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You Know better Mix
Here is my attempt at mixing this song.

.mp3    You Know Better Mix PT2.mp3 --  (Download: 8.49 MB)

Hi TRB6p! I had a bit of shock when I first started listening to your mix, to be honest. It was hugely ambient and chorusey, and seemed totally out of keeping with the mix brief. A few hundred words of trying-to-be-encouraging-nonetheless feedback later, and I suddenly realised I'd left one of the other mixes unmuted and I was hearing two different mixes phase-cancelling against each other! D'oh! It's been a long haul, this critiquing process, that's all I can say... Rolleyes

Anyway, listening to your actual mix after my (clearly well overdue) lunch break, I immediately liked a lot of your balancing decisions, and the sense of warmth and blend afforded by some sensitive effects use. The hi-hat feels rather understated, so I might bring that up a bit, but otherwise the mix manages to present a sensible balance of the ensemble throughout. The issue of depth is thornier, though, partly because it feels as if the mix as a whole is a little heavy on the reverb in general, but also because the vocal reverb and drums ambience both appear to be all but mono, and that does give the production a slightly 'recorded in a corridor' feeling that doesn't quite stack up with the 'mainstream single' part of the mix brief. In addition, the sidestick feels very distant, which somehow feels a bit incongruous with the powerful and pretty tight-sounding low-end of the kick. The snare, when it arrives, is slightly closer-sounding, but not much, and I just think this makes the mix sound rather old-school, rather than a modern production (however retro tinged that modern production might be). To be fair, though, I do like the punch you've got out of the snare, so I wouldn't want to lose that. Be careful with the 3-4kHz region of the cymbals, too, as they get a touch harsh-sounding during the Mid-section in particular.

The bass has good small-speaker translation, but could probably afford to have a bigger share of the sub-100Hz energy in order to support the harmonies better. The guitars are nice and full-sounding, but not so overdriven as to make the song too 'rock' overall, I think -- it feels like you've struck a good balance there. The Hammond in the first chorus feels a bit thick-sounding, and smothers the vocal for me, so I'd perhaps be a bit more assertive with EQ cuts on that part to clear enough room for the star.

Speaking of Hannes, his vocal sound here does feel a bit fierce in the upper spectrum, with too much energy in the 10kHz region relative to the rest of the mix, I think. If you've listened to the rough mix and the references, you'll know that Hannes tends to like smoother vocal sounds on the whole, so I'd rein in that aspect of the timbre a bit personally. However, as you may already have noticed, if you take the brightness out of the vocal, it's not really coming from many other sources, so you'll probably want to brighten some of the backing parts to maintain a representative overall mix tonality. Try referencing the track against some commercial releases with Hannes's vocal muted so you focus more on what the backing parts are doing in this respect.

The lead vocal balance could be more stable too. Over the long term, there seems to be a certain amount of level drift between sections -- eg. Verse 3 is quite a bit louder than Verses 1 and 2. And over the short term, you need to address the raw recording's low-frequency variability more, and then automate the fader in more detail to maximise the lyric transmission. You could also bring the final vocal phrase up while you're at it too, because it sounds like you prefer the guitar to the vocal at the end of the song as it stands, and that's perhaps unlikely to endear you to the singer who's judging the competition... Wink The Outro feels like it could do with a bit more of the mob vocals, because the energy rather slacks off once Hannes's long "heart" note has finished, and it'd be nice to keep the momentum going right until the end of the song.

From an arrangement perspective, it seems like you've taken the multitrack at face value for the most part, and that's certainly the safest approach. However, in this contest (and indeed in any situation professionally where you find yourself pitching against other engineers for a mix job), you may have trouble competing with the other contenders unless you address some of the arrangement's inherent challenges -- such as the difficulty maintaining interest and impetus through Verse 1 and Verse 2, when they both have identical arrangements. You've done a lot of good work already, but I think you may have to take a few more risks (whether with arrangement or balance or effects or whatever) if you're going to stick out from the crowd.

Thanks for uploading your mix -- and I'm looking forward to hearing your final contest submission!