Threads from the Mastering Webboard

From: K.K. Proffitt Date: Monday, June 09,2003 05:08 PM

What I say is mix at a comfortable level and check at a very
quiet level and then at the standard level (and we should all be on the same
page with 83, 84 or 85 dBSPL for large room--but let's not go there and assume
85 for now, op. cit. RP200-2002). I have to tell you that about 50% of the
movies released are too loud at a cal'd level of 85 dBSPL for me to listen to,
but I check everything I send out at that level and have a feel for what is
expected. Bulla's research shows that engineers are mixing too damn loud. They
actually show serious threshold shift starting with Monday and getting worse
until Thursday! Repetitive threshold shift leads to high-end hearing damage, so
I think we should not suggest that mixers mix as loud as they want, but that
they keep an SPL meter at the desk and learn to LISTEN at reasonable levels.
Regards, KK Proffitt chief audio engineer, JamSync, Nashville
http://www.jamsync.com

Well, I'd certainly pick "Joshua Judges Ruth" by
Massenburg (artist: Lyle Lovett) over the Big Band one, but good idea anyway.
As an example CD to use to set your monitor gains. Lyle Lovett CD...

-----------------------------------------------

Conf: NEWS, YOU CAN USE From: Dennis Whitney
Date: Tuesday, June 10, 2003 10:08 AM

There is the root of the
whole problem. Is compressing the 2 bus a band aid for impatient mix engineers?
When I was first learning, the engineer that educated me said that compression
was to be used sparingly so that the dynamics were unaffected, use the faders
to mix and not the rack. I've spent over 13 years with that in my head. I don't
have a compressor patched or inserted on the 2 buss. I can understand when its
used for adding flavor to fit a genre much like reverb, but it seems there are
a lot of mixers who because of the lack of mentorship or education use the
tools for ways they weren't intended. I say intended because the older
recording I have and I'm sure your aware of it to, do not exhibit compression
levels near to todays records. If all the mixers are referencing squashed cd
nobody is going to learn anything. Another problem I see is deaf mixers. The
monitoring in most places hurt my ears. How many of you played in band without
ear protection, and how does that effect your tolerance or sensitivity to
levels. My dad in his earlier years as an E/E did a few years worth of work at
Boeing Sonic Test Facility, he damaged his ears by not following procedures.
When I was growing up, he always taught me to protect my ears and not listen to
things too loud. Every band I was ever in I used plug for my ears. How many of
you have had their ears tested and frequency sensitivity plotted? Overlay that
curve with the mixer's curve, throw in the curve differentials of the rooms and
you see lots of problems in perception. Mixer using cd like Audioslave as
references will lead to more crushed cd, more deaf ;) mixers, worse mixes..on
and on and on until something snaps. Maybe it will get so bad radios can't play
the music anymore. Either that or people start taking advice from professional
audio engineers who understand not only the history of the processes, but the
future of the music. Long term vision verses short term profit. Thanks for
listening. Peace, Dennis

-----------------------------------------------

From:Bob Katz
Date: Tuesday, June 10, 2003 12:30 PM On 6/10/03 10:08:00 AM,
Dennis Whitney wrote: There is the root of the whole problem. Is compressing the 2
bus a band aid for impatient mix engineers? When I was first learning, the
engineer that educated me said that compression was to be used sparingly so
that the dynamics were unaffected, use the faders to mix and not the rack

That's the way I always worked. I don't think anyone had to teach me that. I
just learned from my new Full Sail intern that they're TEACHING their students
to put a compressor on the 2-bus automatically. Very tragic. BK

-----------------------------------------------
From: Ronny Morris Date:Tuesday, June 10, 2003 01:09 PM

Hypercompression in mastering pop and modern rock is the norm nowadays, doesn't
make sense in teaching them the norm's when
there are better ways to do it. You can't diss the ME's for using too much
compression and not recognize that there is a big problem and growing from the
mix engineers that are doing the exact same thing. Teaching a mix engineering
student to automatically compress the 2 buss, is no different than ME's that
you have pointed, out that automatically hypercompress the material without the
client requesting it. Two norms that most music would be better off by
re-establishing acceptable procedures. I feel that abuse of compression in
mixing_or_mastering ruins music more than it helps it. What difference does it
make if it's the mix engineer or the mastering engineer that kills the
dynamics? The song is 6 feet under regardless. Ronny Morris

-----------------------------------------------

From: Ronny Morris Date:
Tuesday, June 10, 2003 04:46 PM

The interactions from a kick drum on the buss
compressor cannot be mimicked by channel compression. Please explain exactly
what you can do to a bass drum when the compression that you add to it, is in
the domain of the other instruments and effecting them as well, that you can't
completely do when the kick is isolated to it's own track? To the contrary, you
have more control of compression on a kick drum, when the compressor is
reacting_only_to it and not to higher level frequencies and peak transients
introduced from the rest of the instruments in the two buss mix, where longer
release times are beneficial for low end and shorter release times are
beneficial for quick transients and continous levels. Besides, you're
automatically assuming everyone (or most) suck. I assume the opposite. I'm not
assuming that most people suck, this isn't a problem with every mix that I
receive, however it continues to grow on the mixing level. It's taken long
enough for folks that frequent this board to realize the problem of
compression/limiting abuse and to voice together and try to bring back the life
to the music, through education, but it's just hitting the mix engineers on the
project studio level and will get worse. Plain and simple Brad, they are
learning how to squash the material too. If the client doesn't want dynamic
range, you still have more control adding it in mastering, rather in mixing and
when it's in the digital domain, the less processing the better, most of the
time.

-----------------------------------------------

From: Brad Blackwood
Date: Tuesday, June 10, 2003 05:10 PM

Please explain exactly what you can do
to a bass drum when the compression that you add to it, is in the domain of
the other instruments and effecting them as well, that you can't completely
do when the kick is isolated to it's own track? Ummm, may be the fact that
the bass and drums will drive the compressor, dragging on the gtrs, overheads,
vox, everything? That CANNOT be accomplished with I/O compression, regardless
of what you think. Believe it or not, there are actually really good, smart
engineers that rely on buss compression as they like the sound. The really
don't need us enlightened engineers telling them what they should and shouldn't
do. This superior attitude among MEs pisses more people off than you can
imagine. Like we're the only ones that know how to implement buss compression.
It's ART Ronny, not some technical paint-by-numbers... Plain and simple Brad,
they are learning how to squash the material too. Squashing is fine, limiting
isn't. Some people like Korn and like the way it sounds. Same with Queens of
the Stone Age, crushed via compression, not by limiting. Sounds kewl. If the
client doesn't want dynamic range, you still have more control adding it in
mastering, rather in mixing and when it's in the digital domain, the less
processing the better, most of the time. Why do you have more control than a
guy with tons of experience and the client right there? It's not brain surgery,
they want their record to sound kewl. You have better gear than TLA or JJP?
They are two different things - that's why they are called different things.
Either way you look at it or what terms we tag on to it, abuse of high
ratio compression is the problem. Agreed. But buss compression is often 2:1
or 4:1 ratios. Nothing wrong with that... Limiting for level = bad. Compression
for sound = good. I'm out...
Brad Blackwood www.euphonicmasters.com

-----------------------------------------------

From: Greg Reierson Date:
Tuesday, June 10, 2003 05:41 PM

Please explain exactly what you can do to a
bass drum when the compression that you add to it, is in the domain of the
other instruments and effecting them as well, that you can't completely do
when the kick is isolated to it's own track? You mean like making the kick
drum pump the vocals. Can't do that in individual tracks. To the contrary, you
have more control of compression on a kick drum, when the compressor is
reacting_only_to it and not to higher level frequencies and peak transients
You have a higher level of individual control of the kick drum, but can not
control the interaction of other mix elements. I'd say you have a 'different'
level of control. One of the basic reasons people use a bus compressor is to
control the MIX as a whole. Same tool, different application. This is the root
of most of our different views. You view limiting and compression as two
different things and I view them as the same process with different settings.
Well, they're both dynamic processes, but they are used so differently that
audio engineers have come up with separate names. It's just more helpful to use
the proper terms, even if the processes themselves seem like two side of a
coin. GR

-----------------------------------------------

From: Ronny Morris
Date: Tuesday, June 10, 2003 07:18 PM

Please explain exactly what you can do
to a bass drum when the compression that you add to it, is in the domain
of the other instruments and effecting them as well, that you can't
completely do when the kick is isolated to it's own track? You mean like
making the kick drum pump the vocals. Can't do that in individual tracks.
You can apply a compressor on the vocal track and have it pump all you want.
When the two buss comped kick is pumping the vocals, it's also pumping the
other instruments. That's fine if that's what you want, but more often pumping
is an undesired effect and introduced by inexperience at the comp settings, at
least on the level of "some" of the mixes that I receive. This doesn't seem to
be a problem on the high profile level, because most of the engineers realize
the brutality of hyper-what-ever-you-want-to-call-it. My arguement is not
against using judicious compression, as Brad puts it in the 2:1 - 4:1 ratios.
He knows this because I've told him this several times. It's the over use of
L1+'s and maximizers on the two buss that lowers the dynamic range, to the
point that further processing is greatly compromised in the mastering stage. An
L1 by any other name is a compressor. So we can nit-pick semantics all day long
and it's not going to change or help the problem. I've heard at least 10
members on this forum in the past month complain about material coming in with
little dynamic range for them to process. Mark my words Greg, it's going to get
worse before it gets better. I'm not trying to dictate how every engineer
should mix, but when I receive material to be mastered that has the life
pancaked out of it and advise the producer to get me a copy with more dynamic
range, the final result is "always" better. Talking my situation and my
clients. What I fail to understand is how we can have a mastering mafia list of
names, dissing ME's for automatically pancaking material, not at the clients
request and not include mix engineers that are doing the exact same thing. The
difference is that "some" mix engineers are doing it and than sending the
material on for further processing. The ME's are doing it at the last stage,
which when used judicioulsy is also fine, but over compression, ok over
limiting, is often detrimental and can not be reversed in this day and time
with any effectiveness, when further processing, such as a mastering eq is
destined. I've had several cases, that In My Humble Opinion, the client got
screwed because the mix engineer left no dynamic range to speak of. If that's
what they want fine, than why seek a mastering suite. I find it hard that
anyone on this forum can disagree about the over use of any processor, when it
takes away from clarity, instrument definition and having normally a dynamic
band sounding like crap. The folks that want you to put a creed level on it,
well they ask for it and I'm like you or anyone else, I'm not going to lose
work over it. To the contrary, you have more control of compression on a
kick drum, when the compressor is reacting_only_to it and not to higher
level frequencies and peak transients You have a higher level of individual
control of the kick drum, but can not control the interaction of other mix
elements. I'd say you have a 'different' level of control. One of the basic
reasons people use a bus compressor is to control the MIX as a whole. Same
tool, different application. Agreed and the more the mix engineer applies
processes that are better left for mastering, the more your job is
"comp"romised.

-----------------------------------------------

From: Dave Davis
Date: Tuesday, June 10, 2003 07:43 PM

in article This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.,
Robin Schmidt at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. wrote on 6/10/03 7:25 PM: To make
sure I understand you correctly: Do you mean bus compression over the whole
mix sum or group busses? Yes. The fact is there are a number of engineers out
there who rely on 2 bus compression for their sound. This is quite deliberate.
In more than one case I know of the intention is to dictate the terms of the
mix to the ME. How loud it will go, how much it will pump etc will all
inevitably be defined by the shape and characteristics of that first layer of
compression. The idea is to reduce things to touch up EQ and overall level
setting in the mastering process. In the specific cases I'm thinking of, he
considers the sound, as delivered, to be the sound. No second guessing allowed.
Period. To be frank, that s not as bad as it sounds, especially when it sounds
good. It makes for a very short day. Sure, there are other cases where things
get out of town, but its important to see that a lot of this is a direct
response to "artistic" mastering, not to mention super aggressive approaches.
You simply can't smash some mixes without destroying them utterly. And that's
the plan.

-----------------------------------------------

From: Bob Katz Date:
Tuesday, June 10, 2003 01:47 PM Dave Davis wrote... In more than one case I
know of the intention is to dictate the terms of the mix to the ME. How loud
it will go, how much it will pump etc will all inevitably be defined by the
shape and characteristics of that first layer of compression. The idea is to
reduce things to touch up EQ and overall Sounds like a vicious circle of
distrust (and loudness) in action. Let's break that circle and get back to good
mixes AND good masters. Producers and engineers and artists go to mastering
engineers to get that neutral perspective the recording usually needs. Start by
sending a first mix to your mastering engineer for his opinion and perspective
on how it's going. A meeting of heads will reveal whether the mix that's coming
out is intentional or perhaps accidental because of innacurate monitoring or
too many late night mix sessions :-). The mastering engineer will respect your
intent, but will also provide that needed perspective. On 6/10/03 1:09:24 PM,
Ronny Morris wrote: Hypercompression in mastering pop and modern rock is
the norm nowadays, doesn't make sense in teaching them the norm's when there
are better ways to do it. I don't have any objection to them showing the 2-
bus compressor in the course and how to use it, but as Roger Nichols says, "you
should get a license before you use it." Seriously, a day-long lecture-
demonstration, including demonstrating the down side of every devide, will help
the students learn to listen. I object to telling them that they should plug it
in "automatically", and moving on to the "next topic". Recipes... yech.
BK

--------------------------------------------------

From: Bob Katz Date:
Tuesday, June 10, 2003 10:37 PM
How much is too much and how do you know? Has
anyone had the experience of putting on a bonus live cut of the band live made
with simplistic miking, and the live cut blows away all 10 of the
professionally mixed tracks before it? Overuse of bus compression is ONE of the
reasons why this happens more often than you know it.

--------------------------------------------------

From: Glenn Meadows Is
compressing the 2 bus a band aid for impatient mix engineers? What? You mean
that using the internal compressor on every track to "auto mix" the song isn't
the way it's supposed to be done? A MAJOR engineer who I will NOT mention by
name, does that ALL the time. He adjusts the mix and balance by adjusting the
compressor thresholds, attack, release, virtually NEVER moves the faders, only
uses the automation for mutes. By the time he's done, the faders are all in a
virtual straight line (yardstick mix it used to be called), and the
compressors/limiters on the I/O strips do all the work, along with the eq
tweaks. Then there's the stereo bus compression to flatten it out some more, as
well as slam the analog tape as the last trick, then take that playback and
record it clipping on the digital recorder. Sounds great!!! And all his records
sound the same!!!! glenn

--------------------------------------------------

From: Dave Collins
Date: Wednesday, June 11, 2003 05:06 AM

"If you lift a drum fill at a certain point, you're listening back to the drum fill thinking how
happy you are with it, and then you think 'Oh, but actually the bass disappears
slightly at that point, I think I'll just poke that up,' so you poke the bass
up a bit, and then the third time around you notice that the piano's got
slightly lost at the same point, so you poke the piano up, and you just go
round in circles. So actually what happens is that the mix that had nice highs
and lows, and had some sort of dynamics, is getting slowly flattened out again.
What happens is that the whole mix has just got louder, so you pull the whole
master level down and stick a fat compressor over it, and you've just got a
flat mix, so eight hours later it doesn't sound like you did any work at all.
The amount of people who will tell you that their rough mix was better than the
master mix Ñ it happens all the time. Now why is the rough mix good? It's
probably good because you did it in one hit, you probably said 'Look, just roll
the tape, I'll run off a quick one.' And there'll be things wrong with it, but
if you could just stop there and say 'Look, the only things that are really
wrong are these half-dozen points. There's a bit where the voice gets lost
here, the beginning of that solo which I missed...' And if you could go back
and say 'Let's just take that and tart up those few bits that are wrong using
the computer, so as not to lose the essence of the rough mix,' that should be
your mix. But you never do, because you always think 'This is my chance to make
it even more fabulous!' Gus Dudgeon

--------------------------------------------------

From: Anthony Kitson Date:
Wednesday, June 11, 2003 02:16 AM

I use compressors for SOUND not VOLUME in the
mix. If I want VOLUME I mix it that way! Click here for more discussions on
dynamics in mixing


--------------------------------------------------

John Scrip from Massive Mastering wrote:

Quote:
Originally Posted by MASSIVE Master View Post
And not surprisingly (well, I guess it's a surprise to some) the stuff that usually leaves here the loudest came in the quietest. More accurately, the stuff that can handle the narrowest crest came in with the widest.

Some of you are asking why I'm quoting myself... Let's call it a small flurry of interrogative statements that required clarification...

As Bob already explained, the crest is simply the "space between" the average and the peak. More dynamics = larger (wider) crest, less dynamics = smaller (narrower) crest. A mix that has an average level of -20dB(FS)RMS that peaks up around -0dBFS has a crest of 20dB.

What I meant by the above statement was that there are a lot of (usually "less seasoned" for lack of a better term) engineers out there who shoot themselves in the foot by tracking and/or mixing "for volume" -- Destroying the dynamics, using up all the available headroom at the first stage - along with pretty much every subsequent stage.

That's not the way to make recordings that can actually handle "loud" later.

Track with plenty of headroom. Mix with plenty of headroom. Don't throw limiters all over the place just to get the mix "loud" -- Do whatever it takes to make the mix sound *good* and don't be concerned so much with volume.

I'm not saying not to use limiters -- But as a "rule of thumb," if you find a mix actually sounds better - And I mean *BETTER* -- Not "better because it's louder" -- If it actually sounds better being rammed into a limiter, take the limiter off and find out why. Maybe one thing in that mix is truly "too dynamic" for the rest of the mix. Put the limiter on THAT and see how it sounds. Use a compressor when something has a dynamic range that's too wide for the mix -- Not because someone told you that everybody compresses everything so it can be louder.

"Punch" and "impact" comes from the difference between loud and quiet - Not the absence of quiet. And although I'm not a fan of the current "level insanity" going on, it's better to have decent sounding recordings that have the potential to be loud than loud sounding recordings that should be shut off. Almost invariably, it's those dynamic, wide-crest mixes that have that potential.

Mixing "hot" doesn't do anything to make your finished product louder. Tracking hot doesn't either (I don't even want to get into the nastiness that can happen from tracking too hot). Headroom is good room. Keep it, love it, cherish it - Your mastering guy (even if that's yourself, which I also won't get into) is almost undoubtedly going to use it all up... Give him some room to move.

Click here for tips on Dynamics in Mixing