May 5th, 2013, 02:42
OK, folks. I've got another complex series of related questions, so I apologize in advance for the length. I'm basically looking for some feedback on my mixing and mastering strategy, which I know is largely unorthodox (and probably yielding suboptimal sound). I'm working in Logic 9, and my interface is an Apogee Ensemble. All of the songs I've been making lately have very few live audio tracks and are mostly composed of MIDI regions that I generated (with associated digital synths and sampler instruments) and various audio loops, all in 24-bit/44.1 Hz. The track count is usually high (more than 20, sometimes ~40 or so), and the mixing work is often daunting. I have found that it is most efficient to slap a good limiter (such as Waves L3) on the Output track in the very early stages of mixing, sometimes even during song construction. With the L3, I set the Output ceiling to -0.2 db to minimize intersample peaks above unity, and I disable the Dither and Noise Shaping functions. The reason why I adopted this process is because I would spend loads of time on mixing, and then have to go back and make numerous adjustments after applying mastering plugins, because the final compression and limiting alters the relative balance of instrument/tracks. It's even more time-consuming for me if I produce a bounce with no compressor or limiter on the Output track and then migrate the song into another project for mastering (or into Waveburner). I was spending a lot of time going back to the mixing stage after applying mastering plugins. The other reason for handling it this way is that I am not being super-careful about individual tracks spiking over unity. On most tracks, I have many regions with variable volume, such that it is difficult to control this completely. For those tracks where it's happening frequently, I apply a compressor with the limiter engaged. But on some tracks, I let it bounce over unity, mainly because I have heard that this does not yield clipping artifacts at the track level. And I don't hear any clipping as long as I have a limiter in place on the Output track. I'm worried about my tactic of allowing tracks to exceed unity, because I keep seeing comments about how this is a bad thing, but I'm not sure if it's true. [FYI, all of the audio recordings are made at appropriate levels without clipping.] The overall strategy results in a project that is at full CD volume and pretty well mixed as a first pass. I usually go back and add other mastering plugins, such as EQ, more stepwise compression (if needed....I usually maintain a lot of dynamics), stereo spread, exciter, tape emulation, etc. But in most projects, this doesn't change the overall sound a whole lot, and so I don't have to dig back into the mix all that much. I know it's unusual to combine song construction, mixing and mastering together, but I like to be able to hear how a new sound element, FX or other tweak (such as panning) is going to impact the final rough master. I've been pretty happy with my final masters, but, of course, I'm paranoid that I'm compromising how good it could sound if I took a more stepwise approach. Any comments would be greatly appreciated.