50 settings to make your mixes sound warmer and more defined.
Leaving sound ideals aside, balance and definition is arguably the two things that make or break a mix. For this, compression is key. But one can’t simply just slap a random compressor setting on the mix bus and call it a day – it takes more audio surgery than that. Each instrument and component needs its individual treatment. The same thing goes for another universal battle that mix engineers seem to constantly be struggling with in the modern world of “in the box” mixing: warmth and analogue feel. This subtle art involving tube and tape distortion, various forms of EQ and compression is often what adds that final “glue” and shimmer that just makes a mix come together.
This collection of EZmix presets takes a broad approach and delivers 50 unique chains of effects all designed to add nuance, definition and control to any instrument or element in a mix. Vocals, guitars, bass, drums, master bus and mix bus settings – you name it. “My idea was to make the most diverse and ‘all-round’ 50 presets I could come up with based on various chains of effects adding warmth, distortion and compression. If you single out just one preset, the A/B may be subtle on some, but using these presets in every facet of the mix stage will make a huge difference in the end,” commented Mattias Eklund, the creative mind behind the Compression & Saturation EZmix Pack.
Songwriter or producer in need of great-sounding mixes fast? Rikk lays down his top three reasons as to why you should check out EZmix 2.
How and when did you discover your passion for music?
At a very early age, I remember listening to Santana’s “Europa” and “Samba Pa Ti” off one of my mom’s mix tapes. I have always been drawn to softer, more ambient and melancholic music – and maybe that came from those two songs? At the age of six, I started listening to Kiss and then my hard rock era began. Bands like Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Accept, W.A.S.P, Yngwie Malmsteen and many more spun regularly on my turntable. After that, it was onto fusion and jazz of all sorts. At the time, a lot of Michael Brecker, Mike Stern, Allan Holdsworth – which lead mr to discovering John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Wayne Shorter etc. So I went the other way around – backwards in a way! Nowadays, I listen to anything. I have a very broad music taste and I try to discover new music all the time.
Why do you think sound in general fascinated you so much that you pursued a career in this field?
I have always had a huge interest in sound, especially movies and sounds have inspired me throughout my life. My dream was always to make both sound design and instrumental movie soundtrack type of music. I see images when I listen to music.
I really wanted everone to care as much about sound and quality as I did. I remember in the mid ‘90s, Fredrik Thordendal and I had this idea that we should rent VHS movies and record a message on the mono track, something like “buy a stereo video, buy a stereo video, buy a stereo video” and have this play throughout the entire movie, so that the people that actually still looked at mono videos would only hear this track, while the people that had stereo videos would hear the normal audio for that VHS. So, we would educate those mono lovers, we thought, haha! We never did it though. I also remember going to the movies and seeing surround for the first time and after that buying a small shitty surround system home, just enjoying seeing movies and listening to everything that was going on sound-wise. It was a huge experience with the sound, almost bigger than the actual movies when seeing it at the cinema. So for me to be in this line of business is very natural, I guess!
What’s the best thing about working with music?
To be inspired and to be able to enter another world where there is no such thing as anxiety or hunger or anything else – music is all that exists. A lot of times, I find myself completely loosing track of time and everything around me when I am in the middle of doing something that has to do with music. I forget to eat – time doesn’t even exist. Then, of course, there is a lot anxiety involved in actually finishing projects and being satisfied. I am never satisfied, but I think this is part of of the driving force when working with something creative that you put your heart and soul into.
You recently also built a home studio centered around a lot of vintage electronics and outboard. Being a sound designer in a very digital age, why do you think you – and many “audio geeks” alike – are still so fascinated with vintage and analogue gear?
To me, it has to do with soul. Analogue gear, especially vintage gear, is unpredictable and I love that! You are never exactly sure what’s going to happen. Even though I do love being able to work fast from a DAW, I also love to turn physical knobs on outboard gear until I get what I want. Best thing is the unpredictability – every time you use a piece of analogue gear, you start over fresh. That’s what is inspiring to me. It’s like these pieces of equipment have a will of their own. For example, the Euroracks I have will never ever sound the same twice. I always make a patch, create something, tear it down and forget it. The next day, I start with something new, always moving in a different direction, a new world. The Eurorack has a million souls. It is so amazing and I am loving every second of playing around with it. Another thing that I love about analogue gear is that it’s hands-on, you reach for a knob physically and it’s not the same as touching a control surface or moving a digital virtual knob with your mouse.
…and on the flip side, what drives you to create digital tools and what is great about this development?
Even though a typewriter might be cool to use for an author of a book, the same author may not like “Tipp-Ex” part of erasing text. I think the first word processor was a huge liberation to writers! The same goes for music production. The computer as a production environment has been a blessing. Loving technology and everything new, I was very early with digital music production. I think I was one of the first in our town to use a computer as a music production tool for audio. I remember using the very first version of SAW. It was four channels and you had to bounce four tracks down to two to be able to use two more and so on – just like the old Tascam portable 244 tape machines (I had a Tascam 246 before I started using the computer). Even though there were a lot of problems with using the computer as an audio production tool (like no realtime preview – you had to select what you wanted to listen to, turn some knobs, hit preview and wait for a minute before you heard anything), I could see the future with it and it was amazing! Shortly after Saw+ came out, then Saw16 (which we actually used in the making of Drumkit From Hell), then Cubase VST – and the future was here. So, what pushed Fredrik and I at the end of the ‘90s to create sound banks for LM4 was to give us the ability to create music faster, without having to go into a studio, thus giving us much more freedom and possibilities to actually write music. And I feel the same way now – the computer is the best tool for so much. The things we can do now are just so far beyond what I thought would be even possible when we started this company almost 20 years ago. More importantly, it’s for everyone, not just a chosen few like back in the day. It is far cheaper to be a music producer/musician/engineer now than it was 20 years ago – and the results are far greater nowadays in so many ways. Of course, there are drawbacks too, things being too perfect, people tend to listen with their eyes instead of their ears and so on, but in the end, we all have to learn what music and production is all about at some point. It has a learning curve now just like it always has had and I feel the trend now is turning towards more awareness about what music is and actually letting the productions and music have soul, even though it is done completely in the computer. Like any great tool, the tools we and many other great software companies are creating really help musicians, producers and engineers around the world to be creative without losing time on technical stuff or trying to find money for a recording budget. They can just create, anytime, anywhere. That is amazing!
What in your collection of instruments and gear is your most prized possession – one you wouldn’t trade for anything?
– EVERYTHING!!! Man, it is so hard. I recently got a 1966 Fender XI bass. It’s like a guitar but tuned down one octave with 6 strings. Also, a couple of years ago, I bought a GuitarViol from Togaman. It’s handmade and has six strings, like a cello or viola but with frets and tuned like a guitar (in B). You play it with a bow and it sounds amazing! You can hear it at the end of the “Organic” demo for the Filters & Modulation EZmix Pack (actually the Fender XI is there too. It’s the one that plays the arpeggio chords all through the song). My Eurorack is the best thing that’s happened lately. Before I got it, I didn’t know anything about synths, really. Now I feel like I know a lot because, I got completely lost in YouTube land for months, just looking at videos educating myself on the subject.
Walk us through the process of creating a collection of presets like this.
I tend to improvise a lot, no matter what I do. I might record a guitar for a few minutes that I then loop, trying things out with our software. It’s a very advanced program that can do pretty much anything that has to do with effects and routing. Then I just try to be as creative as I can. The hardest part is actually to design what the two rotary knobs in EZmix 2 control. I can assign several properties to each, giving the end-user lots of versatility by simply turning one knob. Sometimes, especually in a pack like this where there are so many parameters you could use, it’s sometimes pretty time-consuming to make these decisions.
What do you hope people will take away from using this EZmix Pack?
Seeing as I mix and produce a lot of music myself, I based the selection on what I personally end up looking for in most of my sessions. My idea was to make the most diverse and “all-round” 50 presets I could come up with based on various chains of effects adding warmth and distortion as well as analogue tape and tube compression. If you single out just one preset, the A/B may be subtle on some, but using these presets in every facet of the mix stage will make a huge difference in the end. I feel very happy about the collection and my hope is that the end user walks away with better and warmer sounding mixes!
Name: Mattias Eklund
Location: Obbola, Sweden
Occupation: Head of Sound Design at Toontrack
Name: Mattias Eklund
Location: Obbola, Sweden
Occupation: Head of Sound Design at Toontrack
Bon Iver “22, A Milllion”
– This got released some time ago and it is breathtaking. The production is so dark and beautiful. His vocoder is the coolest sound I’ve heard in a long time. I am not sure how they did it, would love to know, though! It sounds very modern and at the same time broken and vintage. Great songs too!
Radiohead “A Moon Shaped Pool”
– Radiohead is one of my favorite bands. They always come up with new things. This album has a lot of production elements I never heard before. It’s got so much vibe – and the way they approach panning, overdubs, reverbs and air is just amazing! Nigel Godrich is a genius.
Thom Yorke “Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes”
– Talking about Nigel Godrich, here is another one he produced. Tom Yorke is in my mind one of the best and most personal vocalists ever! I just love the way this album sounds, the way they use rhythms, melodies and sound design is mind blowing. It’s a great album all way through.
– Another genius album. I remember seeing a documentary a long time ago about the making of this album, where Björk walked around creating beats on a small portable sampler using sounds from the nature. Very similar to what we later did for the Dream Pop EZX. She wanted this album to represent the nature of Iceland and its unpredictable, misty landscapes. And it really does. I feel it is one of the best productions ever.
Jon Hopkins “Asleep Versions”
– This album features remixes by Jon Hopkins from some of his songs, but he made them into this dreamy soundscape. He made la lot of the recordings for this album at Sundlaugin studio in Iceland, where we later went to record the Post-Rock EZX. I just love this album, it is perfect – so light and airy and big at the same time.
Mixing a hip-hop track with Sean Divine
Filters & Modulation EZmix Pack: Track breakdown ep. 1
Filters & Modulation EZmix Pack: Track breakdown ep. 2
|76 Mega Limit||Any||Insert|
|76 Wide Mega 1||Any||Insert|
|76 Wide Mega 2||Any||Insert|
|76 Wide Mega 3||Any||Insert|
|76 Wide Mega 4||Any||Insert|
|Acoustic Guitar Level Control||Any||Insert|
|Bass and Low Mid Control||Any||Insert|
|Bass Control Distorted||Any||Insert|
|Bass Level Control||Any||Insert|
|Darker Tube Compression||Any||Insert|
|Distorted Wide Compression 1||Any||Insert|
|Distorted Wide Compression 2||Any||Insert|
|Eleven 76 All Buttons||Any||Insert|
|Fair Level Control 1||Any||Insert|
|Fair Level Control 2||Any||Insert|
|Fair Mega Child||Any||Insert|
|Fair Mega Distorted||Any||Insert|
|Fair Mega Distorted and Limited 1||Any||Insert|
|Fair Mega Distorted and Limited 2||Any||Insert|
|Fast Attack Bass Level Control||Any||Insert|
|Gentle 60s Compression||Any||Insert|
|Guitar Amp 1||Any||Insert|
|Guitar Amp 2||Any||Insert|
|Guitar Amp 3||Any||Insert|
|Level Control 1||Any||Insert|
|Level Control 2||Any||Insert|
|Muffed Limiter 1||Any||Insert|
|Muffed Limiter 2||Any||Insert|
|Parallel Compression 1||Any||Insert|
|Parallel Compression 2||Any||Insert|
|Piano Level Control||Any||Insert|
|Pump the Tubes||Any||Insert|
|Slight Tube Overdrive||Any||Insert|
|Tape Level Control||Any||Insert|
|Vocal Chain 1||Any||Insert|
|Vocal Chain 2||Any||Insert|
|Vocal Chain 3||Any||Insert|
|Vocal Chain 4||Any||Insert|
|Vocal Distortion 1||Any||Insert|
|Vocal Distortion 2||Any||Insert|
|Vocal Limiting Chain 1||Any||Insert|
|Vocal Limiting Chain 2||Any||Insert|
This is an expansion product that requires a working copy of EZmix 2 to operate.