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Author Topic: Stereo Comp on the 2-Buss?  (Read 9982 times)

MedicineDog

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Stereo Comp on the 2-Buss?
« on: May 11, 2004, 01:35:50 pm »

How bad is it to use some light compression on mixes prior to mastering?  I know that a lot of MEs prefer straight tracks, but the producer of the current project we're working on really loves what happens when I strap a T-Racks tube comp across the mix buss and hit it about 1-2db.  He also loves what the "stereo enhance" function of the T-Racks comp does to the acoustic guitars.  There's no EQ or multi-band stuff happening, just the stereo tube comp (with no added gain).

Obviously, the compression can probably be handled better by the ME, but what about the "stereo enhance" aspect of it?  Is this something easily re-created as well?  My thought was to do bring both a straight mix and the comp mix of each song to the mastering session for comparison purposes.  Any thoughts on that?

I will be talking to the ME on the phone this week, so I'll definitely get his thoughts/wishes.  But I'm interested to know what you ME's normally prefer?

Thanks!
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jazzius

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Re: Stereo Comp on the 2-Buss?
« Reply #1 on: May 11, 2004, 02:41:10 pm »

T-racks sounds terrible.....don't do it

MASSIVE Mastering

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Re: Stereo Comp on the 2-Buss?
« Reply #2 on: May 11, 2004, 08:04:47 pm »

I agree - If you're using something nice, a couple dB is fine IF IT HELPS THE MIX.

Take a very close listen to those tracks that he likes "better" and see if they're just not "louder" than the original.

If in doubt, send the ME both of the mixes.  I get that a lot.  It's not bad - It gives me an idea of where they want it to go.
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John Scrip
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jfrigo

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Re: Stereo Comp on the 2-Buss?
« Reply #3 on: May 12, 2004, 06:44:17 am »

I wouldn't advise using a crappy compressor - your whole mix is going through it after all. Don't overdo it, and don't agressively limit or worry about level, but don't feel that you can't compress during mixing. If you are doing it for a reason, not just because "that's what  I think everyone does so it must be right," then go for it. It can be a integral part of the sound you are after and an important tool for your creative expression. Just try to use some reasonable judgement and you should be fine.

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MedicineDog

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Re: Stereo Comp on the 2-Buss?
« Reply #4 on: May 12, 2004, 12:14:00 pm »

Many thanks.

It's not a loudness thing (I'm very careful about matching levels due to the "louder always sounds better" trap).  What the producer likes is the "stereo enhance" feature on the compressor.  I don't know what it does technically-speaking, but it does "widen" the stereo field, particularly with the acoustic guitars (very heavily acoustic-oriented project).  Just curious if this is something easily recreated in the mastering session or if it's something specific to the T-Racks comp (Acuma's Final Mix does something similar).

As for crappy compressors, yeah, T-Racks is not the best in my arsenal, but it does what the producer likes.  I have UAD-1 stuff (Fairchild, LA2A, etc.) plus Waves Master Bundle when I do stuff in-house.

I'll be attending the mastering session and will take along the mixes both ways.  As the ME told me, "No problem, it's just hard disk space.  Bring along whatever you think will work."

Thanks again,
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jfrigo

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Re: Stereo Comp on the 2-Buss?
« Reply #5 on: May 12, 2004, 05:15:11 pm »

If nothing else, having the T-Racks widened & compressed version along with the unprocessed version will allow the mastering engineer to get a feel for what the producer wanted by referencing the T-Racks version, and then accomplishing the goal with his tools on the unprocessed mix. Then again, the processed one may sound great, and if that's the way the producer liked it, it may be the one to roll with. It's a decision you can both make in the mastering room after you're able to listen to both versions with fresh ears on a good system.
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MedicineDog

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Re: Stereo Comp on the 2-Buss?
« Reply #6 on: May 13, 2004, 11:41:53 am »

Thanks, Jay - Sounds like a solid plan.
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Mixerman

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Re: Stereo Comp on the 2-Buss?
« Reply #7 on: May 14, 2004, 03:48:00 am »

Medicine Dog,

Never ask mastering engineers whether you should put a compressor on your mix. 99 times out of 100, they'll give you the wrong answer.

Sorry boys. But it's true.

Look, I understand why so many MEs think this is good advice, particularly when consulting neophytes to stereo compression. But really! At least tell the guy the whole truth of the matter. Here's the truth MedecineDog:

If the mastering engineer puts the compression on later, then your balances are going to change. If you want your balances to remain relatively the same, then you need to compress the mix. If you can't live with your balances changing (I know I can't), then do NOT let the mastering engineer compress the mix. Take matters into your own hands. Compress your own mix.

Good compressor, bad compressor, it makes no difference to me what you use. If it's helping the mix then use it. If it's hindering the mix then don't use it. It's that simple.

Personally, I choose what I put on the stereo bus VERY carefully. But how is a Mastering Engineer qualified to determine BEFORE the fact that a stereo compressor isn't right for your mix? No one can possibly make that judgement, aside from the people present at the mix! How do you as MEs know that the guy can't compensate for the compressor? How do you know the mix isn't just calling for cheap compression? You don't know any of that, yet you're advising that he not use a compressor on his mix?

It's not an your judgement as MEs because you're not there to be MAKING the judgements. With all due respect, your role is to prepare the mix for it's final destination. If you (as a mastering engineer) can make the mix a little louder with some limiting (which will not change the mix balnaces nearly as much as compression will), and if you can make it pop a little more with EQ, great! Those subtle balance changes are usually for the better. But you're not mixers, so stop acting like mixers by advising engineers to allow you to mix their record for them.

Medicine, if you let a Mastering Engineer compress your mix, you're essentially letting him mix your record. I can assure you that the ME will not even take 1/100th of the time mixing the record that you did on the first go around. Why would you allow that?

Compression is a mix decision. Please do not advise people to put off yet ANOTHER decision in the record making process.

I'll let you fella's chew on that for a moment. But you know as well as I do, that I'M RIGHT! You should not be telling a mixer what he should be doing without ever hearing what he's ACTUALLY doing!

If you don't believe me, mix for a while without the compressor, then strap it on when you're fairly happy with the balnces. See what I mean?

Our of curiosity, what ratio are you using?

Mixerman

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Mixerman

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Re: Stereo Comp on the 2-Buss?
« Reply #8 on: May 14, 2004, 04:00:40 am »

Oh, yeah. One last thing.

Medicine Dog,

A suggestion: If the Producer likes something on the stereo bus, then keep it on the stereo bus until such time that you can clearly demonstrate to the Producer why the mix is worse with it there. I'm even going to tell you WHY you should do this.

Producers will hire you. Mastering Engineers are hoping you will hire them.

Mixerman
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jfrigo

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Re: Stereo Comp on the 2-Buss?
« Reply #9 on: May 14, 2004, 05:03:51 am »

The masked man is ranting about certain MEs, but luckily I don't see the offending advice given by the regulars on this board very often, and not in this thread. One can't make generalities that imply that all or most MEs give the advice to avoid compression. Most of the ones I know who are worth their salt (including several on the board) would never say such a thing.

I'd rather not need to compress in mastering, unless it's just barely tickling it more for a desired color than a dynamic adjustment. The better a song is and the less I have to do to it, the better. Then I can concentrate on the fine details that really make a song or a mix exceptional instead of putting band-aids on a problem child. Apart from going for sheer level, get the mix as close to what you want as possible.

One other caution about these stereo wideners: if you want the acoustic guitars to be wider, mix them so they'll be wider, or just put the effect on the guitars. Often these spreaders just hurt center, punch, impact, and any specific stereo imaging you've crafted in exchange for a first impression of greater spaciousness. Sometimes it's right, and if it sounds great and serves the song, go for it. But be honest with yourself when deciding if it does, and be aware of the tradeoffs. Make sure you're gaining more than you're losing.

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Mixerman

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Re: Stereo Comp on the 2-Buss?
« Reply #10 on: May 14, 2004, 12:23:06 pm »

jfrigo wrote on Fri, 14 May 2004 02:03

One can't make generalities that imply that all or most MEs give the advice to avoid compression. Most of the ones I know who are worth their salt (including several on the board) would never say such a thing.



I'm not making generalities that haven't already occurred in other threads, on other Mastering Boards, discussing this identical subject matter. There are three ME's on this board giving advice not to use a compressor on the stereo bus, purely from the perspective of elitism. To this moment, there are no MEs refuting these recommendations. And in my experience on these threads, there rarely ever are. I'd say that is a fair generalization considering these facts. Even after my post last night, STILL not one mastering engineer has posted to agree with this perspective.

Apparently, the 3 of you that DID supply an answer don't approve of his choice of compressor, so you automatically assume it would not be good for the stereo bus. In this particular case, with this particular engineer, it just might be the perfect compressor. Mixing isn't mastering. A good mix has little to do with a good signal path. Yes, a good signal path can make mixing easier, that's for sure, but there are often times, for creative reasons, that a poor signal path is desired.

I addressed this whole board in general because of the silent majority. You call it generalizations. I call it experience on this subject with MEs, and I call it recognizing a lack of willingness to give the entire story. I see a whole lot of MEs that come to this board giving the easy answer. In most of those cases, that's no answer at all.

Like I said last night. I GET recommending using high quality compressors on the stereo bus. In fact, I don't really have a problem with your particular recommendations, Jay. What I don't get is the fact that no other ME had anything to say about this other than tacit approval to these suggestions. I also don't get the prevalence of this odd little mothering of mix engineers by telling them they should leave stereo compression up to the ME. I suggest that rather than attempting to cause a dependence on you as MEs to do his job for him, you should perhaps encourage him to fuck up a few records and learn how to mix it on his own.

Hope you're well Jay,

Mixerman
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bblackwood

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Re: Stereo Comp on the 2-Buss?
« Reply #11 on: May 14, 2004, 12:36:14 pm »

Wow, my first post in a week here. I really gotta get to my own forum more often...

As most everyone who has read my parts of these discussions knows, I agree whole-heartedly with Mixerman. Buss compression changes the balances of the instrumentation of the mix. I will say it again - buss compression changes the balances of the mix. Balances are a mix decision, not a mastering one.

That doesn't mean that there is no place for compression in the mastering room, but if a track is made better through the use of buss compression (not all are), it should be addressed at the mix level. What good is it to send a mix to mastering that you've slaved over to get the balances just right only to have it changed when buss compression is applied?

And I don't by the whole 'newbie that can't hear how they are destroying it' routine, either. That's how you learn - you screw up and hear it later and it focuses your hearing.

I've said this for a long time and stick to it - do anything you want while mixing as long as your motivation isn't level...
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MedicineDog

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Re: Stereo Comp on the 2-Buss?
« Reply #12 on: May 14, 2004, 12:44:41 pm »

Okay, that was an interesting turn-in-thread.  I always appreciate another point of view.

Mixerman - to answer your question, ratio is 2:1.  Again, very light 1-2db comp.  And, you're right, the comp definitely will change the balances.

Jay - WRT to "wideners", you're right as well, they do seem to scoop out the middle quite a bit if you go too far with them.  All the acoustics on this album are recorded in stereo (neck and body miced).  The neck mics are used as the main mic with the body mics used to fill-in the sound as needed.  The panning is generally neck mic hard L or R with the body mic panned in from that (say, 9:00 or 3:00 or so).  For whatever reason, the "Stereo Enhance" feature on this T-Racks comp adds a "sparkle" to the guitars that I can't recreate with EQ.  That, combined with the perceived wider stereo field is what the producer is liking so much.

I guess what I'm getting from this thread is that a) I should make the mixes sound the way I want them to with whatever tools I need to use to do that and, b) don't get carried away with the tools I use.  Is that a fair summation?

Oh, and Mixerman - Thanks for the "neophyte" comment.  I feel like a kid again  Laughing
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jfrigo

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Re: Stereo Comp on the 2-Buss?
« Reply #13 on: May 14, 2004, 05:59:12 pm »

Mixerman wrote on Fri, 14 May 2004 09:23



I'm not making generalities that haven't already occurred in other threads, on other Mastering Boards, discussing this identical subject matter. There are three ME's on this board giving advice not to use a compressor on the stereo bus, purely from the perspective of elitism. To this moment, there are no MEs refuting these recommendations.


Usually when this question comes up (often), at least myself, Brad, DC, and a couple others tell them to use compression if it helps. The only caution, which is a fair one, is not to limit purely for level, and not to compress just because you think you are supposed to. Go ahead and use it if there's a reason and don't feel like you're not supposed to. That's what I said in my post, and in all the other posts when this comes up on a multitude of boards, so I disagree that nobody has said it.

Of course I've seen the other guys on the other boards saying it, and like you, though I may understand (not necessarily agree, but understand) why they give the advice to beginners, I certainly don't think those beginners will ever learn how to do it right if they don't practice.

Quote:

Apparently, the 3 of you that DID supply an answer don't approve of his choice of compressor, so you automatically assume it would not be good for the stereo bus. In this particular case, with this particular engineer, it just might be the perfect compressor./


Somebody said that - I just told him to remember that his whole mix goes through it, so be honest with himself when he listens, and avoid crappy ones, meaning in general. Apart from that, I said clearly that if it works, or if the producer loves it, keep it. Just make sure to think before you jump. I'm thinking I'm agreeing with you - just offering the reasonable caveats that have nothing to do with whether it's going to mastering or not. If that's been lost in translation, let me quote myself again:
"don't feel that you can't compress during mixing."
"It can be a integral part of the sound you are after and an important tool for your creative expression."
"the processed one may sound great, and if that's the way the producer liked it, it may be the one to roll with"
(even if it's not the sexiest comp and it has stereo wideners - if it works, it works. Just make sure it really does, then don't look back)

Quote:

I addressed this whole board in general because of the silent majority. You call it generalizations. I call it experience on this subject with MEs, and I call it recognizing a lack of willingness to give the entire story. I see a whole lot of MEs that come to this board giving the easy answer.
(SNIP)
you should perhaps encourage him to fuck up a few records and learn how to mix it on his own.

Hope you're well Jay,

Mixerman


Thanks MM, I am, and hope you are also. I'm all for your post and your perspective. You indeed need to screw up a few times to learn, and indeed should be handling the mix during the mix and not expecting your job to be done for you in mastering. The mix should be finished by then. We're in agreement with that.

What I resist is letting those few guys you refer to as giving bad advice for elitest reasons be the ones that our whole profession is judged by, because there's a whole big pile of us that don't agree with the elitest point of view. You warn 'em aout all the bad ones, and I'll remind 'em that there are some good ones out there too.

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tito

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Re: Stereo Comp on the 2-Buss?
« Reply #14 on: May 14, 2004, 11:19:51 pm »

jazzius wrote on Tue, 11 May 2004 14:41

T-racks sounds terrible.....don't do it


I'm a newbie, although I'm pretty happy with what I've learned on my own over the last year.  Check my tunes for a taste of my mixing and psudo mastering accomplishments (if you are bored).  My weakest link in knowledge at this point is limiting and compression.  I get it, but I haven't had enough experience to hear a mix and say it needs x amount of whatever.  I just twist the nobs until it sound the way I want it to.

Sorry to bring down the level of this thread a bit and go a little OT but what the hell is so crappy about T-Racks or digi-rack compressors?  Can somebody break it down?  

What would you recommend for a hardware compressor for someone w/ no budget?

Did I mention that I love mixing AND mastering?  It's great fun. Razz


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