Must my Ableton productions be mastered to sound pro?

Discussion of music production, audio, equipment and any related topics, either with or without Ableton Live
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Must my Ableton productions be mastered to sound pro?

Post by vince1440 » Sun Sep 14, 2014 1:13 am

I am a hip hop producer. Around 6 months ago I made the switch from FL studios to Ableton and haven't looked back. I now notice a vast improvement in the quality of my mixes. With my Fl studios productions, I noticed an overall improvement in sound quality if I applied the basic mastering effects like compression, eq'ing and such. I would do many tweaks and end up getting a better result then if I did nothing. When I switched to Ableton, I noticed that if I simply mixed everything together with no special mastering effects added, it sounded as good or even better then my Fl studio tracks did with all those mastering effects. So now I'm wondering if I should be applying mastering effects to my Ableton mixes if they sound so good already without any. If it ain't broke then don't fix it, I was thinking.

But I'm reading from various sources that usually some form of mastering is needed beyond simply mixing everything good to achieve a professional industry quality sounding mix. I have all these expensive professional limiter/EQ/mid-side/compressor plugins but the question is will it really make a big difference, i'm not sure. Ableton sounds so good on it's own that I have not been mastering any of my productions made with it, I just simply mix everything together correctly and maybe EQ the kick but that's it. No special limiting/compressing/major eq'ing/stereo enhancement. Nothing. Just a barebones mix and to me my mixes sound pro just like that. To people here that use Ableton, do you usually have to do alot of mastering to achieve the sound quality you want? If so what do you usually do?

Here is both a production I made with Ableton, and an older one made on FL studio. Does my Ableton mix sound pro? does it sound better then my FL studio one? would my ableton mix benefit from intensive mastering effects?
Last edited by vince1440 on Wed Sep 17, 2014 12:25 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Must my Ableton productions be mastered to sound pro?

Post by JoshG567 » Sun Sep 14, 2014 5:58 am

Just do what your ears tell you. Try some shit and if you think it sounds better then roll with it.

Caveat - your ears may not be as good as you think. Keep working on it.

Knowing what you really mean at a deeper level when you say "sound pro," rather than it being a vague abstraction, could be a goal.

What does that mean? Nicely controlled but not squashed dynamic range? Ability to hear each instrument in the mix clearly? When you know what it really means, it becomes clearer how to attain it with the available tools.

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Re: Must my Ableton productions be mastered to sound pro?

Post by jlgrimes » Sun Sep 14, 2014 1:33 pm

Not necessarily.

Stuff is made pro mostly from good songwriting, arranging, producing, mixing skills. Mastering is a small final step. It won't turn your song into a hit or turn a horrible mix into a great one.

That said it is a great thing to do on professional projects to give the song a final set of independent ears on a what should be a great sounding mix before being released.

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Re: Must my Ableton productions be mastered to sound pro?

Post by JoshG567 » Sun Sep 14, 2014 5:50 pm

Gentle multiband RMS compression of just a few dB will pretty much make anything sound smoother. Glue compressor set to low threshold on low wetness will always make things pop a bit more. It's all really subtle and until your ears can hear it for what it is in other peoples' "pro" sounding productions, it is just esoteric bells & whistles.

Experiment with a good a priori idea of what a device will really do to your sound (reading the manual helps, believe it or not) and see if you can actually hear the difference. A/B your listening with and without a device so that the signal is the same RMS with A or B and you don't just say the louder one is better. That's how you learn to recognize the specific presence of those effects in other peoples' sound.

"Hmmm those drums gel together unnaturally, I bet there's some compression on the group bus" you'll say to yourself, and think of a part of one of your own tracks that'd benefit from it.

I think LOTS of ppl set compressors without being able to hear what they're doing and just assume a preset or some advice they read elsewhere will apply - set and forget.

john gordon
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Re: Must my Ableton productions be mastered to sound pro?

Post by john gordon » Sun Sep 14, 2014 6:58 pm

You need to mix your stuff down in Ligic if you really want to have that extra pro shine.
It's a known fact that Abletons audio engine is shite. Google it.

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