Online Mixing Services Compared

SSL SL9000J (72ch) console at Cutting Room Recording Studio, NYC

SSL SL9000J (72ch) console at Cutting Room Recording Studio, NYC. Photo by Rebecca Wilson, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic Licence

Audio mixing is an integral part of music or sound production of any type – from hip hop to rock, from music for TV ads to podcasts. The constantly increasing speeds of broadband internet and the penetration and rising popularity of cloud services opened space for online mixing services. An additional prerequisite for the development of such services is the constant improvement of software plugins which emulate classic hardware used for audio mixing. I myself have recently tested one of these services (of course I chose the cheapest) and this led to my decision to write a comparative article about what is on the online mixing market. For comparison, I picked up only 5 online mixing services and chose several parameters to compare them by: price, what you get, song time limit, promotions or discounts, delivery time, DAW sessions accepted. Interestingly, comparing just 5 services provided some insight that online mixing services can differ significantly, but have quite similar user experience. Usually, the client is required to export each track in wav or aiff format, then zipping the tracks together, uploading the file to the internet. Afterwards the engineers at the online mixing service do their job, and send the final mix back to the client.

Online Mixing by Abbey Road

At Abbey Road, you need to create an account in order to be able to send tracks to Abbey Road. Next, within the website you can upload files up to 10.24GB. The third step of the process is setting up the uploaded data and tracks, including additional instructions for the engineer. Finally, if you want your tracks to be mixed, you need to pay upfront and wait for the engineers to do their work.

Price per song:
• 1-24 tracks: from £550;
• 25-48 tracks: from £750;
• +20% VAT (£660 or £900 depending on the number of tracks) even though it is possible to skip the VAT if you are a company and can provide EU VAT number.

What you get:
• limited “listening” copy at 44.1/16bit;
• unlimited mix master at original sample rate and bit depth;
• unlimited backing track at original sample rate and bit depth;
• unlimited a cappella track at original sample rate and bit depth.

Promotion or discounts: 10% on merchandise from the Abbey Road shop for all clients of the online mixing service. This is nice, but it is not a reduction of the price of the service. It is rather an up-sell for their merchandise.

Song time limit: 6min.

Delivery time: 7-10 days.

DAW sessions accepted: no.

Overview:
Mixing at Abbey Road goes through the hardware consoles at the studios and is being done by highly skilled and experienced engineers. It is possible, if the song is suitable, the legendary Fairchild, Pultec and RS124s to be used for mixing. On the other hand it is specifically mentioned on the website that the TG mixing consoles can’t be used for online mixing and a specific studio or sound engineer can’t be booked for the online mixing service. Finally, Abbey Road’s reputation, the hardware used and the experience of the engineers increase the price for mixing significantly.

URL: http://www.abbeyroadonlinemixing.com

Online Mixing by Sunchord

Sunchord provide different services in addition to the online mixing service, but I will not concentrate on anything else. The user experience here is similar to Abbey Road’s experience, except it does not require you to create an account. First, you have to select the mixing service you want, then you have to pay via Paypal and finally upload your tracks and wait.

Price per song:
• £230.00 for Basic Pack;
• £269.00 for Pro Pack.

What you get:
• Basic Pack:
o Mastered Mix CD ready;
o High-quality mp3;
o Unmastered 24bit Mix;
o One revision included.
• Pro Pack:
o Mastered Mix CD ready;
o High-quality mp3;
o Unmastered 24bit Mix;
o Instrumental;
o A cappella and PA versions;
o Stems of your mix;
o One revision included.

Promotion or discounts: n/a.

Song time limit: n/a.

Delivery time: 5 to 10 days. Option for 48-hour mixing service for additional £69.

DAW sessions accepted: no.

Overview:
There are two options for uploading your tracks for mixing to Sunchord – either via You Send It with file limit 2GB, or by uploading it to your own FTP server and sending the link to Sunchord’s e-mail. An option which would come in handy to someone who is on a rush to have a mix is the express 48-hour mixing service which, of course, costs more. Unfortunately, there is no option to order only mixing service, and all packages include mastering as well, which affects the final price. Finally, it is not clear the gear that is used – either if the service is done in-the-box, which means software only, or it is processed through hardware as well.

URL: http://www.online-mixing.com

Online Mixing by mixing-online.co.uk

As in other services alike, Clive Knightley from http://mixing-online.co.uk accepts payments from Payplal, but he accepts bank transfers as well. The process is similar too – upload your tracks either to Clive’s Yousendit account, or through some other file transfer service, pay, then wait until the job is done.

Price per song:
• £125.

What you get:
• Mixed and mastered track 16bit;
• Instrumental 16bit;
• A cappella 16bit.

Promotion or discounts: n/a.

Song time limit: n/a.

Delivery time: 3-4 days.

DAW sessions accepted: Pro Tools, Cubase and Nuendo.

Overview:
The hardware and software Mr. Knightley uses for mixing and mastering is impressive. It includes AML 54F50 compressor, ANAMOD 660 compressor, Solid State Logic G-BUS Stereo Compressor, 5500 stereo analog EQ. At the end, all mixes are summed through the NEVE 8816 and processed through Solid State Logic X Logic Alpha-Link Madi-AX. On the software side, things are looking just as good – DAWs used are Pro Tools 9 CPTK2 and Cubase 7. They are powered by plugins by Universal Audio, namely UAD-2, together with plugs from Brainworx and Softube. Finally, the guy supports all of this with impeccable monitoring – Focal CMS65, 8 bass traps and 3 broadband traps. Of course, it is not only about the gear, mixing is about skills as well, and it seems that Mr. Knightley is experienced and doing a great job.

URL: http://www.mixing-online.co.uk/

Online Mixing by onlinemusicmixing.co.uk

Onlinemusicmixing.co.uk provide a service which is split in two levels – a “premium” mix by an engineer by your choice (out of 8) and an “indie” mix which is cheaper and aimed at self-funded musicians. Similarly to Abbey Road’s online mixing, you need to create an account before sending your tracks for mixing.

Price per song:
• “Premium” mix: £200 – £350;
• “Indie” mix: £100-£200.

What you get:
• 44.1kHz/24bit unmastered mix;
• High-quality mp3;
• Up to three revisions included;
• Vocal up, vocal down and instrumental/a cappella mix versions.

Promotion or discounts: available, depending on the project.

Song time limit: n/a.

Delivery time: 7 days but also depends on mix complexity.

DAW sessions accepted: Pro Tools, Cubase and Nuendo.

Overview:
Quite different from the rest of the mixing services, there is no set price for this one. There is a set range, and the price depends on the complexity of the mix. Other than that, the user experience seems to be as simple as the others. Unfortunately, it is not clear what is the hardware or software that the engineers use or what is the environment they work in. (but check here: http://www.onlinemusicmixing.co.uk/about-us/our-engineers/)

URL: http://www.onlinemusicmixing.co.uk/

Online Mixing by ITB

ITB stands for “in the box”, which means that mixing is performed only in software environment. This technique is not to be ignored as the results can be quite satisfactory. This is due to the current developments of hardware emulations by companies such as Universal Audio, Softube and Brainworx. Moreover, the “in the box” mixing method reflects on the price, guaranteeing extremely low prices, which are suitable and targeted for DIY, independent and self-funded bands and labels. To be honest, this is the only service that I have personally tried.

Price per song:
• $99 (about £65)

What you get:
• 44.1kHz/24bit mix ready for mastering;
• High-quality mp3;
• One revision included;

Promotion or discounts: 25% off for 4+ songs.

Song time limit: no.

Delivery time: 2 days.

DAW sessions accepted: no.

Overview:
The main benefit of ITB Online Mixing is the price – the cheapest alternative that I found. Not only that their base price is low, but also there are significant discount for bundle orders. On top of that, 2 days delivery time is another significant advantage. For detailed description of my experience you may read my online mixing review.

URL: http://www.itb-onlinemixing.com

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6 Responses to Online Mixing Services Compared

  1. Daft Dave says:

    I know Abbey Road well, and you shouldn’t get too excited about the “highly skilled and experienced engineers”.
    What they don’t tell you is that you are usually getting one of the assistants or junior engineers to do your mix. That’s why they are not named.
    Also, the main engineers are mostly film/orchestral, and don’t really do rock n’ roll!

    Of all your reviews the only service that offers experienced engineers with credits is Online Music Mixing.
    With them you know who you’re getting and what they’ve done, which to me is a lot more important than what equipment they use.
    The other services (Abbey Road included) are just mystery men with no credits!

  2. netsov says:

    That is an interesting point Dave. It would be nice to share if you have some real experience with Abbey Road. Even if it is done by junior engineers, they surely are being supervised by senior engineers. Contrary to what you say, they are actually named over here: http://www.abbeyroad.com/engineers/2/Recording-Mixing

    Also, as you can see I can only afford the cheapest of these services, and you can hear an example of it. As I explain, I am pretty happy with the result provided by ITB Online Mixing. When I save some more money, I might try Online Music Mixing as well :)

  3. Thanks for reviewing my site http://www.mixing-online.co.uk on your blog. Just like to point out that revisions are free and included within the price. I also provide a free preview for all new clients for mixing and mastering, usually a one minute clip!
    Unfortunately I don’t take on all jobs that come my way. Only tracks which I’m personally feeling, something that I can really get my teeth into. This way you’ll get the best from me! Genres I specialize in are Pop, R&B, Hip Hop, Dance, House, Electro, Dub step and Pop Rock and some acoustic type music.

    @ Daft Dave – Ok I have no major credits at the moment – but I’ve had many hundreds of very happy customers since I started my online service back in Jan 2009. My price reflects this – we have all got to start somewhere!

    Good luck all with your music, all the best Clive Knightley.

  4. Ben Mcfadden says:

    I’ve been using onlinemixing.info for all my productions and I’m always happy with the results. The price is pretty reasonable as well. Thanks for the great article by the way!

  5. Rob Cooke says:

    There are a lot of good services out there. The ones listed in the above comments all look pretty good and very professional.

    It’s such a competitive business too, but of course, who’s best is subjective, which is why I guess we all pick up work.

    I run an online mixing service too and I used to offer a free sample, but I just got so many sub-standard recordings sent to me I decided to drop that. I make revisions until the customer is happy. I’ve never had an instance where the client wasn’t happy and never more than about 3 or 4 revisions required. I believe the price should be a known quantity from the start and I am also choosy about what music I mix.

    I specialise in real instruments, especially guitars, bass drums, piano etc. I’ve had some really great music sent to me this year to mix. I wish people had bigger budgets though! ;)
    Cheers.
    Rob

  6. Drew Puzia says:

    Very nice review, there are a lot of online audio mixing service company’s out there, and the results do vary as well as the prices. It is really refreshing to see an objective view in this field, Thank You! I started up an online audio mixing service http://www.soundburststudios.com and have mixed a lot of different genres of music as well as levels of artists experience. One thing that I would like to add to the review is that sometimes a mix engineer can offer their own vision of the song that is being mixed by offering a FREE revision to the arrangement of the song for the artist. A lot of times a fresh set of ears can look at the song from (no pun intended) outside the box, and just be honest and let the artist hear something that they never thought of. The artist has the option to use whichever version they want, but options are always great to have.

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