How to get that loud, but not so loud sound

Discussion in 'Mastering' started by FadeForward, Jan 14, 2005.

  1. FadeForward

    FadeForward Guest


    I just discovered this forum. Great stuff! I thank you all in advance!

    I'm in the process of mixing and then mastering an album. I'm using all of the Waves plugins - meaning, I have every one of them at my disposal. And I'm using Cakewalk Sonar 4.1 to mix and master.

    My goal is to get a final mix that is loud, but also seems to have a lot of headroom. Every instrument seems to occupy its own space very well but is not so loud as to be in your face. A prime example of what I'm looking for is a sound similar to Dream Theater's latest album, Train of Thought, mixed by Kevin Shirley. It just seems like reverb is used so masterfully that there is still headroom even while the loudness is quite apparent. Ummm, know what I'm saying?

    I guess my question is, even though most of my tracks have some amount of reverb on them (a lot of it is unnoticeable, using the Lexicon Pantheon plugin), is it ever used subtly in mastering? Or are there other ways to get that great sound where every instrument is loud but not overbearing? Is this where multiband (LinMB) compression comes in? Stereo imaging?

    Thanks for any insight you can provide!
  2. TotalSonic

    TotalSonic Guest

    Mastering of "Train of Thought" was done by Howie Weinberg at Masterdisk here in NYC. I can guarantee you that he did not achieve that sound through the use of Waves plugins. If you really like that sound I'd contact him to master your project.

    In more direct answer to your questions -
    apparent loudness can be achieved in a lot of ways. Each track will need something different - sometimes a little compression, sometimes a bit of eq to bring the mids more forward, maybe a bit of digital brickwall limiting, or maybe clipping the ADC on load in from the analog processing chain - all these methods are being used these days to help get things "loud".

    I'd avoid Multiband compression unless you need to fix a specific problem, i.e. a bass freq that pokes out of the mix, heavy sibbilance, etc. Usually you're better off fixing these in the mix instead of the master - multiband compression tends to be more of a surgical tool than a go to tool for me.

    Personally if I were you I'd focus on working on the mix more if you're not yet satisfied with the sound and then just using a little bit of L2 to get some more average level so your client (or band) doesn't complain that the CD is "quieter than all the rest of my CD's" - while archiving a mix with no 2-bus processing at all in case you want to get it professionally mastered at any point in the future.

    In general the only time I use reverb in mastering is to fix tails that are either abruptly cut off (seems to happen more often these days by mix engineers) or noisy (where I fade the ending early but have a post fader verb automated to come in only on the last hit to create a nice smooth fadeout).

    Anyway - it's been said a lot here already - but basically a big part of mastering is to gain the perspective of fresh ears in an extremely accurate monitoring environment so that any mistakes made in due to flaws in the mix room environment can be compensated for. Since you've probably spent hours mixing and it seems you plan to master on the same rig you mixed on - I'd be wary of doing more sonic damage than help to your mix by just strapping some plugins across the stereo tracks. ymmv - but good food for thought if you intend to actually release your mixes commercially.

    Best regards,
    Steve Berson
  3. Johnjm22

    Johnjm22 Guest

    How are you supposed to contact those guys at Masterdisk? Everytime I e-mail them they never respond. It's like they don't take you seriously.
  4. TotalSonic

    TotalSonic Guest

    Well considering that I work for their competition maybe it's a good thing they don't answer emails! 8)

    anyway - every time I've called over there during regular EST biz hours someone has picked up. Maybe trying the good ol' telephone will get a response.

    Best regards,
    Steve Berson
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