So this is a bit of a sticky topic: Should you use compression across the mast bus while mixing?
Well, the way i see it-- if you're sitting behind a real SSL 4000 G (or something of the same caliber) with an assistant engineer and a producer to provide a few extra sets of ears -- not to mention the kind of monitors and acoustical environment usually associated with this kind of setup -- I say "Go for it!"
However, if you're mixing in a project studio by yourself on a project you've already heard a hundred times -- best to skip the master bus compressor and leave that task for your mastering engineer.
The issue is that it is very, very easy to compromise an otherwise great mix with too much compression. In fact the vast majority of tracks that I send back for re-mix have issues with over-compression.
I just wanted to recommend to everyone DP Meter II from TB Pro Audio, Germany. A fantastic FREE metering plugin.
As anyone who has looked into easy-to-use “loudness” meters knows, much of the offerings available are quite pricey ($400+) for what amounts to a fancy level meter with some calculations to derive integrated volume, true peak and loudness range.
DP Meter II effectively delivers the bottom-line information most folks are looking for. (Perfect for level matching all those mastering samples you’ve collected!)
Seriously, while the interface is very spartan, it wows by displaying the relevant information plainly (in most industry standard formats) and providing enough tools/options to meet most needs. My only quibble would be the lack of M/S metering. (Did I mention it’s free?)
Incidentally, for anyone wondering what a good target for for a pre-mastered mix would be, I'd aim for:
Integrated Loudness <-12LUFS and True Peak <-3dbFS
(Scale = LUFS EBU R128)
For all of my professional career the prevailing wisdom for mixing has been: mix on monitors and check your work with headphones.
I believe for the vast majority of DIY recordists out there the very opposite is true.
I can't tell you how many times I've seen aspiring engineers and producers spend tons of cash on the best near-field or mid field monitors they could afford - only to install them in rooms that could never support an adequate monitoring environment.
For me, the most important aspect of your mix environment, arguably more than the quality of your monitors, is consistency.
A proper mix environment is one that you know very well, is free from sonic aberrations (standing waves, phase delay issues, uncontrolled early reflections, etc.) - and changes as little as possible.
For most folks mixing at home or in a practice space, meeting those requirements with loudspeakers is a challenge. Budget constraints or the physical characteristics and dimensions of the room can make setting up a proper, consistent monitoring environment almost impossible.
Enter the best real-world solution:
A decent set of headphones and headphone amp can be the key you’ve been looking for.
Headphones have a huge advantage in one very important aspect-- consistency. Quality headphones also mitigate many of the other issues that plague freestanding monitors.
It must be noted that most budget mixers and nearly all computer systems just don’t have the juice to properly drive pro headphones.
For those mixing on your computer, I highly recommend a DAC/Headphone amp combo. On the budget end is the HRT Microstreamer, on the high end is the Benchmark DAC3-HGC. There is a ton of information and opinion on the subject at head-fi.org
Though the type of headphones to buy (open-back, closed-back, in-ear) is a matter of personal taste, I find that for long sessions open-back headphones tend to be less fatiguing. (I use AKG K702s)
The most important thing is to find headphones that are a neutral as possible - headphones that boast a ton of bass are likely doing it by sacrificing accuracy. The truth is, neutral headphones can sound a bit boring and analytical - but hey, that’s what you want!
Does this negate the need for good monitors and a treated listening environment? Absolutely not!
However, if real-world budgets or the characteristics of your room make setting up a good monitor mixing environment too expensive or physically impossible - you can still get great and consistent results with headphones.
Owner: HiFi Mastering Online