R16: Mastering Insert "Boost16" (modification of PlusAlfa)

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R16: Mastering Insert "Boost16" (modification of PlusAlfa)

Post by selbalicious » Wed Jul 13, 2011 12:53 am

Gang...short and sweet...I'm noticing a lot of new folks are getting interested in mastering "on the box" (I won't say "in the box" because the recording industry seems to use this term to refer to mastering/mixing inside a DAW such as Pro Tools and the like).

Anyway...I would like to present to the community a simple modification of the built-in preset "PlusAlfa" that I have named "Boost16" because I tried to get it to be as "transparent" as Boost11 (Sonar mastering plugin) and give us R16 owners a really simple, clean, and powerful mastering preset for mastering our projects ON the box.

Here are the settings and the instructions for creating your own Boost16 preset and including it in a project "template" that you'll make and never delete.

STEPS TO CREATE THE BOOST16 PRESET:

1. Create a new Project and name it "Studtmp" or "Livetemp" or SOMETHING so that you basically never delete it. You will use this template for future projects whether they be in the studio or in a live setting or whatever. The reason you don't want to delete this template project is because you'll EITHER create New projects based on it (and the new projects will "inherit" the Boost16 preset if, when creating a new Project, you hit [Continue] rather than [Reset]) **OR** you will "import" from this template project INTO some other project you are working on.
2. Assuming you have this template project, we now must make a copy of the PlusAlfa Mastering preset as follows:
a. Press the INSERT EFFECT button.
b. Regardless as to which particular insert effect it is on, press the left or right arrow buttons until you come to: MASTERING.
c. Use the jog wheel to get to No.00:PlusAlfa.
d. Press the down arrow buttons (you will probably then be on >EDIT).
e. Press the right or left arrow buttons until you get to >SAVE.
f. Press the ENTER button.
g. In the Save to screen, use the jog wheel to get to an UNUSED memory location (usually 21, but you may have already saved something there, so use a higher number if necessary).
h. Press the ENTER button.
i. In the Save? screen, press the ENTER button again to actually save it.
3. You now should be sitting on your newly saved version of PlusAlfa mastering insert preset. We will now edit it to make it basically a clean, simple "boost" mastering preset with some compression in it.
4. Press the down arrow.
5. Use the left or right arrow buttons to get you to >EDIT.
6. Press the ENTER button.
7. You are now editing the copy of PlusAlfa you made and you should be at the TOP of the editing steps and the screen should look like:
COMP/Lo-Fi
3Band Comp
8. IN THIS MENUING SYSTEM: pressing Down arrow button gets you INSIDE the specific parameter at hand, pressing Right or Left arrow buttons get you to the NEXT parameter.
9. Press the Down arrow button to get into the parameters of the COMP/Lo-Fi section and make the following adjustments:

3Band Comp
Xover Lo=50Hz (leave this at default) (press the Down arrow button)
Xover Hi=50Hz (leave at default) (press the Down arrow button)
Sense Hi=5 (press the Down arrow button)
Sense Mid=5 (press the Down arrow button)
Sense Low=5 (notice it was at 10 which jumps the bass up too much) (press the Down arrow button)
Mix High=2 (gives slight high end sheen) (press the Down arrow button)
Mix Mid=0 (press the Down arrow button)
Mix Low=2 (gives slight low end bump)

10. Press the Right arrow button to get to NORMALIZER. Using the jog wheel, set the Gain=10 (it was at 2, we want it to BOOST our overall volume a lot more) so it looks like this:
NORMALIZER
Gain=10
11. Press the Right arrow button to get to 3BAND EQ and make sure of the following values:
[we are basically setting this area pretty "flat" with a teensy bit of high EQ to give the mix a little high-end "sheen"]
Bass=0dB (then press Down arrow button)
Middle=0dB (then press Down arrow button)
Treble=2dB (then press Down arrow button)
Level=62 (or make it higher if you wish...I left this at the default) (then press Right arrow button)

Dimension
Off (we don't really want some funky room dimension effects...so turn or leave off) (then press Right arrow button)

TOTAL
Patch Level = 24 (left this at default I think - it only goes to 30 so play with it if you wish) (then press Down arrow button)

ZNR
Threshold=Off
*****VERY IMPORTANT***** - this is the Zoom Noise Reduction parameter and should be used as follows:
IF you are recording in the studio (and you should have a quiet studio with NO crowd noise or other types of noise), then set Threshold=Off which means NO noise reduction.
IF you are recording in a live performance environment AND you have good shielding of your mic's and the overall ambient noise isn't too loud, then, again, set Threshold=Off which means NO noise reduction. I have left it on for a relatively quiet gig and you can hear it cutting in and out between songs which I DID NOT LIKE.
IF you are recording in a live performance environment AND you have REALLLLLLLY loud external noise going on, then you'll have to try it on a section of music (both during a song and between songs - see USING THE BOOST16 PRESET section below) and just start adjusting the Threshold=1 (to start) and going up from there. It's a decent noise gate, but I tend to NOT need it even on the loudest of gigs. Your mileage may vary.

(press the Down arrow button)

Patch Name
Boost16 (you'll have to use the Left or Right arrow buttons and the jog wheel to get it named correctly). IF you hit the Down arrow again it will probably reset the patch name.

Once you are satisfied with the patch name, press the EXIT button.

WE MUST SAVE THE PATCH: Press the Right arrow button until you get to >SAVE. Press the ENTER button. Make sure it's on the actual Patch NUMBER (e.g., 21 or 22 or higher) that you want. Press the ENTER button twice more.

USING THE BOOST16 PRESET:

One thing to remember is that we will now essentially be BOOSTING our overall master signal by quite a bit, SO: pull the Master fader (the RED fader) all the way DOWN to -00 (infinity) before we perform the next steps.

1. You SHOULD be still sitting in the MASTERING section and should be on Patch 21 (or higher) and if you've named it "Boost16" then your screen should look like this:

MASTERING <xxxxxxx>
No.21: Boost16

2. We now need to make sure we are routing the correct signal through the Insert (where the <xxxxxxxx> is in the preceding example).
3. Press the Down arrow button to get into the Insert sub-menus.
4. Press the Right or Left arrow buttons until you get to >REC SIGNAL Press Enter button.
Set the >REC SIGNAL to:

REC SIGNAL
Wet

...because you technically want to "burn in" the Boost16 mastering insert effect into the resulting Master track.

5. Press the EXIT button.
6. Press the Right arrow button to get to >INPUT SOURCE Press Enter button.
7. It will probably look like this:

Input Source
INPUT1/2

8. Use the jog wheel to go all the way to the right and get to:

Input Source
MASTER

9. Careful now cowboy...you've just routed ALL your tracks through the Boost16 Insert and basically you are controlling the overall master mix via the MASTER fader (the RED fader).
10. Get all your individual tracks up to decent levels FIRST by using individual track faders and start every track at 0 just for kicks.
11. Go ahead and "arm" the Master track by pressing the MASTER/MIX DOWN/PLAY button a few times until its button glows red. Do NOT press the REC button on the transport button section yet. We're just gonna play with it a little to get a feel for what we're doing.

12. fast forward or rewind until you get to a section of the particular song you're on (whether studio song or live performance recording, doesn't really matter) where the overall volume of all the tracks is pretty LOUD.
13. Press the PLAY button on the transport and SLOWLY bring up the Master fader (the RED fader).
14. IF your individual track faders are fairly high and they were recorded reasonably "hot" THEN you will notice that you only have to bring the Master fader (red) up to about -10 or -5 on the scale and you'll be pegging the MASTER track LED's (green/orange/red) at solid orange.
15. Here's where things get interesting. You CAN actually push the Master fader high enough to get occasional red blips of LED light and NOT clip in the Master track's waveform (the .wav file created and attached to the Master track). By occasional, I mean every few seconds. THIS IS WHERE MIXING "ON THE BOX" BECOMES SOMEWHAT OF ART MIXED WITH SCIENCE. Since we don't have a "look ahead" limiter in our little Boost16 preset, WE ("we" means YOU) become the analog "limiter" by simply watching the Master track's LED's and making sure the red lights blink only occasionally. WHATEVER YOU HAVE TO DO TO GET THIS ACCOMPLISHED IS COMPLETELY UP TO YOU. MOST of the time, in my live performance recordings, my overall "mix" (all the various individual track faders) are pretty much where I want them and I mainly use the Master track fader (red) to keep myself from getting too much "into the red" (red LED's blinking). Obviously, I will nudge the Guitar track up a tad during his solo, and then back down a tad. And by "tad" I mean never more than, say, the difference between the gradations on the track itself (e.g., between 0 and +6 or between 0 and the line between 0 and -5). YOUR MIX MAY BE DIFFERENT. You may find that you'd rather ride your bass/drums track(s) to help you adjust the overall mix (I don't recommend this you understand...I'm just using it as an example). IN MY OPINION, you should set the Master fader to a reasonable listening level with solid orange LED's and then start getting your individual track faders set so that you have a decent "rough mix". Once you KNOW you're not gonna mess very much anymore with individual track faders, THEN use the Master fader (red) to do the bulk of your "look ahead limiting" (even though it's impossible for you to look ahead in the mix)...and use the Master fader to make relatively quick yet SMOOTH adjustments to keep from peaking into red LED's all the time. IF your various tracks are HIGHLY dynamic (go from very soft to VERY LOUD in a very short time), then your job will be difficult. If you various tracks are fairly dynamic or not all that dynamic, then your job won't be that hard.

Just for grins, let's listen to the difference that the Mastering insert gives us on our overall mix:
1. Press the EXIT button several times to get ALL the way out of the various menus.
2. Find that section in the song or live performance that is fairly loud and consistent.
3. Press the Play button.
4. Press the INSERT EFFECT button. It should look like this:

MASTERING <MASTER>
No.21:Boost16

5. Press the ENTER button to turn it OFF. Notice how much the overall "loudness" drops. Quite a bit. Ain't "boosting" cool? Yes it is. You can even sort of tell the difference by pushing the Master fader (red) up to 0 (with the INSERT EFFECT on Off), then, while holding the Master fader in one hand, press the Enter button with your other hand and immediately go back down to -5 (or wherever you were) to try to hear the difference. You SHOULD hear some compression effects and you should definitely hear some high end treble frequencies come out clearer. You might hear a tad bit of bass come up. Regardless, you can A/B the mix WITH the effect and WITHOUT the effect by using the ENTER button to turn the Insert On and Off (but use the Master fader (red) to compare the two fairly).

Like I said...part science, part art. IF you record a particular type of studio song or type of live performance long enough, enough times in, say, a month, or 6 months or whatever, you'll actually get good and comfortable with this part and you'll start seeing consistency in your mixdown/mastering "on the box".

ONCE you are happy that all is well: rewind to the front of wherever you wish to be in the song/performance, and "arm" the recorder itself by pressing the REC button, and then press the PLAY button and hold on for the ride. As mentioned above, it is my opinion that at this point, you "ride" the Master fader (red) to make sure you are SOLID ORANGE with occasional red blips.
Mix/Master down the song (say, 4 minutes) or Set (say, 50 minutes of live performance) until its to the end. Then press the STOP button.

Rewind to the front and now we're gonna switch the R16 to "play" the freshly recorded Master track by simply pressing the MASTER/MIX DOWN/PLAY button until it glows green (this will shut OFF all the individual tracks). Press the PLAY button and listen to your masterpiece.

You'll immediately notice that now you need to bring the Master fader (red) up to 0 to get back to where you were when mixing/mastering.

Make sure everything sounds great with no clipping and you should now have a great "mixed" and "mastered" track that you can take off the SD card and either burn to CD or convert to .mp3 and share with all your slobbering fans.

IF you did everything correctly (and I didn't mess you up by accidentally omitting a step or something), then your final Master track SHOULD sound great. Nice and punchy with a good high level WITHOUT a lot of weird, unnecessary artifacts that some of the other presets inject into the sound because the other presets are deliberately TRYING to get a certain sound out of the mastered content. With Boost16, we are simply trying to get a nice "hot" boosted sound with some compression and a teensy bit of high end "sheen". I think this does a decent job getting that sound.

Hope that helps and NEVER forget: TWEAK TWEAK TWEAK these things yourself. Don't just take MY advice. Get out there and get those hands dirty people!
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Kevin B. Selby
https://www.facebook.com/TheJKDuo/ <-- Live Performance
http://kevinselby.com <-- Original Music (free downloads if you're smart enough to hack the music player...HAH!)

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Re: R16: Mastering Insert "Boost16" (modification of PlusAlfa)

Post by mikemorgan » Thu Jul 14, 2011 8:40 pm

WOW! Nice work Kevin, thanks for this explanation. This oughta rock.
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Re: R16: Mastering Insert "Boost16" (modification of PlusAlfa)

Post by Nedmundo » Sun Jul 17, 2011 5:42 pm

Kevin, thanks again for sharing your expertise. From your post, I identified ZNR as the culprit in some decays cutting out too early, so using your instructions I deleted it from the "Live" mastering algorithm, and voila -- natural decays. It's amazing how aggressive the ZNR is. It goes from 0-30, and even on 5 it made decays sound unnatural. And you're right: For studio recordings, heck, even living room recordings 8), it isn't necessary.
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Re: R16: Mastering Insert "Boost16" (modification of PlusAlfa)

Post by selbalicious » Sun Jul 17, 2011 11:41 pm

Yeah...so I went back and looked at the setting for ZNR on the default built-in "PlusAlfa" preset and it was 1 (out of THIRTY) and it STILL cut out background noise that was barely noticeable. Since I'm kind of fond of listeners actually hearing that there were PEOPLE at my gigs (heh heh), I killed it too. I think it would take quite a bit of ambient noise to really force you to use the ZNR, but then again, I didn't exactly have 16 mono tracks of microphones and maybe in that extreme of a circumstance the ZNR would help out better.

Glad to see I helped SOMEONE!
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Kevin B. Selby
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http://kevinselby.com <-- Original Music (free downloads if you're smart enough to hack the music player...HAH!)

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Re: R16: Mastering Insert "Boost16" (modification of PlusAlfa)

Post by Nedmundo » Mon Jul 18, 2011 6:47 am

My band's songs have up to 14 mono tracks, which is actually more because I used an external analog mixer for drum recording, and sent a stereo mix of snare and three toms into two tracks on the Zoom. Even with all those mono tracks, the ZNR can be a problem, because it cuts the decays of cymbals. But it depends on the song. A couple of ours have staccato rhythm patterns, with few slow decays of any instruments, and others have virtually no dynamic range. I barely hear the effects of ZNR on those, even with the default setting on the "Rock Show" mastering patch.
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Re: R16: Mastering Insert "Boost16" (modification of PlusAlf

Post by acoustic356 » Sat Dec 15, 2012 1:54 pm

This is good information! How does it impact the overall dynamics of the song? Are the sonic peaks and valleys retained?
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Can you show that to me again... slower?

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Re: R16: Mastering Insert "Boost16" (modification of PlusAlf

Post by selbalicious » Sat Dec 15, 2012 2:42 pm

>>Are the sonic peaks and valleys retained?

That's a very good question. Like anything when "compression" is applied, you will definitely "squash" the peaks and valleys so that they are not as pronounced. It all depends on how much compression you want. In the Boost16 preset, I tried to go "middle ground" where it definitely "boosted" the signal but didn't color it (other than some high end sheen (2db) and a bump in the low end (2db)) and I tried not to compress too much (which is why all the "Sense" levels in the compression section are at 5). Obviously your mileage may vary, so I encourage people to experiment themselves.

To my ears, Boost16 is a nice overall "boost" to get those levels up to as hot as they can be and then YOU are responsible for making sure you don't clip the Master .wav. But that's why there are tools out there in the DAW that will let you analyze a .wav for clipped samples and all that.

Enjoy!
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Kevin B. Selby
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http://kevinselby.com <-- Original Music (free downloads if you're smart enough to hack the music player...HAH!)

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