September 22, 2020

Jazz album5.1CH Surround production and Survey of POP Music Surround Mix Techniques

By Mick Sawaguchi C.E.O UNAMAS Label


Since Jazz music has been conceived as an image of condensed near field close up sound by the 1950-60s Jazz labels, it is difficult to find the next sound image from the monaural or stereo sound field. For band formation, UNAMAS have consistently continued to produce 2CH due to keep up a condensed sound. There are Jazz surround albums such as SA-CD, but it is different from the perspective that I imagined, and I have been considering how to achieve both a condensed feeling and an open surround sound field.

The UNAHQ 1023 Circle Round Tomonao Hara Group's third album, 5.1CH production that both artists and producers are satisfied with, has been realized.

 In addition, as a reference material, I will introduce 5.1CH MIX examples of the Jazz and Pops genre that I have analyzed on DVD-A and SA-CD.

1. Surround image and preparation for this album production

Tomonao Hara group consists of a Sextet called Tp. Sax. Apf. Gt. Cb. Drums with the participation of Apf Key from the previous work. I thought that this organization could be arranged well in the space, so I worked on the experiment mix using the sound source of the previous work "Time in Delight". I tried to mix the rough image assuming the following localization.


This is an image in which the normal 2CH MIX localization is changed to el-Gt rear. The brass section at the front, Cbs, Kick, and SN, has moved from the existing phantom center to the hard center. However, as a result of experiments, if such an instrument is localized to a monaural hard center, the balance will not be achieved unless the overall level is significantly lowered compared to 2CH MIX, and as a result the power and condensing feeling of Jazz will be impaired. As I will explain later, in overseas pops albums, most of the instruments have the same localization as the 2CH MIX, such as the phantom center is main localized, and the hard center is overflowing with Vox and Bs- Kick- SN. I think so. Therefore, we examined how to properly use the front L-C-R to maintain a clear hard center and overall level. Below are the localizations for each instrument and actual miking.

1-1 Tp. SAX

In the sound design of cinema sound, three types are used properly when expressing the center component.

◉ Hard Center only

◉ Hard center 70%, L-R divergence component 30%

◉ the hard center is 30% and the L-R divergence component is 70%

I decided to adopt the second method this time to maintain the power with clear hard center localization. Therefore, for Tp. Sax, I decided to emphasize the hard center by using two miking each, a condenser type and a ribbon type. In addition, Ls-Rs set up an Omni-mic pair in the studio instead of adding artificial reverb to capture the actual sound.


 1-2 Cbs

Cbs decided to use L-C-R evenly in order to achieve a rhythm keep comparable to the brass section as a result of the experiment.

Therefore, miking has three microphones and the following localizations are used. In order not to mask the hard center of the brass section, the mic of the hard center is rich in low frequency compared to the L-R.


1-3 Drums

Most of the drums were L-R phantom localization, and only one of the two Kick drums was localized to the hard center.

 1-4 Apf. Key

Apf combine to uses L-R phantom localization and the Omni-mic pair installed in the studio to Ls-Rs. The el-Apf is lineout 2CH only, so L-R phantom and 4CH reverb is added to it.

1-5 elGt

The one I was most satisfied with during the experiment was Gt AMP. I was surprised at this because simply arranging the sound source recorded with X-Y stereo in Ls-Rs completed a sufficient sound field.


2 Actual Studio miking

The miking in the studio has the following combinations in order to realize the localization for each musical instrument tried in the experiment. There are more microphones compared to normal 2CH recording, but it can be said to be miking to utilize the actual sound of the studio in the surround sound field as much as possible.


 3 5.1CH MIX and front L-C-R construction

3-1 Final surround localization

The musical instrument performances and the Vox-Chorus localization seen on the M-06 M-10 are introduced below.

Since Vox Chorus plays the leading role in M-06 and M-10, the brass section has two types of localization as described below.

3-2 Final Check display of Surround MIX

Using the Final Check function on my DAW Pyramix, I wrote down the distribution and level of each instrument from the project for each musics for which Final Mix was performed. The left side of the screen shows the total localization distribution, the right side shows the peak level and TP level, and the channel display L-C-R-Ls-Rs-LFE is on the lower side. Please refer to the distribution.

a Brass L-C-R and Ls-Rs

Only L-C-R front is used for music that requires brass power, and Ls-Rs components are added that should have a brass atmosphere.


b Brass M-06 M-10 localization

The brass section is a modest localization because Vox and chorus parts mainly occupy these two music.


 c Cbs localization

Cbs uses L-C-R CHs uniformly to keep a tight rhythm comparable to brass.


d Drums and Ls-Rs

With the M-05, which has a solo part for the drum, I used the Ls-Rs Omni mic pair for brass to give a feeling of air. As you can see from the layout, this pair is installed just between the brass and the drum booth.


e Apf front and Ls-Rs

Apf also put a CO-100K pair in Ls-Rs in the music featuring Apf to give a feeling of air.


f elGt localization

The KM-184 pair is placed straight on Ls-Rs CH, and a little 4CH reverb is added to the front.

 g Stereo of Vox Chorus

The X-Y pair has two voices and three voices overdubbed on the front and Ls-Rs. I think that these sound sources were able to produce good effects for surround sound.


3-3 Comparison of loudness value and true peak value for each music of 2CH MIX and 5.1CH MIX

Finally, the loudness value and True Peak value for 2CH MIX and 5.1CH MIX FINAL is shown. The international standard defines the True Peak value as Max -1, but this time it is slightly higher!

4 survey of pop music jazz surround mix techniques

Even in music, it is necessary to have an idea on how to utilize front L-C-R in band formations such as JAZZ and POPS. The author has analyzed 5.1CH MIX of such genres with DVD-A and SA-CD, but what I found that it can be roughly divided into three types. I will introduce each of the following features and typical MIX surround placement.

4-1 Three types of surround mix 

a Pseudo surround MIX

This is a seeming surround software that surrounds the 2CH MIX as it is in the front L-R with surround MIX that can be said to be a fraudulent act from the author's perspective, and arranges the same sound source in the Ls-Rs with a low level and add reverb. In the past, there was an example in the movie where the OPENING jingle was the same as it used to be, but in the surround MIX it was simulated surround using the same method, but recently new recordings have made it impossible to hear such simulated surround sound.

◉ Beach. Boys PET SOUND MIX BY Mark Linetto and Brian Wilson


◉ Marvin Gaye Let’s Get it on MIX BY Jeff Glixman

b The front consists mainly of phantom L-R, and the center CH is a bonus

The key instruments such as vocals, drums, and bass that are most commonly found in surround mixes in the POPS genre are L-R phantoms.

This is because the Grammy Award winning mixers in the US said that the surround system at home is mostly smaller than the L-R SP and the C-CH SP has poor quality, so important sounds cannot be put in C-CH.  I think.

◉ Bjork MEDARA MIX BY Valgeir Sinurdsson


◉ Shirley Horn HERE’S TO LIFE MIX BY Al Schmitt


◉ Donald Fagen Morph the CAT MIX BY Elliott Scheiner


◉ Bonnie Raitt Nicks of Time MIX BY Ed Cherney

c Utilizing the effectiveness of center CH

This is a mix that makes full use of the characteristics of the front L-C-R and actively utilizes C-CH. Vocals are clearer and more stable in localization than phantom sound images.

◉ George Benson Songs and Stories MIX BY Don Murray

◉ Art of Noise DAFT MIX BY Dan Vickers


◉ Linda Ronstadt What’s New MIX BY George Masenburg


◉ Dire Straits Brothers in Arms MIX BY Chuck Ainlay

 At the end

I asked leader, Tomonao Hara, to compare and listen to the same sound source on 2CH and 5.1CH, and if the artist was satisfied, UNAMAS announced that we would like to release 5.1CH MIX as well. If I was told -this is not our music!-, I decided to quit surround mix release and keep it in 2CH MIX, but he listening to it, but as a result, Mr. Hara himself liked the Jazz 5.1ch MIX, which was his first experience. UNAMAS will release it safely on August 7th. 

For your reference, I would like to introduce the following excerpts from comments by Norimichi Hasegawa, a critic who has written many liner notes on the UNAMAS label.

" …I listened to it with a very fresh feeling. Speaking of Jazz, after all, Blue note, Impulse, etc., and the image from the monaural era is strong, and even after entering the stereo era, Shure's M44 cartridge and JBL speakers are combined and the thick outline drawing is especially old fan I feel that I'm impressed with my sense of hearing. From such an image, the combination of Jazz and surround may be unfamiliar. However, if you listen to the surround mix this time, it is just an eyes opener.

First of all, it is the presence of the center ch that leaves a strong impression. The front 3ch is completely different from the sound impression of 2ch stereo. In the case of 2ch, the virtual sound image that is lined up so as to be stuck between the two speakers is a feature, but a more realistic sound image appears by adding the center channel. Drums and basses are realistically drawn with their perspective spaces. It goes without saying that the information on the rear ch plays a major role in addition to the information on the center ch.

The spatial shapes of the sounds drawn by each instrument are intertwined while freely expanding and contracting... This sensation of wobbling and the sensation of causing a chemical reaction in which the artist's energy intersects in space cannot be experienced in surround classical music. I think it's an interesting feature of Jazz play.

And what is amazing is the trumpet and saxophone, what is this penetration? I was so impressed that it couldn't be stereo. The cleanliness of putting a brush straight from the front to the back. The sound stimulates the brain. Yes, this plays a big role in the guitar placed on the rear ch. By feeling the guitar in the rear, the real existence of the surround sound field becomes clear. That's why the trumpet sounds fly.

Speaking of surround, I think that people often think of it as recreating the atmosphere of a live venue... but this time the surround is completely different. On the front side, the performance on the stage is the ambient component of the rear channel, so to speak, it is a surround recording to "record" the performance, and it is an act involved in more actively "expressing" using the weapon of 5ch. We will demonstrate the real charm of music created by the collision and sympathy of energy emitted by artists in the acoustic space created by the surround. 

I think this is a challenging and innovative approach that is a collaborative work between artists and mixing engineers…."


By Hasegawa Norimichi

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