mastering tricks for gaining level

Recording Techniques, People Skills, Gear, Recording Spaces, Computers, and DIY

Moderators: drumsound, tomb

User avatar
joninc
deaf.
Posts: 1953
Joined: Mon Jun 09, 2003 5:02 pm
Location: canada
Contact:

mastering tricks for gaining level

Post by joninc » Wed May 06, 2020 5:57 pm

hey all - i do some mastering for projects where the budget doesn't allow it to be mixed well and go out to a specialist. I am also mixing this albums - some I've recorded as well but more and more I am getting outside mix work. Generally I've been pretty happy with what I can provide but lately artists are pushing for higher levels and I'm struggling to get there without some negative artifacts.

My mix goes out to some analog stages where I'm getting some rounding of transients and level via a summing box and some additional transformer shaping and tube compression. Then it hits my ITB chain with some additional stages of compression/saturation/tape emulation/widening and finally some overall level and a wee bit of MBC in Ozone... In general I am trying to have each stage doing small incremental things rather than anything doing too much but the level is definitely boosted the most by Ozone.

Usually I want the MAXIMIZER in Ozone to just barely touch the peaks and I can get to -10 LUFS no problem.

Lately a few artists have felt that still sounded quiet compared to other releases so I am pushing for -8 to -8.5 and that's where I find that I here the mix distorting at the fringes a bit and it's generally the vocals pushing it over this point.

Please don't lecture me about target levels and the loudness penalty etc... I've done lots of research on this and read many threads and I know a lot of the big name mastering dudes are still shooting for this kind of level. I just need some help in the best ways to get there.

How would you best address this particular issue? It can be either in the mix or mastering. I have it all as one process so I can address any issues in the mix or process the stereo buss further.

I definitely am trying to keep things from feeling crushed - even though they may be dense or saturated. This particular album is kind of chill EDM dreamy pop stuff.
the new rules : there are no rules

kslight
moves faders with mind
Posts: 2672
Joined: Tue Oct 13, 2009 7:40 pm

Re: mastering tricks for gaining level

Post by kslight » Wed May 06, 2020 6:31 pm

I agree, no matter what a lot of commercial releases are still “loud” AF.

And i have people expect that, despite what it starts to sound like.

My strategy is much like yours, a lot small moves. It definitely starts in the mix, lots of sub mixing as well.

There’s another plug-in I started using that seems to work well (by itself or in conjunction with others) without farting out. I do own and use standards like Ozone and Waves stuff, but Brainworx Master Desk is very useful. I don’t think I would throw whatever nonsense advertised price (currently $299) at any plug-in...but I think it is well worth the $29 i paid on sale. Certainly worth demoing to see if it does anything for you.

User avatar
Nick Sevilla
speech impediment
Posts: 4964
Joined: Mon Mar 03, 2008 1:34 pm
Location: Lake Arrowhead California USA
Contact:

Re: mastering tricks for gaining level

Post by Nick Sevilla » Wed May 06, 2020 11:57 pm

Typically, when I mix and have the client listen, I have them listen LOUD.

So that the mixes compare equally to releases, I set up a separate pair of channels on my console, and match the levels of the CD / laptop player
to my multitrack mix monitoring level.

They can then listen to the differences because of mastering, and really just get into the idea of making a great sounding mix,
instead of "making it as loud as band X Y Z".

Sometimes the mastered mixes sound like shit, and they can hear the distortion better this way.
Howling at the neighbors. Hoping they have more mic cables.

Colorblind
gimme a little kick & snare
Posts: 80
Joined: Thu Nov 30, 2006 6:23 pm

Re: mastering tricks for gaining level

Post by Colorblind » Thu May 07, 2020 5:49 am

Nick Sevilla wrote:
Wed May 06, 2020 11:57 pm
Typically, when I mix and have the client listen, I have them listen LOUD.

So that the mixes compare equally to releases, I set up a separate pair of channels on my console, and match the levels of the CD / laptop player
to my multitrack mix monitoring level.

They can then listen to the differences because of mastering, and really just get into the idea of making a great sounding mix,
instead of "making it as loud as band X Y Z".

Sometimes the mastered mixes sound like shit, and they can hear the distortion better this way.
Interesting! I’ve always found that listening too loud makes my mixes sound better than they actually are, and that I can hear any unwanted distortion better at lower levels. Different strokes, I guess.

permanent hearing damage
buyin' gear
Posts: 591
Joined: Thu Oct 09, 2003 3:55 pm
Location: philly
Contact:

Re: mastering tricks for gaining level

Post by permanent hearing damage » Thu May 07, 2020 6:29 am

most things i work on are loud and distorted as hell, so bear that in mind. but the things that helped me the most to get my level up without ruining my mix are the ProAudioDSP DSM-3 and the Oxford Inflator.

though i'm curious, if you're also mixing them, are there things you "save" for mastering in this case? or is it just about headroom/RMS level? I guess if I know it isn't getting mastered, i just deliver a louder mix is all.

User avatar
digitaldrummer
resurrected
Posts: 2292
Joined: Wed Nov 23, 2005 9:51 pm
Location: Austin, Texas
Contact:

Re: mastering tricks for gaining level

Post by digitaldrummer » Thu May 07, 2020 6:52 am

I've used Ozone and L2 in the past and felt like they squashed things too much for me (but admittedly I did not spend a lot of time tweaking past presets then). But even more recent attempts to use them left me feeling "meh"...

For several years I have been using Slate FG-X and the Slate VBC bus compressors. For rock/loud music they win for me. I've also recently been trying the Brainworks BAX EQ in mid-side mode. I can roll off more of the lows from the sides, etc. and it seems to help. Not that I'm trying to make things too loud... I've also used the UAD/Brainworks MasterDesk Classic on some mixes recently. I still feel like for rock, the VBC->FG-X chain beats everything else I've tried though.

I think the easiest way to try the Slate stuff is to sign up for a month of their all-in program. i think it's $15 or something like that - if you don't like it you are not out much $.
Mike
www.studiodrumtracks.com -- Drum tracks starting at $50!
www.doubledogrecording.com

User avatar
Recycled_Brains
dead but not forgotten
Posts: 2042
Joined: Tue Nov 22, 2005 6:58 pm
Location: Albany, NY
Contact:

Re: mastering tricks for gaining level

Post by Recycled_Brains » Thu May 07, 2020 7:39 am

I've been curious about the same thing lately, because like you, some folks have been asking me to "master" their stuff. I make sure to put the word "master" in quotes when I respond, because I am def. not a mastering engineer.

In lieu of that, I do what you do, but I don't have one of those maximizer type deals. I usually will bounce the final mix, sit on it for a few days, then just bring that stereo track up and run it through MORE gear and finish it off with the Massey L2007 catching peaks to get it up to whatever... like -0.3 dbfs or something. It inevitably gets to a point where if the artist is still like "it's kinda quiet compared to _________." and I just say, "well, I am uncomfortable pushing it more because it's beyond my skillset and I am at the line where if I go further, more harm than good will happen."

I try to reallllly let bands know how important a skilled mastering engineer is to the process and that they should ALWAYS BUDGET FOR IT. With guys like Carl Saff or Brad Boatright out there, with their incredibly low rates, there is really not much excuse to not have a pro do it.
Ryan Slowey
Albany, NY

http://maggotbrainny.bandcamp.com

User avatar
Nick Sevilla
speech impediment
Posts: 4964
Joined: Mon Mar 03, 2008 1:34 pm
Location: Lake Arrowhead California USA
Contact:

Re: mastering tricks for gaining level

Post by Nick Sevilla » Thu May 07, 2020 8:18 am

Colorblind wrote:
Thu May 07, 2020 5:49 am
Nick Sevilla wrote:
Wed May 06, 2020 11:57 pm
Typically, when I mix and have the client listen, I have them listen LOUD.

So that the mixes compare equally to releases, I set up a separate pair of channels on my console, and match the levels of the CD / laptop player
to my multitrack mix monitoring level.

They can then listen to the differences because of mastering, and really just get into the idea of making a great sounding mix,
instead of "making it as loud as band X Y Z".

Sometimes the mastered mixes sound like shit, and they can hear the distortion better this way.
Interesting! I’ve always found that listening too loud makes my mixes sound better than they actually are, and that I can hear any unwanted distortion better at lower levels. Different strokes, I guess.
MANTRA: "This is only for the client. This is only for the client. This is only for the client." I usually leave the control room for this, and ask them to press play once I am out of the room. They can usually work out comparing two mixes by muting one set of channels, or switching solos in the DAW, when they do want to compare their mix to some commercially released stuff. They usually only do this once, and regret it. LOL.

I had a client once that hated their music, wanted it to be :"exactly" like such and such a band. SO I simply told them to hire that band to record his song. Faster and cheaper. He never did though. LOL.

Also, louder IS better, at least to the human brain. It is partially why we got the loudness wars to begin with. Thank that producer Roy Thomas Baker for beginning this stupid war. ;)
Last edited by Nick Sevilla on Sat May 09, 2020 3:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Howling at the neighbors. Hoping they have more mic cables.

User avatar
losthighway
deaf.
Posts: 1984
Joined: Mon Apr 14, 2008 8:02 pm
Contact:

Re: mastering tricks for gaining level

Post by losthighway » Thu May 07, 2020 8:58 am

Kind of tangential, but I think I'm finally old.
I've long been a fan of big rock- college, grunge, punk, post, whatever.

I've gotten to a point where when I hear a wall of guitars song, and then another, and then another where they don't pull back throughout the song, it's TOTALLY exhausting to me.

This is exacerbated by mastering that's focused on making it extra huge all the time.

Not sure what this means for my big guitar rock band, but at least we're flirting with some dynamics these days.

User avatar
markjazzbassist
re-cappin' neve
Posts: 746
Joined: Mon Apr 25, 2011 11:33 am
Location: Lakewood, OH

Re: mastering tricks for gaining level

Post by markjazzbassist » Thu May 07, 2020 9:05 am

losthighway wrote:
Thu May 07, 2020 8:58 am
Kind of tangential, but I think I'm finally old.
I've long been a fan of big rock- college, grunge, punk, post, whatever.

I've gotten to a point where when I hear a wall of guitars song, and then another, and then another where they don't pull back throughout the song, it's TOTALLY exhausting to me.

This is exacerbated by mastering that's focused on making it extra huge all the time.

Not sure what this means for my big guitar rock band, but at least we're flirting with some dynamics these days.
why do you think i got so into soul and jazz music?? :D :D

yeah i'm totally over the whole guitar worship thing. where every band is about the guitar(s) and guitar solos are everything (what no solo for bass/keys/drums/vocals?) and people act like the guitarist IS the band. that's why i don't do much rock these days. i'm interested in dynamics, bands playing and communicating musically (instead of the rhythm section just being a backing track for virtuoso guitar dude) with one another, and giving everyone a shot to solo. which is why i love jazz so much. it's egalitarian in its soloing, everyone is given a chance if they'd like, you can decline, but there is no "this is guitar man's 30 minute wail fest" solo type stuff. also in jazz, guitarists can actually play rhythm, and do it well. something i haven't found of many rock guitarists. elitist? sure, i don't mind if you call me that. but i just can't listen to that stuff anymore, high school was all i could stomach of it.

User avatar
vvv
zen recordist
Posts: 8958
Joined: Tue May 13, 2003 8:08 am
Location: Chi
Contact:

Re: mastering tricks for gaining level

Post by vvv » Thu May 07, 2020 10:50 am

I think that's one reason 80's new wave is sort of getting popular again.

I'm listening to Echo & the Bunnymen as I type this ...

Although I admit to early Screaming Trees yesterday, balanced by a cuppla Larry Graham CDs.

Totally off topic kinda, but I knew one of RTB's wives back in the late 80's.
bandcamp; vlayman;
THD; Geronimo Cowboys;
blog.
I mix with olive juice.

User avatar
joninc
deaf.
Posts: 1953
Joined: Mon Jun 09, 2003 5:02 pm
Location: canada
Contact:

Re: mastering tricks for gaining level

Post by joninc » Thu May 07, 2020 1:09 pm

Anybody using clipping plug ins? Where does it go in your chain of processing?

I'm gonna demo Standard Clip and see it does anything useful in this regard...
the new rules : there are no rules

User avatar
losthighway
deaf.
Posts: 1984
Joined: Mon Apr 14, 2008 8:02 pm
Contact:

Re: mastering tricks for gaining level

Post by losthighway » Thu May 07, 2020 5:57 pm

vvv wrote:
Thu May 07, 2020 10:50 am
I think that's one reason 80's new wave is sort of getting popular again.

I'm listening to Echo & the Bunnymen as I type this ...
They're AMAZING, and they still have tons of energy and force. They ROCK without having huge guitars.

User avatar
vvv
zen recordist
Posts: 8958
Joined: Tue May 13, 2003 8:08 am
Location: Chi
Contact:

Re: mastering tricks for gaining level

Post by vvv » Fri May 08, 2020 11:06 am

Yes, definite fave. I recall 'em at Chi's Park West about '84 or so, having some 'shrooms for that ride. They have a definite psych/Doors vibe, and some of the records have just lovely strings.

Psych Furs have a new record out this month for the first time in over a decade - Echo's been releasing new ones every couple years or so.

Another interesting altercocker, and I didn't much care for him when he first hit, is Gary Numan. I listened to Dust yesterday, and it's got this total Arab/techno vibe - lotsa vocal dynamics. He's been releasing an album every two years or so for many years; his last two studio records are great.
bandcamp; vlayman;
THD; Geronimo Cowboys;
blog.
I mix with olive juice.

User avatar
Recycled_Brains
dead but not forgotten
Posts: 2042
Joined: Tue Nov 22, 2005 6:58 pm
Location: Albany, NY
Contact:

Re: mastering tricks for gaining level

Post by Recycled_Brains » Fri May 08, 2020 12:33 pm

joninc wrote:
Thu May 07, 2020 1:09 pm
Anybody using clipping plug ins? Where does it go in your chain of processing?

I'm gonna demo Standard Clip and see it does anything useful in this regard...
No, but you just reminded me that I've been meaning to try this one....

https://www.masseyplugins.com/plugin/goldenmaster
Ryan Slowey
Albany, NY

http://maggotbrainny.bandcamp.com

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 53 guests