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Mixing Through a Compressor On the Stereo Buss
Old 26th May 2004
  #1
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Charles Dye's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Mixing Through a Compressor On the Stereo Buss

I discussed how I process the stereo buss when mixing in The Big Picture... Show — Stereo Buss Processing, as well as when I guest moderated here about a year ago. The plugs I use have stayed the same. The way I handle them has also stayed the same... with one exception, which has radically changed the way I mix.

At the time I said, "The only plug-in I 'mix through' is McDSP Analog Channel AC1, but I definitely don't have the other plugs (RenComp, d2, Tape and Wide) across the buss when mixing. It can be very misleading to mix into compressors and saturation plug-ins like DaD Tape, because as you're adding EQ and doing rides — for example, to boost dynamics at a transition — the Compressor and Tape will constantly be pushing backwards against your changes, giving you a very inaccurate representation of what you're really doing. If you pull the plug-ins out, all of a sudden your mix will totally fall apart. It will have absolutely no power or punch."

Well, that is very true, but since I don't intend anybody other than myself to hear the mix without the compressor—what's the point? The great thing about engineering is the same problem can have so many solutions, and I've done a 180 on this. I've tried mixing through a compressor in the past, but never been satisfied with the results. About a year ago I decided to stick with it for a number of mixes, and every single mix I've done since then has been with this technique. To be clear, I don't agree with the above paragraph. I currently prefer mixing through a compressor from the beginning of the mix, and I highly recommend trying it.

If you're used to mixing without a compressor across the buss it takes some getting used to. The dynamics of the mix don't react the way you would normally expect them to, so you can't just try it once. You need to do a number of mixes so you can familiarize yourself this new limited dynamic response.

I've found it has a few advantages. One, it helps bring the mix together much quicker. Two, I find myself not needing as much compression on individual tracks to get the sound I want. Three, the mix requires less automation to bring out all the elements. Four, and most of all, mixing though a compressor changes the way I approach a mix. I'm able to get a very big + powerful sound very quickly with just the kick, snare, bass + hat. Then I just begin to fill the other instruments in around them.

To establish my starting levels for the mix, I first set my Kick + Snare level how I always have peaking @ -10 dB on the stereo buss meters (the highest green light on the PT meters) without the compressor, but from that point on the compressors goes in + never comes out. I use RenComp set to Electro mode, character to Smooth, ARC off, Ratio = 2:1, Attack = 4, Release = approx. 250-300 (set about to 8th note).

With most of the music I've been mixing lately (rock or other aggressive styles) 4 dB of compression has been sounding really good. It may sound like a lot, previously when placing the compressor over buss towards the end I would hit it only 2 to 2.5 dB, but I also had more compression on the individual tracks. Since I now use less individual compression, it probably works out to about the same amount of overall, just a different way to apply it.

Mixing this way gives me a sound that's very different than the more controlled sound of individual compression, a lot of automation, and light compression on the bus. It really sounds much more exciting. Explosive. As if things are at the brink of popping through the speakers. I love it.

I should also say that this is in no way considered mastering compression. Compression across the stereo bus while mixing is done all the time on most of the records you own. Whether inserted at the beginning or towards the end it's been a pretty standard technique for decades done by engineers all over the globe. If you need anymore proof, I have three letters: S - S - L.

So, how about you guys + gals? Have you tried mixing through a compressor? Which do you prefer? Mixing through or inserting the compressor after you're finished with most of the mix? And why?

(BTW—While writing this I tried to spell "buss" the same every time. When reading it over I noticed I used both spellings. Man, this is hopeless. ...of course, my OCD forced me to fix it so they were all the same. )
Old 26th May 2004
  #2
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flexoffset's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
10-4 on the dfegad OCD

Old 26th May 2004
  #3
Lives for gear
 
🎧 15 years
Ive tried mixing thru the comp once with no luck but I guess I was set in my ways at the time. You have some great points that I agree with. I think I'll give it a shot on my next mix and post my results.

Shane
Old 26th May 2004
  #4
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Charles Dye's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Shane,

You really should. When I started to try mixing this way again the first few mixes were hard, quite weird to be more acurate, but once I got used to it this time I began to realize tremendous benefits.
Old 26th May 2004
  #5
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🎧 15 years
Charles, are you mixing thru AC1 and RenComp now ? or are you mixing only thru RenComp ?

I never tried mixing thru a compressor, I insert a compressor when my mix is almost finished.
With this technique, you always have the choice to use or not a compressor at the end of your mix.
As you said, if you mix thru a compressor, your entire mix will be based on it, and if you pull it out : the mix will fall apart.
I really love the last mixes you did : I am going to try mixing thru a compressor and see if this technique works for me.

About AC1 you said in a previous post that it's not a compressor, it's an emulation of Analog Console saturation : I don't understand your statement because it acts like a compressor in my opinion.

About your settings on RenComp, why are you using a very short attack and long release ?
what surprise me the most is a such short attack on your mix bus.
Do you use a high or low threshold ? output gain ?
The most difficult part in mixing thru a compressor would be to find the right settings at the beginning of the mix IMO ...

I have also a question about Duy Wide, I tried to use it and it does a really great job, the only problem is that he eats the dynamic (specially all the centered stuff).
If I use it in the last position on the mix bus, it does a great job of widening the mix but I have to sacrifice a bit the dynamic.
If I use it in first position on the mix bus, the widening effect is less present but the dynamic is less affected.
What are your thoughts ?

Thanks.
Old 26th May 2004
  #6
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Stargazer's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Upgrade recently from a mix-system to HD accel.
I've done a couple of demo-mixes so far.
I'd never mixed through a compressor before this, but now I've been using (updated) Impact.
I like it, (both Impact and this technique) and i perfectly see what Charles is saying!
Any more opinions on Impact, since it's reputation doesn't seem to be the best around here?
Old 26th May 2004
  #7
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not_so_new's Avatar
Well I guess we are here to get new ideas and try new things but this one does not work for me (or has not yet anyway). BUT as I say that I have never had a mix that I have been REALLY happy with and Charles is the man so maybe it is time to try huh??

This is nothing new but I will put a comp on the mix bus (errr... or buss) but I don't print it to tape. The old saying "don't fix it in the mix" is the same to me as "don't master when mixing." Maybe I am just too old school but I want to get the vibe of my mixes from the gel of the tracks and punch it up later. Maybe I don't trust my room or monitors or ears enough but I don't want to paint myself into a corner.

I generally get drums and bass (including stems) happening then pop the 2 buss comp in and mix from there going back and forth between "in" and "bypass." When I have something that I like (again that does not happen very often.. ) I will take the comp off and print it to tape.

Yes the mix falls apart but I have faith in the ME that he or she can make it happen again but with better gear then I have. Because it was groov'n with my comp it should groove again with theirs only more so.
Old 27th May 2004
  #8
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Fidelis's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Hey Charles, thank you very much for the detailed answer... so a compressor on the mix buss in the beggining. Interesting.
All my latest mixes starts with Dad tape or lately Phoenix (Iredescent) on the mix buss, depending on the song. With Phoenix I have more options (you must try this plugin), but Tape sometimes just feels better. Those plugins just make it much easier to mix 'cause all instruments start sounding much better right way. But I do play very light with it 'cause I don't' want it to compress too much so, like you said, it doesn't push "backwards against your changes". I start pushing it more as the mix is getting to the end...
I have a feeling that a compressor in the beggining won't work for me. But I never liked doing things all the same. I'm always looking for a different way. So I'll give it a try.
And thats the beauty of music and life. There is no right and wrong. There is just so many ways to do it... Thank you again. Take Care.
Old 27th May 2004
  #9
Lives for gear
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally posted by Charles Dye
Shane,

You really should. The first few mixes were hard, in fact they were quite weird to be more acurate, but once I got used to it I began to realize tremendous benefits.
I'm going to give it a try on my next mix. When I first started mixing I always wondered why I didnt mix thru the comp if it was going to be printed on the stereo master anyways. It almost seemed like I was going about it blind because once I added the compression I would have to tweak a few things. Now I feel like I'm not alone on this.

Shane
Old 27th May 2004
  #10
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Curve Dominant's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
posted by Charles Dye:
How about you guys + gals? Have you tried mixing through a compressor? Which do you prefer? Mixing through a compressor or inserting the compressor after you're finished with most of the mix? Why?
Charles,

I've been doing both, but started out mixing through a compressor...and STILL do it that way, intermittently.

Or "haphazardly" might be a better word.

That's the weird thing about mixing your own recordings I guess. Often times I start "mixing" before everything is recorded.

Example: I throw down a rough drumbeat, bassline and some guitar chords. Then record the vocalist. At this point I want to hear the song somewhat "mixed" so I'll put a compressor on the mixbus, and that's my main session.

The compressor may stay on the mixbus whilst I record more guitars with my session player, keys, import drums, etc.

Or it may not. Sometimes I like to have a "record" session sans compression, then start over from scratch in the mixing stage, get the mix to where I think I want it, and then add the mixbus compressor. But I inevitably end up re-tweaking the mix when I do that.

If I'm reading your NEW method right, I should try this:

1) Record all the tracks
2) Bring all the faders down to zero
3) Set a mixbus up with compression
4) Start mixing (from scratch) against the compressor.

??

Suffice to say, you've got me re-thinking my approach now. Which is good!

I'll tell you though...one thing I've been doing since your last moderating visit here at Gearslutz:
1) Getting all my drum hits/samples/loops/percussions into one dedicated session (saved as "Drum Mix v.1"),
2) putting a compression plugin across THAT mixbus,
3) mixing those drums against the compressor so they sound as bangin' as possible,
4) Bounce that to disk (multiple mono), and import it back into the main session as a stereo track

...So now, I've got a tight drum mix around which to mix the rest of the tracks, and the compressor on THAT session's mixbus doesn't have to work so hard.

And if I have to re-tweak the drums, just open up "Drum Mix v.1," tweak the settings, save as "Drum Mix v.2," bounce, and re-import.

It might seem like jumping through hoops this way, but I like the results.
Old 27th May 2004
  #11
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RKrizman's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
If I use a compressor at all I stick it on towards the end, usually at a point where I'm feeling frustrated and looking for a little more gel or energy or vibe. Sometimes it's the magic bullet right away, sometimes it's a workable solution, and sometimes it's just two steps back (so I take it off). I keep coming back to RenComp or my Cranesong STC-8, though occasionally I'll try the C4. (sometimes STC-8 into the C4, both doing very little). I can't imagine using a compressor from the beginning, but perhaps I'll give it a try.

-R
Old 27th May 2004
  #12
Lives for gear
 
🎧 15 years
I almost always mix through my SSL compressor from the start: slow attack, fast release, 2:1 with about 2dB of compression, maybe 3dB on a big hit. I have another SSL that gets slammed on a drum sub. I wish I could make a custome mixer in ProTools, like in other DAWs, so I could have two rows of faders like an SSL.

I've been wanting to test the Digi Impact compressor now that the timing bug is fixed, but since I already tried the buggy one, the demo is timed out. That's a silly thing for them to do - not going to sell a lot of plugins that way.

Charles have you tried the Impact plugin?
Old 27th May 2004
  #13
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jazzius II's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Mixing thru a comp makes sense, because compression changes the sound, so can be compensated for in the mix........one can always do a pass without at the end.....it only takes 5 minutes xtra and could really save less experienced peoples asses.....i'm sometimes amazed at what people consider "a little bit" of compression........=8dB GR!

It could also encourage you to mix at a lower volume.....i think a lot of people tend to turn their volume up to the point where their hearing speaker compression, 'cause the music sounds better that way.......if you have a comp on the 2, you can have this compression sound at lower volumes.
Old 27th May 2004
  #14
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Charles Dye's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally posted by krid
Charles, are you mixing thru AC1 and RenComp now ?
krid,

Yes, I am mixing through both.
Quote:
As you said, if you mix thru a compressor, your entire mix will be based on it, and if you pull it out : the mix will fall apart.
But, it doesn't matter how it sounds without the compressor. If it sounds great with it in then you're home. If you took the EQ off of an instrument it wouldn't sound the same. Does it matter that the instrument before the EQ didn't sound as good? No. It only matters if the end result sounds better.
Quote:
I really love the last mixes you did.
They were all mixed with a compressor across the buss from the beginning. And it made a huge difference in the sound of those mixes.
Quote:
About AC1 you said in a previous post that it's not a compressor, it's an emulation of Analog Console saturation : I don't understand your statement because it acts like a compressor in my opinion.
No more than tape saturation acts like a compressor, but it's not. Analog consoles also saturate or slightly distort the sound that passes through their buss (we like that sound) and it also smoothes over the transients (similar to tape) sort of like compression, but we don't consider an analog console a compressor either.

In fact, until the first digital console we didn't really consider the analog buss at all, we pretty much took it for granted. It's not like we had a choice in the matter. We didn't really understand the analog console's full contribution to the sound of a mix until the first time we were able to hear our tracks without its saturation. It was then immediately obvious what the analog console's sound was.

And like consoles, Analog Channel AC1 isn't really a compressor, I think more accurately its GUI just makes it look like one. It has a meter that displays gain reduction, and parameters labeled Comp (Compression), Attack + Release. But they do not control settings that behave like a compressor. The most confusing of all of course is Comp, but Colin McDowell (McDSP owner/programmer) told me once he could've called it Saturation. To quote from the manual:
  • Compression (Comp) Control

    The compression (saturation, or distortion it may also be called) curve is user selectable from the Compression (Comp) control. The greater the control value, the more compression/saturation is possible. A significant difference between AC1 and a standard compressor is that AC1 has no threshold. The amplifier operation does not depend on input signals exceeding some level, and then act accordingly. Instead, the amplifier circuit is 'always on' - like a Class A amplifier - and the transition from a linear region to a non-linear region of operation is totally continuous. For the user processing audio thru AC1, this equates to a process than can limit/compress/saturate high signal levels in a consistent and precise manner.
And the Attack + Release controls are nothing like those on a compressor either. They're so you can adjust how quickly the "pre-amps" distortion kicks in + how quickly it decays. The longer the Release, the more distortion.
Quote:
About your settings on RenComp, why are you using a very short attack and long release ? what surprise me the most is a such short attack on your mix bus.
I was going for an SSL-esque sound. I actually wanted the sound of the SSL compressor set to Attack = 1 ms, Release = 300 ms, but the attack on the RenComp was just too fast, so I slowed it down until it matched the sound I was going for. Why such a fast attack? I think it sounds good + gives the mix real impact. Why such a long release? It lets the compressor recover in a musical way + gives the mix a pumping sound I like. Out of curiosity, how would you set them?

Hope this helps.
Old 27th May 2004
  #15
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Charles Dye's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally posted by jazzius II
It could also encourage you to mix at a lower volume.....i think a lot of people tend to turn their volume up to the point where their hearing speaker compression, 'cause the music sounds better that way.......if you have a comp on the 2, you can have this compression sound at lower volumes.
Very good point, jazzius.

I mix @ a very low volume myself, and the compression allows me to hear everything including the the sound of the mix's power. It's a little hard to describe, but with the compressor across the buss the roar of an aggresive song can easily be heard @ low volumes.
Old 27th May 2004
  #16
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Charles Dye's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally posted by not_so_new
This is nothing new but I will put a comp on the mix bus (errr... or buss) but I don't print it to tape. The old saying "don't fix it in the mix" is the same to me as "don't master when mixing." Maybe I am just too old school but I want to get the vibe of my mixes from the gel of the tracks and punch it up later. Maybe I don't trust my room or monitors or ears enough but I don't want to paint myself into a corner.
NSN,

I wasn't clear in my original post (I've made a change so it would be), but I don't consider this mastering in any way. Compression on the stereo bus of a mix is a pretty everyday technique (the SSL compressor). When I take my mixes to mastering the ME still adds more of his/her type of compression + limiting. I definitely support the idea of leaving mastering for the ME. I don't do limiting of any kind to my buss.

I understand your point though, I just suggest when you mix through a compressor, every decision you make will be based on that exact compressor's personality. I think you don't have any choice, but to print it. If you aren't sure also print one without + pick the best one @ mastering.

Hope this helps.
Old 27th May 2004
  #17
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Charles Dye's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally posted by Fidelis
so a compressor on the mix buss in the beggining. Interesting.
Fidelis,

I felt exactly the same way about it @ first. ("No way, this just doesn't make sense, it can't work.") But after trying it + learning how to work with it, I realized it was a far better way to work.

I will try Phoenix very soon.
Quote:
Those plugins just make it much easier to mix 'cause all instruments start sounding much better right way.
That's exactly what I'm talking about with mixing through a compressor as well. The mix just jumps together. It's pretty cool.
Quote:
But I do play very light with it 'cause I don't' want it to compress too much so, like you said, it doesn't push "backwards against your changes".
I don't worry about that anymore though. I only care what the mix sounds like after the compressor.

And it's pretty easy to tell when your pushing the compressor too much. When that happens the mix starts caving in, it begins to take on a very hard sound, almost hammer to anvil like + it seems like you have to turn things up way too much to be heard. So, just back off the threshold + let the mix breath a little bit more.

Hope this helps.
Old 27th May 2004
  #18
FX smörgåsbord user
 
Charles Dye's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally posted by Curve Dominant
If I'm reading your NEW method right, I should try this:

1) Record all the tracks
2) Bring all the faders down to zero
3) Set a mixbus up with compression
4) Start mixing (from scratch) against the compressor.
Eric,

Yep, thats how I do it. Give it a try. And let me know how it goes.
Old 27th May 2004
  #19
FX smörgåsbord user
 
Charles Dye's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally posted by RKrizman
I can't imagine using a compressor from the beginning, but perhaps I'll give it a try.
R,

Here's the thing. The first time you try it, it will be a pain in the ass. It will slow you down, nothing will respond the way you expect it to, and like a scab, you'll be itching to rip that mofo off the buss.

For this technique to work you have to commit to trying it for at least six mixes. By the third you'll begin to get a feel for it. By the sixth you'll be loving it.

I'd love to hear how it works for you.
Old 27th May 2004
  #20
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Charles Dye's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally posted by juniorhifikit
I've been wanting to test the Digi Impact compressor now that the timing bug is fixed, but since I already tried the buggy one, the demo is timed out.
JrHFK,

That's a pretty suckie thing.

I haven't tried it myself yet, but I will quite soon.
Old 27th May 2004
  #21
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krid's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Thanks a lot Charles for your detailed answer, it is very helpful : I understand better your approach.

About my settings on RenComp on the 2 bus, the settings on the last mix that I did were (if I remember correctly) :
Attack : around 140 ms
Release : around 80 ms
Opto mode
ARC off
Threshold : - 2 dB
Ratio : 1.4 : 1
Output Gain : + 1 dB

Charles, do you use a high or low Threshold : where do you set it ? output gain ?


About DUY Wide, you are still using it in the last position of your mix bus, you don't find that it eats a bit the dynamic ?
I tried to use it on the first position on the mix bus and it affects less the dynamic but the widening effect is less present.
Old 27th May 2004
  #22
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ojay's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
I tried putting the mix buss compressor on earlier in the mix about a month back cos it just made it a bit easier to mix with. I use a Neve 33609/c and bring it in after EQ'ing the drums now. Putting the compressor on gives them a little more smack and power (unsurprisingly), but it stays that way when the instruments are brought in. Before I used to try to apply a little comp at the end and couldn't quite get much power out of the comp without it messing with the mix too much.
Old 27th May 2004
  #23
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strauss's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
anyone using a lo-cut/shelf on the sidechain of their buss comp?
In my experience it keeps more of the punch in the lows (when that's necessary offcourse!)
Old 27th May 2004
  #24
Lives for gear
 
🎧 15 years
I've used a Compressor on the Stereo bus for a long time. I used to love to put the Focusrite Red 3 hardware unit across the bus when I was using a Euphonix. I also used my Neves just for the sound and vibe of the transformers, usually with no EQ.

In the box, I use Compressor Bank and the Filter Bank EQ. I have them in from the beginning because they affect every decision that you make in some subtle way. Not having it in would be like a guitar player doing his solo with a direct sound when he really intended to use a Marshall stack in the mix. That would be a little goofy, wouldn't it?

I'll have to give the Renaissance Compressor another look to see what I'm missing out on. Do you ever use ARC, or is it always manual attack and release?

Thanks, Charles.

Steve
Old 27th May 2004
  #25
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preben's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
This is truly great stuff - well worth the wait

Charles, in addition to the stereo buss comp do you also apply buss compression on the 'individual' busses, i.e. drums, crunch guitars, bv's, keys or whatever..?? And if so, are these introduced in the beginning of the mixing process..??
Old 27th May 2004
  #26
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WunderBro Flo's Avatar
 
2 Reviews written
🎧 15 years
hi folks,
let me share my experiences with you from the viewpoint of a non pro tools user - so there is no duy stuff available for me....

as a substitute for the ac1 I love the SPL charisma, a pretty overlooked unit in the us. it is a saturation unit that lets you set the curve/character of the saturation from soft too hard. it works beautifully on the mix buss, i can set the knee softer than let´s say the saturation on my studer tape machine kicks in....for those who own one, i use the charisma-comtrol set around 9 o clock. i prefer the charisma to running on the tape machine and back, cause it does not add noise, there are no dropouts and it is more flexible.

as far as compression goes, i think there are two different ways. one is to have a very slow attack, low ratio, low threshold and fast release, which rides the overall levels of a mix nicely. the technique that charles uses is one that i like better on mixes (which I have found out just recently), where the compressor pumps a little at each kick or snare hit, with a short attack, fast release and high threshold. this compression often gives more "life" to a mix than the long-attack method. if I do not use my avalon747 for that task, I have found the sonalksis compressor (available as vst and directX plugins) works exceptionally well for this....it really can make the mix breathe in a good way without making the transients sound like crap. amazing. the UAD-1 fairchild plugin is not bad for mix compression either, though I prefer the sonalksis.

what i was wondering about a lot recently is the use of an eq on the mix buss. does it just seem to me like almost everytime it sounds better (and closer to todays releases) to boost the highs a bit and/or cut some dB in the 200-400hz area? if everybody does it....wouldn´t it be a good idea to at least apply the high boost from the beginning, so you hear what the final mix is going to sound like while you mix? how many here do not use a high boost on the mix, and those who do not, how often does it happen that the mastering guy does not do it for them?

rock on,
pat
Old 27th May 2004
  #27
Lives for gear
 
🎧 15 years
Charles,

I used your Ren Comp settings as a starting point on a mix today. It sounds good and is a nice change from what is usually use. I suppose I could post and mp3, or something.

You Rock!

Steve
Old 27th May 2004
  #28
TLS
Gear Addict
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally posted by Charles:
I mix @ a very low volume myself, and the compression allows me to hear everything including the the sound of the mix's power. It's a little hard to describe, but with the compressor across the buss the roar of an aggresive song can easily be heard @ low volumes.
Hi Charles,

I was wondering what you define as "very low volume".

Thanks,

Jonathan
Old 28th May 2004
  #29
FX smörgåsbord user
 
Charles Dye's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally posted by Extreme Mixing
I used your Ren Comp settings as a starting point on a mix today. It sounds good and is a nice change from what is usually use. I suppose I could post and mp3, or something.
Steve,

Thanks! I'm glad you liked it. I'd love to hear an mp3.
Old 28th May 2004
  #30
Lives for gear
 
🎧 15 years
Re: Mixing Through a Compressor On the Stereo Buss

Quote:
Originally posted by Charles Dye
I use RenComp set to Electro mode, character to Smooth, ARC off, Ratio = 2:1, Attack = 4, Release = approx. 250-300 (set about to 8th note).
Charles:

How do you determine the "8th note" ms value? Is it by watching the release graph on the plug in when it's pumping in time to the music? Or just by hearing the release of the compressor?

Also, do you ever use Waves C4 in a similar capacity on the mix buss?

Thanks!
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