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question for experienced MEs: "stability" techniques
Old 18th June 2009
  #1
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WunderBro Flo's Avatar
question for experienced MEs: "stability" techniques

Hi guys,
I recently heard some masters and realized something very nice which I call "stability" - before the mastering the mix elements are jumping around, after the mastering every element "sits" in ONE spot and does not move anymore. It sounds solid&strong. It is what I am often going after when mastering or mixing. I hear the same effect very strong in many CLA mixes that have been mastered at Sterlingsound if I am correct. Personally I use saturation to ge similar results, but I am wondering if there are techniques or gear that makes this change to the sound in a very effortless or especially beautiful way.

I am sure what I am hearing is not wideband busscompression and not digital brickwall limiting (bw limiting does the exact opposite actually), my guess is that it is either saturation or possibly multiband compression with long attacks in the lows to keep the punch but short attacks in the mids/highs to "lock" the transients of the instruments down so they stick to one spot instead of moving around.

Any thoughts about the perfect gear/techniques or even dare I say it plugins to achieve this?

Rock!
Pat

ps - to describe the effect better, it is similar to what an LA2A can do to a single signal: the transient gets tucked in and the body of the sound is being held in one place, sounding more solid and stronger.
Old 18th June 2009
  #2
Old 18th June 2009
  #3
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Darius van H's Avatar
 

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One of the main reasons i use compression is to give stability, or to make something sound less jumpy.

If I'm hearing that jumpyness only in a certain frequncy range, i'll reach for multiband, otherwise broadband compression. The 2500 is great for ironing out this broadband jumpyness due to the different sidechain filtering options.

I guess saturation (being a form of compression) could also add to the glueing affect, although i normally reach for distortion to add thickness - maybe just a different word for the same thing.

I don't think there are any "tricks" you're missing here - it's just great mixing plus appropriate mastering.
Old 18th June 2009
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In terms of mastering, you might be surprised how often what you're hearing is the result of carefully balanced EQ and judicious broadband compression (as you said, you hear the effect with an LA2A), yes with an attack so as not to 'step' on things, all in an utmost clean signal path with optimum gain structure.
Old 18th June 2009
  #5
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Lagerfeldt's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Darius van H View Post
I guess saturation (being a form of compression) could also add to the glueing affect, although i normally reach for distortion to add thickness - maybe just a different word for the same thing.

I don't think there are any "tricks" you're missing here - it's just great mixing plus appropriate mastering.
Parallel compression is worth mentioning here. It can add to the fullness or thickness and "stability" of the signal.

Regular broadband parallel compression (with or without eq added to the parallel signal) can work very well.

But multiband parallel compression can work wonders since it not only boosts the general volume perception of the signal without impairing transients but it also works in an automatically adaptable manner in the frequency domain, acting as an intelligent loudness or details enhancer.

As Adam says above, most good mastering jobs aren't necessarily that complicated. Just good old fashioned eq and compression.
Old 18th June 2009
  #6
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WunderBro Flo's Avatar
Thanks guys for the responses so far. I know it is a bit difficult to discuss as what I am hearing is difficult to describe so it is likely we are talking about different things here and there.

Let me address some points brought up:

1) It can be done in mixing but I know (from my own experience and before/after comparisons of other engineer´s masterings) it is something that can be done in mastering/on the 2buss.

2) It cannot be wideband compression because it affects the transients/attacks of the average a lot with very short attack times. If the attack time were long then the signals would not be stabilized but made more s***** which is the opposite of what I am hearing. Now if we set a wb compressor up with an extremely fast attack (LA2A style) then it would be triggered by the drums only (and too much) as to affect the signals that do not peak out over the "RMS" signal.

3) I know that a part of this listening experience is that the midrange is sticking out with the right balance, it is a sum of a number of parts.

4) I like paralell compression but it is not giving the results that I mean as it cannot "hold back" the transients of the original signal which is what I am hearing.

5) I know how to "get there" in general, I am looking for tools or techniques that stand out for this task that I might have been overlooking in the past. For example the saturation functions in the HEDD can deliver this kind of effect pretty well if driven right (imho better than a fatso or a ATS1 which do different things with their saturation characteristics). If there are other tools out there (analog or digital) that serve this purpose extrordinarily well, let the names be heard!


So thanks again & keep it coming!!!
Rock!
Pat
Old 18th June 2009
  #7
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My guess is that you would do better by focusing on mastering (no pun intended) the existing techniques, though this isn't the answer you're seeking.

The sound you're describing doesn't come from one technique you're missing out on, it is the sum of several existing ones.
Old 18th June 2009
  #8
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WunderBro Flo's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lagerfeldt View Post
My guess is that you would do better by focusing on mastering (no pun intended) the existing techniques, though this isn't the answer you're seeking.

The sound you're describing doesn't come from one technique you're missing out on, it is the sum of several existing ones.
Well it might be the answer I am seeking because if it turns out that there are no better tools than the ones I know this IS a good answer indeed.

Thanks & best,
Pat

ps - the ME who did the before/after files I am talking about back then said he believes it is the MassivePassive used at hot levels...interesting, anyone using the MP for saturation at the top of it´s headroom?
Old 18th June 2009
  #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WildCowboys View Post
Any thoughts about the perfect gear/techniques or even dare I say it plugins to achieve this?
When you say "Stability", you could also say "Cohesion" or what some refer to as "Glue". Anything that seemed a little unsettled before would "Sit" better after.

I don't think there's one box or one technique that brings this to a mix or project but rather the whole process and a big chunk of what a good ME has to bring to the table and sometimes what they're known for.
Old 18th June 2009
  #10
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WunderBro Flo's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Waltz Mastering View Post
When you say "Stability", you could also say "Cohesion" or what some refer to as "Glue". Anything that seemed a little unsettled before would "Sit" better after.

I don't think there's one box or one technique that brings this to a mix or project but rather the whole process and a big chunk of what a good ME has to bring to the table and sometimes what they're known for.
Hi Tom,
for me glue is something different that I can dial in with wb compression, making the mix more dense as a whole and bringing the individual elements "together". What I am speaking of is something else....hard to describe in other words....maybe I can send the before/after files via PM to anyone interested what I am talking about...

Best,
Pat
Old 18th June 2009
  #11
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Ya, I hate to use the word "glue" in audio, but when you said "sits in one spot and doesn't move". I thought this is what you could have been referring to.
Old 18th June 2009
  #12
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WunderBro Flo's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Waltz Mastering View Post
Ya, I hate to use the word "glue" in audio, but when you said "sits in one spot and doesn't move". I thought this is what you could have been referring to.
Yeah it´s like using the word "warmth"....it means so many different things to different people, sometimes even opposing things.

To me "glue" means that when I put a compressor on the master, it sounds like the signal is "one" mix as opposed to multiple elements playing at the same time. The difference between playing together and playing next to each other.

The "stability" thing to me is the absence of hysterical, small movement of the elements of a mix. For example when I compare a mix mastered to this "stability" idea and take the unmastered version and just use a brickwall limiter to get it to the same RMS level, the result is that the brickwalled version in an A/B comparison sounds hysterical and trying to get loud all the time while being pushed back all the time. The "stable" version just sits there, fat and solid, nothing moves, and stares at you as it is the easiest thing in the world. I get this stability by using saturation....I always notice it on other people´s stuff that is mastered at least pretty loud....so I guess I am on the right track. I have been using saturation insted of bw limiting for that reason, I usually only do 1-3dB of brickwall after the saturation stage(s) to get loud masters. Taking those saturation stages out makes the limiter reduce 6-8dB to achieve the same RMS levels and makes the sound hysterical in comparison.

Rock!
Pat
Old 18th June 2009
  #13
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macc's Avatar
 

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Just sounds like good mastering to me, as opposed to a single process.
Old 18th June 2009
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Jesse Graffam's Avatar
 

Sounds like slamming the crap out of the dynamics, to me.
Old 18th June 2009
  #15
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or destroying dynamics just to sound like the rest...
Old 18th June 2009
  #16
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You know what I meant :P
Old 19th June 2009
  #17
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A lot of that is handled with EQ and manual level adjustments.
Old 19th June 2009
  #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WildCowboys View Post
ps - the ME who did the before/after files I am talking about back then said he believes it is the MassivePassive used at hot levels...interesting, anyone using the MP for saturation at the top of it´s headroom?
No way, although there could be an amount of nice valve mids if the mix was lacking in that area. But what you're talking about:
Quote:
Originally Posted by WildCowboys
the absence of hysterical, small movement of the elements of a mix... The "stable" version just sits there, fat and solid
reeks of well-set compression. It might be firm compression kicking in occasionally or more gentle compression always just barely there. Getting the attack & release right can mean everything.

Quote:
Originally Posted by WildCowboys
Taking those saturation stages out makes the limiter reduce 6-8dB to achieve the same RMS levels and makes the sound hysterical in comparison.
Yes peak limiting won't do it as it kills attack & impact. aka "wimpy loud".
Old 19th June 2009
  #19
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Well, to the actual example you're citing, CLA mixes --- I don't mean to overgeneralize, but I think what you're talking about happens either more, or better in the mix stage.

It's not an uncommon mix aesthetic to compress key instruments to that point of locked-down, in-place feeling you're describing, and then use automation of those 'stabilized' elements to re-craft or reinforce the song's dynamics. This is also part of what makes some mixers' mixes so much denser to start with, above and beyond any discussion of mastering loudness.

But bottom line to the OP, it wouldn't surprise me at all to learn that Ted Jensen's masters of Chris Lord-Alge's mixes didn't feature much compression at all.

It's absolutely possible to use compression in mastering to squeeze things "firm" (and I often find two compressors doing very little adds up better than one doing a lot--maybe even one + one in parallel) .... But IME, it's rare to go for as much overall/combined gain reduction as that might require to even approximate the same feeling you'd get if this were done as an aesthetic of the mix... While it can be cool, to me it's a different sound than what comes to mind when I read the original post.

Cheers!
-dave
Old 24th June 2009
  #20
DAH
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Quote:
Originally Posted by uncajesse View Post
Sounds like slamming the crap out of the dynamics, to me.
Although i am not an engineer by any means, i would add +1000 to your opinion.
Proper individual compression on channels makes things sit all together like nothing else, especially in pop-mixes.like, "sit firm and don-t move and jump around, maf***ka!"
Old 25th June 2009
  #21
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I mastered 3 CLA mixes on a record recently and it was a flat transfer through my analog path. No eq, no compression. They were 'sitting' just fine.

Dave
Old 25th June 2009
  #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mcsnare View Post
I mastered 3 CLA mixes on a record recently and it was a flat transfer through my analog path. No eq, no compression. They were 'sitting' just fine.

Dave
Dave -
Was this for Jonas Brothers? Congratulation btw on your work on a "#1"! (my 10 year old niece's favorite band).

Best regards,
Steve Berson
Old 25th June 2009
  #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mcsnare View Post
I mastered 3 CLA mixes on a record recently and it was a flat transfer through my analog path. No eq, no compression. They were 'sitting' just fine.

Dave
Why did you need to go analog with it?............different samplerate?........or from tape?
Old 25th June 2009
  #24
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WunderBro Flo's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by mcsnare View Post
I mastered 3 CLA mixes on a record recently and it was a flat transfer through my analog path. No eq, no compression. They were 'sitting' just fine.

Dave
Whoa, fantastic, thanks Dave!
Did you do any brickwalling or saturation with your analog chain or did the mixes come at (or close to) their "final loudness"? I am asking specifically because most mixes I hear from CLA are "bricks" so I am wondering if CLA delivers them like that or if that is usually done in mastering.

Thanks a lot for your insight!
Best,
Pat
Old 26th June 2009
  #25
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Thanks Steve and Pat.
The CLA mixes are on a new release from Demi Lovato. I think the single is just out now, album in a few weeks.
The JB album was mixed by the team of John Fields and Paul Hagar. I don't remember exact details but there was no limiting on most of it. Maybe one or two songs. The mixes on both albums are amazing and needed very little.
Dave

Last edited by mcsnare; 26th June 2009 at 01:43 AM.. Reason: I forgot Pat!
Old 19th July 2009
  #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mcsnare View Post
Thanks Steve and Pat.
The CLA mixes are on a new release from Demi Lovato. I think the single is just out now, album in a few weeks.
The JB album was mixed by the team of John Fields and Paul Hagar. I don't remember exact details but there was no limiting on most of it. Maybe one or two songs. The mixes on both albums are amazing and needed very little.
Dave
Paul mixed a couple of my productions recently and the mixes were tight and punchy. Its surprising how little needs to be done at the mastering stage. He and John are great.
Old 19th July 2009
  #27
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MIX BETTER! If somethings jumping around...its being interfered with... compression does help, but so does getting in there and MIXING by hand... remember all comression does is turn the volume down. Does it make sense to turn the whole track down just to turn one snare hit up so it doesn't jump right? NO OF COURSE NOT! MIX BETTER!
Old 19th July 2009
  #28
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all compression does is turn the volume down


come on now , there is a little more to it than that !
Old 22nd July 2009
  #29
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I would dare to guess : EQ...
Old 23rd July 2009
  #30
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Question for experienced MEs: "stability" techniques

Well, I'm not an experienced ME but here is some suggestions.

Link L/R 100% on compressor and limiter.

If you work with plug ins, turn of internal oversampling and instead
use a good src to up sample.



All the best

Herbeck
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