Mixing is like juggling.
Turn up the kick drum, you’re effectively turning down everything else. EQ for clarity then the reverb makes it muddy again. When you’re learning to juggle, it helps to start with fewer pins. That’s what mixcubes do – they eliminate variables.
It’s a common mistake to begin mixing before the production phase is over. You’ll make your loop then balance it to perfection before you’ve even begun arranging. Even worse, you’ll spend hours detailing your kick’s low end before you’ve even added your bass. Let’s explore how a mix cube can help you get focused.
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16 Reasons to Buy an Avantone Mixcube
- No ports. I originally stated that ports are problematic. That may have been true at one point. However, current designs are apparently fabulous. Regardless, there do appear to be different characteristics between ported and sealed enclosures. I’ll just stop before I hurt myself.
- Midrange. Because these speakers have no tweeter or sub, all you get out of them is the midrange. It’s uncertain what their response is exactly but I can tell you in my room they’re reliable between 90Hz and 6kHz. This is where you’ll get clarity from your EQing to ensure no vocal/guitar/synth masking is happening.
- Mix translation. The mids are most important because this is the range which most speakers have in common and where your hearing is most sensitive. When you go to a cafe, restaurant or listen on laptop speakers, you’re getting mids. There’s no sub bass at Starbucks and there’s no 16kHz at Subway – or even big clubs more than likely. Get your mix right here and you’ll be 80% there – and no running out to the car to check 🙂
- Imaging. The phantom image which appears in the center between two speakers is usually faulty. Why? Because to create a perfect center image, you need to exactly matched speakers in a perfectly symmetrical room. The “mid” (as in Mid/Side, not midrange frequencies) is what’s the same in both speakers. Well, if both speakers aren’t the same then effectively there’s no mid. As a result your center image isn’t as sharp or as centered as you might like. With a central mono speaker, there is no phantom image – it’s actually the center. Now yes, your sides will be summed there as well but if you just need the center, you can use M/S processing to get it.
- Legacy. Lots of hits, such as “Thriller” were mixed using these speakers. Now, of course, we’re in 2017 where 50Hz is a thing. Despite modern music’s use of extended frequencies, fundamentals never change. Voices are still in the midrange and people still will compare your mixes to every other mix they’ve ever heard. So long as people love Motown, your work is relative to those sounds. If you’ve ever considered a pair of NS-10s then you should consider a Mix Cube. The Yamahas were prized because of their accentuated upper mids. See the trend here?
- Mono. The best mixes from the Beatles and Beach Boys were mono. Portishead’s “Sour Times” is practically mono. All that stereo stuff is cool but, if it doesn’t check out in mono, most people will never hear it. Actually, most people will never hear it unless they’re using headphones. How many people do you know that actually sit down to listen to music in a well-treated, symmetrical room? I’m guessing <1% of the population does that. The majority of people walk around their homes, listen casually in public places or experience music live where the PA is mono. S1 Imagers are cool but mono is God.
- Limitations. Like I mentioned in the intro, juggling too many pins to start is not helpful for development. Similarly, if you’re worried about panning, sub bass, hi hat sizzle or other ear candy too soon, you’ll bog yourself down with details. The mix cube is all about workflow and focusing on the essential. By narrowing down your field of view, you’ll just see what everyone will see; hence which is most important. You might have the aural equivalent of a rabbit’s 360 degree field of view but if your whole your audience sees like a dog on a chase it’s all for naught. Getting the midrange aspect of your elements correct is the right way to go. Get the details together later.
- Rooms. Rooms are a bitch. They can be great (Sound City) or shitty (your room). They can either enhance your bass (even modal response) or make it completely unusable. Mixcubes help because they only go down to 90Hz. That means as long as your room is 6.2′ in any direction, you’re not going to get continual, axial resonances when you use this thing such as you would at 70Hz with an 8′ ceiling (fact-check welcome). In other words, no matter how bad, small or misshapen your room is, using a mixcube is going to be the best you can do barring treatment.
- Looks. These things look fantastic. Compared to my Yamaha HS-50 setup, these are royalty. Where the Yamahas have some kind of plastic covering, the Avantone Mix Cube has a black piano lacquer finish. It’s got a beautiful padded bottom (reminds me of my ex), red heat sink and chrome accents surrounding the cone and on the rear. The power supply is virtually military grade and has a heavy braided cable leading to the mains input. The volume knob is indented at 1dB increments – and grippy – which is great if you’re using the K System or other calibrated monitoring. It’s a class piece. There’s other details which make it superior to the Behritone but I’ll leave that for another day.
- Steve Aoki. He uses two in his studio.
- Skrillex. He’s got one too, apparently.
- Owl City. From his Instagram account:
- Richard Devine. Idk who he is but he’s got taste enough to own some:
- Neighbors. Neighbors, roommates, family – babies, wife etc. All these people hate you and your beat hobby. Music is just one of those activities that you can’t practice whenever, wherever. Due to sound transmission and the exorbitant expense and effort required for true isolation, everyone can hear you work. The good news is that bass is the main culprit. As a result of the mixcubes’ limited bass, you can now freely produce at night and/or at higher volumes with a reduced likelihood of disturbing those in close proximity. If you’re a part-time night owl like me, this is a godsend.
- Frequency response. It’s pretty flat. The below (and above) image is a result of me randomly putting the cube further away without any foresight into specific treatment (although my room is treated). I can’t get exact info on it’s exact response but it’s acceptable between 90-5000Hz. Another thing to consider is lack of crossover. Crossovers screw up frequency response. Since this thing doesn’t have one, you’re good there. Consequently, these speakers make a great second pair to compliment your main full-range setup.
- Because I said. These things have my thumbs up. I wouldn’t have put in all this effort if I didn’t actually love mine. It’s common opinion that the quality of your mixes goes up once you start using these. It’s a world-class single driver. Whereas for other loudspeakers you need a woofer, tweeter, EQ options, power supply, maybe a sub and two of everything, with this you just need one great driver. You’ll be able to hear a lot more in the critical midrange that you aren’t hearing now. It’s over-engineered, beautiful and useful. It might take awhile to get used to them but the refrain is, “Once you get a mixcube, that midrange ain’t no issue.”
Ok, no one says that but it’s true.
If you want to pick one up, get it on Amazon and I get a small commission.
UPDATE: I’ve since been corrected on how ports work. While their effect is the same of what I’ve written, the actual mechanism is not exact. Here’s a (somewhat technical) link which seems to explain the details more clearly.