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Is this master overcompressed?

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  • Is this master overcompressed?

    I think the mix is done, but I'm not sure about my attempt at a mastering job. That big bass clav is maybe a bit too squashed? Or maybe that's ok, because it's the norm for this style of orchestration these days?

    I should point out that there is some tape saturation on there too. Maybe too much?

    Or should I take a look at some EQ?

    Here's the link:- https://app.box.com/s/werghudai6bhxnby6319

    Thanks in advance for listening!

    BTW, the backing track/arrangement for this was done by our old friend Rudy, so I've got an added impetus for doing this track the best justice that I can.


    flip the phase

  • #2

    The Vocals are OK, but the synth bass in the background has the edges rounded off completely. I like what you were attempting to get, but its a bit over emphasized and obvious. The key to good compression is you don't hear it working. I'd suggest using a limiter or limiter/comp combination. This should reduce the attack swell and retain the effect you were trying to get.

    As it is now, when I turn the music down so where the vocals aren't too loud, the background music completely disappears. I may hear a little mumbling of the low frequencies while hearing the vocals in a wide stereo spread but that's about it.

    Try this as a gauge. Turn your mains off, then slowly bring them up. The first two things you should hear are the vocals and snare (or whatever substitutes for the midrange percussion instrument) then the highs/cymbals and bass follow shortly after when you crack the volume up. Your musical arrangement doesn't have the same traditional instruments happening but the listener will still expect the instrumentation around the "Hole" where a snare normally sits is at the correct db level, and therefore the other instruments like bass and whatever percussion used will fill in at similar db levels. Your spaciousness for the vocals will be there because of the frequency bands not being used, not because you dropped the accompnyment down below the vocals. 

    In other words, the parts stand side by side dynamically and volume wise,  but they are separated by frequency more than they are by levels of compression.  Dont trust your meters too much here either. Your meaters on the bass is going to have large peaks in comparison to the vocals which may be much lower in comparison. This is normal because of the power consumption of those frequencies and how our ears are more sensitive to the 1K range. You may be over comping the lows so you can get the vocals louder using the meters.

    You can stick a limiter in the mains buss and switch it off and on in an A/B comparison to even up the track power/gain levels.

    This is important so your music is clearly heard in a quiet playback system like an elevator Muzak system as well as through a high powered playback system. If you have too much dynamic range between the floor and ceiling, cheap speakers will blair out strongest signals only and the rest may not be heard at all nor appreciated.


    • gubu
      gubu commented
      Editing a comment

      Thanks for lending your ears WRGKMC

      There is a limiter at the end of the chain, squeezing out the last 3 or 4dB, but I almost always apply compression in front, to smooth what the limiter sees, or it can get a a bit harsh sounding, in a way that EQ can't fix.

      But yes, the compression that's on there doesn't work. As you point out, it's rounding the bass synth way too much, and killing the wide stereo rhythmic elements. I figured out last night that I was using the tape sim to mask the fact that the attack and release on the tube compressor were both set way too long. And I got rid of the multiband compressor altogether, because the frequency balance of the mix sounds ok as it is, to my ears at least, so it doesn't need MB compression.

      After that I applied a gentle cut to remove a little of the flab around 330hZ, and that's probably all the EQ it needs. The tape sim is doing something quite nice to the 'air' in the mix, but perhaps I can leave it out of the mastering session and just apply it to the vocal reverb return in the mix session instead. I'll have to try both ways and see.

      On the vocals - Nina recorded her parts direct to mp3, using a USB mic in her kitchen, and I can't sing worth a damn, so I'm actually pretty happy how they turned out!

      I have a little bit more experimentation to do here now, and some listening on different systems and at different levels to do. But it is getting there.

      Thanks again!


      edit:- I agree with your point about disregarding the difference between large bass peaks and other signals, because of power consumption and Fletcher -Munson.

      But aren't large bass peaks in the meters, when reviewing a stereo mix, often a sign that some sort of bass cut, MB compression, or remixing is needed before applying a compressor/limiter, or the bass peaks will cause pumping/distortion under that compression?


  • #3

    The process I described has nothing to do with 'optimising' the vocal. It's simply to ensure that the kick drum or bass doesn't affect the lower range of the vocal, or that sibilants don't affect parts of the midrange that are essential to other mix elements, or that a hi-hat doesn't screw with the 'air' in the mix for 60ms every quarter note. Say, for example you've got electric guitars HPF'd at 200hZ, you'll usually want the lowest band of your multiband mastering compressor lo-passed slightly below that, or the kick and bass guitar will cause unwanted compression in the bottom end of your guitar signals. So it's not just about the vocals, it's about having the MB compression working properly with the material. And you would do this by ear, soloing each band while setting the crossover points.

    Getting the crossover points set properly, before playing the track to measure the peaks in each band, is essential for getting it to 'glue' the mix smoothly imo.

    flip the phase


    • WRGKMC
      WRGKMC commented
      Editing a comment

      I understand what you're saying. Normally I'd do that kind of stuff when I'm using the multiband within the daw, except I do it a little different. I place the multiband in the mains and target the frequency bands by eqing the tracks to match the bands I want, instead of moving the bands in the multiband to match my mix.

      Again it may seem like one of those glass half empty/full sceneries again, but I've developed a specific methodology for doing this. The main reason is I know what bands I want to use before I run my mix through the multiband. The multiband substitutes for an important item many of us lack including myself.

      Many of your better mastering studios will pass a mix through a line level tube preamplifier stage to get the analog lead back in the pencil. One or two amp stages high quality tubes will enhance the musical harmonics and also compress the sound. One of these days I will build myself a good stereo tube driver and dump using the multiband. In the mean time I use the multiband as a substitute.

      I don't use the multiband to remix the frequency response. I have the bands set to provide the best speaker response "if" the mix hits the bands properly. The bands I choose are targets and I use an EQ to match those targets. The key element is I use Har Bal before I pass the mix through the multiband, so the frequency response is balanced before it gets compressed. The multiband, simply tightens the response at the bands I want them tightened up in.

      If I find there's too much of something, say bass in the 500 hz range that overworks the multiband, I go back to the EQing I did in Har Bal, or back to the actual tracks to correct it. I don't try to manipulate the multiband at that point.

      You may ask why not just jack with the band settings? Well like I said, I have those bands set to give me the best dynamic response of my speakers. I've already done all the manipulation before I get to that stage. I may not even use it or use a single band comp and get similar results, but I like the way the bottom end, mids and highs tighten up using it.

      Lately I been using the multiband in my DAW mains. I'll get a good mix, Then set it up in the mains with one of several presets I've built and Then get my thresholds, attack and release set. Then I may go back to tweaking the mix for optimum sound quality using the multiband as a target, not a manipulator.

      I Then bypass the multiband before I mix down.

      After that, I use Har Bal as an overall EQ for the mix and even up the frequency response of the overall mix, tame the hills and valleys. (during that point I can also get a loudness match using a reference file so I know where the optimum threshold range for the L2 should be set. I could limit it right there, but it depends on the mix) 

      Next I'll pass the EQed mix through the multiband with the same bands I had targeted running the multiband in the DAW mains, except this time I'll process the signal, and afterwards, brickwall, down sample/dither to a CD quality wave file.

      like I said, there are may ways of doing things. I'm not suggesting you change your methodology if its working well for you. I'd likely get dozens of engineers telling me my method is the long way around the barn. That would be true If I was only mastering projects and had no access to the mix.

      I cut my teeth mastering digitally when I'd dump hundreds of analog projects from tape to the computer and burn CD's. This began back in the 90's when I could barely fit a full CD on a drive and before I was tracking digitally. I had to use the mastering tools to manipulate the mix to get a consistency between songs on a CD and tweaking the multiband was a key element. If I was lucky I'd have a couple of songs that would target similar settings but going back to the tapes of live recordings to fix what needed to be fixed wasn't as easy. I attempted to do it of course, but the rack units I'd use were fairly limited on getting a good mix on the computer.

      Now that I have a much better setup, I can identify the chain bi directionally. I can view it as a performer projecting sound from the point of feeding the daw and getting good end results from my speakers, And I can view it from a mastering aspect of a listener and look back at the chain of events and see the musician performing. If there is a clear, natural bidirectional listening path without any bottlenecks, Then I know I've likely achieved optimum results. The cool part is I can go back and correct those bottleneck points where they originate. Having specific targets is one way of doing this. They may not always succeed, but they do have a long term benefit because a good deal of guesswork is eliminated.

      There's still plenty room for creativity. I'm not restricting my work by setting up targets, but it sure does help to keep the work in perspective, especially if you have allot of projects in various stages of development. I probably have 30 recordings in various stages of development at the moment and another 50 on another daw I need to get to. Some have raw tracks and need additional instruments added, some just need final mixing tweaks before mastering, and others I'm just a bit burnt out listening to them so I put them aside for a month or more and come back to them with a clear mind.  

      The benefits are, I've have a method of getting them to consistent quality, and I can take songs I recorded years ago and place them on a CD with newer songs and they don't stick out like a sore thumb due to changing mixing/mastering techniques. They may be very different musically, but I don't have to remaster them to get them to sound similar. They merely sound like songs being played back to back on a radio. They may have different studio qualities used but the overall frequency response, dynamic and perceived loudness is balanced. I only wish I had refined this method a long time ago so my early recordings weren't so inconsistent, but we work with what we have and learn to perfect as we go. I'm sure there are many areas I could improve, but I'm pretty satisfied for now.

      I guess the last good coment I got came from a musician I've recently gotten to know. I can tell he's very experienced and technically up to speed. We traded some CD's to get an idea of what we could expect of each other.  I burned some stuff I've done recently and he told me it blew his socks off. He told me the last CD band recorded cost them $5K to record. He said the recording sounded great in the studio but after it was sent to be mastered and duped, it had all the life sucked out of it. It may have been his expectations, but I believe it was a mastering issue.

      In any case, I told him I'd remaster it for him is he wants. I may be able to work some magic and get it sounding good. It would be better if he had the original tracks, but I'm pretty good at restorations so It wouldnt hurt to try. Old recordings are pieces of peoples histories and having something worth listening to is what its all about.

      Good luck Gubu on your project. As always, we share different pespectives here. You're developing your own methods and all that counts is it sound good to you and others. Hopefully you'll continue to share what you discover along the jorney to keep the art of mixing alive. Hopefully it wont become a dying art. Software manufacturers have come a long way of automating many of the things that requires tedious tweaking in the past. I dont know if they'll ever develop artifical intelegence that will do it all, but you never know.