Community member and Pro Tools user Koen Heldens is based at Hitmixing in LA. He wanted to share one of his mixing tips with the community. Here he shows a technique he uses both in Pro Tools and Nuendo.
I’m not a fan of compression and its artifacts. I rather ride the fader manually and use compression as an effect (fx) much like you would add reverb or delay to a signal. Extreme compression (taking off a lot of dB’s) is another technique I don’t believe in and instead I prefer to use Multi stage compression to sustain the sonic integrity. Taking off only small amounts of a dB or less per stage.
Importance of the Assistant
It was one of my assistants whom made me fall in love with using, the rather, unusual Tube Tech CL 1B Opto compressor on the drum buss preceded by a parallel blend of the Summit Audio TLA100-A Solid State compressor.Solid State compressors have a much quicker responds capability than the slower Opto compressors.
Since I’m mixing entirely in the box (ITB) nowadays, my starting plugin is Slate Digital’s Virtual Console Collection (VCC) set to the Brit Console emulation - a representation of a vintage Neve 8048 - known for its low-end punch and warmth. Perfect for drums. I’m driving the plug-in a slight bit, just enough to “fatten up” the overall drum sound.
Summit Audio TL100-A Solid State Vacuum Tube Compressor
Using a medium attack and fast release time I’m capable to enhance the drums attacks to create more punch and apparent loudness using the “parallel” inject blend knob. To eliminate the compressor getting triggered from the super low-end, I set the low cut detector to 90Hz. The gain reduction meter is knocking off about 4-5dB. Without using parallel compression things end up sounding thin. Additionally, parallel compression avoids the source to be manipulated to much and will sound more pleasing to the ear. Parallel compression is a upward compression trick.
Tube Tech CL 1B Opto Compressor
Having used VCA compressors for a fast amount of years in my career for their static and snappy character, the Tube Tech CL 1B Opto compressor has a unique character of its own, humanizing the performance of the rhythm section like no other! Because the Summit TLA100-A already reshaped the attack and is giving the drums more snap and punch, the Tube Tech CL 1B Opto compressor functions to smooth things out and focus more on the drums’ sustain and retard. Tube Tech CL 1B Opto compressor’s unique continuous variable attack and release time’s create a very musical effect on the overall drum bus. The wide frequency range of the rhythm section benefits from the Tube Tech CL 1B Opto Compressor’s responding differently on the frequency content. Controlling the low-end yet retaining snare and clap snappiness. The Tube Tech CL 1B Opto compressor’s attack is set to fast with a medium fast release time. Knocking off around a dB. The Tube Tech CL 1B Opto compressor functions as a high level compressor compressing the entire group 100% wet.
Soft Clipping for Presence
To add more “roundness” to the group and get an increase the “in-your-face” presence, I’m soft-clipping the drums with Waves’ Kramer Master Tape plug-in. Remember less is more, especially when you’re practicing your art in distortion. Take your time to find the sweet spot of both the plug-in and the saturation on your drums.
Lastly, because Waves’ Kramer Master Tape plug-in, like any reel to reel tape machine - due to its bias, decreases your high-end fidelity. Softube’s Abbey Road RS127 Rack plug-in is the best candidate to bring back the loss of high-end fidelity by adding 2dB at 10kHz.