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Thread: Mastering With A Limiter...

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    Mastering With A Limiter...

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    I was advised, I think quite rightly, to leave some 'headroom' for other instruments in my mix - until I come to master - then push the levels up to meet the normal kind of volume expected for playback.

    Now I've read up on the basics of compression and have learned to apply basic compression to certain instruments, where needed. I haven't touched a limiter yet (or so I thought I hadn't) because at this stage, I don't want something in there I don't know how to use...

    Then I discovered...

    FL Studio Producer 8 sticks one on the master mix - BY DEFAULT! Open the program, hear the little 'bleep' and there he is... Mister Limiter - all set up and ready to go...

    (I knew it was there, actually - I just left it as is, thinking the authors of FL Studio must know best...?!)

    Now... I'm aware of the old 'Volume Wars' and all that crap... I'm not in it for max volume or ear-shattering bass - I'm just trying to achieve a little 'sweetness' and groove (and I listen to music from all eras).

    At this stage, I don't think I'm ready to grapple with a hard limiter just yet, but...

    Obviously, I mixed my tracks with it switched on and before I switched it off, I dropped my levels to get around -12db headroom and then compared my ASIO output with the Windows Wave signal.

    Now I'm not quite sure where I am because I figured the limiter would 'add' to the overall level of the main mix and of course, it doesn't - it just sounds louder. Now I've turned it off, after bringing the levels down, everything really does sound too quiet. I can't bring levels up much further, because most of them are near maximum... So this is turning out to be a bit of a problem.

    Can anyone advise?

    Cheers

    Dr. V
    Last edited by Dr. Varney; 11-28-2009 at 23:22.

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    Less is almost always more - Leave it off until the mix is begging for it. Then use as little as possible and only when you're absolutely positively finished with everything else. "Brick-wall" limiters = Damage. Plenty of damage. Basically by default. You're (by definition) limiting the dynamic range by an absolute margin. "Clipping, legally" for lack of a better term. Once that's done, it's done.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dr. Varney View Post
    I was advised, I think quite rightly, to leave some 'headroom' for other instruments in my mix - until I come to master - then push the levels up to meet the normal kind of volume expected for playback.

    Now I've read up on the basics of compression and have learned to apply basic compression to certain instruments, where needed. I haven't touched a limiter yet (or so I thought I hadn't) because at this stage, I don't want something in there I don't know how to use...

    Then I discovered...

    FL Studio Producer 8 sticks one on the master mix - BY DEFAULT! Open the program, hear the little 'bleep' and there he is... Mister Limiter - all set up and ready to go...

    (I knew it was there, actually - I just left it as is, thinking the authors of FL Studio must know best...?!)

    Now... I'm aware of the old 'Volume Wars' and all that crap... I'm not in it for max volume or ear-shattering bass - I'm just trying to achieve a little 'sweetness' and groove (and I listen to music from all eras).

    At this stage, I don't think I'm ready to grapple with a hard limiter just yet, but...

    Obviously, I mixed my tracks with it switched on and before I switched it off, I dropped my levels to get around -12db headroom and then compared my ASIO output with the Windows Wave signal.

    Now I'm not quite sure where I am because I figured the limiter would 'add' to the overall level of the main mix and of course, it doesn't - it just sounds louder. Now I've turned it off, after bringing the levels down, everything really does sound too quiet. I can't bring levels up much further, because most of them are near maximum... So this is turning out to be a bit of a problem.
    From reading your post it hard to tell whether your questioning the use of a limiter in the mixing or mastering phase? It seems like the limiter you're describing is added during the mixing phase although the title of the thread is "Mastering With A Limiter".

    I think that would be good to sort out as you can't master when you are mixing.

    I would leave the limiter off completely in the mixing stage, and definitely not mix into it. These are bad habits to get into IMO.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Waltz Mastering View Post
    I think that would be good to sort out as you can't master when you are mixing.
    Um... New to this... Could you explain the difference please? I thought 'mastering' was just the final 'mix' or that they were interchangable terms...

    Quote Originally Posted by Waltz Mastering View Post
    From reading your post it hard to tell whether your questioning the use of a limiter in the mixing or mastering phase?
    I'm questioning it's use while I'm working on the song.

    Dr. V
    Last edited by Dr. Varney; 11-29-2009 at 06:54.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Massive Master
    Less is almost always more - Leave it off until the mix is begging for it. Then use as little as possible and only when you're absolutely positively finished with everything else. "Brick-wall" limiters = Damage. Plenty of damage. Basically by default. You're (by definition) limiting the dynamic range by an absolute margin. "Clipping, legally" for lack of a better term. Once that's done, it's done.
    Thanks... I've switched off the limiter now and lowered all the levels manually. Had to start again but it was worth it. It sounds good without it and I'm averaging around -12db on the meter.

    Dr. V

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dr. Varney View Post
    Um... New to this... Could you explain the difference please? I thought 'mastering' was just the final 'mix' or that they were interchangable terms...
    That's what I was thinking by reading your post and I also think there are a lot of engineers coming up that think the same thing - that "mixing" and "mastering" are interchangeable terms when really they are not.

    In the simplest sense mixing is the blending and balancing of the individual recorded elements that make up a song into a cohesive, subjectively listen-able 2 track composite.

    Mastering in it's simplest sense is then taking these mixes and molding them or adjusting their final tonal balance and level so to have continuity and translation between them and within them,
    individually and together as a group.

    What I'm getting at is, it's virtually impossible to master as you mix. You can add 2 track processing to your mix, but that's not really mastering.

    Mixing and Mastering are two separate processes that can not be done at the same time, so if someone is just learning to engineer. I think it's important to understand the difference between the two,

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    One thing Doc....dont be afraid to zero everything and stick all your panning back to central...sometimes a fresh start is what you need..

    Im all for mixing on the go, I mean thats what most of us do in homerecording, but if it just isnt sitting right just scratch it and start again...

    -14bd average for the initial volume is good, then the first mix can take say a couple of hours...the tweaking is where the real time is spent..the recording (though make sure you track as accurately and with as good a performance as possible) is generally the quickest part for me

    one more thing...use the mute button, if its all getting a bit crowded mute some of your tracks...either limit the amount of instruments playing at one time or just delete them altogether..it pisses you off if you've spent a lot of time but if it doesn't work it doesn't work..I have two days worth of vocals lying in my recycle bin on the desktop...just the way it goes

    forget about mastering just now..imho mixing will be the most difficult obstacle and its certainly just as important, if not more so, than the actual recording
    Last edited by kcearl; 11-29-2009 at 10:38.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Waltz Mastering View Post
    That's what I was thinking by reading your post and I also think there are a lot of engineers coming up that think the same thing - that "mixing" and "mastering" are interchangeable terms when really they are not.

    In the simplest sense mixing is the blending and balancing of the individual recorded elements that make up a song into a cohesive, subjectively listen-able 2 track composite.

    Mastering in it's simplest sense is then taking these mixes and molding them or adjusting their final tonal balance and level so to have continuity and translation between them and within them,
    individually and together as a group.

    What I'm getting at is, it's virtually impossible to master as you mix. You can add 2 track processing to your mix, but that's not really mastering.

    Mixing and Mastering are two separate processes that can not be done at the same time, so if someone is just learning to engineer. I think it's important to understand the difference between the two,
    Hum... Where to start? I have so many questions... Okay - first of all, why don't I tell you what I've been doing all this time, then you take it from there?

    From reading what others do, I'm beginning to think this may raise some eyebrows...

    First of all, I start out choosing instruments I'm going to use and assign them to mixer slots, set their levels and add any FX where needed. I'm generally tweaking levels throughout the whole song-writing process. Same with panning.

    Then when it's nearly finished, I tweak some more and spend ages listening critically, to it, over and over again, whilst tweaking more levels and adding more FX or maybe taking FX out, etc. Only then, will I decide on how the song should end because for me, that's the most difficult decision.

    Now, you can probably tell I'm aware this isn't erm... standard practice; that I'm looking to start working in a different way and from reading in here, I'm getting the distinct impression that what I'm doing is probably so wrong, it gets crowned 'El-Wrongo' of Wrongland.... But I've never had any instruction before.

    So - if it's not possible to mix and master at the same time - I wonder what I've been doing. Perhaps both or neither, which you might call... Muddling? So yes - I do desire to learn some kind of 'standard practice'. I even don't mind starting this song again, if it means I'm going to learn something through it.

    Okay - so I understand that mastering should occur last of all in the whole process. That just leaves mixing... I don't quite understand how you define a 'mix'.

    Now I'm reading this: http://musicians.about.com/od/musici...ngormaster.htm

    Dr. V
    Last edited by Dr. Varney; 11-29-2009 at 23:41.

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    Ah now... This is what I'm getting:

    Mixing is getting each song right.

    Mastering is getting each song to sit on an album.

    So then, what I've been doing all along is mixing? I thought I was mastering each song. Now I can see why you say it's impossible to mix and master at the same time.

    So have I got that right?

    Dr. V

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    Sounds about right to me.

    I'm still wondering where the confusion was... Unless it was another one of those typical 'definition changes' (definition bastardizations) that seem to creep out of certain genres...

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