mixing acoustic instrument DI + mic - best practice?

I just recorded some dobro yesterday, with both a condenser mic and a DI input via a Jerry Douglas preamp. Both sound very good, though different of course. Now, I’m trying to figure out how to handle them, both sonically and routing/mixing in Cubase.

Both are mono sources, though I recorded them on stereo tracks, which may have been a mistake but I don’t want to re-record. I’ve got them in a folder, because I made a composite of several takes and that made it easy to keep the two tracks in sync. Thanks, Cubase!

So, now what? I’ve never done this, so several questions:

  1. The preamp track looks to be delayed about 5 ms relative to the mic, and also reversed in polarity (peaks going down instead of up). I see that I can fix the polarity with the phase switch in the pre of the mix channel - is that the only way, or is there some way to change the event itself so I can see what’s going on? Should I fix the delay by sliding the preamp forward a few ms? If so, how do I handle that with a composite track?
  2. Any suggestions for how I should treat the two tracks sonically? Should I pan them to the same place (basically just sum them), or to different places? Add any effects or treatment to either of them separately?
  3. How should I set up my tracks to mix? Should I put them in link group controlled by a VCA fader? Send them both to a group track, and mix the group in the output? Or something else?

I’m mixing the dobro into an ensemble with several other acoustic instruments, including upright bass, all recorded with single mic or stereo mic. I don’t want the dobro to sound too big, to overshadow the ensemble.

Thanks for any guidance on this!

First there’s no problem recording mono signals to stereo Tracks. There are some folks here who are big proponents of doing that all the time.

Most of your questions can’t really be answered in a right or wrong sense because they are basically aesthetic decisions. One key question you need to answer first is do you even want to use both Tracks or will one of them alone better meet your needs. This gets into your last paragraph & how it will sit with the other instruments.

  1. If you do use both Tracks you probably want to deal with the phase & alignment issues, but maybe not - listen and let that guide you (maybe it produces a cool phasey effect). In addition to changing the phase in the Pre section, you can also invert it in the Audio>Processing menu. Keep in mind that this will modify the Audio File everywhere it is used where the Pre is changing whatever passes through it in real-time. In general I tend to favor things that are easier to undo and would probably go with the Pre solution. But either should give similar end results. In any case duplicate Tracks and use Track Versions so you can easily get back to where you started - keep a pristine original copy.

Regarding the alignment you can adjust the playback forward and backwards in time in the Track’s Inspector using the Track Delay control (looks like a clock between 2 arrows).

  1. Again depends on how you want it to sound. If you want it to sound like one of several musicians playing live in a room together either use a mono recording or stereo panned so the R & L are very close to each other - a dobro in a room is pretty close to a point source. But if you want this to be a huge lead part then pan wide and use different processing for different sides.

  2. Either will work, but they let you control different things. If all you want to do is maintain the relative volume between the 2 Tracks then the VCA is a good choice. But most likely you’ll want to apply some common processing to help ‘glue’ the Tracks together like light compression or any FXs such as phasors. In that case the Group Track is better.

All of the things you are thinking of doing are perfectly valid approaches. But different approaches will have different sonic results, none of which are right or wrong from a sonic processing perspective, but they will sound different and how you want them to sound is entirely up to what you think sounds best.

good luck

Thanks, Raino! That’s really helpful, both the affirmation that I’m thinking about the right things, and the info about Audio/Processing and the delay knob (so much mysterious stuff on the various cubase screens!). I think that, for now, I’m gonna choose one track and mute the other. Then, when the mix is nearing completion, I can see if it needs the other track to punch anything up.

That sounds like a good approach. Especially since you are aiming for a more natural sound.