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Have a situation where the client is insisting on doing some pre mastering on mixes.


Are there any hard and fast rules about it?

He's tried An SSL console's 2 buss Comp, The Waves Plugin version, The Wave's API 2500, The Wave's L1UM (he doesn't have the L3)

He's going with the L1


just a little little light limiting,

-1 to -3 db, just when something pops out of the mix.


My 3 questions:

How much compression can be used? (-3db at peaks ok?)

What should the L1 quantize be set at; 24 or 16 bit? (The session is 44.1k, 24 bit)

How high should the ceiling be set at; -3db?, -1db?, -0.3db?, does it matter? (seems to me if the mixing engineer is using analog gear, it wont matter)

Should the files be mixed with no comp/limiting, imported into a new session, normalized and THEN add a little L1?



Any tips?

Favorite Plugins?

Plugin combos?


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So is pre mastering basically anything the mix engineer does to the master bus/2-track mix?


What does it achieve? I would guess that it would only limit what the mastering engineer can do with the track, or is that the point?

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Akema{censored}e omedetou my friend!


Pre mastering is the process of preparing your mix b4 you send it off to a guy who basically doesn't give a {censored} what you think, and basically doesn't want you involved in the process.

Typically, in the analog days on an SSL board, a mix engineer, would have the SSL Bus Compressor slightly compressing the entire mix and making it punch a bit.



usually 4:1 ratio, The attack slow, the release fast as in the photo,

but typically the compression amount would be set so the meter just bounces slightly at 2db max,

and the gain was set to how hard you wanted to hit the 2 track or DAT.


Ideally, what pre mastering should achieve is that you are happy with and love your mixes, and are not depending on the Mastering engineer to 'save' your mix.


Too much processing on the 2 track bus can indeed limit the mastering engineer.

I usually don't add any compression on my mixes and let the mastering guy do his thing.

I just try to get a good mix. I try to leave plenty of head room.

Sometimes there is plenty of head room, sometimes I cut it pretty close.


In this case, it is kind of the point.

On other projects where he is not the artist, that he has produced (he has won a grammy for one) he's been totally cool,

but on this, his first where he is the artist, he doesn't really trust engineers, and doesn't want to give up control about any aspect.

For example, lowering 1db at 250 cycles on a muddy pad sound can be a long process of A/B'ing worrying about whether or not 'the warmth' has been compromised.

I'm not complaining. It's his record.

The client is kind of perturbed by the concept of an engineer having more control than he does.


While mixing, he consistently pumps the mixes up as loud as he can get them, clips the 2 track bus consistently.

The concept of turning up the control room level and keeping the stereo bus low is completely lost.

(it has been a cycle of getting a mix close but having the mains clip, then I will lower the mix and bring everything down, and usually get accused of ruining the mix. lol)

In the end when he get's a mix he's happy with, he likes to add just a little bit of L1 maximizer to contain stuff.

I have been successful in keeping the stereo bus at reasonable levels.



The client I'm working with just wants the mastering engineer to put the tracks in the right order, make them all the same relative level, fix any obvious frequency mistakes.

Thats it.


He doesn't want him to 'get creative'. And he doesn't want to depend on him.

He figures that if he gives the guy what he likes, there won't be any problem.


I just need some technical advice as to how to go about doing this,

so that both client and mastering engineer are happy.

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Sounds like the client has issues tbh. But you want to get paid, so I'd do what he asks as long as he is the one with the final say in his project. Sounds very insecure though. I mean, if the songs are good, what does it matter who compresses them? :s I'm having a hard time imagining someone paying good money to get their songs recorded only to insist on hard limiting/ clipping the result themselves. Do they hate their music?


Seems like a lot of mixers recommend mixing into a compressor anyway because that way you know how the balance of your mix actually will sound through a compressor. If the guy wants his mixes "pre-mastered" then I'd do that, use makeup gain to raise the volume into a limiter with the ceiling set to -0.3dB or so and keep raising the volume until it starts to sound bad. Since this guy sounds like he wants to retain absolute control I guess he'd better be there while you're doing it so he can play producer.


Totally disagree that mastering is horrendously overrated. Having a fresh set of ears and an experienced/ talented person who doesn't have an emotional/vested interest in the tracks can be absolutely invaluable, even if you are dealing with brilliant mixes. Even if the individual mixes are ace, there will likely still be work to be done to make sure they work together as a cohesive package, that any volume increasing is done in the most transparent way (not all gear makes things loud equally well) and that the mixes don't sound out of place when heard alongside the artist's peers. Since everything in music is relative, it's easy to have something that sounds great in isolation but odd when it's thrown into the vast pool of existing music.


I'm not saying it's essential to get stuff mastered, and I'm not saying there aren't hacks out there, but mastering can be a great and valuable service that has nothing to do with fixing a mix or compensating for inadequacies.

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Sounds like he just wants it loud. Warn him about the cons of doing this, tell em you don't think It's a good idea, and then just slam the help out of it. If he wants it to sound super limited, give him what he wants.


I like to leave 3db, but all that is really required is that it isn't clipping. .1

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