Mixing down for mastering

If you are a mixing engineer reading this, I’d like to go over just a few ideas for making your mixes perfect for the mastering stage. Many engineers know what I am about to say, I want to mention a few items to help  some  newer engineers.

First is to start your mixes with your channel faders low.  A 24 track mix might start with all faders down at -15  to -12 or in that range.  Also if the original tracks were recorded very loud, it maybe necessary to reduce the actual wav file inside the audio editor window to avoid peaking any channel plug ins.  Once you add all your plug ins, make all adjustments, and finish your mix, you should be able to keep your master fader at 0 and have the peak volume of the mix somewhere between -10 and -2.  It really doesnt matter that much as long as its not hitting zero.

When you build your mixes, start with no plug ins on the master fader.  By the time you get your kick drums sampled and the rest of your basic mix necessities finished, add a limiter to the master fader.  A great, clean one is the Waves L2.  Start with the limiter cutting off 2-3 db.  Then as you get your mix closer to being finished, adjust the limiter so that it is cutting off a bit more such as 3-4 db.  If you have a clean compressor you like using on the master fader, you might put it before the limiter and use it to knock off 1-2 db as well.   What you are doing is to build your mix while slowly limiting it so that your mix is adjusted in a way that sounds right when its limited and compressed. But you will not mix down with the limiters on…read on…

The mix is going to be compressed and limited by the mastering engineer, so anything that is sticking out too loudly will interfere with a clean mastering job if loudness is important to you.  If you are mixing folk music and do not want a loud master, you can be conservative in your limiting.  If you are mixing extreme metal, you may want to be a bit more aggressive.

Then, just before you make your mixdowns for the mastering engineer, bypass all plug ins from the master fader and make a 24 bit, Stereo Interleaved WAV file.  Do not worry that the master levels are now low, they will go up naturally in the mastering process.

Now, when the mastering engineer receives your mix, it will be adjusted to sound right when compressed and limited and there will be no surprises for anyone!

Happy Mixing!

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