Koen Heldens' mix bus tips
Henrik Andersson Vogel, April 2014

Among mix engineers, it's debated whether it's a good idea or not to use processing across the mix bus. Mix engineer Koen Heldens (Beyoncé, Lil Wayne, Timbaland, Missy Elliott and Rihanna) resides in the camp that advocates mix bus processing. Here's his go to mix bus setup for a modern pop/urban radio sound!

So let's go through the chain from beginning to end. What's first?
I use the Tube-Tech Classic Channel with the compressor inserted before the EQs. On the Tube-Tech CL 1B Compressor, I actually copied the settings that Ted Jensen at Sterling Mastering uses! First, the Attack/Release Select is set to Manual. The Attack is at its slowest and the release at its fastest setting. The ratio is set to lowest. Then I adjust the threshold to taste, usually the compressor does about .5 and 1 dB of gain reduction.

And you'll use the EQ after that?
Yes. I have a new found love for the combination of Tube-Tech PE 1C "Pultec" Equalizer and the Passive Equalizer on the mix bus. On the Tube-Tech PE 1C "Pultec" Equalizer I set the low band to 100 Hz, boosting to the 2 mark. The treble boost band is set to 3 kHz with the broadest bandwidth setting and again boosting to the 2 mark by the knob. The 100 Hz boost gives the mix a subtle enhanced punch while the 3 kHz boost emphasizes the vocals with an in-your-face presence. On the Tube-Tech ME 1B Mid-Range Equalizer, I make a slight dip at 1 kHz, to take out some midrange harshness.

The high band of the Passive Equalizer is only used to apply a 3 dB boost at 10 kHz to give overall brightness/brilliance to the mix. The Passive Equalizer has a crisper high end than the Tube-Tech PE 1C "Pultec" Equalizer which is more subtle and less "forward".

As an alternative, this can also be achieved by replacing the Passive Equalizer for the Abbey Road Studios Brilliance Pack EQs. I use them all three and add a 2 dB boost each. They work at slightly different frequencies, so this gives a broad air bandwidth. Boosting the top end with the Abbey Road Studios Brilliance Pack is a trick that is often used by mastering engineers to pull synths/keyboards and vocals even closer to the listener. Boosting all three Abbey Road Studios Brilliance Pack EQs 2 dB is pretty much, so I often compensate that by pulling back a little 10 kHz on the Tube-Tech PE 1C "Pultec" Equalizer.

Freelance writer.