When mastering,begin with your limiter?

Discussion in 'Mixing and Mastering' started by Blue, Mar 4, 2019.

  1. Blue

    Blue Audiosexual

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    Hi everybody,
    I was reading an interesting article on an uncommon mastering method,at least for me.Here is the full article if you wish,you should find interesting tips if you are not a professional mastering engineer :
    https://www.izotope.com/en/blog/mas...ring-if-you-are-not-a-mastering-engineer.html

    This man explains how you could achieve your mastering beginning tweaking the limiter first,which is usually your last plugin on your master bus.

    Working in reverse means you try to achieve the desired level first, then apply dynamics-shaping as needed, and move on to EQ after that.

    Why work this way? After all, many tutorials promote the opposite, advocating EQ moves first, followed by compression, and then bringing everything up with the limiter.

    I used to work that way. I also used to deliver masters that sounded far more squashed than the ones I deliver now. Also, the choices I made regarding frequency-shaping and dynamic movement didn’t hold up when the overall level was boosted at the end—I found the moves I made at quieter levels sounded off, or the limiter’s innate aesthetic drastically impacted the timbre, undoing all my precious work.

    When I reversed the order of operations, everything changed. The process became quicker, and the results tended to sound more natural, so much so that people began to hire me for the occasional mastering job.

    Yes, you do lose that dramatic moment of making the tune louder at the very end of the process, but c’mon, that was always a cheap thrill anyway. You also get a sense of a song’s innate loudness potential earlier in the process—and believe me, every tune has one. This impacts your choices down the line, giving you more room to operate and more of a structure to work within.

    But if you’re limiting straight away, won’t you hit the limiter too hard? Won’t you introduce distortion into the signal immediately? Sure, you may notice some distortion at this phase. But now you can use the other tools at your disposal—the compressor and the equalizer—to avoid these distorted artifacts. This, in conjunction with corrective tonal choices, becomes the crux of your work.

    Onto compression, which you’ll use in one of two ways: to control the dynamics of the material, or to add color. For tips on how to achieve the former, see this article—particularly the section on how to fine tune attack, release, ratio, and threshold controls. Both processes should help you tame distortion before the limiter, as the dynamic range will be addressed either way, and the limiter won’t have to work as hard.

    Now onto EQ: As you presumably have some knowledge of how to mix, your mix probably sounds good already. Your job now is not to make it sound better, but to allow the mix to shine across all sorts of listening environments and platforms. You do this, as a rule, by implementing very subtle moves—a 1 dB cut at 800 Hz or so if its nasal, a subtle shelf of 1 dB at 8 kHz if it’s too dull, and so on.

    As you can use a compressor to keep the peak limiter from doing heavy lifting, you can also use the equalizer to back off frequency ranges that cause the limiter to clamp down in a particularly distorted manner. You can better do this by implementing the following suggestion.

    What do you think of that ?
     
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2019
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  3. Baxter

    Baxter Audiosexual

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    I do limiter burger - one at the beginning and one at the end.
    I'd rather have more plugins and outboard gear doing little, than just a few things doing a lot.
     
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  4. Blue

    Blue Audiosexual

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    I put sometimes 2 compressors in series,but never 2 limiters.And when you do that,you use 2 identical limiters or 2 differents,such as one that you find aggressive and another for "levelling"(I don't know if this term is correct) ?
     
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  5. NextGenSound

    NextGenSound Ultrasonic

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    I mix top down, into my mix bus effects chain. I have all the processing on my busses and mix bus prior to beginning a mix and mix into them. Works great for me, I’m able to get insanely loud mixes (rms) without distortion and keeping the transients...Love this method!
     
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  6. korte1975

    korte1975 Rock Star

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    a saturator also acts as a limiter right ?
     
  7. No Avenger

    No Avenger Audiosexual

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    Not quite, a saturator adds harmonics and thus raises the rms level which is more similar to a compressor rather than a limiter.
     
  8. Blue

    Blue Audiosexual

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    I don't understand exactly what you mean;your different tracks go in several busses,you process them and then they go in your master buss which is not processed?
    In other terms you haven't any FX on your master buss??
     
  9. Blue

    Blue Audiosexual

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    I would say rather saturations destroy transients,so your rms level is louder if you match the peak value after the saturation stage.
     
  10. No Avenger

    No Avenger Audiosexual

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    If you're talking about the 'pure' saturation this is not true if done properly (I can upload a pic to prove it later), if you're talking about the 'side effect' that comes with for instance tube compression then it can be true.

    EDIT: first row unsaturated next rows with rising amount of saturation with rms increase of several dB (though I admit it's not to be seen at this zoom level). No peaks or transients lost

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2019
  11. NextGenSound

    NextGenSound Ultrasonic

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    I have several sub groups that I send elements of my mix to. For example all my drums go into a drum aux...The drum aux has processing on it from the start...which then feeds the master (submix) which also has processing on it from the start. I mix into these effects chains so that I don't need to limit at the end which in my case changes the mix often. I mix into the limiter...I mix into the saturation/distortion/clipper etc...I mix into all my parallel chains (kick, snare, percs) and rarely effect the original source. I only clean the original sources, hi pass, reductive eq etc...I also keep a kick aux with just the original kick going to it so I can add it into the submix if I lose transient energy. I can get clean mixes at -5 LUFS with no artifacts while still having hard impactful transients. Really a cool way of mixing.
     
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  12. No Avenger

    No Avenger Audiosexual

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    :woot: I hope your mixes have less
     
  13. Blue

    Blue Audiosexual

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    So if I understand you're saying you feed a limiter on your master when you're mixing?You don't do any mastering since you already have your required loudness when you've finished your mix?
     
  14. Giggity

    Giggity Producer

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    This was preciesly what I meant when I asked this question.

    Thanks OP.

     
  15. refix

    refix Kapellmeister

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    from what i can recall, pre-limiting is a thing some mastering engineers use it in their workflow, especially in certain situations. i do not know if they do it exclusively. some just boost levels at the start to the final level and limit at the end, with a 32 or 64 bit float all digital process this is fine. naturally gear requires gain staging. some people pre-limit before going out to analogue, i do not know if they then limit again at a later stage, i assume they would.

    on the broader subject of getting a loud mix, some people use pre-limiting or clipping on a track level in mixing. nowadays as you can have virtually unlimited access all manner of limiters and clippers which can do the peak limiting job of saturation without distorting the wave too much. the theory is to knock down peaks in stages rather than in one big hit. in old analogue workflows peaks were taken care of in this manner (sometimes very intentionally) due to the physical limitations of the various processes i.e. physical componentry, tape, etc. in an all digital workflow the engineer must be more mindful in handling the 'peaky stuff'.

    very interesting, what you are essentially describing is 'stem mastering' all combined into one process. some people get great results with 'stem mastering', in both digital and hybrid systems, as opposed to the more usual single mix to a two track workflow. this type of workflow is becoming more and more viable as technology and equipment advances. as long as there is adequate quality checks of the final attributable product this is a perfectly acceptable. mastering engineers may not like being relegated to quality control officers with good sound systems;)

    following on from what i have said before, if a 'loud' master is what is desired, i think that there are great benefits in presenting a 'loud' mix. 'peak management' throughout the whole process is an essential component in aiding this result imo.

    having said all that i am not a great proponent of all this 'loudness' stuff, as i have hopefully already made clear. it would be nice to see pushing the limits of the various necessary processes of production as creative choices rather than choices made out of necessity.

    with the growing sophistication of playback systems, hopefully loudness and volume will become more of a function of the interface between the listener and the volume knob/pot./fader. i personally welcome this as it gives producers greater flexibility and greater freedom in choices related to dynamics in the program, and ability to leave ample headroom which aids in processes like trans-coding or the limitations of physical mediums (single process parity between mastering for digital distribution and vinyl distribution for example). continually pushing up against the limits of purely distributive processes is mostly counterproductive, especially when workflows these days provide unprecedented flexibility in all aspects of production.
     
  16. NextGenSound

    NextGenSound Ultrasonic

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    I'd say you pretty much nailed my workflow, I use a console and stem all my groups to 32 faders with some processing ITB and some OTB...Always keeping a close eye on peak to rms levels...I have to admit I'm not a fan of the loudness war either, I really do enjoy dynamic range in music, I find it adds more vibe and feeling to a song however I have to "keep with the times" commercial radio won't play any mixes that aren't -8 lufs or louder...(learned that lesson the hard way!)...I print really hot level wise but I always get a pro to touch up my mix 99.9% of the time it's Dave McNair...He's a beast! Always comes back sounding cleaner and wider somehow lol!!
     
  17. No Avenger

    No Avenger Audiosexual

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    I'm a big a big fan of this. You can treat drums, synths, vocals... completely different and adjust their frequencies, transients, peaks and rms level in a different way, to different levels and make them fit to each other better.
     
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  18. ( . ) ( . )

    ( . ) ( . ) Audiosexual

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    I see it as a possibility to start with a limiter. Why not? As long as you know how to treat it and you have a strategy for your master as well as knowing the tools you should be fine...

    Is it a better technique than a typical approach? Probably not it depends really.

    Many factors can influence a master from your goal for the audio, quality of tools, the chain setup and overall ability to know how to influence and hear your chain better and better each time...

    If you know how to fuck with a limiter from the start, all the more power to you ;)
     
  19. wasgedn

    wasgedn Banned

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    which is ?
     
  20. NextGenSound

    NextGenSound Ultrasonic

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    1st stage = Plugin Alliance Black Box...2nd and 3rd order harmonics (software)
    2nd stage = SSL 4k Bus comp...3.5 db reduction (hardware)
    3rd stage = waves eqp1a ...only 30hz boost (software)
    4th stage = Izotope Imager...Stereoizer 75% only high mid widened (software)
    5th stage = IK Multimedia classic clipper...1.5 db clip (software)
    6th stage = Softube weiss...3 db reduction (software)
    7th stage (final) = Fabfilter pro L...2 db reduction (software)

    That's pretty much my master chain ... I mix into this chain.
     
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2019
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  21. wasgedn

    wasgedn Banned

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