August 24, 2007

Friday Open Thread: Mastering...

by Chris Randall

We're deep in the beta testing of Liquid today, so I don't have time to ponder out a pithy comment on the music industry at large, so this is an open thread.

The topic today: mastering in the home studio. I'm personally of the impression that the whole L3 "squish it 'til it bleeds" method is seriously detrimental to the quality of your music. Since most people will be listening to your music via MP3, and in the unlikely event you're played on the radio, they'll run it through their own brutal compression algorithms, is it necessary to have every tiny sound slamming 0db at this juncture?

What's your favorite 2-buss treatment and finalizing method? Please extemporize.



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Aug.24.2007 @ 12:49 PM
tom vx
a good mix run lightly through a nice EQ, multiband compressor, out to a nice hardware compressor/limiter, and back in does the trick nicely. it's frustrating when it's not as loud as the next joes mix, but that's what the volume knob is for (plus the next joes mix is probably filled with artifacts- and his band sucks.)

i think the hardware limiter stage is the key, though...


Aug.24.2007 @ 1:20 PM
mix and record with the averlage loudness level at -24 dbfs with peaks hitting around -4dfs which leave enough room for any potential intersample peaks (which can hit -3db occasionally.) Then through psp vintage warmer which basically does nothing except except for 4db of gain plus it catches a few random peaks. Then on to a hardware two-buss compressor with to bring the rms levels closer to -14 dbfs. A good eq, a convolution reverb set to maybe 5/95 wet/dry (ie. you don't hear it really.. but it adds a little polish) and a limiter to make sure the peaks are close to 0 dbfs (mostly does nothing) Then downconvert from 24/96 to 16/44.1 with voxengo r8brain and dither with izotope ozone (Mbit+ based on Alexey Lukin's megabitmax/extrabit dithering link [audio.rightmark.or...]">link [audio.rightmark.or...] -- best dithering by a long shot)

If you put the eq before the compressor, you're just applying gain again to the areas you previously eq'd.


Aug.24.2007 @ 1:23 PM
I forgot to add the limiter is voxengo elephant or izotope ozone (Alexey has an article about limiters link [audio.rightmark.or...]">link [audio.rightmark.or...]) it's in russian but it's easy to spot which limiters are better :P


Aug.24.2007 @ 1:25 PM
Ozone 3, using almost entirely the EQ and limiter in "transparent" mode, with maybe a little touch of the 4-band exciter thing, and all the other stuff switched off. Then a pass through Voxengo Elephant, usually a mild tweak of the "Punchy +3.0" preset.

All this only after getting the initial mix as absolutely awesome as is humanly possible.


Aug.24.2007 @ 1:35 PM
I just finished mastering my band's album and tried something a bit different with it. I only used the effects built into Adobe Audition, as they seem to get the job done well enough (and, as a college student, don't have tons of money to drop on either recording, mastering, or buying effects). I avoided compression for the most part, and instead went with using primarily an EQ and a limiter. Compression was used sparingly during the mixing phase, but we really wanted a dynamic, open mix. There are some issues here and there with the sound quality, but the total value of all software and hardware used on the album is about $1500-$2000, so we're pleased with the results compared to most of the other "local bands". (P.S. I think we used Discord on the vocals in "Sleeping", but that was two months ago and I'm too lazy to double check)
If you want to listen to the end result... link []">link []

Aug.24.2007 @ 1:48 PM
here's my method: instead of trying to strike a balance between super-limited (in league with current trends) and enough volume to compete, I go completely in the other direction. Peaks at 0, but no brickwall limiter. Average levels in my mixes tend to be around -14 to -22 dBFs. This is extremely low level in comparison to major releases. But honestly, I love the sound of an expanded dynamic range source with the volume control cranked. Loud becomes louder without sacrificing soft's effect. I am not competing with those guys anyway. Except for the local bars that I've tried to incorporate into their jukeboxes - I give them a special 'squashed' mix so people don't complain about the huge drop when it's Ace Of Base - QOTSA - me - Wilco. It's like radio used to be that way - get a taste at ~3dB dynamic range, then go plunk down a couple of bucks for the full range platter. Why not actively buck the trend? The only people who will bitch about it are probably those who would just go and steal your music online anyway. Anyone concerned with a great soundstage, peaks and valleys, emotional crescendos and such will be pleased that you made a record for them. Of course, I am speaking strictly from a vantage point where I am in control of the output and distribution - YMMV if you have a boss in the situation. My day job is audio post for TV, so it's usually an L2 at -10dBFs for all promos. You can't really get around that, I guess...

Aug.24.2007 @ 1:58 PM
mike kiraly
If I am staying in-the-box, I used to rely on various UAD plug-ins (the 33609 emulation, followed by the Precision Multiband, Precision EQ, and the Precision Limiter)

But then I discovered the TC MDB and Brickwall Limiter for Powercore - I've been using the Powercore for some time to run the Sony Oxford plugs, but I only recently tried the MDB and Limiter on the demo mode and was astounded at how amazing they sound. Kills any of the native stuff I've heard by a mile (Waves, UAD, Ozone, etc)


Aug.24.2007 @ 1:59 PM
mike kiraly
oh, one more thing - he Sony Oxford Inflator also gets used when the situation calls for it - it really has it's own sound that can add some oomph when necessary...

Aug.24.2007 @ 2:09 PM
i use Finalplug until i can no longer stand it, then call it a day.

Aug.24.2007 @ 2:11 PM
I can't be knee-deep in Liquid beta testing until this evening, so I'll post.

I tend to use the maximizer half of Wavehammer in Sound Forge as the last thing on a mix, but very sparingly and with the compressor stage turned off, mostly just to add 2 to three 3 dB in gain without anything ugly happening (like might happen if I just added 3 db using the volume control).

Most of my opportunities to listen to recorded music these days are using earphones, and I find overly loud/compressed music tends to kill my mellow, as well as drowns out exterior sounds, which is bad/dangerous when you are a pedestrian on the streets of Toronto.


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