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Limiter
Old 28th May 2020
  #1
Limiter

Hi John, thank you for sharing your knowledge.

Do you think it is useful to mix into a limiter from the very beginning of the process, especially when judging critical tracks (Vocals, Bass, Kick, Snare)?

Do you like to control the peaks of these tracks with limiters before they hit your mix-bus processors?

Thanks for the answers you will give us.
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Old 2nd June 2020
  #2
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Yes I always mix into the master chain with limiting from the beginning of the mix. If you try to put something on at the end of the process it will undo or change a bunch of the work that you already put in. Mix into the glue!

In this way, you can also control the amount of limiting going on as you work; mix getting too loud? Pull everything down a bit. You can do this during the mix because you'll be able to adjust for how it changes things as you mix. If you do it at the end of the mix, it can change sound of the mix.

Some individual tracks will get limiters as well as necessary, or the volume of parts within the tracks can be ridden down as a sort of manual limiting.

I would say overall there is a lot more compression and volume rides being done than just hitting louder parts with a limiter.

I think that when we were mixing on a console, back in the Teddy Riley days, it was different. We would do the mix and then put the Master Compressor on towards the end. But in those days mixes weren't so loud out of the console and we printed back to 1/2" tape so we needed to get things under control for that.
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Old 2nd June 2020
  #3
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Considering that loudness normalisation is becoming the norm in broadcast and streaming, can you imagine changing the way you use the limiter on the mix bus or you consider the limiter to be an irreplaceable "glue" tool and aesthetically beneficial for what you do?
Old 2nd June 2020
  #4
Thank you for your answer John.

I think that mixing into the limiter helps to get a better final balance and louder mixes.

I read your mixes hit at about -6LUFS at the loudest part.
Do you reach such an high pressure "simply" with your mix-bus chain into the limiter or do you rise the level after the limiter, too?

I know we are not supposed to but I really like to clip the limited mix a dB or two and then lightly limit it again less than a dB to get the final "mastering" level.

Do you think that processing after the limiter can help to hit hotter levels in a more transparent way?
Old 4th June 2020 | Show parent
  #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jetam ➡️
Considering that loudness normalisation is becoming the norm in broadcast and streaming, can you imagine changing the way you use the limiter on the mix bus or you consider the limiter to be an irreplaceable "glue" tool and aesthetically beneficial for what you do?
We create a mix that sounds good. If broadcast or streaming services down the line **** that up, that is their problem; we're not going to try to guess what they are going to do and compensate for it.

Funny story: We had one artist we mixed for who was traveling around the country on tour. In each city he would listen for his songs on the local radio. He called and complained that the mixes sounded different in different cities and wondered if we should create different mixes for different radio stations. We shut that **** down immediately!
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Old 4th June 2020 | Show parent
  #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mix_dome ➡️
Thank you for your answer John.

I think that mixing into the limiter helps to get a better final balance and louder mixes.

I read your mixes hit at about -6LUFS at the loudest part.
Do you reach such an high pressure "simply" with your mix-bus chain into the limiter or do you rise the level after the limiter, too?

I know we are not supposed to but I really like to clip the limited mix a dB or two and then lightly limit it again less than a dB to get the final "mastering" level.

Do you think that processing after the limiter can help to hit hotter levels in a more transparent way?
We don't do anything after the limiter, so I have not studied the issue of hotter with transparency as you are using it. But if it works for you then do it!
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Old 4th June 2020
  #7
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Hi John,
Thanks for your responses on things like this.

It is really nice to know that even those at the very top of the mixing world deal with stuff like this.

The biggest takeaway for me so far in this Q&A is that there is no magic, no special hardware, etc, it's just 2 normal guys with tons of experience who have developed (and keep refining) a process that meets the tastes of their clients.

Cheers
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Old 5th June 2020 | Show parent
  #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bambamboom ➡️
Hi John,
Thanks for your responses on things like this.

It is really nice to know that even those at the very top of the mixing world deal with stuff like this.

The biggest takeaway for me so far in this Q&A is that there is no magic, no special hardware, etc, it's just 2 normal guys with tons of experience who have developed (and keep refining) a process that meets the tastes of their clients.

Cheers
Thanks, that is the gist of what I want to share! We are all dealing with the same issues.
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Old 6th June 2020 | Show parent
  #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheHanes ➡️
We create a mix that sounds good. If broadcast or streaming services down the line **** that up, that is their problem; we're not going to try to guess what they are going to do and compensate for it.

Funny story: We had one artist we mixed for who was traveling around the country on tour. In each city he would listen for his songs on the local radio. He called and complained that the mixes sounded different in different cities and wondered if we should create different mixes for different radio stations. We shut that **** down immediately!
Thanks for the reply and the story!

It's quite likely that loundness normalisation will also reduce such problems as the broadcasters won't have to compress the program nearly as much. Since EBU R128 standard was introduced, I've noticed quite a significant improvement in TV sound consistency. I suspect that when digital radio overtakes analogue FM, something similar is going to happen.
Old 7th June 2020 | Show parent
  #10
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🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by TheHanes ➡️
We don't do anything after the limiter, so I have not studied the issue of hotter with transparency as you are using it. But if it works for you then do it!
Hi John, what about clipping on individual tracks or drum busses? Do you use that technique? If so what plugin do you use?

There are a couple of old interviews where Serban mentions the use of Lo-Fi, do you still use it? Could you share in which tracks do you use it the most?

Thanks!
Old 8th June 2020 | Show parent
  #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Oroz ➡️
Hi John, what about clipping on individual tracks or drum busses? Do you use that technique? If so what plugin do you use?

There are a couple of old interviews where Serban mentions the use of Lo-Fi, do you still use it? Could you share in which tracks do you use it the most?

Thanks!
Yes, depending on the song. Often that comes built into the session from the producers if that is the sound that they are going for.

We might also all some clipping as a sound design tool where is sounds right.

Lo-Fi is still a great plugin for this; most often used a bit on cymbals, but for aggressive songs I'll try it on drums, bass, 808. I've also tried out the Kilohearts Distortion plugin which I like. Soundtoys Decapitator or Devil-Loc is also a frequent choice.

One thing that I have mixed recently that I've used these aggressive techniques is an artist named Morgan Saint, I just wrapped up her EP which will be coming soon I hope. https://www.morgansaint.com.

We wanted a bit of a wild, nasty, aggressive sound on some parts; so I used a lot of these kinds of clipping and distortions to push it hard.

Last edited by TheHanes; 8th June 2020 at 03:34 PM.. Reason: typing too fast, named the wrong plugin.
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Old 8th June 2020 | Show parent
  #12
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🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by TheHanes ➡️
Yes, depending on the song. Often that comes built into the session from the producers if that is the sound that they are going for.

We might also all some clipping as a sound design tool where is sounds right.

Lo-Fi is still a great plugin for this; most often used a bit on cymbals, but for aggressive songs I'll try it on drums, bass, 808. I've also tried out the Kilohearts Distortion plugin which I like. Distressor is also a frequency choice.

One thing that I have mixed recently that I've used these aggressive techniques is an artist named Morgan Saint, I just wrapped up her EP which will be coming soon I hope. https://www.morgansaint.com.

We wanted a bit of a wild, nasty, aggressive sound on some parts; so I used a lot of these kinds of clipping and distortions to push it hard.
Sounds great John!!

What version of Distressor? Arousor, UAD, Slate?
Old 8th June 2020
  #13
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🎧 5 years
Thank you John for the amazing info you're sharing with us.

You mentioned before that MixStar mixes hit at -6LUFS at loudest parts.
How many dBs of limiting are being applied on those loud parts?
Could you talk a little about your gain staging to be able to hit so loud with so much clarity?
Also... totally understand not disclaiming the stereo bus... but any hints on the limiter choice at the end of the chain? L2? Pro-L?
Thanks in advance...
Old 9th June 2020 | Show parent
  #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jakelorenz ➡️
Sounds great John!!

What version of Distressor? Arousor, UAD, Slate?
I corrected my mistake after you quoted me. To make sure I'm not giving false testimony, it should have been Soundtoys Decapitator.
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Old 9th June 2020 | Show parent
  #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tiagoderrico ➡️
Thank you John for the amazing info you're sharing with us.

You mentioned before that MixStar mixes hit at -6LUFS at loudest parts.
How many dBs of limiting are being applied on those loud parts?
Could you talk a little about your gain staging to be able to hit so loud with so much clarity?
Also... totally understand not disclaiming the stereo bus... but any hints on the limiter choice at the end of the chain? L2? Pro-L?
Thanks in advance...
Generally speaking it isn't going to be a ton. For a standard mid tempo maybe 1.5 to 2dB on a compressor and another 1 to 2dB at the end of the chain in combined compression and limiting.

For a really aggressive song, could be 3dB on the compressor and 2dB down chain of compression and limiting. if I'm approaching 3dB at the end of the chain, I'd really start looking at my gain structure.

I'm paying attention to gain staging and gain structure through the whole mix, it isn't really something that you can easily fix at the end of the process.
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Old 9th June 2020 | Show parent
  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheHanes ➡️
Generally speaking it isn't going to be a ton. For a standard mid tempo maybe 1.5 to 2dB on a compressor and another 1 to 2dB at the end of the chain in combined compression and limiting.

For a really aggressive song, could be 3dB on the compressor and 2dB down chain of compression and limiting. if I'm approaching 3dB at the end of the chain, I'd really start looking at my gain structure.

I'm paying attention to gain staging and gain structure through the whole mix, it isn't really something that you can easily fix at the end of the process.
Hi John, first of thanks for sharing. So if I’m reading this right you have two compressors on the mix, one on the mix buss and then one on the mastering buss?
Old 10th June 2020 | Show parent
  #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheHanes ➡️
Generally speaking it isn't going to be a ton. For a standard mid tempo maybe 1.5 to 2dB on a compressor and another 1 to 2dB at the end of the chain in combined compression and limiting.

For a really aggressive song, could be 3dB on the compressor and 2dB down chain of compression and limiting. if I'm approaching 3dB at the end of the chain, I'd really start looking at my gain structure.

I'm paying attention to gain staging and gain structure through the whole mix, it isn't really something that you can easily fix at the end of the process.
Do you use any type of exciters or distortion tools on the mix to make it sound richer / fuller or do you stick to simple compression and limiting?

I was also wondering if the first thing is some type of analog substitute 2-bus ssl style comp followed by a comp / limiter combo?

I highly appreciate everything you've shared so far with us, I think you and Serban are the most benevolent thing that has happened to us professionals struggling day in day out by honestly answering all these questions. I don't think anybody else has spoken that open about their craft other than maybe Bob or Bruce, bless you!
Old 10th June 2020 | Show parent
  #18
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Originally Posted by JB872 ➡️
Hi John, first of thanks for sharing. So if I’m reading this right you have two compressors on the mix, one on the mix buss and then one on the mastering buss?
There is no separate mastering bus. The Master Fader for ProTools output 1&2 has multiple things inserted on it.
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Old 10th June 2020 | Show parent
  #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheHanes ➡️
Generally speaking it isn't going to be a ton. For a standard mid tempo maybe 1.5 to 2dB on a compressor and another 1 to 2dB at the end of the chain in combined compression and limiting.

For a really aggressive song, could be 3dB on the compressor and 2dB down chain of compression and limiting. if I'm approaching 3dB at the end of the chain, I'd really start looking at my gain structure.

I'm paying attention to gain staging and gain structure through the whole mix, it isn't really something that you can easily fix at the end of the process.

Very interesting. This mean crushing very hard all the tracks?
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Old 11th June 2020 | Show parent
  #20
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Originally Posted by SPORT ➡️
Very interesting. This mean crushing very hard all the tracks?
Not necessarily. Crush where needed if appropriate if you like the crushed sound on a particular instrument, use volume rides, light to medium compression where needed, and overall use good gain structure strategies.
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Old 11th June 2020 | Show parent
  #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheHanes ➡️
Generally speaking it isn't going to be a ton. For a standard mid tempo maybe 1.5 to 2dB on a compressor and another 1 to 2dB at the end of the chain in combined compression and limiting.

For a really aggressive song, could be 3dB on the compressor and 2dB down chain of compression and limiting. if I'm approaching 3dB at the end of the chain, I'd really start looking at my gain structure.

I'm paying attention to gain staging and gain structure through the whole mix, it isn't really something that you can easily fix at the end of the process.
This is really fascinating to me. Can I ask, beyond compression and limiting are there any other processes on the mixbus they are reducing dynamic range? Are there any tips you could share about what contributes to shaping the dynamics of the mix so that you are getting such a high rms with only a dB or 2 of limiting?

On the subject of loudness, do you go for such a high rms level just because you like the way it sounds that way, or are there other considerations (label/ artist expectations for example). Personally I really like that aesthetic for a lot of pop, sounds exciting and emotional to have all the details right at the surface even at a low listening level. Just wish I could pull it off better. Thanks again for your time doing this!!
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Old 12th June 2020 | Show parent
  #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr XY ➡️
This is really fascinating to me. Can I ask, beyond compression and limiting are there any other processes on the mixbus they are reducing dynamic range? Are there any tips you could share about what contributes to shaping the dynamics of the mix so that you are getting such a high rms with only a dB or 2 of limiting?

On the subject of loudness, do you go for such a high rms level just because you like the way it sounds that way, or are there other considerations (label/ artist expectations for example). Personally I really like that aesthetic for a lot of pop, sounds exciting and emotional to have all the details right at the surface even at a low listening level. Just wish I could pull it off better. Thanks again for your time doing this!!
The first part is kind of hard to answer; it is basically the essence of mixing. Controlling elements of the song with volume, compression, EQ, to manage the overall aesthetic and gain structure throughout the song. I'm not sure of the mathematics involved, but I think that a first compressor doing 2dB of compression and then another doing 2dB of compression and limiting would add up to more than one compressor or limiter doing 4dB of work.

The second part is easier to answer; it is due to the Loudness Wars. A songwriter will make a demo loud because louder sounds more impressive, right? The artist and producer then have to be louder than that on their production mix. They send to us, and we need to be louder than that because they are A/B'ing the mix to their rough and will say "it doesn't hit as hard". If we send mix that has more dynamic range and is not pushed hard, they will have mastering do it after the fact, because when they play their song next to the current hit, it needs to be as loud.

So our theory here is that if it is going to be pushed that loud anyway at some point, it is better to do it in the mix where we have total control over the effects of loudness than to leave it to be done later with possible adverse effects.

As I said before, this is kind of a "pro-move" and not everyone needs to be doing this if it is adversely affecting your mixes. It is a difficult position to be in to have to make a mix as loud as the rough mix but fix all of the problems that their loudness creates. Sometimes the rough mixes come in much louder than our final mixes can safely get to and at that point we just have to say "that is not going to sound good as a final product"
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Old 12th June 2020
  #23
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Adding to my thoughts here.

When I'm doing the Atmos mixes, I'll typically be dropping the volume by about 10dB.

The reason for this is that first, the companies streaming Atmox mixes have guidelines for delivery volume. Second, the Atmos processor at the playback end has some leveling compensation built into it so that it is doing some of the work of equalizing volume across songs.

The trick here is to try to maintain the "crush" and "crunch" elements of the mix if they exist as part of the desired sound with a significant change in overall level.
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Old 12th June 2020
  #24
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Hi John, thanks for the inspiration and advice you are giving, i wanted to ask if you only use the limiter on the master bus or even a clipping plugin.
Thanks in advance
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Old 12th June 2020
  #25
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Hi John,

Thanks for sharing here!

Do you use the MH Channel Strip limiter on channels, or would you use a specific tool for that?
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Old 15th June 2020 | Show parent
  #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by b0se ➡️
Hi John,

Thanks for sharing here!

Do you use the MH Channel Strip limiter on channels, or would you use a specific tool for that?
I'd say that I don't tend to use specifically a limiter on individual tracks often, though I might push a compressor into a fast attack mode when needed.

Most of the time the MH Channelstrip is in the MIO mode and mostly not using that or any other limiter.
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Old 15th June 2020 | Show parent
  #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by frums ➡️
Hi John, thanks for the inspiration and advice you are giving, i wanted to ask if you only use the limiter on the master bus or even a clipping plugin.
Thanks in advance
no clipping plugin on the master bus, though the limiter can be pushed there as needed.
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