Blog & News

Music Tech

Beats Flex: Honest Review

I got a pair of Beats Flex for free with a trial of Apple Music. You sign up for £6, get a pair of £60 earbuds for free and can cancel your subscription anytime.

The good

Running iOS, connecting the earbuds is very easy. The battery life is more or less as promised allowing to listen to music for about 10 hours before recharging. Another very handy feature is the magnet between the two earbuds. It makes it easy to put them away and automatically pauses or resumes your music when you join or separate them. The buttons on the side also make it easy to start/pause music.

The bad

The cable joining both earbuds is too long. As a result, cables hanging close to your face will often tug on other things like your clothes and pull the earbuds out. Even though several earbud formats come in the box, none of them ensure a solid fit especially when moving around. Wearing these earbuds is an awkward experience. Where other reviews say the sound is ‘not ideal’, this one won’t sugarcoat it: it is just bad. Scooped mids, super elevated highs and accentuated lows make for a boomy, yet harsh sound profile. The fullness of the sound between 200-500Hz is completely in the background. In addition to that, the stereo image is very narrow, making for a very ‘tin-can’ sound overall. Whether listening to Hip-Hop, Classical, DnB, Pop or any other genre the sound is just crap in my honest opinion.

Verdict: ⭐️⭐️

With the Beats Flex, you get all the cons of wired earbuds: wires all around your face awkwardly tugging everywhere. It’s actually worse on these because of the way the have extra length around your cheeks. You also get all the cons of wireless earbuds: limited battery life and relying on Bluetooth. On top of that, the sound is just plain bad. Anyone who cares about audio quality should look elsewhere. They do have redeeming qualities with the smart pause function and playback controls. But those are secondary functions. The fit, and sound though, primary functions of such a product, are no good.

Alternatives

At the third of the price you could do much worse than looking at cheaper alternatives from lesser known brands like Taotronics. The SoundLiberty 92 are truly wireless, have much better sound in my opinion, and the same playback / smart pause functions at about £20…

Music Production Nerd Stuff

Mastering Directly in the Mix

I watched this masterclass with Sub Focus. I learnt so much and it got me thinking. He had his master track right on the mix master bus. It’s what I do, but I thought that was a no-no. But seeing a pro do that got me thinking.

Is there really a point to have separate project files for each production stage? Can’t I just do one project for the entire music production process?

Doing the ‘Right’ Thing

The accepted standard is to export all project stems to a new project for mixing once a demo is done. After that, you export the final mix for mastering in another project. There are two good reasons to do this. The first is that it spares processing power on your computer, since you work with audio files instead of live plugins when mixing and mastering. The second is a workflow advantage: it is useful to separate the production process in these stages to focus on different things at every stage.

Or… Just Do Your Thing

But thats’ just the thing. It’s not that practical to have to export stems to mix. Say you realise a sound isn’t exactly how you want at the source after all when mixing. Having the option of going back to the plugin to change that easily is great. Going back to another project just to move a knob on a plugin and then re-render is just a pain! Also, exporting stems takes up a hell of a lot of storage. Same for mastering: I find it extremely useful to hear how a mix will react to the mastering chain. It makes it easy to adapt individual tracks accordingly. In fact working like this helps me realise what is eating all the headroom in my master, and what is problematic in the mix.

So yes, I do the unorthodox thing of going through the entire process in just one project file. Computers right now are powerful enough to run many plugins at a time, and worst case I can always render a CPU hungry track. But that made me think: is there a disadvantage to this?

Comparison

A common thing I heard is mastering effects don’t sound as good when you put them on the master bus of a mix. Apparently because they are designed to work on a single mixdown track. So I decided to put this to the test. I took a project I am working on where mastering effects are applied directly to my mix on the master bus. I bypassed those effects, rendered the raw mix, and added it as a track in my project. I then re-enabled the mastering effects. This way, I could switch directly between my mixdown and the summed individual tracks in the project, all being routed through exactly the same mastering chain on my master bus. It sounded exactly the same.

My personal conclusion

Using Reaper as a DAW and IK Multimedia’s T-Racks for mastering, it did not change a thing whether the mastering chain was on the master mix bus or applied to mix down in a separate project. I’m not saying it’ll be the same for everyone. Try it for yourself. But as far as I’m concerned, the case is solved. There is no significant advantage to making separate projects for production stages, albeit workflow preferences, sharing projects when more than one studio is involved and saving processing power. On the other hand, there are major advantages to keeping things in one single project in my opinion: all-in-one projects that are easy to oversee, more flexible workflows, and a hell of a lot of storage space spared from not having to export stems.

News

New Tracks : Dreamstopper

My new music release Dreamstopper is out and includes two new songs : Dreamstopper & The King of Minos. They both have a Lo-Fi sound. I hope you will enjoy! Like and save if you do!

Follow the links below to find it on Spotify & YouTube. It’s also available on any platform you use. Amazon, Tidal, Deezer you name it! Just type Doran McKinlay Dreamstopper in your search bar.

https://open.spotify.com/album/3GYv1JNqmlmxU4PDUpCZiE?si=H9Ar6-lJQ7K8fA_6THONxw

https://youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_kZBrYBWEHNG8Cs_KknWce2MoEJPdd0EEE

News

For The Record

This domain and website were first created in January 2019. Many posts were made and deleted since then and the site has changed a lot in the process. But let this be known as the date when DMcK started sharing music & art openly.

News

Space Blast Re-Release

Brand new art and a reviewed master. It was originally released on the 21.12.2020. I hope you enjoy it.

As always, it’s available on all streaming sites : just type Doran McKinlay in your search bar. Or you can follow this link:

https://linktr.ee/DoranMckinlay

News

Progress Re-Release

New art and a re-master. Originally released on the 18.10.2020. Hope you like it.

Like all my tracks it’s available on all streaming services. Just type Doran McKinlay in your search bar or follow this link:

https://linktr.ee/DoranMckinlay