Mix compression rules!

Discussion in 'Mixing & Song Critique' started by mattssons, Oct 16, 2004.

  1. mattssons

    mattssons Guest

    Any clever comments on this?

    A lot of time i get the advice from Master engineers that i should leave master compression all together when mixing.

    This makes me wonder if any Master engineer ever done a pop mix(Not jazz, classical etc.)

    Have they ever heard what compression can do to a mix/balance if applied heavily on a downmix?

    fx levels rise, Mix/balance turn up side down and what have you!

    Of course, moderate use is essetial and bus and or paralell compression is a good way to avoid the sound of compression overkill mayhem but sometimes i wonder if M.E knows how much time and hard work that is spent on the mixing of the average pop single.

    Just as some recording engineers jump in to the e.q section without going out and listen in the studio and to the instruments i come across M.E:s who jump in and do their usual thing without having a listen first.

    I keep fighting towards the goal of hearing. " I don't want to do anything to this material, i think it got it all sorted"

    I'm insecure about my "mix babies" market health and i would glady pay some M.E full session fee for hearing theese words... Welll the fight goes on;) perhaps one fine day

    How many of you M.Es are old radio or club deejays? I would guess you have a better start than most old M.E musiciansĀ“as i find that a lot of musicians listen very little to music outside the style that once got them into music...and deejays simply know more about rhow different, different records sound. Period.

    I hope i have made some people angry and get good punches coming my way. Just remember it's nothing personal:)

    Yours /Toby
  2. Ammitsboel

    Ammitsboel Member

    Aug 12, 2003
    I will give you some direct answers:

    If you feel that the color of a special compressor unit of yours i needed then go ahead and use it to get that color needed for the material.

    The reason that ME's advice mix engineers to stay away from master compression is that ME's simply do it better whether you want colorfull or more linear aproaches.

    I think that Thomas can give you the long version of above...

    That is just a sad thing... was that a pro ME in sweeden?
  3. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Distinguished Member

    Dec 12, 2001
    Oberlin, OH
    Home Page:
    Not sure about how many mastering engineers would automatically start doing compression without listening to the material to see if it needed it. Most mastering engineers that I am familiar with, myself included, would not add anything to the mix that was not really needed. Mastering engineers are trying to help the music not change it by adding things that it really does not need and this would include more eq and more compression.

    The problem today is that many people over do the compression, equalization and reverb on their mixes BEFORE they bring them into the mastering studio. I believe this is done for two reasons. first they are using a monitoring environment that is not giving them the correct perspective on the music they are mixing and secondly they want the music to sound good and punchy to their ears before they take it to the mastering engineer.

    As I have stated a couple of times before it is amazing to watch the expressions on artist's faces then they hear their material on a good monitoring system for the first time. There is a good analogy that a good friend of mine, who is an acoustician uses. "If you were a painter and we judging how your painting looked while you were wearing sunglasses smeared with Vaseline imagine what it would look like when you saw it for the first time AFTER you had taken off the glasses".

    As to having material that is already well done and does not need any additional mastering. I have had about a half dozen clients over the past 10 years that have come to me for mastering where I felt I could not do anything to make their mixes better by mastering them. Unfortunately most of these have been in the negative category and not the positive kind. There material was so badly done that mastering would not have done anything for it. I have had a couple of clients where I had to do very little to their material and the whole mastering was done very quickly but these are very few and very far apart.

    Taking your material to a mastering engineer is like taking a freshly painted automobile to a detailing shop. The car may look good after it is painted but a good detail shop can make it look FANTASTIC.

    It sounds like what you are looking for is someone to give your material a stamp of approval and to say to you it does not need any mastering since it already so well done and therefore already mastered. I guess my advice is to keep on trying. I would also find an honest mastering engineer that can listen to your material and give you advice that you can trust.

    Most mastering engineers come to mastering from doing other things in the music business. They run the gamut from musicians turned mastering engineers to people who have been very successful as mix engineers or live sound engineers that made the transition to mastering somewhere along their career path. One thing that makes them unique is that they have good ears and the knowledge of how to get the best from the music. I have a background in classical music but I also am conversant with most music played today from Bach to Rock. I enjoy all types of music and try to listen to as much of it as I can live and in person so when someone comes to me for mastering I have a first hand knowledge of how it is "suppose" to sound.

    Best of luck and keep trying......
  4. mattssons

    mattssons Guest

    Mix bus compression

    Thanks for the great input, i have the greatest respect for M:es do not let my post make you feel otherwise.

    It's just that i think Master/Bus compression is a fight no one can win. Some of you sit in great rooms but it's still a fact that Master compression changes the balance of a mix VERY much if it's done to material with No Mix compression.

    I guess one should settle for using a little so you can't do to much harm;) Not to forget that you do miracles daily.

  5. Michael Fossenkemper

    Michael Fossenkemper Distinguished past mastering moderator Well-Known Member

    Sep 12, 2002
    NYC New York
    Home Page:
    I guess the question would be how you are getting this information on compression. If they are telling you this after they have heard your mixes, then maybe something isn't quite right. My rule of thumb on giving this kind of advise is if they ask, I tell them to leave it off. If they have to ask, that tells me that maybe they aren't comfortable with it and therefore should be left off.
    I have a ton of experience in Pop mixing and know how much time and energy is spent on compression alone.(I come from a mixing background) I know many of the top engineers here in NYC and i know that their compression is part of their mix and if they did without it, then it wouldn't be the same mix. But i feel that these kinds of experienced engineers are no longer the norm but the exception. The days of getting mixes from highly experienced and knowledgable mixes engineers are rare. Most of the problems I'm now faced with during the mastering stage is the use of overcompression by an inexperienced mix engineer. The ones that do know how to use compression, use it well and I don't need to tell them how to mix their records.

    Are there mixes I get where I don't have to do anything? sure, but I can probably count them on my 10 fingers. Sometimes it's to compensate for the effects of level alone.

    I have to say that i don't know many ME's that jump on the knobs before they listen. In fact i don't think i know one. Now there are clients that i've been working with for many years and I know how they work and I know their room, and I know what to expect. But that doesn't mean I'm not going to listen, but I'm not going to spend a lot of time deciding what I have to do.
  6. Massive Mastering

    Massive Mastering Well-Known Member

    Jul 18, 2004
    Chicago area, IL, USA
    Home Page:
    My take on bus compression is that a dB or two or GR is okay if the mix is asking for it.

    Once you start adding compression or limiting for the sake of volume, it's too much.

    But a little bit of "glue" compression - a little bit - can really bring it all together nicely during the mix.
  7. iznogood

    iznogood Member

    Feb 9, 2004
    My take on bus compression is that slammin' the ^#$% out of it is okay if the mix is asking for it.


    the thing is that most people who mix have less than great bus comp's.... only a very few comp's are up to the job..... and lots of customers use.... dare i say it.... plugins!!! (or finalizers)

    and lots of engineers have no clue about compression...

    that why i tell people to leave them off...

    but as a mixer i love the "togetherness" and sheer musicality that i get with a vari-mu across the bus..... and if that mix gets mastered by a newbie afraid to touch his brand new gml..... i get very dissapointed....

    if in doubt one could always print a mix with and without...
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