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Saturday, October 18, 2014

Presets and why you should not use them

Hello and welcome to this week's article!
Today I would like to share my thoughts about presets, since lately I've been asked to share some of my to-go presets for mixing and mastering.
It's not that I don't want to share my presents, it's just that I don't have actually any of them.
First because moving on with the years my plugin chains are getting more and more minimal and my attenction is switching on how to capture a sound that needs less processing to sound good (a good starting sound is really 60% of the total work), second because presets are always "caricatural" and created for a project that is different from ours.

In the mixing phase presets can be useful to understand how a certain plugin works: for example if we load a "lead vocal" preset on the Compressor plugin we can see that the attack usually is pretty fast, that the usual ratio is set on a certain way etc., but then we should reset it and then apply the same principles to OUR specific vocal track, because each project has its own gain staging, and using the preset of a compressor, for example, will mess with our gain staging or not affecting the track enough or affecting it too much, either way ruining it.

Working only with presets will make the song sound unprofessional and bad, then happens that some douchebag asks me "why does my song sounds like a trainwreck? I have applied the signal chain you suggested, loading the presets for the tracks on each plugin!".
The answers are 2
1) I always list ALL the plugins that can be used usually for a single instrument, but then you have to choose only the ones that you really need for your specific track.
2) You must not use presets on each track, you moron, and if you have no idea on how to use a plugin study it, don't load on the host some piece of software that you have no idea of what it does and wait for some magic, because it will only screw up your project more.

If working without a clue of what we're doing and just relying on presets can screw up our mix, using presets in the Mastering phase can really destroy anything good that's left of our track, since in this case damages are much bigger because they affect all the single tracks together.
Using a mastering suite like Ozone or T-Racks it's not a bad choice, but we should understand exactly what each module does and keep open only the modules that we really need, if we have a processor on and we don't hear any benefit keeping it open or bypassed, we should remove it, and we must also remember that understandind the gain staging and making it work properly is the single most important thing to make a master track sound right.
So turn off all the modules of Ozone, and start turning them on and tweaking one at the time, and see if they are really making our track sound better or not: if they're not essential, we don't need them.

Start trusting your own ears more!


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