I started my modular journey earlier this year and as part of my learning process I’m forcing myself to create tracks from start to finish.

This is working fine so far as I now have a better idea of what modules I need and how to better use the ones I already have. However, I’m having a hard time with the mixing part of the tracks and I’m not able to get the sound I’m really after. All tracks I record sound a bit muddy, and the sound is not as clear or as loud as I would like to.

I’m sharing this track and asking for advice as I’m not sure what should I do to improve my sound. I’m not particularly fond of this track, it’s just part of my the learning process as I said.

The first one is the original one, it sounded fine on headphones but then I realised it did’t sound quite as good on the monitors. I tried removing some elements to make it simpler and I mixed it again, but it still sounds a bit muddy.

What do you guys think are the two or three main things I should focus on to improve my sound? I would appreciate any tip you can give me.

Hello Exposure,

My goodness, you "complain" about your music being "muddy" and I wish I could make music like what you just did here with "Animated Cheese". I love this mellow, long-ongoing music, fantastic! I could listen at that something like one hour in a row with perhaps here and there some small variations rather than your "short" 5 minutes :-)

I am not a sound- nor a recording-engineer, so let's hope some of our members are and can help you on that level with your matter. I took the efforts though to listen your music (both tracks) in my rather basic Hi-Fi stereo setup, being a NAD C368 digital amplifier and B&W 683 S2 speakers (so not monitors) in bi-amping setup with (basic) Audioquest cabling and I have to say this doesn't sound to bad at all! I have CD recordings that sound really worse compared to your recording!

Okay, to your recording, what exactly do you mean with "muddy"? Do you mean that it's kind of muffled? Kind of not 100% crystal clear? If that's what you mean, yeah... far away I recognise that but as said I got CDs they would kneel down for your recording quality.

But one thing comes to mind... and that's cabling, especially the quality of cabling which is seriously underestimated by many people (not saying that you are one of them :-) Just trying to make sure if you have thought of everything). With what kind of (quality) cables are you handling your audio path within your modular system? Not the one or two dollar stackable cables I hope? Nothing against it, for testing purposes, but if you are trying to boost up your recording quality, you certainly should check your entire audio path regarding cables and their quality. Now I don't want to go into the discussion of "define quality", everyone for themselves can decide, I guess, if you have reached the level of quality for your cables or perhaps not yet.

But let's say a stackable cable might be not as good as, just taking an example here, a Cordial CPI x ZZ ZZound patch cable. That one is using a cable with wires of 0.18 mm2 which I feel is still a bit less :-) I for example use for non-audio cables (CVs, triggers, gates, etc.) self made cables of 0.2 mm2 and the more simple patch cables of Make Noise (which might be less good in quality than the Cordial CPI x ZZ) and for my audio path I use cables with 0.34 mm2 wires (about the maximum that still fits within a 3.5 mm plug ;-) ). Not saying that you have to do the same thing but just as an example here. Anyway within the modular most likely not so important.

However going out from your modular, those cables to your mixer and from your mixer to the recording device, I would take there a bit more than a one or two dollar cable so to speak.

Your second track, the "Animated Cheese Edit" sounds to me just a fraction more crisp, which is good I think. Though the noise-hi-hat sounds I hear, these sounds could be improved in quality in my opinion, but we are talking here about "high level nagging" towards audio quality ;-) But I don't think these noise-hi-hat sounds are related to your muddy or muffled issue. I think that's rather the sound source of the noise-hi-hat itself. It also is a sound that you just might want to sound it like that.

Other than that (check the cables you are using I mean), I can't help you I am afraid. On my stereo installation I am happy to listen to your music.

For taking this to another (higher) recording level, I think you need advice of members who are more into recording engineering.

Good luck with your recording-quality-improvement and I can't wait for your next track(s)!

Kind regards, Garfield Modular.

I'd just written a long reply, when the website decided it was time to login again and just ate the whole thing… damn it. So here's a hopefully short summary:
I have the same issue of muffled sound, missing crispness etc. Can totally spot the same character that's been bothering me in your tracks. I have no such trouble with my other external gear, be it analog or digital. All going to the same interface, some balanced, some unbalanced.
Output modules seem to have a big effect here. The three eurorack output modules I've tried so far, in order from good to not-so-good: Waldorf kb37, Intellijel Audio I/O 1U, Befaco Out v3. The sound issue was present on the kb37 as well, but to a far smaller degree than on the Befaco. As I have since sold my kb37 due to space constraints (and the Befaco cause I didn't like it), I cannot do any direct comparisons but the Intellijel seems to be somewhere in-between, though closer to the Waldorf. Unfortunately I didn't have the time, money or space to do a scientific comparison. Also, my DFAM, Neutron and 0-Coast seem to have a bit more clarity and punch when recorded directly through their 6.3mm outputs, than routed though eurorack mixer->out->interface. Whatever that's worth.
The cables might play a role, but I'm not really convinced yet. I've got mostly BlackMarket, Make Noise and Doepfer ones, so not complete trash, I'd hope. Maybe it's worth getting a handful of Cordial ones for a simple patch to compare…

What output module are you using @Exposure? Or are the mixers, the VCAs to blame? Something else?
I'm glad someone is mentioning this with an audio example as I couldn't really find anything useful regarding this topic so far.

Hey GarfieldModular,

Thanks for the kind words. To be honest, I’ve never thought of the muddiness as an issue with the gear but as a lack of knowledge when mixing or equalising. Anyway, I’m using Befaco cables which I guess are fine and shouldn’t add any noise or muddiness to the sound.

Senor-bling I’m happy to see I’m not alone in this and you could clearly identify the issue. You certainly described it better than I did, muffled sound and missing crispness, yes.

I’m currently using a semi-modular Minibrute 2s as an output, so my modular’s VCA output is going to the Minibrute’s master input. From there it goes to the Focusrite audio interface and to the computer via USB.

In the computer I record using Reaper and amplify / compress the final mix in Audacity. My guess Is I’m doing something wrong in the DAW, but I’m not sure what. However, it is completely possible that the Minibrute is adding that character to the sound too.

I’ll be adding an out module to my system soon, I guess that would allow me to check if that muddiness is being added in the Minibrute or in the DAW. Let’s see if we can figure this out.

Thanks for the replies

Mastering and mixing for modular

Mastering for Modular

Mixing for Modular: the Long-Awaited Prequel to That Other Thing

Mixing for Modular 2: This Time it’s Digital

Fantastic resource, thanks for sharing @defragmenteur !

Thanks for sharing defragmenteur, this links will be really helpful!

Hi Defragmenteur and Exposure,

Defragmenteur: Thank you very much for sharing those links, that's very helpful! I will look for quiet moments to read those entirely.

Exposure: The feedback from Senor-bling to check out the audio input/output modular might be still worth checking though; at least for my setup I will have a closer look at that.

Another thought is the audio interface, any issues there perhaps?

Defragmenteur / All: If I don't want to record via DAW on a computer but just recording (and mastering) without a computer, what would be the best way of doing so? Any recommendations? Currently I am using (as an intermediate solution) a Zoom H5 which is okay for some basic stuff but compared to the shared track here from Exposure, I can "throw away" my H5 ;-) Regarding recording/mastering I have nil experience.

Thank you very much in advance and kind regards, Garfield.

Defragmenteur / All: If I don't want to record via DAW on a computer but just recording (and mastering) without a computer, what would be the best way of doing so? Any recommendations? Currently I am using (as an intermediate solution) a Zoom H5 which is okay for some basic stuff but compared to the shared track here from Exposure, I can "throw away" my H5 ;-) Regarding recording/mastering I have nil experience.

I am afraid I can't help you. Mixing inside my rack is limited. My output is an Intellijel Outs which goes to my sound card input (Focusrite scarlett 8i6) then to my DAW (Reason) for adding end of the chain FX (mostly reverb & compression) and recording. Without individual output for each voice, the result is ok but flat.

Hi Defragmenteur,

I think you helped me already a lot with your comment that without individual output for each voice, the result is ok but flat.

So if I want to do recording & mastering outside my modular system but without a computer... I need something that can handle a lot of voices or at least as many voices as I might want to use.

Thank you and kind regards, Garfield.

If you're mixing in the rack, your tools probably aren't as exacting as a DAW. Trying to replicate the function of a DAW in Eurorack... ummm... super expensive if possible at all.

I'm not hearing too much mud in my opinion. But here's what to look for. If DC (control voltages, etc.) are leaking into your audio, then you can have issues. Many DAWs like Ableton can remove DC for you. You can also use a sharp high-pass filter on the very bottom of your mix. Start at 20Hz and work your way up.

In electronic music, the kick and the bass often compete for the same space. One timely trick is to duck the bass by side-chaining the kick to a compressor. You can emulate this effect with an envelope follower and a VCA. If you invert the envelope follower and dial it to taste, you should be pretty close.

If you can EQ the rest of your sounds to cut any unnecessary low end from them, that might be helpful too. Again, if you have DC in your hi-hats, snare, etc... problems. There may also be natural occurring low end in all of the other instruments that are muddying up your sound as well... especially mid-range synth sounds. Your kick and bass are pretty greedy animals and will poop mud if anything else is in their low end. :)

It's not bad. If all else fails, find a reasonable mastering engineer to evaluate your track and master it. You can also get pointers from a mastering engineer as they have a keen ear for balanced mixes.

Basically, your music will only come out as good as your monitoring system will allow. It often amazes me how people are perfectly willing to drop thousands on modules but continue to monitor what they're doing with them on a $300 pair of powered crackerboxes. Or worse, headphones, which have proximity effect issues with low frequency sounds...mainly because they're not exactly suited for repro below about 300 Hz without some circuitry and/or physical design elements that will color up your results. Back many years ago, I was told to never, ever, EVER mix through headphones, and having experimented with that to see the reasons for myself, I know that that's something you shouldn't do.

But if you have a good set of monitors, set up correctly...then you'll know exactly what you're doing and can avoid all of these coloration issues you're noting. 98% of problems of this sort get fixed that way. Better still, if you have the ability to use multiple monitors, you can use one pair for uncolored, critical applications such as mixing, and then have a set of "crackerboxes" as well to use as "check" monitors, to see how the mix behaves in typical real-world situations. But you'd never want to actually MIX on the latter ones, instead just checking to see if something's glaringly wrong that needs correction.

Note that by "set up correctly", I'm including any acoustical treatments needed at your mixpoint or in your studio space in general. This especially goes for bass traps, which correct deceptive low-end buildup that results in a room with parallel walls that reinforce resonances known as "room nodes". If you don't know about these, go in a bathroom stall and start humming in the lower frequency range...and at some point, the stall will "ring" because you've hit a harmonic node of the space enclosed by the stall's walls. Just transfer what's going on with this experiment to your studio space, and you can easily see why treating studio spaces is just as critical as having a proper monitoring setup in it.

Secondly, this sort of problem is why program equalizers exist. These aren't the same as the more typical parametric or graphic EQs, but include such things as the Pultec EQP-1A which are designed for making broad coloration changes. They also tend to work differently, accentuating more than just the indicated frequencies on the controls. Along with a suitable compressor to merely ride gain, one of these belongs on your mixbus at all times, precisely to make large-scale timbral adjustments. I should also note that, when you're using ANY equalizer, the rule of thumb is to cut levels of objectionable sonic elements...not to boost everything to swamp them. And if the real deal here is too pricey (which it is!), try a good VST emulation such as Ignite Amps' PTEq-X...which is FREE (and on KVR Audio).

But again, without proper monitoring, you can have all the knobs for tweaks in the world and you'll STILL not have a good idea of what you're doing. Just like how you wouldn't drive around at night while wearing a smudged and scratched pair of sunglasses, you shouldn't be trying to mix on something not suited for the task. But 99 times out of 100, when people mention how all of their mixes are [INSERT PROBLEM HERE], the blame invariably comes back to the monitoring being used. Instead of looking for a synth-specific fix, or trying mixing techniques that're putatively for electronic sound (which, IMHO, don't work as advertised...I just mix electronic-based audio the same as any other large-scale multichannel mixdown), examine your monitors, how they're set up, what your workspace's room might be doing, and the like. In the long run, this will yield better, lasting, and consistent results.

I'd just written a long reply, when the website decided it was time to login again and just ate the whole thing… damn it. So here's a hopefully short summary:
-- senor-bling

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