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jnWake

Compressing/Limiting when Mastering

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There's always backlash, though. I mean if trends didn't calm and normalize then we'd be mixing music to 0db rms by now. You can argue that any music will damage your hearing, and anything other than a live performance in front of you is degraded because of the electronics involved. All I care about is hearing things in a manner that pleases me personally, fully aware that what I think is pleasing is a result of established trends, but who cares. Compressors were initially created to deal with high noise floors when recording, that doesn't mean they should be discontinued for mixing purposes.

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Compression has been used as 'glue' on the master bus for awhile, predating the loudness wars by many many years. To me, it really does just that... it glues the sound together in a very pleasing way, particularly for dance music. It's not a matter of using it to balance out levels, but for example, a nicely-compressed mix will have the kick pumping pleasingly in and out, while bits of air from the snare are brought up higher than usual, and the occasional shimmer from an arpeggio shines through. You can in theory achieve all of these things by carefully automating and sidechaining dozens or hundreds of individual tracks but ultimately, it's a lot easier (and frequently more musical) to compress everything together.

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I realize I'm not going to convince anyone just by arguing over the internet. The best thing is to just listen and compare for yourself. Now, I had a skeptical stance towards mastering from the start, but it's easy to get dragged along with it since it's simply doctrine and that's what happened to me. But I'm a lot more confident in myself now. There's a studio in Stockholm that takes this stuff very seriously, and audibly demonstrated to me just how much better today's music can sound (electronic dance music in particular) and just how destructive the mastering school of thought really is to sound quality. I can't think of anyone who has been to that place who hasn't had the same realization.

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I realize I'm not going to convince anyone just by arguing over the internet. The best thing is to just listen and compare for yourself. Now, I had a skeptical stance towards mastering from the start, but it's easy to get dragged along with it since it's simply doctrine and that's what happened to me. But I'm a lot more confident in myself now. There's a studio in Stockholm that takes this stuff very seriously, and audibly demonstrated to me just how much better today's music can sound (electronic dance music in particular) and just how destructive the mastering school of thought really is to sound quality. I can't think of anyone who has been to that place who hasn't had the same realization.

There's nothing to be confident in. You're only challenging yourself by assuming that there's a right and wrong way, and that you have to convince people. Uncompressed music sounds great, as does compressed music, but to say that sound quality goes down when compressing a master bus is untrue. What you might mean is that fidelity goes down, which it does, but that doesn't decrease the quality of the music. Quality is relative, and there are many styles of music these days that depend on degradation of fidelity to get a desired effect. And also "today's music" is being compressed on the master channel because we're trying to emulate the natural compression that made "yesterday's music" sound the way it did. Music has ALWAYS been compressed, the only difference these days is that people have the ability to push that compression to all kinds of creative new levels.

Do things the way you want to do them, that's the beauty of music.

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I was specifically talking about sound quality. Musical qualities are separate (although intertwined in some cases) and of course I enjoy a lot of modern stuff purely on its musical merits. But it frustrates me a lot that I can't get more out of it. If the uber-compression of today is some misguided attempt to emulate pre-CD music they're way off the mark since it's physically impossible to engrave those types of brickwalled signals on vinyl. That's the often mentioned irony that the increased dynamic resolution of digital formats paved the way for much less than what vinyl was limited to. This is also probably the biggest reasons why vinyl listeners today claim that vinyl sounds better than digital. It's not something inherent to the format itself, it's simply that people actually have to restrain themselves on the master processing when putting the music on vinyl.

On that note, this has also resulted in a big issue for historical archiving when it comes to music. If you want to find a copy of something from the 50's or 60's or whatever, it's almost impossible to find something that hasn't been tampered with thanks to routine mastering practices. This notion that you can always improve the recording by adding some compression/limiting and EQing, along with lack of provided information that it has been processed (and in turn, one of those processed re-releases may very well end up being remastered again for the next re-release), is making it very difficult for people to hear the old recordings as they actually sounded originally, which gives a warped perspective of the past.

Edited by lazygecko

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I do share a bit of your frustration at the notion of forced "improvements", but there are so many people doing so many interesting things with mixing/mastering that I just like hearing all the countless perspectives.

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I do share a bit of your frustration at the notion of forced "improvements", but there are so many people doing so many interesting things with mixing/mastering that I just like hearing all the countless perspectives.

My idea of mastering: Anything that's in my master chain+boosting to 0.0

This thread helped me to realize some more that I need to be doing but finding any information on mastering is incredibly difficult. It's like those engineers are trying to protect their jobs or something...

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I set up my stereo bus chain before I start the mix, usually with a ratio of no more than 4:1 (usually 2:1) with a brickwall limiter on.

A limiter right from the beggining? Doesn't it make mixing a bit confusing? :razz:

What tools do you use to measure RMS? Reaper has some stats plug-ins but they're a bit weird.

Thanks for all the answers by the way, this is very interesting!

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A limiter right from the beggining? Doesn't it make mixing a bit confusing? :razz:

What tools do you use to measure RMS? Reaper has some stats plug-ins but they're a bit weird.

Thanks for all the answers by the way, this is very interesting!

The reason I sometimes put a compressor on from the beginning is because it sets up a more musical way to hit 0dB. It's like a pre-warmed sound that lets me mix the tracks with just volume before I start using compression on each track. When I do it this way I end up using a lot less compression on the individual tracks. The flip side is mixing the tracks without anything on the stereo bus, and this always sounds better to me at the end, because the mix is cleaner and more punchy with more dynamics, but the issue there is that I need to apply compression to the stereo bus afterwards, and it's more difficult then because it can tip the balance of the mix forcing me to go back and tweak it.

So yeah it basically comes down to mixing through the compressor so you don't have to adjust it later VS mixing through nothing and having to tweak things after you apply the compressor at the end.

As for RMS metering and all that, I use Cubase since the mixing console has a very good master meter that gives me RMS, Peak, AES17, and EBU R128. It also lets me monitor the true peak, momentary max, short term max and integrated max levels in LU and LUFS, as well as being able to switch between the different standards across the world. Basically it's got it all B).

Ideally I'd love to be able to mix without regard for RMS or EBU standards. I would mix everything to -20dB and put faith in people to use their volume knobs, because really that's how I prefer to hear music. But we all have to stay competitive, especially those of us doing this professionally, (and even more when we're doing music competitions like DoD :) ). The only real way to get noticed in certain situations is to just be louder than the previous guy...

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Ideally I'd love to be able to mix without regard for RMS or EBU standards. I would mix everything to -20dB and put faith in people to use their volume knobs, because really that's how I prefer to hear music. But we all have to stay competitive, especially those of us doing this professionally, (and even more when we're doing music competitions like DoD :) ). The only real way to get noticed in certain situations is to just be louder than the previous guy...

I'd to love to do that too! But there isn't much we can't do :razz:

Thanks for explaining the buss compressor stuff. I'll try it soon!

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Hooray for being a noob and not knowing most of what any of you are talking about!

XD, I am on the same boat as you. Even more so because I'm a new noobie. Although, I'm driven to get this down as best as I can. Tutorials do help, but it's feedback from others that helps me progress. (Zircon and Rozovians tutorial pages helped a lot). As well as the feedback in the Workshop.

Most of my pieces (if not all) are orchestral, so is there anything specific that I would need to be aware of in regards to Compression, EQ, and any other technical issues?

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I just want to pop in and remind anybody who is looking for advice in this thread that there are many ways to skin a cat, and no one method is right or wrong. For instance, when Avaris says...

He does so with more authority than is really appropriate. Listen to everyone's ideas and try them out, but don't believe anyone who says their way is the right way.

Thanks for posting this Vig. I share the same sentiment. I have no intention of coming off that way whatsoever. I am hoping people in general are intelligent enough to critical of anything they read.

Mixing and mastering can be a massively relative process, especially depending on genre. I'll mix and master differently depending on the genre I am working in.

The best mixing/mastering advice to try and everything out, and find out what works for you.

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Most of my pieces (if not all) are orchestral, so is there anything specific that I would need to be aware of in regards to Compression, EQ, and any other technical issues?

That depends on a whole mess of factors, but generally speaking (and assuming you're using orchestral samples and not recording actual orchestras) your best bet is to learn to spot "mistakes" made in the sampling process of your sample libraries. By that I mean that when people sample instruments and sections and whatever else, they are likely going for a very generic sound that can be tailored to fit in more than one musical context. EQ and compression come into that by letting you contour the sounds to get the most brightness or warmth or whatever quality you want out of them.

An example would be if say the viola section was recorded with 12 mics, and two of those mics were positioned in a way that they caught a lot of a certain frequency bouncing back off the floor or the walls of the hall and it gives you a very honky grating quality that you just can't put your finger on. With EQ you can find that frequency by creating a narrow band (the Q value in most EQ plugins) and sweeping it across the spectrum (the Hz value) until you hear that brash sound very clearly, that means you've located the frequency that's out of balance, so you reduce the gain at that frequency and the sound should get a little cleaner and much more pleasing to the ear. With practice you'll eventually be able to hear frequencies by ear.

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That depends on a whole mess of factors, but generally speaking (and assuming you're using orchestral samples and not recording actual orchestras) your best bet is to learn to spot "mistakes" made in the sampling process of your sample libraries. By that I mean that when people sample instruments and sections and whatever else, they are likely going for a very generic sound that can be tailored to fit in more than one musical context. EQ and compression come into that by letting you contour the sounds to get the most brightness or warmth or whatever quality you want out of them.

An example would be if say the viola section was recorded with 12 mics, and two of those mics were positioned in a way that they caught a lot of a certain frequency bouncing back off the floor or the walls of the hall and it gives you a very honky grating quality that you just can't put your finger on. With EQ you can find that frequency by creating a narrow band (the Q value in most EQ plugins) and sweeping it across the spectrum (the Hz value) until you hear that brash sound very clearly, that means you've located the frequency that's out of balance, so you reduce the gain at that frequency and the sound should get a little cleaner and much more pleasing to the ear. With practice you'll eventually be able to hear frequencies by ear.

Thank you so much for all of your help SnappleMan. This information is extremely useful and informative. I'll be working in my Reaper tonight, so I'll experiment with EQ using what you suggested.

I'm beginning to pick up certain things regarding frequency thanks to all of the advice that I've gotten, but I still have a long way to go. So I'll keep on practicing :).

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Think of it as compressing a single sample. Once the mix gets to the stereo bus it's basically a sample playing through it. Break it down to something like a snare drum, if you compress the snare drum itself, you get some characteristics out of it, where as compressing the entire song gets different characteristics out of the snare drum because of the context that it's in.

Compressing the entire mix at that stage also brings up things between the transients and kind of cooks the song together a little bit. If you compress too much then you get artifacts and squashed dynamics, and that's where the balance comes into it.

This post tied together so many concepts for me. In fact, this whole damn thread has been huge for me. Thank you, all you lovely production MASTERs (lololol) <3.

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A limiter right from the beggining? Doesn't it make mixing a bit confusing? :razz:

It shouldn't. A compressor right from the beginning, sure, it'll be confusing. A limiter isn't quite the same as a compressor as it only acts as soon as a track hits the limiter threshold. A limiter CAN act like a compressor, but not by default.

Edited by timaeus222

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Interesting thing happened to me this week! I ran my music through a bunch of analyzers, and noticed a trend in my own loudness levels. I realized that I not only was mixing louder and louder, but I was up to -5dB RMS on a regular basis, which really is pointless! I broke out the classic Iron Maiden CDs (originals, not remastered) and started listening, and it blew my mind.

For the past few years I've been working "professionally" on music on and off, and the mixes I have been sending out have had to come back for added "loudness" so I just mixed louder without thinking about the quality of the music. But I spent this past week listening to CDs from the 80s, and I cant get over how much better the music sounds.

So right here, I'm vowing to stop squashing the fuck out of my music. It sounds ugly and adds NOTHING good. So yeah, I've had a revelation. :)

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i'm right there with you, man. had something similar happen with a track i was doing with willrock and yeah, i'm not gonna bother trying to make my tracks super loud anymore. theres just no reason and they dont sound as good

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Good man. If you take a super loud track and turn down the volume to bring it into line with older tracks, you can hear how the transients have been completely crushed. I need to bring my levels down as well, though I'm not anywhere near yours.

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Interesting thing happened to me this week! I ran my music through a bunch of analyzers, and noticed a trend in my own loudness levels. I realized that I not only was mixing louder and louder, but I was up to -5dB RMS on a regular basis, which really is pointless! I broke out the classic Iron Maiden CDs (originals, not remastered) and started listening, and it blew my mind.

For the past few years I've been working "professionally" on music on and off, and the mixes I have been sending out have had to come back for added "loudness" so I just mixed louder without thinking about the quality of the music. But I spent this past week listening to CDs from the 80s, and I cant get over how much better the music sounds.

So right here, I'm vowing to stop squashing the fuck out of my music. It sounds ugly and adds NOTHING good. So yeah, I've had a revelation. :smile:

Yeah, I keep telling myself, "compare the loudness with my previous tracks, and don't get any louder than THIS one!"

So now I always check to make sure I mix at a consistent loudness. :)

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I have one album that's not the loudest ever but still decent...

Nightmare by Avenged Sevenfold.

Mixing wise I typically follow older albums, but Nightmare is my mastering measure.

Then I go and listen to something stupid like a American Capitalist by Five Finger Death Punch and I gag myself because of how overlayered and squashed it is.

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