Stealing Transients - Maximising Loudness

Old school techniques for removing errant transients to maximise headroom for Mastering.

Mastering and MixBus

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An important part of the Mastering process is that of managing errant peaks that can be caused by all manner of dynamic processes but are more commonly found on microphone recordings. In fact errant peaks can become even more problematic if they are peak transients as they will invariably reside above all other peaks in an audio waveform and they are the culprits that play havoc with compressors detectors.

Peak Transients are simply the loudest (highest) peaks that you see when you view an audio waveform magnified.

Inter Sample Peaks can also be grouped with this fine set of problematic transients but we have ways to catch and manage ISPs. A simple yet effective solution is to set your limiter’s output ceiling to -0.3. That usually ensures that all ISPS are caught in time. However, that doesn’t explain how you can maximise the gain in your mix. It doesn’t tell you how to make your music loud. To achieve this we need to see the errant spikes or solitary peak transients before we can tame them. A great free utility I use is s(M)exoscope which is termed as an oscilloscope VST plugin. It’s a great way to view waveforms and by magnifying the waveform display you can actually see both peak transients and errant spikes.

So, what do you do once you have established there are spikes in your mix? Well, let me show you another great free utility called GClip which is a wave shaping signal clipper. GClip also displays peak transients and errant spikes but it also has some very useful features in helping you to reshape the audio waveform.

The idea is to search and locate peak transients and errant spikes and then to attenuate them down to the body of the waveform (as above). By doing this you are, in effect, creating headroom that the audio waveform can now explore.

The best way of explaining this process is to show you.

Topics covered in this video are:

  • Transients Errant – how to locate and process them
  • Electric side effects imparted by hardware
  • Using Clippers to control Transients
  • Visual display and how to read and locate transients
  • Understanding Transient control and how best to use it
  • Maximising loudness by accommodating headroom