Should I compress/limit master for a live DJ set?

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Jaan
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Should I compress/limit master for a live DJ set?

Post by Jaan » Mon Feb 23, 2009 10:34 pm

Hello, I'm DJing at a decent size club soon, all on ableton. Should I compress/limit the master channel?

Right now the only vst plugin that i have is the PSP vintagewarmer - will this do the job? If not, please suggest a good compressor/limiter vst thats not very expensive and that will do the job.

Also, best settings?

Cheers
filthy

Geezus
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Post by Geezus » Tue Feb 24, 2009 3:03 am

I would NEVER compress anything on the master channel, but putting a limiter on it would probably be a good idea in case any delay feedback or resonance or whatever gets out of hand. I think vintage warmer has a limiter built in so you could probably use that, just dont compress the main signal.

leedsquietman
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Post by leedsquietman » Tue Feb 24, 2009 3:38 am

limiter is definately a good idea, preventing clipping and potential damage to speakers is always a good idea.

Live 8 has a limiter. Otherwise there are freebies such as Yohng W1 or Kjaerhus Classic Limiter which are fine for DJing purposes. For a mastering limiter Voxengo Elephant 3 gets my vote but it's a bit overkill for just a quick and dirty DJ output limiting use, with 8x oversampling and lots of different modes. Something simple like the limiter in Live 8 is ideal for live use.

Compression is a matter of taste and source material. Ideally you should get the levels of your material at a constant level in advance, but you might like a touch of compression on the master buss for a touch of added punch (if done right). If your source material is all over the place level wise and you don't have time to fix it, then you could use a compressor, but it will affect dynamics and change the sound, not always for the better. Knowing how to use the tools is the most important consideration in deciding.
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sweetjesus
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Post by sweetjesus » Tue Feb 24, 2009 5:13 am

i use a limiter on master.

the apple audio units one works for me to keep any nasty peaks out of the way.

Johnisfaster
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Post by Johnisfaster » Tue Feb 24, 2009 6:24 am

I personally would steer clear of compressing tracks that are probably sounding pretty awesome to begin with. just adjust the levels of each one so they match each other somewhat and roll with it.

I would put a limiter on the master, but I would actually try to make sure I wasn't even touching ceiling so as to keep the tune pretty much untouched other than volume.
It was as if someone shook up a 6 foot can of blood soda and suddenly popped the top.

Da hand
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Post by Da hand » Tue Feb 24, 2009 1:44 pm

Johnisfaster wrote:I personally would steer clear of compressing tracks that are probably sounding pretty awesome to begin with. just adjust the levels of each one so they match each other somewhat and roll with it.

I would put a limiter on the master, but I would actually try to make sure I wasn't even touching ceiling so as to keep the tune pretty much untouched other than volume.
+1

No need at all for a compressor on DJ sets. All the songs are already mastered to their dynamic limit. Adjust the volume levels to match and mix with the levels low enough so that you are not clipping on the master when mixing tracks together. Then you can slap on a limiter on the master just in case something clips, but your limiter shouldn't see any limiting action most of the time.

leedsquietman
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Post by leedsquietman » Tue Feb 24, 2009 7:29 pm

this is true IF all of your songs have been mastered, and to broadly the same RMS level.

If you are using a mixture of signed, unsigned, pro artists and amateurs, the mix levels could vary widely. Some mastering engineers also slam it harder and care less about dynamics than others.

So it is up to you to sort out those levels in advance, or otherwise throw a compressor on to try and unify the levels.
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Da hand
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Post by Da hand » Tue Feb 24, 2009 8:41 pm

leedsquietman wrote:this is true IF all of your songs have been mastered, and to broadly the same RMS level.

If you are using a mixture of signed, unsigned, pro artists and amateurs, the mix levels could vary widely. Some mastering engineers also slam it harder and care less about dynamics than others.

So it is up to you to sort out those levels in advance, or otherwise throw a compressor on to try and unify the levels.
Mixing when DJing is all about balancing RMS levels - that is what we hear. Most tracks you will play out as a DJ will be mastered in some way - whether it is in someone's bedroom or a pro studio. It doesn't matter if they are at different RMS levels, because balancing RMS levels is what we do best.

Now, the peak levels will be different for tracks adjusted to similar RMS levels. This is why you have to leave enough headroom - because tracks with a wider dynamic range will have higher peaks when adjusted to the same RMS levels.

So far no compressor needed at all. If you want to be extra careful, then you can put a limiter on your master that could take care of a few rouge peaks once in a while (not slamming the mix like a limiter in production might).

So I still don't see a need for a compressor to try and "unify" the songs. What setting (because it would have to be only one setting) would you use that would unify tracks of different RMS levels and dynamics without touching their levels?

LoopStationZebra
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Post by LoopStationZebra » Tue Feb 24, 2009 9:47 pm

sweetjesus wrote:i use a limiter on master.

the apple audio units one works for me to keep any nasty peaks out of the way.
Hey sweetj, can you point me to the one you use? Been interested in incorporating one myself for live work.

Tnx
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Dean Eager
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Post by Dean Eager » Tue Feb 24, 2009 11:22 pm

Da hand wrote: Mixing when DJing is all about balancing RMS levels.
There's a lot more to DJing than that!

Jaan
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Post by Jaan » Wed Feb 25, 2009 12:28 am

Curiously I've found mixing is pretty automatic now that I mix harmonically. Preparation takes aaages though, but once that's down its very very simple.
Harmonic mixing is a no brainer, so to get a good mix all you need to know is if the song would roughly fit the dancefloor, and the rest is a simple loop at the end of the intro and a song in the same key or the key's relative major/minor or a fifth/fourth up/down. Then you add in as many decks as you want and experiment adding parts of each track and just take em out during breaks and when the main song is almost at the outro, you release the loop on the next track. Hard to explain but I'm trying :)
Huge off topic post, I know, but I had to get it out of my system... after I started doing mixing like that, it seems very overrated/braindead in ways, but then again simple mixing like that is what brings it back to knowing your music and really allows you to highlight track selection. iono.

As for limiting, I came across Tarekith's excellent leveling article: http://www.tarekith.com/assets/Leveling.html ... I used mp3gain on all my tracks to set them to 91db RMS (with the 89 default it was hard to warp) so I'll see how it goes. As for limiting, I'll try without first but I doubt I'll need it.
filthy

Dean Eager
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Re:

Post by Dean Eager » Thu Feb 26, 2009 1:10 pm

Jaan wrote:Curiously I've found mixing is pretty automatic now that I mix harmonically. Preparation takes aaages though, but once that's down its very very simple.
Harmonic mixing is a no brainer, so to get a good mix all you need to know is if the song would roughly fit the dancefloor, and the rest is a simple loop at the end of the intro and a song in the same key or the key's relative major/minor or a fifth/fourth up/down. Then you add in as many decks as you want and experiment adding parts of each track and just take em out during breaks and when the main song is almost at the outro, you release the loop on the next track. Hard to explain but I'm trying :)
Huge off topic post, I know, but I had to get it out of my system... after I started doing mixing like that, it seems very overrated/braindead in ways, but then again simple mixing like that is what brings it back to knowing your music and really allows you to highlight track selection. iono.
As a working club DJ of the last 7 years and a promoter for the last 6 years, I can share with you that (in my experience) it's those who underestimate the art of DJing (who think it's about getting their technique right and organising the 'perfect' set) who usually clear the dancefloor within a few records. Either that, or they play unoriginal, predictable sets; relying on tried and tested floorfillers that have been done to death.
I've taught a few people to DJ in the last few years and, as usual, they're usually more concerned about getting their technique right; however, I tell them that to be a good DJ it's far more important to have good record buying tactics and to learn to read a crowd.
I've seen many famous DJs (and often booked them too) who's beatmatching skills are poor and who's understanding of getting gain levels right are also poor; yet they get paid several £1000 a gig and are booked week in, week out to capacity crowds.

andydes
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Re: Re:

Post by andydes » Thu Feb 26, 2009 2:13 pm

Dean Eager wrote:[I've taught a few people to DJ in the last few years and, as usual, they're usually more concerned about getting their technique right; however, I tell them that to be a good DJ it's far more important to have good record buying tactics and to learn to read a crowd.
Isn’t the whole point of being taught how to DJ, to learn some techniques?

So exactly what do you do in your lessons? Record buying? Dancing behind the decks?

Da hand
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Re:

Post by Da hand » Thu Feb 26, 2009 3:03 pm

Dean Eager wrote:
Da hand wrote: Mixing when DJing is all about balancing RMS levels.
There's a lot more to DJing than that!
This statement was in the context of volume levels, as that is what the topic of this thread is about. Obviously there is more to DJing than volume levels.

Da hand
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Re: Re:

Post by Da hand » Thu Feb 26, 2009 3:17 pm

Dean Eager wrote:
Jaan wrote:Curiously I've found mixing is pretty automatic now that I mix harmonically. Preparation takes aaages though, but once that's down its very very simple.
Harmonic mixing is a no brainer, so to get a good mix all you need to know is if the song would roughly fit the dancefloor, and the rest is a simple loop at the end of the intro and a song in the same key or the key's relative major/minor or a fifth/fourth up/down. Then you add in as many decks as you want and experiment adding parts of each track and just take em out during breaks and when the main song is almost at the outro, you release the loop on the next track. Hard to explain but I'm trying :)
Huge off topic post, I know, but I had to get it out of my system... after I started doing mixing like that, it seems very overrated/braindead in ways, but then again simple mixing like that is what brings it back to knowing your music and really allows you to highlight track selection. iono.
As a working club DJ of the last 7 years and a promoter for the last 6 years, I can share with you that (in my experience) it's those who underestimate the art of DJing (who think it's about getting their technique right and organising the 'perfect' set) who usually clear the dancefloor within a few records. Either that, or they play unoriginal, predictable sets; relying on tried and tested floorfillers that have been done to death.
I've taught a few people to DJ in the last few years and, as usual, they're usually more concerned about getting their technique right; however, I tell them that to be a good DJ it's far more important to have good record buying tactics and to learn to read a crowd.
I've seen many famous DJs (and often booked them too) who's beatmatching skills are poor and who's understanding of getting gain levels right are also poor; yet they get paid several £1000 a gig and are booked week in, week out to capacity crowds.

I would never book a DJ who could not beatmatch and/or control his levels. I would also never book a DJ who could not work a dancefloor. Do you see where I am heading with this?

It is not about a compromise between one or the other, it is about having the best possible skills in all areas - that is what makes a good DJ or any artists for that matter. Therefore, when I teach DJ courses, I try to make the students understand that all aspects of DJing are all equally important.

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