Choosing between an online mixing engineer or in-studio mixing is an important decision for musicians and producers because it can impact the final sound of their recording, as well as the cost and convenience of the process.
Online mixing is often more affordable and flexible than in-studio mixing, making it a good choice for musicians and producers who are working with a tight budget, are unable to travel to a physical studio, or simply have no professional-grade studios near them. However, working with an online mixing engineer can limit the amount of control and input the musician or producer has over the process, which can be a disadvantage if they have a specific vision for the final sound.
In-studio mixing, on the other hand, allows for more direct communication and collaboration between the mixing engineer and the musician or producer. This can provide a more direct opportunity for the musician or producer to give feedback and make changes to the mix in real time. However, in-studio mixing can be more expensive and time-consuming, which may not be feasible for all projects.
Ultimately, the choice between an online mixing engineer or in-studio mixing depends on a number of factors, including budget, location, and the desired level of control and collaboration. It's important for musicians and producers to carefully consider these factors and choose the option that best fits their needs and goals for the project.
In this article, we’ll cover the pros and cons of both to hopefully put your mind at ease when coming to make this sometimes tricky decision!
What is an online mixing engineer?
An online mixing engineer is someone who helps musicians and other audio creators put together the mixes of their recordings from a distance, using whatever studio tools they normally use, plus sometimes special software and tools on their computer. They're kind of like a musical chef, making sure that each part of the recording sounds just right and balances well with everything else.
These mixing engineers generally work from their own home or studio and can help people all over the world create great-sounding recordings. They might offer different levels of service, like just basic mixing or more advanced mastering, and they'll usually talk with their clients over email, messaging, or video chat to get an idea of what they're looking for. Some mixing engineers specialize in specific types of music or work with certain kinds of clients, like independent artists or record labels.
The benefits and drawbacks of hiring an online mixing engineer
Easy to work with: Hiring an online mixing engineer is super convenient because you don't have to meet up with them in person. You can communicate with them over the Internet from anywhere in the world.
Affordable: Online mixing engineers usually charge less than traditional studio-based engineers, which is great if you're on a budget.
Access to top talent: You have a wider pool of talented mixing engineers to choose from including top pros when you hire online, so you can find someone who's perfect for your project.
Flexible: Online mixing engineers are often more flexible in terms of scheduling and turnaround times, which can be really helpful if you have a tight deadline.
Listening Environment: You can listen to your song at home, in your own studio, car, whatever and wherever you listen to music AS the mix is being made.
Lack of personal interaction: Working online means you won't be able to sit in on the mixing process or have face-to-face conversations with your mixing engineer, which can make it harder to communicate your vision for the project.
Quality concerns: You won't be able to hear the mix happen in a professional studio environment, which can make you worry about the quality of the final product.
Technical issues: Sometimes there can be technical issues when you're working online, like slow internet connections or software glitches, which can slow down the process or affect the quality of the mix.
Limited control: Working with an online mixing engineer can limit your control over the process, so you won't be able to make changes to the mix in real time or have as much input as you would with an in-person mixing engineer.
In-studio mixing and how it works
In-studio mixing is when an audio mixing engineer works with a client in a physical studio space to mix and balance different tracks of a recording. It involves using specialized equipment and software to adjust levels, EQ, and other effects to create a polished and cohesive final mix.
The process usually involves the mixing engineer sitting in front of a mixing console, with the client or producer sitting nearby to give feedback and direction when required. The engineer will playback the different tracks of the recording through studio monitors, adjusting levels and effects as needed to create the desired sound.
In-studio mixing has some advantages over online mixing. For one, the mixing engineer and client can work together in real-time, which allows for more immediate feedback and collaboration. Additionally, working in a professional studio environment can help give the confidence to ensure that the mix sounds great.
However, in-studio mixing can also be more expensive than online mixing and may require the client to be physically present in the studio, which may not be feasible for everyone. Also, you won't be hearing the song in the place you're used to hearing music, and can't easily always be confident about how it will sound on your system. Studios monitors are often quite different sounding to what a listener has.
Factors to consider when choosing between online and in-studio mixing
Online mixing can be more cost-effective than in-studio mixing, as the mixing engineer does not usually have to pay for overhead costs such as studio rent, equipment maintenance, and staff salaries. However, this may also mean that the quality of the mix may vary depending on the experience and skill of the mixing engineer.
If you're in a major city, you will probably have a lot of choices of professional quality studios, whereas if you're not...you may be limited and have to deal with low-budget, low-quality options. Online mixing gives you access to world-class engineers no matter where you are based in the world.
Some people just like face-to-face communication, so that may be a preference. However, as the working world evolves, the tools available for remote collaboration have too. For example, I use a platform that allows time-stamped revisions and has a process for client approval, allowing an artist to listen to their mix anywhere to get the best result.
Studios are usually booked by the day, and depending on the song it's hard to say how long it will take. Most online mixing projects are booked at a flat rate per song and include some revisions. If you need revisions for in-person studio mixing, well...that's more studio time which equals more cost.
Equipment and studio quality
Not all studios are created equal. You can expect if you go to Abbey Road that the control room, gear and monitoring are going to be first class. but so will the price tag. Technology has drastically changed the playing field so many online-based mixers have private facilities with acoustic design and excellent monitoring too that easily compete with even the legacy studios. There are also scammers with a laptop and headphones calling themselves mixing engineers with little experience or track record to back up the claim. So, what do you do? Read on!
How to choose the right mixing engineer for your needs
Here are some tips for researching and evaluating potential mixing engineers:
Check out their portfolio: Look for examples of their past work to see if their style and sound match what you're looking for. You can usually find this on their website or social media pages. If you can't hear the work, that's a red flag!
Read reviews: Check out reviews or testimonials from previous clients to get an idea of how easy they are to work with, their level of expertise, and the quality of their work. Again, a proven track record is essential.
Ask for references: Don't be afraid to ask the mixing engineer for references from past clients. This can give you an idea of their level of professionalism and the quality of their work.
Consider their experience: Look for mixing engineers who have experience in general. Have they ever had any hits? Worked with A-list clients? Also, consider working with the type of music or audio that you're producing. This can help ensure that they understand the nuances and challenges of your particular project.
Communicate your needs: Before hiring a mixing engineer, make sure to communicate your needs and expectations. This can help ensure that you're both on the same page and can avoid any misunderstandings. If your potential collaborator can't communicate well, they may not be for you!
Compare pricing: Compare pricing from different mixing engineers to make sure you're getting a fair price for the level of service you need. On one of the platforms I generally work from, EngineEars you can book the legendary Derek Ali for $2000, or me for far less - it's up to you!
By following these tips, you can find a mixing engineer who is a good fit for your project and can help you achieve the sound you're looking for.
I hope that this has been helpful, and given you a ton of information to help you make the right decision for yourself next time you need to choose a mixing engineer. The key is to choose the right mix engineer for your needs, so the factors I mentioned should help!
Next time you start your search for someone to mix your project, please make sure to reach out to me if you are considering an online mixing engineer, as I love working with artists from all over the world, and have had loads of success with my clients, ranging from radio play to millions of streams, and even a few platinum-certified albums at this point - all 100% remotely.