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Do you mix with Compression on the Master? Audio Interfaces
Old 12th October 2017
Gear Nut

Thread Starter
Do you mix with Compression on the Master?

Do you mix with a compressor on the master buss? Would this be a bad Idea for when you want to send it off to get mastered?

thanks yall!
Old 12th October 2017
Gear Nut

There are a TON of threads on this topic already, I highly suggest using the search bar. THAT being said, YES! Compression on the mix bus is NOT just for mastering, that notion is just silly and no big name mixers do that. However, when applying compression to your mix bus I would suggest keeping a low ratio (1.5:1, 2:1) and shoot for between one to three db of reduction. The goal is typically to either glue everything together (think VCA style, SSL G Bus anyone? haha) or to add a bit of "color"/"weight"/"warmth" (think tubes, transformers), and not to do the job of a mastering limiter. Essentially you want your mix to still live in the -6db PEAK range AFTER your mix bus compressor, and you really don't want it to be doing too much work, that way the mastering engineer still has a dynamic mix at an appropriate level to work with.

One more suggestion, if you are going to work this way, slap that baby on before you begin your mix. My Stam SA-4000 lives on my mix bus unless I'm going to use it during tracking then I match a Waves SSL G Bus and switch over to that until we're done, this happens often for stereo applications (acoustic guitars, piano, sometimes even overheads).

Good luck and have fun!
Old 12th October 2017
Gear Addict
I use the Duende SSL mixbus comp, low ratio, just for glueing purposes, and it really shines in that regard.

I'll usually dial in my basic mix and add essential fx / plugs before I add the mixbus comp. Then once I'm going to focus on more subtle mix moves, add automation etc I'll mix into the mixbus comp from that point. May still need to revisit the thereshold every now and again as the mix dynamics change.
Old 12th October 2017
Lives for gear

Unlike others, I don't put it on there until my mix is nearly complete. You cant identify problems with tracks if you stick a blanket over the problem and mask it before you even begin to mix. You have no way of knowing whether individual tracks need to be compressed, nor by how much if you start out mixing with a buss compressor. That's what I call a shortcut to bad mixing techniques. Any pro will tell you the same.

Later when you have all the tracks balanced and properly compressed, sure, go ahead make yourself happy, but at least spend some time working with the raw tracks first and polish the individual tracks to sound good as they can first.

Then when you do put it on there, do A/B comparisons by turning it on and off. If you hear huge differences in tone or volume when using it, then your individual tracks and gain staging probably isn't optimal and you're simply sticking a band aid over your real problems.

The long term goal is use fewer plugins by improving your individual tracks. Each plugin performs an algorithm which robs the audio of some quality to get the desired results. There's nothing created out of thin air. You rob Peter to pay Paul when using them so make sure those robberies are needed first. You may not hear the losses, especially when your work is in progress but plugins are additive in the losses and the artifacts that accumulate. What might be a clear and transparent recording can quickly wind up being a bunch of two dimensional white noise if you aren't careful.

One thing you can do to confirm this is to do a fairly quick mix using no plugins. balance and pan things to sound as good as you can get them then do a bounce down to a stereo track. Then go ahead and mix the way you normally would and again do a bounce.

Stick both recordings on a disk and play them in the car or on a good Hi Fi system and give the two a decent A/B comparison. Then question what was gained vs what was sacrificed by using all the plugins. Chances are you gave up allot and when you really study the two side by side you can easily find ways of getting similar while preserving more quality.
Old 13th October 2017
Lives for gear
Owen L T's Avatar
Yes, it's fine to do - you just have to be super careful not to overdo it. Keep the attack time fairly open (20-30ms), release time not too fast (150-200ms), ratio low (1.5-2:1) and have it so it's only compressing 2-3 dB (and really, no more than that), only when multiple elements contribute to a loud peak/swell.

You don't want your master compression to be reacting to, say, every kick/snare hit - unless you want the whole mix to pump.

Fine to engage it early in the mix, and mix into it; but make sure the threshold is high enough that it's really only taking care of occasional volume surges, rather than compressors on individual tracks, which may be working more or less constantly.
Old 13th October 2017
Lives for gear

It's always a valid question for me. It usually comes down to where i think the song is going to go, and whether it will be a huge dynamic song or a controlled power song.

I might have one idea at first, but once the instruments/arrangement are selected, I may change my mind. But I don't like to change my mind later on.

edit: we do not know what instruments you use, how many ppl are involved, a band? EDM? Subs? Acoustic? So, I would also suggest to consider that music can have different dynamics and respective treatment in looking for a solid answer.
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