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snare punch loss when mastering Dynamics Plugins
Old 2nd January 2011
  #1
snare punch loss when mastering

Hey guys, so a dilemma I've been having on fuller sounding rock/pop is getting the snare to punch through in the final master. A mix can turn out being punchy as hell, but when it comes to bringing the level up, I lose the punch, thanks to the limiting. And the only way I've been able to keep the snare really coming through is by lowering the level of the song substantially.


Since I'm reluctantly limited to ITB, I need to make it work. I've tried a ton of compression techniques, some of which I learned in Bob Katz's book, but it just still seems like the limiter is just crapping it out in the end.

Any ideas?

some of the stuff I've been using (not all at once of course) is the Waves R-Comp, Waves Multiband Comp, C4, SSL Stereo Buss, H-Comp, Q10, L2 (prefer it over the L3)
Old 2nd January 2011
  #2
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acorneau's Avatar
 

Verified Member
Quote:
Originally Posted by ColinMakesTunes View Post
Hey guys, so a dilemma I've been having on fuller sounding rock/pop is getting the snare to punch through in the final master. A mix can turn out being punchy as hell, but when it comes to bringing the level up, I lose the punch, thanks to the limiting. And the only way I've been able to keep the snare really coming through is by lowering the level of the song substantially.


Since I'm reluctantly limited to ITB, I need to make it work. I've tried a ton of compression techniques, some of which I learned in Bob Katz's book, but it just still seems like the limiter is just crapping it out in the end.

Any ideas?

some of the stuff I've been using (not all at once of course) is the Waves R-Comp, Waves Multiband Comp, C4, SSL Stereo Buss, H-Comp, Q10, L2 (prefer it over the L3)

Try something with a much slower attack time.

Also, try asking the client to boost the snare prior to sending/bringing in the mix.
Old 2nd January 2011
  #3
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I have a master trick for that: duple the snare track and divide the snare in two parts: the body and the hit. The body is the regular snare track and the hit is the snare heavely processed with a SPL transient designer with generous attack and minimum release, isolating the hit. Then, you just have to automatize your snare hit.

If you dom't have any tansient modifier, you can use a gate or a compressor with medium attack, short release and big reduction (to isolate the hit).

You can also equalize the hit track.

Be careful with the phase.

Regards
Old 2nd January 2011
  #4
I had never thought about that before, great idea. I use Logic so I'll try that out with the enveloper.
Old 2nd January 2011
  #5
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There isn't a single loudness-oriented master that doesn't suffer sonically for it. Not one. Some will argue with that but really, I've never heard even a -8dB master that didn't sound distorted, squishy and wimpy. We're talking -3dB for the latest stuff and even slightly higher. Do you really need your master to be that loud?

That said, 90% of the masters I do just need EQ, wideband compression and a hard limiter. EQ is part of the perceived loudness also. Some tunes can't even handle -10dB or -9dB which is about as hard as I'm willing to push most rock/rap/country material. Sometimes I may try to talk my client into going with something more like -12dB with higher levels reserved for the absolute loudest points. Sometimes I can use a soft clipper to squeeze another dB or two out of it. Sometimes, you just need a remix. Find out what it is that causes it to lose so much impact and get it fixed in an earlier stage. I remember one song I mastered years ago that sounded horrible regardless of what compression settings I used. It was recorded on a 4-track tape machine so there was no way to alter the elements that were problematic. I was somewhat forced to use at least some compression to help bring up the level to what other songs on this compilation CD had. I wound up using a compressor that I haven't used in ages with settings I'd never used before or since then. I could BARELY nudge it more than a dB or two, but it got the job done. In fact, I couldn't use a limiter at all but was able to knock down a few stray peaks by hand. It had to stay just a little lower in level but that was OK because preserving what little punch that was in the original mix saved it and it was ultimately the only real memorable song in the whole record.

In the end, I know of no mastering engineer, regardless of experience, skill or equipment, that can make a loud master sound as good as it could at a lower level. You can't destroy the top 6-12dB of the music without suffering some consequences.
Old 2nd January 2011
  #6
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Storyville's Avatar
To a certain degree it's going to be a compromise. In the hardware world, a lot of MEs spend a good deal of money modifying the sidechains on their compressors and limiters in order to keep that punch.

Heavy limiting will ultimately always cause a reduction in punch. A limiter with a longer attack - or no limiter - just use some compression to whatever degree and let the signal hard clip a bit. Once you start getting over a certain point of compression, it's really a game of inches to get more loudness with less compromise.

Also, eq can be used to compensate to a degree. A narrow notch that really taps into the snare can help create the illusion of smack as the limiter sucks the life out.

You could also pull the side signals up using M/S, before hitting the limiter. The mid signal is probably driving the limiter hardest, you can get a little more energy - particularly reverb off the snare to come up a bit by turning up the side signal.
Old 2nd January 2011
  #7
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matucha's Avatar
You need to mix for loudness first. It is easy to get punchy sound with extreme dynamics. As you said, the mix was almost too punchy. Most of the time those mixes concentrate on the transient (exaggerating it) and not on the body part of the drum. This also applies to kicks. Also dark/bassy mixes will go to hi RMS without sounding as loud as bright mixes with less bass at the same RMS. It is interesting to use some tilt EQ for this purpose.

If you can't go back to mix, I'd experiment with parallel compression.


I'm not advocating extreme loudness or techniques that lead to these overprocessed results, but truth is almost every client demands such a sound. I'd be very happy if darker -12dB RMS were standard.
Old 2nd January 2011
  #8
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Apostolos Siopis's Avatar
 

Verified Member
Quote:
Originally Posted by ColinMakesTunes View Post

Any ideas?
mate... it s so obvious (and also the right thing to do)...
just try sending it to be professionally mastered...
I know at least 20 ppl in here (including myself) that will get your track loud and still maintain the punch.

I mean...how many of the tracks that you consider loud and also punchy at the snare department, have not been professionally mastered?
Old 2nd January 2011
  #9
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get Slate Digital FG-X

problem solved.
Old 2nd January 2011
  #10
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AcoosticZoo's Avatar
This is an interesting topic. Punch or snap in the snare/kick is always sacrificed when severely limited with conventional limiting. However, with the average loudness being so loud these days, there's really no way to go but follow the crowd in terms of loudness.

Careful arrangement of parts can also help to improve the clarity and punch of a production.

Steven Slates FX-G addresses this issue of retaining punch under heavy limiting - quite interesting when it works imho.

The other way to get extra punch and loudness in the snare is to automate the limiting - or parallel / blending two different processes together. One to address the Snare part, and one to address the rest. More time consuming but will achieve better results. Also, you could also just eq the snares to give it a little more bite.

In hindsight, the mix engineer will have a better chance of delivering a punchy snare that will handle severe limiting.

Regards
Josef Horhay
Mixing Engineer
www.acoosticzoo.com
Old 2nd January 2011
  #11
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Table Of Tone's Avatar
 

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Just send it to a real mastering eng and the snare will still be hitting you in the chest!hehheh
Old 2nd January 2011
  #12
Appreciate all the feedback. While I understand the whole "send it to a real ME", it really doesn't help me out here. I'm wanting to understand this a little better and not just give up and pay the money, out of curiosity, to send it to a ME.

The Eq tricks seem to make sense until they clash with guitars. I have NO issues with loudness (etc), unless it's pop rock or heavier stuff. I'm talking smooth transient guitars here, aka CRUNCHY. The more space I have in a mix, the easier my mastering process is. BUT, commonly, I don't see this, because most bands in my area like to double track rhythm guitars (hard left and right), run a lead up the middle, etc. This means... no space, which leads to my biggest problem of punching a snare through in the final master.

Loudness is the easy issue, it's just the punchiness of the snare, and I was wondering what some of you guys did in this situation. No matter how punchy or dynamic of a mix I'm mastering, I STILL lose that under the limiter. Lots of great ideas here though! Definitely trying some out ASAP.
Old 2nd January 2011
  #13
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Ben F's Avatar
 

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Don't use an L2, there are much better limiters around. You shouldn't need to limit much if your EQ/gain staging is correct. The L2 is fine for a couple of dB but that's it.

The rest is experience- no easy answer I'm afraid. You get what you pay for.
Old 3rd January 2011
  #14
mml
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snare punch loss when mastering

Try hard clipping then turn it down a half db before burning a cd. It's "wrong" but when done sparingly it's much more transparent on the snare. Just use your ears to make sure you don't get audible distortion.
Old 3rd January 2011
  #15
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666666's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by wado1942 View Post

...There isn't a single loudness-oriented master that doesn't suffer sonically for it...
Quote:
Originally Posted by Storyville View Post

...Heavy limiting will ultimately always cause a reduction in punch...
Read the above. This is the truth. This is the bottom line. You can't go north and south at the SAME time. You want "loudness", you sacrifice "punch", and vise versa, it's that simple.

To be more clear, my definition of "punch" is something with dynamics. "Loudness" is essentially achieved by eliminating most or all of the dynamics. Thus, "loudness" is the opposite of "punch". You can't truly have something be very "loud" and very "punchy" at the same time. As you have observed first hand, the louder you made your program, the less punch it had... exactly as I've described. Very simple.

When you retain your dynamics, the snare jumps out and is "punchy", adds life and excitement to the track. When you start smashing the dynamics, you pound that lovely snare down under everything else and it effectively goes away.

So... the magical solution... DON'T smash the dynamics!!!! See how easy this is?

Is there a happy medium? Maybe, but it's purely subjective. It's a matter of you finding an acceptable "compromise" between loudness and punch. Will you ever be satisfied? Maybe, maybe not.

Me, I love dynamics, I love punch... for me this is the most musical and most pleasing way to present music. I dislike and reject loudness, I find it repulsive, offensive and unnecessary. I have chosen a direction and I simply go in that direction. No compromises. It's a happy and healthy way to work.

I would ask you to consider rejecting the ill concept that a master MUST be "loud" to "compete" or whatever. Just make the thing SOUND good. If your ears are appreciating "punch", then embrace that punch and make that punch shine. Celebrate the dynamics, make them work for you, make the music come alive.

When you are finally able to honestly REJECT "loudness", suddenly everything starts sounding better and becomes easier to deal with. You'll find yourself yielding way better audio with way less effort. It's an amazing thing, try it.

Old 3rd January 2011
  #16
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studioland's Avatar
 

Why use a limiter ?
Old 3rd January 2011
  #17
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echoRausch's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by wado1942 View Post
There isn't a single loudness-oriented master that doesn't suffer sonically for it. Not one. Some will argue with that but really, I've never heard even a -8dB master that didn't sound distorted, squishy and wimpy. We're talking -3dB for the latest stuff and even slightly higher.

...

In the end, I know of no mastering engineer, regardless of experience, skill or equipment, that can make a loud master sound as good as it could at a lower level. You can't destroy the top 6-12dB of the music without suffering some consequences.


I'm in serious doubt. Going for loudness isn't that bad. For me it often solved more problems than it caused.
Old 3rd January 2011
  #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ColinMakesTunes View Post
A mix can turn out being punchy as hell, but when it comes to bringing the level up, I lose the punch, thanks to the limiting. And the only way I've been able to keep the snare really coming through is by lowering the level of the song substantially.

Any ideas?
One really obvious idea.
Old 3rd January 2011
  #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by matucha View Post
You need to mix for loudness first.
That's bull****. You need to mix to make the mix you want.
Quote:
It is easy to get punchy sound with extreme dynamics.
And what does that tell us?
Old 3rd January 2011
  #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AcoosticZoo View Post
However, with the average loudness being so loud these days, there's really no way to go but follow the crowd in terms of loudness.
Somebody please back that up with a single scientific study.
Old 3rd January 2011
  #21
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666666's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by AcoosticZoo View Post

...Punch or snap in the snare/kick is always sacrificed when severely limited with conventional limiting...
Correct!

Quote:
Originally Posted by AcoosticZoo View Post

...with the average loudness being so loud these days, there's really no way to go but follow the crowd in terms of loudness...
Incorrect!!!
Old 3rd January 2011
  #22
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greggybud's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by ColinMakesTunes View Post
Hey guys, so a dilemma I've been having on fuller sounding rock/pop is getting the snare to punch through in the final master. A mix can turn out being punchy as hell, but when it comes to bringing the level up, I lose the punch, thanks to the limiting. And the only way I've been able to keep the snare really coming through is by lowering the level of the song substantially.


Since I'm reluctantly limited to ITB, I need to make it work. I've tried a ton of compression techniques, some of which I learned in Bob Katz's book, but it just still seems like the limiter is just crapping it out in the end.

Any ideas?

some of the stuff I've been using (not all at once of course) is the Waves R-Comp, Waves Multiband Comp, C4, SSL Stereo Buss, H-Comp, Q10, L2 (prefer it over the L3)
Are you mastering for yourself or a client? This should be a mix issue, not mastering. Good mix engineers can deliver snare hits that cut through..even after I have thrown all kinds of compromises at the mastering stage.

If you have access to the snare track, have you tried compression in series, or surgical compression? Depending on the nature of the audio even parallel compression? The goal is to deal with the initial transients of the snare hit while thickening the body of the snare.

As mentioned a limiter like the L-2, and I think its a good one still today, is only good for a couple extra dbs. You can push a few other limiters further, but not by much. Therefore go back to the mix stage if possible and fix the snare hits there. Then your L-2 will love you at the mastering stage. If you are stuck with just a master, and no stems, the compromises will be greater.
Old 3rd January 2011
  #23
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matucha's Avatar
+1, that's exactly my experience
Old 3rd January 2011
  #24
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Every loudness discussion in the history of the internet:

OP- Hey guys, my face feels fine until I start punching it. Then it hurts. The only way I can get it to stop hurting is if I don't punch myself in the face. Any ideas how to stop my face from hurting?

Guy 1- Stop punching yourself in the face.

Guy 2- Stop punching yourself in the face.

Guy 3- Punch harder! Competition!

Guy 4- Stop punching yourself in the face.

Guy 5- Stop punching yourself in the face.

Guy 6- Have somebody else punch you in the face.

Op-
Quote:
Originally Posted by Guy 6
Have somebody else punch you in the face.
Perfect! OK I have my solution thanks everybody! *leaves thread and is never heard from again*
Old 3rd January 2011
  #25
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666666's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cheebs Goat View Post

Every loudness discussion in the history of the internet:.......
LOL! - ain't it the truth!
Old 3rd January 2011
  #26
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studioland's Avatar
 

Realize that you can be happy without a limiter ...
You can even save money and buy your wife a ring instead !
If you don't have a wife you can invite one to the restaurant and talk about how not using limiters has changed you into a better man
Old 3rd January 2011
  #27
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Volume problem solved

I have great news!!!!....I've found out that my problems with master volume is solved with the "volume pot". I mean, I'm trying to be funny but It's real, a big record label A&R told me a few weeks ago that he doesn't mind the volume issue, he only cares for mix quality and dinamics and he just turn the volume pot. Besides that, a short story with the same guy (who happens to be my mentor), he got this mix with one of the biggest latin-urban act of this label, he's ready to send the album to a few Mastering Houses in LA (Bernie Grundman's Brian "Big Bass" Gardner among them) for a one song try out and he'd also master one using Wavelab on his laptop. A few days later he presented four tracks to the artist, guess what tracks did they choose without knowing who did it?..of course the one made with WAvelab on a laptop. Because of politics BS they ended sending the tracks to Bernie Grundman.
He always says: "If you have a bad mix YOU CANNOT DO MUCH IN THE MASTERING..........If you have a great mix YOU CANNOT DO MUCH IN THE MIX"

Ross
Old 3rd January 2011
  #28
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studioland's Avatar
 

Wow that's deep
Old 4th January 2011
  #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cheebs Goat View Post
Every loudness discussion in the history of the internet:

OP- Hey guys, my face feels fine until I start punching it. Then it hurts. The only way I can get it to stop hurting is if I don't punch myself in the face. Any ideas how to stop my face from hurting?

Guy 1- Stop punching yourself in the face.

Guy 2- Stop punching yourself in the face.

Guy 3- Punch harder! Competition!

Guy 4- Stop punching yourself in the face.

Guy 5- Stop punching yourself in the face.

Guy 6- Have somebody else punch you in the face.

Op-

Perfect! OK I have my solution thanks everybody! *leaves thread and is never heard from again*

One of the best posts on GS ever !
Old 4th January 2011
  #30
Gear Addict
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ahitsongwriter View Post
He always says: "If you have a bad mix YOU CANNOT DO MUCH IN THE MASTERING..........If you have a great mix YOU CANNOT DO MUCH IN THE MIX"

Ross
Awesome. Sig material. heh I just mixed a "chillout" hip-hop track if i may call it so, where i have this short clicky kick, just about 2.5 cycles of 60Hz in the body. Boosted at 1k, 200Hz and a lot at 60Hz, soft clipped a bit and let it punch almost 9dB above the leads. Sure, the level comes in at -17 RMS, but it sounds brilliant.

Personally i refuse to do anything over -12 RMS. The end of the loudness war would do good for everyone. Whoever is still mastering for ridiculous loudness should remember that if the song makes it real big, in real big events PAs have real crap limiters and if your song hits them often it's gonna have a real crap sound. The thicker the material is, the more objectionable the distortion.
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