Irrelevance: I have an embarrassing wealth of quality scope plugs for the job but my lack of knowledge in the area always means when it comes to maximizing my track loudness I reach for Wavelab's peak master plug-in instead of a Scope combination.  I think the Wavelab plug-in is a compressor limiter combination but it always helps squeeze out that extra bit of juice that I need and that I cannot seem to replicate in scope.  Also may I respectfully request an article on the subject using scope tools?  This would be really appreciated.

Dante: Well, here it is then - the article !  What would you like to know?

Irrelevance:  I tried OptiMaster on it's own or in combination with PsyQ (with extreme minimal settings) and I kind of get something I like but again I'm just fiddling and not really appreciating how to finesse the sound the way I want it.  Trouble is I'm lazy and the peak master plug-in rewards me for turning my back on scope with three faders to get the job done!

Dante: My chain is something like DAS MasterIT EQ => PsyQ => HPM Ambience => Multiband Compressor => DAS BrickMaster.  I follow these guidelines:

  1. Only use each processor minimally for what it is best at.

  2. Each processor adds gain which should not reach peak until the end, so BrickMaster is not doing all the work just a gentle final compression and catching of peaks.

  3. I use this from one project to the next with minimal tweaks to reduce setup time.

Other device recommendations by PlanetZ members include:

Yayajohn: Try the dNa packs.

Hubird:  EQ? preferably not at this stage, unless all tracks suffer from the same deviance, which can be with live recordings for example.

1. PsyQ:  PsyQ apparently is 'user level', which is good, as the OptiMaster needs the overhead space to do the job required (as I see it).  So check the 'over' LEDs of in and out.

  • Process low and mid/high: about 35, Bass 35 or more, Mid/High to your needs.

  • Process Hi Q: 30 or more, Shaper max (or less, grabbing lower hi's)

  • Stereo: about 34, preferably not more as it's fatiguing on the longer run.

2. OptiMaster:  Just use presets to start from, or use the learn function.  Use of presets gives guarantee of cohesion between all parameters, but you could make an A/B comparison of two mixes of both strategies, to get an idea of the plug's working.  You want it soft and smooth, or punchy, hot and 'radio', or even over the top, just choose the right preset (name): attack and release time values will be close then, just like the rest.

Having finished that, you might play with the threshold of each band, from the graphics even.   Watch the green leds of gain reduction for the band, and listen, you can hear what you're doing.   You can even do equalizing this way, like pressing back the highs.

3. Vinco: the finishing touch for presence and that little extra but smooth pressure.  As known the Vinco is modeled after the classic 1176 Limiter, actually a compressor, which is said to be used also as master compressor.  So far I didn't check if it also colors the sound without applying compression, as the original thing is said to do, and I just bought the UAD plug 'Ratio button 2' on Vinco isn't original, but it's there. I love Vinco, I got used to it to have it in my mastering chain, as it's always a nice reward of that little extra while it looked you'd maxed out already, even if you had a softly compressed mix running with Vinco hardly working at a ratio of '2'.

If you want to be sure, just do the mastering of an un-mastered mix on both platforms, and do a real A/B comparison.  If it doesn't work for you then you know.

JHulk: Watch your levels going in maximum mix level before mastering should be about -6db this then gives you 5.97db room for the mastering section.  If you go in to hot then it will limit heavily and you will hear rough compression where things like drums get limited to much the best tools are your ears also set it to mono as well to check for phase cancellation as any inverted sounds in opposite channel will cancel each other out and when set to mono you really can hear this.

We use a separate output reference speaker amp which has a mono switch for this really helps as listening on consumer speakers as well as studio monitors helps with the mastering as your trying to get a good overall mix that sounds good on all systems.

When on tape you uses to only get around 15k max top frequency response so most equalizers used to have sweet spots around 10k.  I still try to and do my mixes with max of 16k frequency range keeps out all the top end harshness which can really fatigue your ears vocals around 5k this frequency range you really need to look out for as the 'sss' sibilance can really show up worse in the mastering so always sort this out with equalization in the channel before mix down as if you don't when you master it can drive it making it more noticeable.

Dante and PlanetZ members March 2015