Multiband Compression Voodoo
Peter Project
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#1
2nd July 2006
Old 2nd July 2006
  #1
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Thread Starter
Multiband Compression Voodoo

I just got myself the UAD-1 Multiband compressor\expander\gate. But I've read time and time again that if you’re not careful you'll likely do more harm than good to your mix. I've heard this to the point that I'm scared as hell to use it! I've got a pretty good set of ears and I understand compression\expansion, dynamic range, etc.... So what exactly are people doing to their mixes (specific to multiband compression) that's so freaking awfull? I mean, if it sounds bad, it sounds bad. So what's with the "evil dark side" of the multiband compressor that I keep hearing about?
Bob Olhsson
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#2
2nd July 2006
Old 2nd July 2006
  #2
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My problem with multiband is that it's really easy to make things sound better in your own room but worse everywhere else. When you hear an improvement, an even bigger one can generally be achieved by changing the mix and this will be lots less dependent on a particular set of speakers in a particular room.

The challenge of all signal processing is how much your room needs vs. how much the audio signal actually needs.
#3
2nd July 2006
Old 2nd July 2006
  #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Peter Project
So what exactly are people doing to their mixes (specific to multiband compression) that's so freaking awfull?
For myself it used to be not having a reference point to return to.


These days I treat the multiband as a single band compressor by customizing every band to the particuar track I'm working on. Once the multiband is set up with peak thresholds on every band, then I can focus on a particular band, and if it doesn't work I have the ability to go back to the state where it was previously set up as a single band compressor.

This is the only way I have been able to use it without getting lost!
#4
23rd September 2006
Old 23rd September 2006
  #4
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IMO.. I just don't think the MEs want you too know their secrets.. so that's why they all tell you that MB compression is bad bad bad!

.. jokes aside...

I think it comes down to the fact that people just don't understand compression and multiband processing in general, so they have to do a lot of processing to really hear it.. and by then you've probably gone way to far with it. I think there are certain genres where MB compression is just the right thing to do. It just won't sound right without it. Extreme metal and Electronic dance for instance.. basically the more extreme the music, the more extreme the processing.

Guidelines when doing MB processing for me, is to use as few bands as possible and as little as possible. I very rarely use more than 1.5db compression on a single band and it's long attack times and tuned releases so the compressors breathe with the music and doesn't jump around a lot.
MASSIVE Master
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#5
24th September 2006
Old 24th September 2006
  #5
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I think my big problem with defaulting to maul-the-band compression is the same problem I have with presets -

The ear reacts quickly to change - Whether it's actually good or bad, some things will automatically "seem" to sound better. A slight increase it volume, harmonic exciters, etc.

With the average MBC, you can throw it on a lot of things and *presto* it sounds "better" where it actualy sounds *louder* and *more irritating* - Not enough people (okay, I'm referring to "noobs" here) understand what they're doing with it, and even fewer have an "end game" in mind.

I have absolutely nothing against the guy (or gal) who listens to a mix and thinks: "Hmmm... On the loud parts, a dB or two of gain reduction between around 600 Hz and 1kHz would really open up the mids..."

"On the loud parts" of course, because if it was "all the time" then a simple EQ would arguably be the proper tool.

But it seems that a lot of "noobs" I know, especially the ones who keep a MBC on the buss before they even load the tracks - They throw presets around and hope something sticks without having any idea if the mix even sounds decent in the first place. I see them marketed as some "magic mastering tool" and the "secret to loud mixes" when it's pretty far from either, IMO/E...
#6
24th September 2006
Old 24th September 2006
  #6
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De-essing, or anywhere you want to even out a particular frequency band. Or, maybe some expansion on something that's been crushed to death. I usually use one band if any, and rarely more than 2 bands EVER. Very little reduction/ expansion as above. But again, usually it's just de-essing.
Nordenstam
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#7
24th September 2006
Old 24th September 2006
  #7
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The crossovers in themselves tend to do quite a lot just by being in the signal path. Can be quite disturbing if these are placed right on some important element in the mix. The odd times when I go for a MBC, I usually start out by playing with the crossover points, trying to place them where they do the least harm.

One time, crossing over right at the target element was all that was needeed to make something sound right! It had me puzzled but it was what the track needed. Guess that won't happen again in this millenia, but it goes to show the power of the filters. They do some weird things! Getting the crossovers out of the way of the most important things usually means leaving the 100hz to 4kHz area intact.

In addition to de-essing, MBC is also especially useful to control overly flat(expansion) or dynamic(compression) low end. Typically mixes comming from less experienced people with small near fields, where the bottom end tends to vary all over the place from track to track. Some expansion can be a life safer for a dull bottom end.
#8
24th September 2006
Old 24th September 2006
  #8
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Bob Yordan's Avatar
 

Hi

I do not like using multi's.

Slicing a mix into eg 3 parts, where some instruments crossover the boundries
and then mix/balance them(instruments&slices) together afterwards and try to make it sound natural when the
crossovered parts of the instrument has changed in balance, is not my cup of tea.


It becomes an orgy of compromising.

Personally I prefer some tool that handles it in a transparent way.

Lagerfeldt
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#9
24th September 2006
Old 24th September 2006
  #9
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Multiband is a nice tool for fixing certain problems, and generally I tend to use multiband on one or two specific bands if necessary. Not all 5 bands at the same time just because I've got 5 bands..

It can help control some sub issues where low cutting or notching won't work or it could help controlling some fluctuating mid or high problem where regular comp isn't enough.

Actually using multiband in the high freq area but with expansion instead of compression can be a nice way of seemingly putting some dynamics back into a smashed track. For some reason the ear really hates a squashed high end, and expansion could be the solution here, 1-2 dB is more than enough.
#10
24th September 2006
Old 24th September 2006
  #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lagerfeldt View Post
Multiband is a nice tool for fixing certain problems, and generally I tend to use multiband on one or two specific bands if necessary. Not all 5 bands at the same time just because I've got 5 bands..

It can help control some sub issues where low cutting or notching won't work or it could help controlling some fluctuating mid or high problem where regular comp isn't enough.

Actually using multiband in the high freq area but with expansion instead of compression can be a nice way of seemingly putting some dynamics back into a smashed track. For some reason the ear really hates a squashed high end, and expansion could be the solution here, 1-2 dB is more than enough.
Same here!

I use MBC mostly for fixing things. I stoped using them when mastering my own mixes, cause when i realize that something is not ok i usualy do better "fixing it in the mix". I am not a ME, but i do mastering on a regular base, if the stuff realy has problems and a remix is not possible i had good sucess using MBC's, often just one or two bands, the others bypassed.

During mixes i use MBC often, for example to controll certain frequency areas only ... (rhythm guitars - 100-200 hz palm mutes etc).

Deessing is an interesting task for MBC's.


brandy
#11
24th September 2006
Old 24th September 2006
  #11
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If you have to use multiband compression, the mix is screwed up.
taturana
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#12
24th September 2006
Old 24th September 2006
  #12
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multiband?

i think the multiband compressors can be great tools but mostly can do more harm to the music than good... i tend to use it to fix/control sub bass problems and to expand the high end a bit... but most of the times i prefer to go back to the mix and fix the instrument (multiband or not) separately... less harm done, better definition = better sound ...

some of these toys can actually destroy a mix if used in the wrong way...
#13
25th September 2006
Old 25th September 2006
  #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sid Viscous View Post
If you have to use multiband compression, the mix is screwed up.
Yep.

But we're talking mastering, so sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.
#14
25th September 2006
Old 25th September 2006
  #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by yeloocproducer View Post
Yep.

But we're talking mastering, so sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.
God forbid you tell people they need to remix. Imagine the power that would take away from MEs if they learned remixing would fix things.
#15
25th September 2006
Old 25th September 2006
  #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sid Viscous View Post
God forbid you tell people they need to remix. Imagine the power that would take away from MEs if they learned remixing would fix things.
Yeah man! Multiband is such an awesome, awesome power trip. You can't possibly imagine the rush until you've tried it. And there's almost always a budget and time to re-run a couple of mixes b/c the mix is a little harsh and needs like 1db of de-essing.

It's a tool. It can be used for better or for worse. It's all about how you use it.
#16
25th September 2006
Old 25th September 2006
  #16
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Using multiband compression on a master is good if it sounds good. There are a lot of people using broadband compression on their mixes, right? It's the same thing. In both cases you are using processes that change the relationships within the mix. Sure, a lot of times multiband might be to extreme.. but then again so can a broadband compressor or an EQ...

Andy Sneap runs all his mixes through a Finalizer, and if he needs more character he straps a Smart C2 in front of it. Peter Tägtgtren runs all his mixes through a Finalizer. In both cases the multiband compression gives their mixes a very distinct sound that can't be achieved without the multiband process. These are just two of the major producers in metal, and there are countless other big names that do this exact thing too, so... can you really argue that it isn't a good thing in some cases?

It might not be right for the things that you are doing right now, but discarding it as a process you should only use if you can't get a remix (which everyone does all the time more or less) seems like a very close-minded attitude to me. I was close-minded too, and probably still am. I refused to use multiband a lot.. my work sounded great without it. But then I started to experiment a bit more and have found a lot more use for it since. What opened up my mind was a master I was doing of a great mix and the mixer had sent me a "mastered" example of the song that I could use for reference if I wanted. It didn't matter what I did at first... I could not get it in the ballpark of that first-master without using the multiband to sculpt it with. Their master of that song sounded a lot more exciting and powerful than I was able to do without the multiband. Just my 5c
Ben F
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#17
25th September 2006
Old 25th September 2006
  #17
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I generally use broadband compression and use the Weiss DS1 to nail specific frequencies such as harsh high-hats, it's very transparent. If the low end is being affected by a broadband compressor a HPF in the side chain will generally fix this.

But for real problem mixes multiband can be a saviour sometimes. I think many of the software mutibands do have a slightly edgy sound though.
MASSIVE Master
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#18
25th September 2006
Old 25th September 2006
  #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sid Viscous View Post
God forbid you tell people they need to remix. Imagine the power that would take away from MEs if they learned remixing would fix things.
I send projects back for remixing all the time.
#19
25th September 2006
Old 25th September 2006
  #19
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Mixing with Finalizer

I get quite a bit of stuff mixed with Finalizer. I can usually tell on the run down. It really limits what I can do, but - done well (like Sneap, I'm guessing), it locks in the mix. It's like, "this is how *I* want it to sound, damn it!"

I have a few customers that basically master as they are mixing. All I do is maybe a little EQ tweak, dither, format, etc.

There is a guy I've done work for that has a Finalizer in his monitor chain! Everything he does (tracking, mixing) or listens to (CD's, etc.) runs through it. He doesn't print it for other than roughs for customers or to take home. It's a real weirdo approach, but it works for him (sort of) and he ends up with some unusually dynamic mixes (that he never gets to hear)!
Ben F
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#20
25th September 2006
Old 25th September 2006
  #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Coyoteous View Post
I get quite a bit of stuff mixed with Finalizer. I can usually tell on the run down. It really limits what I can do, but - done well (like Sneap, I'm guessing), it locks in the mix. It's like, "this is how *I* want it to sound, damn it!"

I have a few customers that basically master as they are mixing. All I do is maybe a little EQ tweak, dither, format, etc.

!
I don't understand how people can mix like this!

Each to their own I guess.
#21
26th September 2006
Old 26th September 2006
  #21
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In my area, I get pretty ropey mixes all the time (lotsa home studios). A lot of stuff gets sent back to remix, but when it's not possible, then MB is my friend. That said, the _only_ MB that I get along with and use is McDSP's MC4000. I've tried nearly every other (hard and soft), this is the one for me. If you're checking this unit out, ignore the presets and READ THE MANUAL! Then read it again. And again. And remember:

With great power comes great responsibility...
#22
27th September 2006
Old 27th September 2006
  #22
Gear Head
 

I do a lot of dance music - mainly trance. I think almost all the guys doing mastering in this field are using MB pretty heavily, and all the material is designed to be mixed by a dj so level matching is very important. Hence I do a bit of ABing with other released tracks while I'm working so I'm sure the stuff will mix well.

I used to use MB on every track I did - to make the tracks sound more controlled and regular, to make them sound fuller, and to equalise the tonal balance so when you mix the (empty) start of one track with the (full) end of another one you don't get too obvious a level drop. However I found that in order to get the tracks to mix better I was losing too much definition and stereo image, so I now use it only occasionally to fill out empty-sounding tracks or control overly loud leads (often just using the MB on the section of the track which has the problem lead, and generally only one or two bands). I feel that while I've sacrificed a bit of 'wow that sounds phat' impact, the tracks maintain interest a lot better on the floor, as well as having more impact within the track (as opposed to just durring the dj mix). My clients are generally happier as well, and I dj a lot and feel that leaving the MB off generally results in a track which has more overall impact, if a little less immaediate impact.

Cheers
Matthew
#23
27th September 2006
Old 27th September 2006
  #23
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I use multiband very carefuly and in 2 cases only:

- for making kick drum more pumpy/punchy which is desired for rhythmic tracks. Waves C4 gives nice punchy bass sound, by processing only the lowest band <70Hz and bypassing the rest of bands.

- making vocal or anything else quieter if it's too loud...
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