Question About Mixdown/Mastering

DDRC14 is over, DDRC15 has just started.

Opinions vary on how one should master, so you’ll have to make up your own mind as to what works for you. For example, I’m very big on incorporating the analogue domain, but others are not. There are other trends, like some believe that without the Vari-Mu compressor, there’s no point; whereas others are into niche methods.

I really want to write some long articles on this matter for In:Depth, but for now they’re really going to have to wait. Nevertheless, here’s some simple outlines of what I’m into, personally:

Assume you have a good mix, and that it’s mixed down into a stereo file. No clipping no mess.

If you want a simple pure digital approach at whatever sample rate you’re working at:
32bit File ->
Parametric EQ ->
M/S processing for mono low freqs ->
Multiband Compression (very, very lightly!) ->
Mastering Limiter (gain boost) ->
Dither 16bit ->
Render. MP3/FLAC optional.

If you have reasonable hardware - implying that you have some serious quality tube gear and serious quality digital converts your process could look like mine:
32bit File at 96khz (mix preferably recorded, edited and mixed at that rate) ->
Track pre-gain (incase of large unwieldy peaks) ->
Parametric EQ (I use LP10) ->
M/S processing for mono low freqs ->
Master gain fader (this adjusts output level for later saturation amount) ->
24bit real time dither (+MBIT Ultra II) ->
DAC (Mytek) analogue output balanced XLR ->
Tube Saturation (in my case Telefunken 12AU7 pre-amp tubes that I re-tubed into my compressor) this is where the “magic” happens ->
Analogue compression (Art Pro VLA II opto compression) lightly for stray peak management (short attack massive release) ->
Compression output level (another more subtle form of solid state saturation) ->
ADC (Mytek) running at 44.1khz, input balanced XLR connected to a second computer ->
Master Limiter for level boost, done to K level standards ->
16bit real time dither (+MBIT Ultra II) ->
Record 44.1khz 16bit ->
Edits, top and tail. MP3/FLAC optional.

That’s the short, short, short, short version of what I’m up to - which is no doubt confusing as hell to some of you. It doesn’t tell you any how or why. It doesn’t tell you anything about watching for jitter, or getting translation across several monitoring methods. It can be hair-pulling stuff. But definitely all worth it once you get a mastering to truly shine.

I just put a maximiser on default setting in the master channel and i’m done. :P
It should be said that you need a pair of decent monitors to master, not use crappy equipment that colors the sound too much.