Tips & Tutorials | October 4, 2016
An industry first, Neutron includes the Masking Meter which allows you to visually identity perceptual frequency collisions. Watch the tutorial below or read on to learn how to get started with the Masking Meter so you can start carving out sonic space in your mix.
Have you ever had two instruments that seem to be fighting for space inside your mix? Frequency masking is a psychoacoustic phenomenon that happens when two sources have very similar spectral content in certain areas, and cover each other up because of it.
Neutron has a revolutionary new way of revealing frequency masking and helping you manage it. Here’s how it works.
With multiple instances of Neutron open inside a session, the plug-ins communicate with each other for metering and control. This enables you to compare two signals against each other, identify places where frequencies may be conflicting with each other, and build complimentary EQ curves to quickly carve out space for each instrument in your mix.
Watch the video tutorial above to see the Masking Meter in action. In example song, they’re struggling to get the kick and bass to sit well together. If you listen to them separately, they each sound good. ...but when they’re together in the full mix, the bass covers over the kick drum. If you were to turn the bass down, the kick comes through again, but you’ve lost the nice balance and the big low-end you were getting from the bass. Here’s where the masking meter can help you.
Instantiate Neutron on both the Bass and the Kick, which means they’ll be able to identify each other and communicate. You can even label them so that they’re easy to find across instances of Neutron by clicking on the label and typing in the name. This can come in handy when you’re using Neutron across a lot of tracks.
If you open the instance of Neutron on the kick track and click the button in the spectrum labeled “Masking”, you can select the bass from the drop down menu right next to it, or any of the other instances of Neutron you have in our session. Once you do that, you’ll see the bass’ EQ represented on the bottom half of the screen, while the kick is on top. Then if you listen back, you’ll be able to see what parts of the spectrum might have frequencies that are masking each other.
The spectrum analyzer displays a real-time measurement of the frequency masking. It is represented by sections that are flashing in gray and white. This shows you where a potential area of frequency masking could be occurring as the music plays back. The red area above the spectrogram is a histogram that tells you how often the masking occurs, so you can easily identify frequencies where masking could be happening frequently and needs your EQ attention.
In the image, you see that in the area just below 100 Hz, there’s a fair amount of masking going on between the two instruments.
The masking meter is displaying these frequency areas pre-fader, since it’s just an inserted plug-in, so it’s important to recognize that turning the bass down or the kick up is one way of relieving the masking. That wouldn’t be reflected here on the masking meter. This also goes for panning. There’s a Gain Offset parameter that you can access from the Options menu if you do want Neutron to take your fader position into account. But when it comes to visualizing frequency collisions and then adjusting for them, Neutron is one of the only tools that can do it.
Once you’ve identified some potential masking in these frequency areas, you can use Neutron’s powerful EQ to make some adjustments. If you are in the kick instance of Neutron, you can manipulate the EQ curves for both the bass and the kick drum from a single window. Make a little cut in the bass around this area just below 100 Hz, and then a complimentary boost in the kick drum. You could take this a step further by clicking “Inverse Link.” This means that a cut in one EQ will have a complimentary boost in the companion EQ. It makes these gestures independent of Q, filter type, and other adjustments, so you can create a more narrow Q for a certain cut while keeping a broad Q for the boost.
What makes the Neutron EQ even more powerful is that all 12 EQ bands can be set to static mode or dynamic mode. In the case of the kick drum example, where boosting was done at some of the low-end, set that node of the EQ as dynamic. This way the boost only occurs when the kick drum is being hit, so you don’t boost any extra mud or rumble accidentally. All of the nodes within the dynamic EQ can be sidechained as well, either internally within the dynamic EQ—where one frequency is set to key another—or through keyed by another track through your DAWs sidechain routing.
For example, if you found the guitars were masking the lead vocals, but only in a certain frequency area, you could add Neutron to the guitar bus as well as the lead vocal. Then using the sidechain routing inside of the host, you can set an EQ node to be sidechained from the lead vocal. Now whenever the lead vocal is present, it will bring down just that frequency area and make space for itself, while the guitars get to stay big and full during other sections.
It’s important to note that not all masking is necessarily bad. You might think of masking as a close cousin of blend, so use the masking meter just to help you solve EQ problems, and only when you’ve already gotten a nice balance put together on your mix.
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To learn more about any of Neutron’s revolutionary features, check out some of our other tutorials below.
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