What's on your master bus during mixing?

Discussion in 'Tracking / Mixing / Editing' started by kmetal, May 4, 2014.

  1. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    Hey all, the digital mixer at the studio is getting phased out. We had been using the bus compressor limiter on the board for roughs and some quick mixes that weren't coming back.

    Anyway, hardware will come in due time, so I'm mainly wondering about ITB plugins. I've been messing w ssl and API bus comps from waves, nothing too crazy. Jw what you guys have been using routinely on the mix bus, generally for pop/rock type stuff.
  2. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Most of the time, nothing. Although there are times when I go back to my console days and strap an EQ across the 2-Bus, using it very lightly, nothing dramatic, for a subtle overall EQ.

    If I'm working in a studio that has a few nice compressors (or a nice stereo model) I'll put a hint of GR on it for "glue".

  3. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    I will tag along to see what people say is the best to do : nothing on the master bus or a compressor.
    Some say a compressor give you a idea how the mix will react to the mastering but I'm not convinced, I'll see what you think ;)
  4. Josh Conley

    Josh Conley Active Member

    best is what works for *you*
    previously it was the ua 33609, but i upgraded to the shadow hills.
    1 db on the opto circuit and 2 db on the discrete.
    i like it. helps blend disparate elements right off the bat, and just about everything i do is disparate ;)
  5. thatjeffguy

    thatjeffguy Active Member

    I always have a limiter set to -0.5dB for safety from the stray transient. I also often have a compressor set at 4:1 with a very high threshold, say -5 or -4dB to round those transients off a bit before they hit the limiter. Other than that, nothing. Most mastering engineers are not looking for a compressed or affected file!
  6. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I don't own any real comps or limiters anymore, but there is one VST that I really do quite like for those times when I want some glue on the 2 mix, and that is the Vintage Channel V64 that came with later versions of Sonar (6, 7, 8).

    It's probably my favorite Gain Reduction plug. Besides being very "classic sounding", it also has some nice EQ functions, along with a very effective de-esser, that doesn't seem to require nearly as extreme threshold settings as other de-ess plugs by Waves, PT, Nomad, etc.

    In fact, the compressor and limiter settings are also very effective at minimal settings, without having to set parameters to heavy/extreme settings like other GR plugs require. It's also side-chainable, which is nice for ducking, and has two completely separate reduction models ( 2 stage) within the same plug, allowing for scenarios where one compressor can be set to grab faster transients, while the 2nd stage can be set slower; an emulation reminiscent to the standard practice of what was accomplished by putting an 1176 in front of an LA2. The expander section is also very smooth, yet effective.

    I don't use it on everything - it depends entirely on what I'm trying to do... the song, the production, the tracks all dictate the use. But it's a very natural and smooth sounding plug to use for those times when you want that particular result.

    IMHO of course.
  7. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    I'm kinda liking (currently) the Neve 88R channel strip set to its mastering or bus presets. Sometimes though ESPECIALLY when you are loading a bunch of plugs on a mix (not MY tracking for sure!!!) nothing beats the 33609 from my UA collection. I demo'd the Shadow Hills and liked it better as an individual channel device rather than across a bus.

    MOST of the time, I'm only looking for limiting when I'm mixing to the master at this point. The compression and limiting my mastering house engineers can impart to a mix is way better than anything I can devise. So if I can get the output to a manageable level to send out, with lots of breathing room and dynamics, then I'm good to go.
    gdoubleyou likes this.
  8. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    "So if I can get the output to a manageable level to send out, with lots of breathing room and dynamics, then I'm good to go."

    That's the way I see it too, Dave. Preserving dynamics is a big thing with me. Knowing that the project is going to end up in the hands of a real ME, I shoot for around -18 to - 12 RMS, with -8 or so as my peak. I want to give them plenty of room to work.
  9. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    Cool, I'm really interested in situations where the mixes wouldn't see a true professional mastering. I've been doing demos and eps lately where it's pretty much limit and release as far as mastering.

    Wouldn't you put the la-2 in front of the 1176 if you wanted to grab the fast transients first? I'm just thinking of its fixed attack which is fast, and the 1176s adjustable stuff?

    In bob katzs mastering book in some part of it about overall volume and compression and he basically said that he raises the overall track w a slow attack/fast release, low ratio compressor then gets the peaks w the next compressor that fast attack, before the limiter. But he was talking mastering obviously.

    Wish it had UAD to try some of their stuff, hopefully pretty soon. Gonna keep trying some stuff.
  10. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    KMetal, for me even demos need a little treatement to make sure they're not too far off. To me anything with my name on it will attract or repulse customers.

    When it's a small production, I'll use T-Racks or Izone to make sure the listener won't have to reach the volume or tone knob each time they play it with other CDs
  11. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    I approach things a bit differently. Generally, I don't mix with any bus limiter on the stereo bus, no. (Unless a producer requests I do that, what has happened, on occasion, for various reasons.)

    Then, as indicated, not everything gets sent to Mastering Engineers. So, my mixing isn't done, just with my stereo mix. Once I've mixed it, I'll do some of my own light Mastering. I don't try to get it all, in a single pass. That's being unrealistic. That's being overly complicated. If you're mixing is good to begin with, even light mastering, will finish things off with a nice sheen. And ya don't have to go over the top with excessive fast attack, fast release, dynamics processor. In fact, while I might add a judicious amount of gain reduction, I won't do it with a fast attack time, no. I want to hear transients coming through. So I use slow attack times and make sure that the peaks are not over modulated. It still comes out loud with plenty of punching, smacking, dynamics. Even when, 70% of the tracks have already had some types of dynamic range modifications done to them. But I rarely use fast attack times. There just isn't any reason to do that. It leaves everything flat and lifeless. And that ain't good. Not in my book. And it shouldn't be that way in yours, either.

    So just get out of your head, that you need to stop all your peaks from peaking. It's fine if they peak. Just not into the red. You could do it. I know you can. I do it all the time. So it's easy to do. As long as you follow certain guidelines. It ain't about stopping peaks. It's about putting the peaks in their proper places. And ya do that, with dynamics processor. The right way.

    Sure, you can have a fast attack and fast release time on your limiter. But then, you really won't even see your gain reduction meters indication doing anything. Because if you are getting substantial gain reduction? It's going to be lifeless sounding. If the gain reduction meter (in hardware or software) barely move? Then you're doing it right. Which really is only a safety net for those with lousy mixing chops to begin with. As with anything, it all takes quite a bit of practice to become a virtuoso. If ya have the talent? Not everyone does. And if ya don't? You can only expect so much from yourself. Life is a series of compromises. You just don't want to make any compromises that people will find audibly objectionable. Which means ya have to have technique. And you would have had to learn your technique, experiment with your technique before your technique is worth a damn. If it ever is? There is nothing really logical about how one approaches recording and mixing. There is, when they teach you by the book. But you don't record by the book. You listen. With those two funny things on either side of your head. The book has no ears. The instructors... they have no ears. That's what they teach.

    So do a good stereo mix. Then learn how to do some light light mastering. Nothing over the top. No waveforms that look like they are thick as a brick. You want to see peaks in your waveform. If ya don't? Start again. And do it until you get it right. It might take you days? It takes some of us, days. Mostly not.

    Some of this depends upon budget and whether you have a producer. And whether a producer wants to be involved with your mastering? Or whether it's being left up to you?

    You might be wondering, what's the best plug-ins to use? My answer? None. Only the ones that sound right. Not just the ones you think you need. Because those you likely don't need? We all want the perception of dynamics in our recordings even if everything and every track, has been highly processed. Which is what I do for most pop music genres.

    When it comes to orchestral, choral and operatic recordings? I might maybe stick a light bit of limiting, on say a solo singer or instrumentalist? And that will be via a dedicated, solo, highlight microphone. That's in addition to everything else that has been flown, hung or on 12-14 foot tall collapsible, lightweight, aluminum, telescoping stands. I mean you've seen video of Pavarotti, Domingo and Carreras, all on separate, close-up, microphones, on TV, from live performances. That's because you want that intimacy, that intimate sound, from those featured soloists. Everything and everyone else can be in a ambient wash. But focus has to be centered on those you want to focus upon. So most of my stereo recordings are not just left and right. My stereo recordings are Left, Center & Right. To me, stereo is actually 3 channels. Listen to any good stereo recordings and you will hear the same thing.

    So there's any number of ways to go about this type of recording. Some yield better results than others. Much of it depends upon your equipment roster and in particular, your talent and technique. It's all technique. It's technique over equipment. Let's be clear about that. The equipment doesn't make the recording. You do. And as a professional, ya have to make the best of what ya got if ya don't have what ya really need due to budgetary constraints. It's that simple.

    I also don't have any qualms, when I am handed a batch of limited equipment to use on a contract job. In those situations, your technique saves ya. When you have no technique? You can't be expected to deliver a professional recording. Though in the end, most idiots don't even know what they're listening to and don't even care. They only care when they hear something that blatantly sounds wrong. Which is so easy to do when you have no technique.

    Doctors don't become doctors because they took a quickie, online course. Becoming a competent, skilled engineer with technique, takes some time, some work, some effort, some reading, some experimenting. I'll use anything I have on hand to try and get the sound I envision in my head. And generally, I come away with something I deem satisfactory and professional. Is it the way I want it to be? Not all the time, when given that scenario to follow. When I have my choice of my own equipment selection? Things usually go better.

    Sometimes my stereo mixes don't work well when someone tries to master them. Why? Because those mixes, already stand on their own without the need of mastering. Not everything gets mastered. Not everything needs mastering. When you heard great mixes from great engineers? You suddenly realize, the Mastering Engineer, does nothing more than really just transfer and index everything. Other folks believe it's the only way to get their mixes, to sound good. That's based upon a person with no technique. And the Mastering Engineer is the crutch that will keep them from sinking in quicksand. Which is usually the mark of not a really competent engineer. Great engineers had to learn to become great engineers. It doesn't come to you just because you want it to. I mean I'd like to be President of the United States but I'm not sure I would make a good president? Wanting to be a good President and being a good President, they all had higher education. Though some seem to side on the side of religion rather than the side of science. I take a dim view of those mystical, unknowledgeable types. They have no place running or governing a country. You can look at recording engineers the same way. You can look at broadcast engineers, the same way. Some folks have talent for what they do. Others not so much so. Some of those folks can learn to be better. But they'll always know, they'll never be as good as the ones they would love to emulate or compete with. And you shouldn't come down hard on yourself if you find that to be the case. We can't all be talented doing, what we might want to do. Others take to it like a duck takes to water. I've been that kind of fortunate. Others haven't no matter how hard they've worked at it. So you can't always expect too much from yourself. I'm just saying...

    The one thing you shouldn't do? Is feel discouraged. Everything takes time to get good at something. A lot of it through trial and error. Better when you can do that when not getting paid so that everybody is your guinea pig. There you can make whatever mistakes you want, generally without any other repercussions. So when I want to try something new? I'll try it on some of my rock 'n roll friends... for free. Either way, they always know they're going to get something good from me. Even if I don't think I delivered it at my best? Sometimes, good is good enough. And learning that is difficult. It's so easy to be critical of one's own self. But how else are ya supposed to learn if you are not being spoonfed, paying each thousand dollars plus or have a mentor? You read, work at it, read some more, try it again and again and again. And you don't get up from the table... until you've finished all your vegetable!

    Originally... I really hated zucchini! Not anymore! Now I love it!
    AMEX Remy Ann David
  12. audiosphinx

    audiosphinx Active Member

    I start a mix with the API 2500 from WAVES...I'll start with a very low setting and generally tweak the setting as the mix progresses. I don't use a limiter on the mix bus, but if the API is set in such a way, you really may not need the limiter until mastering, besides, limiting a mix is never a good idea, because your signal shouldn't be close to peaking anyway (before mastering). After the API, I usually use Nomad Factory's Pulse-tec EQ, and funny, that never seems to peak at all.
  13. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    I give ME's a hard time here because I wish they would actually show us some of there stuff via before/after comparisons with the same level (none of that 10-db louder BS). But I'm pretty much exact to Jeff..

    By the time I'm on the Master DAW, its already 95% there. I use a mastering analog matrix which allows me to mix into my master. Its different from the norm, but where hybrid mixing really shines and why this thread is eye catching special.:love:
    I use a digital compressor that is hardly working on the captured channel (DAW2) and a limiter on the Master bus. That's it. Anything more than that, I notice degradation.

    So, I use mastering gear while mixing into the master. This consists of a chain of compressor and EQ's at different stages on the way to the capture DAW.

    To Kyle,
    I have been experimenting with this a lot and 99% of the time, an LA2A sounds better after the 1176 grabs the fast stuff. Everything has more balls, presence and girth when the LA2A has less to think about, more to be all viby.

    Right now I have 2 LA2A in an MS strapped onto my Dangerous Master. I use them for tube vibe and gain . They add a bit of noise, but its a good noise to me. Not for everything, but when it works, it really works. I figured, if they were good enough for radio back in the Day, why not keep doing it.

    The only time I ever use a limiter is for savage control right before it hits the web.I will revert to Object Based Editing sooner than using any plugin to control sss, peaks and level burst.
    kmetal likes this.

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