Compressors / EQ + Attributes

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Compressors / EQ + Attributes

Post by foolomon » Wed Aug 09, 2017 3:02 pm

It's been a looooong time since I was inspired to write a new song, so when it hit me this morning I got home and am now updating VSTs, etc. before starting Cubase. When I start a new project, I keep thinking about the Slate Bundle (gee, thanks Lenny... :mrgreen: ) and realize that even if I wrote material frequently enough to justify the $14/month cost, I wouldn't know how to use half of the plugins in that bundle.

More specifically, compressors and EQ give me issues because - to me, at least - a compressor has one job: compress. :lol: EQ has a similarly singular job. However, we all know that compressors and EQ all have side-effects (compressors color the sound, for example), and that results in mix engineers like Chris Lord-Alge favoring one set of compressors / EQs over others.

This overloads my brain because I don't know what compressors are best for specific situations. The extent of my knowledge beyond "just slap Pro-C2 on and use a preset" is using an LA-2A and 1176 on the mastering buss (which I don't do since I own neither or even VST emulation).

Long story, short: is there a handy list of compressors, the side effects, and what situations they are most likely to be used in? Ditto for EQs.
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Re: Compressors / EQ + Attributes

Post by MattiasNYC » Wed Aug 09, 2017 4:13 pm

First answer: I don't know of one, but I'd guess they exist. Maybe search Gearslutz.com for info....

Second answer: I would also look into approaching it the other way around - find a reference recording/mix that you love and where there's something you want to replicate, and research how that recording/mix was done and with what gear.
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Re: Compressors / EQ + Attributes

Post by foolomon » Fri Aug 11, 2017 2:06 am

That's a great idea. Unfortunately, that won't necessarily work for me because of the fairly wide breadth of genres that I play / record. Not that it isn't possible, but the number of records that are well produced in each genre would result in much more research than I'm able to do.
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Re: Compressors / EQ + Attributes

Post by alexis » Fri Aug 11, 2017 4:58 pm

If it were me, I would just record the song in the simplest fashion while it was hot in my brain, then think about what comp is needed, etc., after that.

It's easy to do the opposite, to line up all the VST's, and this and that, and oh so pretty, then realize there's not one sixteenth note of music recorded yet (" ...and how did that rhythm actually go?"). :( .

For your question about comps, this article might be a nice starting point: https://www.soundonsound.com/techniques ... ompressors
Last edited by alexis on Fri Aug 11, 2017 5:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Compressors / EQ + Attributes

Post by alexis » Fri Aug 11, 2017 5:01 pm

MattiasNYC wrote:
Wed Aug 09, 2017 4:13 pm
...
I would also look into approaching it the other way around - find a reference recording/mix that you love and where there's something you want to replicate, and research how that recording/mix was done and with what gear.
Yes, this, once you have an idea in your head about how you want it to sound, and if you can think of some music you already know and like in a style that is not too different.

Then you don't need but one or two references, don't need to worry about not having references for each of the broad range of musical styles you play in. :)
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Re: Compressors / EQ + Attributes

Post by foolomon » Sat Aug 12, 2017 3:42 pm

alexis wrote:
Fri Aug 11, 2017 4:58 pm
If it were me, I would just record the song in the simplest fashion while it was hot in my brain, then think about what comp is needed, etc., after that.

It's easy to do the opposite, to line up all the VST's, and this and that, and oh so pretty, then realize there's not one sixteenth note of music recorded yet (" ...and how did that rhythm actually go?"). :( .

For your question about comps, this article might be a nice starting point: https://www.soundonsound.com/techniques ... ompressors
Agreed on your point, and that's not how I work. I track first with minimal, if any, VSTs included. (99% of the time I'm not using any VSTs during tracking.)

The URL you listed is flat out amazing and gives a lot of great information that I will be using! THANK YOU SO MUCH!
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Re: Compressors / EQ + Attributes

Post by Raphie » Sat Aug 12, 2017 3:56 pm

Write your song first
Then decide what needs EQ or compression
Just grab ANY compressor and EQ
If it sounds good it is good, if you don't like what you hear on to the next
The cubase stock plugins should cover 99.9999% of your needs
Don't get hung up on name dropping and gui's at the end of the day it's all just math...

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Re: Compressors / EQ + Attributes

Post by foolomon » Sun Aug 13, 2017 3:35 pm

Agreed, but the math is what matters. I'm looking for specific coloration of the signal to be able to get a desired quality in my result.

To be more specific, I'm happy with my sound. But I also know it could be better, especially when I A/B my stuff to that produced by Lenny, Kim, Jet, etc. I currently own Komplete, the FabFilter Suite, plus others. But either I simply don't know how to use what I have (certainly possible though I've been using them for a while), or there's something missing due to the way they affect the signal chain.

My biggest deficiencies are the vocals and overall sheen in the final mix. I've gotten better at both of these over the years, but am looking to elevate my game even further.
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Re: Compressors / EQ + Attributes

Post by Raphie » Sun Aug 13, 2017 8:13 pm

Let's put it differently then: impact will be 99% skill, 1% plugins.
The plugin itself will not give you the desired result, it's how you put them to use.

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Re: Compressors / EQ + Attributes

Post by foolomon » Sun Aug 13, 2017 8:25 pm

Let's agree to disagree, because I think you're missing my point.
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Re: Compressors / EQ + Attributes

Post by Raphie » Sun Aug 13, 2017 10:23 pm

No I'm not, you say that you would like to understand which plugins in your arsenal contribute to a certain sound.
It's the wrong question to ask, the better question would be which production techniques contribute to a certain sound.
Once you know what freq, Q and gain you need you can get that sound with any EQ that caters for those parameters.
Same for compression, as soon as you know what attack, ratio and release you are looking for, you can do that with any compressor that caters for those ratio's you can add tube or *witch* with stock plugins, experiment with serial or parallel compression, use FX on sends, or inserts, choose where and when to apply sidechain etc etc.
Plugin "vibe" is a futile piece of the puzzle.

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Re: Compressors / EQ + Attributes

Post by Romantique Tp » Mon Aug 14, 2017 1:42 am

The primary goal of owning multiple different compressors is to achieve certain types of compression without too much tweaking. This way you can focus on making the character of the compressor work in the context of your music instead of wasting time trying to make it do a certain thing. Different compressors do definitely have different "specialties".

That said, I do believe that OP is well covered by what he already has and that he just needs to learn when to use which tool.
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Re: Compressors / EQ + Attributes

Post by Stephen57 » Mon Aug 14, 2017 6:42 am

foolomon wrote:
Sun Aug 13, 2017 3:35 pm
Agreed, but the math is what matters. I'm looking for specific coloration of the signal to be able to get a desired quality in my result.

To be more specific, I'm happy with my sound. But I also know it could be better, especially when I A/B my stuff to that produced by Lenny, Kim, Jet, etc. I currently own Komplete, the FabFilter Suite, plus others. But either I simply don't know how to use what I have (certainly possible though I've been using them for a while), or there's something missing due to the way they affect the signal chain.

My biggest deficiencies are the vocals and overall sheen in the final mix. I've gotten better at both of these over the years, but am looking to elevate my game even further.
The only question that might be useful here is to look at your audio monitoring environment. Have you, for example, calibrated your listening position to any degree? I sat down with a calibrated level meter and went though the procedure to get at least some grasp of what monitoring level I was using. It was very a very useful exercise for me. I now have markings on my interface so I know I'm monitoring at or near a specific dBSPL. Doing that I'd say was the single biggest thing I did recently (this year) that had a real impact on my understanding of how to get things to sound better.

I second the sage advice to use more reference tracks and seeing if there's any good trade or technical journals with articles about how a particular track was produced. Also, I agree with the general idea of getting the idea at least sketched out and then start with enhancement, correction and working toward a finished mix and final master.

I posted about this in a sort of related thread here: "What is a good mix or master?"
viewtopic.php?f=198&t=118791

I try to find language to describe a sound I want to create or re-create. I find that if I can do that, I can come closer to knowing what techniques or technology might be used to achieve it, or I'm better able to ask a clear question that another engineer or producer can answer. I've used the basic charts from David Gibson's book, "The Art of Mixing." that provides some common terms for the coloration of sound in the major frequency ranges. Perhaps something like that would be useful? It has been for me. I also like David over at Mix Bus TV on youtube.

Bottom line is I hope you keep working on things and finding new ways to make interesting sounds. For me, the stock Cubase plug-ins and a few others I've started to use from Tokyo Dawn Labs provide me with a wealth of sounds and capabilities beyond anything I've ever had the good fortune of working with before. Good luck. Keep at it. :-)
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Re: Compressors / EQ + Attributes

Post by Raphie » Mon Aug 14, 2017 7:01 am

Romantique Tp wrote:
Mon Aug 14, 2017 1:42 am
The primary goal of owning multiple different compressors is to achieve certain types of compression without too much tweaking. This way you can focus on making the character of the compressor work in the context of your music instead of wasting time trying to make it do a certain thing. Different compressors do definitely have different "specialties".

That said, I do believe that OP is well covered by what he already has and that he just needs to learn when to use which tool.
Sure, yes they can, but how one uses them makes the sound, no one will say "that LA2A with 2dB GR is so typical "Lenny" it really defines and contributes to his sound". Hence it's not the most productive question to ask.

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Re: Compressors / EQ + Attributes

Post by MattiasNYC » Mon Aug 14, 2017 3:34 pm

I have to agree with you guys and "agree" with foolmoon here:

"The most productive question to ask" (is not the sound of specific models), or "The only question that might be useful here is to look at your audio monitoring environment" are really a bit presumptuous questions. They presume that the monitoring system is wrong or that the person in question isn't capable of achieving the sound they want using just any old plugin of the right kind. How do you know that that's true?

It's absolutely a valid question to ask which compressors 'do what' to the sound. If overdriving a real hardware 1176 when feeding it vocals yields one type a sound and a generic non-modeling plugin does not then that's a difference worth understanding.

It's worth understanding from a practical standpoint because otherwise the person might be reaching for these generic plugins and never achieving that specific sound (assuming there is one), and will be searching in the wrong place (i.e. "I'm incompetent" instead of "wrong tool"). And once the person understands what side effects the different devices yield they'll be able to more quickly get to their desired sound by choosing the right tool for the job sooner. This discussion is somewhat akin to telling people not to worry too much about which mic to buy and just learn their monitoring system and plugins instead. If all these devices indeed were equal then of course I'd agree, or if they all had distortion characteristics that were very similar. But they don't. Really prominent, skilled and successful engineers have insisted on some tools over others for decades, and it hasn't only been about ergonomics and the user interface.

It's also worth understanding from a theoretical standpoint because knowledge is a good thing.

So sorry for being a bit of a grouchy old fart today (recent events in the US has me on edge), but I think this is a prime case of where "Let's just answer the OPs question instead of answering different questions" is actually the more productive approach.
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Re: Compressors / EQ + Attributes

Post by Raphie » Mon Aug 14, 2017 5:07 pm

If you know what your plugs do and you know what your favorite artists do you, this topic wouldn't be here.
So it's really about 2 questions:
1. What do these plugins do?
2. How do my favorite artists use them?

The "how" is imho far more important than the "what"
besides that, you also need to be able to hear what's being used, I.e. if the tube crunch is the compressor or any other random tube 3rd order harmonics generating device. Very few can deduct full mixes to gear stacks on track level

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Re: Compressors / EQ + Attributes

Post by foolomon » Wed Aug 16, 2017 4:55 am

Well, considering I am my favorite artist that leaves me in a bit of a conundrum, doesn't it? :mrgreen:

I know what the outboard gear type does: compressors compress the signal, blah blah blah. What "compressors" as a general type definition doesn't tell you is what the various specific compressors do to the signal that enhance or attenuate certain frequencies, which make some compressors better suited for vocals than others, or for drums, etc. That's what I was trying to figure out.
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Re: Compressors / EQ + Attributes

Post by MattiasNYC » Wed Aug 16, 2017 3:17 pm

foolomon wrote:
Wed Aug 16, 2017 4:55 am
Well, considering I am my favorite artist that leaves me in a bit of a conundrum, doesn't it? :mrgreen:
lol
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Re: Compressors / EQ + Attributes

Post by foolomon » Wed Aug 16, 2017 3:41 pm

I was hoping people understood that statement wasn't to be taken too seriously. :P
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Re: Compressors / EQ + Attributes

Post by mitchiemasha » Wed Aug 16, 2017 4:59 pm

foolomon wrote:
Wed Aug 09, 2017 3:02 pm
This overloads my brain because I don't know what compressors are best for specific situations.
The ones that are best for specific situations are the ones that get you to the end result that you required, the quickest (or should i say most enjoyablest). The only way to discover this is in the doing. That's the secret... If we could be told the secret in 1 word we wouldn't understand it anyway. Just like telling someone how to ride a bike. Doesn't matter how much is done in the telling, you can't ride it until you can. Like there's 2 different kinds of knowing!!! One might know it all but still can't.

That been said, knowing the downfalls and advantages to certain techniques can be a huge head start, point in the right direction.

We have to program into ourselves the call and response of what is wrong in our mix, what we want to achieve and how to achieve it. Just like we maintain balance on a bike. We have no actually idea of how much pressure we are reasserting in different directions or the technical explanation of how we are doing it, we just do it! Go watch a video on someone trying to ride a bike with inverted handlebars!

It's a little bit of a wild one but I hope it clicks, makes sense!!!
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Re: Compressors / EQ + Attributes

Post by Raphie » Wed Aug 16, 2017 5:19 pm

La2a is good for non percussive stuff, vocals, bass etc. i would NOT put it on a masterbus unless you are doing an 80'ties R&B ballad. 1176 options are often more gritty and a bit more forgiving on attack/transients with milder settings.
But Miitchiemasha is full on the money. Just experiment and make mental notes of the vibes you hear.
Again when thinking LA2a think "soothing" 1176 think "grit"
Regarding EQ, you get focus by cutting 200-500 area where applicable. Presence in the 2k 3.5k area
Above the 4k don't boost to much as it doesn't sound to good itb, bit brittle, if you want more "air" cut elswhere to make space.

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Re: Compressors / EQ + Attributes

Post by Stephen57 » Wed Aug 16, 2017 5:52 pm

MattiasNYC wrote:
Mon Aug 14, 2017 3:34 pm
I have to agree with you guys and "agree" with foolmoon here:

"The most productive question to ask" (is not the sound of specific models), or "The only question that might be useful here is to look at your audio monitoring environment" are really a bit presumptuous questions. They presume that the monitoring system is wrong or that the person in question isn't capable of achieving the sound they want using just any old plugin of the right kind. How do you know that that's true?

It's absolutely a valid question to ask which compressors 'do what' to the sound. If overdriving a real hardware 1176 when feeding it vocals yields one type a sound and a generic non-modeling plugin does not then that's a difference worth understanding.

It's worth understanding from a practical standpoint because otherwise the person might be reaching for these generic plugins and never achieving that specific sound (assuming there is one), and will be searching in the wrong place (i.e. "I'm incompetent" instead of "wrong tool"). And once the person understands what side effects the different devices yield they'll be able to more quickly get to their desired sound by choosing the right tool for the job sooner. This discussion is somewhat akin to telling people not to worry too much about which mic to buy and just learn their monitoring system and plugins instead. If all these devices indeed were equal then of course I'd agree, or if they all had distortion characteristics that were very similar. But they don't. Really prominent, skilled and successful engineers have insisted on some tools over others for decades, and it hasn't only been about ergonomics and the user interface.

It's also worth understanding from a theoretical standpoint because knowledge is a good thing.

So sorry for being a bit of a grouchy old fart today (recent events in the US has me on edge), but I think this is a prime case of where "Let's just answer the OPs question instead of answering different questions" is actually the more productive approach.
I agree with the OP as well, but this the lounge and I don't mind a bit of topic drift. I actually enjoy it.

In my comment, I wasn't assuming something is not right about the monitoring, however I see how I might have given that impression. I wanted to suggest that the monitoring be looked at in conjunction with making decisions about plug-ins or signal processing. It's been so helpful for me to work both sides -- learning the plug-ins and their various sounds, making sure I keep track of what I'm actually hearing in the monitors, or what's missing or perhaps creating trouble in the room or in the mix.

Better gear and better, acoustically treated mixing spaces do bring about better results in the hands of the the highly skilled engineers and producers who know how to use them. Anyone who has set foot or worked in a high-end recording room, mixing space, sound stage, concert hall, even a good recital chamber, and I have, appreciates what amazing things excellent acoustic treatment does.

The Guild analogy works for me. While Norm on New Yankee Workshop could probably make a wonderful piece working in some basement carpentry shop, the guy or gal who owns that basement shop could not produce the amazing work Norn can when he, Norm, is working in his workshop with the tools and materials he chooses (or the client demands :roll:). Norm's a Master Carpenter and the same is true for the senior engineers and senior producers in the industry. I consider myself to be an apprentice, maybe, if I'm being kind, Journeyman lowest grade. I'm here to learn.

To actually get a little back on topic. For me Cubase's compressors are very powerful and interesting. I'm learning to use them both for controlling dynamics and for tone shaping. The Vintage and Tube Compressors I use more for tone coloring and I still don't think I'm fully exploiting them as best as I might. The standard and brickwall compressors and the limiter I use more for loudness and final mix bus or master bus treatment or enhancement. I'm going for single project mixes not Mastered Albums of work. The latter would be well beyond my current abilities and facilities, the former seems within reach with what I have, and, of course I want more cool plug-ins, instruments, better monitors, some top quality microphones, a better room, etc...

Thanks for all the posts, take care for now.

P.S. lastly, to veer wildly off topic again, I've been quoting Karl Popper recently on tolerance. He said, "Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them. We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant," Karl Popper. Often called "the paradox of tolerance," given what's happening, it seems to be much needed now.
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Re: Compressors / EQ + Attributes

Post by Raphie » Wed Aug 16, 2017 6:14 pm

Yes, The voice of reason Stephen. But you know these type of topics deserve a bit of frank and a bit more directness. As they are not really questions but more comprehensive leisure brainfarts endrenched in laziness. The OP already knew that the Mitchiemasha answer would be the kind of answer he would get/action he could take to solve his "problem" . It's good to tickle/challenge people a bit to get their brain in motion as these brainfarts eat a lot of bandwidth, if you don't reduce it to the core of the question. extensive spoonfeeding answering all scenario's is the easy way.

The synopsys of "I own a slate bundle" and it fries my brain even thinking of trying all plugins in there, just name me every plugin and what's typically used for" is just a RIDICOLOUS question.

Then then 2nd question is even more ridiculous "It would be even better if you you also tell me how my favorite artists put these plugs to their best use in their productions, so I can automatically sound like them' :lol: silly questions no?!?

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Re: Compressors / EQ + Attributes

Post by Stephen57 » Thu Aug 17, 2017 3:48 am

Raphie, I think we have to muddle our way into understanding how to use the audio processing and so a certain amount of quandary and barinfartery is going to be part of the process. it certainly has been for me. Then, there's also the marketing forces and PR pushing out the "new" stuff. Some of it is great, some of it is not better than what we already have, but the hype about a product is a factor. Sometimes it's hard to know, other times a product becomes a "must use" because everyone else is using it, artists and clients demand it with or without any real justification from creative, production or engineering standpoints.

I do have some very precise questions about some the Cubase processors and general processing questions. If I post on those I'll try to be more exacting and provide a screen shot and so on. I've also found some really great sounding presets in the libraries offered by some of the plug-ins. I'm starting to save more plug-in presets and Preset Chains all of which is helping with Project development.

IMHO, we're lucky we can slap on an EQ or a Compressor and then remove it, change it, all so easily. In the old days of hardware and wires, a simple task, a simple Kick/Pad side-chain compression (assuming one even had the equipment for it), for example, would take much more effort than it does now in the DAW. Someone with a even a modest set of plug-ins and instruments -- Cubase Pro Nine stock set -- has access to a great amount of sound processing capability. I've never had a better sound making experience than I have with Cubase. Take care fo now
-------------------------------------------------------
DAW: Cubase Pro 9 (current release); PC: HP Z230, i5 CPU quad-core 3.5 Ghz, 16 Gigs RAM; OS: Win 7 Pro 64-bit; Audio I/O; Scarlett 2I4: USB MIDI Controller, Akai Advance 49. VST Instruments: Steinberg: HSSE, Retrologue 2, Groove Agent SE, Padshop, Mystic, Prologue, Spector; Air Music: Hybrid, Transfuser 2, Vacuum Pro, Velvet, Xpand2; Novation: Bass Station; Sonovox Grand Piano; Rack: Proteus 2000, Korg 03R/W, Yamaha TG 33. Monitoring with Tannoy and KRK.

For help with Cubase:
Documentation - https://steinberg.help/
Everything you need to know about Generic Remote setups --
viewtopic.php?f=226&t=102993
The Steinberg Forum Knowledgebase for Users by Users viewtopic.php?f=198&t=23576

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Re: Compressors / EQ + Attributes

Post by Stephen57 » Thu Aug 17, 2017 4:11 am

foolomon wrote:
Wed Aug 16, 2017 4:55 am
Well, considering I am my favorite artist that leaves me in a bit of a conundrum, doesn't it? :mrgreen:

I know what the outboard gear type does: compressors compress the signal, blah blah blah. What "compressors" as a general type definition doesn't tell you is what the various specific compressors do to the signal that enhance or attenuate certain frequencies, which make some compressors better suited for vocals than others, or for drums, etc. That's what I was trying to figure out.
For Drums and Bass, I like some of the Presets in the Vintage Compressor. There's one called Brit Acoustic (if my memory serves, not on DAW now) that blew my mind when I first heard it. It took me some time to work out what was going on, but it was drastically shaping the tone of the kit. I was using it on a pretty dry Acoustic Agent standard rock kit. I like that "punch" button it has, too, it lets the transient pass and then kicks in on the rest. Nice. It kind of works backwards in a way, so I often have to re-wire my brain when I put it on.

The Tube Compressor I like on Vocals and also on guitar at times. I've not worked with it enough and think I should be using it more than I am. I think of it as a tone shaping compressor with the drive control and the internal side-chain it has. It's nice.

I really like the Limiter. I use that on individual tracks for recording at times, on the Mix Bus and then on the Master Bus -- when I'm trying to take something to a Master Level, final loudness. It's clean and lets me control the loudness. I also like Limter6 and want to get the new "Gentleman's edition" of it from Tokyo Dawn Labs.

I don't like the Brickwall Limiter as much, it seems to make things sound more brittle. Maybe I'm not using it totally correctly yet.

I like the Maximizer on the Mix Bus and on individual tracks at times, but used sparingly. It seems to do nice things to the mids and high frequencies. I wish there was more control and more information about what it actually is doing. I keep meaning to try it on Vocals, but so far I've not had the right Project for that, but it might make backgrounds really pop out in a mix in a good way.

I like the Channel Strip a lot and how flexible it is. I often change the order of the items on it and it's so clean to work with. I use the strip compressors for side-chain. Mostly I have the strip first, then the inserts, but sometimes I do put the strip after the inserts. I like the Pre Section too and use the Low and High cuts on that often, that then leaves me four other bands of EQ on the strip.

Frequency EQ is excellent. I'm using the M/S on the Low End to cut the bass from the side channel. It also has a lot of headroom. Very nice plug-in, well worth the upgrade to Ver 9, imho.

VST Dynamics I've not used as much as I should, but it's a very good plug-in. Very clean, not for coloring the sound, just for controlling the dynamics.

Anyway, that's some of where it's at for me at this point. Good luck with your Proejcts. :-)
-------------------------------------------------------
DAW: Cubase Pro 9 (current release); PC: HP Z230, i5 CPU quad-core 3.5 Ghz, 16 Gigs RAM; OS: Win 7 Pro 64-bit; Audio I/O; Scarlett 2I4: USB MIDI Controller, Akai Advance 49. VST Instruments: Steinberg: HSSE, Retrologue 2, Groove Agent SE, Padshop, Mystic, Prologue, Spector; Air Music: Hybrid, Transfuser 2, Vacuum Pro, Velvet, Xpand2; Novation: Bass Station; Sonovox Grand Piano; Rack: Proteus 2000, Korg 03R/W, Yamaha TG 33. Monitoring with Tannoy and KRK.

For help with Cubase:
Documentation - https://steinberg.help/
Everything you need to know about Generic Remote setups --
viewtopic.php?f=226&t=102993
The Steinberg Forum Knowledgebase for Users by Users viewtopic.php?f=198&t=23576

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