I’ve been blessed to spend the past 4 years or more mixing on some really great, really big desks. When I first arrived at Kensington, we owned a Yamaha PM1D that, while I’d had previous experience on years before, I enjoyed learning inside and out. Then 2 years later we changed directions and embraced the Digidesign (now Avid) platform. Along the way I also was able to get my hands wet a bit with Yamaha M7CLs.
There are some tricks I’ve learned along the way from absorbing content from accomplished engineers in the field that made life mixing on the Venue and PM1D a bit easier and gave me better mixes. A new challenge since coming to NLC.tv has been trying to find creative ways to get the same bang for the buck out of the M7CL. I had already started exploring some of this process in my last few months at Kensington but I’m working now to flesh them out a bit more. I’m going to share some of my favorite M7CL tips and tricks over the next few entries (there’s too much here for a single post).
Today we’re going to tackle parallel compression. I’ve written on this before, as have others, but in its simplest form, parallel compression means double bussing a set of inputs to two different signal paths on the console. In the first path, everything remains clean and unprocessed. In the second path, a nice compressor is placed over the signals and they are compressed as a group, usually pretty hard with variable attack & release times depending on the song. Then the clean and squashed signals are recombined before going to the stereo bus on the mixer, for me usually at a 2:1 ratio of clean to squashed. This is especially magic for vocals and snare/toms for me. Mixing the styles of music that I do, vocal intelligibility is normally one of the most important goals I’m fighting for and getting the vocal to sit nicely in its place with the rest of the band can be challenging. Since I started implementing this parallel compression trick last fall, it has done wonders to the ease with which I can accomplish vocal consistency I really like. It becomes an even more powerful tool the larger the vocal group becomes. At Kensington it was normal to only have a single lead vocal and perhaps a BGV or two. At NLC.tv, 5 to 6 vocals is the norm with sometimes as many as 7 or 8 on a given weekend.
Doing the parallel compression thing on an M7CL is really easy. First, I like to set up 2 busses as fixed busses instead of variable so I don’t have to worry about making sure the sends to them are all at unity. This can be accomplished under Bus Setup in the console setup menu. Next, as long as I have enough mix busses available, I like to set up one buss for the clean group and just call this one VOX. I unassign the VOX channels themselves from going straight to the L/R buss and instead route them to this VOX “subgroup”. While I plan to keep the processing here as clean as I can, especially the larger the vocal group you have, it can be really handy to have a single place you can grab an EQ and deal with a problem area that effects all of the vocals during the heat of mixing.
Now I also route the VOX channels to the 2nd group that I call VOX Smash. This group is setup just like the first one except on this one I engage the compressor on the buss, set to a 6:1 ratio with a medium attack and release. The M7CL has an excellent feature called automatic delay compensation so even though the same channel is going through two signal paths with different processing times, they stay perfectly in sync so that when they are combined into the master L/R buss, they are still in phase with each other.
If you’ve never tried this concept before, I can’t suggest strongly enough that you do. I always had the preconceived notion that a trick like this was only available to execute on larger desks but have been very pleased with the results I can achieve on our M7CLs and have started sharing the love with all of our engineers on this easy and effective mix technique.