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Home / Producer Tips / What Is A Combine Bus: Creating A Killer Processing Chain

What Is A Combine Bus: Creating A Killer Processing Chain


When you’re a producer who’s mixing your individual music, then you definitely’ll in all probability wish to use the instruments, methods and assets at your fingertips to get the most effective sound.

Combine bus processing is one in all these instruments that may take one thing from good to nice, however what’s it?

Most frequently you’re tweaking your combine on the micro-level – making your snare drum punchier, your bass fatter, and your synths wider, hoping that the tip result’s one thing that your listeners love.

But like several passionate artistic, you wish to know:

“How can I push it that additional 1%? How can I make it go to 11?

That is the facility of combine bus processing. On this article, you’ll be taught:

  • Why combine bus processing is used on all the most effective songs
  • The very best combine bus processing methods (and how one can set them up)
  • Some really helpful instruments & plugins you should use

Let’s go! 👇

Cue, combine bus processing!

In a nutshell, the combination bus is the ultimate monitor in your DAW that each one audio is routed to.

In lots of DAW’s, that is referred to as the ‘Grasp’ monitor. However don’t get combine bus processing confused with mastering!

Any processing that happens on this channel, exterior of a mastering context, known as combine bus processing.

Nevertheless, combine bus processing is a polarizing subject:

  • Some have a look at it with warning and decide to by no means use it, vouching that when you can’t get it proper “within the combine”, that you just shouldn’t even hassle making an attempt to lean on mix-bus processing to enhance what in any other case could be a lacklustre combine.
  • Some take a measured method and can use a combination bus rigorously contemplating its impression on the general presentation of the combination. Folks on this camp have a look at it as one other instrument to transferring the needle ahead. Neither is it a necessity to an excellent combine.
  • Lastly, some will combine straight into the bus permitting it to form and “set the tone” for the remainder of the combination. Individuals who combine right into a processing chain usually see it as a part of the their fashion as a mixing engineer, imprinting a sonic character that feels like ‘them’.

Combine bus processing: sure or no?

As a mastering engineer who works with the two-track (stereo combine) provided, I’m usually requested what my ideas on combine bus processing are – questions like whether or not or not engineers and producers ought to depart that processing on or off forward of mastering.

Right here’s my take – the combination bus is a channel of audio in your mixing session, due to this fact the liberty to course of it bettering the connection and general sound of your combine is truthful sport.

If it helps you inform the story of the combination higher, I’m all for it being left on. Forward of mastering, you need your finest presentation of the combination – one that you just’re pleased with and that you could actually say represents the music in its finest gentle, so if it’s good to use a combination bus to do this, so be it.

Because the saying goes, if it sounds good, it sounds good.

When you’re uncertain if it’s serving to the combination, or if it can tie the mastering course of down, print two variations one with and one with out. Make notes of why you might like one over the opposite, and let that be recognized to different individuals you present when you’re looking for suggestions.

Honesty, communication and understanding are the most effective insurance policies when mixing a file – each with your self and every other events concerned when you’re working with a crew.

When you’re looking for to appropriate your combine on a micro-level, you must tackle that factor independently of the combination bus. Combine bus processing addresses the general make-up of the combination – when you’re making an attempt to repair finite particulars on the combination bus, you’ll find yourself doing so at a compromise for adjoining parts inside the combine.

Enhance your combine to start with, don’t depend on combine bus processing alone.

Really helpful: Mixing For Producers

The Gear You’ll Want: A Compressor, Parametric EQ & Mid/Facet EQ

Listed here are a couple of options for plugins you should use in your combine bus:

A compressor

Selecting a superb compressor is paramount when processing your combine bus. You need one thing that shapes the dynamics successfully, and every will depart a sonic imprint in your combine.

Listed here are a couple of choices:

  • Default Compressor
  • Vertigo VSC-2
  • FabFilter Professional-C 2

A parametric EQ

EQ is without doubt one of the strongest mixing instruments usually. When used rigorously in your combine bus, it might assist your combine sing.

I primarily use FabFilter Professional-Q 3, however here’s a extra complete checklist of choices:

  • Default EQ
  • FabFilter Professional-Q 3
  • iZotope Ozone EQ
  • DMG Audio EQuilibrium

Try to go for a digital parametric EQ right here. As nice as coloration EQ’s are (i.e. Pultec EQ), the above choices are way more versatile.

A mid/aspect (M/S) EQ

Mid/Facet processing is a gamechanger. It permits you to form the stereo picture precisely as you need it, and it may be nice for serving to mixes breathe.

Most superior EQ’s talked about earlier than have a mid/aspect mode, however listed here are a couple of choices anyway:

  • Default EQ (if it has a mid/aspect mode)
  • Brainworx bx_Digital V3
  • FabFilter Professional-Q 3 (mid/aspect mode)
FabFilter Pro-Q 3
FabFilter Professional-Q 3 is an excellent versatile EQ that I’d extremely suggest for combine bus processing, because it’s able to each customary EQ and mid/aspect EQ.

Can’t afford the paid choices? Try these free VST plugins.

Realizing what to do subsequent

It’s all effectively and good to be advised to slap on a couple of plugins and name it a day, however this may in all probability trigger extra hurt than good.

Listed here are a couple of methods to maneuver ahead when you’ve began creating your individual combine bus.

So, what kind of processing can dwell on a combination bus?

I like to interrupt the processing down into 4 classes: Dynamic, Tonal, Harmonic and Mid-Facet.

  • Dynamic: Compression, Limiting, Multiband Compression
  • Tonal: EQ
  • Harmonic: Distortion, Saturation, Excitation
  • Mid/Facet: M/S EQ, Stereo Imaging (cautious right here)

Pondering of the combination in these 4 dimensions can assist you make extra knowledgeable selections (e.g. don’t add delicate distortion once you want much less mid-highs).

Professional-tip: attempt to use the least phase-destructive variations of processing, such because the ‘Pure Section’ possibility on FabFilter Professional-Q 3. This can hold the coherence of the combination, and your mastering engineer will thanks.

What processing doesn’t dwell on a combination bus?

Usually, it’s finest to keep away from the next impact varieties when processing your combine bus: Time-based, Pitch-based, Refrain, and Section-based.

  • Time-based: Reverb & Delay
  • Pitch-based: Frequency Shifters, Pitch Shifters
  • Refrain
  • Section-based: Phasers, Flangers, Resonators & Comb Filters
Reverb is good, however attempt to use it earlier than the combination bus.

These are usually used as artistic FX, and even when used within the combine, doing it on a ship, or particular person channel/bus could be higher than the general combine bus (e.g. drum reverb).

When constructing out the processing in your combine bus you wish to take into account:

“What dimensions of the general combine would I prefer to have management over and why?”

Listed here are how we are able to form dynamics and tone with the aforementioned processors:

Dynamic composition and depth

Usually after we’re speaking dynamic composition from a mix-bus processing viewpoint, we’re contemplating the ‘microdynamics’.

These are the main points of the short-term peaks and the way they relate to the motion, weight, and impression of the music.

Because the 3x Grammy Award Profitable Mastering Engineer places it:

“Microdynamics are the music’s rhythmic expression.”

Bob Katz

Some questions you possibly can ask your self when contemplating the dynamics of your combine:

  • How punchy/snappy is your general combine?
  • What distance/depth is there between your transient data and the physique of the general manufacturing?
  • Does the combination really feel too flat or too spacious?

Downward compression for rounding transients (gluing a combination):

Downward compression is the commonest type of dynamic processing.

Making use of it brings the high-level passages and peak data of sign down, serving to clean transients out and making your combine sound fatter.

Ableton Live Glue Compressor on Master
Refined use of Ableton Stay’s Glue Compressor is a good instance of dynamic processing that smooths the combination over very well.

Listed here are my really helpful settings for downward compression in your combine bus:

  • Ratio: 2:1 or 4:1
  • Assault time: 10-40ms
  • Launch time: 75-300ms

Downward compression for punch/depth:

Whereas this fashion of compression gained’t assist the snap of your combine alongside, it might assist the punch. Slower assault instances enable room for the transients to breathe, adopted by a little bit little bit of launch to maintain the tail and physique of the combination.

These are some nice settings for letting the transients breathe:

  • Ratio: 1.5:1 or 2:1
  • Assault time: 30-125ms
  • Launch time: 40ms-125ms
You don’t have to get heaps of achieve discount right here – even 2-3dB will be sufficient to offer the combination some punch!

Upward compression for thickness/weight:

Upward compression is used to carry the low-level particulars and passages of a combination upwards. This brings up the obvious loudness with out affecting the integrity of any transient element and impression.

That is achieved by parallel processing – compressing a parallel ship of the combination bus (comparatively aggressively) so as to deliver out the low-level and mid-level particulars of the combination, to then mix again into the unique sign later.

Listed here are my private favorite settings for this, utilizing the Leapwing DynOne dynamics plugin (though you should use any plugin that helps upward compression):

  • Threshold: set for -4 to -12dB of GR (achieve discount)
  • Ratio: 4:1
  • Assault time: 125-300ms
  • Launch time: 125-300ms

Tonal Stability: Low-frequencies & Excessive-frequencies

The larger your low finish, the duller your high finish. The brighter your high finish, the weaker your low finish.

All steadiness is relative, and despite the fact that particular person parts could sit collectively properly, the fruits of them as a combination would possibly find yourself with a low-high frequency steadiness that doesn’t carry throughout the music favourably.

That is the place EQing the combination bus can assist characterise your combine appropriately.


As I stated earlier, the whole lot is relative.

Think about the trail of least resistance – for instance, is boosting your low finish with an EQ going to introduce new points from the part shift?

As a substitute, take into account attenuating the highest finish to have an analogous impact, with out having to spice up and destroy your part relationship.


Generally the fruits of the low finish (kicks, basses and sub-synths) could also be fully out of whack.

Tightening them up with a high-pass filter on the combination bus can assist clear the general steadiness:

Nevertheless, bear in mind to think about how this interacts not solely with the low finish, however makes the highest finish comparatively sound.

When doing this, be sure you’re not slicing out sure sub notes, or utilizing too steep of a slope (creating part points). In any other case, you would possibly mess issues up extra.

Stereo Subject: Mid/Facet Sign Stability

The broader a combination is (the extra distinction between the left and proper channels), the higher the sense of area and immersion, however the weaker the transient data will translate throughout.

The narrower a combination is (the extra similarity between the left and proper channels), the higher quantity of transient punch you’re going to get.

How do you get the most effective of each worlds?

The very first thing I wouldn’t suggest is augmenting the part relationships of the left and proper channels with “stereo processing” plugins on the combination bus. If there isn’t sufficient stereo data, repair this within the combine.

I’d resort to mid-side EQ to spice up/attenuate the aspect sign, proportionally to the quantity of area/depth and punch the combination calls on.


In abstract mix-bus processing is a strong means to assist deliver your combine to a different stage. However each motion you’re taking have to be in the most effective curiosity of a combination’s musicality.

Hearken to the file and let it let you know what it wants – ought to it’s punchier? Extra glued collectively? Brighter? Bassier? Louder?

Make selections primarily based in your ear, and be very purposeful within the processing you select by always A/Bing and listening back to the material.

Right here’s to turning your combine as much as 11!

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