Adventures in Audio Mixing, pt.2: The Concept–Three Steps to Audio Heaven

It’s not often I follow up with what I intended months ago, but audio mixing is kind of what I do a lot of these days.

Let me tell you that the mixes have improved by orders of magnitude because of three developments. I could string this out, but I’ll come clean and say it.

  1. Vocal Rider – assisted leveling plugin.
  2. Multiband Compressor
  3. Master bus limiter

This is all crucial, along with compression, eq., delays and other trickery. Add perfect-pitch tuning at the most basic level. A stringed instrument can never be tuned perfectly enough. It’s always in need of a tiny touch.

Additionally, I believe I touched on saturation in the previous post.


To push the mix and keep it under control the entire time you’re mixing requires some finesse and an understanding of transients. A transient is simply the initial peak, the explosive snap at the start of most sounds, such as when the stick hits the snare. That pow can send the levels right off the charts. The ratio of transient to the rest of the sound as it trails off is a key characteristic of your sound. That is what compressors change, and not always in an obvious way. They have multiple parameters, and these are confusing.

They are confusing because you need to address both the transients and the main signal with two different plugins!

When you compress a sound, the situation is heavily dependent upon the context of what the sound actually is and the effect you’re trying to achieve. But, you also compress later at the end of the chain, in the final mix. In different ways.

Also, conceptually, you want to try and equalize different types of sounds across different frequency areas, such that nothing pops up too loudly and drowns out the other content. It all needs to be leveled down to a certain range to become immersive and surround the listener.

The final piece of the puzzle, the final device, is the master bus limiter. You can push everything, and then the limiter comes along at the end and stops the transients exactly where they can sit loudly but not too loudly so as to break the mix and blow out over the red line.

Perhaps more next time…

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