Bass questions: Mix for Master

Discussion in 'Bass' started by millionvalve, Apr 1, 2003.

  1. millionvalve

    millionvalve Guest

    I've heard that there are physical groove reasons why the bass must be dead-center for vinyl pressings.

    I, like everyone, dig the punch of a mono bass in lock-step with a kick, but...

    There are times, though, that I run across either the urge or the need (!) to do a *really* wide bass either split-delayed l/r @10ms, or actually 2 different hard-panned bass sounds.

    This can sound very cool when it's appropriate, but as I mentioned, I've heard tell that it will never get mastered properly to vinyl. Is this true? What about to CD since ther aren't actual grooves to worry about?

    Are there any other tips I could have for preparing my bass tracks for mastering? For instance, I always test tracks out on software mastering (just for my own reference, don't worry) and I get caught leaving the bass in the mix "less" because I want to leave room for the mastering. The pre-masters, then, never sound as right as they could. So, I'm working up a bunch of songs to get mastered, but I'm alwys left with sort of clunky or non-chest-slamming bass that I "project" getting fixed in mastering.

    Does anyone get what I mean?

    If not, I'll try to re-explain.

  2. Don Grossinger

    Don Grossinger Distinguished past mastering moderator Active Member

    Jan 16, 2002
    just north of NYC
    Home Page:
    Dear Nick,

    There are indeed reasons why the bass needs to be centered when cutting vinyl. A computer in the cutting rack determines the depth of cut. When bass happens the cut is made deeper (and the groove is wider as a result). However there is a limit as to how deep the groove can be.

    The blank disc that the master is cut into is made of a substrate of metal (stainless steel in DMM/Copper blanks & aluminium in Lacquer blanks). On top of this is coated either the copper or lacquer cutting surface. The thickness of the coating determines how deep the cut can go.

    When bass is out of phase in the program, the computer instructs the stylus to cut deeper. Deeper even than if the bass were centered. It can be "told" to cut all the way thru the cutting layer & in to the substrate. This will ruin the stylus & cause the side to be unuseable. Cutting styli are very expensive.

    For CD this problem does not exist.

    For best mastering to vinyl, you should center bass in the mix. This is best done in the mix & NOT left for the mastering engineer to mess with. I do have a variety of tools to dynamically adjust this & statically (constant) adjust this during cutting but they are best left unused. The will alter the sound of the mix. How much depends on how much correction is required. This effects bass below at least 150 Hz & sometimes up to 300 Hz. It should not be a problem midrange on up.

    I hope this helps, if not please get back to us....
  3. Ethan Winer

    Ethan Winer Active Member

    Mar 19, 2001
    New Milford, CT USA
    Home Page:

    > a *really* wide bass either split-delayed l/r @10ms, or actually 2 different hard-panned bass sounds. <

    Don told you why that's not a good idea. But there are other tricks you can use to get a wide bass sound that may not cause problems with vinyl pressing.

    If you put the same bass on two tracks, panned hard left and right, and EQ'd differently, you can get a wider sound while leaving the lowest frequencies untouched. This works best with bass sounds that have more harmonics, as opposed to a "thud" type bass that is mostly low end. Try cutting different bands on each side. For example, try cutting 300, 600, and 900 Hz. by a fair amount and with normal bandwidth [Q = 1] on one side, then cut 450, 750, and 1050 Hz. on the other side.

    You can also get a similar effect with a chorus effect. If the effect box or plug-in lets you disable the automatic sweep, that can make the sound wider but without constantly swirling around.

  4. GT40sc

    GT40sc Active Member

    Jan 14, 2001
    Seattle WA, USA

    You say that when you work on your own software-based "pre-mastering" you are tending to put in LESS low end, because you "project" this "getting fixed in mastering."

    If I understand you correctly, you expect the mastering process to ADD low end to your bass tone, correct?

    While this can be done to a certain degree, the results are rarely satisfactory, as it is very difficult to "bring out" frequencies that do not exist in the original mix.

    Also, the current and unfortunate "loudness war" seems to demand that low end be REMOVED from a master, in order to bring the level up. The louder you want it, the less low end there will be.

    All of which leaves you with an unsatisfactory bass tone, "sort of clunky and non-chest-slamming."

    If I may suggest, try it the other way around...Go into mastering with a mix that is a little on the "fat" other words, a bit heavy in the low end, instead of a "thin" mix.

    In my experience, a "thick" song is MUCH easier to work with in mastering, because tones and colors can be "brought out" by subtractive EQ, which tends to be much more "musical."

    If all goes well, you will be able to "shave" the low end of the mix, so that you can raise the overall level of the song, yet still be left with a satisfactory bass tone. The bass will "sit" where it needs to in the mix, while still providing the "slam" you need to hear.

    I would be very interested to know what Don, Bill, Joe and the other professionals here might add to this suject...

  5. millionvalve

    millionvalve Guest

    Wow-thanks everyone. This is really handy info.

    About the "less bass" part, I'm really referring to volume and compression/limiting, not frequency.

    There is a certain level of thump and oomph that comes out in a master that doesn't exist in a pre-master mix. I'm just wondering if I should make it bang as hard as I'd like to hear it sound (compression/limit-wise) in the mix, or wait till the 2-bus for some kick.

    My concern is that if I compress the kicks and bass as much as I'd like to before mastering, it might go over the top in the mastering phase and the punch will actually decrease from too much compression.

    Thanks again guys-
  6. Don Grossinger

    Don Grossinger Distinguished past mastering moderator Active Member

    Jan 16, 2002
    just north of NYC
    Home Page:
    From my point of view, the best mix is one that I have to do nothing to get it mastered. Granted that may sound lazy, but I would like the artist/producer to realize their vision in the recording & mix and not need for me to "fix" it later.

    If something is recorded "fat", then the bass, depending on frequency, might obscure vocals or be bloated & muddy etc. If it is way too thin I might not be able to create enough punch, but at least it will most likely be cleaner. My personal preference is to add bottom, but I'm sure others do it differently.

    This is part of communication between client and mastering engineer. It is always helpful if the client lets me know that they mixed it a certain way to allow me to bring it to perfection. I tend to be slightly conservative in my changes if a client does not attend the session AND does not tell me that major tonal changes are desired. I will call & ask if anything seems way out of line.

    If a client just says or writes: "make it sound great", then I will do whatever I feel it needs. If it needs nothing or just a little, that's what it gets.

    So the short answer is to make it sound great to you, especially if you really know your room. Trust me not to over compress or over EQ etc. You are paying me for my ears & I use them on every job.
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