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Loud, long, sustained bass tones without distortion
Old 1 week ago
  #1
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Hermetech Mastering's Avatar
 

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Loud, long, sustained bass tones without distortion

Just wondering what other MEs do when the client expects it loud, but there are sections with long, deep, sustained bass tones that don't always play nicely with clipping or limiting. It would be great to hear some of your tips. I wish there were more "Technique" style threads here!

I ask because it's something that comes up quite a bit here. I work with a lot of ambient, drone and industrial clients, and often the music calls for a very different approach to beat driven music. Everything in the tracks may sound great, but there could be just one or two places where there is a lot of sub bass, for example, and even a dB of clipping or limiting, which is usually completely transparent on rhythmic material, creates clearly audible distortion, or pumping artefacts etc.

I'm fine with the source files, and my analogue chain, but it's always the final loudness where this seems to rear its ugly head.

I have at my disposal a number of limiters and clippers (primarily Limitless and StandardCLIP, but also Elephant and Xenon), and despite spending a fair bit of time adjusting Limitless, I still can't get things as loud as the client wants without distortion and/or pumping.

I'm thinking of EQing/HPFing some of the sub bass bass out in just those sections, before it hits the limiter, as long as it remains transparent. Might work?

So any other tips, for Limitless specifically, or in general, for dealing with this kind of material? Attack and Release times, long or short? Please no "just turn it down" obvious replies, as that's my last resort! I need it loud and transparent, if possible.

Last edited by Hermetech Mastering; 1 week ago at 11:56 AM..
Old 1 week ago
  #2
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SmoothTone's Avatar
 

Hey Greg, have you tried automating lookahead for those sections?

I like technique threads too.
Old 1 week ago
  #3
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A dynamic EQ or MB compressor to rein in the bass peaks usually works for me. I don't think limitless is the right tool for this, since it will respond to the broadband signal. The peak reduction of limitless would only limit the bass peaks if there is only bass above the threshold.
Old 1 week ago
  #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SmoothTone View Post
Hey Greg, have you tried automating lookahead for those sections?

I like technique threads too.

That's what I do ...same goes for piano parts and/or other "sensitive sounds"
Old 1 week ago
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Thanks for the ideas so far. So automate the Lookahead to be LONGER for the extra bassy sections? What would be the disadvantage of keeping the lookahead longer throughout the whole track?
Old 1 week ago
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SmoothTone's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hermetech Mastering View Post
So automate the Lookahead to be LONGER for the extra bassy sections?
Yep.

Quote:
What would be the disadvantage of keeping the lookahead longer throughout the whole track?
None, except that it would change the sound. If you don't mind the sound of the longer lookahead then you're sweet.
Old 1 week ago
  #7
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when i've encountered this i just lengthened the release time on the problematic bits (fortunately there weren't many!).
Old 1 week ago
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Cheers, I tried lengthening the release time but it actually made it worse.
Old 1 week ago
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hermetech Mastering View Post
Thanks for the ideas so far. So automate the Lookahead to be LONGER for the extra bassy sections? What would be the disadvantage of keeping the lookahead longer throughout the whole track?
I guess it really depends on the limiter, but in my case it "bents" some transients that I would prefer to keep "sharper" (which can also be perceived as in a change of tone)

If you use a clipper before limiting I would also try to automate the amount of clipping versus limiting for the section
Old 1 week ago
  #10
Gear Maniac
When I've had this problem I've usually used Sonnox Suppresser or TDR Nova to gently lower the loudest frequency at the point in the music where the problem occurs. That's usually good for an extra dB or so without changing the musical meaning of the note.
Old 1 week ago
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Cool, I have Nova GE too, I'll definitely give that a try.
Old 1 week ago
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hermetech Mastering View Post
Thanks for the ideas so far. So automate the Lookahead to be LONGER for the extra bassy sections? What would be the disadvantage of keeping the lookahead longer throughout the whole track?
You lose the drums, it all sounds softer, deeper - as Odeon was saying.

Guessing we're talking about Limitless here?

Either way, it's usually all of the above (bass control, lookahead, some level automation in little bits. And at the risk of being a total penis, something I've been tinkering with which isn't ready for prime time yet (I'm not writing a plugin though).
Old 1 week ago
  #13
Gear Addict
As Smoothtone said earlier, Lookahead is one of the key but you could also play with EQ, like a combinaison of lowshelf cut and bell boost to get a senation of loud bass while removing excessive energy.
Old 1 week ago
  #14
Definitely look ahead, in combination with maybe volume automation.
Old 6 days ago
  #15
Gear Maniac
Talking from a artists point of view here: myself and my ME were able to achieve solutions to the conundrum by bouncing certain sections separately with slightly different settings on the outboard gear. Then combining the takes with tiny crossfades. Worked great for us but we only had to combine couple of sections, not many.

Last edited by Parametex; 6 days ago at 10:35 PM.. Reason: typos
Old 6 days ago
  #16
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One thing to try with limitless is the psychoacoutic shaping parameter, set it to 100 percent to emphasize bass tones.
Old 6 days ago
  #17
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I occasionally run into this problem myself. Good to hear tips for it, thanks everyone
Old 5 days ago
  #18
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Shawn Hatfield's Avatar
Another vote for lookahead automation. It's something I do at least once a week here.
Old 5 days ago
  #19
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I normally have a look-ahead of 2.80ms I use Limitless. Everything faster usually sounds too distorted when clients want music louder. Are you all using faster look-ahead? When you automate it, does it go slower then 3ms?
Old 5 days ago
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Silvertone's Avatar
There are so many variables I find it always to be program dependent.

I deal with it everyday for the movie trailers I do.

Just finished 47 pieces of music for a new game for Activision, over half the tracks were like this.

Took me about 10 years to figure out all the different techniques I have to try daily... but you have to try them all to really find what works best.

One other thing that occurred a few years ago is the compositions themselves started coming in with the bass distorted on purpose. Intentional sub bass distortion is very popular these days.

Best of luck. The learning is the fun part.
Old 5 days ago
  #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by melopie View Post
I normally have a look-ahead of 2.80ms I use Limitless. Everything faster usually sounds too distorted when clients want music louder. Are you all using faster look-ahead? When you automate it, does it go slower then 3ms?
Amazing how differently people work

2.80ms or so is my ultra-ultra-ultra-conservative setting for pads/bass sections in loud stuff (well, anything), though it might go higher if I have cause for concern.

In general use, anything over 0.3ms (yes, 0.3) is way too soft on transients, but as I mentioned somewhere, I tend to use it a bit differently to a lot of people. 0.21 to 0.3 is the general range.

General safe-ish default is 0.21ms, I'd rather have it at 0 regardless of everything else. Sounds much better, all else being equal.
Old 5 days ago
  #22
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Interesting! Only times I can get away with that fast look-ahead is if I have great mixed music that doesn't require going below -10 LUFS or so. Especially on EDM and Dubstep music and similar genres tend to crackle on bass hits easy when the music comes from indie guys.

Do you people leave the knee at 0 also? No increasement?
Old 5 days ago
  #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by melopie View Post
Interesting! Only times I can get away with that fast look-ahead is if I have great mixed music that doesn't require going below -10 LUFS or so. Especially on EDM and Dubstep music and similar genres tend to crackle on bass hits easy when the music comes from indie guys.
EDM and dubstep pay my bills - if you provide Limitless with the right signal then lower lookaheads always sound better.

( ^^ massively, massively IMO here. No rights or wrongs, everyone has their way!)

For me that usually means a lot of groundwork making a poor mix a good mix, in mastering. Thankfully there are a lot of tools that allow fairly radical reshaping in a pretty transparent way these days.

All else being equal, Limitless sounds best with 1) lower lookaheads and b) higher dynamics settings. That balance is crucial. Generally I don't go past 50, but up to 60 if it 'understands' the material correctly and recognises transients right. Which it often doesn't, hence this thread.

BTW automating the dynamics control is another option to the lookahead, depending on other stuff.

I could write a bloody book on this plugin so I'll stop...


Quote:
Do you people leave the knee at 0 also? No increasement?
Yep, 0.

Although I did have it at 1dB yesterday when compiling a CD of old crooner MP3s for my girlfriend's 93 year old grandmother. I don't think she's going to worry about loss of transient definition.
Old 5 days ago
  #24
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Thanks for your input. I'm glad to learn something new.
Interesting with the approach there, I'm mostly that boring guy who try to keep the mix as it sounds without doing too big changes to it. Maybe I need to re-think my ways on less then ideal mixes and mixes that are pretty good but have an overload of bass in them.
Old 5 days ago
  #25
Quote:
Originally Posted by macc View Post
Amazing how differently people work

2.80ms or so is my ultra-ultra-ultra-conservative setting for pads/bass sections in loud stuff (well, anything), though it might go higher if I have cause for concern.

In general use, anything over 0.3ms (yes, 0.3) is way too soft on transients, but as I mentioned somewhere, I tend to use it a bit differently to a lot of people. 0.21 to 0.3 is the general range.

General safe-ish default is 0.21ms, I'd rather have it at 0 regardless of everything else. Sounds much better, all else being equal.
Ha, that's funny - my default Limitless lookahead is 0.21ms too. For me, Limitless is the one limiter I really have to optimise for every project. The other two limiters I use regularly (Pro-L and Ozone) I pretty much use the same settings 90% of the time.

Regarding the original post, I'd definitely agree that lookahead is the key parameter in making sure those sustained bass notes don't crackle. Also, sometimes all it takes is a different limiter. When you're operating at what is essentially the fringes of clipping all sorts of unpredictable things can happen.
Old 5 days ago
  #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by melopie View Post
I'm mostly that boring guy who try to keep the mix as it sounds without doing too big changes to it.
Me too!!! My whole approach is 'make it sound exactly the same but loads better'. Sometimes it means an absolute ton of tiny stupid little fiddly bollocks just to make it sound the same but 34572489572dB louder.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Hippocratic Mastering View Post
Ha, that's funny - my default Limitless lookahead is 0.21ms too. For me, Limitless is the one limiter I really have to optimise for every project. The other two limiters I use regularly (Pro-L and Ozone) I pretty much use the same settings 90% of the time.
Yep, it's a pain in the arse - sometimes I wish it didn't sound so good, ha. I went back to Pro-L the other day for a laugh and just couldn't bear it. I tried Sonnox v2. Jaysis. Ozone has a very identifiable sound but is pretty good on modern stuff. Actually in some configurations, Limitless > Ozone can be pretty handy and save a bit of farting around with automation. You can effectively tilt LL way down (<-150%) to compensate for Ozone's sheen. You get a certain sound but it can work.
Old 5 days ago
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Wow, what a load of amazing hints and tips, thank you all so much! Loads of ideas to try out. The particular track I was having trouble with a couple of days ago, I ended up using a combination of HPF, longer Lookahead, and slightly less GR. Crackle gone, although still a bit of breathy bass pumping, but not nearly as bad as before.

With Limitless in particular, how are you all setting the Stereo Link? I'm leaving it at 0% most of the time.
Old 5 days ago
  #28
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40% as default here.
Old 5 days ago
  #29
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Odeon-Mastering's Avatar
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Silvertone View Post
Took me about 10 years to figure out all the different techniques I have to try daily... but you have to try them all to really find what works best.
...is there another post, listing the techniques, following?
Old 5 days ago
  #30
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hermetech Mastering View Post
Wow, what a load of amazing hints and tips, thank you all so much! Loads of ideas to try out. The particular track I was having trouble with a couple of days ago, I ended up using a combination of HPF, longer Lookahead, and slightly less GR. Crackle gone, although still a bit of breathy bass pumping, but not nearly as bad as before.

With Limitless in particular, how are you all setting the Stereo Link? I'm leaving it at 0% most of the time.
My default stereo link is 60%.
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