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Mix processing listening test

I recently got a new piece of audio equipment and I got the idea to run a mix through it for coloration. This equipment is not designed for this task. I don’t normally run hardware on my mix bus.

Arriving on a quite subtle setting where there was no audible distortion, I thought it might be a fun ear training exercise for my readers.

2 files labeled A and B. One has been processed and one has not. A text file inside the download has the answer.

Please listen carefully and comment on the following:

  • Did you correctly identify the processed file?
  • Which did you prefer?
  • Did you think the difference was significant?





  1. russtopherb
    russtopherb June 14, 2012

    B. Had a slight bit more “sheen” and highs to my ears, A sounded a bit more boxy in the mids. I don’t think the difference was too significant, I had to A/B them 3x before I could definitely say what the differences were.

  2. Joe Gilder
    Joe Gilder June 14, 2012

    I haven’t read the text file yet. Figured I’d post before I saw the answers.

    Don’t know what the processor is exactly, but I liked “A” better. There wasn’t a huge difference, but the bass seemed beefier on A, and I felt like I liked the snare a little bit better, too.

    So if I had to guess, maybe you ran it through something that added some saturation?

    This is me sticking my neck out there and making a guess without knowing the answers. I could be totally off…and this could be an evil ploy to make me look dumb.

    I like it either way. 😉

    • Andrew Bauserman
      Andrew Bauserman June 14, 2012

      Thanks @joegilder for being honest – makes me not feel so bad 🙂
      I was wrong as well. Probably down to the fact that I liked A better. I was guessing some harmonic content had been added to brighten it up.

      The tube at a very low level seems to have made a more round/smooth sound with a touch of compression. At least to my amateur ears listening in cans.

  3. Sean
    Sean June 14, 2012

    I also haven’t looked at the spoiler yet, but I agree with Joe that the bass goes down lower in “A”, but I actually prefer “B” because I like the snare tighter. Maybe going through an 1176 emulation without being truly bypassed?

  4. Jac Mandel
    Jac Mandel June 14, 2012

    *Spoiler alert*

    Well, by your description that the gear in question was not made as a mix buss processor, I guessed “B” as the processed file, since it seemed to lack the midrange presence of the “A” file. In this case, I think the non-processed file sound better. Nice listening challenge.

  5. Frank Adrian
    Frank Adrian June 14, 2012

    I listened to both and I couldn’t tell which was processed and which wasn’t – mainly because I didn’t know what the processing was supposed to do. Was it supposed to add mid-range? Was it supposed to band-limit? Was it an exciter? As such, one can’t actually answer question 1 because, even if one sounded worse than the other, that might be the point of the processing. As for questions 2 and 3, A sounded better to me, having crisper highs and I could tell the difference, though it was not major.

  6. Ben Davey
    Ben Davey June 15, 2012

    Interesting test! I guessed B, sounded ever so slightly duller so I preferred A. Not a lot in it at all though.

  7. maytwentyfourth productions
    maytwentyfourth productions June 15, 2012

    Difference: significant as a minor EQ move
    Correctly identified the processed file: no
    Preferance: In A, the kick cut through better. B sounded darker. I assumed it went through something subtle that brightened it up with some added harmonics so I guessed A was the processed file. No real preference, but I felt A had more apparent clarity but B would likely be easier on the ears for extended listening of music.

    Listened on my headphones at my day job, where I do the majority of my pleasure listening.

    • maytwentyfourth productions
      maytwentyfourth productions June 15, 2012

      And sorry for not spoiler alerting my previous comment but gosh if you’re reading the comments your spoilering yourself because we’re SUPPOSED to comment on the difference and our preference. If you read other comments first you’re biasing yourself.

  8. Georg Nikodym
    Georg Nikodym June 18, 2012

    I preferred the treated version (and I was able to correctly pick it out). Expressing why is a little more challenging… I guess, to me, it felt warmer, like more oomph in the low end.

  9. Rupert Brown
    Rupert Brown July 9, 2012

    Well the guess is really a bit of a … guess. With out knowing the original material or equipment used as there is no way to tell if X bit of kit is making things better or worse? Maybe I am just making excuses for making the wrong guess. To me A sounded better, the snare particularly improved so I assumed it had the magic processing.

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