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Why does my mix lose punch when THIS happens... DAW Software
Old 10th March 2014
  #1
Gear Maniac
 

Why does my mix lose punch when THIS happens...

I have a question I've been pondering on but couldn't seem to find a reasonable answer. I was recently remixing some songs due to losing the original song mixes that my engineer did. I noticed that when I mix tracksMY normal way, the levels on the master bus run hot, so I often end up having to turn down the master fader to compensate. But generally I'm usually happy with the way my mixes sound.

My engineer told me a trick which was to link every track in the mix (after I got my mix set up the way I want), and then turn down all the tracks and rise the master fader up to compensate. (Basically this is like the exact opposite of what I normally do)

However I noticed that when/if I do this, my mixes lose punch and doesn't seem to hit the way it does when I keep the master fader down but my track levels up.

Can anybody explain to me exactly what is probably happening? If all I'm doing is just bringing all the track levels down together and bringing up the master fader, why would the mix sound drastically different?
Old 10th March 2014
  #2
Here for the gear
 

Hi jlacck,

I hope i can help. You would have to explain "tracks my normal way"? That can be many different ways and possibly not in a good way. It sounds like the songs were squashed with compression/limiting. Leave your master volume at 0db. This is your reference! I wouldn't necessarily link every track, but instead use group buss for like instruments. Compression kills dynamics and your mix will loose punch. Maybe you are over compressing instruments like kicks that define "punch" of a mix?

Do you have a limiter on the master? A limiter will dynamically change the sound as you push it, not necessarily when it reaches it's threshold? If not, it could be a perception of volume itself?
Old 10th March 2014
  #3
Lives for gear
 

Your engineer gave you good advice. Your just in love with the way ruined audio sounds .. Thats not punch Select all faders prior to busses and turn them down .Pay attention to the traffic lights
Old 10th March 2014
  #4
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Kyle I think what the op is doing is Mixing hot all around and needs to pull some level. Op is there any compression on your master or maybe the busses before it?
Old 10th March 2014
  #5
Turning down individual faders (as per your engineer's recommendation) can change send levels, affect the way various tracks are hitting any buss compressors you may be using, and so forth.

It actually is a better move to simply turn down your master fader; that way, you avoid risking any balance changes due to the aforementioned.
Old 10th March 2014
  #6
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A Fak's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by bgrotto View Post
Turning down individual faders (as per your engineer's recommendation) can change send levels, affect the way various tracks are hitting any buss compressors you may be using, and so forth.

It actually is a better move to simply turn down your master fader; that way, you avoid risking any balance changes due to the aforementioned.
Yeah if you have any bus compression going on, turning down track faders will effect the signal going to them. BUT better yet don't mix hot to begin with.. if you're using 24bits you're not gaining anything by it and just limiting your head room. If you're worried about it being loud thats easy enough to do at the mix bus stage.
Old 10th March 2014
  #7
Quote:
Originally Posted by A Fak View Post
Yeah if you have any bus compression going on, turning down track faders will effect the signal going to them. BUT better yet don't mix hot to begin with.. if you're using 24bits you're not gaining anything by it and just limiting your head room. If you're worried about it being loud thats easy enough to do at the mix bus stage.
You're not limiting your head room if you simply turn down the master fader. It's the simplest solution to the OP's problem, and also the best-sounding.
Old 10th March 2014
  #8
Gear Maniac
 

Hey everyone thanks for the posts and feedback.

To answer some of the questions posted...

I do not use any compression or limiting on the master bus. The only thing I put on the master buss is a mono plug in and a phase check plug in. However when I export my songs, these plug ins are bypassed.


Yes I use Group compression and limiting. I generally have a Drum group, a Bass group (if I have more than one bass i.e. a layered bass), a Piano group (or keys group) etc....

When I mix "hot", I always turn my master fader down so that the main buss isn't goin into the red and I recover any headroom. This is a result of all the groups and parallel compression or mult tracks that I might use to help "thicken up" some of my mixes (I mostly only do this on kick, snare or bass).

I think Bgrotto may have hit on what is causing my mixes to suddenly lose punch and "vibe" when I turn down ALL the faders (individual tracks as well as groups and effect return tracks).

Someone mentioned being in love with "ruined audio". One thing I make sure I'm doing is not clipping any of my plug ins. If i'm not mistaken, Nuendo has 32 bit floating point. So my understanding is if you aren't actually clipping any of the plug ins, you can actually have a "hot" channel. But again I believe my mix bus runs hot (when I keep it at zero or utility gain) because of all the effect/mult layering and buss compression that I do.
Old 10th March 2014
  #9
Quote:
Originally Posted by jlacck View Post
...when I turn down ALL the faders (individual tracks as well as groups and effect return tracks).
There's your problem right there. You're "double dipping" on the volume drop. You're turning down the tracks feeding the buss, as well as the buss fader itself. So, that would mean less compression at the buss fader, plus a radical change in levels.

And if you're using any send effects on the channels feeding your buss, you're also changing the wet/dry balances as well.

In other words: a totally different mix. That's why it's best to simply turn down the master fader.
Old 10th March 2014
  #10
"Gain Staging"
I am not sure about Nuendo but in the version of Pro tools I use even if your session is 32 bit FP the plug ins operate at 24 bit fixed so it is possible to be clipping a plug in even though the session is 32 bit float . I am on PT10 .something lol.
Old 11th March 2014
  #11
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by bgrotto View Post
There's your problem right there. You're "double dipping" on the volume drop. You're turning down the tracks feeding the buss, as well as the buss fader itself. So, that would mean less compression at the buss fader, plus a radical change in levels.

And if you're using any send effects on the channels feeding your buss, you're also changing the wet/dry balances as well.

In other words: a totally different mix. That's why it's best to simply turn down the master fader.

Man I didn't think about it like that. But you are absolutely right. I didn't realize turning down the effect sends particular the bus channels AND the track channels is throwing my ratios off. I think I'm just going to stick with what I usually do and just turn my master fader down. Geez... makes me wonder if maybe I need a new engineer! smh
Old 11th March 2014
  #12
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Sotsirc's Avatar
I think he should have said "turn down the fader on everything feeding the stereo bus directly". The busses, not the tracks feeding them. Unless the bus is the 2bus. And watch the pre fader sends!
Old 11th March 2014
  #13
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2toxic's Avatar
I personally believe your engineer is right. And if you lose punch, re-iterate the mix with 0dB on Master. And if Master gets too hot again, drop all again and reiterate. Your mix will sound better when you get there.
Old 11th March 2014
  #14
Quote:
Originally Posted by 2toxic View Post
I personally believe your engineer is right. And if you lose punch, re-iterate the mix with 0dB on Master. And if Master gets too hot again, drop all again and reiterate. Your mix will sound better when you get there.
This is unequivocally false. Turning down the master fader will not in any way diminish the sound quality.
Old 11th March 2014
  #15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sotsirc View Post
I think he should have said "turn down the fader on everything feeding the stereo bus directly". The busses, not the tracks feeding them. Unless the bus is the 2bus. And watch the pre fader sends!
You'd still run the risk of upsetting wet/dry balances. If you have a group of channels bussed together to a subgroup, and each of those individual channels is sending to a reverb, turning down the subgroup fader will effectively raise the level of reverb.
Old 11th March 2014
  #16
Maaaaaan, you ain't rippin unless your clipping!!!!!!
Why can't you just adjust the mix levels via plug in comps and limiters and faders?
Old 11th March 2014
  #17
Gear Nut
 

Turning down the master fader in pro tools will change your mix bc its post fader.

I would definitely suggest you look into gain staging.

Also if you attenuate every track in your session, you will need to amplify the signal to your monitors. (stating the obvious lol)
Old 11th March 2014
  #18
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turn it to 11.
Old 11th March 2014
  #19
Quote:
Originally Posted by bgrotto View Post
You're not limiting your head room if you simply turn down the master fader. It's the simplest solution to the OP's problem, and also the best-sounding.
+1. The trick is not to get yourself stuck in the situation where you're pegging the master fader in the first place.

Calibrated monitoring is one way to help, and even simpler is turning the monitor volume knob up pretty loud before you start mixing. .. that forces you to keep your individual track levels lower, instead of inching them up over time to get your room volume.. Having proper head room is good, ...clipping plugs and channels isn't., because that distortion accumulates down the line, through the mastering and then lossy conversion process. GL
Old 11th March 2014
  #20
Quote:
Originally Posted by epotts06 View Post
Turning down the master fader in pro tools will change your mix bc its post fader.
The only thing it will change is the level going into any processing he may have on his master fader. Assuming the OP is using a mix buss compressor, that problem is easily solved: turn the threshold down to compensate for the lower input level.

The alternative (your alternative) is turning down individual track faders, then trying to compensate every single group compressor's threshold, all the send/return levels, and so forth. Add to that the extra complication of automation and you're opening a giant can of worms.

There really is no single logical reason to not just tell the OP to turn down his master fader. I get that y'all want to give him a lesson in gain staging, but that isn't going to help him if he's already in the middle of a mix that he's got rockin', and simply needs to dial back the output a bit.

Not to mention, as someone who works primarily on an analog console, I've had PLENTY of mixes where, despite paying close attention to my gain staging, I end up with a hot mix buss because of various parallel groups and the like. The advantage of an analog desk is, I have a helluva lotta headroom, and as such, I simply need to turn down the output before hitting tape (or DAW) to avoid overloading.

In PT (or whatever DAW), there's a similar workflow, and it's exactly what I've detailed in this thread: turn down the master fader. It's the most simple solution. It's the most effective solution. Preaching about gain staging isn't particularly helpful; it's obvious the OP knows what he *should* be doing in terms of gain staging, otherwise he wouldn't have asked about this stuff in the first place. But again, sometimes, in the heat of a mix, things build up, and it's just not practical to go back and try to pull individual faders down.

The DAW mix buss is designed the way it is for PRECISELY for the reasons the OP is asking about. Just turn down the damn fader and get on with your mix.
Old 11th March 2014
  #21
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Waltz Mastering View Post
+1. The trick is not to get yourself stuck in the situation where you're pegging the master fader in the first place.

Calibrated monitoring is one way to help, and even simpler is turning the monitor volume knob up pretty loud before you start mixing. .. that forces you to keep your individual track levels lower, instead of inching them up over time to get your room volume.. Having proper head room is good, ...clipping plugs and channels isn't., because that distortion accumulates down the line, through the mastering and then lossy conversion process. GL

Waltz,

You may be right in terms of the need to get the monitoring set up right. I actually don't like to mix loud though. In fact, one of the keys I've learned is that getting the mix right when the volume is soft(er) helps a lot setting better mix balances.

All that said, my individual tracks actually don't really hit into the red; its the layering of my groups and mult channels (particularly any kick, snare or drum group layering) that seems to cause a build up at the master bus that forces me to turn the master fader down.

Now in a technical sense, I may be doing something wrong or at least different with the way I set up my mixes. But I like the way the tracks hit as it relates to the thickness and fullness I get from my drum sound. However, are you suggesting that it may be better to get that "vibe and mojo" that I need in my mixes by trying to keep my individual channels down so as not to affect the master fader, but instead turn up my monitors?
Old 11th March 2014
  #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mister Karloff View Post
Select all faders prior to busses and turn them down .Pay attention to the traffic lights
Seems the only thing you read was not the answer. If you mix hot expect your going to have to keep doing this. And then fixing input to dynamic bases effects. Just start mixing low gain up anywhere else interface master fader monitors just keep the mix in the green
Old 11th March 2014
  #23
Quote:
Originally Posted by jlacck View Post
Waltz,
However, are you suggesting that it may be better to get that "vibe and mojo" that I need in my mixes by trying to keep my individual channels down so as not to affect the master fader, but instead turn up my monitors?
Yep. It's good to keep your channel levels down (individual and busses) at a conservative level so you have headroom by the time the signal shows on your master fader.

This is what is best to prevent:
Quote:
Originally Posted by jlacck View Post
my individual tracks actually don't really hit into the red; its the layering of my groups and mult channels (particularly any kick, snare or drum group layering) that seems to cause a build up at the master bus that forces me to turn the master fader down.
As you crave volume the tendency is to keep pushing the faders up, ..when it's better to just turn the volume knob up and keep the faders at a decent/lower level. Is easy to be tricked that just because something seems louder that it's fuller or better sounding.
Old 11th March 2014
  #24
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Sotsirc's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by bgrotto View Post
You'd still run the risk of upsetting wet/dry balances. If you have a group of channels bussed together to a subgroup, and each of those individual channels is sending to a reverb, turning down the subgroup fader will effectively raise the level of reverb.
Well yes, that's true I suppose.
Good point.
Old 11th March 2014
  #25
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2toxic's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by bgrotto View Post
This is unequivocally false. Turning down the master fader will not in any way diminish the sound quality.
I never said that fam. turning everything down when it gets too hot helps one judge the mix/balance better.

For example, you got a nice balance of all the sounds (to your ears), but your master is clipping in the red, link all and drop, then return only Master fader to 0. If mix/balance (not volume) does not sound to taste after doing so, then adjust individual elements until it sounds good but keep Master fader at 0dB or whatever dB you decide you want as a reference. This advice is more about the mixer(person mixing) than the DAW. So it is not UNEQUIVOCALLY wrong.
Old 11th March 2014
  #26
Quote:
Originally Posted by 2toxic View Post
If mix/balance (not volume) does not sound to taste after doing so, then adjust individual elements until it sounds good but keep Master fader at 0dB
Doing this on a complicated mix could involved literally hundreds of small adjustments. Why not just turn down the master fader, then adjust any threshold-based processing on that master fader? That's two steps versus hundreds. Seems like a no brainer to me.

Sometimes it seems like people around here confuse doing the most complicated thing possible with good engineering.
Old 11th March 2014
  #27
Just add a trim type plugin on the master buss and turn down the signal. That way your master buss looks manly at 0 . lol
Most DAWs have floating point processing behind the scenes which means you literally only have to make sure you don't clip the final outputs to your AD/DA. It's virtually impossible to clip your internal channels, sends, etc.
Now, the plugins you are using in each channel can most definitely sound like a distortion box. Most plugins do have a sweet spot that lends itself to proper gain staging.
But if you love the sound you're getting, just turn down the signal before it exits your DAW and you'll be fine.
Old 12th March 2014
  #28
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A Fak's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by A Fak View Post
Yeah if you have any bus compression going on, turning down track faders will effect the signal going to them. BUT better yet don't mix hot to begin with.. if you're using 24bits you're not gaining anything by it and just limiting your head room. If you're worried about it being loud thats easy enough to do at the mix bus stage.
Quote:
Originally Posted by bgrotto View Post
You're not limiting your head room if you simply turn down the master fader. It's the simplest solution to the OP's problem, and also the best-sounding.
Just to be clear I was (or at least trying to) saying mixing too hot was limiting his overall headroom not turning down the master fader.

In my workflow the master is rarely ever touched. If you keep your track levels in check with proper gain staging you won't have any need to turn down the master.
Old 12th March 2014
  #29
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3rd Degree's Avatar
 

I am not as technical as some others and I am definitely not nearly as skilled as a mixing engineer as some on this post but I have the same issue.

When making instrumentals in particular, which is mostly what I do, I tend to mix as I go. Though I try to avoid using a lot of effects, I do use some. I make my stuff in Reason so much of my effects are pre fader, which causes less issues (or headaches I should say) but even if all my effects are insert/pre fader effects, I still find myself struggling to work the way you are talking about. I always just turn down the master. Obviously, it gets tougher when your effects are post fader as you have to readjust everything.

On full songs, I find it very problematic to lower everything down. As a few said, you start having to literally adjust everything over again, basically mixing the song again basically.

I will say, I now often start my mixes way lower than I used to to give me more room but I still mixing the way you said works for you.
Old 12th March 2014
  #30
People forget volume should from the volume knob, not pegging overload meters and turning all faders up.

If you constantly mix hot in the box, turn up master fader, mix(in your hot fashion), then return master fader to zero. So now you are not just attenuating an overloaded signal, you are bringing down a boosted signal to unity.

Or...pay attention to gain structure! Boom!
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