I was recently contacted by a previous client of ours, who is currently a student studying his second year of electronic music production in Bristol. He is writing his dissertation on mastering and critical listening and asked if I could help him by answering a few questions. Of course I said yes, I feel it's important engineers with experience and knowledge help others who are at university or college trying to better themselves and get into this industry.
1) What Benefits Does A Mastering Compressor Bring Compared To A Bus Compressor?
Dedicated mastering compressors are optimized for mastering purposes. There are a number of possible things you will find on mastering compressors that you won't find on compressors designed for mixing. Mastering compressors will often have a stepped dials. Meaning that the knob turning from 1 to 10 clicks through at 10 increments. Mixing compressors will go from 1 to 10 seamlessly or at around 50 increments. One reason for this is when recalling a mastering chain the settings are easy to dial in.
Mastering compressors will often have different ratios when compared to mixing compressor. These ratios are often more detailed. Most mastering compressors include a side chain filter which is incredibly important for me. Mixing compressors will rarely include a side chain filter.
2) What Would A Shadow Hills Dual Vandagraph Bring To The Final Master Compared To An Elysia Xpressor?
A Shadow Hills compressor would bring a lot more control to the master. It can be used in a lot more finer detail, resulting in the mastering engineer being able to control the song with pin point accuracy. Having the ability to use a side chain filter with the Shadow Hills compressor does mean you are able to compressor the entire song without squashing the bass.
3) What Is The Purpose Of The Shadow Hills Dual Vandagraph?
The purpose I use this compressor in my mastering chain is to subtly control the overall track. I never really use this compressor with more than a 4:1 ratio. It is always used subtle and I just flick the input into the threshold. A much loved and used 99% of the time compressor in my mastering chain.
4) Does The Shadow Hills Dual Vandagraph Make A Difference To The Sound?
Makes a huge difference to the experienced ear. It's not so much how it sounds, it's how well it controls the track. For instance some compressor will suck and pull a track when compressed but not the Shadow Hills, it's highly controlled and can be pushed harder before sucking like other compressors. It doesn't colour the sound in any way.
5) How Would You Rate The Shadow Hills Dual Vandagraph Personally?
I love the Shadow Hills compressor it is essential to our mastering chain. Personally I couldn't live without it. It's an expensive compressor but it's well worth the investment.