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DAWS and Mastering Raw Audio (3rd party)

posted on #1
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I’ve been using VSTS and DAWS for almost two years. Getting the hang of mastering using a handful daws (reaper, ableton, bitwig). Ableton and bitwig come with their own set of fx, mastering tools. They work well with what those products were designed for (vst production, dance music, and cinematic). Recording using audio input, I’ve been using reaper and it too has a default mastering set that works well enough. Problem I’ve run into is reaper is buggy on my mac. I’ve updated et al and the bugs persists. Thought I’d put this up and ask...

What DAW/mastering tools do you use for mostly raw audio and how reliable are those tools? A few gripes I've noticed using the daws at hand is that they are incomplete sets. Example: bitwig's fx presets don't cover a complete spectrum of possibilities, ableton has too many options and is rather a goose chase to use fx, while reaper has an arcane 'cobbled together feel' and rather a chore for complex tasks. I also have at my disposal ardour. I want to like ardour but it seems mired in lots of extra checking and odd placement of buttons. Understanding that the perfect DAW has yet to be coded, I'd rather have a set of 3rd party mastering tools and fx that I could use with any daw. I imagine doing something like recording in reaper (so simple), then exporting stems and mastering in ableton.

I realize that mastering for wikiloops is not the same as mastering for a bandcamp release, but a set of tools in the 300 USD area would be a nice start. Also, for a beginner like me, tweakable presets for plugins like reverb, compression, eq, and multiband a must.
Edited by MikeB on November 24 2021 16:26
Michael Bender
posted on #2
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Reaper running on a Hackintosh using Mojave and have absolutley zero issues with exception of using plugins in (I forget which one)VST3 or AU format. One of those gives me an issue the other does not.

I probably use all Waves now.
My essentials for Wikiloops include (in no particular order)

WAVES NLS SUMMER
SSL BUSS COMP
J37 TAPE SATURATION
L1 Limiter
F6 EQ
SSL E Console for drums
Abbey Road RS124 Comp
Reverbs and delays I use sparingly and with extreme prejudice and caution.


Im a huge fan of Reapers past addition of Voxengo plug ins.

I also use a level checking plug called "Levels" from Mastering the Mix
[img]https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0970/0050/products/LEVELS50_Off_540x.png?v=1636114463[/img]

Im perfectly content and happy with my entire setup.

I think I may have an old "Recording for Wikiloops" post deep in the forum where I covered EQing the host track then adding your instrument and how to blend. Theres been so many and Ive discussed it by private email alot . But the jist is , EQing mixmud out of the Wikiloops track and creating a "frequency hole" to insert your instrument into the stereo mix canvass.So a clean up and preperation EQ I would say is first and most important step for sound quality.

A hi pass limiter , cutting off everything below 40 hz, notching out 134 hz and doing a slight .5db cut at 250hz cleans alot of cross bleeding and unclarity on any track.I consider this "prep" before recording.
Edited by LittleWing on November 25 2021 05:12
posted on #3
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There are a few good free tools out there too.
Sonible "Balancer" is sort of fun as it will listen to a short chunk of your track and give warm, normal and bright options and has a slider for the amount you want to let it do.
TDR Kotelnikov is an excellent free mastering limiter.
I also spent a few pounds on an automatic spectral balancer - Voxengo TEOTE - that one is quite interesting - the more it does the worse your mix is! It's taught me quite a lot just seeing what it wants to do.

When all is said and done "mastering" is more a listening skill than anything else though, I'm rubbish at it other than using a limiter to make my tracks louder hence why I'm attracted to automatic effects like TEOTE and Balancer.

The main thing for wiki IMO is to get the mix levels acceptable and keep in mind that other instruments will be added. If one must make ones addition proudly drown out everything else, provide a separate track so the next person can mix it in more quietly. I love reverb but it needs to be used sparingly on wiki to avoid creating an atmosphere where it becomes impossible to blend in anything else.

Just my 2 cents. :)
posted on #4
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Also, I notice an addiction in some circles on here for stereo widening effects. I'm in two minds about these - they sound great, but...
I have two that were free
BX Solo which can make things insanely wide.
A1 Stereo Control which is more subtle.
These can be actually useful where you just have a mix and no separate instruments because the further from the centre an instrument is panned the louder (more widening) or quieter (more mono) you can make them relative to more centred instruments.
posted on #5
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zedders wrote:
There are a few good free tools out there too.
Sonible "Balancer" is sort of fun as it will listen to a short chunk of your track and give warm, normal and bright options and has a slider for the amount you want to let it do.
TDR Kotelnikov is an excellent free mastering limiter.
I also spent a few pounds on an automatic spectral balancer - Voxengo TEOTE - that one is quite interesting - the more it does the worse your mix is! It's taught me quite a lot just seeing what it wants to do.


Just my 2 cents. :)


As for free , TDR you mentioned is a great maker of free plugins. TDR is high Quality. TDR VOS EQ is a great final mix buss EQ

A1 Stereo Widener Ive used alot . I liked it because it compensates for the bass as anything you widen will thin out the bass.
I only use wideners in large mixes now when theres more then three or four instruments.

I would like to add that these are considered the best in their class of free Mastering limiters:

Limiter No. 6
[img]https://external-content.duckduckgo.com/iu/?u=https%3A%2F%2Flive-act.pl%2Fwp-content%2Fuploads%2F2015%2F06%2Flimiter-no6.png&f=1&nofb=1[/img]


Molot
[img]https://external-content.duckduckgo.com/iu/?u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.gearnews.com%2Fwp-content%2Fuploads%2F2020%2F10%2Fvladg-molot.jpg&f=1&nofb=1[/img]
You can google and find them. They are very good.

Blue Cat Audio is a great company.Their chorus, reverbs and delays are great.Not all their products are free but you definitley want to grab their free plug in package.It has I think a dozen of their older plug ins that are outstanding
[img]https://external-content.duckduckgo.com/iu/?u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.producersphere.com%2Fwp-content%2Fuploads%2F2020%2F02%2F38-blue-cat-chorus.png&f=1&nofb=1[/img]

You also mentioned Sonible.

I tried their SmartEq. It did great during my free trial so I purchased it. Since then , it hasnt done a great job IMHO.! Probably coincidence!

[img]https://external-content.duckduckgo.com/iu/?u=https%3A%2F%2Fd3sf7beddyqh57.cloudfront.net%2Fout%2Fpictures%2Fmaster%2Fproduct%2F1%2F346293-1.jpg&f=1&nofb=1[/img]

All great suggestions. I had a few more to add but since I havent used Windows at home in years , I forgot them.
posted on #6
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I sometimes use limiter no.6, but... it's complicated and too easy to make a mess with it for me!

As a general rule - don't put these things on your mix bus. Mix, export that mix then import it to a new project to master - I'm not sure why, but things seem to work out better that way. Maybe because you can't fiddle with the mix itself so you concentrate on different aspects.

On a different related note I recently bought an eq. Eek! I bought it because it is so easy to use - it has fantastic auto gain compensation so no more tedious adjusting levels to compensate for your eq moves, you get to hear what the actual eq change is doing and it's speeded things up a lot here. I doubt it would be any use for mastering but for getting something roughly together it's very good. It's called Claro and made by Sonnox.

Tape saturation anyone? I'm new to this but it's kind of groovy. I know which one I like, but I think I'll keep quiet. A lot of these things are just fancy distortion and perhaps should be filed under "snake oil". :)
Edited by zedders on November 25 2021 18:21
posted on #7
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Thanks guys. I actually don't like waves plugins alot. I bought a couple and both have some nice unusual system pauses that get me looking elsewhere. I downloaded melda's free bundle sometime ago and this thread has jogged my memory, perhaps i'll try that and post back.
Michael Bender
posted on #8
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MikeB wrote:
Thanks guys. I actually don't like waves plugins alot. I bought a couple and both have some nice unusual system pauses that get me looking elsewhere. I downloaded melda's free bundle sometime ago and this thread has jogged my memory, perhaps i'll try that and post back.

There are so many good free ones these days it's easy to disappear down the rabbit hole without spending any money. I might add the melda bundle to the 400 odd already clogging my computer. lol
Seriously though what I've learned if anything is things often sound better when I switch them all off. At the end of the day it's performance, arrangement and a good tune that matters most.
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