LEEDS, UK, JANUARY 25, 2023 ― With nearly 20 years of experience working in music, Lee Smith, mix engineer and co-owner of Greenmount Studios, has seen an increasing demand for his mix work over the past few years. Most recently, Smith’s clients have presented him with higher pressure projects and quicker turnarounds, resulting in the need for faster, more efficient workflows that still afford him the ability to turn out a high-quality product. Among these is NUGEN Audio’s Paragon software, which Smith says is his go-to room emulation plug-in.
Smith, who has mixed all of British recording artist Holly Humberstone’s records, was also asked to mix her live appearance at the 2022 Brit Awards. The brief was to create a mix that felt like a live experience whilst remaining authentic to her sound, all within a tight deadline of just a day in which to do it.
“For the Brits, Holly had a stripped-back live show, so it wasn’t a huge undertaking, but the recordings I received from the event had some problems,” Smith explains. “The acoustics in the room were great, but the room mics were very noisy―one side kept dropping out and they were unusable. To solve this issue, I used Paragon to re-create the size, shape and reflection time of the room.”
Smith used Paragon on an aux channel in his mix session to emulate the room instead of using the room mics. “My aim was to achieve a mix that retained all of the vibe and feel of the captured performance, without the issues of the faulty room mics,” he explains. “Paragon turned out to be a lifesaver. I could control what I sent to it rather than relying on the mix from the PA. That meant I could do things like de-ess the vocals before the effect and alter the balance of instruments sent to the room depending on what was happening in the song. This was so useful for a mix of a live performance like this because I could add excitement and intimacy in a natural way. It was a big room, so you want it to sound alive and not too dry or processed.”
While Smith says he never shies away from learning a new skill or application, it was a big help to have the NUGEN Paragon software to assist him as he problem-solved this rather unique project. “As a music mixer, it’s important for me to have tools that make the job easy and fast when working on any mix,” he says. “In this case, Paragon was the best tool for me to emulate the space and help make the performance feel real, live and not too exposed. This is helpful for the viewer at home, so that when they are looking at the show on TV, there’s not this fake reverb sound to it. The kudos for that goes to NUGEN, which created a plug-in that doesn’t sound like a fake reverb effect, it just sounds like a real room.”
Smith is also fond of Paragon because it doesn’t time-stretch its Impulse Responses, which he says makes the mix sound more real than sounding like an effect. “One of the cool things that Paragon features is this ability to change the reverb decay times without strange artifacts,” he adds.
Smith was so pleased with the results from using Paragon, that he has since incorporated it on a couple of other recent projects. “Holly just released a new single called ‘London is Lonely,’ and I used Paragon on that recording to create ambience in some of the backing vocals, among other things,” he concludes.