to limit or not to limit...that is the question

Discussion in 'Mastering' started by rudedogg, Jul 20, 2005.

  1. rudedogg

    rudedogg Guest

    ok hi guys!

    I know a little about mastering, based on what i've read in here and in the mastering engineer handbook.

    for my final mixes, should i run eq/compression/limiting on the master bus? (protools)

    i sweep eq all my tracks to remove offending frequencies and compress just about everything (individually) pretty lightly to make everything sit well. i am not ignorant as to mixing, i've been interning for the past 4 months with a well known san diego engineer, but i don't usually mix with him, i usually setup mics and help with the tracking of records.

    the second half of my question is this; when i put a L3 or similar limiter on the master bus, the guitars come up significantly and the bass and drums sit about the same levels. so usually i'll mix the guitars quieter than they need to be knowing they are going to come up when i master stuff myself. (usually with eq/compress/L3 used moderately)

    so my question is kind of multi-part.

    a) should i eq/compress/limit on the master bus

    b) should i make everything sound good to me on my mix, or do i need to compensate for what mastering is going to do to my mix. (ie keep the guitars down, and vocals up just a bit)

    the second question is more of a mixing question. i'm going to send my files to be mastered as a stereo 24/48 wav file, is that a good format to send it in?


  2. Michael Fossenkemper

    Michael Fossenkemper Distinguished past mastering moderator Well-Known Member

    The answer to your question is a little tough. Mastering a mix with certain plugins is going to change the relative balance of the elements big time. Especially using multiband stuff. Depending on how hard you push it will also come into play. Usually the only compensation I would like to see from a mix engineer when I get mixes is a vocal up. Everything else in the mix stays pretty much where it was. If you mix with these things strapped accross the mix bus to compensate for what they will do, then the mastering engineer is going to have to use those to get what you want. and he would have to use them the exact same way you did. Basically tying his hands. Basically you're assuming the ME has the same tools and uses them the same way as you, which is most likely not the case.

    Sweeping tracks with eq takes some knowledge about what is going on within the track and within the eq. EQ's ring, when you use a tight Q and boost and sweep. That eq is going to ring. When you find something "offending", and notch it out, you could be fooling yourself. So you have to be careful with this practice.

    Strapping an eq, compressor, limiter on the mix bus is a very bad habit to get into. I call it bus mixing. it seems fast with good initial results, but you'll only be able to get your mix to a certain level. You'll also bake the mix with all of it's flaws and balance issues rendering it unfixable depending on how much you bake it. Using a compressor on the bus is a common practice for mix engineers. It adds a touch of glue if it's used properly (not for volume). better practice is to use all of those little faders to get your mix where it should be. Compression on every element in a mix will surely make it sit and behave, but it will also be boring and lifeless. If your balance is changing drastically, then you have to look at a few things. the mix is the first. You are thinking backwards when you say the guitars come up.

    All mastering facilities I know of can accept files. 24 bit is pretty much a given. If you are mixing in the box, then the sample rate should be your session sample rate for best results. If you are mixing outside of the box, then the sample rate can be whatever you want.
  3. rudedogg

    rudedogg Guest

    thanks michael.

    i don't usually mix with the limiter on the bus, i usually add it later, but i've noticed myself getting in the bad habit of mixing the guitars down lower in the mix cause they usually come up when i apply the MB compressor/limiter.

    i think if i don't have someone else mix this particular record, then i will mix it in a nicer studio than my home so i don't have to do in the box mixing. there is a nice little studio with a 24 track API desk that sounds really nice, and then i don't have to worry about sample rate. i'll i have to worry about is busing everything internally in protools cause i only get 24 channels :(

    ok, thanks for the tips.

  4. Michael Fossenkemper

    Michael Fossenkemper Distinguished past mastering moderator Well-Known Member

    If the guitars jump up in masteing, then I would look at how the drums are mixed.
  5. rudedogg

    rudedogg Guest

    the drums are mixed pretty standard to what i know other people do. eq/compression on kick/snare/oh/room, 1176 on snare and overheads, gated toms, and sometimes on kick/snare, but usually not. the drums actually sound pretty damn good.

    i don't compress the guitars very hard when mixing. maybe that's why they jump. i also do a lot of guitar layering 10+ guitar tracks sometimes.
  6. TrilliumSound

    TrilliumSound Active Member

    Depends what you are using and how (settings) on compressor. If the mix sounds good, don't touch it. If you are not happy how it turn out during the Mastering stage then someone else should do the Mastering cause it has to sound even better.
  7. Michael Fossenkemper

    Michael Fossenkemper Distinguished past mastering moderator Well-Known Member

    There are different ways to mix. Sometimes a mix can sound good and not be for mastering at high levels. Other times a mix can sound good and be great for higher levels. A really good mix engineer knows how to do this. It's hard to say without hearing everything on where the most benifit would be.
  8. mixandmaster

    mixandmaster Active Member

    I agree with everything that MF says in this post. I would say that in my experience, it's better to have really punchy drums before reaching for the "kill" button. Lots of transients. Maybe your compression settings are a little off on your drums. Try a slower attack on your compressors. That's just MY experience, please don't take it for fact! :-?
  9. TrilliumSound

    TrilliumSound Active Member

    I still have the feeling it is more a comp setting issue :wink:
  10. rudedogg

    rudedogg Guest

    hmm, the drums sound great, they are punchy, and nothing is pumping hard. not sure. anyway, i decided to stop using the L3 ultra maximizer and im putting a RNC on the main bus now with eq.

    it sounds great, my mixes sound better than anything i've done before.

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