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The ear is most sensitive to the 2 kHz - 5 kHz range. This causes the recognizable sibilance effect. This is a common problem with vocals that can be solved with an equalizer.

But what about the whole mix?

Should the whole mix have a cut in this range or should the range be around the same amplitude as the other frequencies?

It sounds much better to me when I cut frequencies in this range, but at the same time it brings some of the fullness out of the mix.

When I listen to professional mixes, it sounds like the frequencies in this range are at the same volume as the rest of the frequency spectrum. So should they be left alone, lightly attenuated, or significantly cut?

  • I guess it would be something you decide per song. Does this piece have its emotional impact best expressed with a mix emphasizing the lows and highs, or with full mids as well? – Kevin - Reinstate Monica Dec 25 '13 at 18:41
  • It is best expressed with full mids, but the mids seem to be overpowering at times. Lowering the mids gets rid of the sibilance, but it also makes the mix more hollow. Maybe the sibilance is coming from the headphones? – Dj Tech42 Dec 25 '13 at 18:59
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There isn't a "correct" answer to this. The general concept most people go for is called the "Wall of Sound". You want each track (instrument or vocal) to have its own place in the wall. It may be softer or louder dynamically than the other tracks around it and it may have its tone and/or sibilance at different parts of the EQ spectrum.

You generally try to mix each track into a slot allotted to it and mix EQ subtractively as much as possible. This may mean that for certain instruments, you take a little bit out from the EQ you would use if you were just using that track so that it makes room for other instruments, but it's generally more on a per track basis, not the whole mix.

In general, your best bet is to learn to listen for each track and figure out what tracks are interfering with each other. If You have a bass guitar and the low end of a piano that aren't getting along, decide which is more important and what frequencies are not overlapping well and cut the one that isn't fitting a little bit at the necessary frequency to give it some space.

I try to only deviate from where I'd normally want the EQ for a track by itself when it is necessary to make all the tracks fit together the way I want, so I do the minimum amount of adjusting necessary to fill out the wall of sound. Sometimes adjustments to the dynamics might also be a better solution, such as compressing a track if it is too loud sometimes but too quiet others.

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Much of the problem you described usually comes from the microphone used to record the vocals. Most sub $300 mics have a pronounced peak at or around these frequencies. The reason for this is that many of those mics are using circuits from other established manufacturers (schoeps, neumann) but they leave off an important part of the circuit, the mid-high attenuator. This coupled with a knockoff capsule lends to harsh sounding recording, especially when the source (vocal) already has a lot of those frequencies.

Your best recourse is to either find a mic with a flatter response, or use a EQ/De-esser to remove the offending frequencies.

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