DIY Mastering using Pink Noise
Advanced techniques showing you how you can master your music using noise profiles.
Mastering and MixBus
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Over a decade ago I wrote an article on my website on the subject of using pink noise to gain stage your DAWs channels. I then took it a step further and wrote an article for Sound On Sound Magazine entitled Mixing to a Pink Noise Reference. This article took the original principles and expounded them to include mixing. I found a quick and easy way to balance your mixes, irrespective of track counts, and get a ballpark level mix. I wrote that article in 2014.
In 2017 I took the technique to another level and wrote an article again for Sound On Sound entitled DIY Mastering Made Easy using the same principles but this time to master music.
Conceptually, the thinking is similar to the ‘pink noise’ mix technique I described in SOS December 2014 , as it involves using a pink-noise reference. But there are some important modifications. For starters, we’re changing the balance of a full stereo mix using EQ, rather than adjusting the mix balance using the individual channel gains/faders.
You’ll need a good EQ plug-in. It must be one that includes a frequency analyser, has the ability to capture and display reference curves, and can apply a ‘corrective’ EQ curve to match the spectral balance (the way the energy of the track is distributed across the frequency spectrum) of the source material to the chosen reference.
The first time you use this technique, you’re going to need to capture a profile of pink noise into your EQ. Once the pink noise profile is in place we can use eq matching (a number of eq plugins offer this feature now) to match the noise’s profile over the mix you want to master.
It’s very important to make sure your mix and the pink-noise reference curve are at broadly the same average level. If you don’t, the match eq feature on the equaliser is going to create some unhelpfully large boosts and cuts. You can do this while your track is playing by adjusting the clip gain, channel input gain, or a trim plug-in while looking at the equaliser’s analyser with the pink-noise reference curve selected.
Once the mix and the profile have been matched you have a strong starting base to work from. It is at this stage that micro editing can help as most profile matching processes need a little tweaking to get the best out of the process.
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In the video I run through each and every step of this wonderful process sharing with you some theory and lots of application. I explain how you can create your own custom pink noise profiles, how to set up the profile against your mix and how to match using the best settings. I finish off by showing you how you can then edit the master to taste.
Topics covered in this video are:
- How to Rip and Extract Profiles
- Matching Gains
- Understanding Linear and Logarithmic Processing
- Frequency Banding and Filter Slopes
- Compensatory Processes