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Mixing Cold War Kids’ “First” with UAD Plug-Ins

Mixing Cold War Kids’ “First” with UAD Plug‑Ins

Recorded and mixed at the Cold War Kids’ studio in San Pedro, California, Lars Stalfors (The Mars Volta, Marnie Stern, The Soft Pack) breaks down how he and Dann Gallucci (TV On The Radio, Tim Curran, We Barbarians) used UAD Powered Plug-Ins on the track “First” from the Cold War Kids’ album, Hold My Home.

"First" by the Cold War Kids

This whole record was mixed in the box, so having the UAD plug-ins to add the analog sound was a powerful tool. We really worked hard to keep the instrumentation in “First” very minimal, creating lots of space for the song to breathe.

Vintage Piano Vibe

We tracked the piano with a Royer R-121 ribbon mic running through the 4-710d Four-Channel Tone-Blending Mic Preamp w/ Dynamics.

Here’s the piano dry:

At mixdown, we used the UAD 610-A plug in from the UA 610 Tube Preamp & EQ Plug-In Collection to really drive the piano and give it that vintage character we’re looking for. In fact, the 610 was our go-to plug-in for any overdrive or saturation.

Here is the track with UAD plug-ins:

We rolled off a bit of the low end with the 610’s simple, yet great-sounding EQ. We also used the gray Teletronix LA-2A limiter from the Teletronix® LA-2A Classic Leveler Collection. Its slow attack allowed the piano stabs to really come through, while still bringing out the harmonics.

Dialing-In the Verse Vocal

We tracked the vocal through a Shure SM7B dynamic mic running through the LA-610 MkII Classic Tube Recording Channel.

Here's the vocal dry:

We needed to de-ess the vocal before hitting any compression, so we inserted the Brainworx bx_digital V2 EQ plug-in before adding the Teletronix® LA-3A Classic Audio Leveler plug-in and the gray Teletronix LA-2A in order to really compress the vocals. The 610-A plug-in was then added to drive the vocal, giving it some bite. You can see the cranked Level control and the low Output setting that allowed us to achieve this.

Here is the vocal with UAD plug-ins:

The LA-3A grabs the faster transients while the LA-2A really compresses the signal. Finally, the EP-34 Tape Echo plug-in was put directly on the vocal track so we could add slap and drive. Often times, we put a delay right in the channel strip rather than an aux. Then, by using the plug-in’s mix control, you really get the character of the effect — sometimes more than the dry signal.

Polishing the Background Vocals

For this vocal stack, we tracked through the 4-710d on tube mode using a Blue Mouse condenser mic.Here are the background vocals dry:

At mixdown, we wanted to add some top end to the vocals, as well as remove a bit of the lower midrange. To that end, we summed all of the parts through an aux, and hit the API 550A EQ from the API® 500 Series EQ Plug-In Collection. We love this EQ because it’s never harsh when adding highs, and its very musical.

We used the gray Teletronix LA-2A again to tie all of the parts together and then added the Cooper® Time Cube Mk II Delay plug-in directly on the track to add a nice stereo slap and spread them out.

After that, we added the Shadow Hills Mastering Compressor plug-in to really smash the vocals (the Steel transformer setting being our favorite). On an aux was an EMT® 140 Classic Plate Reverberator plug-In set to Plate C.

Here are the background vocals with UAD plug-ins:

The EMT’s Input Filters are super handy. We used them to clean the low-end up and add quite a bit of sheen to the effected sound.

— Lars Stalfors & Dann Gallucci

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