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December 4, 2018

Fab Dupont Making Electric Guitars Sit In A Mix




Imagine what you could learn from having Fab DuPont mix one of your songs? Puremix member Mike Brown was fortunate enough to have that opportunity recently. It's all documented in the video "Fab Fixing Member Mix, Part 1," in which Fab revises the mix of Brown's song called "All My Dogs."

In this free excerpt, we fast-forward to where Fab is working to improve the sonics of the rhythm guitar parts. He says he thinks they sound a little too DI-like, although he suspects they were recorded with miked amps. He thinks they sound a little "plastic-y" and he might be able to improve them by using the UAD Ocean Way Studios plug-in, to make them seem like they were tracked in a larger room.


He starts by setting up a subchannel using an auxiliary track, into which he'll rout the output of each guitar part, allowing him to process both together. The guitars are panned to opposite sides and pretty heavily distorted. He routes the output of the guitar sub to the main output.

He wants to "put the guitars in a room," by which he means to use a plug-in that simulates the characteristics of a physical space to make them sound more live. He chooses the UAD Ocean Way Studios plug-in, which allows the user to place a source inside one of the modeled studios (A or B) from Ocean Way Studios in Hollywood.

The plug-in lets you simulate the sound of your track as if it were recorded through one to three virtual mics (which are switchable between several models) at different distances from the source. You can mute and unmute the various mics, pan them, invert their polarity, and switch in and adjust the frequency setting of high- and low-shelving filters.

UAD's Ocean Way Studios plug-in lets you place your source into modeled versions of Studio A or Studio B at the fabled facility.

He uses the plug-in in its Re-Mic mode, which takes the input signal and models it as if it were recorded through the virtual mics—essentially re-amping it. The other choice, Reverb mode, also allows you to dial in the sound Ocean Way, but functions like a reverb, in that your original signal remains intact but is blended with the virtual mic and room sounds using a Dry/Wet knob.

At first, Fab chooses Re-Mic mode, and flips through various parameters, listening to what they do to the sound. He begins with only the Mid mic on, and changes from Studio A to Studio B (which was the smaller of the two rooms) and then tries the two cabinet models: Cabinet M (Marshall) and Cabinet V (Vox).


Next, he puts on only the Near mic and compares the processed and bypassed versions. The processed one is a lot rounder and sounds like it's in a much larger space. He switches on the Far mic and puts the plug-in into Reverb mode. He sets the Dry/Wet knob to a little past 50% wet and plays it back along with the rest of the tracks in the song.

He then reduces the level of the Far mic, which is a model of the legendary AKG C12 condenser. He makes a much more significant cut to the Near mic, which is a Shure SM57 model, bringing it almost all the way down. He's happy with the sound of the Far mic but wants to come up with a better setting for the Near mic, which he then sets up quite high on the plug-in's mixer, ending up above 0 dB.

Next, he experiments with the Dry/Wet control, bringing it down to about 45%, and once again compares it against the bypassed version. It's sounding pretty big, but Fab isn't done tweaking. He moves the insert location of the Soundtoys EchoBoy Jr. delay plug-in before the Ocean Way plug-in to after it, and sets the delay time to a sixteenth-note delay. Doing so seems to make it a little bigger sounding, as the delay is now working on the signal after the spatializing effect of the Ocean Way plug-in.

Here's the setting Fab ended up using on the Ocean Way Studios plug-in.

He plays a more extended section of the track, and then makes a copy of the settings in the Ocean Way plug-in so he can revert back to them if need be, but he still wants to experiment more. He switches the Studio setting to Studio A (OWR A) which is a larger room than Studio B, and likes that better.


The logic of why Fab used a bus for the room modeling from the Ocean Way Studios plug-in is pretty clear-cut. If you're trying to make multiple sources sound like they were recorded in the same space, it makes sense to treat them all on a single stereo bus, so that the plug-in will affect each one equally. Besides saving processing power as compared to using an individual instance of the plug-in on each track, sending everything through a single plug-in helps assure the sonic uniformity you want for this situation.

The Ocean Way Plug-in is pretty unique in how it recreates the sound of a studio and lets you digitally reamp the signal through different modeled microphones. But if you don't have a UAD system and still want to create additional room ambience, you can also do it with a reverb plug-in, although you have to be judicious with the settings. If you set the mix control on the plug-in too high, it's going to sound like you just slapped a reverb on it.

Setup an aux bus, and route the sources that you want to place in the room through it. Insert your best-sounding reverb plug-in on the bus. It could be a convolution or an algorithmic reverb, as long as it sounds good. Find a room setting with a reasonably short decay time, somewhere between about 0.7 and 1.5 seconds. Slowly bring up the mix control until you hear just enough reverb to make the instruments or voices sound like they're in a larger space together.


Here are a couple of examples of ways to use reverb to make sources sound like they were recorded in a larger space.

Example 1: You'll first hear a pair of rhythm guitars that were recorded direct and routed through the Line 6 Helix Native amp modeling plug-in, with no reverb. After four measures, you'll hear a Slate Digital VerbSuite Classics reverb inserted on the aux track kick in, with a 525ms room setting that makes the guitars sound like they were tracked in a larger space. On measure nine, the drums and bass come in so you can hear the guitar reverb in context.

The Slate Digital VerbSuite Classics plug-in setting used for Fig. 1. Note that the Dry/Wet control is just a bit over 25%.

If you want to make a recording sound "live," like it was tracked in a club or hall rather than in a studio, you can try putting all or most of the instruments through a bus with a very short reverb on it. In a case like that, the idea is to use the reverb to make everything sound like it was tracked in the same space. Again, you have to be careful not to put the dry/wet mix up too high.

Example 2: The first time through, the instruments, which were all tracked separately, are dry except for a little bit of reverb on the Dobro (resonator guitar) playing the melody. When it repeats, a short room reverb (666 ms) is applied to everything but the bass, giving the mix more dimension and a cohesive "in a room" kind of sound.