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Getting The Late 80s CD Sound (Part 2)

Continued from Getting The Late 80s CD Sound (Part 1)

Step 5: Mastering Reverb In Ozone 3

A mastering reverb can really help tie your mix together and put a nice polish on it. Mastering reverb is quite a bit different from track reverb. The goal of track reverb is typically to add an audible effect to the source. Mastering reverb has a more transparent goal in mind. Done right, the listener would never be able to detect the actual reverb. However, an A/B comparison should reveal an extra something about the mix with a good mastering reverb applied. You may not be able to put your finger on what that extra something is, but it will be there. We are looking for a subtle, almost undetectable, effect on our mix.

Ozone 3 has a nice mastering reverb built right in, and that is what we will use. Show the reverb by clicking the red circle next to Mastering Reverb and turn it on by clicking next to Active (Figure 9). I like a very natural sheen glossed on top of our mix. The goal is to make the mix sound like you are listening to it in a great sounding room. It should sound like you are listening in a great sounding room even when you are in a bad sounding room. Mastering reverb is one of the steps to accomplishing this. Make sure the reverb is set to Room and not Plate (Figure 10).

Begin with my settings on your reverb (Figure 11). The Room Size is turned down to 0.3 so it won’t have the sound of a very big room. The goal is subtle so I don’t want to add the sheen of an unnaturally large space. The Room Width is slightly up because our reverb signal is going to be quite low and I want it to have just a touch of extra weight. I like the sound at the default Room Damping level so we will leave it alone. The Pre-delay is set at 3.5 milliseconds to give our room a very live and natural sound. A pre-delay setting this low is similar to the pre-delay characteristic of a bathroom. If you have ever listened to your stereo in the bathroom you may have noticed the music sounding a bit more alive and vibrant. It is a very nice effect to mimic with our mastering reverb. Keep the dry level at 100% and set the wet signal to a mere 10% in keeping with our goal of extreme subtlety (Figure 12). The natural reverberations you hear when you speak or listen to music in a room are so subtle as to be nearly unnoticed by the listener. Keep this in mind as you are auditioning your mastering reverb. There is a natural tendency to want to crank the mastering reverb wet signal louder because it sounds great. Your listeners rooms will add another layer of reverb on top of this so too high a wet level can really work against your mix as a final product.

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Figure 9
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Figure 11
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Figure 12
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Figure 10

Step 6: Tuning The Reverb Response.

We talked quite a bit about bass mask in Step 2 of Modern Mastering and adding reverb to the bass frequencies can work against us here. Goose the low frequency cutoff up to 100Hz (Figure 13). This makes sure the fundemental core tones of the kick, bass and low guitar notes will not get muddied up by our reverb. While setting up the basic room sound I alluded to the bathroom sound and that it was a good thing. You may have found yourself thinking, “Yeah, but aren’t bathrooms typically a little bright and harsh sounding?” Yes, quite often they are. The low pass filter will come in handy now. Bring it down to around 5.00kHz to combat this tendency toward harsh brightness(Figure 14). Setting up the reverb bandpass this way will confine the reverberations to the densest portion of our mix and help to widen them a bit. You put a lot of hard work during mixing (right?) to get the lows and highs sounding great so we don’t want to muck them up during mastering! Solo the reverb signal (Figure 15) and have a listen to your mix. Concentrate on the lows and highs to see if there is any mud or harsh glass sounds. Adjust the low and high cutoff points to fix these frequencies if they need it.

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Figure 13
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Figure 14
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Figure 15

Step 7: Enhancing The Stereo Image

A nice stereo image is an asset to almost any mix. The tricky part is not overdoing it not getting too carried away. Ozone 3 provides us with a nice multi-band stereo imaging module. Show the stereo imaging controls by clicking the red circle next to Multiband Stereo Imaging and turn it on by clicking next to Active (Figure 16). The default frequency bands at 120Hz, 2.0kHz, and 10.0kHz are great for almost any mix but I do like to bring the bass band up a little bit for reasons we are about to discuss. For this mix I increased the bass band crossover to about 150Hz (Figure 17).

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Figure 16
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Figure 17

Bass frequencies tend to be perceived by the human ear as very mono-directional. This means we do not have much ability to determine where sources of bass frequencies are coming from. That is why you can stick the subwoofer of your home theater anywhere you want. As long as you can hear the lows, your brain will match them up with the action on screen because it can’t tell where the thumping is exactly coming from. Adding a stereo image to our low frequencies will work against us. I keep ringing the bell of protecting our lows because it is a very important concept to keep in mind at all points during the production process. Conversely, our ears and minds are very good at hearing imaging information in progressively higher frequencies. We are going to use this information to focus our stereo enhancement where it really counts.

Since bass frequencies are mono-directional and can actually be harmed by stereo image, reduce this band to full mono (Figure 18). The bass frequencies should aquire some extra definition and punch from listening positions all around the room. The mid frequencies are going to receive only moderate widening. The lower mids are where you will find the meat of most of the instruments and vocals. Give this band a slightly wider stereo effect (Figure 19). The upper mids contain a lot of the higher harmonics of your instruments and vocals. This frequency band will stand a bit more widening without sounding unnatural (Figure 20). The high band is where most of the air and shimmer comes from. This frequency band will stand the most widening at all and I like to go almost all the way (Figure 21).

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Figure 18
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Figure 19
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Figure 20
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Figure 21

Our mix is sounding very full with a subtle, yet pleasant, stereo image. We have done all we are going to do with Ozone 3 and are now going to focus on the Waves MultiMaximizer.

Continued in Getting The Late 80s CD Sound (Part 3)