Brauerizing: A How To Guide
“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.
Figure 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.
Figure 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!
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.
Figure 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.
Figure 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.
Figure 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.
Figure 6: Parallel 1176 ITB
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.
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.
Figure 7: A Bus – McDSP 6030 Brit C + Puigtec EQ
Figure 8: B Bus – McDSP CB303 (Harmonic Distortion) + API 550A
Figure 9: B Bus Grot – Decapitator
Figure 10: C Bus – VBC FG-MU
Figure 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.