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What should my output/master chain look like? Dynamics Plugins
Old 3rd March 2018
  #1
Gear Nut
 
DenversWorld's Avatar
What should my output/master chain look like?

Hi guys, I'm looking for straight forward answers...

I understand that mastering isn't simple, a good ear is required and lots of patience. However, if I know what I'm doing with EQ/Compression etc, why is it said to be so difficult?

Here is what I want to know, a simple/straight forward vocal processing chain might be:

1. Tuning (If necesary)
2. EQ
3. Compression (1 or 2)
4. Maybe some more EQ
- Followed by auxilery effects (Reverb, Delay etc)

My main question is, what would a typical/straight forward master chain look like (Without hardware)?

At the moment I'm throwing on some gain, EQ, light compression and then an L1 which obviously squashes my mix and certainly doesn't make it sound industry standard. What would a typical chain look like, what might I be missing and what can I do to make my master's sound more industry standard, loud and punchy without paying anybody else? I have many questions about Landr but I'll save that for another post... Lol

Thanks guys, and go easy!
Old 3rd March 2018
  #2
Lives for gear
 
SmoothTone's Avatar
 

1. A monitoring chain (room, speakers, DAC) that lets you hear what's actually going on.

2. PERSPECTIVE. After monitoring, this is the most important. It's why it remains standard practice to have someone else do the mastering. It also guides any processing decisions.

3. A good, transparent, musical EQ to balance the track/album for cohesion, translation and impact. Use as needed based on careful listening.

4. A good transparent (or coloured in a useful way if that's your vibe) compressor for control, punch, groove shaping, clarity or glue. Use as needed based on careful listening.

(A good de-esser is often essential but if you're mastering your own mixes you should be able to deal with any issues in the mix. Unless of course you missed it, which brings us back to perspective...)

5. A good transparent limiter/clipper to bring the level up. Use carefully to preserve as much of the integrity and dynamic impact of the mix as possible.

6. Good restoration/spectral repair software for dealing with noises, glitches, etc.

7. High quality SRC and dither.

8. A good mastering DAW/app for sequencing, PQ coding and exporting relevant parts for production/distribution.

That would be the minimum chain for mastering to my mind and you could get everything you need to get done with it. You can add other tools for specialised tasks (e.g. dynamic EQ, MB compression, etc) and a range of flavours to taste.


Just a side note: there are so many better options for limiting than L1 these days! This would be one way to improve your results instantaneously.
Old 3rd March 2018
  #3
Gear Nut
 
DenversWorld's Avatar
Thanks so much, SmoothTone!

In that case, the hits in the charts for example, is it the Limiter that initially makes the tracks louder? With that being said, my common sense tells me that a decent amount of headroom in the mix along with a good limiter on the master is initially what makes the record louder? The EQ, compression etc obviously brings it to life, adds punch and fixes problems? Is that a little uneducated of me to say, or is that basically it? Would gain be silly to add to the chain?

As for dithering, I don't understand the necessity of the concept as I record at 24bit, 44.1 kHz and I usually just bounce out at 24bit too, why would I need to bounce at 16bit unless I'm bouncing to CD (Of course)? My music publishes to all major platforms and YouTube... Could you please explain?

Thank you!
Old 3rd March 2018
  #4
Lives for gear
 
SmoothTone's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by DenversWorld View Post
In that case, the hits in the charts for example, is it the Limiter that initially makes the tracks louder? With that being said, my common sense tells me that a decent amount of headroom in the mix along with a good limiter on the master is initially what makes the record louder?
Different MEs work in different ways. What you describe is a good way to work. Some prefer to add gain in multiple stages, particularly when using analogue gear. Some prefer to rely almost entirely on clipping their ADC. Others, like me, tend to primarily do the heavy lifting with (sometimes multiple) limiters/clippers in the digital domain.

Quote:
The EQ, compression etc obviously brings it to life, adds punch and fixes problems? Is that a little uneducated of me to say, or is that basically it?
Spot on.

Quote:
Would gain be silly to add to the chain?
Not necessarily. But you'll find that most modern limiters automatically add makeup gain as you adjust the threshold.

Quote:
As for dithering, I don't understand the necessity of the concept as I record at 24bit, 44.1 kHz and I usually just bounce out at 24bit too, why would I need to bounce at 16bit unless I'm bouncing to CD (Of course)? My music publishes to all major platforms and YouTube... Could you please explain?
You need to be aware that your DAW probably processes at 32bitFP or higher. Even a simple gain change will turn your 24bit into 32, so you need to dither back down to 24bit after any processing as the last thing before you save/export your 24bit file. Flat TPDF is fine for this.

Quote:
Thank you!
Hope it helps!

Last edited by SmoothTone; 3rd March 2018 at 06:24 AM..
Old 3rd March 2018
  #5
Gear Nut
 
DenversWorld's Avatar
Thanks so much man, this helps incredibly.

My final question, if you don't mind, is if you're a user of digital limiters, what's the problem with the L1 and why is it frowned upon in the mastering world if it's just another limiter? Is the quality not very good or? Because surely all limiters squash the mix a little? Or is the key to not pull the threshold too much? I'm usually pulling it down until I'm getting about -6db attenuation, leaving the out ceiling on either -0.2 or -2
Old 3rd March 2018
  #6
Lives for gear
 
SmoothTone's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by DenversWorld View Post
Thanks so much man, this helps incredibly.

My final question, if you don't mind, is if you're a user of digital limiters, what's the problem with the L1 and why is it frowned upon in the mastering world if it's just another limiter? Is the quality not very good or? Because surely all limiters squash the mix a little? Or is the key to not pull the threshold too much? I'm usually pulling it down until I'm getting about -6db attenuation, leaving the out ceiling on either -0.2 or -2
L1 is 25 year old technology. A lot of work has gone into making limiting algorithms more transparent in that timeframe. 6dB of gain reduction is going to be hard to keep transparent on any limiter though. Hence, the use of a combination of tools for very loud masters. There are much better options around these days.
Old 3rd March 2018
  #7
Gear Addict
 
chazmar's Avatar
Use this plugin chain:

x - Saturation (maybe here)
1 - EQ
2 - Compression
3 - Brick wall limiter(1)
4 - Brick wall limiter(2)
x - Saturation (maybe here)
5 - Exciter (for polish)

Try to get your "loudness" by pushing the second limiter into the first - don't try to get it all out of just the first limiter.
Old 3rd March 2018
  #8
Gear Nut
 
DenversWorld's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by chazmar View Post
Use this plugin chain:

x - Saturation (maybe here)
1 - EQ
2 - Compression
3 - Brick wall limiter(1)
4 - Brick wall limiter(2)
x - Saturation (maybe here)
5 - Exciter (for polish)

Try to get your "loudness" by pushing the second limiter into the first - don't try to get it all out of just the first limiter.
Thanks man, very excited about trying this!
Old 3rd March 2018
  #9
Gear Nut
 
DenversWorld's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by SmoothTone View Post
L1 is 25 year old technology. A lot of work has gone into making limiting algorithms more transparent in that timeframe. 6dB of gain reduction is going to be hard to keep transparent on any limiter though. Hence, the use of a combination of tools for very loud masters. There are much better options around these days.
Makes perfect sense, had no idea it was so old! Ha
Old 3rd March 2018
  #10
Gear Nut
 
DenversWorld's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by chazmar View Post
Use this plugin chain:

x - Saturation (maybe here)
1 - EQ
2 - Compression
3 - Brick wall limiter(1)
4 - Brick wall limiter(2)
x - Saturation (maybe here)
5 - Exciter (for polish)

Try to get your "loudness" by pushing the second limiter into the first - don't try to get it all out of just the first limiter.
Also, which limiter would you recommend?
Old 3rd March 2018
  #11
If you use an exciter after your final limiter your audio will no longer be limited.
Old 3rd March 2018
  #12
Gear Addict
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by chazmar View Post
Use this plugin chain:

x - Saturation (maybe here)
1 - EQ
2 - Compression
3 - Brick wall limiter(1)
4 - Brick wall limiter(2)
x - Saturation (maybe here)
5 - Exciter (for polish)

Try to get your "loudness" by pushing the second limiter into the first - don't try to get it all out of just the first limiter.
Not a very good recommendation at all.
Old 3rd March 2018
  #13
Lives for gear
 
Silvertone's Avatar
I use an EQ and a Limiter. That does 95% of the work. A compressor might be added if the mix lacks impact.

Less is more when a mix is pretty much spot on.

The main tool is a full range monitoring system in a tuned room... otherwise you have no idea of what really going on in the frequency spectrum... you’re guessing.

Mastering is not the place to be guessing!
Old 3rd March 2018
  #14
Gear Nut
 
DenversWorld's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Silvertone View Post
I use an EQ and a Limiter. That does 95% of the work. A compressor might be added if the mix lacks impact.

Less is more when a mix is pretty much spot on.

The main tool is a full range monitoring system in a tuned room... otherwise you have no idea of what really going on in the frequency spectrum... you’re guessing.

Mastering is not the place to be guessing!
Any limiter plugins that you would recommend?
Old 3rd March 2018
  #15
Lives for gear
 
Silvertone's Avatar
You can’t go wrong with DMG Limitless. It’s deep and will take a while to master but is very usable right out of the gate.

I also recommend DMG Equalibrium.

With those two pieces of software you have more powerful mastering processing than what we had even 10 years ago.

For a compress, buy Fabians Kotelnikov Gentleman’s Edition. For the money, nothing beat it.

Then you have everything covered for most sessions.

Later on Ozone RX for clean up and repair work. Then maybe some sort spectral enhancement plug in... but I never use those personally.
Old 3rd March 2018
  #16
Gear Addict
 
chazmar's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hippocratic Mastering View Post
If you use an exciter after your final limiter your audio will no longer be limited.
Yea - it magically un-limits the audio - in fact, I think it renders the recording blank too.
Old 3rd March 2018
  #17
Gear Addict
 
chazmar's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by DenversWorld View Post
Any limiter plugins that you would recommend?
"The main tool is a full range monitoring system in a tuned room... otherwise you have no idea of what really going on in the frequency spectrum... you’re guessing."

Don't listen to this - it's overrated and you'll do just fine. (You do want full range observation though - speaker capability.)

If you want to cut to the chase try a program called ClipShifter on your master. You won't get the exact sounds that would come out of Sterling Sound mastering but you can get some extremely good results.
Old 3rd March 2018
  #18
Quote:
Originally Posted by chazmar View Post
Use this plugin chain:

x - Saturation (maybe here)
1 - EQ
2 - Compression
3 - Brick wall limiter(1)
4 - Brick wall limiter(2)
x - Saturation (maybe here)
5 - Exciter (for polish)

Try to get your "loudness" by pushing the second limiter into the first - don't try to get it all out of just the first limiter.

To each their own, but this doesn't resemble anything I would ever do.
Old 3rd March 2018
  #19
Quote:
Originally Posted by chazmar View Post
Yea - it magically un-limits the audio - in fact, I think it renders the recording blank too.
He's right. From a technical perspective the audio will no longer be limited.
Old 3rd March 2018
  #20
Gear Addict
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by chazmar View Post
Yea right - been doing this 20 years. Go f yourself.
I thank you for your immature response. Your reply to me and your so called mastering chain shows me and many others that you do not work with mastering since 20 years. It's okay to be inexperienced in a field but when you try to correct people about it and tell them to go **** yourself it can be vived in another light. I'm done here sir.
Old 3rd March 2018
  #21
Gear Addict
 
chazmar's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by the3030club View Post
He's right. From a technical perspective the audio will no longer be limited.

OP: Use the exciter and see if your limiting goes away. I assure you will it not remove you compression/limiting processes. Use it very sparingly or you WILL ruin the master.
Old 3rd March 2018
  #22
Gear Addict
 
chazmar's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by melopie View Post
I thank you for your immature response. Your reply to me and your so called mastering chain shows me and many others that you do not work with mastering since 20 years. It's okay to be inexperienced in a field but when you try to correct people about it and tell them to go **** yourself it can be vived in another light. I'm done here sir.

Bye ...Sir.
Old 3rd March 2018
  #23
Quote:
Originally Posted by chazmar View Post
Yea right - been doing this 20 years. Go f yourself.

If everyone reports this post as abusive, and blocks him (just click the REPORT button), he hopefully won't be here for another five years...

To the OP, SmoothTone's original response couldn't really be bettered. I'd say there unfortunately is no 'typical mastering chain' as every project is different. Serve the music first and foremost.

As for limiters, another vote for Limitless here.
Old 3rd March 2018
  #24
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CJ Mastering's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by chazmar View Post
Use this plugin chain:

x - Saturation (maybe here)
1 - EQ
2 - Compression
3 - Brick wall limiter(1)
4 - Brick wall limiter(2)
x - Saturation (maybe here)
5 - Exciter (for polish)

Try to get your "loudness" by pushing the second limiter into the first - don't try to get it all out of just the first limiter.
I do not agree with this chain at all. Its not a good practice and will no yield good rend results.

Your Limiter should be last, not 3rd to last or 2nd to last. it needs to be the last effect so it can limit the final signal before it goes out. Yea!
Old 3rd March 2018
  #25
Gear Addict
 
gorka's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by melopie View Post
Not a very good recommendation at all.
+1

this chain is utter rubbish.
Old 3rd March 2018
  #26
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G-Sun's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by DenversWorld View Post
Hi guys, I'm looking for straight forward answers...

My main question is, what would a typical/straight forward master chain look like (Without hardware)?
- Eq
- Compression (optional)
- Saturation/Vibe-enhancement (optional)
- Limiter

Now, as SmoothTone excellent said, perspective is everything.
So, if you want to "master" yourself, be sure to check your mix on a variety of playback-systems and in different social environment, cross-checking to commercial mixes.

Now, you may get harsh replies from mastering-engineers for doing self-mastering (as it is kind of an oxymoron). But, the learning-process is very valuable. So, go ahead

And btw: Personally I don't have the room or experience to do commercial mastering
Old 3rd March 2018
  #27
Gear Nut
 
DenversWorld's Avatar
Thanks guys! All of you have helped me greatly. I don't want anybody falling out!

From what I'm reading, it seems to be like the 2 most necessary and essential mastering plugins would be

1. EQ
2. Limer

Anything in between is for enhancement/vibe just like G-Sun said, but for the most part, EQ and Limiter is what really makes the audio shine and pop/loud

It's just that even still, I couldn't see a limiter making my music as loud as what I hear on the radio... Are there some limiters that most definitely do make mixes super loud and clean or is there more to it than that?
Old 3rd March 2018
  #28
Lives for gear
 
Apostolos Siopis's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by DenversWorld View Post
Thanks guys! All of you have helped me greatly. I don't want anybody falling out!

From what I'm reading, it seems to be like the 2 most necessary and essential mastering plugins would be

1. EQ
2. Limer
In my humble opinion this is correct


Quote:
Originally Posted by DenversWorld View Post
Anything in between is for enhancement/vibe just like G-Sun said, but for the most part, EQ and Limiter is what really makes the audio shine and pop/loud
What makes the audio shine is great tracking and mixing really
The overall contribution of a great master is not that great compared to the above.

Quote:
Originally Posted by DenversWorld View Post
It's just that even still, I couldn't see a limiter making my music as loud as what I hear on the radio... Are there some limiters that most definitely do make mixes super loud and clean or is there more to it than that?
The ones mentioned are exactly that.
...but there is more... most of the "perceived loudness" game is played with the EQ (and this is what great mastering engineers get right)
The limiter will contribute to density by bringing the "unecessary" transients closer to the "body" of the music and higher density usually means louder, plus now you have some "room" for your peaks to go a few dB higher...but for the most part the EQ is what will help your track perceived as loud as anyone really. (...provided that you mix to the same level of the mixers, who work for the artists you listen on the radio...the mix is the most important factor if you want to be as loud as them anyway)
Old 3rd March 2018
  #29
Gear Nut
 
DenversWorld's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Apostolos Siopis View Post
most of the "perceived loudness" game is played with the EQ (and this is what great mastering engineers get right)
Thanks so much! I think that this is the inoformation I have been lacking Makes perfect sense, although I wouldn't have a clue how to EQ a track in order to have it come across as louder haha! Thanks man
Old 3rd March 2018
  #30
Lives for gear
 
Apostolos Siopis's Avatar
 

it 's something that becomes instinctive after many hours of practise in front of a trusted sound system in a good room
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