I once spoke with John Regan, the bass player for Peter Frampton. I asked how he liked his in-ear monitors and his less than enthusiastic reply stuck with me, "They're ok", and he said, and he went on to explain that he didn't like the bass sound, it was too thin. What John needed was a way to improve his bass sound on his monitor mix. Hmmm.. but how?
I always wondered how headphones or in-ear monitors were able to create bass from such a small driver? The fact is they depend on the psychoacoustic properties of your inner ear canal to create the bass sound you hear. You can go one further and say that the bass frequency you hear does not actually exist, but is created in your mind's ear. How's that? Well read on and I'll show you...
Creating Bass from Harmonics
Enter MaxxBass by Waves. This is a product which Waves builds, not only as a Hardware product, but as an IC chip which is used in consumer products and, the Plug-in edition is used for professional recording or Pro Live sound.
Let's start with the subject of how it works. In short, Waves has created a technology where the MaxxBass plug-in uses the same psychoacoustics principle I mentioned above. The basic idea is to create a set of higher frequency harmonics which are based on the fundamental of the lower frequency (in our case this will be a kick drum). It offers the listener the harmonic content that is in unison with the fundamental itself but, in fact, the harmonics do not contain the fundamental frequency. Your mind's ear hears these harmonics and fills in the gaps. So, to break it down, you hear the harmonics and they trick your brain into hearing lower frequencies that aren't really there.
How does this create an advantage for a Mixing Engineer? Consider this... In Olav Basoski's tutorial, Logic 406, Electronica Work Flow Tricks, you will see Olav consistently use a low cut Eq on just about all his tracks. This is to avoid bass build up which is a problem when adding tracks especially for dance or heavy bass laden material. The problem most of us have is in creating a strong level of bass within the mix, while not muddying up the lower frequencies or causing the compressor to pump like an on/off switch, and this requires some craftsmanship. Using MaxxBass can help you attain this goal.
The plug-in edition of MaxxBass will allow you many ways to work with your mix as a channel strip plug-in, an AUX effect and a mastering tool. In each of these applications you can enhance, sharpen or just fatten up the mix without actually adding more bass. That is an ideal solution in today's world of media playback devices.
Cell phones are becoming more prevalent as listening devices. An upgrade from that might be the built in speakers on a Laptop or, if you're really lucky, a table top portable stereo. All of these consumer devices struggle to create Bass Frequencies that you may intend to be heard but simply aren't produced at the listeners end.
We all know the old trick of using small monitors or a low end playback system to gauge our mix for that kind of medium. But we also have an expectation of better quality playback systems so we don't want to lose out on the systems that give us the audio reproduction we really want to see. So let's put MaxxBass to the test and see how it can give your mix a fatter bass.
How it Works in the Real-World
Here I have chosen a deep low end drum sound which can be hard to mix, especially for smaller speakers to hear the kick drum by the time all the instruments are layered. What you're hearing is a 26" Slingerland kick drum. Below is a screen shot of the Kick drum soloed and it's frequency and levels via the Analyzer.
Listen to the Plain drum track here:
If you have a decent sound system, you should hear a pretty good kick drum sound. If not, you're probably getting a knocking sound of sorts.
Now the same track with some gentle MaxxBass processing added using an AUX Buss Channel.
Below is a screen shot of the same soloed kick drum with MaxxBass added. Notice it had not increased the low-end frequency:
Finally here is the Max Bass sound only:
Below is a screen shot of the Max Bass plug-in set with only the Max Bass harmonics and the original bass taken out.
To hear a master in action using the MaxxBass plug-in, check out Greg Townley's Sonic Dimension in Mixing. Greg uses the MaxxBass with only the harmonic section added. His use will certainly open your eyes to the enormous possibilities of this clever and very useful mixing plug-in.