The mix bus processing is a great way to add sparkle and final polish to a mix. Applying processing at mix bus is one of the best ways to inject life and glow into a dull mix.
Several reasons to add mix bus processing:
- making a mix of shine and sparkle,
- adding signature sound or effects,
- Refining a mix for the highest possible loudness.
Now, let’s see the best tips and techniques for mix bus processing. Add quality, life, and a signature sound to any dull, boring, and uninteresting mix.
Mix Bus Processing for Radio Ready Songs!
Here are the top techniques that industry-leading mixing engineers and artists use in their music mixes.
Implement these tips to create an impressive change to the way any mix sounds.
1) Refrain from aggressive processing
The most important part of mix bus processing is not the plugins you use but how well you use them.
Many mixing engineer dial the processing values way up on the plugins and analog hardware, which starts to hurt the mix.
Here, the mix can turn into a mess, and all the audio tracks in a mix begin to overshadow each other. Also, the audio tracks of a mix begin to lose their individuality.
Considerable changes in the mix bus can overcompensate a mix and make it sound unnatural.
Therefore, keeping the “less is more” rule in mind and using incremental changes to a mix is the best way to apply mix bus processing.
Furthermore, these tiny changes from multiple plugins create a mix that sounds polished, refined, and radio-ready.
All in all, increase the plugin values to a point where they feel natural. If you hear anything unusual, lower the dial on the VST plugins.
2) Using analog emulation plugins
The plugins that emulate analog hardware behavior can take your mix bus processing to an advanced level.
The analog plugins add new flavor and behavior to your mixes. Since analog plugins emulate analog hardware units, they add a particular behavior and character to a song. This type of character is missing in the latest VST plugins.
EQ sitral by Arturia is a great EQ tool for natural sounding mixes and has wide EQ curves suitable for mix bus processing and wide EQ curves.
Such kinds of plugins can aid mix engineers in finding their signature sound. The warm cozy sounds from analog plugins also add harmonics and help control dynamics.
If you find your mixes dull and uninteresting, even though the artists like the mix, it is time to try out a few analog VST plugins.
The first step to cleaning and refining a mix is using subtractive and additive EQ.
Use subtractive EQ to remove boxiness, muddiness, and harsh frequencies from a mix. On the other hand, add flavor and character using additive EQ.
Furthermore, try analog plugins for additive EQ. Using analog plugins will add character and natural-sounding EQ curves to a mix.
Another great idea is to use a dynamic EQ and filter out the frequency only when the mix crosses a particular gain level.
If you need help figuring out where to start the equalization process, use some presets on the mix bus EQ. Presets allow to speed up the mixing process and save time whenever possible. Anyways, you can change the settings if the preset values sound aggressive.
An excellent plugin that many mixing engineers and I use on the mix bus is the Gullfoss Master EQ. Due to its dynamic nature and EQ curves, it is one of the best plugins you can use on the mix bus. It analyzes the mix in real-time and tames it flawlessly across different frequencies.
4) Mid-Side EQ
Another great EQ hack for a tight low-end stereo control is to use mid/side equalization.
A mid/side equalisation is immaculate for creating stereo separation in a mix. It is also a great way to add width to a song. Add stereo width and air to a mix by boosting the frequencies above 15 kHz on the side image.
A great EQ plugin is the fabfilter Pro-Q3.
One mid/side eq technique to enhance clarity in your mix is to mono the low-end. The above image depicts this technique. Use a 6dB/oct slope for a consistent and natural sound.
5) Compressing mix bus
Let’s move on from equalization to compression to see new ways of mix bus processing.
Compression is a great way to refine a mix bus and add dynamic control to a music mix. The compressor on the mix bus can aid in peak control. In other words, compression allows a mixing engineer to tame the aggressive dynamics of a song.
However, compression can easily distort and squash audio transients if used aggressively and excessively. For this reason, do not compress your mix bus more than 2-5 dB.
Here is a table depicting the compression type and the settings for the same. You can add these different compression types to a mix bus for a particular compression style.
|aggressive or pumping
|smooth or glue
Recommended plugin: Fabfilter Pro-C2
A tip here is to use 2X oversampling and enable lookahead to avoid distortion and have clean audio.
6) The Glue Compression
The glue compression is the most common type of compression used on the mix bus to tuck and control peaking transients. It enables a mix engineer to make a mix sound more consistent and cohesive.
Creating a glue compression effect is quite straightforward. Refer the settings below for the same.
- Attack: slow, 10ms or slow.
- Release: slowest on the compressor,
- Ratio: 2:1 or 4:1 for aggressive music.
Once you have put these settings on the glue compressor, adjust the threshold to get a gain reduction of 1 to 3 dB.
7) Using Multiband compressor
A multiband compressor is an advanced tool for peak reduction and dynamic control.
Instead of acting on all the frequency bands, an MB compressor divides different bands like an equalizer. This leads to even more control over the dynamics across multiple regions effectively.
In any EDM track, getting a polished and refined song without a multiband compressor is challenging. An MB compressor significantly eases the task of any mix engineer by offering control over their mix as they wish.
Recommend plugin – Fabfilter Pro MB.
Multiband compressor helps to:
- refine sounds across regions,
- create a tight-low-end response,
- implement compression groups,
- achieve in-depth control over transients.
Moreover, an MB compressor adds glue to a mix and helps to minimize the haywire nature of a mix.
8) Saturating mix bus
The following mix bus processing technique is saturation. Saturation adds harmonics and subtle compression to a mix. The harmonics generated by a saturator add depth and fatness to a mix. Hence, throwing a saturation plugin on a mix bus is a good idea if it is too thin and needs more character.
A saturator also gives various saturation options like the tube, tape, amp, transformer, etc. Out of all these, the tube and transformer modes add a warm analog sound to your mix.
Using a saturation plugin like Saturn 2 by fabfilter, you can create different frequency bands to add saturation. It allows you to gain even more control over the mix bus saturation. Or how the saturation is applied.
A thing that I do is to separate the low, mid, and high end using three bands. Then add the drive and different saturation modes as per the song.
You can also use presets for the same and then tweak the preset settings to refine the music further.
An exciter is another excellent tool to add sizzle and polish to a mix. The role of an exciter is to generate high-frequency harmonics in a song to add depth and fatness to a thin piece.
Unlike an EQ, an exciter does not boost or attenuate frequencies but additively generates new harmonic content.
The exciter adds:
- the crispness of guitar recordings,
- bite to electric guitar recordings.
- top-end detailing to drums and drum busses,
- Air, brightness, and interest in a vocal recording.
Fresh Air by Slate Digital is a great free exciter plugin to add instant refinement to your mixes.
10) Using limiter
The limiter holds the last spot in a mix bus processing to increase the loudness of a mix. It also clamps down any unusual peaks in a mix.
Applying a limiter to a mix bus is a good idea to get a feel of the finalized mix version and how the song will translate across systems.
The mix bus processing that comes before limiting should control most of the dynamics in a song. Otherwise, the limiter plugin will clamp down the signal aggressively. Hence, hurting the mix quality.
A highly versatile limiter plugin is the Fabfilter Pro-L2. It has got plenty of modes that you can mess around with. It also has lookahead and oversampling to enhance the mix resolution and avoid any clarity or distortion issues.
To be honest, there is nothing to conclude here. These are only a few tips you can apply when mixing bus processing.
However, when you advance in mixing skills, you’ll learn to create new techniques that work best for you and helps you to create your signature sound.
These tips and techniques offer you a starting point in mix bus processing.