Brauerizing: A How To Guide

Brauerizing: A How To Guide 

Introduction

“Brauerizing” is the name given to a mixing mentality honed by Grammy award winning mixing engineer Michael Brauer, feeding audio into compressors and equalizers in order to impart harmonic content to the input signal, as well as utilizing subtle group compression to “glue” audio together through an audio phenomena known as “counter pumping”. This how to guide will explain the three stage process of “Brauerizing”; Multi-Bus Compression, Multi-Vocal Compression and the utilization of dual parallel 1176’s for extra cushion in the mix.

Multi-Bus Compression – Introduction and Analogy 

It is common practice to utilize compression across the stereo bus in order to compress the entire mix in an effort to add tone, attitude or knit the mix into a more cohesive product. The problem with stereo bus compression is that the compressor will react based upon the wide range of input material it receives, which when utilizing a compressor with a particular frequency response can soon lead to particular frequencies compressing more than others and begin to detriment that mix you worked so hard to perfect.

The origins of the Multi-Bus Compression technique harnessed by Brauer are rooted in an Aretha Franklin mix. Brauer found that he was at the limits of the mix, but when instructed that the bass guitar needed pushing higher, pushing it caused the vocal to suddenly drop in volume due to the stereo bus compressor now reacting to the louder bass. Counter pushing the vocal up caused the bass to drop and therefore a new mixing mentality was required in order to achieve the maximum volume musically, without causing issues at the stereo bus.

Multi-Bus Compression – Calibration and Routing

The introduction of Multi-Bus Compression to Brauer’s mixing allows for multiple sources of audio to be routed to desired busses; alphabetically named ABCD to correspond with the centre section of his SSL, where carefully chosen compressors compliment the input material. At this point it should be mentioned that Brauerizing is not a form of Multi-Band compression; often misinterpreted as, though in dividing the material to the four busses, the technique is more Multi-Vibe compression.

OTB (Out the Box) Brauer utilizes the SSL’s routing matrix in order to take the individual channels of the mix to the ABCD busses and sets the routing to post-fader, allowing any channel fader movements to affect the input of the ABCD busses. The ABCD busses are then routed to the Stereo Bus. In assigning the routing matrix to post fader, it allows the mixing engineer to push into the compressor patched across the bus, allowing for a familiar sweet spot to be recognized and replicated with each mix, where pushing too softly or too hard into the bus causes the sound to thin, whereas the sweet spot adds glue and attitude. A diagram for this routing; along with Brauer’s channel routing and equipment utilized, can be found in Figure 1.

Brauer ABCD ConfigurationFigure 1: Multi-Bus Compression OTB

To replicate ITB (in the Box) it is recommended that equivalent plug-ins are utilized to achieve similar characteristics to Brauer’s OTB set-up, one that stresses on the importance of using the compressors as tone generators. It is possible to replicate the routing ITB by directly outputting the individual channels to the desired ABCD busses, though as not all DAW’s have the capability of multi-outputting channels it is better practice to utilize a dummy bus; emulating taking the channels our of the stereo bus, for the channel’s output and utilizing the channel sends set in post fader to replicate the functions of the SSL routing matrix. A diagram for this routing; along with recommended plug-in equivalents, can be found in Figure 2.

ITB ABCD ConfigurationFigure 2: Multi-Bus Compression ITB

The above plug-ins are personal preferences as the Brit-C models the Neve 33609 compressor, the Puigtech models the Pultec, the CB303; on the harmonic distortion preset, models the Distressor and is sent to the Decapitator for further harmonic saturation, the API 550A has appropriate fixed band choices, the VBC FG-MU models a Vari-Mu/Tube compressor; which the Pendulum ES-8 is, and the V-Comp in limit mode with the S1 stereo imager emulate the configuration of the D Bus; as Brauer has the width knob on the compressor set to maximum. It is important to mention that Brauer has his compressors set unlinked; where each side is independent, and therefore recommend utilizing plug-ins in multi-mono mode and unlinked; where applicable.

In order to calibrate the compressors ITB you will need a signal generator and VU meter. Insert the VU meter at the end of the insert slots and the signal generator at the top, and ensure that the signal generator; set to sine wave, reads at 0VU. From there, follow Brauer’s notes on calibrating the Multi-Bus Compression set-up found on his website at http://mbrauer.com/qna2.asp

Once calibrated, begin mixing and have fun with the ABCD busses! The golden rule (or metaphor) for the Multi-Bus compression technique is to treat the gain reduction like an elastic band; there’s only so far you can push an elastic band before it snaps, and be conservative with the amount of gain reduction; averaging around 1 – 1.5dB. Once familiar with the sweet spots, you’ll begin to experience “counter-pumping” caused by varying compression rates between the four busses, causing the compressors to add subtle rhythm to the mix that allude to the mix “breathing”. This is a sign of successful Multi-Bus Compression!

Multi-Vocal Configuration

As you may have noticed from the aforementioned figures, the lead vocals aren’t typically routed to the ABCD busses and go through a different process all together. The lead vocal channel is “multed”; outputted in multiple instances, to two faders where one will be affected for the verse and another for the chorus.  The vocal is then routed to five different compressors alike the multi-bus compression; again for the cohesive glue and tone, and returned on five faders. This stage of parallel compression is very effective in achieving a solid vocal sound, due to macro-compression being multiplied by five.  A diagram for this routing; along with Brauer’s equipment utilized, can be found in Figure 3.

Brauer Vox ConfigurationFigure 3: Multi-Vocal Compression OTB

In order to replicate ITB, it is once more recommended that the equivalent plug-ins are utilized. The Federal is a Vari-Mu/Tube compressor and therefore opted once more for VBC FG-MU, the STA Level is often likened to an LA2A and therefore utilized Waves CLA-2A emulation as well as their CLA-76 to emulate the 1176 of Comp #3. The CB303 was once again used on the “Harmonic Distortion” preset to emulate the Distressor and the Waves Puigchild 660 was the closes emulation to the Fairchild 666 of Comp #5. Similarities between the Multi-Bus Compression routing ITB and the Multi-Vocal Compression routing are obvious, with the “Dummy Bus” utilized to mimic removing the individual channels from the Stereo Bus and the sends used to emulate the SSL routing matrix post-fader mode. Selecting post-fader allows for the channel faders to be used to push into the “sweet spot” of these compressors, much like with the ABCD busses.

Unlike the ABCD busses, there isn’t any calibration for the Multi-Vocal set-up and through experimentation have found any gain reduction in excess of 3dB to be detrimental. In having 5 compressors reducing gain by 3dB, 15dB of Gain Reduction is achieved overall that sounds natural, as opposed to how choked and revealing a singular insert of 15dB would be. A diagram displaying the routing of the Multi-Vocal set-up ITB along with recommended plug-ins can be found in Figure 4.

ITB Vox ConfigurationFigure 4: Multi-Vocal Compression ITB

Parallel 1176 – Glue Festival

Multi-Bus Compression and Multi-Vocal Compression; as discussed above, should get you well on your way to a cohesive, punchy mix, though if it doesn’t Brauer has another ace up his sleeve. A pair of unlinked 1176’s are utilized in order to send any aspect of the mix; utilizing a stereo cue send, for further glue. It may be desired to send the entire mix there as a parallel, or the ABCD busses and the Vocals, or maybe your mix works without using it at all. It’s there as a final crutch for gluing the mix together. The 1176’s are set to “all buttons in mode” and it’s once more recommended that the gain reduction is tickled, as opposed to pinned. The routing of the 1176’s OTB can be seen in the diagram of Figure 5.

Brauer Parallel 1176Figure 5: Parallel 1176 OTB

To replicate ITB, simply set-up a stereo auxiliary with your choice of 1176 emulation inserted and send desired audio to the bus. As Brauer utilizes the Stereo Cue, it is important to ensure you’re sending in stereo ITB; where you can pan the send. In Pro Tools, it is recommended to utilize the “Follow Main Pain” function as this will automatically pan your send relative to it’s pan position on the channel itself. As no two pieces of analogue equipment sound identical, in order to truly replicate the effect of two separate 1176’s ITB, try using two mono auxiliaries panned hard left and right with separate 1176 emulations on each. Set the input to the auxiliaries to adjacent busses (such as Bus 1 for the left and Bus 2 for the right) and send channels to Bus 1 + 2 for the fullest effect. See Figure 6 for an ITB routing diagram.

ITB Parallel 1176Figure 6: Parallel 1176 ITB

Troubleshooting

You have now gone through “Brauerizing” as a whole and are now aware of the power behind utilizing compressors for the tone and attitude they have as opposed to their dynamic control, you can subtly “counter-pump” material to keep adding energy and dynamic to your mix, the stereo bus is not choking for once and the multiple stages of macro-compression have added up to an RMS lift, making your mix louder in a musical way… or maybe not and you need some Troubleshooting!

If you can’t get to grips with the routing (remember, it’s not in parallel!), I’d recommend spending more time with the diagrams and accompanying text as they explain concisely exactly what gets routed where and is then displayed. I cannot recommend Brauer’s website http://www.mbrauer.com enough for the Q&A section, where you will find all of the information harnessed for this guide.

There are no hard and fast rules regarding what channels should be routed to what busses for the Multi-Bus Compression stage, just as there are no rules for the amount of compression, so experiment until it sounds good! The above is merely a guide to get you started. However, if your mix is lacking to begin with, Brauerizing will expose this further and cannot be used as a substitute to good mixing. It can aid to finalize, but not replace mastering.

Tone Boxes

Just incase there’s any doubt as to the harmonic injection plug-ins can have… here are the 5 busses (ABCD and the B Grot box) with a 1 kHz sine wave routed through the plug-ins.

A Bus 1000HzFigure 7: A Bus – McDSP 6030 Brit C + Puigtec EQ

B Bus 1000HzFigure 8: B Bus – McDSP CB303 (Harmonic Distortion) + API 550A

B Grot Bus 1000HzFigure 9: B Bus Grot – Decapitator

C Bus 1000HzFigure 10: C Bus – VBC FG-MU

D Bus 1000HzFigure 11: D Bus – V-Comp (Limit) + S1 Imager

Blind Listening Test

“Brauerizing” as you will now be aware makes up a large part of my University Degree and I have been collating individuals to partake in a Double Blind Listening test to judge whether or not the mix that has been “Brauerized” as opposed to utilising other finalising techniques is favoured. If you’d like to partake, listen to the SoundCloud set in the link below and leave a comment on your favourite of the four. Maybe one feels more punchy, or one seems to convey emotion and dynamic more than the other three. Individual levels have not been adjusted between mixes and the finalising techniques are all that have differed!

Feel free to send your comments to me via e-mail using the contact form below.

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About Jamie Donnelly

Jamie "Jampottt" Donnelly is a recording and mixing engineer from Teesside. Graduating from Teesside University in 2014 with a First Class Bachelor of Science degree; with Honours, in Music Technology. Get in touch for location work, mixing, mastering, producing, writing, playing and editing work. No project is too big or too small! http://www.facebook.com/jampottt http://www.soundcloud.com/jampottt http://www.twitter.com/jampottt http://www.instagram.com/jampottt
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52 Responses to Brauerizing: A How To Guide

  1. Alex says:

    I can definitely say that C is my least favorite, but you should make the files downloadable so actual level-matching and A/B comparison can be done in a DAW. There’s no way to switch back and forth on Soundcloud and come to a clear conclusion. D is way louder than the others, and people may be fooled by “louder is better”, for instance.

    • Jamie Donnelly says:

      They’re now available to download! They’ll all peak at -0.2, the issue is that with different finalising techniques comes a varying of RMS levels… Hopefully you’ll be able to give view on your favourite and why, though interesting that C is your least favourite!

      • Alex says:

        Thanks! Now I can pretty safely say that B is my favorite, with D very close, but perhaps thinner, which is why I prefer B, particularly for this song/style. C is all kinds of weirdly colored, to me. Rather unnatural.

      • Jamie Donnelly says:

        Interesting. Thanks, Alex!

  2. Rob Shaw says:

    Initial thoughts were that i prefer A, Wrapped up with wow, that sounds like a brauer mix, but i found that i was listening to d for longer amounts of time, and feel that it has more emotional interaction than a after first listen. Good luck 🙂

  3. Jorge says:

    I prefer D i love the kick and bass punch

  4. alex says:

    hi jamie ! just a quick one, dummy output w/ post-fader sends goes into the stereo bus ?
    regards

    • Jamie Donnelly says:

      Channels are out putted to the dummy output and the channel sends are used to send to the ABCD busses.

      • alex says:

        ok, so this means both stereo out and dummy out are runing independently for dry signal and compressor colored
        signal to the session main output. did i get ir right? or am i missing something ?
        regards

      • Jamie Donnelly says:

        The dummy output acts as a means of removing those channels going to the ABCD busses from the stereo bus. So channel output to dummy bus and then channel sends to ABCD. ABCD busses to stereo bus.

  5. alex says:

    ok, so dummy bus
    goes nowhere, and
    send are going to ABCD busses in order to allow you work like having
    multi-outputs in case you need to go for more than one compressor bus, am
    i right ?
    Cheers

  6. lee daniels says:

    Nice article! Im having trouble fully understanding the calibration aspect, i would be very greatful If you could explain in more detail how to calibrate with a Daw.. / Best regards

    • Jamie Donnelly says:

      Hi Lee,

      Sorry for the delay, this wordpress was used for my uni study and once completed, i neglected it.

      I am looking at creating a website for my productions, though, including a section for tutorials where there’d be a bulk of Brauerizing with videos, DAW templates and more.

      What exactly do you struggle with regarding calibration?

      Thanks

      Jamie

  7. Mike Caffrey says:

    The dummy out is not a buss, it goes to an analog out that’s not used. This is to “anchor” the individual tracks so that ADC won’t make certain types of shifts that won’t cause problems if you send to multiple busses.

    • Jamie Donnelly says:

      Hi Mike

      Sorry for the delay, this wordpress was used for my uni study and once completed, i neglected it.

      I am looking at creating a website for my productions, though, including a section for tutorials where there’d be a bulk of Brauerizing with videos, DAW templates and more.

      You’re right, though with Pro Tools 11 I found using a bus to be perfectly fine at anchoring ADC, without any warbling.

      Thanks,

      Jamie

    • Sasha says:

      Is such a dummy out requisite in Logic as well as in ProTools?

  8. Mr. T says:

    Great descriptions and diagrams BTW. Good of you to share it all. Thanks!

    • Jamie Donnelly says:

      Hi Mr T!

      Sorry for the delay, this wordpress was used for my uni study and once completed, i neglected it.

      I am looking at creating a website for my productions, though, including a section for tutorials where there’d be a bulk of Brauerizing with videos, DAW templates and more,

      So thanks for your kind words!

  9. fabio says:

    Firstly, Great piece, well written and really helpful.

    One question… I have followed your conversation with Alex and that has helped… But, I was under the impression the Brauer also used a Buss with no effects on it? like a fifth Buss or routing direct to the stereo out so that he could also route his groups/ channels additionally to the stereo out avoiding all the compressors etc? Am I wrong or have I missed it in the article?

    Thanks
    Fabio

    • Jamie Donnelly says:

      Hi Fabio,

      Sorry for the delay, this wordpress was used for my uni study and once completed, i neglected it.

      I am looking at creating a website for my productions, though, including a section for tutorials where there’d be a bulk of Brauerizing with videos, DAW templates and more.

      I never came accross the aforementioned in my research, but its certainly a useful avenue that i wouldnt be surprised if it is explored. Remember that Brauerizing is adapted for each mix, so there may be the instance where one of the ABCD busses acts in this manner.

      Thanks

      Jamie

    • Sasha says:

      As I recall, there are two “sneak around” options in the Brauer method (at least in some versions thereof):
      – route something directly to the Stereo Out bus, bypassing the multi-bus configuration
      – route to an additional bus with 1176 hardware compression

  10. Hi Jamie,

    nice article and summary. Could you share the settings / screenshots of the plugins that u experiment with.
    Especially for the sub-vocal-multibus to use fast attack and release time as common for parallel processign (upward compressor sim) or do you lenthen the attack for the speech intelligibility – or maybe a variaten where you figures out the sweet spot of a certain compressor to contribute to body / sustain / color / attack… (i guess the last).
    I am going to start this experiment but i will have the possibility to compare with real outboard.
    If you are interested i can share the results too and setup some parameter so it fits your study..
    Let me know if you are interested ?

    • Jamie Donnelly says:

      Hi Volker

      Sorry for the delay, this wordpress was used for my uni study and once completed, i neglected it.

      I am looking at creating a website for my productions, though, including a section for tutorials where there’d be a bulk of Brauerizing with videos, DAW templates and more.

      So hold out! Something bigger and better is coming!

      Thanks,

      Jamie

  11. Layne says:

    great explanation! Stupid questions:

    1. Are harmonic content/overtones focused above the primary frequency?

    2. How does harmonic content affect the frequency spectral analysis of a track – ie is it ever used to smooth frequency response in… Mastering for example?

    • Jamie Donnelly says:

      Hi Layne:

      1. the harmonics are focused above the fundamental frequency.

      2. It affects the spectral analysis in a host of ways, I find particular compressors to have a smoother top end, some have a harder attack etc..

  12. Pingback: Mixing philosophies and concepts – Brauerizing | Room/005 - Anton Makdah

  13. Tyler says:

    Wow, amazing information here. Thank you for this. Keep it up
    -Tyler

  14. D says:

    What ratios and attack release settings are you using for the A, B, C, D busses? Won’t that be a factor in calibrating?

  15. sorry im a bit confused on buss b with API550a eq. what do you mean +1? on the vu meter or just add +1 gain? the api gain moves to 0-2 I cant seem to add just +1 gain on the 10k hz and all the other ones. Anyway, great article. I want experiment on what things i could do with it.

    • Jamie Donnelly says:

      I believe I replied to you via e-mail but just so it’s visible here too… 2 the gain on the API and then trim the output by -1 is what I did to counter the gain boost. Albeit not perfect, but certainly works.

  16. angeloboltini says:

    Hey man, I’ve been experimenting with this a bit in Logic and noticed something about the ‘grot box’: If you use decapitator on a send, it’ll somehow botch up the high end if you bring it up. It sounds a lot better, if the plugin is on the B bus aux and using the blend control on the actual plugin.

    What kind of setting are you using on decapitator btw? Good stuff!

    • Jamie Donnelly says:

      Hey Angelo – thanks for chiming in!

      Decapitator will only “botch up” your top end if you have it set quite bright or mixed too high, so experiment with finding the harmony in the two. Blend control is cool, I agree, but I like independant control on a fader. YMMV.

      In terms of my settings, it changes from mix to mix. On darker mixes I set it bright and vica versa on brighter mixes.

  17. Sasha says:

    “In having 5 compressors reducing gain by 3dB, 15dB of Gain Reduction is achieved…”

    Isn’t the total gain reduction still 3dB, since the compressors are in parallel and not serial?
    Each compressor is only reducing its part (1/5th) of the signal by 3dB, not the entire signal.

    • Jamie Donnelly says:

      Hey Sasha,

      Sorry if that passage was unclear. Yes, you’re correct that only 3dB is ever achieved as each signal is identical. What I meant was the summed signal contains 15dB worth of gain reduction, with each individual channel having 3dB reductions, but yes never more than 3dB.

  18. Sasha says:

    Thank you for clarification. This is a fascinating approach to mixing. I’ve long done mixing with Group Auxes in Logic per instrument group (drums, percussion, bass, keys, etc), but this takes it another level.

    Now I am experimenting with sending those buses into intermediary summing Auxes, each with a different compressor and EQ, so something like a modified Michael Brauer approach.

    So all the instrument group Auxes are sent to the appropriately selected Submix Aux. Right now I have 4:

    1. Rhythm Instruments,
    2. Non-Rhythm Instruments,
    3. Vox or Lead Instrument,
    4. FX (all effects returns from reverbs, delays, etc)

    Mainly I wanted to separate out the Rhythm instruments so they can get their own feel and compression interaction happening, without interference from/to the other instruments. So that has been achieved through this method. I am still also doing compression on many individual tracks, and on some of the instrument Group Auxes.

    So: Individual Channels -> Group Auxes -> Submix Auxes -> Mix

    I may add in the “sneak around” Aux as well, whether with no processing, or something like the Brauer 1176 Aux.

    I have not yet tried the following:
    – sending some instruments or instrument groups, in whole or in part, directly the stereo Mix
    – sending some instruments or instrument groups to multiple Submix Auxes
    – multiple parallel compressors on vocals (I often use a single parallel Aux for vocals, as well as for drums)

    • Jamie Donnelly says:

      Hey Sasha,

      I’d strongly recommend the Parallel 1176. In my opinion it’s the biggest game changer of the whole technique, and on mixes I do “un-brauerized” I tend to always have that parallel mix aux. Riding it throughout a track can really play with the intensity.

  19. Sasha says:

    Delay Compensation is essential when utilizing this method in the computer, to avoid undesirable phasing, flamming, and timing smear. Does anyone know whether Logic’s delay compensation is up to the task? Of course, particular plugins may still cause problems, if they do not accurately report their inherent delays to Logic.

    One standard work-around to provide more reassurance about consistent timing of the various buses is to instantiate exactly the same plugins on all the buses of the multi-bus configuration, and then bypass all but the desired one for each respective Aux. That seems rather clunky, may still add to processing overhead, but presumably does the job. One positive aspect of that is it easily allows experimenting with the choice of compressor on a given Aux: just active and deactivate the various plugins already present on the Aux.

    • Jamie Donnelly says:

      Delay Compensation is indeed crucial, and believe it was one of the big factors as to why Brauer had difficulties when initially trying it in a DAW. It’s improved much since then, though!

      • Sasha says:

        Thank you…Has anyone had luck in this regard with Logic?
        Or best to play it safe with the method I mentioned above (same plugins on each bus, muting the unused ones)?

  20. Sasha says:

    The info and Q&A on Brauerization seems to be gone from MB’s site…or am I just missing it?

  21. Sasha says:

    As for my Rhythm bus (Aux), comparable presumably to the Bass (B) bus of Mr. Brauer, I wonder whether better to send all drums to it, or only the main drums (i.e. bass drum and snare, but not cymbals). My goal in the Rhythm buss is to make the drums and bassline groove, pump, gel together, so perhaps it’s even better to just send kick and bassline to that bus…worth more experimentation.

    How do others do this?

    • Jamie Donnelly says:

      I send all of my drums to it. I understand why you’d maybe not want to send the cymbals, but my thought once it gets to the Multi-Bus configuration is that you’re treating the instruments as whole (i.e The Drums, not the individual components that make up the drums).

  22. Sasha says:

    Does Mr. Brauer do groups processing before the multi-busses?
    (As I do: I first do Groups Auxes for instrument buses, then send certain of these Auxes to the multi-busses. That is, I have separate Group Auxes for Drums, Bass, Guitars, Keys, Strings, Lead Vocals, Back Vocals, etc; then I send various of these to the multi-busses)

    It sounds more like he sends individual instrument channels directly to the multi-busses.

    • Jamie Donnelly says:

      Such as parallel processing? I can’t speak for Braued, but I do. I’ll send my drums to a couple of parallel busses, return to auxes and send those to the B bus.

  23. 4jcdisciples says:

    https://clyp.it/user/lwsqexgr

    Here’s a couple clips of a Chris Lord Alge mix. One is with his own mix buss, the other, mixed thru my brauerized setup but with all the same CLA settings. Holy Crap! I say all of this to ask, could you please do the same thing? I feel like we need a third video showing us an A/B more of what it can do!

  24. alin3994 says:

    The soundcloud links aren’t working, would it be possible to get a new link to the audio? Thanks!

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