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Friday, July 18, 2014

HOW TO USE MULTIBAND COMPRESSION WHEN MASTERING! (a guide for dummies)


Hello and welcome to this week's article!
This time we're going to expand our article about Mixing with Multiband Compression talking about the main purpose of this tool: Mastering.
When the track is ready for the mastering phase, we all know that it should pass though the last processing steps before reaching a volume comparable to the commercial tracks, adding if needed the last "icings on the cake", but it is actually very important to take care of the balancing and the other aesthetic aspects of the song in the mixing phase, resolving the issues before arriving to this last step:
the track should already sound at its best, leaving to the mastering phase only the final push.

Looking things under this point of view it appears crucial to work in the most transparent and essential way, because the risk of compromising the complex castle of cards that is a perfectly balanced mix is very high, and this is the reason why some mastering engineer prefers putting in the mastering chain a Multiband Compressor instead of a Broadband One: to assign a particular setting to each part of the spectrum, instead of using one processor that affects with the same intensity the whole mix.

Let's make an example of how to use a multiband compressor on our master track, and for this example we're going to use the Waves Linear Phase MB, as in the picture above, but basically the same mechanics applies to any other multiband comp.

Let's open the Waves Linear Mb and play the whole song, adjusting the input looking at the top right corner meter in the UI, so that it doesn't clip (we can also click on the "Trim" button to lower the gain right below the clip level).
When the whole song will be played, we'll check out the number on the right of the "Solo" and "Bypass" buttons on each band. These numbers are the peaks on each band, so we will need to dial these same numbers in the "threshold" section of that same band (for example -10, -5,5, -12 and so on).
Once we have done this task, we will notice that the sound should be more "stable", since only the infrequent highest peaks that reach that level will be tamed, and only in their most relevant frequency area. This operation will give us some extra headroom to raise the overall level, and ultimately, will let us obtain a more powerful and transparent master, if we don't love the slighly more invasive feel of a broadband compressor.

Now it's time for the final adjustments: we can add or lower some db of gain on the single bands if we need (this will combine the compressor function of this tool with the tasks of an equalizer), and we can fiddle around with the Attack and Release functions, remembering that usually you have set them properly if you see the compressor kicking in and out in time with the song.
It is also possible to turn on or off the "Makeup" function, which raises the gain according to the gain reduction produced, and to set the "Adaptive" level, which helps avoiding one frequency area to mask another one through the song.


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