Mastering The Mix

How To Make A Song Punchier During Stereo Mastering

There’s a lot of focus on compression and limiting during song mastering. Whilst these processes are necessary, they can sometimes reduce the punch of the transients. In this video and blog post, I’ll explore how to inject some punch back into your master. I’ll show you how I use the module PUNCH within our plugin ANIMATE to:

  1. Add Punch To The Full Frequency Spectrum In A Master
  2. Increase the punch of the kick without affecting other elements in the mix.
  3. Increase the punch of a wide snare and lift it out of the mix in a transparent way.

 

 

Adding Punch To The Full Frequency Spectrum In A Master

Adding Punch To The Full Frequency Spectrum In A Master

PUNCH is incredibly effective at adding bite to your master when it’s feeling a bit flat. Load up ANIMATE on your master channel, it doesn’t really matter where in the chain, just as long as it’s before the limiter. 

 

Set the amount to 100% as a good starting point, then bring the threshold down so the louder transients are surpassing the white handle.

 

At this point, I suggest clicking the headphone icon so you can solo what you’re doing. This will allow you to set the perfect sensitivity, attack, and release.

 

Punch uses different gain envelopes to determine transients. A low sensitivity will allow more transients through, a high sensitivity will only allow the most prominent transients through. When working with a full master, going for a low sensitivity will give more music results. On an individual snare channel where you want to add some serious smack, you might want to go for a higher sensitivity.

 

A fast attack will mean you can accentuate the hits. You can set the release based on what you feel works with the groove of the track. Longer releases can sound a bit smoother when working with the entire frequency spectrum.

 

Adding Punch To The Kick In A Master

Adding Punch To The Kick In A Master

PUNCH’s ability to zone into your mix makes it the perfect tool to lift out specific frequencies with mid-side precision. When you want to subtly accentuate the kick in a stereo master, add an instance of PUNCH to your master channel.

 

I like to set the amount to 100% as a good starting point as I tweak the other settings. Make sure the audio is surpassing the white threshold handle.

 

Click the headphone icon to solo the effect, then drag the filter to make sure you only affect the low frequencies of the kick.

 

You can focus the attention of PUNCH’s effect by clicking the ‘M’ button. This means the effect will only be applied to the mid-channel, which is where the kick is placed in 99% of songs.

 

If you wanted to accentuate the body of the kick, an attack longer than the initial transient would be the best option. In this circumstance, I wanted to increase the start of the transient, so I went for a fast attack.

 

Soloing the effect is a good way to set the release to work in time with the tail of the kick. In this track, the kick had a fairly short tail so a family short release worked well.

 

Once you’ve set the perfect parameters, tweak the amount to get the kick sitting perfectly in relation to the other elements. This approach can work well when you already have your limiter set-up so you can hear how the kid responds to the limiters processing and use PUNCH to compensate for any transient decrease.

 

Adding Punch To A Wide Snare In A Master

Adding Punch To A Wide Snare In A Master

Percussive elements, snares, claps, hi-hats, etc work best when they have clarity in the mix. Having a distinct transient can help achieve that. When you get to the mastering stage and you feel like a subtle lift is needed, PUNCH is the tool you want to reach for.

 

Dynamic EQs are great for many things, but they aren’t specifically designed for enhancing transients, and multi-band compressor/expanders can introduce phase problems. PUNCH was specifically designed to work with transients and uses a high-quality all-pass filtering system to make sure no unwanted phase issues are introduced.

 

To add some punch to a wide snare, fire up ANIMATE on your master channel and set the amount to 100%. Select ’S’ to on apply the effect to the side channel. This will affect the audio signal fed into ANIMATE, so it’s best to do that before setting the threshold slider.

 

Now solo the effect and adjust the frequency slider to focus the effect just on the snare. You can adjust the sensitivity based on what other elements can be heard in the side channels. Remember that moving it more towards zero (left) will allow more transients through, which can sound more musical but can also lose focus from the transient snare itself.

 

Experiment with the attack and release to get it working with the impact and tail of your snare. Often you want the hit of the snare to be fairly sharp, but a slower attack will give way for a softer sound whilst still pulling it to the front of the mix.

 

Always do a before and after comparison to make sure you’ve made positive progression the sound of your mix.

 

Conclusion

Having a specific sonic goal in mind is the first step, but being able to carry out that goal effectively can be challenging. PUNCH is a super powerful and precise tool to bring out the transients in any audio, even a full master. Grab the free trial, if you haven’t already, and hear how it can improve the punch of your next track.

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