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Mix Bus Processing
Old 28th May 2020
  #1
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Mix Bus Processing

Hi John great to have you on here with your vast experience as an engineer and mix engineer!

I'll start with a question, I'm sure you'll have your hands full soon! do you find you gravitate to various mix bus chains depending in the style of music, example mixes for Lana Del Rey or Camila Cabello, or do you have one general chain you know just works? Feel free to share! Btw How many db's do you normally leave for the mastering engineer to do their thing?

Best
Tony
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Old 1st June 2020
  #2
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TheHanes's Avatar
Hi Tony,

We have one standard mix buss chain that is used on everything. We mix through it, meaning it goes on at the beginning of the mixing process and the whole process of mixing is done with it in place.

It is mostly “set and forget”, but there are times when small adjustments might be made to overall EQ, compassion, limiting, etc.

When we get sessions from producers that have their own mix bus chains in place, we’ll review what they are doing with each plugin. Some things we will keep in place because it has become an integral part of their rough mix. Other things can be removed or replaced by our own tools. Quite often just removing some things from the rough mix chain will make the mix better right away.

I won’t share exactly what we use here, as that chain was developed and perfected by Serban and is his “proprietary” information to keep to himself if he wishes.

We generally leave little for the mastering engineer to do. It takes a great skill to take it to that “sounds like it’s already mastered” place, so definitely a pro move.

So on a typical loud mix, at the loudest part of the song, on my DK Audio meter, set to NBC scale which is AES full scale, we’ll be sitting around -6, with peaks to -4.

On the Waves WLM Meter, which I normally look at just for Atmos mixing, it is pretty crushed at about -6LUFS at the loudest part of the song.

On occasion the mastering engineer will ask us to bring it down, and rightfully so. Other times, the artist or producer will say we like the mix better than the mastering, can you ask them to pass it straight through.

The theory here is do everything that will effect the sound inside the mix, which the artist, producer, and mixer have tweaked to perfection.
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Mix Bus Processing-wlm-meter.jpeg   Mix Bus Processing-img_3609.jpg  
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Old 1st June 2020
  #3
Gear Nut
 

Hi John,

Do you have a separated Vocal Bus and Music Bus to avoid the vocals drive the main bus compression or do you use the old school approach of send everything, vocals and music, to the same bus compressor?

Thanks!
Old 2nd June 2020
  #4
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H-Rezz's Avatar
 

Thank you for your reply John much appreciated, some great insight there! Very interesting info on the mix loudness too!
Old 2nd June 2020 | Show parent
  #5
ULA
Here for the gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by TheHanes View Post

We have one standard mix buss chain that is used on everything. We mix through it, meaning it goes on at the beginning of the mixing process and the whole process of mixing is done with it in place.

It is mostly “set and forget”, but there are times when small adjustments might be made to overall EQ, compassion, limiting, etc.
Hi John,

Is the same true for subgroups and busses, as in you generally work within standard chains for these groups as well that feed into the mix buss?

Without asking you to divulge more information about Serban's proprietary chain, can I ask if there is more information or tips you would be willing to share on mix buss processing or even just things to explore? i.e. mixing into high or low pass EQs, using saturation or distortion on the mix buss, favorite compressors, etc. that you are finding help achieve controlled low end, clarity, and loudness?

Thank you for taking time to answer questions here!
Old 3rd June 2020
  #6
Lives for gear
Cool Awesome info, thanks!

Just a quick question.

When you add the mix buss chain into the session. Do you have a trim plugin on the beginning of the chain so the music will hit the mixbuss chain at the same volume for all the songs you mix? (some sort of consistency I guess)
As the mix is going on you will adjust the trim so compressor and limiter always will see the same level.

Or will it differ on every mix how much gain reduction the compressor and limiter in the mix buss chain are doing?

Thanks
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Old 3rd June 2020 | Show parent
  #7
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by TheHanes View Post

We have one standard mix buss chain that is used on everything. We mix through it, meaning it goes on at the beginning of the mixing process and the whole process of mixing is done with it in place.

It is mostly “set and forget”, but there are times when small adjustments might be made to overall EQ, compassion, limiting, etc.
Hi John,

Thanks so much for doing this, I am a tremendous fan of your and Serban's work, absolutely fantastic.

I totally understand you don't want to give away the details of techniques that have taken a lot of work to formulate, but wonder if you would mind to answer a couple of extra general questions about the mix bus processing?

Specifically, how much of the overall sound would you say comes from the mix bus chain? Like if you bypassed it all, other than loudness, would the mix sound drastically different or is it all doing quite light touches.

Is the compression and or limiting full range or is there a multi-band process in use?

Thanks!

Tom

Last edited by psycho_monkey; 4th June 2020 at 12:34 PM..
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Old 3rd June 2020
  #8
Gear Maniac
 

Is there any type of Pultec low end style boost going on the entire mix where you would add a bunch of bottom end to the entire session? Or is it mainly just limiting and small EQ moves / stereo m/s?
Old 4th June 2020 | Show parent
  #9
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TheHanes's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by jakelorenz View Post
Hi John,

Do you have a separated Vocal Bus and Music Bus to avoid the vocals drive the main bus compression or do you use the old school approach of send everything, vocals and music, to the same bus compressor?

Thanks!
If a ProTools session comes in from the producer with separate Vocal Bus and Mix Bus, I'm not going to remove it. They created it with that processing in place and it will change things too much to rework it after the fact.

But even in these cases, everything is still going to go through the Master Bus chain and output 1&2. The Master Bus plugins and settings might need to back off some as a majority of that compression is being done already.

I'm not going to create a session that is set up that way, I definitely prefer what you call Old School! I guess I am getting old.
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Old 4th June 2020 | Show parent
  #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by musicmixer04 View Post
Cool Awesome info, thanks!

Just a quick question.

When you add the mix buss chain into the session. Do you have a trim plugin on the beginning of the chain so the music will hit the mixbuss chain at the same volume for all the songs you mix? (some sort of consistency I guess)
As the mix is going on you will adjust the trim so compressor and limiter always will see the same level.

Or will it differ on every mix how much gain reduction the compressor and limiter in the mix buss chain are doing?

Thanks
No trim plugin. Consistency comes from experience and listening to the volume, looking at the meters, and knowing about what levels I should be at to hit the Master Bus about where I want consistantly. If things start to get too hot, I'd rather make a group of everything that is feeding the Master Bus and trim all of the tracks down equally rather than using a plugin on the master to do it. Always trying to maintain proper gain structure and not just compensate for bad gain structure it at the end of the chain.
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Old 4th June 2020 | Show parent
  #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by spankjam View Post
Is there any type of Pultec low end style boost going on the entire mix where you would add a bunch of bottom end to the entire session? Or is it mainly just limiting and small EQ moves / stereo m/s?
Generally no. Again if the producer has sent us his ProTools session and crafted his mix with this in place on his Master Bus, We will evaluate it and see if it is needed to maintain the production values he has set up.

In my preferred world, low end should be crafted and nutured on the individual tracks where you have much more control over it; just adding a bunch to the whole mix feels very imprecise to me. Chances are you're just going to be boosting a bunch of low mud that has not been filtered out of individual tracks.
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Old 4th June 2020 | Show parent
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr XY View Post
Hi John,

Thanks so much for doing this, I am a tremendous fan of your and Serban's work, absolutely fantastic.

I totally understand you don't want to give away the details of techniques that have taken a lot of work to formulate, but wonder if you would mind to answer a couple of extra general questions about the mix bus processing?

Specifically, how much of the overall sound would you say comes from the mix bus chain? Like if you bypassed it all, other than loudness, would the mix sound drastically different or is it all doing quite light touches.

Is the compression and or limiting full range or is there a multi-band process in use?

Thanks!

Tom
I think other than loudness, it is doing light touches. As I said before, we are mixing through this chain from the beginning of the process, so all of the mixing decisions and tweaks are being done on the individual tracks but heard through the whole chain. So if I want to widen a sound, I'm not widening on the Master Bus, but I am hearing the consequences of widening through the Master Bus.

Both full range and multi-band processes are used.
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Old 4th June 2020 | Show parent
  #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ULA View Post
Hi John,

Is the same true for subgroups and busses, as in you generally work within standard chains for these groups as well that feed into the mix buss?

Without asking you to divulge more information about Serban's proprietary chain, can I ask if there is more information or tips you would be willing to share on mix buss processing or even just things to explore? i.e. mixing into high or low pass EQs, using saturation or distortion on the mix buss, favorite compressors, etc. that you are finding help achieve controlled low end, clarity, and loudness?

Thank you for taking time to answer questions here!
Subgroups and busses are created as needed for things like BGV's to apply processing to all equally. We don't have, for example, a Bass Buss or Drum Bus that has stock presets. If one is needed, it is created for that mix.

I wouldn't generally mix into a high / low pass eq. You're just going to compensate elsewhere by boosting or cutting those frequencies on the individual tracks. I would prefer to fix these things at the source.

Nothing else to add on the Mix Buss!

Last edited by TheHanes; 4th June 2020 at 06:41 PM.. Reason: poor choice of emoji.
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Old 4th June 2020 | Show parent
  #14
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by TheHanes View Post
If a ProTools session comes in from the producer with separate Vocal Bus and Mix Bus, I'm not going to remove it. They created it with that processing in place and it will change things too much to rework it after the fact.

But even in these cases, everything is still going to go through the Master Bus chain and output 1&2. The Master Bus plugins and settings might need to back off some as a majority of that compression is being done already.

I'm not going to create a session that is set up that way, I definitely prefer what you call Old School! I guess I am getting old.
Hi John, thanks for your response!

Can i ask if you use very minimal compression on the master bus?
The split technique works better for me because if i do more than a couple of dBs of gain reduction on my master comp the vocals drive the compressor too much.
Should i revise that?
Old 5th June 2020
  #15
Saturation

Hello John Hanes,

Thank you so much for sharing these precious information. Thank you also for your time and passion for music

Most of your mixes have some kind of grit/saturation only noticeable on headphones. And it seems that any genre of music you mix goes trough this process.

I would really appreciate If you could share your philosophy concerning this process.

Thanks for reading,

Nate
Old 5th June 2020 | Show parent
  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jakelorenz View Post
Hi John, thanks for your response!

Can i ask if you use very minimal compression on the master bus?
The split technique works better for me because if i do more than a couple of dBs of gain reduction on my master comp the vocals drive the compressor too much.
Should i revise that?
If it is working for you then don't change. If you aren't sure if it is working for you or against you, then try exploring other workflows.

Without seeing exactly what is happening, I would say that if the Vocals are driving the compressor too much, then they are too loud or you are using too much bus compression.

If I take my bus compressor and crush the mix ridiculously, it doesn't change the balance of music and vocals, it only changes the overall volume and of course distorts.
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Old 5th June 2020 | Show parent
  #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Young.baws View Post
Hello John Hanes,

Thank you so much for sharing these precious information. Thank you also for your time and passion for music

Most of your mixes have some kind of grit/saturation only noticeable on headphones. And it seems that any genre of music you mix goes trough this process.

I would really appreciate If you could share your philosophy concerning this process.

Thanks for reading,

Nate
I think that we all have grown used to music sounding as if it has come off of tape. Even music created when tape machines are a distant memory are influenced by the past benchmarks of music created on tape. It just sounds good, right?

Apply as you see fit.
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