Sound Design, Mixing, & Studio TechniquesThis is for all those people thinking, "How do I get X sound?" This room includes FAQ and techniques from a great group of sound intellectuals well-versed in the software and hardware they use.
From things I read/heard, I have always left my mix buss pure as the driven snow and completely free from plugins. I have recently been experimenting with having a few plugins on there working very subtly to glue and enhance the mix, and I just wanted to know what you experienced and talented people thought about the subject?
FYI, I currently have a levelling/saturation plug, a couple of compressors working very gently (2:1 ratio, slow attack, quick release), an EQ to add colour, and a more surgical EQ to remove problem frequencies.
i never use fx on master, its too complicated, it affects too much, why not keep the master clean maybe a limiter or very subtle compression but that's it. if you want to change stuff, change it in their busses -> low -> bass etc.
For a looong time I religiously avoided applying any processing on my master bus (unless i'd be rendering a master mixdown) .
Now on any tune i'd put these in the following order
- stereo processing plugin - for a bit of widening and most importantly mono-ing the low end
- compressor to mix with through
- limiter - if i want to refference good sounding tracks in the particular genre. I will pull down the threshold a couple of dB, to get some gain reduction, and thus make my track louder in an easy way.
A compressor on the mixbus helps to gel things together, opens up the mix. Nothing too extereme, though.
Yeah I compress, EQ, and saturate the master usually pretty early on just because I know it'll make it sound better. Honestly though this is just for fun. When I get to serious mixing I deactivate them and then when I turn them back on it usually sounds even better after a few tweaks. Gotta be careful mixing into a compressor though and frequently cross reference with it off.
Edit: The other thing though is if I'm going to low cut every channel below 70hz I might as well just do it in one swoop on the master and save the time.
EQ after the mix is completely done is quite alright, and you have to limit anytime you boost.
So yeah, it's really not a problem. But I track (record) with those plugins off to avoid the latency.
With enough practice, anything is possible. But yeah, there's more control to use plugins on individual tracks and in groups.
I mix into pretty much the same mastering chain I use when i actually go to master any given track, albeit slightly tailored to the track I'm working on. With the processing power my current PC has, I can just hear it in a near-finished form before I actually master something. No reason not too imo. I mean, unless you don't plan on mastering it. I don't slap thirty limiter plugins onto a mix and slam the compression into the wall, mind you. And I always use a separate mastering session for every mix when it's completed.
Right or wrong, I personally like to apply gentle RMS before the limiter. I feel that it glues my buses, routings, chains and returns together nicely, although I may be doing more harm than good without realizing it.
As for traditional mastering, I'm under the impression that this is a gigantic undertaking for the artist, so I don't even bother. I'd rather save up the cash and send it to a real ME at that point in time. Even an amateur ME would have the subjectivity and gear that I lack, but that's a separate topic altogether.
I've some people in favour of it and some aggressively against it.
I used to never do it but I've started getting into lately and it does improve my tracks a lot. However, it is a double-edged sword, if you're doing it blindly or if you overdo it, it can ruin the mix. If done tastefully, it can really enhance your tracks. You really have to know what you want to achieve with it, I think.
I prefer adding plugins to the mix buss at the very end of the mixing process. Once everything else sounds right, processing the mix buss allow me to give it a bit more polish. I add a little bit compression to glue all the sounds together, EQ to shape the track a little bit (cut first, then boost) and a bit of saturation to give it a bit of fatness.
Thanks all for your answers, it's good to get different perspectives on the topic. I'm definitely trying to keep it subtle and I have a template set up with all of the mix buss plugs off, but I think I'll persevere with bringing them in early and trying to mix into them (in a very cheap and ITB way of imitating mixing into a desk).
Slapping something on the mix buss to manage the width of the sounds might be a good addition too. I do this when I've rendered down and started a separate mastering session normally, but if it's already halfway there I could do more fine tuning or be more creative with width on the master.
- i stack a mono utility as the very last thing on the chain
I find it not very compelling to compose and produce in mono, so it stays bypassed during that stage
but I turn it on during mixing stage. Mixing in mono helps reveal masking issues for different elements in the mix that aren't recognizable to that degree if i'm listening in stereo (false separation) , i guess for tighter frequency ranges where things overlap in a sonically negative way (because overlaping is not always a bad thing, some of the overtones are actually the desired material)
I don't start with stuff on the master, except for gain ( I mix anywhere from -20 to -35 db peak pre-gain, so I need to bring it up to make it easily audible, I turn that back off/down before I render and master) and an eq with a spectrum just so I can get some visual feedback or isolate a band if I need to hear something, but that also gets turned off before rendering. Beyond that, no two songs are the same, but I remind myself that unless I'm sending it off for mastering, I'll have control of the master and a lot more spare CPU to play with at that stage, worst case being I have to adjust some levels and re-render because the mastering brings out certain elements etc.
i do some shit.. a little saturation, a little compression. both parallel. Both in parallel. Then maybe a little parallel multiband compression and then a little limiter. Make sure you check occasionally to make sure your levels going into the chain haven't changed too much.
Then I'll usually take it off at the end. I use it mostly just to make it sounds a little more impressive while I'm working just to keep me interested.
I don't have a problem with doing it because after producing an entire track, I have to take a break (usually sleep on it) and come back remix the damn thing for it to be worth a damn because my ears are shot by the end of a long session. So really, I allow myself to do all kinds of stupid stuff during the production phase.
Well i like using the EQUO visualizer built in FL Studio, or get any frequency spectrum analyzer to avoid frequency redundancy or multiple instruments fighting for a certain spot in the spectrum, also i try to keep everything below -15dB. I use the Fruity Equalizer 2 to cut frequencies below 25-30 Hz and above 18.5KHz-19KHz (Right in this point i really don't know if i'm going against some sacred rule) but i just find things below or above these points quite unnecessary for the final mix. I like using the Izotope Ozone 5 plug in to bring it all up at the end with the "Maximizer" feature, as well as the stereorizer, and harmonic exciters if necessary. I also add the Fruity Limiter with its default set-up just for me to visualize pretty much everything after all of these plug ins are activated back on.
My set up has changed with every song i finish up, but i find this one being the most versatile so far.
Two bus compressor ( SSL bus or Neve 33609)..whatever tape emulation Ia m liking at the time..and some over all tonal eq that may stay or go depending on things..for two track processing that changes all the time..
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