It's true that long mixing sessions can create a degree of ear fatigue. That can lead to a number of undesirable things like making bad mixing decisions. It's always a good idea to take small breaks to clear up and relax your ears. On top of that, there are various monitoring plugins or spectrum analyzers you can utilise.
Those plugins provide a visual aid by representing the sound coming out of your software in a graphical way so that you can actually "see" the frequency spectrum each sound is occupying and make more objective decisions. Some of them go even further allowing you to monitor multiple sources at once figuring out any clashes your audio signals might have. We are going to look into four of those plugins and see how they can enhance our mixing experience.
MultiInspector is a free multitrack real-time spectrum analyzer that can be downloaded from the VertexDSP website. MultiInspectorFree visualizes up to 4 different audio signals in real time in one window and helps you to detect overlapping frequencies in your mix.
Just drag an instance of the plugin to the signals that need to be analyzed. By opening up a single instance, we can see different colored spectral bars that correspond to the available signals. We can then make appropriate mixing decisions dependent on the frequency spectrum these bars occupy.
The green bars represent the drums channel, yellow bars represent bass and blue bars represent some added hihats.
There is also a paid version of the plugin that adds support for up to 16 audio signals, comes with FFT mode and 31 Band Third Octave mode, the ability to apply custom colors to your tracks plus other things.
Blue Cat's FreqAnalyst Multi
Similarly Blue Cat's FreqAnalyst Multi monitoring plugin, currently going for $79 at the time of writing of this article, lets you visualize the spectral content of several audio tracks on the same screen with extreme smoothness and high resolution for both time and frequency. You just drag instances of the plugin to your tracks then in each instance you assign a number and name to each curve you want to display and share with other plug-in instances. Another cool feature is the ability to reduce the plugin's window opacity so that you will be able to see your host application as well.
Routing options for Blue Cat's FreqAnalyst Multi. Lots of options here, up to 16 stereo tracks supported!
Overview of the Spectrum display with 3 signal being monitored.
Another great free monitoring plugin is the Voxengo Span. It can support up to 4 stereo signals. Just add it on an empty audio track and route the audio to it from the the other channels. Adjust routing accordingly to map input channels that enter the plugin to plugin's internal channels. Then, you group internal channels to channel groups and finally you assign plugin's internal channels processed by the plugin to output channels that are accepted by your DAW. In addition, there are other helpful options and settings making this plugin one of the best of its kind considering it's free.
Drums and bass channels going through Voxengo Span.
A typical routing window from Voxengo Span.
A typical routing procedure in Ableton Live using Voxengo Span.
The last one comes from Stillwell Audio, it's called Schope and it can be bought or evaluated from the Stillwell website. Just drag an instance on an empty audio channel and route two signals to the channel where the instance is located. Then, activate the outputs at the bottom of the plugin window. Additional options include Time, Frequency and Phase display modes and a few more.
Schope monitoring two sources.
So, there you go, I hope you found the tutorial useful and that it provided you with extra knowledge towards achieving your perfect mix!