This is a thread about EQ mixing and general song mastering.
Recently a debate has entered my mind as to whether or not there is too much high frequency boost in contemporary music mixing.
I was promted by a criticism at my own mixing, that I boost everything above 16k too much giving my songs a nasty high noisy character. My natural reaction was: “no that’s rubbish, I’m boosting the highs to give a crisp sound and everyone who is cutting edge has that high crisp sound”. Of course I argued the point… only to later think deeply about it.
I went back to my songs and listen closely (btw, I have a great mixing environment with good custom nearfield monitors, plus the Delta 1010). I did some fft analysis, as well as experiementing with reducing all my EQ settings above 16k back to 0dB boost. Immediately I though my mix went back to being dull, and I wasn’t happy. Only later, when I got over my ego on the issue, did I try some alternative ways to get the sounds I wanted.
Instead of boosting everything above 16k (which is predominately noise, not notes, in the mix) I carefully reduced high mids and bass frequencies where I detected harshness or mud. I left everything above 16k at 0dB. The results were astounding. I had a much clearer sound, and as smooth as pro mastering done on some of my favourite 80s and 90s recordings.
So then I thought, where did I get this habbit from of boosting the upper highs?
Look at the ‘cutting edge’ music we are surrounded with, both popular and obscure - a great deal of it has boosted upper high frequencies. Glitch in particular seems to thrive on it, but also look at Royksopp or even Massive Attack’s last one (a record I used to rave about in terms of mixing). They all have rather intense, almost harsh, sounding highs.
Something that concerns me is the possibility that this is a fad based nothing sound that is pressuring composers and mixers to produce things that will sound stupidly outdated and harsh in 10 years time? It concerns me that my contemporaries are possibly giving into a possible problem like this unconsciously. If I go back to mixing very cleanly and reductively, will my style be rejected or not understood because it doesn’t obviously fit into this high frequency intensity fad?
I pose the debate here. Is this boosting too much?