Mixing And Mastering With IK Multimedia T-RackS

Mixing And Mastering With IK Multimedia T-RackS: The Official Guide reveals:

• An easy to understand overview of the T-RackS modules

• How to mix using T-RackS

• How to master using T-RackS

• Every you need to know about the stand-alone T-RackS mastering app

• Using T-RackS modules as plugins

• Mixing tips used by the pros

• Mastering tips used by the pros

• How different mastering signal paths can change the sound

• and much more!

What It's About

IK Multimedia’s T-RackS is a popular stand-alone audio mastering software application that includes a suite of powerful analog-modeled and digital dynamics and EQ processor modules that also work perfectly as plug-ins during mixing. While T-RackS is an extremely powerful tool for improving the quality of your recordings, all of that power won’t do you much good if it’s misused.

With Mixing and Mastering with IK Multimedia T-RackS: The Official Guide, you can learn how to harness the potential of T-RackS and learn the tips and tricks of using T-Racks processor modules to help bring your mixes to life, then master them so they’re competitive with any major label release.

If you are an instructor that uses Mixing and Mastering with IK Multimedia T-RackS in one of your courses, a free Instructor’s Resource Kit is available, complete with lesson plans, tests and Powerpoint/Keynote presentations. Please send an email request along with your school and department to be sent the download link.

Kind Words From Readers

Leonard Balistreri

Congratulations on creating a book that describes the mixing and mastering process in straight terms. I have tried numerous tutorials/courses etc with no success. Your book was the cure. 10/10!

If I did not have T-Racks I would still give this book a perfect score. There is great, concise, easily readable and well-organized value here.
Andrew H.

…and dozens more like it!

Let's Look Inside

Table Of Contents


About T-RackS 3
The Technology

The Processor Modules

    Vintage Tube Compressor 670

    Tube Program Equalizer Model EQP-1A

    Opto Compressor

    The Brickwall Limiter

    Linear Phase Equalizer

    Classic Compressor

    Classic Multi-band Limiter

    Classic Clipper

    Classic Equalizer


Plug-In Use

Chapter 1 – Mix Preparation
Technical Prep

    Make A Copy Of The Session

    Tweak The Timing

    Eliminate Noises



Setup Prep

    Make A Copy

    Delete Empty Tracks

    Deactivate And Hide Unused Tracks

    Arrange The Track Order

    Color-Code The Tracks

    Insert Section Markers

    Label The Tracks

    Set Up Groups

    Set Up Effects

        Assign Channels

    Set Up Compressors And Limiters

Physical Prep

    Get Comfortable

    Note Taking

    Turn Off The Internet

    Play Something You Know

Summary Questions

Chapter 2 – Your Monitoring Setup
Choosing Your Monitors

    Tips For Choosing A Set Of Monitors

Basic Monitor Setup

How Loud (Or Soft) Should I Listen?

Listening In Mono

    Phase Coherency



Listening Tips And Tricks

    Listening On Several Systems

The Listening Environment

    Potential Acoustic Problems


Summary Questions

Chapter 3 – Using T-RackS Dynamics Processors During Mixing

    A Brief Explanation

    Compression To Control Dynamics

    Compression As An Effect

    Amount Of Compression

    Setting The Compressor

    Compressor Modules

        Vintage Tube 670

        Opto Compressor

        Classic Tube Compressor


    Limiter Modules

        Brickwall Limiter

        Classic Clipper

        Multi-Band Limiter


Summary Questions

Chapter 4 – Using T-RackS EQ and Metering Processors During Mixing

    What Are You Trying To Do?

        A Description Of The Audio Spectrum

    Using The Equalizer

        Subtractive Equalization

        Juggling Frequencies

    The Magic High-Pass Filter

    EQ Modules

        The Classic Equalizer

        Tube Program Equalizer EQP-1A

        The Linear Phase Equalizer


    Using The Spectrum Analyzer During Mixing

Summary Questions

Chapter 5 – Mix Buss Compression
Why Use Buss Compression

When To Use It

    At The End Of The Mix

    At The Beginning Of The Mix

Mix Buss Compressor Alternatives

Setting The Compressor

    Typical Buss Compressor Settings

Typical Buss Compressor Settings

    Classic Compressor Typical Settings

    Vintage 670 Typical Settings

    Brickwall Limiter Typical Settings

Summary Questions

Chapter 6 – Preparation For Mastering
How Long Should It Take To Complete A Mix?

    When Is A Mix Finished?

    Mixing In The Box

Alternative Mixes

    The TV Mix

Mixing With Mastering In Mind

How Much Should A Mix Cost?

Summary Questions?

Chapter 7 – An Introduction To Mastering
Why Master Anyway?

The Different Between You And A Pro

The Mastering Technique

Setting Up T-RackS 3 For Mastering

    Setting Up The Project Parameters

        The Export Format

        File Resolution

        Sample Rate


        Link To Audio File

    Loading Files

Summary Questions

Chapter 8 – Monitoring For Mastering
Monitoring Techniques For Mastering

Summary Questions

Chapter 9 – The T-RackS Metering Module 
The Peak Meter

The RMS Meter

The Perceived Loudness Meter

The Phase Scope

The Phase Correlation Meter

    Verify The Phase Issue

    What To Do With Out Of Phase Material

The Spectrum Analyzer

    How To Use The Spectrum Analyzer

Typical Settings

Summary Questions

Chapter 10 – Mastering 101 (The Mastering Process)
Adjusting The Audio Level

    Perceived Audio Level

    Competitive Level

    Hypercompression – Don’t Go There!

How To Get Hot Levels

    The Signal Chain

    The Limiter

    The Compressor

    4 Rules For Hot Levels

    Mastering Compressor Tips And Tricks

Frequency Balance

Summary Questions

Chapter 11 – Using T-RackS For Mastering
The Mastering Signal Chain

    A Simple Signal Chain

        The Linear Phase EQ

        The Vintage Compressor Model 670

        The Brickwall Limiter


    An Advanced Signal Chain

        The EQP-1A Processor

        The Classic Tube Compressor

    Parallel Processing

        The Opto Compressor

    Show Chain

    M/S Mastering

The Comparison Settings

The Compare Function

The Waveform Display



        Fade Ins

        Fade Outs



Summary Questions

Chapter 12 – Exporting Your Project
Exporting In T-RackS 3

Mastering For CD

    Song Order


    PQ Subcodes

        ISRC Codes

        UPC Code


Mastering For The Internet

    MP3 Encoding

        Lossy Data Compression

        The Source File

        The Encoder

            Bit Rate

            Bit Rate Settings

            Constant vs. Average vs. Variable Bit Rate

            Other Settings

        MP3 Encoding Tips

    Exporting For iTunes

    FLAC Files

    ALAC Files

Summary Questions


Chapter 1 Excerpt - Mix Preparation

Mix Preparation

Setup Prep
This is the “housecleaning” stage where you get everything in the session nice and tidy before you actually commit to the actual process of mixing. The idea is to make everything easy to locate during the mix.

Make A Copy
As before, it’s best to make a copy of the session that’s designated as the “mix” (“songtitle mix”) so it’s easy to see and locate at a later time, and also keeps your previous session safe if you ever have to go back to it.

Delete Empty Tracks
Empty, unused tracks take up space in your edit and mix windows and aren’t doing anything useful. It’s OK to have empty tracks that you’re saving for an instrument when you track or overdub, but if you’ve gotten this far without using them, you don’t need them now. Eliminate them.

Deactivate And Hide Unused Tracks
If there are tracks that are copies or ones that you know you won’t be using, deactivate them and hide them so they don’t get in the way. Just hiding them isn’t enough in that they’ll still soak up system resources that might be needed later, especially if you use a lot of plug-ins. Make sure you deactivate them.

Arrange The Track Order
Although the track order isn’t critical, it will help you move the mix along faster if like instruments are grouped together. This means all the guitars are next to each other, drums and percussion next to one another, and the vocals are together.

Color-Code The Tracks
If your DAW app allows it, color-coding your tracks also makes things a bit easier to find. This means that all the drums would be one color, guitars another, the vocals another and so on.

Insert Section Markers
Section markers are one of the big time savers in any DAW. Insert a marker just before each new section (usually a bar or two before works well) as well as any other points in the song that you might want to quickly find during mixing, like drum fills, accents or even the half-way point in a section.

Label The Tracks
Many workstations automatically assign a name to new tracks that have just been recorded, but they hardly ever relate to track. So you don’t mistake one track for another and adjust the parameters of the wrong track during the mix, clearly label all the tracks. If the track’s name currently is something like “gt012”, label it something easy to read like “guitar” or “gtr.” You’ll be happy you did later.

Set Up Groups
Groups are often overlooked but they’re extremely useful during mixing for a number of reasons (see figure 1.4). First of all, groups allow you to separate elements of the mix in order to make the mix easier to adjust later. Secondly, many times it’s a lot easier and better sounding to compress or put an effect on an entire group rather than each individual instrument (although sometimes both works pretty well).

Typical groups would pertain to any element that has more than one instrument or track, like Drums, Guitars (if there’s more than one or they’re in stereo), Lead Vocals (if there’s a double), Background Vocals, Horns, Strings And Synths.

By setting the groups up ahead of time and assigning the particular channels to them, your mix will be both faster and smoother.

Set Up Effects
Most mixers have a standard effects starting point for mixing. One that I’ve seen that works well even for tracking and overdubs is:

For drums – a reverb using a dark room set to about 1.5 seconds of decay with a pre-delay of 20 milliseconds

For all other instruments – a plate with about 1.8 seconds of decay and a pre-delay of 20 milliseconds

For Vocals – a delay of about 220 milliseconds

It’s amazing how well these settings work without any tweaking, but to make everything fit better, you can time the delay and pre-delays to the song, but keep the parameter close to the settings above. For instance, if the only delay in the 220 ms region is a 232 ms quarter-note-triplet, that’s the one to use. The decay is set so that a snare drum hit just about fades out by the time the next one comes around.

Another common setup is two reverbs and two delays, set like:

Short Reverb – a room program with the decay set from .5 to 1.5 seconds of decay with a short pre-delay timed to the track

Long Reverb – a plate or hall program with a decay set from 1.5 to 4 seconds of decay and a pre-delay of as little as 0 or as much as 150ms timed to the track (depends on your taste and what’s right for the song)

Short Delay – a delay of about 50 to 200 milliseconds

Long Delay – a delay from about 200 to 400 or milliseconds

Of course, this is only a starting point. You might find your own particular starting point uses a lot more effects, or you may prefer to add effects as the need arises during the mix. Regardless, if you have at least some effects set up before you start the mix, you won’t have to break your concentration to set them up later.

Assign The Channels – There are some tracks that you know ahead of time will be assigned to a certain effect (like the drums or snare to a short reverb) so you might as well set that up now as well. Don’t forget the panning.

Set Up Compressors And Limiters
Once again, there are some channels that you pretty much know ahead of time that will need a compressor inserted like the kick, snare, bass and vocal. Best to insert it into the signal chain of the channel now, but leave it bypassed until you decide you need it.

if you’re a proponent of mixing from the beginning with a stereo buss limiter, now’s the time to insert that as well. We’ll cover stereo buss compression by itself in chapter 5.

Chapter 3 Excerpt - Using T-RackS Dynamics During Mixing

Using T-RackS Dynamics During Mixing

Setting the Compressor
Because the timing of the attack and release is so important, here are a few steps to help set the compressor up. Assuming that you have some kind of constant tempo in the song, you can use the snare drum to set up the attack and release parameters. This method also works for other instruments in the same manner.

1. Start with the slowest attack and fastest release settings on the compressor.

2. Turn the attack faster until the instrument (in this case, the snare) begins to dull. Stop at that point.

3. Adjust the release time so that after the snare hit,the volume goes back to 90–100 percent normal by the next snare beat.

4. Add the rest of the mix back in and listen. Make slight adjustments to the attack and release times as needed.

The idea is to make the compressor breathe in time with the song.

Compressor Modules
T-RackS 3 Deluxe features three compressor modules, each with their own sonic characteristics.

Vintage Tube Model 670
The Vintage Tube Model 670 compressor sound good on just about anything you want to use it on (see figure 3.1). It provides an intangible “glue” to the track even if the gain reduction meter is hardly registering. That being said, try it on vocals, bass or any kind of guitar using 5 or 6 dB of gain reduction and a Time Constant set on 1. It won’t sound too compressed yet the result will be consistent and solid. Keep the Threshold controls low (2 or 3) when you want the compression to sound pretty transparent. Set it high (anything over 5) when you really want it noticeable.

The 670 sounds great on a drum submix. You may only need a few dB (or a lot more), but it will pull the sound together, cover the inconsistencies, and bring the kit right up in your face. Depending upon the pulse of the song, you might want to try different Time Constant selections, with #5 or #6 usually working well. Another interesting feature is the Lat/Vert mode, which compresses the outside of the stereo soundfield instead of the center. You can get some interesting sounds this way, and carve out a section of your mix so other instruments can sit better.

Starting Settings For The Vintage 670

Parameter     Setting
AGC                     Link
Time Constant     1
Left-Right             Set to register
Input Gain         2dB of gain reduction
Time Threshold     3
Level                 0dB

  Increase the Left and Right Time Constant controls to  adjust the attack and release times.

  Increase the Left and Right Threshold controls to make the compression sound more aggressive.