mix in your studio is a great mix anywhere. Some engineers use airpods, their car or avantone/auratone small reference speakers to listen to their mixes to make sure that it correlates properly. It's a little harder to do with surround mixes, but I would take your them to a couple different places if you can just to hear it in environments that you are not familiar with. Something might pop out to you during those listens that needs to get fixed. I'm sure plenty of people here would be willing to give some feedback on your mixes if you want.
Yes - I check my mixes on as many sources as I possibly can - car/tv speakers/phone speakers/different stereos etc etc
My current project is a progressive concept album so lots of scope to be creative with a surround mix.
 

OdysseyMusik

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Yes - I check my mixes on as many sources as I possibly can - car/tv speakers/phone speakers/different stereos etc etc
My current project is a progressive concept album so lots of scope to be creative with a surround mix.
Welcome! - It sounds good! Looking forward to listen to your mc mix of the progressive concept album! This kind of music with a big sound give so much sense to be mixed in surround sound!

For the time I'm mixing this lovely album: FACE, by Pat Mastelotto & Markus Reuter and it's crazy how many instruments it has. So it really gain from going from stereo only to surround! Sometimes there are 3 different drum sets or percussion, so there I have one set in the front, one mostly in the rears and one in the centerline. If there are lots of other instruments I sometime pairs 2 intruments alike each other and use L front and L rear as stereo for one of the instruments and R front and R rear for the other. But it requires lots of instrument tracks!;)
 

VaughanX

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My 2 cents.

I don't have a hard and fast preference. For me it's all about the music. So, a solo guy playing an acoustic guitar isn't going to lend himself to discrete. In this case reverb in the rears may well be the best solution. On the other hand, super-dense music may benefit from discrete. A final option is for effects. For example, there is a strange swirling sound in Alice Cooper's Woman's Machine, a disorienting effect that almost isn't part of the music. In the quad mix it switches between speakers to great effect, effectively isolating it from the total mix.

What I'm saying is, I think the music decides. Also, an album isn't an either/or. You can mix [sic] it up. Keep in mind, everyone has stereo. So for me, if you're not going to do something noticeably different from a stereo mix, then don't bother. Surround is different from stereo in more ways that simply spreading things around more speakers - it changes the tone, the impact, the balance of the song, and the delivery. We sometimes use words such as "immersive", but that one word means a whole lot. For me it means it draws me into the performance in a way stereo simply cannot - the well is deeper, yet closer.

Steve Wilson is important because I think he understands this. However, he's not perfect. For example, since he's working with classic albums (largely) he doesn't get too experimental. Same with those Alice Cooper surrounds. The Talking Heads surround mixes are a little more adventurous.

Finally I'll say - one of the best examples of this is Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon. The album is a classic, obviously, and has sold millions of copies in stereo. But honestly, in surround it's at a whole other level. Surround is how that album should be heard, imo. I really don't have time for the stereo any longer. It's the same music, the same performances - but the concept of using Surround (or immersiveness) is an integral part of the writing and performance. A different animal. Think of Surround as a tool, not a gimmick. As a tool, examine how it can change perception, tone, and impact of a song. Don't think of it as an upmixed stereo field, but as a completely different world where you can do as much, or as little, as suits the material.
 

jtb77

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My 2 cents.

I don't have a hard and fast preference. For me it's all about the music. So, a solo guy playing an acoustic guitar isn't going to lend himself to discrete. In this case reverb in the rears may well be the best solution. On the other hand, super-dense music may benefit from discrete. A final option is for effects. For example, there is a strange swirling sound in Alice Cooper's Woman's Machine, a disorienting effect that almost isn't part of the music. In the quad mix it switches between speakers to great effect, effectively isolating it from the total mix.

What I'm saying is, I think the music decides. Also, an album isn't an either/or. You can mix [sic] it up. Keep in mind, everyone has stereo. So for me, if you're not going to do something noticeably different from a stereo mix, then don't bother. Surround is different from stereo in more ways that simply spreading things around more speakers - it changes the tone, the impact, the balance of the song, and the delivery. We sometimes use words such as "immersive", but that one word means a whole lot. For me it means it draws me into the performance in a way stereo simply cannot - the well is deeper, yet closer.

Steve Wilson is important because I think he understands this. However, he's not perfect. For example, since he's working with classic albums (largely) he doesn't get too experimental. Same with those Alice Cooper surrounds. The Talking Heads surround mixes are a little more adventurous.

Finally I'll say - one of the best examples of this is Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon. The album is a classic, obviously, and has sold millions of copies in stereo. But honestly, in surround it's at a whole other level. Surround is how that album should be heard, imo. I really don't have time for the stereo any longer. It's the same music, the same performances - but the concept of using Surround (or immersiveness) is an integral part of the writing and performance. A different animal. Think of Surround as a tool, not a gimmick. As a tool, examine how it can change perception, tone, and impact of a song. Don't think of it as an upmixed stereo field, but as a completely different world where you can do as much, or as little, as suits the material.
 

jtb77

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461 Ocean Boulevard has a 5.1 & original quad mix on Blu-ray ,its on the Eric Clapton ‘Give Me Strength the ‘74/‘75 Recording set
 

proufo

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Finally I'll say - one of the best examples of this is Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon. The album is a classic, obviously, and has sold millions of copies in stereo. But honestly, in surround it's at a whole other level. Surround is how that album should be heard, imo.
Ditto for the Atom Heart Mother suite.
 

MidiMagic

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I have been making recordings in matrix quad for over 50 years.

My first recording was a tape of sound effects to be used in a stage play. I had sounds coming from at least 10 different locations in the auditorium and thunder rolling across over the audience. We used the Dynaco diamond.

Most of my recordings are of live bands playing for an audience. When I am doing this, I usually follow this format:

- I make only one recording for both stereo and Pro Logic II use.
- I put drums and bass at front center, so the stereo/front speakers reinforce lows.
- I put the primary vocal or instrument at center front.
- I put the accompaniment vocals and instruments between the LF and RF.
- I usually put any piano to one side and any acoustic guitar on the opposite side.
- Many times I pan the musicians where they were really standing.
- I put backup vocals and instruments near LB and RB.
- I avoid putting musical parts at center back, since they are gone in mono play.
- I use audience pickup mics with a live audience. They go between LB and RB.
- Often I use my Surrfield mic for the audience pickup. You feel like you are there.

I use a 4-bus stereo mixer to mix it all down. I insert an encoding box for the back channels on buses 3 and 4, and use the bus selector to make the channel strip pan to either the front (bus 1 and 2) or the back (bus 3 and 4). I listen through Pro Logic II while mixing.

I use the same general ideas when mixing parts from my MIDI synth. But I made a few recordings where an accompaniment instrument rotates around the audience or moves back and forth.

I test the finished master on whatever I can listen to it through: car stereo, boombox, CD alarm clock, a friend's stereo, etc.

Note that I do NOT have a quad system in my car. I used to have one, and one time the sounds on a radio program sounded enough like traffic sounds that I was looking for imaginary hazards.

For classical music, unless it was written for parts all around the room (e.g. Gabrielli and Berlioz), I want an orchestral stage and an audience/ambiance field in the back.

I have a nice recording of a string quartet with one instrument in each speaker. Unfortunately, it is in QS and they put the string bass in LB, so the bass was not reinforced.

What I do not want is music so discrete that there are 4 puddles of sound, one at each speaker. This was the problem I had with many SQ and CD-4 recordings.

One of the worst recordings I ever heard had the drumkit and the piano each spread across the entire stereo image. I was imagining a drummer with very long arms (or an octopus playing the drums) and a 20 foot wide piano.
 

jimfisheye

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Yeah, you can't spread a piano across the whole room! :D
I mean... you can do whatever you want though! To each their own there.

I made a 4 corner mix of a string quartet a while ago. I flipped it stage perspective and that let me put the cello in LF and 1st violin in RF. Seemed like the thing to do. I didn't mic the room. I'm often fine with the ambience bleed in the stage mics - what I mean is I think there's already too much ambience sometimes. It was a medium sized room. The band had me fake some hall reverb live and I did some of that in the mix as well. I respect and agree that some rooms need to be included as a mix element. Just not this one.

I'm not sure if I've heard many 4 corner string quartet mixes but it really seemed like the thing to do.
 

J. PUPSTER

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Yeah, you can't spread a piano across the whole room! :D
I mean... you can do whatever you want though! To each their own there.

I made a 4 corner mix of a string quartet a while ago. I flipped it stage perspective and that let me put the cello in LF and 1st violin in RF. Seemed like the thing to do. I didn't mic the room. I'm often fine with the ambience bleed in the stage mics - what I mean is I think there's already too much ambience sometimes. It was a medium sized room. The band had me fake some hall reverb live and I did some of that in the mix as well. I respect and agree that some rooms need to be included as a mix element. Just not this one.

I'm not sure if I've heard many 4 corner string quartet mixes but it really seemed like the thing to do.
Sounds good Jim; maybe some of these Tacet recordings have four corner string quartet.
@ubertrout would probably know


 
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Jim the Oldbie

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Honestly when I think about it, there's no particular style of surround mix that I prefer, variety being the spice o' life and all. I seem to enjoy the ambient stuff more than many here. I wonder if the shallow surround angle (100°) of my 5.1 setup is more acommodating to this sound; or maybe it's having matching speakers back there? I dunno.

Really the only surround mixes I don't like are the ones that seem so obviously botched in various ways, they make me wonder how they ever made it to the presser. Quadrophenia and Goats Head Soup are certainly on my list of disappointments in that regard, although I have had some success with the latter, messing with it in Audacity.
 

jimfisheye

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Absolutely the botched releases eclipse everything else!

The stereo in front and only reverb in the rear business everyone is ripping on is a cheapness thing and comes across that way. It's still the stereo mix and usually in this scenario the reverb added in back doesn't belong there. That's absolutely fair to comment poorly about!

That leads me to feeling the need to defend the live recordings that are stereo board mix in front and audience in back and importantly, there is no multitrack and no possibility of a discrete surround mix.

But the botched stuff goes even beyond everything else. It gives the impression that the surround format is being treated as a novelty with absolutely zero care to what the mix sounds like. It feels insulting.
 

Jim the Oldbie

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...But the botched stuff goes even beyond everything else. It gives the impression that the surround format is being treated as a novelty with absolutely zero care to what the mix sounds like. It feels insulting.
Yes, exactly. It occasionally sounds like an afterthought, disconnected from the rest of the workflow. Fortunately the good stuff is outpacing the bad by a country mile these days.
 

Fourplay

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I'm sure plenty of people here would be willing to give some feedback on your mixes if you want.
This is actually one of the most important comments in the thread. Mix one or two tracks and give us a download. We will test it on dozens of systems and give you relevant feedback. Then you can finish your mixes and we'll buy it (if we like the music).

One more thing from me. While I do like movement of instruments, there is an incidence in Bohemian Rhapsody - which many of us would consider a gold standard demo track if you want hints on how to mix - where the piano swirls from the left rear to the front channels. That particular move has always felt a little forced to me, maybe because a guitar player can walk around while playing, but an acoustic piano player cannot. One guys' opinion.

Not sure how much surround listening you have done, or what access to tracks you have, but for mixing ideas I would recommend:

Queen - Bohemian Rhapsody
Al Stewart - Year Of The Cat (in collector circles only)
Talking Heads - Burning Down The House (alternate mix)
Eagles - Seven Bridges Road (as mentioned earlier)

I am sure many others here can make recommendations of best-practices mixes.
 

kap'n krunch

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Yeah, you can't spread a piano across the whole room! :D
I mean... you can do whatever you want though! To each their own there.

I made a 4 corner mix of a string quartet a while ago. I flipped it stage perspective and that let me put the cello in LF and 1st violin in RF. Seemed like the thing to do. I didn't mic the room. I'm often fine with the ambience bleed in the stage mics - what I mean is I think there's already too much ambience sometimes. It was a medium sized room. The band had me fake some hall reverb live and I did some of that in the mix as well. I respect and agree that some rooms need to be included as a mix element. Just not this one.

I'm not sure if I've heard many 4 corner string quartet mixes but it really seemed like the thing to do.
oh , hell yeah!!! Sounds like a great idea...
 

kap'n krunch

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Absolutely the botched releases eclipse everything else!

The stereo in front and only reverb in the rear business everyone is ripping on is a cheapness thing and comes across that way. It's still the stereo mix and usually in this scenario the reverb added in back doesn't belong there. That's absolutely fair to comment poorly about!

That leads me to feeling the need to defend the live recordings that are stereo board mix in front and audience in back and importantly, there is no multitrack and no possibility of a discrete surround mix.

But the botched stuff goes even beyond everything else. It gives the impression that the surround format is being treated as a novelty with absolutely zero care to what the mix sounds like. It feels insulting.
Same POV here...reverb in the rears is definitely a ripoff..Hell , I CAN DO THAT with either Logic or with the listening room reverb!!!!
 

kap'n krunch

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Yeah, you can't spread a piano across the whole room! :D
I mean... you can do whatever you want though! To each their own there.

I made a 4 corner mix of a string quartet a while ago. I flipped it stage perspective and that let me put the cello in LF and 1st violin in RF. Seemed like the thing to do. I didn't mic the room. I'm often fine with the ambience bleed in the stage mics - what I mean is I think there's already too much ambience sometimes. It was a medium sized room. The band had me fake some hall reverb live and I did some of that in the mix as well. I respect and agree that some rooms need to be included as a mix element. Just not this one.

I'm not sure if I've heard many 4 corner string quartet mixes but it really seemed like the thing to do.
Hmmm, I guess you can spread a Grand Piano across the whole MCH Spectrum but it'd be weird...AAMOF, I have a very good friend who tunes pianos in NYC for a living and maybe one day I could arrange that.
 

GarryH

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I'd like to know (for the purpose of guiding my own mixes) what style of surround mix you prefer.
Hey Dazza, like you, I produce and mix all my own material.

One of the key advantages of a surround mix is not only to immerse the listeners, but to separate key melodic and sonic elements so that more detail is revealed. If you pile sonic elements on top of each other in the same spatial location, you risk passing up that opportunity. The register of elements placed in the same location in the surround space is relevant e.g. the bass often sits front and centre between Lf & Rf, so you can locate any mid or upper range instruments on top of it without losing clarity.

I tend to avoid deep bass in the rear speakers, knowing that many home surround systems have small speakers at the rear. Tearing off the lowest frequencies from the back into the sub sounds really weird. Centre channel speakers often favour mid range to focus spoken word, so that's a consideration too; use very judiciously.

I also believe that a surround mix should work just as well when folded down to both stereo and mono, with all channels down-mixed in equal proportions. I tweak accordingly, using a single small speaker for reference. Therefore I'm mindful of phasing to avoid elements that cancel in mono.

So in short, my answer is that I like compatible mixes that give good separation and reveal the detail of the production elements, created with possible limitations of the playback system in mind.
 
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