Evolution of Bass Frequencies in Rock Mixing and Mastering

Just for fun I’ve been looking at how producers treat bass frequencies since the late 80’s in rock in particular. I ran iTunes through Ableton Live 9 and used a spectrum analyzer to look at frequencies from 0 to 200hz.

Mastering engineers will generally roll off bass frequencies on the EQ so that the very low frequencies don’t mess with a speaker’s ability to reproduce higher frequencies accurately. I was curious how the cutoff has changed and how it changes by genre.

I picked tracks that have some bass and kick in them that span from the 70s until now. I used Voxengo Span with averaging and slow update to monitor EQ at a bassy section in each song. This is completely unscientific and each song has its own instruments that produce totally different frequencies, but its a fun general idea of how things have changed over the years. Here are a few screenshots:

Led Zep, Kashmir (1975)

There’s a gradual increase in bass eq starting around 40hz. The rolloff of bass frequencies if very shallow. The tape used to record probably contributed with its own frequency response.

Guns n Roses, Paradise City (1987)

More even response with GnR.Rolloff starts at around 50hz. They probably also used tape but quality improved as did the frequency response of the desk and other equipment.

Alice in Chains, Would (1992)

Rolloff for AIC also starts at around 50hz and a solid EQ from then up the spectrum.

Breaking Benjamin, Diary of Jane (2006)

14 years later Breaking Ben sees the rolloff only really starting around 45hz in earnest.

Five Finger Death Punch, Wash it all Away (2015)

With FFDP 11 years later you’re seeing the rolloff start at about 40hz and it’s very steep with a solid response after 40hz.

And then just for fun, switching from rock to dubstep, Skrillex’s Bangarang (2011)

Rolloff starts at 40hz for Sonny’s Bangarang but is quite shallow. It’s not unusual to see some sub 10hz action in his tracks. If you compare him to Deadmau5 for example, Deadmau5 keeps things fairly tight with very little action below 10hz but Skrillex keeps some of the really low stuff in there but it doesn’t leave the track sounding woofy at all. It’s still fairly tight IMHO.