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Thread: Best way to increase gain on master?

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    Question Best way to increase gain on master?

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    This is probably a simple question but after reading about it from a few different sources I don't really feel confident in what I've learned thus far, so I figured I would ask on here. Is there a best practice for increasing gain on your master? Of course you should always be mixing with what you want your end levels to be in mind, but when you do want to raise your track a few db's should you do it through your master comp/limiter? If so, post or pre? Or should I use some other type of vst? And lastly, does raising your master gain noticeably affect your tracks timbre? Sorry for the barrage of questions, like I said, I'm rather confused on the theory off all of this. Any help would be appreciated, thanks!
    Last edited by YoungCrocket; 03-17-2017 at 06:06 PM.

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    For monitoring, for a final mix, or for a "master."?

    For monitoring, just pull up the volume knob on your mixer/speakers, or whatever you use to monitor.

    For a mix, just pull up the fader. Although this won't make much of a practical difference other than to make the mix peak at a different level.

    For a final mix where you want loud volume (a "master") then a limiter would be the way to go.

    Sound levels do affect the way that you perceive different sounds. Generally, you don't want to have speakers blaring and shaking the crap out of furniture to the point that it's affecting your sound. A rough guide is to get your monitoring levels where you can still have a conversation without having to yell or raise your voice much.

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    I'm referring to a final mix. I figured a limiter would be the best way to do it and that's what I've been doing so far. I was just worried that increasing the limiter's gain might color the track (which wouldn't always be a bad thing). I'm usually pretty liberal with applying gain through the limiter and have always wondered if I should be more cautious with that parameter.

    To clarify, I know that chopping off all of my tracks peaks will most definitely change the songs character, I'm trying to figure out whether audio signal quality or timbre will change when the gain is increased through a limiter. I do use limiting but for theoretical context lets say that the signal isn't peaking, would it have an effect (besides gain)? And if so, would it be a desirable effect?

    Hopefully that makes more sense, thanks for the reply.

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    If the gain knob is just gain it shouldn't make a difference and color the sound on its own. This would be the same as pulling up the gain pre-limiter on the master. Like you wrote, it will only affect your sound the moment that the peaks start being affected by the limiter.

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    A limiter with a post-processing gain knob/parameter? Which limiter do you use?
    Last edited by Mad Phonetics; 03-17-2017 at 10:07 PM.
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    And, if it's an in-the-box plug-in/vst device, it should not color the sound. If you were using a hardware comp, many of them do have a particular character (often desirable colorations that each piece of specific gear becomes known for). But hopefully your plug-in comp/limiter is transparent enough to not create any undesirable effects on your mix. Ultimately, your ears are the best judge as to whether your mix sounds good or not (as sleepy said-- at reasonable volume-- 85 dB or less).
    Gregg Juke
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    I've been using FL's Fruity Limiter but I recently picked up the fabfilter pro L which I must say is pretty sweet so far.

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    The best way would be using a professional mastering engineer, and doing a good mix beforehand. That affects the master a lot.

    And, like others said, some limiting, but only if you are not sending it to an engineer.

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    Quote Originally Posted by YoungCrocket View Post
    Is there a best practice for increasing gain on your master?
    It should be done with hardware.

    Quote Originally Posted by YoungCrocket View Post
    Of course you should always be mixing with what you want your end levels to be in mind, but when you do want to raise your track a few db's should you do it through your master comp/limiter? If so, post or pre?
    The signal that hits the master bus is constantly reaching different overall perceived resonance levels at various locations in the song. The compressor on the master bus is going to balance that out, hence lowering the perception of those resonances when they hit, while at the same time damaging the stereo image. So overall it does not serve the mix that much other than it can produce a little more balance to an otherwise too dynamic mix and in that way make it a bit more pleasant. You can add some broad stroke compression with the purpose of slightly balancing and reducing unwanted resonances and to create some separation between groups of tracks in the mix, by adding it to sub mixes.

    The reason you want hardware compressors/limiters is to add that compression naturally on the signal. Generally you want to achieve as much of the final peak and rms levels as early as possible, meaning already during production and recording. Then at mixing you work on it more, volume fader riding and side chain compression are techniques that can help a lot but it is tricky to have to create all target peak and rms levels during mixing, it kind of becomes fake and does not work so well. You should achieve your peak and rms levels as a result of the recording process and then have additional compression mostly for tone character tuning, noise reduction and maximization of headroom utilization.

    Quote Originally Posted by YoungCrocket View Post
    Or should I use some other type of vst? And lastly, does raising your master gain noticeably affect your tracks timbre? Sorry for the barrage of questions, like I said, I'm rather confused on the theory off all of this. Any help would be appreciated, thanks!
    You should not use plugins. Instead, you should ensure you have great hardware with great headroom and are able to gently massage that signal louder with good gain alteration, EQ moves, compressors and limiters. It is all about achieving your target music while maintaining the natural properties of the sound. In that way you get the music through to the listener in an emotional way and that is what the listeners like.

    It all starts with great acoustics at the input and the output. When you combine that with natural gain altering moves through volume fader riding, you get a good overall balance while at the same time achieve your music objectives. Then once you have the peak and rms nicely balanced, you can work with hardware to amplify and balance that what you like against that what you don't like. It sort of becomes natural when you work with natural gear. It is a tuning process that should be kept as natural as possible.

    But because late time broad stroke compression can work to separate elements in the mix and can work to raise the overall resonance level (on complexity levels impossible on more isolated scopes), it is kind of an important aspect both during mixing and mastering. You will always find compressors and limiters are effects you at least want to try the material on. Much of really good work requires a good testing strategy, one should allow the magic to happen even when you cannot replicate it and even when you do not fully understand the inner workings of it all. Because of the natural behavior of hardware you can achieve highly resonant results, you get shifts between highly dimensional resonance structures forming out of it all when you play the mix. It's all about resonance.
    Last edited by DarkRed; 03-19-2017 at 12:57 PM.

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    If you answer one more question here at FP with "you need hardware,"it is likely you will be taking some mandatory time off.
    Gregg Juke
    Nocturnal Productions
    The Sonic Vault Recording Studio
    Drum! Magazine Contributor






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