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Modern Mastering (Part 2)

Continued from Modern Mastering Part 1

STEP 6: Multiband Compression

Add the Waves Linear Multiband processor to the track right after the REQ4. Click the Load button on the LinMB interface and choose Basic Multi from the drop down list. Play your entire track without stopping playback. You now have some numbers registered in the various boxes around the interface.

STEP 7: Initial Settings

At the bottom of each of the five bands you will see a value in the peak hold box (Figure 11). Enter the value from the peak hold box into the Thrsh row. Do this for all five channels, entering the values from the peak hold box into the Thrsh box (Figure 12). Next, set the Adaptive box to -12.00 (Figure 13).

Modern Mastering: Figure 11
Figure 11
Modern Mastering: Figure 12
Figure 12
Modern Mastering: Figure 13
Figure 13

STEP 8: Eliminate Clipping

Again, play the whole track without stopping playback. Check the value in the Trim button (Figure 14). If it’s a positive number or 0.0 skip to Step 9. If it’s negative, adjust the gain slider to show the value from the trim box (Figure 15). This will eliminate any clipping in the output stage just like we did in Step 4 for the EQ.

Modern Mastering: Figure 14
Figure 14
Modern Mastering: Figure 15
Figure 15

STEP 9: Mega Crunch Time

Have a listen through your tune. Things should be starting to really sound nice at this point. In fact, if everything has gone well, we’re pretty much finished. The only thing left is to pump the levels up to be a little more uniform so we’re ready to put the track on a CD. If you stop now, you will have about 75% of the modern radio sound. Time to give it that last 25%.

Add the Waves L2 as the final processor on your track. Play the song through all the way without stopping so we can get the L2 setup. Once you’ve played it through you’ll see the peak hold boxes across the bottom showing some numbers (Figure 16). Find the highest number. We will choose -2.3 becuase it’s the higher of the two negative numbers. Subtract 6.0 from this number and put that value into the Threshold slider. After subtracting 6.0 from -2.3 to get -8.3 that value is entered in the slider (Figure 17).

Modern Mastering: Figure 16
Figure 16
Modern Mastering: Figure 17
Figure 17

STEP 10: Fine Tuning

Adjust the Out Ceiling slider of L2 to a value of -0.1 (Figure 18). Now play back the whole track and keep an eye on the Atten column (see Figure 19). Keep an eye on the peak box at the bottom of the Atten area. Ideally you want it to hit -6.0 exactly. If it hits below -6.0, then turn the Threshold setting up by the amount it’s under. For example, if it’s hitting -6.2, then turn the Threshold up by 0.2. If it’s hitting above -6.0 then turn the Threshold down by an equivalent amount. For example, if it’s hitting -5.7, then turn the Threshold down by 0.3. If you want to be picky, keep adjusting until you can play the song all the way through without touching anything and have the Atten peak hit exactly -6.0. You don’t really have to hit exactly -6.0 if you don’t want, you decide how close is close enough. I have decided for this example that -5.9 is close enough (Figure 20).

Modern Mastering: Figure 18
Figure 18
Modern Mastering: Figure 19
Figure 19
Modern Mastering: Figure 20
Figure 20

Step 11: Conclusion

That’s it! You’re now done mastering. You can mix this whole processed file down to a new stereo file and use it to make CDs, mp3 files, or whatever you want to do with it! Listen back to the track and enjoy it. At this point, stop nitpicking. Just enjoy it for what it is and just pay enough attention that you hear any major flaws that make it sound like an amateur recording.


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Sample Songs

My Malhavok album was mastered using this technique. You can hear samples of the results on Ben R Vesco - Malhavok

  • Ben R Vesco - Malhavok - Atrophy Atrophy
  • Ben R Vesco - Malhavok - Choking Choking
  • Ben R Vesco - Malhavok - Judgement Judgement
  • Ben R Vesco - Malhavok - User User
  • Ben R Vesco - Malhavok - Never Never

After listening to the sound samples I hope you’ll agree that applying these techniques can make your home studio sound like some of the tracks coming out of some professional recording studios.

    26 replies on “Modern Mastering (Part 2)”

    thanks ben does mean every time you select that patch you have to select tone 2 or does the two tones come up automatically?

    There’s two ways to do it. If you save it when both tones are on then it will recall with both on. If you save it with only tone 1 or tone 2 active then it will load with only tone 1 or tone 2 active. It should load in whatever state you saved it.

    im having a problem with tone 2 going back to mute can you tell the procedure for keeping it unlocked ? thanks

    Hey, great tutorial. I have one question. I noticed no matter what I do my songs end up way too quiet compared to regular releases today. I do not want the loudest material out there, but I do not want it to be too quiet and it is. I cannot seem to create enough headroom / the amount of headroom I need to create the type of loudness I am going for. Do you have any suggestions?

    I think I have found my problem. I have a picture I am hoping you can take a quick look at so you can see what I am talking about.

    Here it is:

    The top mp3 file is a commercial release. The bottom mp3 file is my mp3. I used EQ, compression and limiting. The difference I see is that the top mp3 data seems to be limited but all of the info has the is smooth level. My mp3’s data seems more eratic. This is the only way I can put it into words but I am sure on observation you can see what I am talking about. The top mp3 is noticeably louder than mine and I believe it is because of the smooth leveling instead of somewhat eratic behavior of the data visible in my mp3 clip. Any help on why this is would be appreciated. Sorry If I worded this in a weird way…

    I would like to know how to achieve the ‘smoothness’ of the top clip if at all possible as I suspect that is the issue with why my clip is not as loud as it. It seems like it is compression but I used compression and obviously am not getting that result.

    I looked at the picture, great illustration!

    Ask yourself how far you’re willing to go in the loudness wars?

    No matter where that is, a good tool like the Waves Maximizer will help you get closer to the “flat” version you see on the commercial release. Keep in mind that massive rectangle of sound removes a lot of dynamic range, whether you hear it or not. A compressor reduces dynamic range, but the relationship between peaks remains the same. In other words, the loudest peak in the song is still above the 2nd loudest peak, just not by as much. A tool like a maximizer instead tries to get all peaks to be at the same level which produces the very boxy wave you show in your picture.

    thanks for this great website
    i have a question! what is the Quantize? should i keep it 24 bits even if my track is 16 bits?

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