Post Your Mastering Chain

In the interests of dispelling myths about digital mastering and keeping good knowledge public I would like to start a tip thread that recommends high quality mastering chains with links. This can be followed with any relevant or necessary discussion on plugs and methods. Shared experiences and example are also welcome.

I’ll start with my current chain, in order:

Any questions regarding usage are welcome.

Post your chains! :walkman:

I usually drop a Izotope Ozone at the master, checking out the presets, find one I like, then alter it till I’ve got it just the way I like it.

Hey Foo!, I just watched a movie by AndiVax, and he’s using a trick I’ve adopted from him; To remove all sublow frequencies (Everything below 120hz) on all instruments apart from the bass and the kick drum, is this really benefitial?

Mostly, but I’d say a bit too much of a blanket solution for mix elements that need better attention than that. The concept is good, but an application of 120hz would be draconian. There are tonnes of both instrument sounds and avant garde sounds that need untouched expression at 120hz and below. Just look at thunder for example.

Certainly in most pop and dance styles, the rhythmic center is the kick and bass. Creating ample room for these to really crank and do their work means making sure that nothing else is interfering with them down there and clearing mix headroom. It’s largely a mix issue though, and if done right it shouldn’t be a concern for the mastering process.

I tried Ozone a long time back and found it just way too destructive on the sound. Don’t know if it has improved at all since. I’m in no position to recommend to anyone that they learn mastering via presets, but if they are quality then I guess it can provide handy clues.

I like to keep things simple and built-in:

Stereo Expander (only expanding stereo a bit, not surround)
EQ 10 (to attenuate frequencies from 40 to 120 Hz and 2.000 to 15.000 Hz
2 mild Compressors in a row for a even thickness (I hate overcompression)

I don’t put anything at the master :S
I make sure all channels sound good.
So I won’t need mastering chains.

And mastering itself I leave to the professional.

where is this professional i hear so mutch about? ^_^

big muff

It’s a tricky topic as some people take it seriously, and others do not. I care about fidelity, it’s a major determining factor in how much I revisit and enjoy a mix. It’s actually a major drag (for me) to hear some of my favorite artists mastered poorly. They may have had great ideas, but I’m reluctant to even try if I have to wade through sonic sludge.

My opinion is just that, and common with preferences of many other music enthusiasts. I have no wish to denigrate the punk DIY attitude some people have to sound. However, I am more interested in finding out techniques and approaches that Renoisers may have in presenting their music is the best possible way.

Hey Foo?, thanks for response, always fun reading your comments.

About the Vintage Warmer; I’ve got the Vintage Warmer 2, and when I put it on the drums to compress them, I found that the plugin delayed the sound, rendering it useless.

Has this happened to you? If yes, how did you work around it?

Also, which of your favourite artists have you found bad mixes of? I’m really into this whole mastering stuff, and frankly I don’t care what people say about it having to be done by professionals, if I can make my mix even a TINY bit better by adding this or that plugin, I’ll go for it.

Mine is depending on the sound i’m working on. Sometimes it’s just the Renoise soft clipper enabled or i don’t have any compressor on the master bus at all.

DDMF IIEQ Pro -> rarely on the master bus but happened already
Tone2 Filterbank 3 -> LP 30 DB and HP 30 DB filters to remove muddy lows and nasty highs
Voxengo Polysquasher -> pretty heavy compression signal (5:1 and upwards) mixed back low into the dry signal
Voxengo Elephant -> Limiting, RMS readings
Visualizer MT -> Spectrum and Phase readings

Pretty basic:
Ozone on master

[Disclaimer: The following is about mixing, not mastering. Flame me if you will, but i just don’t care.]
Though I should point out that these days, I use Voxengo GlissEQ on any channel that I think isn’t punchy enough. Gliss is a gated EQ… that is, it only applies the curve for a certain time after the attack of the frequency band(s) in question. This is really useful for doing things like making the bass attack more… and it does it better, and less CPU intensively than Ozone. I’ve occasionally used GlissEQ on the master chain before Ozone too.

Other tricks I use during mixing are putting lofi on tracks I want more high end crunch on, like drums. I max bit crunch and quality, then adjust quality down until I get the timbre I want. Sometimes I’ll lower bit crunch too, but only to about 10-12. If done right, it doesn’t really take away from the quality of the track in question, as much as add high end harmonics that would normally be impossible to bring out with an EQ. If you know my music, you might think this would only be useful for harsh sounds, but you may be very pleased with how it sounds on other, less harsh tracks. An EQ after the lofi can enhance the new found high end even more by ramping the treble up. If you want less of an effect with the lofi, simply crank up the dry, and crank down the wet.

And you all know my stance on gates and downward expansion. Chopping out the noise floor on your non-ambient channels just may be what you need to make your mix sound professional.

That is all :P

waits for the inevitable flames

Hmmm …compressor on the masterbus ain’t so wise …When you overcompress an entire mix …there’s is nothing much you can do afterwards ( on the mixdown …) to restore it
Yust some equalizer …(sonalksis ) …cutting around 20 hz ( might be more ) just takes up precious headroom …and cutting the high’s …that’s all for me .
Rob acid his looks on mastering issues ( I am not verry fond of his music …but he’s got a point here )…ing+(and+stuff)

One can do things wrong of course… in my case, where i’m doing everything in Renoise it would be no problem to tweak the settings further or maybe ditch it, in case it get’s send to a professional mastering guy.

I’ve seen that video too and one can learn a few things from it. He says of course he doesn’t want any compressed mixdowns, because he is the guy to apply this stuff, but in the end if you’re doing it yourself and want to adopt his workstyle, one ends up with compressors.

Hehe, I’ll save the arguments for IRC ;) But one thing I will say here: I used to love the approach above, with lost of lofi and trebble boosting. Then one day another engineer that I highly respect said to me of my mixes that I had a serious salt addiction. Nice metaphor for the intensity and coarseness of boosted highs in digital music (i.e. less resolution the higher the frequency).

I had a little cry and exclaimed that my mixes wouldn’t be bright enough without such boosting. He encouraged me to drop the habit, and sure enough my mixes sound muddy as hell. I had serious issues not faced in being competent in the task of reductively mixing out unwanted bass. So I learnt. And it took ages with bulk practice. I still get it wrong occasionally! But one thing is for sure: with a whole lot zealous treble boosting going on (and more bass reducing) the sounds in my mixes are WAY more natural and pleasant to listen to. Less forcing the data to do strange things over such a limited sampling canvass. I pick the needed brightness overall using one pass of a harmonic exciter in the mastering chain, simple as that.

Again I will say this is not for everyone. Some people love nasty digital, it has a valid punk ferocity to it that many styles exploit to purposeful effect.

VW2 has massive latency for it’s processing, which adds to the quality because it can look forward and manage transients better. VW1 however has no ‘noticeable’ latency so you can use it on a channel or the master. I’m using VM1 as I’ve not shelved out the big bucks for 2, but I’m sure it’s probably better.

Until Renoise gets PDC, VW2 will be useless on channels (unless of course you use K303’s tricky way of getting around plugin-delay.

In my current chain LP10 has a big amount of latency (some 200ms) - but this is ok because I don’t use it until after the song is composed and mixed. It’s worthy mentioning here that I completely recommend that you keep mastering till last and separate - otherwise you’ll develop bad mix habits.

dufey, i have heard of this technique too, although 120hz may be a bit high. i have learned that usually for most instruments you can put a highpass filter on and roll off frequencies around 30-40hz, because they are usually unnecessary.

usually when mixing in general it’s good to remove frequencies in each track that aren’t necessary, because they usually create masking and muddiness. but ya, i agree with foo, applying a filter to the entire master and just taking away EVERYTHING below 120hz is somewhat lazy and you will notice something lacking. ;)

yeah i dont have a blanket solution for “mastering”, but when i want my tunes to sound louder, i generally bounce em down as is in renoise, and then compress the hell out of them in logic 8. I like the sound of renoise better, but if a tracks gonna be played out, then i find logic has more raw volume to it.

when it comes to actual mastering, i’d rather send it to an engineer and get it done properly. plus most of my stuff is mastered for vinyl anyway.

If you find that highpassing a given channel removes too much of the punchiness, try using a multiband gate/expander to chop the sustain off the bass, but keep the attack… then highpass it a bit lower.

i have recently started using some nice plugs a developer called vieris have made(search kvr)

i use them mostly when im mixing my tracks,but they are really nice

i try to mix my tracks as good as i can,because well i dont know that much about have to master propperly

hmm, people master inside renoise? i find that a bit of an uncomfortable concept…

I find the whole production/mixing/mastering thing has kinda rolled into one for me. But I usually render out and load in Adobe Audition. Simple EQing (cut <30Hz, notches @ 4.5Khz etc etc) and limiting with Izotope Ozone (“volume maximiser”). I never use any stereo widening, harmonic exciters, band compressors etc, that’s a production thing I feel…

but that’s mastering for digital. I have no idea how to do it for vinyl and would certainly leave it to an expert if it were needed!

Why use audition when you can do all that in Renoise? :P Ozone works BETTER in Renoise imo… realtime feedback ftw.