Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Tips for Mixing

1 Parallel compression
2. A bit of saturation
3. Clipping
4. Limiting

The long answer:

The starting point for this this 'loudness chain' should be a good mix onf which the loudest peaks are between -3 and -6 dBFS. There should be no clipping (audio above 0 dBFS) at all. Thanks TheBose, for pointing out.

1. Parallel compression: Most probably, people know parallel compression for use on drums but you can use it on whole mixes too. It will blend a heavily compressed sound with the open uncompressed sound to get more 'body' and you can do it with every compressor that has a dry/wet rotary button. I use fairly short attack and release times on the compressor; attack time; shortest possible or something around 1 or 2 ms to get the kicks and snare snappy. Release time around 50 ms. Compression ratio somewhere between 2:1 and 4:1. Lower the threshold until you get 7-8 dB of gain reduction on the peaks. Your song does sound really squashed now. Put the dry/wet button somewhere between 10/90 and 20/80 meaning that you mix 10-20 % of the compressed (wet) sound with 80-90% of the dry sound. My 2 favorite pugins for parallel compression are Cytomic the Glue ( and DDMF NYcomp (

2. Saturation: Adding a bit of saturation will take away some peaks in a colorful way (like good old tape) and your limiter won't need to work that hard at the end of your mastering chain. My favorite saturation plugin is Variety of Sound's TesslaSE, followed directly in the chain by TesslaPRO (for some more depth). Both are freeware and you can find them here: Dial the input button until the peaks of your music are slightly hitting the red part of the VU-meter. In most cases I active the 'SBE' button (Subbass Enhancement). Now calibrate the output until in sounds more or less equally loud as the sound entering the plugin. The TesslaPRO doesn't need much setup, just put it in the chain and it will sound just fine.

3. Clipping: clipping eats away the peaks in a more transparent way than a limiter, so if you wanna really go loud, combine a clipper with a limiter. My favorite clippers are Stillwell's Event Horizon+ ( which is 'low cost' or gclip which is freeware ( Just lower the threshold until the loudest peaks are chopped off. If you hear distortion you have gone too far. Simple as that.

4. Limiting: Most known 'loudness plugin' but by using the aforementioned processes, your limiter doesn't have to work that hard to give your song a decent loudness. My favorite limiter is Jeroen Breebaart's 'Barricade Pro' (low cost) but there is also a freeware version (called 'Barricade'). Get both here: Use short release times and keep the gain reduction around 3 dB. If you use very short release times (even 0 ms sounds good sometimes) you can have short gain reduction peaks of 4 db. But listen carefully if distortion does occur when using very short release times. If it does, choose a longer release time.

EDIT: The download of Jeroen Breebaarts plugins are disabled right now, but thry this freeware plugin:

Other great limiters are:

- Voxengo Elephant
- Fabfilter Pro-L

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