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Compression on master bus or during mastering?

FPFL

Member
Messages
2,497
Modern music is so often over-compressed. Choose compression less often. There are other ways to glue a mix together, the hard work of good EQing and thoughtful light touch reverb is still #1 for my money in our era of isolated everything.

I beg people to choose squish less often. In the 2000's the default seems to be "What? Did I hear actual human playing dynamics after the fade-in? That's not allowed!" : )
 

TD Moyer

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
761
Compression is good. Don't be afraid of it...especially in the digital world where all your moves can be undone. It can add a lot of vibe and character without squashing the bejesus out of a track.

I always put something on the mix bus and mix INTO it...very light. Usually a Fairchild/Vari-Mu if it's sparse/ballad, API/SSL for something more uptempo/rock.
That sometimes keeps me from bothering with compression on individual tracks or maybe allows me make a simple EQ move to help a track sit in the mix.

Tape plugins can add some saturation/compression that the real deal would've added back in the day as well. Really old school would be 'riding the faders' (or automating it in your DAW). Usually lots of little moves get me to the best result.
 

weshunter

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
6,193
I put light compression on the 2 bus and mix into it. I use plugin alliance townhouse bus comp although I might try the UAD Fairchild since so many people are recommending it and I already have it. I’m just tickling the meter, never more that 1 or 2 dB of GR. I also put a little comp on the master bus, usually shadow hills.
 

Yup

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
113
Thanks for all of the replies so far. Very informative.
Regarding tape: how much compression could be expected from pushing it?
5db? 2db? more?
Thanks in advance.
 

Rockinrob86

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
3,725
I did some mixes into compression/limiting (light for both, but there) and then removed it for sending to mastering because "that's what your supposed to do" and it was kind of amazing how much it messed with my balances and the whole mix. Then I basically had to remix, and when I sent it to mastering, a similar shift happened when they added compression! I wasn't super impressed with their overall results so I think this is partially due to that, but I think the lesson is to trust your mix. If it sounds good on a couple systems and you're happy, it's good. I wouldn't let it hit much more than a db or 2, to give them room, but I think a bit of compression is probably better than none. IME as of today, ha
 
Messages
6,934
I did some mixes into compression/limiting (light for both, but there) and then removed it for sending to mastering because "that's what your supposed to do" and it was kind of amazing how much it messed with my balances and the whole mix. Then I basically had to remix, and when I sent it to mastering, a similar shift happened when they added compression! I wasn't super impressed with their overall results so I think this is partially due to that, but I think the lesson is to trust your mix. If it sounds good on a couple systems and you're happy, it's good. I wouldn't let it hit much more than a db or 2, to give them room, but I think a bit of compression is probably better than none. IME as of today, ha
It is common practice to send things into mastering with light compression on the 2bus.

One shouldn’t use a limiter when sending it into mastering.

A lot of pros mix into compression and put a limiter last in the chain to print mixes for clients or to hear what a commercial release would sound like. They take the limiter off before mastering, but leave compression due to what you were saying.
 

Rockinrob86

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
3,725
It is common practice to send things into mastering with light compression on the 2bus.

One shouldn’t use a limiter when sending it into mastering.

A lot of pros mix into compression and put a limiter last in the chain to print mixes for clients or to hear what a commercial release would sound like. They take the limiter off before mastering, but leave compression due to what you were saying.
I wasn’t exactly clear. Definitely agree on removing the limiter, and I should have left the compressor.

I usually mix at reasonable levels into the compressor -12 to -18 or so, set it to compress that 2 to 4 db, and then turn it up into the limiter for test mixes until it is hitting 12 lufs or so(feels right for the tune)
 

louderock

Member
Messages
4,820
I always mix with a compressor on the main mix. Just 1-2 db but it's always there. I've worked with many other mixers over the past 25 years and every one of them uses a mix compressor. I send my mixes to the mastering engineer sounding the way I want them to sound but with some dynamic headroom so he can do the limiting. I'm basically looking for MY mix but louder. I rarely have any surprises when I get mixes back from mastering.
 

John Mark Painter

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
8,993
Yes to both.
i leave WAY more dynamic range than most (Nashville is ridiculous).
I am a record collector nerd and listen mostly to pre 1974 stuff.

If I leave it all up to mastering, it becomes a different mix and I would have made different decisions.
i also choose to work with mastering engineers that aren’t heavy handed.

Business people and artists are generally very insecure about not being as loud as everyone else.
So there is a balance you have to hit when working for others.
 

louderock

Member
Messages
4,820
Yes to both.
i leave WAY more dynamic range than most (Nashville is ridiculous).
I am a record collector nerd and listen mostly to pre 1974 stuff.

If I leave it all up to mastering, it becomes a different mix and I would have made different decisions.
i also choose to work with mastering engineers that aren’t heavy handed.

Business people and artists are generally very insecure about not being as loud as everyone else.
So there is a balance you have to hit when working for others.
I hate when an A&R guy uses the word "competitive"
 

Bob Womack

Member
Messages
2,439
On my first job out of college back in 1981 the chief engineer for my company once said to me, "If I ever walk into a control room and find you using buss compression I will personally strangle you." He wanted his engineers to use compressors and limiters on individual channels that needed it and never to allow a strong foreground (vocals) to pump the background (rhythm section). Well that's a philosophy. It was a darned good practice to teach you to build a mix from the ground up. You know, kick drum, snare drum, hat, toms, ride, overheads, bass guitar, keys and guitar, and then finally, adding in well-managed vocals.

Obviously, my experience with bus limiting sort of started after he moved on. It started with drum bus compression and then parallel compression. When we got an SSL 4000 series I started frittering with the Quad Bus Compressor. I heard of the "glue" concept but frankly, my mixes already seemed to glue together. I didn't like the effects an always-on compressor has during the actual mix process. What I did was create a mix and then as a last stage added in the Quad Bus Compressor, never using more that about 2-4db. I did discover that funny business of it adding glue, but I've always built mixes that can survive without it and used it as a "donum superadditum" or little bit of added grace.

By the way, one of the tricks for gluey mixing comes from Audio Post-Production for Broadcast Video. In that field you are very connected to the effect upon your mixes that broadcast processing has. If you have voice running with music underneath and you just leave the music running, when the voice stops, the broadcast level management systems will abruptly yank the music up loudly and then abruptly shove back down when the voice starts up again. We call it "pumping and sucking." It still happens today, even with CALM Act approved gear. You beat it by gently fading up the music in the pauses. You hide the start of the fade up under the last syllables of the outgoing voice, bring it up by about 3db, and then time the fade down so that it ends under the first few syllables of the incoming voice. By doing so, the broadcast level management systems are fooled into not pumping and sucking AND, by the small amount of level change you effect, the audience often can't even tell that the music has faded up and down. The program just feels full in the break. You can do the same with music mixes, choosing a rhythm instrument or fill to bring up in between vocal lines. Leave the basic drum kit and bass percolating along untouched but pull up a tom fill or a guitar or keyboard part to fill the dead area. It pulls the listener through the break and the song continues to feel full.

How one is brought up can have a profound impact on one's approach, no?

Bob
 

oneblackened

Member
Messages
1,154
Short answer: Yes.

Long answer: I mix into a compressor, generally, usually an API 2500 or an SSL G comp (depending on mood and track material). Mastering is a lot more context dependent and if a mix I get in requires some more compression I usually go for something a bit subtler than either of those, usually something like the UAD Manley Vari-Mu or similar.
 

paulscape

Member
Messages
3,527
Thanks for all the replies...it's really given me some inspiration to be more confident - either using compression more effectively or using it less or at all.

I have now setup a SSL master bus, as well as another channel strip and saturation plugin that are working well in gluing the mix but still allowing it to be dynamic. During mastering I am then playing more with final EQ and loudness rather than multiband compression. I have a few buses like drums, vocals, backing vocals etc but I'm only using compression on individual tracks and not the actual buses.

I've also been playing around with the mastering limiter and using more aggressive threshold settings which is getting good results with both compressed master bus mixes and without.

I do have a lot of compressors on now for various stages but they are all only doing a little heavy lifting each.
 

paulscape

Member
Messages
3,527
The way I look at it, back in the day everything was cut live in the same room, and even if there were close mics there was a lot of bleed and a lot of air.
Interestingly the project I'm working on at the moment is our band all recorded in a room so there is bleed from guitar amp and bass into drums. It's not excessive but it has made it more challenging. Even if I compress or EQ the kick drum it effects the way the bass, guitars and even vocals behave!

I'm going to do a few test mixes tonight with a variety of 3 different songs and using a variety of chains from no bus or master bus compression to using several in sequence and see what sounds better/fuller.
 

batsbrew

Member
Messages
5,349
so, i'm dwelling on all this....

i've been mixing into a 2-bus compressor for 20 years.
not going to stop now.


but i think, even IF you leave a ton of headroom for mastering,
and your intent is ONLY to get your mix louder....

once you put a limiter on, ANY limiter,
it does change the frequency spectrum of almost any instrument or voice that touches that limiting.

with that said,

why not mix into a light limiter?

you know, after the 2-bus, maybe not even on the master bus (which is what i use for all tracks to end up on) and that gets routed to the MAINS (rme babyface pro)...

the idea is, any decisions you make on highly dynamic tracks (hot vocals, snares, kicks) will already have the limiter doing 'some' of what is going to happen when you have it mastered...

but simply TAKE THE LIMITER OFF when you do your final bounce.


then, when the ME puts their 'better' limiters on,
you will still be in the ballpark of where it's going to end up after mastering?!

why would this not work at MINIMIZING the effects of mastering limiting on your mix?

no surprises?
 

jmoose

Member
Messages
4,664
Just curious what kind of headroom are y’all typically leaving in your finished mix? 6db? More?
I'm far less concerned with where the peak hits as opposed to RMS level... difference between peaks and valleys. That's where all the money is. Dynamic range.

It really doesn't matter if the peak is .5dB under zero as long as there's movement and dynamic range.

As someone who masters records I get all kinds of stuff. Things from people who know what they're doing and things where its more or less damage control.

Without fail couple times a year I'll get a project in where someone left 3 or 6dB of headroom to zero... yet completely crushed it anyway. Waveforms are flat topped tubes... crushed but with 6dB of empty space.

At that point the mastering engineers hands are tied and damage has already been done. Its like detailing a car that has a bunch of dings and whiskey dents. If you have a car like that you don't detail it, you leave it dirty.
 

JPH118

Member
Messages
2,818
Different strokes for different folks...

For some, bus compression is a dynamic, musical part of a mix... some will time the attack and release to the rhythm of the track (Andy Wallace did this to great affect). It can emphasize the dynamics of a song this way, especially when mixing into the compression (as opposed to slapping it on afterward).

For others, it's a touch of glue or polish. If there's a very specific sonic imprint you wish to leave, go for it! If you're just doing it for the sake of doing it, maybe hold off. This could just as easily be left for mastering, and often times should be.

Seems like you're talking about self-mastering, which takes the perspective of another experienced set of ears out of the equation... that's often worth more than the cost of a good compressor or limiter.
 

JPH118

Member
Messages
2,818
Short answer: Yes.

Long answer: I mix into a compressor, generally, usually an API 2500 or an SSL G comp (depending on mood and track material). Mastering is a lot more context dependent and if a mix I get in requires some more compression I usually go for something a bit subtler than either of those, usually something like the UAD Manley Vari-Mu or similar.
That’s a great point about context... I think of bus compression as something song-dependent, whereas mastering is more about the context from one song to another for continuity. Your bus compression can vary greatly from one song to the next, whereas mastering generally would be more consistent.
 




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