Preparing and Optimising Audio for Mixing

How to prepare each and every audio channel for both mixing and mastering.

Gain Staging

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Preparing and Optimising Audio for Mixing video tutorial explains in detail all the steps required to optimise both the project and the audio stems within the DAW for mixing.

An epic subject on how best to prepare your projects for mixing and mastering. I cover every aspect of the processes used to prep your mixes.

Preparing to master

The first thing I do is to listen to well produced and mastered music that is similar to the demo mix I am mastering. I use this as a reference for the mastering process I am about to undertake. The ear/brain combination needs pampering to maintain interest in what it hears and well produced dynamic masters work every time in maintaining that interest. The idea is to ‘tune’ the ears of the mastering engineer to the reference. Once my ears are tuned and ready I step back and listen to the mix I am about to master. I listen at a level whereby I can hear everything in detail but without cranking the volume. Loudness doesn’t help when you are trying to master. It throws your judgment into the air and biases critical decision making. I make notes about what I feel needs addressing in the mix. I then listen again and again looking for frequencies that need treatment. Once I have completed my list of ‘things that need looking at’ I decide on what signal chain to create to achieve the master I am after and the one process that kicks everything off is that of corrective equalisation.

Band-pass filtering

One of the most important processes in music production is that of using corrective equalisation to remove redundant and problematic frequencies from audio prior to mixing. We refer to this process as cleaning.

Filter circuits (such as low-pass filters, high-pass filters, band-pass filters, and band-reject filters) shape the frequency content of signals by allowing only certain frequencies to pass through.

A band-pass filter attenuates frequencies below and above the cut-off and leaves the frequencies at the cut-off. It is, in effect, a low-pass and a hi-pass together. The cool thing about this filter is that you can eliminate the lower and higher frequencies and be left with a band of frequencies that you can then process without the worry of redundant frequencies creeping up on you and summing gains and tripping compressors.

The next step is to check that all the audio is in phase.

Total and Partial Phase cancellation

Preparing and Optimising Audio for Mixing video explores in detail what phase cancellation is and how it pertains to mixing.

Phase cancellation, both partial and total, can be problematic when using tracked recordings and samples. Phase occurs when two signals are time-shifted. In other words, one signal will be offset by a specific amount to another. Basically, the phase is the progression along the cycle of the waveform determined as degrees. A 360-degree phase is one complete cycle of a waveform where 0 degrees is the start of the cycle. If two signals are aligned exactly in time and location then they are deemed to be in phase. If they are not then they are deemed to be out of phase. If you take one signal and invert it and sum with the other identical signal you will get what is referred to Total Phase Cancellation and this results in silence.

Finally, we need to make sure we have ample headroom for the ensuing mix processes.


Headroom is the difference between an audio tracks peak level (when the meter is displaying its highest value) and 0 level (ceiling) on the output meter. Let me give you a simple analogy I always use to explain headroom to my students. You are 6 feet tall and you enter a room that is 10 feet high. You have 4 feet of headroom. I know it’s simplistic but it works for me.

Dynamic Range

In digital audio, we are concerned with two values: the noise floor which is the lowest or quietest value, and the ceiling which is 0. This difference between the noise floor and ceiling is what we refer to as dynamic range. In layman’s terms think of this as being the difference between the quietest and loudest part of an audio signal.

In the Preparing and Optimising Audio for Mixing video, I use two tracks of drum beats and guide you through the processes required to clean the audio by using bandpass equalisation, create the required headroom for the mix processes via the project’s settings feature and to consolidate the phase of each audio stem.

The plugin used in this video:

Steinberg Cubase

Topics covered in this video are:

  • How to Prepare for your Mix
  • Band Passing
  • Cleaning Frequency Extremes
  • Understanding the Air Band
  • Folder Structuring and Navigation
  • Colouring
  • Managing Gains
  • Flipping and Inverting
  • Phase and Partial Phase Cancellation
  • Smearing
  • Silence and Inversion

If you found this tutorial helpful then give these a try:

Headroom and Dynamic Range

ISP – Intersample Peaks

Summing in a Mix within your DAW

What is an equaliser and how does it work

Eq Filters and Slopes/Responses

Linear Phase Eq versus Minimum Phase Eq

Band Pass Equalisation – cleaning audio channels

Total and Partial Phase cancellation

Avoiding Masking and Summing of frequencies by Panning

The Pan Law within your DAW explained in detail

MixBus Strategies

Low End Compilation

EQ Masterclass

EQ Uncovered – (second edition)

Compression Masterclass