Review: Mastering The Mix BASSROOM
Mixing bass can be hard, but Mastering The Mix may have the solution with its new plug-in, BASSROOM. Time to get low…
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Crafting the perfect low end for your mix is a tricky business akin to Goldilocks’ search for porridge. Go in too hot and your bass will swamp the mix, causing issues when it comes to the final mastering stages, or go in too cold and your track could sound thin and lack weight.
BASSROOM is like the plug-in equivalent of a thermometer that can tell you when your low-end is mixed just right. It comes from mastering engineer Tom Frampton’s company Mastering The Mix, whose previous releases include in-depth metering plug-ins that highlight potential mix issues, and an affordable and useful track-referencing tool.
Room with a view
At its heart, BASSROOM has five fixed EQ bands that range from 0 to 320Hz, and feature specially designed filters with minimal phase and transient distortion amounts. This helps to give a transparent sound and makes BASSROOM ideal as a mastering EQ to be inserted just before your final limiter. Each of the brightly coloured bands sits in a virtual 3D room space, and moving them forward of backwards will increase, or decrease the amount of energy in that band by up to +/- 6dB. It’s a unique and intuitive way to visualise mixing and the resizable GUI is a nice touch, plus you can also fine-tune the Q of the top four bands.
However, BASSROOM has a more impressive trick up its sleeve; clicking on the Presets button pulls up 60 genre-based targets. It’s recommended that you loop the fullest part of the mix, then the plug-in will listen using a special volume-based algorithm, and intelligently compare your low-end to that of the preset. It then presents target lines for each band to help you make fine adjustments and rebalance how the low-end energy is distributed. You may then need to make adjustments to the overall volume using the output slider, but there’s a handy arrow showing a suggested, level-matched value.
Bass in the place
Even better, you can load in one or more of your own majestically mixed reference tracks, highlight the loudest parts on the waveform and then generate a new target. Unfortunately, this can’t be saved directly in the plug-in, but it’s easy enough to save as a preset within your DAW.
Although we’ve seen match EQ before, this is something different that’s been fine-tuned for the task of transparently manipulating bass. We take a house track we feel is pretty much finished, and load in a well-mixed reference to see if any improvement can be made. After following the suggestion, the knock of the kick drum is reduced a touch to sit better in the mix and the low subs around the 40Hz region are increased, giving the track a warmer, weightier feel. This is repeated several times on different tracks, with equally effective results.
The low down
There is no shortcut to mastering the art of mixing bass – and if you want a great mix, you will still need to learn how to work with phase cancellation, layering sounds, controlling transients and stereo width and using sidechain ducking techniques. BASSROOM won’t magically make a bad mix have a tight low end, but as long as you use the right references, it can take a good mix and help you to make subtle adjustments to make it a superb mix.
Do I really need this?
Truth be told, we can’t really think of many genres that wouldn’t benefit from having this on the master buss and used at the end of the mixing process to help get those elusive last few percent. There are no shortcuts to learning how to mix bass properly, but even experienced engineers can have off days where judging sub levels can be tricky due to ear fatigue. If you work in a bass-heavy genre then this will be especially useful, as even subtle 1dB or 2dB adjustments across each band can result in surprising improvements as the low-end energy is shifted and cleaned up. Although it’s best used with a full-range monitoring system so that you can hear what’s going on, it may also be beneficial for people who don’t own a subwoofer.
- 5-band EQ for mixing bass
- Unique 3D room GUI
- Generates target bass levels
- Genre-based presets
- Load your own references
- Band-solo and level-matched output
It’s a struggle to find anything similar to BASSROOM. DSM V2 lets you capture the spectrum of a reference, then use that shape as a bespoke compression threshold. This could be used to massage the low end into a similar balance to that of the reference.
Not entirely the same, but you could use the Match EQ function of Pro-Q 3 to capture a reference, then edit the extensive filter shapes. However, BASSROOM works based on a LUFS-style system rather than peak information, so you may get different results.