Interesting thread. Sorry for not including poster names in my quotes, hopefully it's not too confusing to read.
Uh.. no, sorry, but this is bad advice. A multiband compressor is a very powerful tool for very specific tasks. When you have access to the mix you should never even want to use a multiband compressor. Why squash and distort the mix you have so carefully created? As for a limiter, you use one to limit peaks and prevent clipping, not to "maximize your audio."
Headroom management is about RMS which is determined by making the most of the bandwidth available. Broadband tools alone cannot maximise headroom if one is looking to make a mix as perceptibly loud as possible. You also conflate loudness with harshness. As I said in my first post, loud = easy (drawback: harsh), clean = easy (drawback: too soft), loud + clean = loud and clear = where the challenge lies. IF this is your goal then multiband tools are essential. Does that mean squashing everything into oblivion is fine? Of course not, if you're doing such a thing then you should reassess exactly what it is you are trying to achieve.
My advice is that you should create a minimum -2db headroom. At that point you must scrutinize your mixdown (in terms of leveling, potential frequency clashing, dynamics, depth and panning). When you decide that everything sounds good, wait at least 2 days and check it again.
Peak headroom is meaningless from a mastering perspective. If one wishes to farm out the master to a specialist mastering engineer then leaving enough RMS headroom is where the truth of this advice lies, but even then a broadband track with -2dB RMS would essentially sounds like a distorted square mess. Loud, modern EDM final masters would not be pushing much more than -8dB RMS. Leaving RMS headroom is really just a rule of thumb, in my opinion propegated by mastering engineers to stop people sending them FUBAR'd pre-masters where the client decided in their infinite wisdom to ruin the mix with some unnecessary/incorrectly applied dynamics processing over the stereo bus
Edit: as a side note, I should clarify that peak monitoring is important but it does not tell you anything about the dynamics. I personally use a waveform visualizer for this as well as RMS meters and I keep an eye out for headroom-gobbling superfluous peak information and fix accordingly. Phase relationships between different frequency bands as well as different mix elements is also extremely important.
After that, you may add a master compressor to glue things a bit (if you really think you must), a frequency exciter (be very careful with those; apply with MODERATION) and finally a limiter.
I personally only use a limiter as the mix is there in front of you to do everything else. MAYBE a compressor, but you might as well just mix into the compressor from the get go but as always, context is king (my requirements may differ from yours etc.).
No, a multiband compressor is not a "standard" tool. The only "standard" there is in mastering is EQ, a Limiter, and maybe a normal compressor. But don't take my word on it, have a look at what some professional mastering engineers are saying on the topic of multiband compression:
I would take most things written on Gearslutz with a pinch of salt ;)
As for "comparably loud", how loud is comparable? And comparable to what? When you're clipping the limiter, you're creating distortion, diminishing the quality of your music. When you present your material you would want it to be at the best quality, so squashing your mix to get some imaginary "loudness" (it's not) seems counter intuitive to me. Just turning the volume knob would have provided better results. Now if you're working on a project where you're mixing with sfx 'n such in mind i can see why you would want your music comparably loud
Loudness is relative but is generally interpreted as a high(er) RMS. High RMS does not necessarily equate to squashed dynamics, as with many things in audio engineering there is a gap between the naive approaches (which deliver less than stellar results) and more intricate approaches that are largely birthed from the power and flexibility of modern DAWs.
I don't want to start a "loudness war" discussion here - but it's a fact that loud & clipping music has become a sound aesthetic on its own, at least in electronic/rock/popular music in general.
I largely agree with this although I think clipping is probably pushing it ;) The modern aesthetic of loudness (not the silly loudness war nonsense) in electronic music is COMPLETELY different from traditional/acoustic music (the latter does not take well to heavy dynamics processing without being abrasive and fatiguing). The key is context, context, context.
I think this touches on a important point: "traditional" mixing styles and "rules of thumbs" very rarely translate to modern electronic music, thus a lot of the "dos and don'ts" make little sense (and are often counter productive) hence why it's important to grasp the underlying concepts instead of assuming advice is correct (and of course this applies to my post as much as anybody else's ). This is why it's also important to understand the context of the advice: who is giving it and what is their background? An oldschool analogue legend giving advice about do's and don'ts rarely applies to me as my techniques, tools and requirements are completely different. I produce my records with the aim of being louder and clearer than my competitors (amongst other things, of course) but then my music is designed to be played back on large sound systems. Many of the mix micromanagement techniques and processes I use are overkill for people with different requirements. Context = king.
Edit: another side note. My distinction between "modern" and "traditional" music is somewhat lacking. Let me expand on this: if your sounds are sourced from acoustic/traditional sources (as I'm sure a lot of you making, say, orchestral video game music are) then I put that in the "traditional" camp. Your mileage will be more restricted in terms of processing traditional instruments for a couple of reasons: a) there is a strong cultural expectation as to how these instruments should sound (distorted to death is not such an expectation ) and many instruments simply don't take to such processing (for example, because of their timbre and/or the inevitable intermodulation artefacts of heavy processing). Granted, my distinction is broad and simplistic but should suffice for the context of my thoughts on the matter.
Edited by GeneralQuery, 12 January 2013 - 09:04 AM.