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Music

Mastering With Deadmau5

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In this video, Deadmau5 presents his mastering workflow, which was sponsored by the Razer brand. The title of the composition is Imaginary Friends and he introduces us into the production phase in earlier episodes. 

You can find the other parts on the Razer Youtube channel. 

Deadmau5 applies this chain for mastering:

  1. EQ
  2. Compressor
  3. Multiband compressor
  4. Limiter

1. Ableton EQ Eight

Deadmau5 says he always cuts below 20Hz, for two reasons:

  1. You can't hear anything below that frequency
  2. It makes more headroom for the track

As you follow the video, it gets to 35Hz as well, which is audible a little by Deadmau5 with his high end ATC monitors. 

It is interesting that he says he even can't hear below 35Hz even with subs. Or maybe he didn't want to turn up the volume on them. Eve if he's not hearing, he can probably feel it in his body. In his studio he has a 7.1 system built with only ATC SCM45A monitors.

Until the end of the section, he sets the low cut around 35-38Hz, with a 48dB / octave slope. Deadmau5 mentions that he often uses the freeware Engineer’s Filter (a Windows VST) for extreme low cuts. 

You could use also the Fabfilter Pro-Q v2 for that. I think Deadmau5 thinks about the 120dB / octave filter when he says that regarding the strongest cut, “Each of these filter design methods can be applied to create low-pass, high-pass, band-pass, band-reject, high-/low-shelving and peak/dip filters of orders up to 20.” 

This is the description of the Engineer’s Filter about the 20th order filter. So 20 x 6dB equals 120dB / octave.

The strongest cut in Ableton is 48dB / octave, so you can only make a stronger one using multiple EQs in series. On the Ableton EQ Eight it is marked 4x. This is the 48dB filter.

2. UAD Shadow Hills Mastering Compressor

In this section you can see around 1dB attenuation, this is used to glue together the mix. 

This plugin can be only used with the hardware DSP card, from the UAD webshop. There are no other versions.

This glue effect helps to compress together the sound. It makes such a character to a mix that makes it interesting, a sense of completeness, rounder illusion. 

You can use it not only on the master, but on group channels as well. The synonym for this is called bus compression.

3. Xfer Records OTT

This is a multi-band compressor plugin that compresses a couple of decibels on several ranges. The multi-band compressor can compress the ranges differently, so it is more complex than a simple single band compressor.

These are the attenuation and amplification values with ratio numbers, where the low number is the basic relative unit.

  • Low: 1
  • Mid: 3
  • High: 2

I can't see a more precise value from the video. He uses a preset, which is a starting point for experimentation by him.

4. Ableton Limiter

Deadmau5 applies the final volume control setting with

  • +10 dBFS input amplification, and
  • -0.3 dBFS to the output

That 10dB amplification produces a peak / transient type effect on the final mix. So at this gain reduction, the amplification varies based on the mix material. 

A 6-8dB constant reduction would completely kill this mix.

Summary

Deadmau5 gets a great sound and good master from proper sound design and mixing. So at the mastering phase he doesn't have to do much. The earlier work is more important here than the mastering stage.

He admits, "there is no magic master chain", that is always good for the mix. 

He changes the settings and plugins depending on the song, and also experiments with plugin order and parameters.

What is common in all mastering sessions is the mastering limiter at the end of the effect chain. 

The output or ceiling is always smaller than 0 dBFS. The default setting for this is -0.3 dBFS in Ableton. This is a practical value, which is useful in most cases. It is good to keep some headroom from the absolute maximum 0 dbFS.

Although he didn't do a mono checking, I recommend this in every session during the workflow. The easiest way for that is to use the DAW default, which is Utility in the case of Ableton.

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