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Limiter on your master? To use or not to use!


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#1
shamanflux

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I'm confused as to whether or not this is a good idea for psybient production. I hear for louder genres of EDM, it's very good for making everything sound powerful and full, but doesn't it squash your dynamic range? Isn't this bad for ambient music?



#2
Gagarin

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just first quick ideas,

 

- your track shall sound as loud as other artist in same genre, so find the one that you like and compare your "loudness".

- another goal of mastering is to make your track sound good on different sound systems, and to do this you need experience, a good studio environment.

- having a new pair of "ears" on your track can be actually very beneficial :)


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#3
Spinnet (One Arc Degree)

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Limiting is a very useful technique, as long as you don't squash your wav file. Use it gently, not like a sledgehammer. Usually, that means (at least for me) avoiding a larger than 3 or 4dB trim.


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#4
Matt Freak Flag

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...squash your dynamic range? Isn't this bad for ambient music?

 

Usually, the point of limiting on the master is to get rid of the last remaining peaks after the mixing process so that you can turn up the overall volume of your track.  Ideally, this shouldn't audibly eat up your dynamic range at all - unless you want it to.  Light limiting shouldn't be very noticeable, and should usually just prevent clipping.  

 

You are right - though: on heavy genres of electronic music, some artists will more heavily limit their music as a creative choice.  Can sound excellent on big house tunes.  Some artists even clip their masters for creative effect, as in this glitchy Opiuo classic.

 

For ambient music, I personally would not want to limit too much on the master, and I almost certainly would not want to audibly clip my master.

 

If you need to control some peaks, limit or compress individual tracks.  While you can always make a different creative choice in such matters, limiting on the master should generally be saved for the mastering process, not the production process.

 

Compression on the master is a different story - lots of people like the feel of mixing into a 2buss compressor with a 2:1 or 1.5:1 ratio.  I'm not a fan, but this might work for you.


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#5
Phase47

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If you're worried about the occasional "over" I don't think there's anything wrong with having a limiter on the master fader and having it at zero to stop them. It's also a good way to whack on some level if you're bouncing out a pre-mastered ref and you just want to hear it with some gain applied. Just remember to back it down when you are creating your final pre-master bounces.



#6
Matt Freak Flag

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It's also a good way to whack on some level if you're bouncing out a pre-mastered ref and you just want to hear it with some gain applied. Just remember to back it down when you are creating your final pre-master bounces.

 

Haha, I totally do this all the time when I'm only halfway done a track... just to hear it maximized... then forget to take it off and wonder why mixing is suddenly all confusing. 


If it sounds good, it is good.  


#7
metamorphosis

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after lots experimentation imo always find best possible quality  w/o limiter or compressor on the master. Certain styles benefit from it but psybient like classical music i think best to preserve the maximum amount of dynamics,dimension, clarity...otherwise too much is lost for just simple volume. even with light processing there is an effect on the sound beyond volume, the more processing the more effect, the only way to achieve complete transparency if thats what u want is without it . Yes ur music will be quieter than most but screw it, ppl need to rediscover the volume knob.Through "manual limiting" can get my mixes only a few db softer than most, but to get it there takes a whole lot more work than just slapping on a limiter. Basically exporting mixdowns and finding every spot it peaks and readjust in mix till can get a normalized master level im aiming for, also with izotope rx4 adv you can take care of rogue peaks of a master zooming in down to the millisecond,peaks up to 3ms duration can often be reduced by up to 3dB with complete transparency..

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#8
Matt Freak Flag

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How much headroom do you all leave during production anyways?  

 

I keep my kick drum peaking around -10db, which always leaves tons of headroom.  I don't even really think about overs on the master until I'm ready to bounce a track.  

 

Does anyone here use less headroom than that while making a song?  Or more?


If it sounds good, it is good.  


#9
Phase47

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Headroom (IMO) varies depending on the arrangement or density of a track. Starting with a kick @ -10 or -12, depending on your workflow seems a good start though.



#10
Iacchus

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Leave it to the mastering engineer


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#11
neil (spatialize)

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How much headroom do you all leave during production anyways?  

 

I keep my kick drum peaking around -10db, which always leaves tons of headroom.  I don't even really think about overs on the master until I'm ready to bounce a track.  

 

Does anyone here use less headroom than that while making a song?  Or more?

i try to make the final mixdown peak at -6db but as long as it's not clipping i'm not too fussy

 

keeping plenty of  headroom is useful when you're mixing because the volume invariably creeps up while mixing so i start rather low and give myself room for manouvre.

 

limiting on the master?  well only when mastering really, and I agree with the comment above about not pushing it more than -4db reduction.  I usually aim for just a couple of db. 



#12
neil (spatialize)

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when thinking about limiting i usually like to remember that dark side of the moon is not a loud record at all.  and that seems to have done ok.



#13
Flying Lotus

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Uploaded on 22 Jun 2011
In this video mastering engineer Friedemann Tischmeyer has collected statements of famous producers like Alan Parsons (Pink Floyd,...), John Fields (Jonas Brothers, Miley Cyrus, Rooney), Niko Bolas (Neil Young, Melissa Etheridge), Richard Dodd (Dixie Chicks...) and further top engineers.
It is an invitation targeted to all decision makers in the music industry, like A&Rs, product managers and artists to take responsibility and make carefully considered decisions regarding the degree of compression of todays music releases. Dynamic music lasts longer.
The interview excerpts were taken from Alan ParsonsĀ“ "Art & Science of Sound Recording" dvd trilogy. Info: www.AudioTechKnowledge.com


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#14
Iacchus

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I think most people are agreed the loudness wars are bad, and unless you are making straight up banging dance music, you dont want to limit things too hard

But you'd be hard pressed to find someone that thinks no limiting at all should be used.. in any genre.



#15
andorra

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I checked Hermetech's website (new forum member) and he has a blog with few posts about mastering and one is about mastering compression. Not really limiting but he explains this:

 

Mastering ratios are often very low, like 1.1:1 or 1.5:1, very rarely more than 2.0:1.

Try not to do more than about 1.5-3dB of Gain Reduction on the highest peaks.

 

I found this post really helpful, read more here: http://hermetechmastering.com/blog/


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#16
neil (spatialize)

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That's a good guide 2-3db. That's what I go for.

Also the initial compressor you use in mastering would ideally be working at around a couple of db of reduction.

A little bit of limiting helps to maintain the energy of intros and breakdowns and kind of helps the whole track hang together.

Beyond this level of limiting gain reduction, sonically the limiter doesn't really make the music sound better, just louder, and often worse.

It's tempting to worry about the impact that having your track lower in volume in a mix next to other artists will make your track sound worse (as loudness in the mind is equated with better). But you know you can only worry about so much and you have to let go of this.

Do an AB. Heavily limit one version of a track. Softly limit another version of the track. Line those versions up next to each other and reduce the volume of the heavily limited version to the same volume as the softly limited version. Then you will be able to hear whether you have ruined the track with over limiting.

#17
Matt Freak Flag

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Anyone tried DMG Limitless? 

 

It's beastly. 

 

My demo expired and I feel lonely... Not that I think this is a good idea, but you can slam like 6db off your master with it and it doesn't sound messed up.  If I did that with Logic's limiter, it would sound awful.  Fabfilter limiter is good for individual channels.

 

Another question: does anyone else creatively use clipping/softclipping/tape-ish-clipping not on your master - say on drums?  I am having a lot of fun doing terrible things to my drum buss these days.  Wouldn't try it on a rock song (gotta stay punchy), but I'm seriously vibing on pulverized breakbeats these days.     


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If it sounds good, it is good.  


#18
neil (spatialize)

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try Klanghelm IVGI for soft saturation, particularly on a drum bus.  you can almost eq a channel with it in a very organic way.  think it was free too.

 

I sometimes use the izoptope ozone exciter on a drum bus.  just a little.  or BBE D82 Sonic maximiser.  That's a pretty sexy plugin.  :lol:



#19
Matt Freak Flag

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I forgot about the Exciter in Ozone.  That was a great plugin.  Apparently the one they have in Ozone is the different (better) than the one in Alloy/standalone?  

 

I'm a bit fuzzy on Ozone stuff these days.  Don't master so I don't have them.  But the multiband exciter was mint.    

 

IVGI is great and free!  "Soft" saturation you say?  Sounds great that way, but it also takes a thorough driving well, too.  They also have a freeware compressor, but I haven't found a use for it yet in electronic stuff.  Sounds okay on rock/pop drums, maybe bass.

 

While we're on the topic of freeware, I just downloaded the Ignite Amps Emissary and it's insane.  Best high-gain amp sim I've ever used, by far.  Does need a cab sim to really shine.  But it djents.  And it screams.  

 

For, uh, all your psybient math-metal needs  ^_^


If it sounds good, it is good.  


#20
Matt Freak Flag

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If anyone's interested, I came across an SoS's article on mixing into a compressor.  

 

Once you get past some of the audio voodoo talk about compressor circuits and analog warmth in the beginning, there are some interesting points.  For one, they mentioned why I don't  like mixing into a compressor: it often feels like my channel faders are "fighting" with the comp.  

 

But also, the mastering engineer they talk to actually says he prefers it when mixing engineers have used compression beforehand, comparing it to multiple coats of paint on a car.  

 

Honestly, most people I see on the internet saying, "never put compression [or EQ] on the master," fall into two groups: producers and mixers who don't do mastering (plenty of whom are fantastic producers and mixers), and a few mastering engineers who are fed up with producers - especially electronic producers - making bad mixing decisions and trying to smooth them over by massively over-compressing the master.  They just say, "screw it, don't put anything on the master."  

 

But I don't think I've ever been to a proper recording studio that didn't have a compressor permanently patched into the 2buss, and most of them also had a Sontec or a GML or MP or whatever, too.  They aren't dedicating $10,000 worth of hardware there for the mixing engineers just to look at.

 

A guy I know who just engineered a bluegrass band said he didn't use any channel compression save vocals, and just an EQ, comp, and reverb (!) on the 2buss.  Okay, that's not at all how I mix, but whatever... it sounded good.  


If it sounds good, it is good.  





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