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I'm interested in creating the most 'dynamically interesting' sound from music that I've produced on a computer, which includes vocal samples, bass, rhythm and instruments.

At first I was happy with the final sound, but I've come to realise it was too HF dominant in the final mix, with not enough emphasis in the lower freq. positions. Also, being a wholly digital production, it can be argued as needing that elusive injection of warmth.

I'm used to thinking about A/B'ing the mix with a production I like the sound of (i.e. switching between my music and the music of some producing I really like and testing for differences etc.)

I'm also aware of the technique of adding a little white noise into the background (tape hiss). This is a good technique.

I suppose then my question is, what qualities tend to work best in the final sound that is produced, and what techniques can be used to go about getting a richer sound from an audio signal?

Also, general techniques that are known to work for enhancing the music created or arranged by a producer..?

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If you're looking to create dynamically interesting music then you should go easy on the compression. Compression can give a kind of 'warmth' by making everything sound bigger and bringing out the bass.

I've over compressed everything in the past trying to keep up with the 'pros' and I just can't do it like they do. It makes my ears hurt. And even the pros do it to loud.

I suppose then my question is, what qualities tend to work best in the final sound that is produced, and what techniques can be used to go about getting a richer sound from an audio signal?

What a question! You can modify things all along the way since you have a computer. Use a different kick drum or bass sample if you need more bass. EQ the instrument for a bit more low end. Go easy on the cymbals and HF percussion, they are still heard at lower levels. Of course you can EQ the entire mix if you'd like to raise all the bass levels.

Instruments may produce richer or thinner sounds. Microphones may produce the same. There are so many choices, it's hard to know what to do.

Depending on your music style, you may just want to directly compare your bass levels right from the start - I find I need to pump it up. There's alot of talk about subtractive EQing - but don't be afraid to boost that bass.

Anyway, that's some opinions from an amateur doing this for 10 years, so take that for what it's worth.

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Both plugins are not very well-suited for mastering, I'm afraid. Tube-style saturation/overdrive is great for single input signals because its asymmetric clipping adds not just odd harmonics but also warmer-sounding even ones; but in the mix you will already have plenty of both and these asymmetric characteristics are rather a drawback when you want a tight overall sound. You rather want a tape-style saturation, this results in a particular kind of dynamic-sounding compression while adding neither the unnatural pumping of solid-state compressors nor heavy clipping artifacts. And this CamelPhat thing seems to be designed rather to give assorted signals an extra push , but that's no good to apply on all channels together: the boosted frequencies (in your case it seems to be the HF) will just be annoying without really bringing out anything in the mix.

Get some plugins that are designed for more subtle modifications. Multiband compressors can do a great job in the mastering. Also try multiple EQs with very gentle settings rather than single large boosts or cuts. The most important thing in mastering is that you should not notice anything was done at all unless you make a direct comparison.

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Hi, yep I think you're right, the tools (CamelPhat) that I'm using might not be great for the job of affecting multiple channels, and the exciter HF filter it has might indeed be a bad idea. Thanks for the feedback. –  AlexW Jul 17 '11 at 14:59
    
I've removed that bit of the question! Mainly because I am looking for general ideas that are known to work as mastering techniques. Apologies for that, but many thanks for the great answer. –  AlexW Jul 17 '11 at 15:02

things that could add some final polishing:

  • using Multiband Exciter
  • Tape saturation. The best would be analog, but it could be also some vst
  • Automation of final mix volume (lower on verse, higher on chorus ect.)
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