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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


If you happen to’re a producer who’s mixing your individual music, then you definately’ll most likely wish to use the instruments, methods and sources at your fingertips to get the perfect sound.

Combine bus processing is considered one of 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 top result’s one thing that your listeners love.

But like all passionate inventive, 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 study:

  • Why combine bus processing is used on all the perfect songs
  • The most effective combine bus processing methods (and find out how to set them up)
  • Some really useful instruments & plugins you should utilize

Let’s go! ?

Cue, combine bus processing!

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

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

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

Nonetheless, combine bus processing is a polarizing matter:

  • Some have a look at it with warning and decide to by no means use it, vouching that if you happen to can’t get it proper “within the combine”, that you just shouldn’t even trouble attempting to lean on mix-bus processing to enhance what in any other case is perhaps a lacklustre combine.
  • Some take a measured strategy and can use a combination bus fastidiously contemplating its affect on the general presentation of the combination. Individuals on this camp have a look at it as one other software to shifting the needle ahead. Neither is it a necessity to a fantastic 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 typically see it as a part of the their model as a mixing engineer, imprinting a sonic character that appears like ‘them’.

Combine bus processing: sure or no?

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

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 greatest presentation of the combination – one that you just’re pleased with and you could truthfully say represents the music in its greatest mild, so if you should use a combination bus to do this, so be it.

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

If you happen to’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 identified to different individuals you present if you happen to’re looking for suggestions.

Honesty, communication and understanding are the perfect insurance policies when mixing a document – each with your self and some other events concerned if you happen to’re working with a workforce.

If you happen to’re looking for to right your combine on a micro-level, it’s best to tackle that factor independently of the combination bus. Combine bus processing addresses the general make-up of the combination – if you happen to’re attempting to repair finite particulars on the combination bus, you’ll find yourself doing so at a compromise for adjoining components 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/Aspect EQ

Listed here are a couple of ideas for plugins you should utilize 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 go away 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 among the strongest mixing instruments typically. When used fastidiously in your combine bus, it will possibly assist your combine sing.

I primarily use FabFilter Professional-Q 3, however here’s a extra complete record 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/Aspect processing is a gamechanger. It lets you 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 commonplace EQ and mid/aspect EQ.

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

Understanding what to do subsequent

It’s all nicely and good to be informed to slap on a couple of plugins and name it a day, however it will most likely 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 reside on a combination bus?

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

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

Pondering of the combination in these 4 dimensions might help 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 Part’ choice on FabFilter Professional-Q 3. It will preserve the coherence of the combination, and your mastering engineer will thanks.

What processing doesn’t reside on a combination bus?

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

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

These are sometimes used as inventive 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 to your combine bus you wish to take into account:

“What dimensions of the general combine would I wish 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

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

These are the small print of the short-term peaks and the way they relate to the motion, weight, and affect of the music.

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

“Microdynamics are the music’s rhythmic expression.”

Bob Katz

Some questions you may 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 info 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 most typical type of dynamic processing.

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

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

Listed here are my really useful 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 model of compression received’t assist the snap of your combine alongside, it will possibly assist the punch. Slower assault instances permit room for the transients to breathe, adopted by a bit of 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 must get heaps of achieve discount right here – even 2-3dB may be sufficient to present the combination some punch!

Upward compression for thickness/weight:

Upward compression is used to elevate 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 affect.

That is achieved via parallel processing – compressing a parallel ship of the combination bus (comparatively aggressively) with a view to convey 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 utilize 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 prime finish. The brighter your prime finish, the weaker your low finish.

All steadiness is relative, and though particular person components might sit collectively properly, the fruits of them as a combination may find yourself with a low-high frequency steadiness that doesn’t carry throughout the music favourably.

That is the place EQing the combination bus might help characterise your combine appropriately.


As I stated earlier, the whole lot is relative.

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

As an alternative, take into account attenuating the highest finish to have an identical impact, with out having to spice up and spoil your section relationship.


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

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

Nonetheless, 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 to’re not slicing out sure sub notes, or utilizing too steep of a slope (creating section points). In any other case, you may mess issues up extra.

Stereo Subject: Mid/Aspect Sign Stability

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

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

How do you get the perfect of each worlds?

The very first thing I wouldn’t suggest is augmenting the section relationships of the left and proper channels with “stereo processing” plugins on the combination bus. If there isn’t sufficient stereo info, 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 robust means to assist convey your combine to a different stage. However each motion you’re taking have to be in the perfect curiosity of a combination’s musicality.

Take heed to the document and let it inform you what it wants – ought to or not 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 continually A/Bing and listening back to the material.

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

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