“Testful Mastering” is a pack containing an epic effect rack which contains the entire mastering workflow for obtaining a reasonably loud and balanced master or pre-master, mimicking my real-life “Tasty Mastering” workflow using Ableton-native devices. It can be used to effectively polish up your mixdowns for presentation online or for using to test master your mixes, realize their shortcomings, and re-mix before submitting to a professional engineer for final mastering. It contains different modules for specific purposes: Filtering, Surgery, L/R Groove, M/S Groove, LCR Saturation, Serial Limiting, and M/S Analysis. Macro controls are formulated to minimize unwanted side effects such as phase offset, etc, while providing a toolset for enhancing the perceptible audibility by massaging tone and dynamics of a mixdown gracefully. The pack also includes an “Unmastering” rack for restoring a touch of dynamics to completely flattened material as well as a Testful Mastering Template set you can open up to quickly prepare a fresh mastering session.
Testful Mastering Submodules
♥Filtering Module to cut unnecessary sub- and ultra-sonic content clarifying the lows and highs, inject secret “focus sauce”, and massage multiband width using the “M/S Filtering” analysis to make informed decisions. This module alone can transform a mix from “eh” to “wow”.
♥Surgery Module to EQ effectively with selectable bands deliberately bounded in scope and with resonances tied to gain to minimize possible negative effects of over-EQing and to retain the natural heart of the mix.
♥L-R Groove may help prevent peaks from one or the other stereo channel from reducing headroom for the full mix, also offering a unique wideness-enhancing “stereo link inversion” cross-sidechain feature which can make one channel react more to the signal from the opposite side; interesting for making a mix sound more alive rather than flatly consistent (for example, with “inversion” set above 50% in a mix with guitars panned to the right and violins panned to the left, whichever group happened to be playing loudest at a given moment would take precedence, slightly attenuating the other side more).
♥M-S Groove can be used to balance the dynamics between the central and peripheral sides content in relation to each other, for a fuller, more 3-dimensional sound if setting attack, release, and thresholds carefully to pulse with the groove of the song.
♥LCR Saturation is meant to be applied subliminally, not able to hear the effect of each saturator individually. But when you A/B it on and off, it adds a miniscule degree of additional “width, depth and clarity” (thanks ubk happy funtime hour for that phrase).
Set the frequencies by ear at extreme intensity, then dial back into subliminality.
♥Serial Limiting is meant to be used not for ear-blistering loudness levels but rather for a refined, tasteful, and workable procedure implementation which can be used to quickly dial in an acceptable final loudness level without being too extreme in amounts of dynamic squashing. Using multiple forms of limiting/clipping to finalize tracks has in our extensive tests been a most adaptable method for consistent end results on the widest variety of genres and dynamic ranges of source tracks. Depending on a song’s internal energy density, each of the different submodules will be set differently; there is no one “set and forget” setting which will work for most material and thus presets are eschewed. Best general practice is to set so that each limiting stage only very occasionally shaves off the tiniest pixel of gain reduction, other than the soft clipper, which can afford to trigger a bit more often.
Mastering for Loudness?
A huge confusion many of us have about mastering is just how loud to make a track. It’s always possible to push something louder at the cost of dynamic flattening and distortion, so how do we know how hard to push something? It is subjective, but by implementing the workflow outlined in-depth in the included Testful Mastering lesson file (particularly when applying the serial limiting module so that each limiter only occasionally shaves off <1dB) , you can confidently hone in on a reasonable loudness level which will retain most of your natural dynamics yet be loud enough to compete alongside other streamed material; useful for quickly mastering a mixdown to hear its flaws more quickly for subsequent mix revision (thus the name “Testful”). It’s important to note that this is not an “automatic” or “artificially intelligent” mastering process, but one in which the true power is unleashed with careful setting of each parameter using your own aural instincts. Since Ableton’s limiter is not as transparent as some true-peak limiters which exist on the market, and since a couple of next-level processing options weren’t easily emulatable, if desiring extreme loudness (louder than say -10lufs integrated) we recommend using Testful Mastering for subtle pre-mastering and sending the resulting file to a professional mastering engineer for the final boost. Another approved procedure to juice up a handful more dB of loudness is placing an instance of your favorite, most transparent true-peak limiter vst after Testful Mastering as the very final effect (except for possible dithering). Keep in mind, however, that lufs-based loudness normalization protocols are becoming far more ubiquitous nowadays, as well as the streaming services which implement them, so making ultra-loud versions of tracks becomes less and less necessary. The Tasty Mastering recommendation is to save two final versions of every song, one dynamically mastered around -16 lufs (-18 to -14) for permanent archival and presentation through services which use loudness normalization (itunes, spotify, etc) and one pushed louder (-13 to -7lufs) for places that don’t (such as direct to CD).
Mastering for Performance
If you plan to drop any mastered songs as part of a performance (your productions or those of others), i’d recommend matching each (using ableton’s clip gain, non-destructively) to an integrated lufs of -16 and loops which are not full songs to -23. This will give a nice balance between energy and headroom to be able to stack layers into the master fader to deliver to the venue. This also reduces stress about whether some songs are louder than others in a set and makes the sound crew’s job easier.
PMX FX Plus
“PMX FX Plus” is a pack including audio and MIDI effect racks (+ one template instrument rack) designed for specific instrument types, including updates of ones originally included with various PMX-300 instruments as well as brand new effects.
Attack Room: enhance roominess as well as frontal attack of drums, making them both big and in-your-face
Bass Texturizer: overall bass colorizer for dull bass parts
Bass Octaver: lower octave enhancer focused on bass guitar note range
Brasher: enhance frequencies normally associated with harshness and pain
Butterfly Tremolo: emulates air pushed through rotating valves of water
Combo Amp: select between gain-matched amp + cab models
Funky Auto Wah: filter which is quite reactive to the input signal
12-String: emulates a 12-string guitar’s extra notes
Strumtain: strum effect for midi chord notes
Creamy PadWasher: washy cream for pads
KeyPlunk: emulates the sound of physical keys dropping
Leslee Rotary: in-depth emulation of a famous dual spinning speaker
MS TremoGlitcher: glitchy dimensionality
Piano Reverb: moody chromatic tonal reverb
Pluck Space: ambience designed for plucked sounds
Harpeggiator: experimental pattern generator
Rhythmic ResoBumper: exploiting quantized filtration for fun
Slowww: fooor looong spaaaces
Wind Pipe: emulates breathy humanlike timbres for pairing with digital woodwinds
for lead synths
Zoink Container: an instrument rack you drop an instrument into, with built-in filter that follows the note you play leading to an organically moving razor-edge focus