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I'm not doing this right

Discussion in 'Mastering' started by sPlashedm, Jan 24, 2014.

  1. sPlashedm

    sPlashedm New Member

    I'm in a production/dj duo called sPlash.

    We've managed to put out about 12 songs without really paying too close of attention to our mastering. I guess we've kinda gotten lucky with what we've done so far.

    We're working on a big track right now, and it's CRUCIAL that the mastering is perfect; however, I would never forgive myself if I send it to a professional mastering firm lol.

    I've tried for two days to master this song.. I had a little amount tweaks in the master track, where I exported it at around -3.1 db as a wav @ 48000. I started a new project of my mix to master it, and after watching 3 videos on how to master well using logic, my mix still seems to sound like crap. :brkwl:

    I'm not quite sure what to do, I would really like to learn fast. My friends Milk n Cookies are really good at mastering and their songs sound really clean and crispy but they use ableton so they can't help me.

    I used a compressor, an exciter, a stereo spreader, some EQing, and an Adaptive Peak Limiter on my track, which sounds great in Logic, but only kind of decent when bounced to my desktop.

    Someone help :redface:
  3. Peter Ostry

    Peter Ostry Administrator Staff Member

    Can you describe what "sounds like crap" means in this case? Too dull, too harsh, clashing frequencies, missing or exaggerated areas in the frequency spectrum, too soft or too hard dynamics, rhythm problems, clearness, depth, poor or too strong low and low-mid range, missing heights?

    According to your description it isn't really mastering but rather a final mixdown, where you try to polish an already good sounding mix – the mix sounds great already, doesn't it? If not, you got to go back to your groups and single tracks and find the problem there.

    Your mastering chain ist pretty much standard but standard does not always work. Instead of throwing in a couple of plugins, listen to your mix and try to hear what it really needs.

    Yes, if your dynamics are too strong and/or the level of the quieter parts are too low. For the latter a limiter might do a better job. If your raw mix is rather flat, don't compress. Most likely your single tracks or subgroups are already compressed, so take into account that serial compression multiplies. For example, 6:1 in the mix and later another 4:1 gives you 24:1 overall. This may be enough to make the sound dull.

    If you need much EQing, there is something wrong in the mix. You should only balance the sound. The final stage is not for repairing the song or making it significantly better.

    Compressor —> EQ
    If the compressor sits before the EQ and your lows are too strong, the comp reacts to the deepest bass and makes everything else quieter. In case you used a lot of aggressive low-cuts, the comp gets triggered by the mids while bass and heights may become weak depending on their original strenght.

    EQ —> Compressor
    If the EQ sits before the compressor, it must be set to let the comp work in the frequency ranges you want to control the compression. Most likely you need another EQ after the compressor to re-establish your frequency balance.

    To avoid the problem with the Comp/EQ order, many people use multiband compressors. This is not absolutely necessary, often built-in sidechain filters in the compressor are just the tools you need.

    What's that for? Did you ruin your sound with the compressor (see above) and need to get some expression back? Or do you just want to give your heights the final touch (because this is the purpose of an exciter). An overdone exciter or an exciter on the wrong material can sound terrible.

    Stereo Spreader
    You don't mean the Logic plugin called "Stereo Spread"? Never (!) use this on the sum unless you are looking for a special effect. If you want to widen an already balanced stereo image use something that works with MS.

    Adaptive Peak Limiter
    Well, this is an effective tool but not a swiss knive. It is a good simple limiter. Raises the bottom level and cuts the peaks in a nice manner. Although people use it to improve their sound in one go, don't try this if you have a problem with a mix. A limiter will only mask the problems for the moment you engage it. Shortly after you hear the same problems, the sound can even go worse.
  4. sPlashedm

    sPlashedm New Member


    Thanks for your response!

    It seems that my white noise sweeps are coming out fuzzy or crackly, but it just overall sounded dull. The quality sounded very amateur.

    Today I actually did go back into the mix and leveled everything out very nicely. I made sure I pinpointed every part of the mix that was coming out crackly or dull and made it cleaner with minor EQing and Compression. I also took everything off of the Master FX and made sure the loudest point of the song was about 2.8 db. The bounced .wav sounds a lot better. I'm now back into the project designated for mastering the song.

    As for the mastering techniques that I used, I followed 2 youtube videos that were pretty informative on Logic Pro X mastering. The people in the videos had really nice tracks come out of it. I think my problem was/is that I overdo a lot of the things such as compression, stereo spreading, exciting, etc.

    I'm going to go back into the project and work based off of the information you just told me and see where that gets me. Hopefully I could get something more professional out of it.

    Thank you very much for your response, it was super informative. I need to learn how to get a cleaner and crispier sound out of my final tracks.

    If you have anything that you could add to my problem after this reply that would be greatly appreciated! Thank you!
  5. Peter Ostry

    Peter Ostry Administrator Staff Member

    Sometimes it helps to think the other way round. If you have a nice single sound that doesn't want to stand out as you like, think about pushing other sounds a little back. You can soften competing sounds by EQ, compression, the Logic Enveloper, reverb, or whatever. This way you rather change the texture than the overall volume, which results in less compression, better dynamics. And it is better for a final limiter which should not blindly cut all expressive peaks you elaborated in earlier stages.
  6. sPlashedm

    sPlashedm New Member

    Thank you! I found that one of the problems I had originally was I was holding back on the high and low ends making it dull. I brought them up. But as you said, I went in and pushed back the White noise sweeps, as well as cleaned up the unnecessary reverb and on some of the sounds. Pushing back some sounds really made everything pop. Thank you for the advice!

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