All about that bass that you hear, but isn’t really there | #mixing

Yes, you read the title right. It’s confusing, but it’s true. Just think: sometimes on small
speakers that doesn’t reproduce low frequencies we can still “hear” them. Why?big bass drum

Well, comes out that our brain is kind of smart! Who would say, uhn?! Not Homer Simpson

Here is the thing: for us to hear a fundamental frequency, it doesn’t has to be there, just it’s harmonics. For example: to hear 60 Hz, the speaker doesn’t have to reproduce it, but it has to reproduce 120 Hz, 180 Hz, 240 Hz, etc (the fundamental harmonics’). Our brain “completes” it and makes us think that the fundamental (60 Hz) is there, making us “hear” that low end (more about this here).

And, as you can assume for obvious reasons, that’s really important when you’re mixing: many people will listen to the song in small speakers or crappy earbuds. And it’s your job to make them perceive all that bass you’re giving to the song, although the equipment they’re using to listen to it doesn’t reproduce low frequencies.

And, how to do that?! Compression (ta-da!)!!

There are two great plugins that I like to use to accomplish this.

The first is very well know for giving “that low end” to a mix, and in part is because it produces this harmonicsfairchild_670_13_harmonics that we’re talking about. Its the Fairchild 670, classic vintage compressor that costs thousands of dollars (but you can buy a plugin for a hundred or so – woohoo!). When it compresses, for example, a bass note, adds all its harmonics to it, and make this process which we are talking about pretty simple. As you can see in the image on the right (taken from this article by Marc Mozart), the compressor was fed a 100 Hz sine wave, and outputted it and all its harmonics. Amazing, right?!

The other plugin that can be use to do this, and doesn’t “colors” the sound too much, is the MaxxBass, by Waves. It’s a pretty simple compressor that adds the harmonics needed, and gives more low end to the instrument. According to the Waves website “MaxxBass® uses psycho-acoustics to calculate precise harmonics that are related to the fundamental tones of sound. When these harmonics are combined, it creates the effect of lower, deeper frequencies”. It really works, I can assure you.

Well, hope this helps you! 🙂

Mauricio Ruiz –

2 thoughts on “All about that bass that you hear, but isn’t really there | #mixing

  1. Pingback: Plugins, plugins: my “go to” list | #sounddesign #mixing | Audio & Music

  2. Pingback: Mixing for mobile: should we care on how the speaker sounds? | #gameaudio | Audio & Music

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