Pro Audio Files

Marc Urselli on Setting Up Compressors for Mix Bus, Individual Tracks & More

Marc: The multiband limiter is set to -0.5. So that’s my very upper limit. I never go to zero, if that answers your question, but on the non-compressed version, I don’t even approximate that. That’s really just my safety ceiling.

The reason why I have -0.5 is I went to this great panel at the last AES in New York. I forget the guy’s name, but he made a demonstration as to how tracks that are sent at 0dB, mastered at 0dB will end up on streaming service like Spotify, etcetera, and will sound worse than tracks that are mastered at — the ceiling is -0.5.

Since that panel, which was two Octobers ago, I started putting that as my ceiling for everything. I don’t go to 0dB anymore. If the client wants to go to 0dB with the mastering engineer, that’s with them, but I want to make sure that if my mix doesn’t get mastered and goes to iTunes and whatnot, it sounds as good as possible. Hence that ceiling.

Primarily, you look at the waveform, but also look at the gain reduction meter in the ML4000 I’m using as my final stage. So on my compressed version, this will — this will go down to probably around here. -4. But on the non-compressed version, I barely want to see that. Like, I don’t want to see gain reduction kick in at all, and the reason why I still have it on is just so I have the safety of not ever going above 0.05, but really, I’m not doing much gain reduction at all to that mix.

If I do want the extra ceiling of protection in my inserts F through J, I have my favorite compressor, which is McDSP’s Channel G set at a very, very small ratio of 2 to 1. You can see where my mouse is. And a threshold of -6. So basically, I’m barely compressing, but those instances that I’ve just multi-enabled are on all of my busses. So drums, percussion, bass, guitars, keys, strings, horns, vocals, whatever is on the track.

So that’s an extra to answer the gain staging question. That’s an extra step that I take in making sure I never go too hard on any of these busses individually. The reason why this is also important is because when I’m eventually — where in the comments it says, “Drum Stems,” that’s creating a stem, so I want to make sure that stem is not going to be distorted on its own.

So that’s why I also have that extra Channel G when I’m making stems.

These tracks are currently inactive here, which where all the names have the word, “PC” in it, that’s for parallel compression. I don’t do parallel compression all the time, but when I do, this lightly shaded — light green shaded tracks are already ready for me to do the parallel compression. So if I want to enable these, I can make them active.

Let’s say I want to just enable them all. Let’s say I want to do parallel compression on the drums. I have on all of those tracks, I have sends ready for that. Again, I want everything ready to go. I don’t want to waste time thinking about routing. That’s why I spent so much time on that template throughout the years.

So I want to do parallel compression on drums? Great. I’m going to make this PC drums track active, I’m going to make this send active. The PC drums send. This is the amount that I’m sending to the parallel compression buss, which is right underneath, and then I choose how to do my parallel compression.

And again, I have a slew of plugins that I like for that. I have the McDSP Ultimate Channel Strip. Then I have the — this, also by McDSP, MC404. I have SoundToys Decapitator, which is great for parallel compression, I really like that. I have the Ozone 7, and I have the dynamics limiter by that German company, Melda Productions that I mentioned.

These are all my favorite compression plugins that I use for parallel compression only, although my favorite compressor for a regular channel is usually the Channel G, and to that extent, I want to show you something else, which is really cool. Some of you might not know, but there’s two places in Pro Tools where you can setup a preferred plugin that you use all the time. It will show up here.

So these are my two plugins that I use the most on any session. Channel G is my McDSP has everything compressor, gate, equalization. High pass, low pass. So I can do everything that I need to do on any regular track. I do it on that.

And then, I really like this MDynamic EQ made by Melda Productions. You can choose to see a sonogram, or just an analyzer, and you can see that here, and then choose the band that you want to compress or excite, by what degree you want to compress, and this is an active compressor. McDSP also makes one that they just — that I just got from them, and I’m testing out. So the first thing I do — I did — or at least, in this track, when mixing drums, is I made sure that they’re in phase so that there’s no kind of phase cancellation happening. For that, I used this plugin called MAutoAlign, made by Melda Productions.

So I have this plugin across all the tracks, and then I have my faithful Channel G across all the tracks doing whatever I need it to do on all these separate tracks of this drum set.

When I don’t record stuff myself, I’m even more careful making sure stuff is phase coherent, phase aligned, because when I do record them myself, I’ll take precautions to make sure that everything is in phase.


This is the drum. And you’ll see, I have a little bit of reverb on the snare, and a little bit of reverb on the hi-hat, and I have this sine wave on the kick and on the floor tom, and that’s really all there is to this, other than of course the equalization that I did through the Channel G on the different sections of the drums. I’m a big fan of muting toms with sidechain. Sidechaining to make sure you’re muting based on frequency and not just on level, so you don’t miss hits. It’s kind of weird looking, because it looks like I’m cutting off all the high end around 150, which is obviously not true. That’s just the sidechain filter for the gate.

There’s a little bit of electronics in this track, there’s bass, there’s this bass delay at the beginning which they printed, because they were happy with it. That’s just the intro and the middle part. A bunch of guitar tracks, less is more as I said at the beginning, as you can see, very minimal automation. The most busy automation you see, this one, is just a reverb send to make sure that — or the delay send to make sure that I’m hearing the delays on the words that I want to hear repeated and not just on everything, but other than that, it’s very minimal.

Just a little bit of automation here, for those who are lucky enough to be sitting in the middle, you will hear the others. Tough luck.


That’s just your — you know, when the organ solo starts and the organ does this little slide through so that it actually goes left to right in your mix.


Things like that. You know, for taste, but not — I’m trying not to overdo anything.

So now, the session is open, you have discussed, I believe, all of the plugins that I’ve used.

Announcer: Well wonderful, Marc, thank you so much for walking us through your process!


Sonic Scoop

Sonic Scoop

Sonic Scoop is a website all about creative music and audio production. We've partnered with them to feature some of their awesome videos on The Pro Audio Files.

Free Video on Mixing Low End

Download a FREE 40-minute tutorial from Matthew Weiss on mixing low end.

Powered by ConvertKit
/> /> /> /> /> /> /> /> /> />