The Low-End Trick
Koen Heldens, August 2014

Sound examples for the low-end trick

Sound examples for the low-end trick

In this article, multi-platinum selling, award-winning mix engineer Koen Heldens (Beyoncé, Lil Wayne, Missy Elliott and Timbaland) shares a cool trick on how to add a huge, but controllable, low end to mixes and channels.

The low-end trick was taught to me many years ago when I first befriended Dave Pensado. Pensado, in his turn, learned the low-end trick from the original inventor, Bob Powers. The low-end trick first appeared on music from A Tribe Called Quest.

Basically, what we did on the analog console was splitting the original signal into two channels. In the day and age of digital systems I create a pre-fader send (set at unity gain) coming from the original kick drum. On the aux input track on insert slot one I put Valley People Dyna-mite with the detector set to pk (peak), release set to .08 seconds and knocking off about 6 dB on the gain reduction meter. The Valley People Dyna-mite is followed by the Tube-Tech PE 1C "Pultec" Equalizer. Boosting at 100 Hz and attenuating at 100 Hz (combining the two creates a unique EQ curve, which boosts around the center frequency but not the center frequency itself. This is a big part of why people love the Pultec type of equalizers, such as Tube-Tech PE 1C "Pultec" Equalizer). Sometimes I add a little bit of 10 kHz to add some air to the parallel signal. Blending in the aux input track with the original kick drum will give you an instant big bottom end with the kick sounding more solid in the mix.

Note: the original trick uses a dbx 160XT (no easy-over) with a ratio of 6:1 into a Pultec EQP 1A.

The same approach can be done with a snare drum, clap and even toms. For claps or snares I leave the Valley People Dyna-mite virtually the same, except for the detector circuit which I switch to AVG (which means the unit reacts to the average level instead of the peaks). The Tube-Tech PE 1C "Pultec" Equalizer gets replaced by the Tube-Tech ME 1B Mid-Range Equalizer. Instead of boosting the low-end, I boost the mid frequency range to have the snare really hit you in the face. Sometimes I add a little bit of low-end to make the hit a bit more solid.

© 2014 Koen Heldens
LA-based international multi-platinum award-winning mixing engineer, with artists like Beyoncé, Lil Wayne, Missy Elliott and Timbaland on his resumé.