Being deliberate and precise when working with plugins will increase your value as a music producer and audio engineer.
I’m totally against any ‘set and forget’ approaches when it comes to working with audio. Seemingly insignificant or minor mixing decisions can accumulate to result in a considerable improvement to the sound.
What Do I Mean By Precise Audio Engineering?
Plugins that change the sound of your audio are versatile and powerful tools. Many plugins have a monumental number of possible settings, so it’s easy to settle for a ‘ballpark’ sound. This ‘ballpark’ approach is holding your mixes back.
If sounding as good as possible is important to you, then fine tune every plugin parameter to work as well as possible with your audio. This is precise audio engineering.
How To Set The Perfect Plugin Parameters
A great approach to mixing is to work on a soloed channel, and then make further adjustments whilst listening to the channel in the context of the whole mix. Jumping back an forth like this gives you great perspective on the changes you are making to your audio.
We can get a clearer understanding of how we’re changing our mix by zooming in even closer.
A lot of plugins allow you to solo the parameter you’re working on. I find myself reaching for these plugins more than others as I can get precise results faster. When you’re able to zoom in like this you get a better understanding of exactly how many dB the EQ boost should be, the perfect ratio for your de-esser or the perfect crossover for your multi-band compressor.
Example 1: Precise EQ
Sonnox Dynamic EQ let’s you solo the band you’re working on so you can fine-tune the cut / boost, Q setting and dynamic processing.
Example 2: Precise De-Esser
UAD - Precision De-Esser allows you to solo the frequency you’re reducing so you can hear where the ‘esses’ are piercing through the mix.
Example 3: Precise Distortion
With Vertigo VSM-3 the amazing monitoring section let’s you solo either the mid or side channel, as well as the 2nd, 3rd or both distortion modules.
Example 4: Precise Limiting
Fabfilter’s Pro L2 solo feature let’s you listen to the peaks affected by the limiter. This second perspective will let you adjust the limiter settings to work perfectly with your audio.
Don’t settle for a ballpark sound, zoom in closer to your mix and tweak the settings to perfection to help your production reach their fullest sonic potential.