Pro Audio Files

Rock Mix Bus Processing with Bob Marlette & Ulrich Wild

Okay, now for a moment, let’s talk about the stereo buss.

I go back and forth on the value of the stereo buss in the mix. This particular record, the only thing I have on the stereo buss is just simply an L2, and that’s not even there to do anything other than just simply control the overs, so I’m not getting any clips. It just simply — if you look at it while it’s playing, it’s just barely, you know…


It’s barely touching. I’m at like, one and one. Most minimal, you know. You’re not — most you ever get is just a little tiny just blip of actual reduction. It’s just mainly so when you look at it here, there’s no, you know, there’s no overs. But when I send it to mastering, I send it like this. I’ll send it minus that. I won’t even have it on.


This is what I send to mastering. No stereo buss at all. And I want to send it to mastering with enough headroom that he can actually do something with it. Because a lot of times, mixers, they’ll get it — because they listen to other stuff, and it’s like everything is on eleven. It’s so loud. And then they send it to mastering completely like a brick wall. Like, if you open up the wave, and you look, there’s no dips. It’s just a solid line all the way across.

If I’m going to have it mastered by somebody that I trust — I use Paul Logus, I’m a big fan of his work. I’ve used him for quite a few years now.

I want to have him have the opportunity to do stuff to make it even better, but if I send him a brick wall, there’s nothing for him to do, because it’s already at the ceiling, so he’s not really adding any new components.

So there’s a million different tricks in the stereo buss. A lot of people, you know, they add several different layers of things on the stereo buss, and sometimes, you know, you can add a second stereo buss, so you do little volume bumps in the master. I always say, if I’ve got it right, you don’t need to do that, because it’s already inherent into the mix. It’s built into the mix in what I’ve done in terms of arrangement, or the songwriting, all those components.

They’re, like I said, there are some songs though that if I know I’m not going to rely on mastering, then I’ll do several different layers. I’ll add a Millennia EQ, or I’ll add a — the Shadow Hills, these are UAD plugins, I’ll add a Shadow Hills or something like that to achieve that kind of stereo buss effect, but like I said, in this case, I knew I was going to be using Paul Logus, so I wanted it very organic and straight forward.

We’re talking about EQ and compression on the stereo buss to present things to a client and present things to mastering. Mastering engineers, they don’t like crushed mixes. Clients often times do, because they like to compare their album and their mixes to albums that they love.

Now, if you send them a mix that is not pushed up, then often times, they’re not into it, because then it’s not as loud as the other one, it’s kind of a pain in the ass to turn it up. So what we do is we kind of mock master a little bit, depending on where it goes. Sometimes it doesn’t even go to mastering anymore, but let’s see what I’m doing on this thing right now.

Let’s start at the end. I have a brick wall limiter on there that does nothing. It is set at no gain, it is set at minus 0.2 out. It is there to simply protect. Whatever else happens before then, this one just makes sure nothing bad is going to go out and cause any overs anywhere else, but it’s not used as a gaining tool or anything like that.

Back on the day, on analog consoles, we liked to put compressors across the stereo buss, and we still do. I have this 33609 plugin from Universal on the stereo buss. So I have this set.


[mix, with and without compression]

Just riding the stereo buss gently. It’s not meant to — none of this is really meant to master or take the place of the mastering engineer, but it’s meant to glue the mix together to a place where I’m happy with it. Now, having a little bit of this compressor on there, and this is — the threshold is super high as to not cause a lot of pumping in compression going on. It’s set to Auto 1, and has a gain of 4, and the compression is 1.5 to 1. So it’s…


It’s — the 9 until it comes to those toms, then it starts to catch those things. Which is fine, because it’s not pumping overly, it’s not doing anything bad, it just kind of reels everything — glues everything together, which is exactly what it needs to do.

My next plugin, the Air EQ, which is a nice EQ. I really just using the Air band to give it a little bit of lift in the top end.


Let’s go back to being…


Again, it’s very subtle, I just want it to have enough of that air. Certainly not too much. If you can put that in and it goes away too much when you take it out, it’s probably too much. It’s just meant to compliment and smooth things out in a nice way, and you can see, it’s 1.24dB of the air band and nothing else in there. It’s on the water setting and not the fire or neutral. The water is a lot more subdued of a setting.

Then my next thing up, that’s — I used this guy, the Universal Audio Precision Maximizer. Again, it’s not meant as a mastering tool, but it kind of — I kind of use it to mimic tape saturation, or you know, instead of a tape plugin or something.

[music, with and without Maximizer]

It’s more about gluing things together still. And again, I’d rather have a few different plugins work together to give me — and each one of them just doing a little bit and just adding a little tiny bit to my result than one of them relying heavily on one to fix everything, or to do too much.

And so, this thing helps a lot, to have it — um, have the mix set to stun, like, it’s all processed, and the shape is sitting at about 82%. You can read up about what Maximizer is doing. I guess there’s limiters and crunchers and what have you, this and that. But you know, we’re still in some ways approximating what tape used to do for us, and how we recorded stuff on tape.

This is what I use to make things louder. That’s this guy’s job. Ozone 5, I’m still using this thing. I have 7, I use that sometimes, this one, I’m just used to what it does, and it’s very transparent, and it really is designed to push the level up. It’s nice, you know, I like having another set of ears listening through my mixes, and judging them. And filling in some holes here and there, and doing what mastering engineers do, which is put it all together, and putting one last quality control in there, which is nice, because mastering any of your own stuff is all nice and good, but having an extra set of ears for perspective is definitely nice to catch anything you might have missed.


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