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Master Channel Setup

permalink   Tue, Oct 7, 2014 @ 2:39 AM
I was talking to Levihica about mastering and the subject of the Master Bus came up. This is my setup. It happens to be for Ableton, but doesn’t contain any Ableton specific plugins.

First in my mastering chain is a Low pass filter set to 16Khz and a High pass filter set to 40Hz. The high pass is to remove inaudible signals that are going to be muddying up the bass. The low pass is to take out high frequencies that you (probably) can’t hear, but will be picked up by the compressor and limiter.

Next is a compressor with a low ratio 1.2:1. RMS with a long release of 1.2s. This is just a mix-gel compressor and is very subtle. Some tunes like having this in, some don’t. For me its usually switched OFF.

Next is an old fashioned style equalizer called TDR VOS SlickEQ available from Tokyo Dawn Records. I set the HP Freq to 40 for EDM, 60 for everything else. The HP Freq setting removes frequencies below the limit. I set the output stage from Linear to Mellow which adds some valve character.

Next is gain with a limiter. The limiter is set to -2dB. Adjust the gain so that the limiter is just working on your loudest beats. It should be just flicking on and off on the loudest passages. If it stays on for longer than a drumbeat then you need to go redo your mix or channels. The -2dB is for mp3 and AAC conversion, the mp3 conversion will bring the volume up. If you are doing FLAC, set it to -0.03 dB.

Next is a mono button to check the mix in mono.

At the end is Spectrum analyser with a calibrated response. The Voxengo Span is a very good free meter.
permalink   Tue, Oct 7, 2014 @ 2:49 AM
Channel Setup
I use a Sonimus Statson on every channel. Its at the end of each channel and adds an analogue character to the sounds.
permalink   Levihica Tue, Oct 7, 2014 @ 4:29 AM
Thank you Quarkstar. I think I might be relying a bit too much on the master channel since my setup is a lot more complicated. When people don’t get proper advice they guesstimate (this a word?) and that’s exactly what I’ve been doing. Really appreciate your taking time to write this.
Zep Hurme
permalink   Tue, Oct 7, 2014 @ 11:07 AM
I’ve been asked the same question few times also. I have similar type of master channel setup. I’m not using hipass/lowpass, because I’m doing it already at mix level.

Here’s my typical chain:
- Waves SSL compressor with quite relaxed settings to glue the mix. Usually catching 1.5-3dB peaks depending on the song.
- Waves Linear multiband compressor to transparently smooth out the signal. Multiband does hardly nothing more than just kisses some of the peaks. At rare occasions I use it harder more like an effect.
- FabFilter Pro-Q2 EQ to do some final adjustments before the limiter. The final adjustment here also includes some Mid/Side EQing like setting everything below 80-100Hz to mono. FabFilter’s EQ is also my main spectrum analyzer. Propably the best and most useful plugin I have.
- Izotope Ozone’s quite awesome limiter which can transparently push the signal quite a bit. I usually hit the peaks 2-4dB. I have the Ozone’s Intersample Detection on to secure the MP3 conversion and then leave peaks at -0.3dB.

This chain varies depending on the song, but that’s usually how I set it up at first.

But as always, there’s no right way of doing mixes. If it sounds good then it’s ok no matter how you do it.
permalink   Quarkstar Tue, Oct 7, 2014 @ 11:20 AM
I do lose detail on the mp3 conversions. Looking up the details, on the plugins, thanks very much.

I am hoping that each of my channel has already been equalised, compressed and generally messed around with to my liking. Then the master is just final small adjustments.
permalink   Zep Hurme Thu, Oct 9, 2014 @ 2:11 AM
Yeah you always lose details, namely transients when encoding to lower bitrates. I personally consider 128kpbs low-bitrate stuff. Some encoders also use so called “intensity stereo” when encoding to lower bitrates. Mid/Side stereo mode or actual real stereo mode gives better results in higher bitrates, but modern encoders should make a best choice automatically.
permalink   Levihica Tue, Oct 7, 2014 @ 12:07 PM
Yes you are correct. There is no right or wrong. If it sounds good, it sounds good. For the neophyte tho, not having some sort of effective template to begin with and having to figure all this out on their own, can be a daunting task. Reading about how you guys do your thing helps a lot. Even experts, I imagine, who might be able to dig out some new tricks.
permalink   Thu, Oct 9, 2014 @ 12:05 AM
Calf multiband compresser / multiband parametric is pretty good.

Personally as a 70s/80s dude I have 8-bit ears :) and thus don’t even attempt to master any of my commercial productions myself.

T-Racks is worth a punt, my engineer mate uses that!
permalink   Quarkstar Thu, Oct 9, 2014 @ 2:48 AM
Yes, mastering has traditionally been separate from mixing.
Its two separate activities and should not be done at the same time.
permalink   Sun, Mar 22, 2015 @ 4:59 PM
A little late to the party but I’d like to add my routines :3

I work in FL Studio and my music is mostly in the range of deep house and techno.

FL works with a “selected” channel. It’s basically an aux where everything is routed to
but it doesn’t go to the master. Every track you select (including master) shows it’s output on that channel.
I use it to analyze tracks through a vectorscope and spectrum analyzer. Handy!
If there are any FL users here, I can share my analyzers (Wave Candy plugin from FL) preset for the selected channel. They are really clean looking and compact ;).

As for my master, when I start “fresh” in my template. It is setup with a some basics as a dB meter on top of the chain and one on the end to monitor my in/output (also Wave Candy).
In the middle is a limiter just to clip at 0dB. (Although FL’s mixer works in 32bit internally and can’t really distort I still find it nice.)

When my track is at 80%-ish finished, I slap my master preset on it.
It contains:

Eventide UltraChannel
I got once when it was free.
I use the input module for lowering gain to get some space for mastering. The 5-band eq to balance the overall sound with just minor tweaks up to -/+ 2dB. Then the output module to turn it up again just a little bit.

Scheps 73
Super sexy double 3-Band EQ from Waves. I use the PreAmp to give it some character. The EQ strips are used in Mid/Side mode instead of L/R. You can quite push the eq without making it sound bad. The low band is often boosted at 60Hz sometimes 100Hz. The HP Filter for the side channel is at 300Hz most of the times. I wish there was a setting for something in between 300 and 160 though..
Scheps 73 also has a monitor for MID MONO STEREO SIDES. So no need for a seperate plugin on that stage :).
And it has VU meters, yay eyecandy :3

Cool multiband compression although I never push that beast very far. Mostly using it to ease the low end a bit and make the highs a little phatter. Won’t go too technical for it’s settings. Also very dependent on song.

Amazing Free EQ! And I use it for kind of a final feel for the tracks lately. All fixed bands.
It has a funky HighBoost that has a 40k setting wich gives your track some “air”. It really works well and that’s also what I use it for mostly.

TLs Pocket Limiter
A free Limiter! I really like it’s characteristics. This is the final plug on my chain and pushes my tracks for some loundess!

That’s about it. Hope you like it. Tips/questions/feedback always welcome :)